Friday 31 July 2020

What's Wrong With... The Savages

The Savages is the first story from Ian Stuart Black. An accomplished screenwriter, he was visiting a production office at the BBC when he noticed that the Doctor Who office was right next door, so called in and asked if he could contribute something. Gerry Davis knew his work, and so invited him to submit a story.
Sadly, it is another one that is now lost from the archives, without even any clips surviving save for some grainy shots filmed on Super 8 off a TV screen by a fan. Telesnaps and audio do exist, however.
It wasn't a terribly popular story at the time, and fans have generally dismissed it since, partly because it lacks any monsters. The villains are entirely human ones.
The biggest problem with this story isn't so much what it is, as what it almost was. The working title for the story was "The White Savages". We already have a problem with the word "savages", as it is used to describe non-Western, indigenous peoples as being somewhat less than civilised, failing to appreciate that they simply have a different type of culture which is alien to our own. It implies being less than human - more primitive. To call a story "The White Savages" implies that savages are usually not-white - i.e. BAME people.
The problem is compounded by the fact that we can clearly see from the telesnaps that the actors playing the Elders have been given darkened skins, despite being played by Caucasian actors.
Presumably the writer intended this to be one of those reversed expectations stories, such as we had with Galaxy 4, where the beautiful female Drahvins were nasty villains, and the ugly walrus-like Rills were really friendly.
The only good thing we can say about all of this is that they had the sense to change the title before transmission - though the blacking-up and the racist overtones remain.
Other issues pertaining to the storyline itself include the fact that the Doctor knows that they have arrived in a time of great peace and prosperity just by looking at a quarry on the TARDIS scanner. The ship has never been able to tell him where or when they are before. And if he knows so much about this era, then why doesn't he know about what the Elders have been up to?
Jano, their leader, claims to have been following the Doctor's adventures for some time, and always assumed that he would visit them one day.
Two obvious problems arise from this. The first is: how can someone track a randomly travelling machine which travels through Time as well as Space. Secondly, if they know so much about the Doctor then surely they should know that their society is exactly the sort of thing which the Doctor is likely to take offence at and endeavour to bring down. Jano is also surprised that the Doctor is travelling with companions, so just how much have they been paying attention? This incarnation - the only one known at the time - has never travelled alone.
Just how big is this planet if the Savages continue to live just a stone's throw away from the city belonging to the people who exploit them?
The unnamed planet is represented, as mentioned, by a quarry. Yes, this is where the cliche begins. The only other time the series has filmed at a quarry was back in The Dalek Invasion of Earth, when it was supposed to be a quarry.
Plans were already well advanced at this stage to have William Hartnell written out of the programme due to his ill health and increasing unreliability. They almost tried it in The Celestial Toymaker, where he was made invisible and mute and could have been brought back as a different actor. There is another opportunity here, but they don't take it. The Doctor's life essence has been transferred to Jano, and they could have had the Doctor's old body die but have him continue to exist in Jano, had they found an actor who would have wanted to remain in the role beyond this one guest appearance.
Lastly, this is the final appearance of Peter Purves as Steven, which is itself something wrong, as he's been great. He's been carrying the show at times for a while now.
The Doctor has ended the Elders' preying upon the Savages, and they decide they now want someone neutral to lead their new unified society. The Doctor, out of the blue, proposes Steven, despite him never having shown much in the way of leadership skills. He's expected to forge a new community from two factions which have only just stopped fighting each other. It's all a bit abrupt, with no foreshadowing. Companion departures are badly handled throughout Season 3, and we'll see the epitome of this when we get to the next story...

Tuesday 28 July 2020

Inspirations - Timelash

The writer of Timelash is Glen McCoy, his only contribution to the series. He was working as an ambulance driver but wanted to get into writing for television. Naturally, he had some success with medical themed dramas such as nursing soap Angels. He submitted an unsolicited script to the Doctor Who production office which featured the Daleks, unaware of the usual commissioning process, and especially of the separate conditions around the use of the Daleks.
Eric Saward rejected the submission, but saw some merit in the scripts and so decided to give him a chance to submit a fresh storyline - one without any Daleks in it.
McCoy was probably unaware that one of the principal inspirations for the first Dalek story was the works of writer H G Wells (1866-1946) - in particular 1895's The Time Machine. The Daleks (aka The Mutants) features a pacifist race of beautiful blond-haired people (the Thals) who are at risk from subterranean monsters (the Daleks in their underground city), just as the Eloi are at risk from the Morlocks in Wells' tale. 
The 1966 story The Ark is also heavily influenced by Wells.
McCoy elected to base his new storyline on a number of Wells' stories, and to include the author himself in the narrative as a young man, Herbert, who will be inspired to write his famous works after an encounter with the Doctor.
Once again The Time Machine is the primary inspiration - unsurprising when you consider that the series is about a traveller with a time machine. We don't get any equivalent of the Eloi in Timelash, unless you want to count the generally wet people of the planet Karfel. The first Karfelon young Herbert meets is a woman named Vena, named after The Time Machine's Weena. 
The Morlocks are present, but here they are simply large reptilian creatures with no intelligence, called Morlox.

Another obvious Wellsian inspiration is The Island of Doctor Moreau (1896). This tells of a mad scientist who conducts unethical medical experiments on animals to create human / animal hybrids - the inspiration for Timelash's villain the Borad, aka the scientist Megelan. Moreau has exiled himself on his island after being denounced for cruel experiments, just as the Doctor had denounced Megelan. The story has been filmed on more than one occasion. By far the best is the 1933 version starring Charles Laughton (Island of Lost Souls). Not quite so good but okay is the 1977 one with Burt Lancaster. The Marlon Brando version of 1996 is best avoided.
The scenes where the Doctor uses a Kontron crystal to briefly travel forward in his own time stream, rendering him invisible to observers, is - of course - inspired by The Invisible Man (1897).
Vena's appearance to Herbert following a session with a Ouija board is probably inspired by The Wonderful Visit, as he believes her to be an angel. The Wonderful Visit was published in 1895, and tells of an angelic visit to a village vicar.
When Maylin Tekker provokes an armed response from the neighbouring planet of Bandril, we are presented with a potential War of the Worlds (1898). The Master had previously been seen reading this book in Frontier in Space.
For Herbert, all of this represents The Shape of Things to Come (1933), as he finds himself on a planet not unlike A Modern Utopia (1905). By stowing away in the TARDIS for a second time, as the Doctor attempts to use it to intercept a Bandril missile, Herbert gets a taste of a futuristic version of The War in the Air (1908).

Paul Darrow plays Tekker in an over the top fashion, apparently intended to show Colin Baker how this should be done, after Baker had gone OTT in his guest appearance on Blake's 7 (playing the psychopathic Bayban the Butcher in the episode City at the Edge of the World). 
Darrow based his performance on that of Olivier portraying Richard III.
Ever since the second episode of Doctor Who was broadcast on 30th November, 1963, we've had references to unseen adventures, as Susan describes previous disguises for the TARDIS. Whilst these were from before we joined the Doctor on his travels, since then there have been a great many references to unseen adventures which must have occurred since then, in gaps between televised stories. It's not always possible to work out which incarnation the Doctor was in, but here we get mention of an unseen story which is highly significant for the current storyline. We see a portrait painting of the Doctor as he was on his previous visit to Karfel, and he's in his Third incarnation. 

