Friday 28 August 2020

What's Wrong With... The Smugglers

This is the second story to be credited to Brian Hayles - and the first one that you could say he really wrote. That's because his previous contribution - The Celestial Toymaker - was fairly heavily rewritten first by Donald Tosh, and then by Gerry Davis. This wasn't Hayles' first historical story idea. He had previously offered a storyline called "Doctor Who and the Nazis" set during WWII, but at this time memories of the war were too painful, and too recent, in the minds of the viewing public for the BBC to consider it. (This was still the case a couple of years later, when Jimmy Perry and David Croft proposed a certain sit-com idea about the Home Guard, a TV vehicle intended for radio personality Jon Pertwee).
We're now at the tail end of the Historical stories, but technically these are now better described as Historical Romance stories, based more on literary works than actual events depicting real historical personalities.
Producer Innes Lloyd and Gerry Davis had already decided to phase out this type of story on joining the series, citing drops in audience numbers and audience appreciation figures for The Gunfighters, which they inherited, and for the recent The Massacre. Both wanted to concentrate on more hard sci-fi concepts - hence their employment of Kit Pedler as scientific adviser. They also knew that families mainly tuned in each week wanting to see monsters.
The Smugglers lacks sci-fi and monsters. It is based mainly on the Dr Syn novels of Russell Thorndike, and the novel Moonfleet, written by J Meade Falkner and first published in 1898. The latter had been filmed by Fritz Lang in 1955, whilst Dr Syn had reached the cinema courtesy of both Hammer (1962) and Disney (1963). Moonfleet had also formed the basis of the BBC TV series Smugglers Bay, made in 1964 and starring the soon to be new Doctor Patrick Troughton, and soon to be new companion Frazer Hines.
This is the first full story proper for Ben and Polly as companions of the Doctor, their first trip in the TARDIS.
They seem to take being in the TARDIS console room remarkably well. There is no apparent shock at their surroundings, despite having entered what looked like an ordinary Police Call Box. You have to wonder how they could have entered in the first place, if the TARDIS dematerialisation had already started. If it hadn't, why did the Doctor take off at all? They could hardly have come inside without him spotting them. It might simply be that his bluster about looking forward to getting the place to himself for a change is just that - bluster - and he secretly wants new company. He knows Ben reasonably well, having worked with him closely during the WOTAN business, but he would know Polly less well.
Minutes later, the TARDIS is on a beach by the sea. Again, Ben and Polly seem to accept this sudden relocation very much in their stride. No shock or amazement here either. They can readily accept that they are possibly in Cornwall a few minutes after being in London, but have a harder time accepting that they are now in the late 17th / early 18th Century - the exact date of this is never specified.
As mentioned last time, Ben was a right old misery guts about missing out on a trip to the Caribbean with his ship-mates and being stuck in barracks for six months, yet he's very insistent about getting back to London - despite knowing that the TARDIS offers instantaneous travel. He doesn't know about the dodgy steering yet.
Not a problem of the programme itself, but the Radio Times described the Squire as being the smuggler gang's secret leader prior to broadcast.
For a change, a member of the cast whose initials aren't WH fluffs a line. It's an important one at that - the riddle which is the key to the entire mystery of where pirate captain Avery's treasure is hidden. Hartnell actually gets the riddle right (twice), but this means that he doesn't repeat what he was earlier told by churchwarden Longfoot. Terence de Marney, who portrays Longfoot, gives the names in the riddle as "Smallwood, Ringwood, Gurney", when they should be "Ringwood, Smallbeer, Gurney".
Longfoot is killed by his one-time pirate accomplice Cherub - who then spends the next three episodes trying to find out what Longfoot told the Doctor. Why did Cherub rush to kill Longfoot in the first place, if he wanted to know the secret of the hidden treasure?
Captain Pike kills Jamaica for allowing his prisoners to escape, but doesn't punish Cherub with so much as a slap on the wrist for killing the only person who definitely knew the treasure's hiding place.
At one point Ben actually has to be reminded by Polly that they are a couple of hundred years back in time.
Another fluff by a member of the cast who isn't Hartnell comes later in the programme, as pirate Gaptooth calls his cutthroat colleague Daniel "Dar... David".
Hartnell himself has a couple of fluffs:
"You see that scanner? That's what I call a scanner, up there", and "Good heavens! What an imper... inspr... well, you are inspired!". When Pike invites him to sit down and talk together "like gentlemen", his response is "Thank you, no", when he's supposed to say yes.
Last, but by no means least, there isn't actually all that much smuggling going on here. It really ought to be called "The Pirates".

More Troughton animations for 2021...

According to website Digital Spy, taking their info from a UK tabloid, 2021 will see two further lost Patrick Troughton stories receiving the animation treatment for a DVD / Blu-ray release. These will be The Evil of the Daleks, and The Abominable Snowmen.
They have always been strong contenders for animation, as they feature relatively small casts of speaking characters (one of the key factors in determining what can be animated, economically) and a limited number of settings.
As with every lost story, the soundtracks exist, and both these stories also have the benefit of having a complete telesnap archive for visual reference. Additionally, both stories have one episode apiece still in existence - the second part in each case.
Apparently this originates with The Mirror, and has not been confirmed by the BBC or the team who work on these projects, but I suspect that this will prove to be more than just a rumour.
What is purely rumour is another news item I read earlier in the week, on a sci-fi blog, that there may be a further 7 lost episodes potentially to be returned to the archives. One of these is the still AWOL third episode of The Web of Fear, but what the other six are is not mentioned - so no idea if a complete six-parter or some miscellaneous orphan episodes. It isn't even stated if they are Hartnell or Troughton ones. Apparently the issue is not about money changing hands with the private collectors who currently hold these, but safeguards around their identity and anonymity, for fear of torch-wielding fans descending on their homes like a scene from a Universal monster movie...

Thursday 27 August 2020

Inspirations - Trial of a Time Lord (3)

It was pretty much a foregone conclusion that Philip Martin would be called upon to write for Doctor Who again, after his first story - Vengeance on Varos - had done so well in Season 22. You'll recall that JNT was initially reluctant to employ Martin as he was worried that he might be too political. As it was Varos was a very political story, touching on the whole "video nasty" controversy and totalitarian governments, as well as covering a lot of moral and ethical issues around capital and corporal punishment, torture, and what the media's role in society should be. The slug-like character of Sil had especially proved highly popular, so any new Martin script would almost certainly be expected to bring him back.
The abandoned Season 23 had as an early story "Mission to Magnus", which would have seen Sil return. Another story, by Wally K Daly, would have involved arms dealing. Martin's new story for the revised Season 23 would also include arms dealing - it is this which brings the Doctor and Peri into the action in the first place.
For the new story that forms episodes 5 - 8 of Trial of a Time Lord, which we generally refer to as Mindwarp, Martin decided to show Sil's background. The setting is Thoros Beta, home planet of Sil's race - the Mentors. We get to see other members of the race, including the leader Kiv.
The main plot is a mad scientist one. Kiv is dying, because his cranium isn't big enough to accommodate his great brain. He has therefore employed an amoral scientist named Crozier to save his life. It is suggested that it was Sil who recruited Crozier, so the scientist's failure will reflect on him. Crozier plans to carry out good old fashioned brain transfer into a new host body. He has organised the capture of many of the humanoids who live on sister planet Thoros Alpha, in order to find a suitable host. This is where Brian Blessed comes in. He's an Alphan warrior king, currently being experimented upon when the Doctor and Peri join the action.

