Monday 28 September 2020

I is for... Ice Warriors

Natives of the planet Mars, Ice Warriors are tall reptilian bipeds. When the planet's atmosphere could no longer support them, they found a home elsewhere, but later re-colonised their homeworld. 
They wear heavy green armour, with tufts of thick black hair at the joints, and have clamp-like pincers for hands.
Many centuries ago, before their relocation, they encountered a lethal water-borne contagion, known as the Flood, but were able to eradicate it, save for a small pocket frozen into a dormant state in underground ice layers.
The Doctor first encountered them in Earth's future, when the planet was in the grip of a new Ice Age. Glaciers had advanced into England, and in one of these a frozen figure was found - dating back to the first great Ice Age. The scientist who discovered the body, a man named Arden, gave it the name "Ice Warrior". Believing it to be an ancient warrior from Earth's past, Arden had the figure transported to Britannicus Base, where efforts to halt the glacier advance were being coordinated. Power packs intended to melt the block of ice in which the warrior was entombed caused the figure to be brought back to life. He abducted the Doctor's companion Victoria, and forced her to tell him how he had been reanimated. He identified himself as Varga, commander of an Ice Warrior spacecraft which had crashed on the glacier in ancient times. Taking more power packs, Varga took her to the glacier where he located the rest of his crew, and his buried spaceship.

Varga wished to return to Mars, and so decided to raid the base for fuel elements to power his crippled spacecraft, after the Doctor had told him that they had what he needed. This was a ruse as he had come to rescue Victoria, and to find out the nature of the ship's engines - in case the ioniser being used to melt the glaciers triggered a nuclear explosion. Ice Warriors had built-in sonic weapons in the forearm of their armour, and their ship had a larger sonic cannon, which was used to threaten the base. Varga was prepared to accept the help of a scientist who could assist their escape, but anyone deemed not useful was killed. The Doctor deduced that the Martians had a higher water content in their bodies and used the cannon to force them to flee from the base. The ioniser was used on the ice and it caused Varga's ship to explode harmlessly, destroying him and his crew.

The Doctor next encountered the Ice Warriors when they attempted an invasion of the Earth in the late 21st Century. Whilst Varga had worn similar armour to his underlings, this time they were led by a Warrior with a more streamlined uniform, with a bullet-shaped helmet. His name was Slaar.
Earth, at this time, had abandoned conventional spaceflight, and had become instead reliant on T-Mat, a form of instantaneous matter transmission. This was controlled from a relay base on the Moon. The Ice Warrior plan was to take over this base and use T-Mat to transport a number of Martian seed pods to Earth. These thrived in cold conditions and on germinating they absorbed all the oxygen around them. In time, they would make the planet's atmosphere lethal to humans, but perfect for them. The seeds had to be sent to those parts of the world which were in winter climate conditions. They were susceptible to water, so a Warrior was despatched to the planet to disable the weather control systems, and prevent rain.

A signal set up on the moonbase would be used to guide in the invasion fleet, which was commanded by a Grand Marshal, of similar appearance to Slaar but with a patterned helmet. Ice Warriors could be destroyed by intense heat, and the Doctor used a solar energy weapon when he went to the base to set up a false signal, that would lure the fleet towards the sun. This was generated by a communications satellite. As the fleet headed towards destruction, the Doctor and Jamie were able to deflect a Warrior's sonic weapon to kill Slaar, before using a live power cable to destroy the Warrior. Heavy rainfall was generated to wipe out the seed pods.
The Ice Warriors were one of the races whom the Doctor mentioned when he stood trial on his home planet, as an example of the sort of belligerent race which he protected people from.

The Doctor next encountered the Ice Warriors on the planet Peladon. The TARDIS had been redirected to this medieval world at a time when its young King was trying to gain membership of the Galactic Federation for his world. The delegation who had come to carry out negotiations about this included a party from Mars - Izlyr and his subordinate Ssorg. When it appeared that someone was trying to sabotage the deliberations, the Doctor naturally suspected the Ice Warriors, based on his earlier experiences. A piece of Ice Warrior technology was found on a ledge from which a statue had fallen , almost killing the delegates, and another item was found in their quarters after delegate Arcturus had its life support unit sabotaged.

The Doctor later discovered that Izlyr and Ssorg were not responsible. The Martians had given up their warmongering ways and were now respected members of the Federation. The real saboteurs were Arcturus, who wanted the planet's mineral wealth, and Peladon's High Priest, Hepesh, who wanted to maintain his world's old traditions. When Arcturus attempted to kill the Doctor, he was saved by Ssorg.
The Doctor returned to Peladon some 50 years later, and found that there was civil unrest deriving from the planet's membership of the Federation. The benefits of membership were not being passed on to the Pel miners. The spirit of Royal Beast Aggedor was haunting the mines, killing miners and Federation personnel. This was really a hologram of a statue, fitted with a directional heat ray weapon. It was being controlled from a defunct refinery control room in the mines, where an Ice Warrior was hidden.