We also know that he was travelling with Jo Grant at the time, as Peri is wearing a locket with her picture in it, which stops the rebels from killing her. What is odd is that Tekker was expecting the Doctor to have a second companion with him, something the Third Doctor never had. Fan speculation has settled on this second companion being Captain Mike Yates, on one of his doomed dates with Jo.
The painting is actually a copy of a publicity photo of Pertwee from The Invasion of the Dinosaurs, and it was the work of a US fan who became a friend of JNT through the convention circuit.
The first version of the script actually had the previous visit to Karfel being by the First Doctor, travelling with Ian, Susan and Barbara, so Darrow's line about only one companion this time is probably just a leftover from that version.
The Borad is eventually forced into his own Timelash, which the Doctor thinks will take him to Scotland but centuries before he met Herbert there. The implication is that he will be seen occasionally and taken for the Loch Ness Monster, but we all know that that is the Zygons' pet Skarasen.
Behind the scenes, this was the last story to be directed by Pennant Roberts. Everyone reported that the story was under-rehearsed as the main cast were simultaneously rehearsing for one of JNT's annual pantomimes during production.
Next time: the Daleks meet Evelyn Waugh's The Loved One, as the Doctor pays his respects at Tranquil Repose...

Sunday 26 July 2020

The Power of the Daleks: Special Edition - Review

The Special Edition of The Power of the Daleks (animated) is out now.
The reason given for releasing this so soon after the original release (2016) is that that version was somewhat hurried. It had to be out on the 60th anniversary of the story's broadcast, which marked Patrick Troughton's first appearance as the Doctor. An initial 8 month preparation time was suddenly cut to 5 months. This meant that corners had to be cut with the quality of animation, and this is why it has been revisited. It was hoped that the new edition could be released in time for Troughton's centenary in the Spring of 2020, but the current pandemic has pushed it back to now.
It is the first episode which has the most new work done to it. Previously it was more static, and they have now added some more fluid movement, as well as some cutaway scenes. The sequences where Lesterson goes into the spaceship and witnesses what the Daleks are really up to have been redone from scratch.
Apart from that, it looks pretty much the same as the 2016 version from what I can see.
This new edition is in B&W only.
If this sounds like it is hardly worth buying if you already own the 2016 version then think again, for the strongest thing about this release is the package of extras.
There are two other ways to enjoy the story on Disc 2. One is the BBC audio soundtrack coupled with telesnaps, narrated by Anneke Wills. The other is the 1993 audio version which was released on tape. This sees the soundtrack coupled with narration from Tom Baker, in character as the Fourth Doctor.
Disc 2 also sees a compilation of all the surviving clips from the story, some of which weren't included in the Lost in Time DVD set. We also get a photo gallery which includes new images from the estate of Derek Dodd, the story's designer - many of which are in colour.

Disc 3 is where the real gems are.
First of all we get a brand new documentary (Script to Screen) about the making of the story, narrated by Toby Hadoke. As well as covering the story, it tells you a lot about how TV series were put together in general at this time, with lots of behind the scenes footage from a Z Cars episode. Graeme Harper is one of the interviewees, who had just started at the BBC at this time and was an AFM on The Power of the Daleks. The original making of (Servants and Masters) is also included.
A particular highlight for me is the episode of Whicker's World - "I Don't Like My Monsters To Have Oedipus Complexes". Bits of the Terry Nation / Dalek section of this programme have appeared in other documentaries, but here we get the entire episode with more from Nation. It includes an interview with Christopher Lee, and one with Italian cinema's scream queen Barbara Steele. We also see Whicker interviewing a few stunt men who have played monsters on screen - including Havoc's Alan Chuntz. He's accompanied by a pair of stuntmen I know from the Bond movies. Watch to the very end and you'll see another Doctor Who monster make an appearance, as a Mark I Yeti chases Whicker through Highgate Cemetery.
The 1992 documentary / orphan episode compilation Daleks - The Early Years is also included on Disc 3. This features all of Peter Davison's presentation links and clips from the original VHS release. The three full episodes have been omitted, replaced with a lengthy clip from each.
Then we get 8 minutes worth of Patrick Troughton's earliest surviving TV work - his performance as Robin Hood from March 1953. This demonstrates the perils of live TV at the time, as you can clearly see the back projection fail in the scene where the Merry Men first encounter a knight who has wandered into Sherwood Forest. It's a fascinating piece of TV history.
Two other items of note are also archive pieces, this time from the BBC's Southampton and Welsh regional offices. They depict 1960's local news items about BBC roadshow events, at which Dalek props were present. We also get a bit of vintage Blue Peter, featuring the classic line-up of Peter Purves, Valerie Singleton and John Noakes, launching their 'Design a Doctor Who Monster' competition, which included a clip from The Power of the Daleks, and is the reason this clip has survived.
Worth buying this new release just for Disc 3 as far as I'm concerned.
The next issue of DWM magazine promises a feature on the animated version of Fury From The Deep, so it looks like that might be due for release in September / October. No news yet about the resumption of the Blu-ray season box sets, however.

Friday 24 July 2020

SJA 5.3 - The Man Who Never Was

In which Sarah Jane Smith is invited to the press launch of a revolutionary new laptop computer from Serf Systems. What is so special about this event is that IT entrepreneur Joseph Serf himself will be attending. He has been a recluse ever since a serious skiing accident a few years ago. Luke has returned home from university for a visit. He, Clyde and Rani are raving about the new computer, which is known as the SerfBoard, joking that it could replace Mr Smith and K9. Luke and Sky are invited along to the rehearsal for the press launch. Sarah is delighted to be reunited with her old editor Lionel Carson, but is surprised he should be here as he dislikes computers. As Serf gives a speech, Luke and Sky notice a tiny glitch in his face as he speaks. Everyone present is given a free SerfBoard, and Sarah is shocked to find that Carson adores it. Everyone present thinks it the greatest personal computer they have ever seen.
Back at the attic, Sarah has Mr Smith replay Serf's speech, after Luke and Sky tell her what they witnessed. True enough, they see the glitch. Sarah deduces that Serf did not survive the skiing accident, and what they saw was a hologram. Dropping a hint that she is aware of this, Sarah arranges an interview with Serf, which is overseen by his personal assistant, a man named Harrison.

Sarah confirms that Serf is indeed an advanced hologram as Luke and Sky infiltrate the company HQ's basement. There they discover a number of small alien beings, wearing monk-like cowls and with a single eye in the centre of their foreheads. They are not hostile, however, and urge the youngsters to flee, whilst Harrison takes Sarah prisoner. He has a pen which is really a control unit, linked to collars which the aliens - a species known as Skullions - must wear. Their leader, Plark, informs them that this can induce pain to force them to obey him. Harrison bought them as slaves in the black market which exists for aliens and their technology. They have been forced to create the hologram of Serf which they operate from the basement. It has a hypnotic facility which makes people believe everything the hologram tells them. Back at the attic, Clyde and Rani have had Mr Smith examine the SerfBoard, and have discovered that it is a very basic machine, with no special features at all. At the press launch, which will be broadcast globally, the hologram will be used to make everyone believe the claims about it - making Harrison a fortune.