Blessed had been under serious consideration to replace William Hartnell as the Doctor back in 1966. He was well known to the viewing public at the time for his regular role in police drama Z Cars. That series had been taken off the air, but was then reprieved. Blessed was later on the wish lists of other producers when it came time to regenerate the Doctor. Prior to 2005, his name was always mentioned in the tabloids as a potential new Doctor. He almost appeared as a guest on the programme on many occasions, according to casting notes drawn up by directors such as Christopher Barry. His first appearance would have been directly linked to Z Cars, however, as director Douglas Camfield had planned a comedic Christmas crossover between the cop show and Doctor Who for the episode "The Feast of Steven". This seventh instalment of The Daleks' Master Plan was to fall on 25th December itself, and would involve a present day encounter between the TARDIS crew and some Liverpudlian policemen. As it was, the Z Cars producer vetoed the idea. Blessed was one of the Z Cars cast who would have appeared.

Martin was approached by JNT with one fairly major story element that he wanted included. This was to be the death of companion Peri. Always on the lookout to generate column inches in the popular press, JNT thought that this, plus the introduction of a new companion mid season, would attract publicity. He also had in mind a companion actor who was already well known, thus generating even more publicity.
Crozier has been experimenting with transferring brains, but he suddenly decides to transplant only the contents of mind into a new body. After parking Kiv's brain in a temporary amphibious Mentor body, Crozier has his mind transferred into Peri.
Earlier, the Doctor had been subjected to one of Crozier's tests, and this led to some confusion in the plot - and behind the scenes. Was the Doctor's bizarre behaviour the result of is brain being slightly scrambled, a ruse on his part to fool the Mentors, or the Matrix being messed about with and showing false images. Colin Baker asked Eric Saward about this, to be told to speak to the writer. When he spoke to the writer, he was advised to speak to the story editor.
Nicola Bryant reported that she caught sight of an invoice for hire of the large metal door prop from Crozier's laboratory, and it cost more than her fee for the story.
She did not see the final episode of the season, where her real fate was revealed - until it came to the DVD commentary. She found it hilarious rather than touching and romantic. Martin had her managing Yrcanos back on Earth, where he had become a wrestling star, in the novelisation.
Next time: Murder on the Intergalactic Express...

Monday 24 August 2020

Story 228 - Dinosaurs on a Spaceship

In which the Doctor puts a gang together to help avert a disaster which may befall the Earth. In the year 2367, the Indian Space Agency has detected a huge spaceship which is on a collision course with the planet. The Doctor received the warning on his psychic paper whilst in ancient Egypt, assisting Queen Nefertiti defeat a plague of alien locusts. He decides to bring her with him to the 24th Century. He also collects a big game hunter named John Riddell from turn of the 20th century Africa. The other members of his gang will be Amy and Rory. The TARDIS arrives in their front room just as Rory's dad, Brian, is visiting, and the ship materialises around him as well. The Doctor initially doesn't notice that he is on board - only challenging his presence when they arrive at their destination.
Rory is forced to reveal to his dad that he and Amy have not been travelling abroad, but in time and space instead. The spacecraft appears to be deserted, but a massive door opens and a pair of dinosaurs emerge. The Doctor identifies the species as the heavily armoured Anklyosaurus. They then encounter a playful young Triceratops. The Doctor finds a control console and looks for a schematic which will show where the engines are. If he can reactivate these, he may be able to steer the ship away from Earth before the Indian Space Agency destroy it. The console is linked to a teleport, however, and the Doctor, Rory and Brian are beamed to the engine location.

They are surprised to find themselves in the open air, on what appears to be a beach. However, beneath the sand is a metal floor. The ship is powered by tidal power engines. They see some large birds approaching, but these turn out to be Pteranodons. They run and seek shelter in a cave system, where they are confronted by two giant robots. Back at the control console, meanwhile, Amy has been able to access the ship's logs and has discovered that this spacecraft was constructed by the Silurians millions of years ago as an ark. However, there do not appear to be any Silurian life signs on board.
The Doctor, Rory and Brian are escorted by the robots to a smaller spaceship which is docked with the ark. Within is its pilot, a man named Solomon who has been badly injured by a dinosaur. On hearing that one of the newcomers is a "doctor", he insists that he help him, and one of the robots is ordered to injure Brian to force his compliance.

The Doctor discovers that Solomon is a trader who intends to profit from the dinosaurs. However, his ship is stuck here, travelling in the wrong direction. Amy contacts the Doctor and explains about the Silurians. Solomon reveals that he killed them all, reanimating them one by one from hibernation and ejecting them into space. His attempts to steer the ark have led it to automatically head for its launch point on the Earth. He refuses to believe the Doctor when he warns of the Indian missile strike which is imminent, suspecting that the Doctor wants the dinosaurs for himself. The Doctor tricks the robots and he, Rory and Brian are able to escape, hitching a ride on the Triceratops they encountered earlier.
Solomon and his robots teleport to their location, where they have been reunited with Amy, Riddell and Nefertiti. Solomon has the robots kill the Triceratops. Solomon has scanned the newcomers and now wants Nefertiti as his prize. He beams away with her to his ship and prepares to break free of the ark. The Doctor locates the control room, and finds that it requires two gene-matched pilots to fly it. Rory and Brian take on this task, whilst the Doctor locates piece of equipment which the Indian missiles are locking on to. He teleports to Solomon's ship where he deactivates the robots. Solomon's ship breaks free but now has the missile targeting equipment on board, as the Doctor and Nefertiti teleport back to the ark. Solomon is killed as his ship is destroyed by the missile strike. The ark is steered away from the Earth by Rory and Brian.
The Doctor later takes it to an uninhabited planet where the dinosaurs can live in peace, whilst Nefertiti elects to remain in the 20th Century with Riddell, for whom she has developed a romantic attachment. Brian, who has never wanted to travel much, develops a newfound wanderlust...

Dinosaurs on a Spaceship was written by Chris Chibnall, and was first broadcast on 8th September, 2012. The story title, inspired by the 2006 movie Snakes on a Plane, was given to Chibnall to develop by Steven Moffat.
Chibnall had previously written the return of the Silurians in Series 5, so he ties this story in with them. Whilst the series had always presented the Silurians as having resorted to hibernation on Earth to avoid the arrival of a small planetoid (the Moon) that would devastate the surface of the Earth, here we see that they also built a space-going ark for themselves and a number of dinosaur species.
Prior to this story, Chibnall had also contributed the five mini episodes called Pond Life, and the second of these could be said to be a prequel of sorts for this story, with the Doctor coming to fetch Amy and Rory too early by mistake.
This week's opening logo has been adapted so that the words "Doctor Who" have a scaly reptilian look, and the overall lighting is tinged with green.
The story adds the character of Brian Williams, Rory's father. He was not present at the wedding in The Big Bang, as far as we could see. Brian is played by comic actor Mark Williams, best known for the BBC's The Fast Show, as well as his recurring role of Mr Weasley in all of the Harry Potter movies. Yet again, the Doctor is shown to have a group of friends whom we have never met, and who have never been referred to before (or since). Whilst he may be meeting Nefertiti for the first time, it is stated that Riddell is an old friend.

Playing Riddell we have Rupert Graves, who is probably best known these days for playing Inspector Lestrade in Sherlock, but who first came to fame in the 1980's in movies such as Maurice, Room With A View and A Handful of Dust. Genre appearances include Krypton, 12 Monkeys and the recent BBC adaptation of War of the Worlds.
Nefertiti is Riann Steele, who played opposite David Tennant in the BBC's adaptation of his RSC performance as Hamlet.
Portraying the villainous Solomon is future First Doctor David Bradley, who also essayed William Hartnell in An Adventure in Space and Time. He is also famous for regular appearances in Game of Thrones and the Harry Potter movies.
In charge at the Indian Space Agency is Sunetra Sarker, who plays Indira. Sarker was a Casualty regular for more than 10 years.
Voicing his robots are comic actors David Mitchell and Robert Webb, of Peep Show fame.
We see a member of the Silurian race on a computer screen, and it's Richard Hope - who previously played Silurian medic Malohkeh in The Hungry Earth / Cold Blood, and in The Wedding of River Song. In this story his character is named Bleytal.