A mining engineer from Earth - Eckersley - duped ambassador Alpha Centauri into calling upon Federation help when the miners stole weapons from the armoury. A squad of Ice Warriors arrived, led by Commander Azaxyr. As the Federation was in the middle of a war with Galaxy 5, and Peladon's mineral wealth was needed for the war effort, Azaxyr declared martial law, and was prepared to kill the miners if they did not resume work. The Peladonians were forced to work together and make it look like peace was restored, but this did not make the Ice Warriors withdraw. It transpired that Azaxyr belonged to a breakaway faction, who were in league with Galaxy 5. They wanted a return to the warlike ways of their past.

Azaxyr was working with Eckersley to take over the planet. It was the Earthman who had created the hologram weapon of Aggedor. When the Ice Warriors trapped the miners in the tunnels and began to cut off their air supply, the Doctor was able to take control of the weapon and use it against them. In a fight in the throne room, Azaxyr was run through with a sword, whilst Eckersley was killed by Aggedor as he tried to abduct Queen Thalira. Once the Ice Warrior plan had been defeated, Galaxy 5 sued for peace.

In the 1980's, the TARDIS materialised on a Soviet nuclear submarine near the North Pole. This was at the height of the Cold War, between the Soviet Union and the West. The submarine crew had recently discovered something frozen in the ice on an oil-drilling operation, and had brought it on board. This was an Ice Warrior - Grand Marshal Skaldak - who had been frozen in the ice for centuries. Skaldak was brought back to life when a crewmember decided t thaw out the block of ice. He was disabled with an electric cattle prod (used to keep polar bears at bay), and was chained up. The Doctor was furious with the submarine crew, knowing how dangerous Skaldak was and how he had been dishonoured by them. He was notorious among his people for his ferocity in battle. When Clara Oswald was sent to speak to Skaldak, she discovered only an empty suit of armour. The Ice Warrior had discarded this, and was now roaming the submarine in its natural form - a lean, wiry body, but with the strength to tear a man apart.

On learning that Mars was no longer occupied by his people, Skaldak was determined to use the submarine's nuclear missiles to start a war. The Doctor was able to plea to his sense of honour to stop this. An Ice Warrior spaceship arrived, responding to his distress signal, and teleported him away.
Later, the Ice Warriors were amongst many races who converged on the planet Trenzalore, after it began transmitting a strange signal across the universe.

In the year 1881, a group of British soldiers were on Mars, searching for precious stones. They had encountered a crashed spaceship in southern Africa, along with its injured Ice Warrior pilot. This Warrior pretended to be servile, earning the nickname "Friday" from the troops. He had promised them great wealth if they helped him repair his ship and go with him to Mars. There, a huge sonic cannon was constructed for mining. Friday had an ulterior motive for bringing the humans here. He wanted them to locate the hibernation chamber of the Ice Warrior Empress, who was entombed along with a huge army of Warriors. They had gone into hibernation when the atmosphere of the planet began to fail.
Fridays ruse worked, and the soldiers found what they thought was Empress Iraxxa's final resting place - a gold effigy on a jewel-encrusted bier. In trying to steal the jewels they reawakened her, and she in turn reanimated the Ice Warrior hive.

A treacherous officer named Catchlove tried to flee Mars in the repaired spaceship, taking Iraxxa as his hostage. He was killed by his ex-commanding officer, who offered his allegiance to the Ice Warriors to save himself and his men. Iraxxa agreed. The Doctor used the Ice Warrior communications system to contact the nearest alien species. This proved to be Alpha Centauri. It agreed to help the Ice Warriors relocate to a new home.

Played by: Bernard Bresslaw (Varga), Alan Bennion (Slaar, Izlyr and Azaxyr), Sonny Caldinez (Turoc, Ssorg and Sskel), Graham Leaman (Grand Marshal), Spencer Wilding (Skaldak - voiced by Nicholas Briggs), Adele Lynch (Iraxxa), Richard Ashton (Friday). 
Appearances: The Ice Warriors (1967), The Seeds of Death (1969), The Curse of Peladon (1972), The Monster of Peladon (1974), Cold War (2012), Empress of Mars (2017).
  • One wonders how the Ice Warriors ever managed to become a successful space-faring species. Three of their six TV stories rely on the fact that one of their spaceships has crashed on Earth, whilst in a fourth an entire invasion fleet is unable to find the Earth from Mars.
  • Varga was wearing the Turoc helmet when his block of ice melted - the one with the open jaw. This was worn by an extra, as Bernard Bresslaw was unavailable for the first episode. The director of The Ice Warriors - Derek Martinus - wasn't happy with the helmets and asked for changes to be made between the Ealing filming and the TV studio recordings. When Bresslaw arrived for the second episode, he had one of the new helmets - leading to a continuity error with the filmed reprise. The new Varga costume became the main Ice Warrior costume, worn by Caldinez in both of the Peladon stories.
  • The Ice Warriors never named their species on screen in their first story. The name "Ice Warrior" was given to them by the man who found Varga in the ice, and it seems to have stuck.
  • The commanders played by Alan Bennion are usually called Ice Lords, or Ice Warlords. Again, this was never used on screen.
  • The creator of the Ice Warriors, Brian Hayles, called them "Saurians" in the original storyline which was abandoned for The Seeds of Death.
  • The original costume designer of the Ice Warriors - Martin Baugh - stated explicitly in interviews that the armour they wore was part of their bodies. It wasn't a suit of armour that they put on. Someone should have told Mark Gatiss this, as he's the writer responsible for Skaldak being able to run around outside his armour.
  • As well as playing Ice Warriors in all their classic series appearances, Sonny Caldinez also played the Turkish wrestler Kemel in The Evil of the Daleks.
Some images of Ice Warriors at the Doctor Who Experience (2013 - 2017):