Clyde and Rani don their smartest gear and decide to infiltrate the event, posing as a married couple who are IT journalists and who are stuck at an airport. A young cleaner - Adriana - is also held captive with Sarah, Luke and Sky, after she spotted one of the Skullions. Luke is able to send a message to Mr Smith via K9's dog whistle. Clyde and Rani are instructed to get Harrison's pen away from him, swapping it for one of their own. Mr Smith sends a message to the planet Skultos, notifying them that some of their people are held captive on Earth. Having escaped, Luke and Sky must operate the hologram to stop Harrison realising they are free, and have released the Skullions. The hypnotic control is used on the audience to make them take the pen from Harrison when he realises the deception. Carson destroys it. The hologram is then used to announce that the SerfBoard is useless. Everyone flees to the roof where Harrison threatens to kill Sarah, but the Skullion spaceship arrives in time to save her. Harrison is taken aboard along with Plark and his fellows. He will be taken away to see what a life of captivity is like for himself. Now out of a job, Sarah points Adriana towards UNIT, having been impressed with how she handled herself.
Back on Bannerman Road, Luke had initially been reluctant to see Sky take his old room. Now that he has met and worked with her, this is no longer a problem and he accepts her as part of his family.

The Man Who Never Was was written by Gareth Roberts, and was first broadcast on 17th and 18th October, 2011. It marks the end of the fifth season of The Sarah Jane Adventures - as well as being the final story of the entire series, following the tragic death of Elisabeth Sladen that Spring.
The story manages to include all the main cast, as Tommy Knight makes an appearance as Luke, meeting his step-sister Sky for the first time. Sadly, he has left K9 back in Oxford.
The story moves on the possible romance between Clyde and Rani as they pose as a couple.
There are two main inspirations evident.
The first is the obsession with technology, in particular the need people feel to buy the latest version of a product they already possess - which doesn't really do all that much more than what they've already got. This is particularly noticeable when it comes to mobile phones and computer gaming consoles. There is also the issue of the veneration of certain individuals in the IT sector - people like Elon Musk, Bill Gates and Steve Jobs. The latter had just died a week or two before this story was broadcast, so parallels between Serf and Jobs would have been more noticeable at the time.

The other inspiration is the comic strip The Numskulls, who first appeared in The Beezer in 1962. These were tiny people who lived inside a man's head and who "operated" him, controlling the brain, mouth, ears etc. The strip moved to The Beano in 1990, before ending in 2013 in The Dandy. In 1993, the Numskulls no longer worked inside a man but a younger boy. These are clearly the inspiration for the alien Skullions, and even the name reflects this.
The leader of the Skullions - Plark - is played by regular Sontaran actor Dan Starkey.
The villain of the piece - Harrison - is played by James Dreyfus, who has since gone on to portray an early version of the Master on audio. Serf is Mark Aiken, an Irish actor who has featured in US series such as 24CSI:NY and CSI:Miami. Playing Adriana is Edyta Budnik, who has since appeared in Coronation Street and Killing Eve.
The other notable guest artist is Peter Bowles, who plays Sarah's old friend Lionel Carson. Bowles came to prominence in the BBC sitcom To The Manor Born, but genre fans will also remember him for a guest appearance as an alien psychopath in Space:1999.

Overall, a perfectly fine story to end the series - all the regulars getting a share of screen time, though the story does have to concentrate on the first meeting of Luke and Sky. Naturally, we would have liked to have seen a special set of episodes to conclude what had been an immensely enjoyable series, but sadly this was not to be.
Things you might like to know:
  • Three further stories were planned for Series 5 - 'Meet Mr Smith', 'The Thirteenth Floor' and 'The Battle of Bannerman Road'.
  • The name Joseph Serf is a nod to Patrick McGoohan. He used this alias to direct a couple of episodes of The Prisoner - a series which also featured Peter Bowles as a guest artist.
  • The Skullions are name-checked in an episode of TW: Miracle Day, in relation to the black marker it aliens and their technology.
  • As the series had come to a premature end, a new ending was put together. This included the speech first spoken by Sladen from the end of the first series, with unused material added. Clips from earlier stories were shown, which included the Tenth Doctor, K9, Maria Jackson and Jo Grant.
  • On Elisabeth Sladen's passing, Russell T Davies never considered recasting the part and so ended production on the series. He then devised a new CBBC series named Wizards and Aliens, which included some story elements which would have featured in The Sarah Jane Adventures.
  • The last words on screen state that Sarah Jane Smith's story goes on forever... The recent lockdown productions designed to accompany the tweet-a-long viewings sadly elected to bring that story to an end. You can choose to ignore these, as they weren't broadcast on BBC TV, and some of them are, quite frankly, rubbish. The Sarah Jane Smith one was well done - very moving - but I'm electing to ignore it. If you accept one of them, you're obliged to accept them all and, as I've said, some of them are crap. For me, she's still out there, fighting the good fight.

Wednesday 22 July 2020

H is for... Hood, Robin

When offered the opportunity to meet anyone in history, the Doctor was positively scathing when Clara Oswald chose Robin Hood. He tried to point out to her that Hood wasn't real - only a myth. he was therefore shocked to discover a man who claimed to be Robin Hood when the TARDIS materialised in Sherwood Forest in the autumn of 1190. He attempted to rob the Doctor and the two fought a duel - the Doctor armed with only a dessert spoon. Back at his camp, the Doctor was convinced that Robin and his men were robots, or holograms, or aliens in disguise. He could not accept that he really existed. Robin then decided to take part in an archery competition organised by the Sheriff of Nottingham, despite knowing it was almost certainly a trap. Somewhat jealous of Clara's interest in the outlaw, the Doctor also took part - determined to get the upper hand over Robin. Both were captured by the Sheriff, who had an army of robot knights at his command. The rivalry between the Doctor and Robin continued in captivity. On escaping, the Doctor discovered that the Sheriff's castle was constructed around a spaceship. The Doctor tried to show Robin that he was a construct, designed to give people hope. He showed him computer archive images of himself as future generations would see him.
Robin escaped, whilst the Doctor was left to work for the Sheriff to help prepare the damaged spaceship for flight - using stolen gold for the repairs. Robin broke in and rescued him, along with a number of other captives - one of whom was Maid Marian. The Sheriff was killed following a duel with Robin - falling into a vat of molten gold. Robin helped the Doctor destroy the departing spaceship.
Later, the Doctor and Robin agreed that they both had a legacy of heroism and inspiration to others to live up to. As a parting gift, the Doctor reunited Robin with Marian.

Played by: Tom Riley. Appearances: Robots of Sherwood (2014).
  • One of the images which the Doctor shows to Robin is from the 1950's TV series of Robin Hood, with the outlaw being portrayed by Second Doctor Patrick Troughton. An episode from this series is included as an extra of the DVD / Blu-ray of The Power of the Daleks Special Edition.
  • The first mention of a Robin Hood comes in the 1370's, in the Piers Plowman poems of William Langland. Specific ballads about him, including his rivalry with the Sheriff of Nottingham, his archery skills, his gang of Merry men, and his championing of the poor, can be found from the late 15th Century. Shakespeare mentions him in the text of Two Gentlemen of Verona. The version of Robin Hood we know today comes mostly from Sir Walter Scott's Ivanhoe (1819).
  • At the time, Tom Riley was best known for the fantasy TV series Da Vinci's Demons, in which he played a fictionalised version of the title character.