Overall, a perfectly fine story, if you can get past the silly title and its playing fast and loose with what we've always known about the Silurians. Dinosaurs don't actually feature all that much, with David Bradley's evil Solomon being the main threat - and very good he is too.
Things you might like to know:
  • The idea of the Silurians being a space-going race just doesn't fit with Silurian history as we've seen it in any of their previous appearances - even the story that was relatively recently written by Chibnall. They were always Earth-bound, and used hibernation underground to survive what they thought was going to be an apocalypse. We did see them on Demons Run, but presumably the Doctor transported them on that occasion - or they subsequently became space-farers after emerging from hibernation some time prior to the 52nd Century.
  • Only four species of dinosaur are seen on screen - Anklyosaurus, Triceratops, Pteranodons and some Raptors (the latter made famous by Jurassic Park).
  • The Raptors were CGI models which had been created for the ITV series Primeval, which had been intended as a rival for Doctor Who.
  • The robots were reused props - designed for a CBBC programme called Mission: 2110.
  • On being deactivated, the robots sing the song "Daisy Bell" - a reference to the computer HAL's deactivation in 2001: A Space Odyssey.
  • Nefertiti was the wife of the "heretic" pharaoh Akenhaten. He tried to change Egypt's religious belief system so that a single deity would replace all of the other gods - the Aten or sun disc. It is believed that she briefly assumed the pharaoh-ship after the death of her husband. She died around 1330 BC, aged around 40. Her intended tomb remained unfinished at the time of her death, and her mummy has never been positively identified, although there are a couple of possible candidates - so she might well have relocated to 20th Century Africa.
  • It is claimed that the ark is the size of Canada, but this clearly isn't the case when you see the scale of Solomon's spaceship beside it.
  • At one point the Doctor claims to be a Sagittarius - a reference to the fact that Doctor Who began on 23rd November.
  • Originally it was intended that the big game hunter would be real life bison hunter Charles Jones, but Moffat knew that the next story to be broadcast was going to be a Western-themed one, so Riddell was created instead. He was based on Allan Quartermain, hero of King Solomon's Mines.

Friday 21 August 2020

H is for... Hutchinson, Sir George

Squire of the English village of Little Hodcombe, Sir George was also the local magistrate. He was eager to host a reenactment of a Civil War battle which had been fought around the village in 1643. During the conflict an alien psychic probe from the planet Halkol had arrived, drawn by the hostility of the combatants. This led to both sides - Cavalier and Roundhead - destroying each other. The probe, known as the Malus, had then become dormant. Sir George's plans for the reenactment reanimated it and it reached out and took over his mind. There would be genuine fear and anger leading to mounting violence during the event, so that the Malus could be fed and re-energised.
Sir George was challenged by local historian Andrew Verney, whom he abducted and held captive. He was Tegan Jovanka's grandfather. Also opposed to the way Sir George was stirring up animosity with his war games was school teacher Jane Hampden. Others though, like Joseph Willow, were also under the Malus' psychic thrall. The reactivation of the probe caused a temporal link to the village at the time of the battle, through which a village boy named Will Tyler came through. Other figures were seen as apparitions, which could be manipulated by the Malus to attack people.
Sir George was going to include the burning of a May Queen in his reenactment, and this would be done for real. The chosen victim was to be Tegan, but she was rescued by Sir George's old friend Ben Wolsey, who had initially been in favour of the event.
When the Malus was about to break free in the derelict local church over which it had lain dormant, Will shoved the squire into its gaping maw. His death broke the psychic link which was reanimating it, and it was destroyed.

Played by: Denis Lill. Appearances: The Awakening (1984).
  • Lill had previously played Professor Fendleman in Image of the Fendahl.
  • He had been a regular on the original BBC TV series of The Survivors, but is best known to audiences for his recurring role as Rodney's father-in-law in the classic sitcom Only Fools And Horses (in which his wife was played by Wanda Ventham, his old co-star from Image of the Fendahl).
  • Lill was injured during the making of The Awakening, when he was crushed against a wall by his horse.

H is for... Huntsman

A servant of Lady Adrasta, ruler of the planet Chloris. He was in charge of a pack of ravenous Wolfweeds. These were mobile balls of vegetation which smothered their victims with a web-like substance. The Huntsman obeyed Adrasta's orders implicitly until he encountered the Doctor and Romana, who had come to Chloris in response to a distress signal. From the Doctor he learned that Adrasta had been deliberately holding back technological development on the planet - keeping the population in a medieval-like state - just so that she could maintain power through her monopoly on the scarce metal supplies. She had trapped an alien diplomat - Erato - in the old mine workings, to prevent a trade deal between their two worlds. The Huntsman turned against his ruler and had the Wolfweeds attack her, disabling her before she was killed by Erato. With her dead, and her henchwoman Karela imprisoned, the Huntsman assumed command in order to establish new trade talks with Erato.

Played by: David Telfer. Appearances: The Creature from the Pit (1979).

H is for... Humker

A blond-haired young man who, with another youth named Tandrell, was selected as a child by the L3 robot Drathro to serve it in its citadel - the control area of a subterranean survival chamber on the planet Ravolox. This planet proved to be a future Earth, its surface ravaged by a firestorm sent by the Time Lord High Council to cover the theft by Andromedan spies of material from their Matrix.
Humker and Tandrell were supposed to work together to assist Drathro, but they tended to squabble with each other and disagree.
When Drathro was destroyed, the Doctor sent the pair up to the surface, which they had never seen.

Played by: Billy McColl. Appearances: Trial of a Time Lord (Parts 1 - 4, aka The Mysterious Planet).
  • On learning that he was going to be bringing Doctor Who back, Russell T Davies bumped into McColl, who he knew had appeared in the programme. He took this as a good omen.

H is for... House

House was the name of a disembodied entity of incredible power, which inhabited a small planetoid in a bubble universe. It was called House as the planetoid was home to a number of beings who had become trapped there, and who were looked after by the entity. It kept them alive by using the body parts of others who had been lured there - primarily those of Time Lords, as House fed on the energy of TARDISes. House manifested itself as a glowing green gas. On capturing a TARDIS, it would deposit the ship's matrix inside one of its people, to expire when they burned up and died.
The Doctor was lured to the planetoid when he encountered a Time Lord message cube, and thought that he had found another survivor of the Time War. This proved to be a trap, as House had a number of such cubes. The Doctor's TARDIS had its matrix downloaded into a woman named Idris. House had learned from the Doctor that there were no more TARDISes left, so it decided to transfer itself into the Doctor's ship and leave the bubble universe. Amy and Rory were trapped on board as it left, leaving the Doctor to work with Idris in building a makeshift TARDIS from the wrecks left behind so that they could follow. Inside the TARDIS, House played sadistic games with the Doctor's companions, distorting their reality before killing them. The entity also inhabited an Ood named Nephew, which threatened them - its eyes glowing green.
After the Doctor and Idris caught up with the ship, destroying Nephew as they materialised on board, House decided to kill everyone by ejecting them from the ship. Safety protocols deposited them instead inside the console room. Now that Idris was aboard, the TARDIS matrix was able to leave her and re-enter the ship. It overwhelmed and consumed House.