Friday 25 September 2020

A Belated Thank You!


At some point in the last few days, when I wasn't looking, this little old blog of mine reached half a million page views. Have you lot got nothing better to do with your time???
Considering I restrict this to just the TV programme, rarely looking at any of the merchandise and spin-off media, I'm going to allow myself to be quite impressed, and a bit chuffed.
A half a million thanks to you all (and, before anyone asks, no - I haven't read my own blog 499,999 times to push the numbers up...).

Inspirations - Time and the Rani

One day Colin Baker got a phone call from his producer, offering him some good news, and some bad news. Baker asked for the bad news first, as most of us would - to get it out of the way. JNT informed him that he was not going to be invited back to play the Doctor. The BBC no longer required his services. Stunned, Baker asked what the good news was, to be told that Doctor Who was going to be given another season. ("Tactful" is a word that could never have been applied to Hawaiian shirt wearing JNT). Naturally, Baker couldn't see anything good about this.
The BBC weren't sacking him because the show was being axed. They were simply sacking him.
Rewind a little, and Season 23 had ended with no-one particularly happy. 
The fans were, for the most part, dissatisfied with the Trial season. They weren't happy that it was the shortest season ever; the quality of the writing was poor - especially considering they'd had a whole extra year to prepare because of the hiatus - and the conclusion to what had been an epic 14 episode story was considered rather weak. There was also a lot of disquiet about the casting of Bonnie Langford as companion. 
Eric Saward had quit in very public fashion, with his scathing Starburst magazine interview attacking both JNT and Colin Baker.
JNT was hoping that he could resign from the show and move on to producing something else. His ideal choice would have been something in light entertainment, but he also had a couple of soap ideas. One of these would have been a remake / reboot of Compact, a BBC soap from the early 60's which revolved around a glossy fashion magazine. JNT's new version would have been called "Impact". Later he also proposed "Westenders" - a more upmarket cousin to Eastenders
(Believing he would be moving on, he hadn't done anything about replacing the Script Editor. Therefore, there weren't any scripts lined up for Season 24).
He was informed that he would not be offered another job at the BBC, but would be expected to produce another season of Doctor Who. The series could continue only if some changes were made, and this included a change in the leading actor. A new Doctor might reinvigorate interest in the show. Baker would have been in the part for three years anyway, the BBC counting the hiatus 18 months as part of this. 
When JNT realised it would be another year of Doctor Who, or unemployment, he saw he had no other choice but to accept, and the BBC then told him that he should be the one to break the news to Baker, which is where we came in.
At the time, it appeared to fans that Baker was the problem, despite it being the producer's head they were demanding. The programme had reached a peak of popularity, with fans and the wider public, in 1983, with the 20th Anniversary. Yet, in 1985 it was facing cancellation. How could it have fallen so low, so quickly? What had changed? The only change had been Baker's arrival - so it had to be his fault.
If people were unhappy, surely it should have been the producer who should have been replaced. 
The fact is he should have been - but the BBC couldn't find anyone who wanted to take it on at that time.
Baker was asked to return for the first story of Season 24, at the end of which he would regenerate. He declined, asking instead for the whole season before he left. He pointed out that anything less would mean him losing work. No one would employ him if he was still the Doctor, and if he did get offered a long running role on TV or on stage he couldn't afford to lose it just because of a couple of weeks on Doctor Who in the middle of it.
As well as a new Script Editor, JNT had to find himself a new Doctor. To get the script situation moving, the producer turned to Pip and Jane Baker, who had gotten him out of a hole when Saward had withdrawn his script for the penultimate episode of Season 23. They wrote well, as far as he was concerned, and they wrote quickly, with little need for revision. He could leave them to get on with things whilst he went about recruiting for his two key vacant posts.
For the Script Editor post, he selected Andrew Cartmel. Apparently, at his interview, he had said that he would like to use the show to bring down the government. Cartmel had a keen interest in comics like 2000AD, and graphic novels, and he wanted to bring a comic book sensibility to the series, in terms of style and themes.