H is for... Holmes, Diane

Diane Holmes was a pilot who took off from Cardiff in December 1953 with a small group of passengers, intending to take them to Dublin. Her aircraft flew into the Cardiff Rift, and did not emerge again until 55 years later. On arriving back in Cardiff, Holmes and her passengers were greeted by the Torchwood team, who had come to provide shelter and to help them adjust to their new lives. Holmes was given a new identity - as one Sally-Anne Hope. She had previously been involved with a married man, and now she found herself romantically involved with Owen Harper, who had only recently ended a relationship with colleague Gwen Cooper. Diane wanted to fly again, but found that bureaucracy prevented her from doing so. She would need to be licensed all over again. Unhappy at the restrictions placed on her, she elected to take her aircraft and fly back into the Rift - leaving Owen heartbroken.
A short time later, when the malevolent Bilis Manger schemed to open the Rift fully, he used an apparition of Diane to tempt Owen into doing so. Owen opened the Rift in the hope that this would return Diane to him.

Played by: Louise Delamere. Appearances: TW 1.10 Out of Time, TW 1.13 End of Days (both 2006).
  • Delamere had just completed a couple of seasons of the nursing comedy drama No Angels. She was an old friend of David Tennant, and had once shared a flat with him.

H is for... Holloway, Grace

Dr Grace Holloway was called away from a night at the opera to perform surgery on an unidentified man who had been brought in to her San Francisco hospital with gunshot wounds. She discovered that the man had unusual anatomy which prevented her from saving his life. The following day she discovered that her superiors had destroyed the patient's medical records for fear of a lawsuit against them - an action which caused her to resign. Taking her belongings to her car, she met a strange man in old fashioned clothes who seemed to recognise her. He mentioned the opera which she had been playing in the theatre when her patient had died. The man followed her to her car, where she was shocked to discover that this was the same man who had died - but looking totally different. He still had a medical probe in his chest, just as she had left one in the dead man. The man is the recently regenerated Eighth Doctor.
Grace took the Doctor home with her to discover that her boyfriend had left her. She became concerned about the Doctor's mental health, until he proved that his predictions of disaster were coming true. The TARDIS had been forced to crashland in San Francisco on the eve of the new millennium after the Master had sabotaged it. The Doctor must repair it before it pulls the planet inside out, and for this he needed a component from an atomic clock. One of these was about to be started up at a ceremony that night at a scientific institute of which Grace was a patron. As such she could get them on the guest list. The Master, in a stolen new body, attempted to stop them.
Escaping with the component, the Master spewed out a toxic substance which infected Grace. After helping the Doctor repair the ship, Grace - now under the mental control of the Master - knocked him out, so that the evil Time Lord could transfer his essence into the Doctor's new body. Her usefulness at an end, the Master then killed Grace. The Doctor escaped and defeated the Master before he could open the Eye of Harmony and destroy the world. The TARDIS then reversed time and brought Grace back to life.
Invited to join him in his travels, Grace decided to decline and remain in San Francisco.

Played by: Daphne Ashbrook. Appearances: Doctor Who: The Movie (1996).
  • More of a one-off companion, in the mould of those who joined David Tennant in 2009, or characters like Sara Kingdom who are classed as companions despite only appearing within a single story, Grace was the sole on screen companion for Paul McGann's Eighth Doctor.
  • Ashbrook is one of a select group of actors who have appeared in both Doctor Who and one of the TV incarnations of Star Trek - having also appeared in an episode of ST: DS9.
  • Copyright issues prevented her from reprising the role on audio, though these issues have now been resolved. She and fellow one-off companion Yee Jee Tso (Chang Lee) were reunited in a Big Finish audio, but playing different roles from the TV Movie.
  • Bizarrely, Grace is one of those pictured in UNIT's Black Archive in The Day of the Doctor. What is odd about this is that she is seen in the company of UNIT Major Kilburne. He was really a disguised alien Bane, as seen in SJA 2.6 Enemy of the Bane.

H is for... Holliday, Doc

The notorious gambler and gunfighter "Doc" Holliday had just opened his dentist shop in Tombstone Arizona in October 1881 when the TARDIS arrived. His girlfriend, Kate, was the singer at the town's Last Chance Saloon.
The Doctor was suffering from a terrible toothache after eating a boiled sweet, and he proved to be Holliday's first customer. The only anaesthetics on offer were a shot of whiskey, or being hit over the head with Holliday's revolver.
Holliday had earlier killed one of the Clanton brothers, and they were out for revenge against him. Holliday decided to set the Doctor up as a decoy, although the Clantons already suspected the Doctor to be their target after Steven Taylor had referred to him as "Doc" in their hearing.
Holliday was on friendly terms with Marshal Wyatt Earp, and he too went along with the deception to protect his friend, though he did not want to see the Doctor harmed - placing him in protective custody. Holliday fled the town, taking Kate and Dodo Chaplet with him, but they returned to Tombstone after Dodo threatened to shoot him.
After the Clanton's murdered Wyatt's brother, Holliday insisted on joining him in the shoot-out with the brothers at the OK Corral. Holliday gunned own the Clanton's associate Johnny Ringo, who was also out to kill him, and the Clantons also perished. Afterwards, Holliday was forced to abandon his dentist shop after having a bounty placed on his head. He gave the Doctor his 'Wanted' poster as a souvenir.

Played by: Anthony Jacobs. Appearances: The Gunfighters (1966).
  • John Henry Holliday was born in Griffin, Georgia in 1851 - making him only 30 when the gunfight at the OK Corral took place (much younger than his portrayal by Jacobs). He got his nickname of "Doc" after studying dentistry. He was diagnosed with TB at the age of 21 - the illness which would claim his life in November 1887. When once asked if his conscience bothered him about the many men he had killed, he replied "I coughed that up with my lungs years ago". He died in bed.
  • Jacobs' son Matthew was the writer of 1996's Doctor Who: the Movie.

H is for... Hoix

Bipedal reptilian creatures who have a reputation for being omnivorous. The Doctor and Rose Tyler encountered one in London in 2007 - an event witnessed by Elton Pope, a member of the LINDA group who were researching the Doctor. The Doctor had a bucket full of an unknown liquid which he was going to use to subdue the creature. A different liquid caused the Hoix to become aggressive when thrown over it.
A short time later, a Hoix came through the Cardiff Rift and was locked up in a hospital basement by one of the staff there. Torchwood member Owen Harper recognised the species, informing the hospital worker that he had heard of one which had eaten the entire contents of a kebab shop in under 20 minutes. The Hoix was placated with some chocolate and cigarettes and was captured.
The Hoix were also members of the alien alliance which trapped the Doctor in the Pandorica at Stonehenge in 102AD.
Another species closely related to the Hoix were present when the Doctor later visited the Rings of Akhaten.

Prior to this, the Doctor had discovered that a Hoix was amongst the victims of the faith-devouring Minotaur creature which inhabited a prison ship disguised as a 1980's hotel.