Voiced by: Michael Sheen. Appearances: The Doctor's Wife (2011).
  • One of the highlights of lockdown has been the BBC TV series Staged, wherein Sheen and David Tennant have appeared together as themselves in a number of video calls regarding working together on a play. If you haven't seen it, please check it out - it's very funny.
  • The two starred alongside each other in Neil Gaiman's adaptation of his and Terry Pratchett's Good Omens, as demon Crowley and angel Aziraphale.
  • Both also appeared together in Stephen Fry's film Bright Young Things.
  • One of Britain's best known actors, Sheen has appeared in a number of genre movies, including the Twilight and Underworld werewolf / vampire franchises.
  • He has a habit of essaying real people in his performances - individuals ranging from TV presenter David Frost (Frost / Nixon), comic actor Kenneth Williams (Fantabulosa!), football manager Brian Clough (The Damned United), UK Prime Minister Tony Blair (C4's The Deal and then again in movie The Queen) and TV presenter Chris Tarrant (Quiz). He has also played the Emperor Nero on TV, and Caligula on stage.

H is for... Hostess

We never did learn the name of the Hostess of the Crusader 50 tour bus, who sacrificed her life to save the Doctor and the rest of her passengers. She was responsible for the welfare of those who travelled on the tours across the inhospitable terrain of the planet Midnight, which was ravaged by deadly X-tonic radiation. As well as providing the refreshments, she also ensured that passengers were kept entertained with a son et lumiere show. The Doctor took exception to this audio-visual display and sabotaged it, which encouraged the passengers to talk and get to know each other. Following a detour due to a rockfall, the Crusader vehicle was attacked by an invisible entity which somehow managed to get inside. It took over the body of passenger Sky Sylvestry. The Hostess became caught up in the paranoia which the attack generated. The entity then appeared to have transferred into the Doctor, but the Hostess, having interacted more with everyone on the tour, recognised that this was not the case. It was still within Sky. She elected to open the airlock doors briefly whilst seizing hold of Sky - and both were sucked out of the vehicle to their deaths.

Played by: Rakie Ayola. Appearances: Midnight (2008).

Wednesday 19 August 2020

Inspirations - Trial of a Time Lord (2)

Last time, we saw what Season 23 might have looked like, if it hadn't been for the enforced hiatus. Time now to start looking at what we did get.
It was always envisaged that the season-long story would comprise individual adventures, representing past, present and future for the Doctor. From the outset, it was intended that Robert Holmes would write the opening section, which would introduce the trial setting and the new recurring characters of judge and prosecutor, and he would then return to finish off the narrative with a two episode conclusion. This left room for two further stories to be included within the overall season structure. That the first of these would go to Philip Martin was also intended early on. It was with the third instalment that uncertainty lay, as several writers were considered and their ideas were dropped before the final choice was made. Other external factors would also come into play. We'll come to that in good time.
The title given to the opening four episodes by Holmes is usually given as The Mysterious Planet.
For inspiration, Holmes looked back to his own work once again - in fact right to his very first dealings with the programme.
In the mid 1960's Holmes submitted a story entitled "The Space Trap". He had earlier tried to submit this for inclusion in the sci-fi anthology series Out of the Unknown, but had been unsuccessful. He had now added the Doctor to the story and was trying again. The story was passed on by successive script editors and eventually came to the attention of Terrance Dicks. He thought the story had some merit, and asked producer Derrick Sherwin if he could develop it with Holmes as a pet project of his own, as Sherwin already had his own ideas about Patrick Troughton's final season. This turned out to be a smart move, as the planned stories all fell through one by one, and so Dicks was asked to proceed with commissioning Holmes to write what was now The Krotons, to fill one of the gaps which had been left.
Some elements of The Krotons find their way into The Mysterious Planet.
First, we have a society which survived some great cataclysm in the distant past, and which is now being manipulated by a more advanced, technological force which is alien to the planet. This force inhabits a place which the population know about but have never been allowed to enter, save for a select few, and they have never seen who, or what, resides inside. The Krotons are not robots like Drathro, but they might as well be in terms of their design and operation. Drathro, like the Gonds, has permitted a pair of bright young natives to come and live with him, as the intelligent young Gonds were supposed to become the "companions of the Krotons".

Another old story which appears to be an influence is The Face of Evil. Whilst not written by Holmes, it was developed with him, and he acted as script editor on it. That story also involved a society which has been split in two, with one half living in a futuristic, technological space (the Tesh), whilst the other half live a more natural life in the wild (the Sevateem). In The Mysterious Planet we have the Tribe of the Free living technology-free on the surface of the planet, with the subterranean tunnel dwellers living beneath.
The Doctor and Peri discover that the "mysterious planet" Ravolox is actually the Earth of the far distant future when they descend into a tunnel and find that it is really the ruined Marble Arch Underground station. We are naturally reminded of the closing scenes of Planet of the Apes (1968) here, where astronaut Taylor comes across the remains of the Statue of Liberty when he thought that he was on an alien world. The sequel, Beneath the Planet of the Apes (1970), is even more of an inspiration, as that included the discovery of an underground rail system (this time the New York one), wherein a separate society of humans live, who are again more technologically advanced than those who remained on the surface.
That Earth was destroyed and shifted across the universe by the Time Lords is just the culmination of the more decadent and deceitful version of the Doctor's race, which Holmes had introduced in The Deadly Assassin. Holmes' Time Lords are not the god-like benevolent beings created by Dicks and Malcolm Hulke, and perpetuated by Barry Letts. Dicks himself came to prefer Holmes' darker version, which he used in a number of his novels.
This is the third time that we have encountered a destroyed Earth in the series. The first time was back in 1966, with The Ark, where we saw the planet evacuated and the population setting of for a new home on Refusis II. The implication in that story was that this was the final end for the Earth, being swallowed up by the sun. Later, we had The Ark in Space, but then it was the case that the Earth's surface had been hit by intense solar flare activity, and merely had to be evacuated temporarily, to be repopulated at a later date. We've since seen the definitive destruction of the Earth in the year 5 Billion, and it didn't fit with what we saw in The Ark, so it may well have been the Time Lord intervention which the Ark people were fleeing in that 1966 story.
And this idea has been revisited yet again in the last series, in Orphan 55. Yet again , we discover that an apparently alien planet is really the Earth from a ruined underground station, in Russia this time. In this story, the Doctor makes it clear that this is only one of a number of possible futures for the planet - so what we saw in The Ark could be another alternative time-line.

Of the new characters introduced in this story, two of them fit the pattern Holmes likes to use of a double act, who are often rather comedic. Here we get the intergalactic rogue Glitz and his dim-witted assistant Dibber. Previous double acts have included Kalik and Orum, and Vorg and Shirna (Carnival of Monsters), Litefoot and Jago (The Talons of Weng-Chiang), Spandrell and Engin (The Deadly Assassin), or Chessene and Shockeye (The Two Doctors). The Doctor and the Master have also been paired with characters by Holmes to form comedy / sinister double acts.
In the court room we have the Inquisitor, who acts as the judge, and the Valeyard, who is the prosecutor. The claim that "valeyard" is an archaic word for a doctor of law, thus hinting at his true identity, was a fib.
Next time: Peri bows out in a story about a rather stereotypical mad scientist, in a sequel of sorts to a story from the previous season, and the main guest star was almost cast as the Doctor, more than once...

Monday 17 August 2020

Story 227 - Asylum of the Daleks

In which the Doctor travels to the ruins of the Dalek city on Skaro to meet with Darla Von Karlsen. He suspects a trap, as she claims to have escaped from a Dalek labour camp and wants him to save her daughter from there - and he does not believe her story. Sure enough, it transpires that she is a Dalek agent - a walking corpse fitted out with Dalek technology. An eye stalk emerges from her forehead, and a weapon from her hand, and she shoots him as a Dalek spacecraft hovers into view.
On Earth, meanwhile, Rory goes see Amy, who is participating in a modelling shoot, to discuss their divorce. After he leaves, Amy's dresser turns out to be another augmented Dalek agent. Rory is attacked by another when he gets on a bus outside.
He and Amy wake up to find themselves in a white room, and they are reunited with the Doctor when he enters. The floor begins to rise and they are taken up into a vast chamber which is full of Daleks.
The TARDIS is also here. The Doctor recognises this as the Parliament of the Daleks, presided over by a Prime Minister - a Dalek mutant in a special transparent casing. They are on a huge spaceship.
The Doctor is shocked to discover that he has not been brought here to be exterminated. The Daleks want his help...