In his search for a new Doctor, Sylvester McCoy was recommended to JNT by fellow producer Clive Doig, who made programmes aimed at children (especially those with special needs). Doig had previously been a vision mixer on Doctor Who. McCoy had appeared in a number of children's TV shows, after being a member of the Ken Campbell Roadshow, where he had become well known for stunts such as hammering nails up his nose or putting ferrets down his trousers. He did do some more serious work, having featured in some movies (like the 1979 Universal remake of Dracula), and he had done a lot of stage work. Bonnie Langford had worked with him previously on a Gilbert & Sullivan production, and he was appearing as the Pied Piper in a National Theatre production - a part written especially for him - when Doig put his name forward. It was this performance which convinced JNT that he had found his new Doctor, though the BBC insisted that auditions should be carried out.
The audition piece, written by Cartmel, saw each actor play a scene against a female villain, based on Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher. Ex-companion Janet Fielding came back for this. Coincidentally, she had also been part of the Ken Campbell Roadshow.
McCoy had little time to prepare himself for how he was going to play the Doctor - nor did JNT or Cartmel - which is reflected in his uncertain performance in his first story.
Time and the Rani had been presented to Cartmel as a fait accompli, and he had had very little input in its development. What changes he had asked for had met with resistance from the Bakers, and he had made them feel that he did not like their style of work very much. Both sides came away thinking the other didn't like them very much, and indeed they never worked together again. Cartmel had his new vision for the show, which would be more Halo Jones than sci-fi versions of old ITC style series.
As speed was essential, and because the writers and the producer liked the character, it was decided to bring back the female Time Lord villain the Rani. Luckily this coincided with Kate O'Mara writing to JNT asking for another role, as she was keen to get back to working in England after time in the States. JNT knew that her return would generate press interest, to accompany the arrival of a new Doctor who was nowhere near as well known as Davison and Baker had been.

Thanks to a bitter Colin Baker refusing to return to the programme, even briefly, the regeneration could have simply taken place off camera, with the new Doctor already in mid travels. This had just been used to introduce the latest companion. However, it was felt that a new Doctor had to be properly introduced from the start, and a regeneration had to be seen. We therefore get McCoy, in Baker's costume and wearing a blond curly wig, lying face down on the TARDIS floor, after the ship has been fired upon by the Rani. She is working on a scheme which requires the harnessed brain power if several of the universe's great genii, and he is to be one of them. She's also suffered a setback in her plans and needs him to carry out some repairs to her equipment. It's lucky, then, that het attack does trigger a regeneration, after which some Time Lords seem to suffer a form of amnesia. When the Doctor's prone body is turned over we see the features blotted out by light, which fades to reveal McCoy. Unfortunately, we see enough before the change to spot his features and that he is wearing a wig.
With the exercise bike lying next to him, it appears the Sixth Doctor "died" by falling off it. Despite spin-off media giving him a less ignoble end, the falling-off-his-bike demise was accepted by the official Doctor Who annual in 2017.
The idea of a villain using the captured minds of scientific genii to create a weapon of sorts had almost been seen in the programme before - almost, because it was the background to Skagra's plan in the aborted story Shada
The Rani is seeking a substance called loyhargil, which is as dense as Strange Matter but not as heavy. Loyhargil is an anagram of 'holy grail'. Strange Matter - the working title for this story - was first discovered in 1984. The Bakers clearly read scientific publications, as this story is packed full of real scientific terms. The problem is that they often appear to be there just to make the characters sound like they know what they are talking about, not necessarily using them in the proper context to which they belong. You'll recall that Pip Baker's brother was a scientist, as he mentioned in every interview he ever gave.

The Rani is using a bat-like race as her servants. They are the Tetraps. Tetra- is a prefix referring to four, from the Greek. The Tetraps have four eyes and four ears.
Their leader is named Urak, and he fawns over the Rani. The name derives from the obsequious Uriah Heep, from Dickens' David Copperfield
The Rani and her bat-like servants were inspired by the Wicked Witch of the West and her flying monkey creatures in the 1939 movie of The Wizard of Oz.
The name of the race who live on this planet derives from "lacertian", from the Latin lacerta, meaning lizard.
One of the things the Rani plans to do is to change Earth history by meddling with evolution, so that the dinosaurs get a chance to develop into the dominant species. This comes from a Doctor Who 'Make Your Own Adventure' book the Bakers had recently written called Race Against Time.
A quarry is used as the filming location for the planet Lakertya, though the Bakers wrote it as a forest world.
Time and the Rani is a play on the title of the 1937 J B Priestley play Time and the Conways.
This story was a reunion of sorts for some of the cast of The Faceless Ones, as it features both Wanda Ventham and Donald Pickering.
The new Doctor tries on a number of older Doctor costumes before settling on his 1920's ensemble. Everyone apart from Hartnell is referenced. In this first story, McCoy reminds the audience of his ancestry as he wears a tartan scarf (as if his accent wasn't a big enough giveaway), but this will be replaced from the next story by an equally Scottish design - a Paisley pattern one.
Next time: Everyone is taken to the cleaners. Blakey from On The Buses meets J G Ballard, as Cartmel begins to make his presence felt...