Played by: Paul Kasey. Appearances: Love & Monsters (2006), TW 2.13 Exit Wounds (2008), The Pandorica Opens (2010).
  • There is a photograph of a Hoix on the wall of The God Complex, and the creature seen in The Rings of Akhaten made use of a repurposed Hoix mask.
  • The Hoix were never named in dialogue in their first appearance. The name was only seen in the end credits.
  • The chase in Love & Monsters, with characters running to and fro from random doors across a corridor, was inspired by similar sequences in Scooby Doo.

Sunday 19 July 2020

Inspirations - The Two Doctors

The Two Doctors has its genesis in an abandoned script for The Five Doctors - namely the initial Robert Holmes commission.
You will recall that Eric Saward notified John Nathan-Turner that the 20th Anniversary celebration piece really ought to be written by someone familiar with the show's history, which meant getting one of the old writers back. JNT had always been resistant to this, referring to them collectively as "boring old farts" who did not fit in with his more dynamic 1980's vision for the programme. He had only employed Terrance Dicks in his first season because his was the only script leftover from his predecessors which was fit to use in the time available. JNT was equally resistant to using old directors for the same reason. Saward had talked JNT round, and had sought out Robert Holmes to write the anniversary story, as he loved his previous work and was keen to collaborate with him.
The story which Holmes began to put together was titled "The Six Doctors", as it would be revealed that the First Doctor (having to be played by another actor due to the death of William Hartnell) was a robot impostor, created by the Cybermen, who were to be the chief villains at Saward's request.
The main plot was to have been that the Cybermen wanted the secret of time travel, and were determined to capture the Doctor to dissect him and uncover what it was in the genetic make-up of Time Lords that allowed them to safely traverse the temporal vortex.
Holmes was being asked to continually update his story as the availability of Doctor and companion actors waxed and waned, until it got to the point when he no longer wished to continue. He withdrew from the project, and Dicks took his place.

However, Saward had enjoyed working with Holmes, and was able to employ him on the next season - the result of which was The Caves of Androzani, widely regarded as one of the best ever stories of the classic era. Holmes was happier with less interference from the producer, and it gave him a chance to reuse concepts from The Power of Kroll, which he had never been happy with, in a more satisfying way. It was only natural that he would be invited back the following year. The only problem was that JNT had a shopping list of story elements which he wanted to see included. Holmes was faced with the same scenario which had led to his anniversary tale being abandoned.
One outcome from The Five Doctors had been Patrick Troughton's desire to appear in the programme once more. After distancing himself from the role for many years, Troughton had now accepted that fans were keen to see him, and so he had begun to make regular convention appearances, through which he got to know JNT quite well. Frazer Hines had only managed a few hours work on The Five Doctors, due to his commitments on Emmerdale Farm, but he had now left the soap. Troughton proposed a return for both the Second Doctor and Jamie to the series.
The series was now regularly including a story each year filmed abroad. JNT wanted to film in the USA, as this was becoming a home from home for him, with frequent visits to US conventions, and he was aware of the big audiences for the show on US PBS channels. The latest companion was an American, to help attract more US viewers. JNT hit upon the city of New Orleans as a possible destination, and started looking into the costs.

JNT also wanted to keep the fans happy with the return of classic monsters, and decided upon the Sontarans for a modern makeover. These had been created by Holmes, although he didn't actually want to use them - preferring to devise his own creatures. Holmes had always preferred a single representative of an alien species for the Doctor to fight against, rather than large armies of them.
The writer now had to come up with a story which included two Doctors and their respective companions, to be set in New Orleans, and to feature the Sontarans - all of which had been imposed upon him. One further imposition was that this was to be three part story - the equivalent of an old six-parter now that episodes were 45 minutes long. Holmes had always hated six-parters, structuring them as a four part story with a two part opening or closing section, to vary characters and locations.
For the main plot, Holmes elected to use the ideas he had formulated for "The Six Doctors" - the search for the Time Lord genetic element so that the villains could travel in time. When it came to the setting, Holmes could only think of jazz music and Creole cooking as being emblematic of the Louisiana city. After initially thinking about jazz-loving aliens, he came up with the Androgums - an anagram of gourmands, from the French word 'gourmet'. This suggested a love of food and drink, and gluttony. The Androgums would be characterised as a food-obsessed race who were keen to sample everything - including human beings, which introduced cannibalistic themes into the story. Holmes was a vegetarian.
It quickly became apparent that the series would not be able to afford a shoot in New Orleans, so JNT was forced to look closer to home. He settled on Spain, and the city of Seville in particular. This totally undermined the whole Androgum aspect of the plot, and neither Holmes nor Saward could see the point of Seville's inclusion. Yes, it had lovely restaurants, but wasn't particularly noted for its cuisine. Holmes was disappointed that the story lost a lot of jokes he had included about the differences between UK and American English.

As with most writers who had story elements imposed on them, Holmes elected to concentrate his writing on his own characters - the scientist Dastari who is the one who will try to find the Doctor's symbiotic nucleus, and Chessene, an Androgum who has been genetically enhanced by Dastari to make her a ruthless adversary. The Sontarans were pushed further down in the story mix.
Additional characters were introduced in the form of "resting" actor Oscar and his lady friend Anita.
Production assistant Gary Downie - JNT's partner - struggled to find a suitable hacienda for the main location. The house he finally found was in the process of being sold to a member of the Getty dynasty, which added some complications. He was helped in his location searches by the wife of the British Consul, and she gets a cameo in the programme as the lady who throws a rose down to Dastari. More problems arose as filming got underway. The stream where we first see the Doctor and Peri fishing had dried up since the location recce. A number of wigs failed to arrive (including Jacqueline Pearce's, who was playing Chessene). This led to the filming schedule having to be adapted, with the cast able to spend more time at the hotel pool while they waited for the wigs to arrive.

ETA - the Basque Separatist Movement - was active at this time, so the explosives needed for the destruction of the Sontaran spaceship were hard to source locally, and had to be brought in from further afield. Disaster then struck when JNT was informed that the film sequences of Oscar and Anita had been damaged and were unusable. He had to pay extra to recall the actors back to Spain to reshoot their material. Later, back in London, he was furious to discover that the damage was hardly visible, and so he had incurred extra costs for nothing. He decided that the programme would no longer use film for location work, sticking to video only as this could be viewed back immediately.
The heat caused additional problems. The Sontaran actors could only work for short periods, preferably in the early mornings or in the evenings when it was a little cooler. John Stratton's Androgum make up kept falling off due profuse sweating. During the main shoot within the city of Seville itself, Patrick Troughton's colourful handkerchief went missing at the fountain location.