They are in orbit around a planet which the Daleks use an asylum for all their deranged kind. It is supposed to have impenetrable defences, and yet these appear to have been breached. A signal is coming from the planet which is not of Dalek origins, and the Doctor recognises this as classical music from Earth. A young woman named Oswin Oswald answers the Doctor's call, claiming to have crash-landed here. The Daleks fear that if someone can get onto the planet, then insane Daleks could get out, so they want the Doctor to go and investigate. They are too frightened to go themselves. After being given special bracelets which will get them through the defences, the Doctor, Amy and Rory are beamed down to the surface. Rory, however, becomes separated. The Doctor and Amy meet a young man who claims to be another survivor of the crash - that of an Earth ship called The Alaska. He takes them down to his escape pod, which is buried beneath the snowy wastes of the planet. The Doctor is curious about how long the survivors have been here. Oswin mentioned making souffles to pass the time, but where would she get eggs from? The young man, Harvey, then lets slip that he died in the crash. All of his colleagues in the pod are also dead. However, the planetary defences include nanogenes which turn anyone unprotected into augmented Dalek agents - living or dead. All the corpses stir to life, and the Doctor and Amy are forced to flee down into the asylum complex. In the confusion, however, one of the corpses has managed to steal Amy's bracelet.

Rory, meanwhile, has found himself in the middle of the asylum. He is in a large chamber full of inanimate Daleks from different periods of their history. He is horrified to discover that they are not dead - merely dormant, and he has woken them up. he manages to escape into a corridor where he is contacted by Oswin, who tells him that she has hacked into the asylum's systems. She will guide him to safety. She is also in contact with the Doctor. The Dalek nanogenes are beginning to affect Amy, and she will become fully augmented if she doesn't get off the planet soon.
The Doctor finds Rory, and the take Amy to a transmat chamber. The Doctor then sets off to find Oswin. Left alone together, Amy and Rory discuss the reasons for their break-up. It transpires that Amy is deliberately pushing Rory away as she knows how much he wants to have children - but the events on Demons Run mean that she cannot have any more children. Rory decides to give Amy his bracelet, only to find that she is already wearing one - the Doctor's. He can withstand the nanogenes longer than she ever could.

Oswin guides the Doctor towards her, and the route passes through the Intensive Care section where the most insane Daleks are kept. On hearing that they come from planets like Vulcan, Exxilon and Kembel, he realises that these are the Daleks who have encountered him. Oswin helps him get through the area and he emerges into a brightly lit chamber in which there stands a lone Dalek, weighed down with heavy chains. This is as the Doctor had suspected. Oswin has managed to retain her humanity, despite having been converted into a Dalek a long time ago. She only thinks she remains human, carrying out tasks like cooking souffles. The Doctor had guessed as much from the eggs to make the souffles, and her ability to hack so easily into Dalek systems when she claimed to be an entertainments officer on her spaceship. Now confronted with the truth, she elects to destroy herself, but will take the asylum planet with her. She will deactivate the shield around the planet, knowing the Dalek Prime Minister intends to fire upon the planet - removing the risk of insane Daleks ever escaping. Oswin deletes all reference to the Doctor from the Dalek databases. She tells him: "Run you clever boy, and remember". He rushes back to the transmat chamber and beams up to the Parliament ship as Oswin deactivates the shields. The planet is blown up. The Doctor had adjusted the transmat to place them safely within the TARDIS. When he emerges, the Daleks demand to know who he is.
The Doctor then takes Amy and Rory back to their home, the couple now reconciled.

Asylum of the Daleks was written by Steven Moffat - his first Dalek story - and was first broadcast on 1st September, 2012.
It marks the beginning of the seventh series, and introduces the future companion actor Jenna-Louise Coleman in what was a huge surprise to most at the time. The media already knew that Karen Gillan and Arthur Darvill would be leaving part way through Series 7, to be replaced by Coleman, but she wasn't due to feature until the 2012 Christmas Special. Despite preview screenings, the secret was pretty much kept. Fans were further surprised to see that she had been turned into a Dalek, and was blown up at the end of the story.
It was also known that the seventh series was, like the previous one, going to be split into two halves - either side of Christmas, rather than the summer as we had with Series 6.
Other developments include a new title sequence, and arrangement of the theme music. Each story of this first half of the season would have a personalised title sequence, with different colour palettes and textures for the words "Doctor Who". For this story, the text had Dalek hemispheres added.
Each of the stories for this series, which would take the programme up to its 50th anniversary, was to be given an epic, cinematic flavour, with movie-style posters released for each broadcast.

Asylum of the Daleks boasted what was, at the time, the largest set ever constructed for the programme. It also boasted the largest collection of Daleks ever assembled on the show.
The Daleks had featured only in a brief cameo in the last series, but prior to that the New Paradigm had been introduced, which were supposed to supplant the old bronze models. They had proven divisive, and now even the production team had gone off them. They do feature in this story, but it is the bronze ones who predominate. The new Daleks have been given a metallic finish to their paint work, which at least stops them looking so plasticky. This will turn out to be their final appearance.
In addition to the bronze Daleks, a collection of props representing the classic era of the programme was put together. These were mainly reproductions.
Unfortunately, as seen on screen, this proved to be a huge disappointment for fans keen to see once more the classic Raymond Cusick design. The older models are stuck in the background of dimly lit scenes, covered in dust so you can't even see their livery. Only the Special Weapons Dalek stands out thanks to its unique design, but it is barely glimpsed.
The Intensive Care section is the place where all the Daleks who had faced the Doctor are kept - the one place that you might have expected to see the old models. Instead, they are all newer bronze ones on show. Quite pointless assembling all the old models really.

Additions to Dalek lore include them having a Parliament, and a Prime Minister, who does not have a conventional Dalek casing. They have aesthetic sensibilities, finding hatred beautiful. It is offensive to them to eliminate it. They've long made use of human servants / slaves, but now these agents, or puppets, actually have physical Dalek attributes like guns and eye stalks. The Doctor is now known as "the Predator of the Daleks".
For such an epic story, there is only a very small additional cast. We've already mentioned Jenna-Louise Coleman as Oswin. Apart from Daleks themselves, everyone else is a Dalek agent.
Darla Von Karlsen is played by Anamaria Marinca, and Harvey is David Gyasi. He had previously appeared in a small role in the Torchwood episode Combat. Amy's dresser, Cassandra, is Naomi Ryan.
The small extra cast does allow more time for Darvill and Gillan to work together, as they work out their marital issues which first appeared in the fifth and final of the Pond Life shorts.