Tuesday 22 September 2020

Story 231 - The Angels Take Manhattan

 In which the Doctor, Amy and Rory visit present day New York. They are relaxing in Central Park. Whilst Rory goes to fetch coffee, Amy reads aloud to the Doctor a detective novel - Melody Malone: Private Eye in Old New York Town. The Doctor feigns disinterest, but then borrows it from her. He first tears out the last page, as he has a dislike of endings.
They are surprised when the narrative of the book starts to mirror what they are currently experiencing. Rory is suddenly transported back in time, finding himself in the Park in the middle of the night when it had been broad daylight. He is confronted by River Song, and learns that it is 1938. Before she can explain what is happening, they are abducted by some armed men and bundled into a car.
In the present, the Doctor and Amy read of this, and so head for the TARDIS. It is unable to go directly to its destination due to massive temporal disturbances. It arrives in a graveyard overlooking the city. Amy fails to spot a gravestone with Rory's name on it.
In 1938, Rory and River have been brought to the home of a wealthy gangster named Julius Grayle. He has a morbid fear of statues. Earlier, he had employed a private detective named Sam Garner to go to an apartment block called Winter Quay. There, Garner found a flat in which his own elderly self was living. The building was infested with Weeping Angels. When he tried to escape he was forced up to the roof, where he was confronted by the Statue of Liberty, also an Angel.
Grayle has Rory locked in the basement, as it is River who he needs. He knows that she has knowledge of the Angels. Rory is attacked by cherub statues. Grayle shows River his prized possession - a captured Angel, which is chained up in his study. He has been torturing it, and now lives in fear of other Angels coming to rescue it and take revenge. The Angel seizes River by the wrist.

Rory, meanwhile, has found himself transported by the cherubs to Winter Quay. Not knowing why he is there, he enters the building.
The TARDIS materialises in 1938 with great difficulty after the Doctor discovers that the presence of so many Angels has created the temporal disturbance. The Doctor goes back in time to leave a message on what will be an antique Chinese vase which Grayle will later acquire - a message which will allow River to arrange a homing signal for the TARDIS to lock on to. It arrives in Grayle's home and the disturbance knocks him out. The Doctor warns Amy to stop reading the book, as it will commit them to what is says. If it is in the novel then it happened, and they will have no control over events. 
The Doctor is forced to break River's wrist to free her from the grip of the captured Angel. Whilst Amy cannot read the novel, she can look at the chapter headings to get a clue as to Rory's whereabouts, and this points them to Winter Quay. 
He, meanwhile, has found an apartment where an older version of himself is lying on his deathbed. The Doctor, Amy and River arrive. Meanwhile, back at his mansion, Grayle comes to and is horrified to see the main doors wide open, and he discovers that the Angels have entered...
The Doctor realises that the apartment block acts like a huge battery for the Angels. Anyone entering it is forced to live out their life there, with their potential energy feeding the creatures.

The Angels attack, forcing everyone up to the roof. Once again, the Statue of Liberty Angel approaches. Rory has worked out a way to break the temporal trap he has found himself in. If he dies, it will create a paradox which should destroy the Angels.
He elects to jump to his death, arguing with Amy that he is used to dying, and it won't matter as they will never have come here if he us right. To the Doctor's horror, she elects to jump with him. 
They suddenly find themselves back at the graveyard. As Rory sees the stone with his name on it, a surviving Angel comes up behind him and sends him into the past. The Doctor cannot take the TARDIS back due to the temporal disturbances which now permanently cover New York. Amy decides to allow herself to be touched by the Angel as well, to join her husband. The gravestone which had held Rory's name now also has that of his wife. He predeceased her, but they both lived into their 80's.
The Doctor is left heartbroken as the TARDIS can never follow. Something River says about endings makes the Doctor remember the page he tore out of the novel. He races back to Central Park and retrieves it. It is an epilogue from Amy - a message to the Doctor referring back to the morning after that first night young Amelia Pond encountered him...

The Angels Take Manhattan was written by Steven Moffat, and was first broadcast on 29th September 2012. It marked the conclusion of the first half of Series 7, which would continue in the Spring of 2013 following the annual Christmas Special.
The story sees the departure of companions Amy and Rory. She had been the longest serving companion of the New Series at this point, beating Rose Tyler by half a season (though Rose would be brought back for guest visits after she left as a regular).
At the time, viewers believed that this might also bring River Song's involvement to an end, now that her parents were no longer travelling with the Doctor. It does mark the end of her more frequent appearances.
New York has featured in the series before - the first occasion being a brief stopover on top of the Empire State Building in The Chase. More recently, a whole story was set in Manhattan, but the series never actually filmed there. A small unit simply visited to take plate shots that could be superimposed over scenes filmed in Wales. Series 6 had seen the series' first US location filming, but now the series got to film in New York itself.