The Doctor is initially alerted to the fact that his abducted previous incarnation is being held in the vicinity of Seville due to the distinctive peel of the cathedral bells he hear when he makes a psychic link. The most famous building in the city, it hardly features in the finished programme. Trips abroad in Doctor Who invariably involve a run around which showcases all the main tourist sites. At the time of its completion, the Cathedral of St. Maria de la Sede was the largest in the world. It started life as a mosque, begun in the 12th Century, but was converted to a Christian place of worship after the expulsion of the Moors, from 1248. Christopher Columbus is buried here. The bell peel which the Doctor recognises comes from the bell tower - the Giralda - which was converted from a minaret. The belfry was added in the 16th Century.
The story opens in monochrome, as a nod to the era of the Second Doctor and Jamie. The TARDIS console for these scenes is the one only recently replaced at the end of Season 19. Troughton's original console no longer existed, and it was thought too expensive to recreate it just for a short sequence. It is stated that Victoria is travelling with the Doctor and Jamie at this time, but has been dropped off somewhere to study graphology. This is the study of handwriting, as used in law enforcement to try to judge the personality of a writer, and their psychological state when they wrote something. The first recorded instance of handwriting analysis goes back to 1575, but it wasn't until the late 19th Century that interest really grew in it. It is generally considered a pseudo-science, and many studies have shown that graphologists have a low success rate.
We will discuss this story's place in the Second Doctor's timeline when we get round to doing a "What's Wrong With..." piece on it.
Next time: a story featuring, and inspired by, Herbert George Wells - though the great man will be spinning in his grave. Paul Darrow gets revenge on Colin Baker, after the latter had guest starred in his series...

Wednesday 15 July 2020

SJA 5.2 - The Curse of Clyde Langer

In which fish suddenly rain from the skies over West London. Sarah Jane Smith is visiting neighbour Haresh Chandra's office to organise Sky Smith's enrolment at Haresh's school when they see a fish land on the window ledge. More are falling outside. Hurrying back to Bannerman Road, Sarah asks Mr Smith to investigate and it suggests a possible link to a new museum exhibition. The centrepiece of this is a Native American totem poll recently uncovered by archaeologists. It was reported that there was a rain of fish when it was found. Sarah, Sky and her young friends Clyde and Rani go to visit the museum. Clyde gives some money to a homeless girl before going in. They learn that the totem pole is said to represent an evil deity known as Hetocumtek. Clyde touches one of the carved faces, and gets a splinter in his finger. After scanning the artefact, Sarah can find no trace of any alien technology, so they head for home. As Clyde falls asleep that night, he fails to see his name begin to glow on all the paperwork it is written on...

The following morning begins as normal for Clyde, but as soon as someone mentions his name they suddenly become hostile towards him. Sarah accuses him of always belittling Luke, and throws him out of her house. Rani tells him she hates him, and her father expels him from school. His best friend turns against him, and even Luke refuses to talk to him when he tries to phone him about what is happening. Clyde realises that people are turning against him on the mention of his name - as though it is cursed. He goes to the museum to ask about such curses from the head of the anthropology section - Dr Madigan - but she too becomes hostile on hearing his name and has security throw him out. The situation deteriorates when Clyde goes home, and his mother throws him out. When he tries to take money from a cash machine, the screen simply shows his name over and over again.
The homeless girl he had seen earlier approaches him and offers to help him.

Clyde finds himself living amongst the homeless of London. He decides not to give his real name, for fear of alienating the girl, whose name is Ellie Faber. From her he hears of a number of homeless people who have gone missing recently - and Ellie claims they were taken away by the "Night Dragon".
Back on Bannerman Road, only Sky has remained unaffected by the curse on Clyde's name. Dr Madigan contacts Sarah to say strange things are happening around the totem pole, and Sarah now detects a build-up of alien energy. The faces on the artefact begin to change into more malevolent aspects. At a soup kitchen, an old woman known as Mystic Mags tells Clyde that she has seen something worse than the Night Dragon when reading his tea leaves, and that she knows a curse has been placed on him. Sky finally succeeds in getting Sarah and Rani to listen to a theory from Mr Smith - that the totem pole houses an alien intelligence which has been reactivated through contact with Clyde. By forcing themselves to say Clyde's name, the curse is lifted. They go out and find Clyde and bring him to the attic, where Mr Smith hacks into the teleport of a passing spaceship to bring the totem pole to them. When Clyde touches it once more, repeating his name over and over, Hetocumtek's power is destroyed.
Clyde goes out looking for Ellie but fails to find her. He sees a lorry with "Night Dragon Haulage" written on the side, and learns that the drivers often give lifts to homeless people, taking them to another town to try to start a new life...

The Curse of Clyde Langer was written by Phil Ford, and was first broadcast on 10th and 11th October, 2011. As the penultimate story of the season, and of the series as a whole, it marks the departure of a couple of semi-regular cast members. Bowing out are Ace Bhatti, who played Haresh Chandra, and Jocelyn Jee Eisen, who had infrequently appeared as Clyde's mother Carla.
It's a Clyde-centric story, with Daniel Anthony carrying much of the plot. Although mentioned, Tommy Knight's Luke is absent from this story.
Homelessness in general, and youth homelessness in particular, are major themes. It is believed that Clyde's search for Ellie may have been returned to later in the series had it continued.
This story won the Writers Guild of Great Britain (Children's Fiction) award in 2012 for its sensitive tackling of these issues.
The other cast members worth noting are Lily Loveless, playing Ellie Faber, Sara Houghton as Dr Madigan, and Angela Pleasence as Mystic Mags. Angela had previously portrayed the aged Queen Elizabeth at the conclusion of The Shakespeare Code.

Overall, a well made story, which has its homelessness theme intrinsic to the plot, rather than treating it as a lecture tacked on (something the current iteration of Doctor Who should take note of). Daniel Anthony is excellent, but the other regulars aren't sidelined to allow his central role. SJA stories always end on a happy note, but this one ends on a bit of a sad note as Clyde doesn't know where Ellie has gone.
Things you might like to know:
  • The pre-title sequence has now been amended to include Sky.
  • The cash machine Clyde tries to use belongs to London Credit Bank. This fictitious institution first appeared in The Runaway Bride. It was from one of their ATMs that the Doctor flooded the street with banknotes to confuse the Robot Santas.
  • The soup kitchen is run by an organisation called "Steven's Point". This is the same organisation who were feeding the homeless in The End of Time Part 1 - their mobile catering facility attacked by the Master.
  • Clyde takes the name 'Enrico Box', rather than give his real, cursed name to Ellie. He takes this from a discarded box for "Enrico's Pizza". The Doctor Who universe usually only ever refers to "Jubilee Pizza", first mentioned in 2005's Dalek.
  • Mystic Mags derives her name from newspaper and TV astrologer Mystic Meg, who was very big in the UK in the 1990's.