Overall, a strong series opener, though a little disappointing, Dalek-wise, for the reasons mentioned above. It was quite refreshing to get away from River Song and all the Silence business which dominated the previous series, though we're left with the question of how Oswin will fit in with the new companion when she finally arrives.
Things you might like to know:
  • Steven Moffat asked Matt Smith and Karen Gillan to name their favourite old-style Dalek, and they both opted for the black-domed Imperial Guard Dalek from Evil of the Daleks. A photo of them with the prop was released on social media prior to broadcast.
  • One of the Daleks, a reproduction of a Planet of the Daleks / Genesis of the Daleks grey model, belonged to Russell T Davies. It lived in his hall. He was pleased to be able to say afterwards that it was one that had actually appeared in the programme.
  • Moffat had almost written a Dalek story during the RTD era. He was due to have written the story which became Daleks in Manhattan / Evolution of the Daleks. On withdrawing from that, he agreed to write the Doctor-lite story for that series, by way of an apology to RTD for messing him around. That story proved to be the hugely successful Blink.
  • This was the first time since the TV Movie that Skaro had appeared. We see it in ruins and, bizarrely, the Daleks have a huge Dalek-shaped building in the centre of their city. Skaro had apparently been destroyed at the conclusion of Remembrance of the Daleks, only to be shown at the beginning of the Movie. No mention of it being destroyed in the Time War was ever made - the Doctor saying he had only wiped out the Daleks themselves. Come The Magician's Apprentice, the Doctor speaks as though he didn't know Skaro was still around and has to be told that it was rebuilt.
  • The scene where Rory faces a waking Dalek and thinks it is talking about 'eggs' was used once before, in a 1993 comic strip by Paul Cornell. On that occasion, the Seventh Doctor was being turned into a Dalek.
  • Five classic Dalek adventures are referenced with the Daleks in the Intensive Care unit - with mentions of the planets Spiridon (Planet of the Daleks), Exxilon (Death to the Daleks), Kembel (The Daleks' Master Plan), Aridius (The Chase), and Vulcan (The Power of the Daleks).
  • The odd thing about this collection of classic Daleks is that some of them come from adventures where there were clearly no Dalek survivors, so it's hard to say where these ones came from.
  • As well as RTD's grey Dalek, the Special Weapons Dalek, and the Imperial one favoured by Smith and Gillan, reproductions of Daleks from The Daleks and Death to the Daleks were also in the asylum scenes. One of the newer models is black, like Dalek Sec.
  • Arthur Darvill was supposed to have sported a beard as Rory for this story, indicating the breakdown of his marriage as Amy would have hated it. Darvill had grown a beard for his performance as Mephistopheles in the Shakespeare's Globe production of Marlowe's Doctor Faustus. However, as A Town Called Mercy was recorded first, he had shaved the beard off. 
  • Whilst filming A Town Called Mercy, the crew realised that they weren't far from the snowfields of the nearby Sierra Nevada mountains and so a skeleton crew set off to film some scenes for the Asylum Planet.

Friday 14 August 2020

What's Wrong With... The War Machines

Like the previous story, The Savages, The War Machines is written by Ian Stuart Black - the first time the same credited writer has written two consecutive stories.
Since taking over the production office, producer Innes Lloyd and script editor Gerry Davis were now able to shape the programme the way they wanted it, rather than having to work on stories commissioned by their predecessors. Both wanted a harder science fiction feel, and to this end they had sought out a number of scientists who were used to the television medium, who might want to act as "scientific advisers" to the show. One of these was Dr Alex Comfort, author of The Joy of Sex - so you could argue that that's the first thing wrong with this story: they never hired him...
Patrick Moore was another person who didn't work out. The problem was that some of these scientists were too scientific, and couldn't allow for some dramatic licence.
In the end, Gerry Davis opted to collaborate with Dr Kit Pedler, a leading ophthalmologist, who had featured on a couple of TV shows discussing his work. He had the imagination to take scientific concepts and spin them into teatime family drama.
In order to find the right man (and they were all men who were considered), Davis would indicate the newly constructed General Post Office Tower, which could be seen from his office window and propose the notion that it could be used to take over London. How could that happen? Pedler came up with the idea of a super-computer based in the Tower, which had the power to take over people's minds via the telephone system, turning them into mental slaves. (What we call "TikTok" nowadays).
The story idea was first given to writer Pat Dunlop to develop, but he had to drop out rather early on, and so Black was given the commission.
One of the things Black had to include was the writing out of companion Dodo Chaplet, which is probably the biggest thing wrong with this story.
Innes Lloyd had not liked either of the companions he had inherited, and so had decided to write both out as early as possible. He thought Jackie Lane clearly too old to be playing the teenage character of Dodo and wanted, instead of her and Steven, a pair of new companions who reflected contemporary swinging London.
Dodo is hypnotised by super-computer WOTAN at the end of the first episode, and spends the second episode under its thrall as she tries to recruit the Doctor to WOTAN's scheme. The Doctor notices this and breaks the mental conditioning. By the third episode she's off camera, sent to recuperate in the country at the home of civil servant Sir Charles Summer - never to be seen again. In the final episode, the Doctor gets a message via Polly that Dodo has suddenly, out of the blue, decided to stay on in London, and not even say goodbye to the Doctor in person.
As companion departures go, it is one of the worst. She is just written out half way through the story.
The other big problem which everyone notes with this story is WOTAN's naming of the Doctor as "Doctor Who". Previous script editors had gone out of their way to point out to aspiring writers that the character is called 'the Doctor', and not Doctor Who, yet we'll see more than one instance of this occurring under Davis' watch.
As I argued ages ago, there is a way round this. WOTAN also knows what the acronym TARDIS stands for, and it takes over people via hypnotism, so presumably it can read their thoughts in some way. It may have looked for the Doctor's name in Dodo's mind and not found it, so just called him 'Who?'.
The other way round this is to go with the novelisation explanation, which also explains why the Doctor is so cliquey with London's top scientists and civil servants these days. It's all to do with Ian Chesterton. He's a well-connected top scientist now, and WOTAN has been eavesdropping on his phone calls. This might explain WOTAN knowing what TARDIS means, but Ian never called the Doctor "Who" either.
The only proper explanation for why the Doctor can access the GPO Tower and WOTAN so easily, and hob-nob with Sir Charles so freely, is that he made some connections of his own way back prior to An Unearthly Child. Either that or he's had the Psychic Paper a lot longer than was known about.
A few other things...
The TARDIS prop for this story was newly refurbished for the studio sessions, prior to being taken down to Cornwall for the location filming on The Smugglers. However, the location filming for this story took place before the refurb. The TARDIS on film still has white window surrounds, the lock on the left hand door, and the St John's Ambulance symbol on the right. In studio, the St John's Ambulance sign has been painted over, the lock has moved to the right door, and the window frames are now blue.
The Doctor tells Dodo that he gets a weird sensation whenever Daleks are around - a prickling sensation on the skin. Despite four previous encounters with the Daleks, he has never once mentioned this phenomenon, and has always been taken aback by their appearance at the end of the story's first episode. (With hindsight we know that the Daleks are indeed active in the vicinity during the events of this story, as is another incarnation of the Doctor, though naturally Black and Davis weren't to know this).
Not long after the Doctor and his friends leave the 'Inferno' nightclub, a tramp is killed by WOTAN's servants in a warehouse nearby. Presumably it is the early hours of the morning when this happens, yet the tramp's killing manages to make it into the morning papers - with a photograph. Not only is it unlikely that the crime would have been discovered and written about so quickly, but just who was this tramp that the newspaper thinks his demise newsworthy, and had a studio portrait photograph of him on file?
It's also a massive coincidence that WOTAN has set up its top secret base of operations only ten feet away from the nightclub which the Doctor and his companions have taken to frequent. The killers haven't done much to dispose of the tramp's body very thoroughly, what with him being such a celebrity.
The 'Inferno' seems to be rather sparsely populated for London's hottest night-spot.
Something which we'll come back to in the next story: Ben is depressed because his ship is going to the West Indies without him, and he's going to be stuck in barracks for 6 months, yet the next minute he's desperate to get back to base.
The War Machines have the unexplained ability to jam rifles - so why don't we see the army throw grenades at them, or employ bazookas?
Only one War Machine prop was built. To make out that there were more, a number on the prop was changed. However, for the scene which bridges the second and third episodes, the same machine appears to be both No.3 and No.9.
At the beginning of the final episode, as William Hartnell examines the deactivated War Machine, we see him bang his head on an overhanging section of the prop.
In the closing credits, and in the Radio Times billings for this story, Kit Pedler's name is spelt wrongly as "Pedlar".
Lastly, a question of keys. Ben and Polly are able to let themselves into the TARDIS at the story's conclusion using the key which fell out of the Doctor's cloak, which was picked up by Ben. The Doctor has just used his own key to let himself into the ship - so where did this spare key come from? We know that Dodo had one, but there is no mention of the Doctor getting it back from her earlier in the story. Indeed, he has been waiting for her to rejoin him in their travels.