The main location was Central Park, though Time Square and other areas also feature. Most of the night time street scenes were filmed back in Cardiff.
The visual theme of this story is certainly film noir. Most of the scenes takes place at night, or in darkened buildings. We have a private eye (Garner) whose first name is Sam (after that famous private eye Sam Spade?). We also have a gangster-type villain in Grayle, who surrounds himself with gun-totting henchmen. Apart from these obvious trappings, there is also a mounting feeling of dread. We know that Amy and Rory are leaving, but we don't know how. Will Rory finally die for good this time? The gravestone seen early on certainly suggests so.
The Gangster genre has only ever really been used once before in the show but then it was employed in a futuristic alien planet setting (The Leisure Hive).

There is only a very small guest cast. The main guest artist is Mike McShane, best known for the comedy improvisation show Whose Line Is It Anyway?. Sam Garner is played by Rob David.
Chris Chibnall really should take a leaf out of Moffat's book and make more of his regular characters, instead of overloading stories with too many guest artists. Stories like this show how it should be done.
This week's adaptation to the opening logo is having it look like the coppery green surface of the Statue of Liberty.
No prequel this time, but the story was given a mini-postscript, appropriately enough called P.S.
This was in the form of an animated sequence, in which Rory writes to his dad to tell him about the life he and Amy had in New York. It is revealed that they adopted a child - a son named Anthony. It is he who has delivered the letter to Brian Williams.

Overall, a very good episode for the Ponds to go out on - suitably doom-laden throughout. The Weeping Angels are used effectively for once - probably their best outing since Blink. The creepy cherubs are an excellent addition to their ranks.
Things you might like to know:
  • The Statue of Liberty may well be a statue, but it is made of metal, bolted together, rather than solid stone. Questions must also be asked as to how it could get from Liberty Island to Battery Park without anyone really noticing it.
  • The ending of this episode connects back to the ending of Matt Smith's first episode. Moffat had always intended to explain why Amelia hears the TARDIS after staying up all night waiting for it.
  • P.S. was originally going to be a live action sequence intended as a DVD extra, but Mark Williams was unavailable - which is why it was produced as an animation. It is narrated by Arthur Darvill.
  • There is a rather lame excuse why the Doctor cannot go back and pick up Amy and Rory from some time other than 1938. He claims that in going back to join Rory, she is creating a fixed point in time. This is thrown out there as a reason, but we don't learn what it is about her sacrifice makes it such a fixed point.
  • Amy is seen reading a copy of The New York Record - a fictitious newspaper first invented for The Daleks In Manhattan.
  • As well as the final appearance of the Ponds - save for a cameo from Gillan in Matt Smith's final story - we also have our last sightings of the Doctor's tweed jacket costume, the Smith opening credits, and the Smith TARDIS "bronze" interior.
  • River is a professor now. She's no longer a prisoner as the man she is supposed to have killed no longer exists - the Doctor having gone round removing himself from every database after the conclusion to Series 6.
  • The book which Amy and the Doctor read is actually a copy of detective novel The Thin Man, by Dashiell Hammett, with a fake cover.
  • Moffat's first idea for this story was for it to have been the Daleks who caused the Doctor to be separated from Amy and Rory. However, as the Daleks had already featured in a New York-set story, he changed it to the Angels, which made more sense if you're talking about people being separated in time.
  • Other ideas from earlier drafts included Grayle being transported back in time to Imperial China, or to the Rennaisance era. Instead of a message on a Chinese vase, the message would have been in a puzzle box, which would have River's vortex manipulator hidden inside. Winter Quay was going to have multiple Rorys and Garners - suggesting more clearly that they would be sent back in time over and over again.
  • The cherubs only featured after some real statuary ones were spotted on the Bethesda Fountain in Central Park, and Moffat thought they would make a good addition.
  • There's a couple of nods to Moffat's other well known show here. The first chapter of the novel is "The Dying Detective" - a Sherlock Holmes story. The Chinese vase segment is said to take place in 221 BC, after Holmes' address of 221B Baker Street.

Monday 21 September 2020

Radio Times Poll...

A poll has been published by Radio Times, wherein readers have voted for their all-time favourite Doctor - and what a bizarre set of results it has produced.
Only the 13 principal TV Doctors are counted, so no War Doctor or Dr Ruth.
The top spot is sort of what you might expect, with David Tennant coming first (with 10518 votes).
Thereafter it goes a bit crazy in my opinion. You have to wonder who actually took part in the vote.
Second place goes to the current incumbent of the TARDIS, Jodie Whittaker, on 10423 votes. We haven't seen her entire tenure yet, so it is hard to comprehend how you judge someone whose performance is incomplete. Younger people tend to vote for the current or more recent holder of a role, but that doesn't match the demographic of RT readership, which - if the letters pages are anything to go by - is resolutely older WASPs.
Third place goes to Peter Capaldi, which I'm glad about (8897 votes). 
You'll no doubt already be asking where Tom Baker has got to, and he isn't in fourth place either. That goes to Matt Smith, with 7637 votes.
Only now do we get to Tom Baker, in 5th position and with 3977 votes - a very long way back from Tennant as far as votes go.
William Hartnell, who sadly usually ends up near the bottom of these polls, comes in at number 6, on 1983 votes. Nice to see the original, often overlooked, Doctor do so well.
And then we get Paul McGann in 7th place (1427 votes). That means the person who only appeared in one story, generally disliked, plus one online-only anniversary prequel, has beaten the likes of Davison, Troughton and Pertwee. This really makes no sense at all, unless a lot of Big Finish listeners voted.
Christopher Eccleston comes in 8th, with 1144 votes.
Then we get Jon Pertwee in 9th, with 1038 votes, so only just pipped by Eccleston. 
Patrick Troughton is next, in 10th position, with 915 votes.
In 11th position we have Sylvester McCoy, on 462 votes.
Number 12 will please Colin Baker no end as, just for a change, he isn't bringing up the rear. He got 359 votes. 
That leaves Peter Davison in last place, which I'm sure a great many people simply won't be happy about, let alone believe. He is only just pipped by Baker, C, with 351 votes. 
All in all, a poll which fails to match just about any other one I've seen in recent years once you get beyond first place...