Monday 13 July 2020

What's Wrong With... The Gunfighters

The Gunfighters represents the flip-side to what we discussed with The Celestial Toymaker last time. Whilst that story was regarded as a lost gem, until we actually got to see the final episode and hear the rest of it, so The Gunfighters was always regarded as one of the worst stories ever, which didn't even have the good grace to be lost.
It wasn't just unpopular in fan opinion, it was officially disliked by the Doctor Who production team - who used it as a reason to discontinue the Historical stories. There would be only two more stories set in history, with no science fiction elements other than the presence of the TARDIS and its crew, but these would be based more on a literary historical genre, rather than historical fact. It wasn't the viewing figures for this story which led to the producer and story editor ditching the Historicals. The Gunfighters got better ratings than some of the later "hard science fiction" stories they preferred - including the first Cyberman story. The problem was with the Audience Appreciation figures, which were the lowest they'd ever been.
The Gunfighters is by Donald Cotton - which means that we get a lot of humour for three episodes, with a bloodbath in the fourth.
Therein lies one of the three main problems with this story. Cotton's style of story structure does mean there is a sharp tonal shift. Is this a serious attempt at a Western, or a parody of one? The Clanton brothers are the main villains of the piece, but they have been presented to us as bumbling, comedic characters - meaning that the audience develops a bit of a soft spot for them. They are more popular than the supposed hero of the piece - the rather humourless Wyatt Earp. The only really villainous character is Johnny Ringo - someone who did exist but had nothing to do with the Gunfight at the OK Corral.
The character who really shines is Doc Holliday, who manages to be a villain and a good guy at the same time, a sort of anti-hero.
The second problem we have with the story is the genre - the fact that it is a Western. Cowboy films and TV series were ten a penny at the time this story was produced and broadcast. Doctor Who was supposed to offer something different, and yet here it was aping other shows which were cluttering up the TV schedules. Not everyone likes Westerns, so if you didn't like them then a Doctor Who version wasn't going to all that attractive. US TV shows were able to film in the Californian sunshine, lending a certain verisimilitude, but here the BBC are forced to recreate the town of Tombstone within the confines of Riverside Studios. We also have the issue of accents, as the BBC had a much smaller pool of US or Canadian actors to draw upon. Despite being brothers, the Clantons exhibit a diverse range of accents.
The third problem we have with The Gunfighters is that bloody song. "The Ballad of the Last Chance Saloon" runs throughout the story, acting like a Greek chorus to comment on the on screen action. It does get used slightly less as the story proceeds, but by then the damage has been done. It is extremely intrusive and annoying.
As far as the actual plot is concerned, major liberties have been taken. We've already mentioned that Johnny Ringo played no part in the gunfight. The actual events were not as clear cut between the Earps and the Clantons as is shown here, in terms of right and wrong sides of the law. Bat Masterson was in Tombstone with Wyatt Earp for a time at the beginning of 1881, but he was recalled to Dodge City and was not present when the OK Corral shoot-out took place. It was Virgil Earp who was the Marshal of Tombstone, so should have featured in this story from the start rather than turn up in the later stages. Also, there were three Earps present at the Gunfight, rather than two - Wyatt, Virgil and Morgan. Morgan didn't die until the following year. Seth "Snake Eyes" Harper is an entirely fictional addition to the story.
There are some plotting problems as well, as various characters go riding off to other places in the middle section of the story, yet manage to be back in Tombstone in no time at all, when the action is supposed to be taking place within a single day or night.
We see a couple of 'Wanted' posters, but they feature photographs. It would more likely be artists impressions at this time. If the Clantons know that Holliday has set himself up as the town's new dentist, why do they wait for him at the saloon, rather than go to the shop with the big false tooth hanging outside a few doors down. And surely they would at the very least have gone and had a look at him, so they knew what their intended victim actually looked like.
As we've said, this story used to be looked upon as one of the worst Doctor Who adventures ever. Once people got to see it, they didn't really mind it at all, and many enjoy the humour.
The DWM 50th Anniversary poll managed to identify 39 stories less well liked than The Gunfighters, including stories written by Steven Moffat, Russell T Davies, Robert Holmes and Neil Gaiman.

Sunday 12 July 2020

Inspirations - The Mark of the Rani

Colin Baker's first historical story, so naturally the main inspiration is the historical period which forms the backdrop - in this case the Industrial Revolution. The Mark of the Rani is set in the north eastern corner of England in the early 1800's. There are real historical figures present, and lots of others are mentioned, which helps to pin down the date.
The Industrial Revolution in Britain began around 1760, and lasted until the mid 19th Century, and was characterised by the invention and adoption of new technologies. Manufacturing moved from small scale, cottage industry set-ups to large scale factory based working. Hand and horse power gave way to steam and water power. The textile industry was at the forefront of the revolution.
The period saw other changes, such as a massive population move away from the countryside into the larger towns and cities. To feed the factories, there was more coal-mining. To build the factories, and their machines, more iron ore was mined, and new methods were devised to refine it.
Another major development was in lines of communication. It was necessary to transport the raw materials to where they were needed, and to get the finished products to their markets. This led first to the canal network, and then to the railways.
The Doctor had earlier claimed to have been involved in one of the key moments of the Industrial Revolution, when he told his companions that he had been present when James Watt had been inspired by a boiling kettle to look into harnessing the power of steam.

The two non-fictional characters present in The Mark of the Rani are inventor and civil engineer George Stephenson, and Lord Ravensworth.
Stephenson was born in June 1781. His parents were illiterate, as was he up to the age of 18 when he took himself off to night classes after work to learn to read and write. George was based in the Northumbrian town of Killingworth, where he made improvements to the pit's steam engine, and also invented a miners' safety lamp some time before Humphrey Davy. As a self-taught man, Stephenson's design was the victim of snobbery, as the Royal Society chose to honour Davy's design over his. Stephenson then started work on locomotives - at this stage intended purely to transport coal, iron ore etc. The idea of passenger trains wouldn't come until 1821 when he government passed the bill for the Stockton-Darlington railway. Stephenson won the competition to run the trains on this line with his Locomotion engine, built 1825. The standard rail gauge in Britain derives from the one Stephenson had used at Killingworth. Stephenson moved away from the North-East in 1830, to settle in Leicestershire, so that gives a maximum date of when the events of this story could have taken place.

There is to be a gathering of engineers and scientists at Lord Ravensworth's estate, and three of the names mentioned as attendees are Davy, Michael Faraday and Thomas Telford. Davy died in 1829, and Faraday's first scientific breakthrough (in the field of electro-magnetics) was in 1821, so he is unlikely to have been an invitee before that date. It is clear from the dialogue that Stephenson has yet to build his famous Rocket locomotive - that came in 1829. This story must therefore be set in the 1820's - between 1821 and 1829.
The baronetcy of Ravensworth fell vacant on the death of its first holder, and was not revived until 1821. The character we see in this story must be Sir Thomas Henry Liddell, who was 6th Baronet of Ravensworth until 1821, and 1st Baron Ravensworth after the baronetcy was reestablished in 1821. He employed George Stephenson at Killingworth from 1804.
The Ravensworth family seat was Ravensworth Castle. It was built on the proceeds of the family coal mines but, ironically, these were to also be its downfall - quite literally, as the house had to be demolished in the early 1900's due to subsidence from the extensive coal workings beneath.
One element of the story which appears to be anachronistic is the presence of people thought to be Luddites. The Luddite movement took its name from Ned Ludd, an apprentice who had smashed textile looms in 1779. The movement was generally confined to the textile industry, and they were active between 1811 and 1816, when they were suppressed by the government and mill owners. To have Luddites active in the coal mining industry in the mid-1820's is historically inaccurate.