Series 7 Prequels - Asylum of the Daleks

In which the Doctor has a strange visitation. He is enjoying a cream tea in a cafe when he notices a cowled figure seated across the room. Suddenly everything goes quiet, and he finds himself alone with the mysterious figure. The figure informs the Doctor that there is a woman named Darla Von Karlsen who wishes to speak with him. The Doctor dismisses the request and stands up, suddenly finding himself in a darkened room. He realises that the message is a psychic one, and so wills himself back to reality, where he is sitting on a deckchair on a beach.

However, this is not real either, as the monk-like figure reappears before him. The figure gives him a set of space-time co-ordinates, and says that Von Karlsen needs his help in saving her daughter. He is asked if he recognises the co-ordinates, but refuses to give an answer. He knows them, and is horrified at the thought of going there.
He wakes up in the TARDIS, and says aloud to himself the name of the planet to which the co-ordinates correspond: Skaro...

This prequel was written by Steven Moffat, and was initially only available to subscribers of the US i-tunes store, or for customers of Amazon Instant Video who were resident in the States. It was released on 30th August 2012, two days before Series 7 began broadcasting.
It quickly turned up on YouTube and on fan sites, so UK fans got to see it gratis prior to Asylum of the Daleks.
Almost all of the prequels of the Matt Smith era are fairly disposable, and it matters not if you have caught one prior to the episode's broadcast, but this one does explain why the Doctor is on Skaro at the start of Asylum.
The monk-like figure, whose face we never see, is played by regular Dalek operator Barnaby Edwards. The costume is clearly a reuse of a Headless Monk robe.
Fans who like to visit filming locations, and who love cream teas, should visit 'The Plan' artisan cafe in Cardiff's Morgan Arcade. Four stars on TripAdvisor.

Wednesday 12 August 2020

Inspirations - Trial of a Time Lord (1)


Before we take a look at the stories which went to make up Doctor Who's 23 Season, let's consider what might have been.
Plans were well underway for the season, with stories commissioned and, in some cases, the cast and director were already lined up. 
From what we can see, the template was clearly going to be the same as the 22nd Season, with a heavy nostalgic influence. Season 22 had comprised 5x two-part stories, and 1x three-parter, which was the equivalent of the old Tom Baker seasons, allowing for double length episodes.
Season 22 had seen returns for the Cybermen (in a story full of references to past Cyberman adventures), the Daleks (in a sequel to their last three outings), a reintroduction of an alien not seen for many years (the Sontarans), and the Master (along with a brand new rogue Time Lord, the Rani).
Season 23 was to have seen rapid returns for the Rani and Sil, plus reintroductions for characters not seen for many years - the Autons, the Ice Warriors, and the Toymaker. The Master was also due to make another appearance, as well as a more recent monster - the Tractators.
Four of the six planned adventures would have involved some element from the show's past.
Revelation of the Daleks had ended with Peri asking to be taken somewhere fun for a change, and the Doctor had hit upon a place he knew which began with the letter "B". This was to have been Blackpool - the Lancashire holiday resort, famed for its Tower and Pleasure Beach theme park, as well as every other seaside holiday cliche going. It had, for many years, also been home to a permanent Doctor Who Exhibition of props and costumes. Colin Baker had been called upon to help open a new space ride, run by the company behind the Pleasure Beach, which had inspired JNT to arrange for a story to be set at the theme park.
The writer was to be Graham Williams, JNT's predecessor as producer of the series, and the theme park setting had inspired a return appearance for the Toymaker, last seen way back in 1966's The Celestial Toymaker. He would once again be portrayed by Michael Gough, and the director was to be Matthew Robinson, who had helmed Resurrection of the Daleks and Attack of the Cybermen over the last two seasons. Gough's involvement would have had to be negotiated with the BBC upper echelons, as it was generally frowned upon to have an actor make too many guest appearances in a TV show unless playing a recurring character. Gough had only recently appeared as Councillor Hedin in Arc of Infinity.
Specific Pleasure Beach rides would have been incorporated into the narrative.
Next up would have been "Mission to Magnus", from writer Philip Martin. He would have reintroduced his character Sil from the previous season's Vengeance on Varos, in a story which would have seen the return of the Ice Warriors after an eleven year absence. A Grand Marshal / Ice |Lord would have featured. The story would also have given us yet another "rogue" Time Lord - a male one named Anzor whom the Doctor greatly disliked as he used to bully him at school. Ron Jones was likely to have been the director.
The third planned story was to have been one of the ones without an element from the show's past. Titled "The Ultimate Evil" it would have been written by Wally K Daly. It revolved around a character known as the Dwarf Mordant, who was an alien arms dealer trying to foment a war between two planets. The director was to have been Fiona Cumming.
As with Season 22, the fourth story was likely to have been the three-parter. Provisionally entitled "Yellow Fever and How to Cure It", it was to have been another "shopping list" assignment for Robert Holmes. 
JNT and his partner Gary Downie had been on holiday to Singapore and came back thinking it would make a great location. The story would have seen a return for the Rani and the reintroduction of the Autons, after an even longer gap than that for the Ice Warriors. It has been suggested that the Master might also have featured, but he was also pencilled in for the fifth story - Christopher H Bidmead's "The Hollows of Time". This would have been set in a small English village, and seen the return of the Tractators. The Master would have been acting under an alias - Professor Stream. When it came to adapting this story for audio, Big Finish retained Prof Stream as a separate character.
A number of other scripts were under consideration for the final slot of the season, and once again Eric Saward might have wanted to contribute something himself.

A serious situation then arose whilst Season 22 was in mid-broadcast. Head of BBC 1, Michael Grade, did not like the programme. He thought it amateurish and long overdue for retirement. The Corporation was planning on a new soap opera (EastEnders) which would be broadcast two evenings per week, and this would require funding. Savings had to be made from other areas of the Drama Department, and Doctor Who was one of the programmes earmarked for cancellation. Other issues were involved in the decision, including concerns about the levels of violence which had crept into the show - especially with the then current season.
JNT was informed that the series was going to be "rested", but the plan was always that it would be cancelled outright. JNT deliberately leaked the news to the media, and there then followed a massive campaign by newspapers and fan groups to save the programme. The depth of feeling caught the BBC on the back foot, and so they hurriedly released a statement that the show was merely being rested for 18 months, and it remained one of their key programmes. The BBC lied.
Advised to make some changes, especially with regards the violence, JNT and Eric Saward elected not to proceed with any of the planned stories outlined above. The programme was now on trial with their BBC bosses as far as they were concerned, and so Saward hit upon the idea of including a trial as a major theme for the 23rd Season when the show returned. It was also Saward who decided that the season should follow the pattern of Charles Dickens' A Christmas Carol - with stories reflecting the Doctor's past, present and future.
It has never been satisfactorily explained why none of the proposed stories could have been amended to fit the new format, and why they all had to be dropped in their entirety, despite some being at an advanced stage of development. Budget cuts would obviously have put paid to any trips to Singapore.
As Season 22 came to a close, the Doctor's mention of Blackpool was cut by a freeze frame.
It was later decided that Season 23 would comprise a single storyline - making it the longest story in the series' history at 14 episodes long (two more than The Daleks' Master Plan). It had been decreed that Season 23 would have a shorter running time. News of this leaked and fan / unofficial continuity adviser Ian Levine raised this with JNT at a convention, only to be told this was not the case. The producer lied.
Next time: the trial gets underway, and Robert Holmes once again revisits one of his old stories...