Thursday 17 September 2020

What's Wrong With... The Tenth Planet

There were two major issues which affected this story - or rather the same issue, twice. Both (co)writer and star fell ill at a key stage in the production. These illnesses led to a few problems with the story as broadcast.
The Tenth Planet sees the final outing for William Hartnell as the Doctor, the first of what will be known as a regeneration, and the first appearance of the Cybermen, who will go on to dominate the tenure of the man who appears very briefly, and uncredited, at the conclusion of this story.
Although broadcast second in Season 4, the story was the first to be produced - The Smugglers having been made at the end of Season 3 and held over to launch the next season.
As such, Hartnell was no longer under a long term contract. He was contracted for these final four episodes in the same way the guest cast was, so you could argue he is a guest star in his own show on this occasion. During the break between seasons, he went to Cornwall for a few weeks and indulged in one of his passions - angling. The director, Derek Martinus, knew how fragile he as, so wrote some nice letters to him, including one letting him know that Robert Beatty was going to be guesting - knowing Hartnell had worked with him before and got on well with him.
Sadly he was to fall I'll and miss the third episode, and his final episode is famously lost, so our final sight of him, before his guest appearance in The Three Doctors, is in Part 2.
Kit Pedler had been offering story suggestions for a while, and one of his ideas concerned "space monks", from Earth's long lost sister world. His concerns about the ethics of spare part surgery lead to the creation of the Cybermen.
Keen to write himself, and not just be an ideas man, he entered into a collaboration with Story Editor Gerry Davis, at the insistence of Davis and the producer, Innes Lloyd. Pedler simply didn't have the writing experience to furnish the four scripts on his own.
Pedler became seriously ill towards the end of the writing process, ending up in hospital for an operation on his abdomen. Davis had to finish the story himself, with Pedler contributing some ideas only for the final instalment. This is why the Cybermen seem to suddenly change their scheme, out of the blue, in Part 4.
For the Doctor at least, this is a historical story. How else would he know what the new planet is - leaving a written description before anyone has been able to observe what it looks like. He also tells everyone at Snowcap base that they will be getting visitors from the planet shortly (though he doesn't seem to know they are emotionless Cybermen). He also knows that the humans should simply do nothing about this, only bide their time. He would have seen the calendar, and heard Ben speaking to the Sergeant, so knows exactly what is supposed to happen in December 1986. If this is not the case, then it is a serious plot problem. And if he does know so much about the return to the Solar System of Mondas, why does he know so little about the Cybermen ("Have you no emotions...")?
In Part 1 Ben sarcastically questions how anyone could just turn up at the South Pole, despite he, Polly and the Doctor having just done so themselves.
He also asks if it is Santa Claus who is bringing them, when he really ought to know that Santa resides at the North Pole...
Whilst we can just about imagine a 1965 comic book being in relatively pristine condition in 1966, it has fared remarkably well to have survived through to 1986, considering the number of people who must have read it over the decades. Not a lot you can do through the long Antarctic winter.
But this is December - so it's supposed to be the middle of the Antarctic summer. Why is there a blizzard in full swing?
The Cybermen state that Mondas travelled to "the edge of space" before returning to its sister. What does that mean? The edge of the Solar System? Of the Galaxy? Can't be the former if they have spaceships more advanced than ours - else they would have visited sooner. If the latter then we're around 25 million light years from Galactic Centre, and the diameter of the Milky Way is around 100 million light years, so Mondas has travelled 50 million light years if it has been to the edge of the galaxy.
How has it arrived back? Was it an elliptical course, so due to return anyway, or has it been deliberately piloted? The Cybermen seem to suggest they have piloted it, then state that they have no control over it.
They certainly can't control the power draining, but since when was that a natural planetary phenomenon? And what kind of power is it that they're draining, if it can affect the health of some astronauts. If the Cybermen are draining the Earth, why no OFF switch?
Why do they need Earth's energy in the first place if they can pilot planets and suck the energy from others?
When they first invade the base, one of the Cybermen starts asking for the personal details of the crew. 
Why do this, if they plan to convert everyone anyway? It will take a very long time indeed if they're going to personally interview everyone on Earth before transporting them to Mondas.
As mentioned, Davis had to step in and finish this story, so in Part 4 the Cybermen suddenly plan to destroy the Earth, and mass conversion is off the menu. They also seem to know all about the base's doomsday missiles, out of nowhere.
Hartnell's illness, and absence from Part 3, meant that lines had to redistributed. It's fine for scientist Barclay to know some of the material the Doctor was meant to say, as David Dodimead is one of the beneficiaries of the script rejig, but Ben also suddenly becomes very knowledgeable about nuclear reactors. Ben is forced to keep saying that the Doctor told him something earlier, to explain his sudden scientific knowledge, despite there never having been an occasion earlier when this could have happened.
The Doctor is left lying, face away from the camera (as it's Hartnell's double) for the episode. He's in the bunk room, which has a ventilation shaft leading straight to the Z-Bomb launch bay - which means anyone sleeping in a bunk at lift-off is burnt to a crisp.
Security at Snowcap is bad enough for the Doctor and his companions to be left pretty much free to wander about if this is just a space monitoring station, but the fact that this base also houses the Z-Bomb makes the lack of security many times worse.
This is the first of the base-under-siege stories in Doctor Who, the first of many more to come. Therefore we have a commanding officer who is entirely unsuited to command. Clearly there's no sort of psychological evaluation. If there was, why did they send General Cutler's son into space in the middle of a crisis which would be monitored from his mentally unstable dad's base?
No real fluffs this time, but we do have a couple of typos in the credits. Pedler's first name is given as Kitt instead of Kit, and we get Davies instead of Davis.