According to the story's writers - husband and wife team Pip and Jane Baker - the character of the Rani was inspired by a conversation with some scientists at a dinner party. Pip's brother was a scientist. At said party, one of the guests was talking about human beings basically being bundles of chemical elements, and this got Pip thinking about a scientist who was completely amoral, who couldn't see beyond the chemistry to the humanity. There is no explanation in the script as to how the Master was able to survive being immolated on the planet Sarn in Planet of Fire - a story which was supposed to have seen the writing out of the character, at least for a while.
When first seen, the Master is disguising himself as a scarecrow in a field - something which may have been inspired by the Dr Syn stories of Russell Thorndyke, first published in 1915. Hammer had made a movie about the smuggler character in 1962 (Captain Clegg aka Night Creatures, starring Peter Cushing). Disney followed with their own adaptation the following year (Dr Syn: The Scarecrow, starring Patrick McGoohan).
The Rani's TARDIS is concealed behind a screen depicting a JMW Turner painting. It is Mount Vesuvius In Eruption, painted in 1817. This ties in with our dating - though, of course, the Rani could have brought it with her from any time period.
Next time: From two rogue Time Lords to two Doctors, in a story which was originally going to be about six Doctors, as Robert Holmes gets handed another of JNT's notorious "shopping lists"...

Monday 6 July 2020

SJA 5.1 - Sky

In which a meteor falls to Earth, crashing into a scrapyard in West London. From it emerges a huge man, made of metal. The following morning Sarah Jane Smith is shocked to discover a baby girl on her doorstep. Rani suggests that perhaps it was the Doctor who left her. Her parents Gita and Haresh see the child, and Sarah bluffs that she has adopted her, and her name is Sky. When Sky cries, it causes all the electrics in the house to go haywire. Clyde is left minding the baby, as she seems to respond to him, whilst Sarah and Rani go to the scrapyard to investigate the meteor fall. They find their old friend Professor Rivers is already there. They meet a tramp who sleeps in the yard, and he tells them of the metal man he saw - last seen heading in the direction of Bannerman Road. Sarah is convinced that the appearance of this creature and the arrival of the baby must be connected in some way.
Elsewhere, at a nearby nuclear power station, a blonde-haired woman named Miss Myers materialises and exerts mental control over one of the station's crew - a man named Caleb. From him she learns of a strange power surge centred on Bannerman Road earlier that morning. She goes there and finds Clyde and the baby in the garden, about to be attacked by the metal man.

She forces the metal man to withdraw, then takes Clyde and the baby to the power station. When Sarah and Rani return to the house, Mr Smith directs them to the station. There, they learn that Miss Myers is an alien, a member of the Fleshkind, who have been at war with the Metalkind for many years. Sky is her child, but has really been bred as a weapon, designed to wipe out the Metalkind. Sky absorbs a massive amount of electrical power, and transforms into a young girl, of around 12 years of age. Miss Myers explains that Sky is really a bomb. Sarah and her friends escape, taking Sky with them. Miss Myers captures the Metalkind and wires him up to the nuclear reactor, with Caleb's help. It will be used as a lure to bring others of its kind here, where Sky will destroy them. To prevent a nuclear catastrophe, Sarah must return to the station with Sky and the others. Clyde and Rani are sent to deactivate the reactor, whilst Sarah attempts to make Sky turn against her programming. There is a massive electrical discharge which should prime Sky, but it rewrites her DNA to make her safe. Miss Myers abandons Sky now that she is no longer a weapon, but the Metalkind uses some of the excess electrical discharge to open a portal and he seizes Miss Myers and departs with her as his captive.
Back on Bannerman Road, Sarah has to explain Sky's new appearance to Gita and Haresh as a mix-up at the adoption agency. Sarah is visited by the enigmatic Shopkeeper and his parrot, The Captain, who reveals that it was he who left the baby for Sarah to protect. Sky elects to remain with Sarah.

Sky was written by Phil Ford, and was first broadcast on 3rd and 4th October, 2011. It marks the opening of the fifth and final, truncated, season of The Sarah Jane Adventures - transmitted posthumously as Elisabeth Sladen has passed away in the Spring of 2011. All three of the stories which make up Series 5 were recorded in 2010 at the end of Series 4.
The story introduces a new series regular, to replace Tommy Knight's Luke Smith. Like Luke, this is another product of alien engineering, whom Sarah adopts as Sky Smith (Sinead Michael).
This is the last story to feature Mina Anwar (Gita Chandra), and marks the final appearance of Floella Benjamin as Prof. Celeste Rivers, who has featured occasionally since the first series.

There are elements of The Terminator (1984) in this story, with the appearance of the robotic Metalkind and his mode of arrival. Miss Myers also materialises in a pose similar to that of the Terminator - and the Metalkind has come in search of a child who will be used as a weapon against them, in the same way that young John Connor will one day lead a resistance against the machine intelligence of the future. The Metalkind also has a hint of a robotic version of Watchmen's Nite Owl about it.
Inside the Metalkind costume is regular monster artists Paul Kasey. Playing Miss Myers we have Christine Stephen-Daly, who had been a regular in medical soaps Casualty and Holby City, playing the same character in both series. She had also featured in a few episodes of the cult science fiction series Farscape. Power worker Caleb is played by Gavin Brocker, who had earlier featured in the Torchwood episode Captain Jack Harkness.

Overall, a story which does the job of introducing a new regular character very well, even if the plot isn't terribly original. At time of broadcast, the shadow of Lis' passing hung over all this series.
Things you might like to know:
  • Originally, Rani was to have been proven correct in her guess that it was the Doctor who had left the baby on the doorstep. Matt Smith was to have appeared in a cameo at the conclusion of the story, but proved to be too busy on A Christmas Carol to take part. Cyril Nri stepped in late in the day as the Shopkeeper, and didn't take a credit on the episode. 
  • Although supposed to be concurrent, there is no mention of the Miracle Day phenomenon (Torchwood).
  • The Shopkeeper and The Captain were to have featured more, with their own story arc, had the series continued.

Saturday 4 July 2020

H is for... Hobson

"Hobby" to his friends, Jack Hobson was the British commander of the multi-national scientific team which ran the Gravitron programme from a base on the Moon in the year 2070. He was a blunt, straight-talking Yorkshireman, who didn't suffer fools gladly. The Gravitron was designed to control the weather on Earth by manipulating pressure fronts. When the Doctor and his companions arrived on the Moon, drawn off course by the machine, they found the base in a state of crisis. Crew members were being struck down by a mysterious illness - their medical officer Dr Evans one of the first to succumb. A series of faults were also plaguing the Gravitron, and the dome was suffering a number of minor pressure falls.
Whilst Jamie recuperated from an accident in the medical bay, Hobson asked the Doctor to investigate the illness, whilst he and his crew fought to bring the Gravitron back under control. The situation deteriorated when sick crewmen started to go missing from the medical bay. Polly claimed that she had seen a Cyberman, but Hobson refused to believe her. He threatened to throw the Doctor and his companions off the Moon if they didn't come up with an answer to the illness. It proved to be of alien manufacture - a virus which attacked the nervous system, created by the Cybermen. They had broken into the base to poison the sugar supply. The sick men were then taken to one of their spaceships to be mentally conditioned to operate the Gravitron for the Cybermen - to be used to destroy the surface of the Earth. Hobson helped the Doctor to align the Gravitron along the surface of the Moon, so that it could send the Cybermen and their ships hurtling into space.

Played by: Patrick Barr. Appearances: The Moonbase (1967).