Monday 10 August 2020

Series 7 Prequels - Pond Life


In which we see what the Doctor gets up to when the Ponds aren't around - and what the Ponds do without the Doctor...

The Doctor leaves a message on the Ponds' answer machine about his recent encounter with the Sontarans on the planet Florinall 9; a close encounter with the infamous spy Mata Hari in Paris; laying down backing tracks on a hip hop album; and crash-landing the TARDIS in ancient Greece.

The Doctor bursts into the Ponds' bedroom in the middle of the night to warn them of impending disaster. He suddenly realises that he has arrived too early in their time-streams, so advises they go back to sleep and forget about it...

Rory gets up one morning, only to discover an Ood sitting on their toilet...

The Ood has been staying with the Ponds for a few weeks, and has been extremely helpful around the house. Rory worries that they are taking advantage of it, though both do enjoy its meals and all the cleaning it does. They manage to speak to the Doctor about it and he promises to come and collect it.

The Doctor has parked the TARDIS outside the Pond residence to change the lightbulb on the roof, and has left another phone message as no-one seems to be home. He tells of how he may have invented pasta in ancient Mongolia, and of how the TARDIS helmic regulator was damaged by an arrow fired at the Battle of Hastings. He suddenly changes his mind and deletes the messages, just as Amy Pond arrives home - desperate to speak to him. She and Rory have split up...

Pond Life was a collection of five short mini-episodes released on-line over the week of 27th - 31st August, 2012. They were written by Chris Chibnall.
The May episode features clips from Dinosaurs on a Spaceship, so this is the imminent disaster which the Doctor has come to warn about.
The implication from June is that this is not the first time that the Doctor has intruded in the Pond bedroom, as mention is made of "rules", and Rory says "I really hate it when he does that..." after he has gone.
In July, the Doctor tells the Ponds that he rescued the Ood from the Androvax conflict and mislaid it when the TARDIS last visited. Androvax was an alien who appeared in two of The Sarah Jane Adventures. The Ood was once again played by Paul Kasey, and voiced by Silas Carson.
For the first four episodes, and the closing part of the fifth, Karen Gillan was wearing a wig as she had shaved her head for her role as Nebula in the first Guardians of the Galaxy movie. The sequence with her and Rory arguing on the doorstep in the final instalment sees her with her own hair, so this flashback scene was filmed as part of Asylum of the Daleks. They are wearing the same costumes from that story.
The sequences with Matt Smith and the TARDIS outside the Pond house were filmed during the making of The Power of Three.

Saturday 8 August 2020

H is for... Host, Heavenly


The Heavenly Host were the service robots assigned to look after passengers on Max Capricorn space cruises, which originated on the planet Sto. For their voyage to Earth at Christmas, 2008, on a replica of the ill-fated Titanic, the Host were redesigned to look like angels, replete with wings and halos. Unbeknown to passengers and crew, Capricorn was about to be ousted from his own company, and so he had decided to sabotage this cruise. The Captain - Hardaker - had been paid to turn off the force-shields and magnetise the hull so that the ship would be struck by meteoroids. It would crash onto the planet below, and lead to ruin for the board members who wanted to take over the company. Capricorn had reprogrammed the Host to kill all survivors. They were capable of hovering, and could remove their halos and use them as lethal weapons. They were susceptible to powerful electromagnetic surges, however. The Doctor was able to trick them by pointing out that he was neither passenger or crewman and should not be killed, as he was really a stowaway. He ordered them to take him to the person in charge, after guessing that Capricorn himself was hidden on board in a reinforced area of the ship. The Host had in their programming the order to answer three questions asked of them, but took this very literally. Once Capricorn had been killed by waitress Astrid Peth, and control of the ship taken back by Midshipman Frame, the Host were deactivated.

Played by: Paul Kasey. Appearances: Voyage of the Damned (2007).

  • Russell T Davies was inspired by The Robots of Death for the way the look and sound of the Host - beautiful, calmly spoken killers.

H is for... Hopper

Hopper was the captain of a rocket ship which had been hired by an archaeological expedition to take them to the planet Telos. The expedition leader was Professor Parry, and it was being financed by a couple named Eric Klieg and Kaftan. They had come to investigate the last resting place of the Cybermen. 
Shortly after a pair of giant metal doors was uncovered, Hopper lost one of his men when he was electrocuted trying to open them. Kaftan had offered a financial reward to open them. Later, Hopper reported that the rocket had been sabotaged. He refused to allow the expedition members to stay overnight in the ship, as they would have gotten in the way of repair work. The Doctor suspected that the sabotage was the handiwork of Kaftan's manservant Toberman.
After the expedition succeeded in accessing a lower level of the Cyberman tombs, Victoria had to fetch Hopper to rescue the party. Kaftan had locked the expedition members in, then pulled a gun on Victoria.
Hopper and his co-pilot, Jim, succeeded in opening the hatch to the lower level and employed smoke bombs to allow the party to escape the revived Cybermen.
Hopper eventually took the few surviving members of the expedition back to Earth.

Played by: George Roubicek. Appearances: The Tomb of the Cybermen (1967).
  • Austrian born Roubicek mostly works in dubbing of foreign language films these days. He appeared in two James Bond movies - You Only Live Twice and The Spy Who Loved Me - as Russian characters, but he is also one of that elite group of Doctor Who actors who have played Imperial Officers in a Star Wars movie. Roubicek is the officer who reports to Darth Vader just after his initial entrance at the beginning of the movie.

H is for... Hopley, Maggie

Maggie Hopley was a young woman encountered by Torchwood's Owen Harper one night. He had seen her acting suspiciously on the edge of a rooftop. As he suspected, she was planning on throwing herself off the building. It transpired that her husband had been killed in a car accident on their wedding day. Owen, who had recently been brought back from the dead, told her of a mission he had just undertaken with Torchwood, which involved a wealthy recluse named Parker who was determined to cling to life using alien technology. The artefact he was using didn't really prolong life - it was just his own willpower which was doing this. The object - known as the Pulse - was simply a device sent by an alien race as a message to humanity that they were not alone in the universe.
Seeing a new reason to stay alive, Maggie decided not to end her own life.

Played By: Christine Bottomley. Appearances: TW 2.8: A Day in the Death (2008).

H is for... Hooper, Minnie

A friend of Wilf Mott who became a member of his pensioner group - the Silver Cloak. Their job was to look out for signs of the Doctor and report back to Wilf. The Silver Cloak increased their activities around Christmas 2010, after people started having disturbing nightmares which featured the ex-Prime Minister Harold Saxon. Minnie, who had once been locked in a Police Box after misbehaving in her youth, was with Wilf when the Doctor was tracked down to an area of the London docks. Minnie found the Doctor to be rather attractive, and even pinched his bottom whilst getting a photograph taken with him.

Played by: June Whitfield. Appearances: The End of Time Part 1 (2009).
  • Whitfield, who passed away in 2018 at the age of 93, was long regarded as a bit of a national treasure. Her career in comedy spanned 7 decades, and she worked with many of the comedy greats, such as Tony Hancock and the Carry On team. Best known in the UK, she reached a wider audience through her appearances in the sitcom Absolutely Fabulous. One non-comedic role she enjoyed was her portrayal as BBC radio's Miss Marple.