Monday 14 September 2020

Inspirations - Trial of a Time Lord (5)


The final section of Trial of a Time Lord, comprising two episodes, is generally referred to as The Ultimate Foe. This plus the preceding four part Vervoid adventure were produced as a single block, under the same director.
Whilst Parts 9 - 12 had seen a number of writers approached, these last two episodes were always going to be written by Robert Holmes, who had set the whole story up with the opening four episodes. Sadly, this would be his final work on the programme, and he only completed rough notes for the 13th instalment before his death (from Hepatitis C complications, brought on by eating dodgy seafood). Eric Saward worked closely with him, so it made sense for him to complete the story in the manner which Holmes had intended. The title Holmes had in mind for this final instalment of the Trial was "Time Inc".
The relationship between Saward and his producer had been deteriorating for some time. Saward wasn't happy with the casting of Colin Baker, and disliked JNT's attitude towards the writing and the writers. He hated how JNT favoured his annual pantomime and convention attendances over production of the show. Saward had taken to working more and more at home, rarely venturing into the production office.
Holmes' illness added extra stress to the script editor.
Saward submitted the 13th episode, and got agreement from JNT for the 14th. This was to have ended on a cliffhanger, with the Doctor and the Valeyard tumbling into a time vent, potentially trapped forever. JNT had agreed to this, but then got cold feet. Knowing that the BBC had only grudgingly kept the programme going, placing it on trial, JNT fretted that the Corporation might take a cliffhanger ending as an excuse to end the series all together. He asked for the resolution to be changed. This went against Holmes' intentions. As this was his cherished mentor's final work, Saward felt honour-bound to protect his vision. After a short stalemate, Saward felt there was nothing he could do but to withdraw his 14th episode. he also delivered the hostile interview to Starburst Magazine, as mentioned last time, getting all his frustrations with the producer off his chest.

JNT was left, very late in the day, with no ending to the series. He met Pip and Jane Baker, who had contributed Parts 9 - 12, at the BBC, and asked them to come to his office. There he explained that he needed a final episode in double quick time. He knew that they could write quickly and competently, with little need for supervision. The script for episode 13 was taxied over to them to read, then they were invited into the BBC the next day. A lawyer was present, to ensure that JNT did not give them any details about the now withdrawn Part 14.
Most of the big developments take place in Part 13. It is here that we discover that the Valeyard is actually a future incarnation of the Doctor, originating between his 12th and final selves, and is an amalgamation of all the darker aspects of his personality. The secrets sought by Glitz and Dibber in The Mysterious Planet are really extracts from the Time Lord Matrix, stolen by agents from Andromeda.
The whole trial was established by a corrupt High Council of Time Lords to cover these thefts up. The Master knew about them, as he has been hiding in the Matrix the whole time - observing the trial. If he has to have a nemesis, he would much rather it was the soft Doctor than an evil version of him. If the Doctor loses his trial he will be executed, with his remaining regenerations given to the Valeyard, who seeks his own existence. His identity unmasked, the Valeyard flees into the Matrix - so the Doctor gives chase.
This is all Holmes so far. He first introduced the Matrix back in The Deadly Assassin, where the idea of the Time Lords having a propensity towards corruption and underhand behaviour also first arose. Holmes came up with the idea that the Matrix could be entered, and whoever controlled it could make it a surreal, nightmarish environment. The Deadly Assassin also had a basis in political conspiracy thrillers. There is some of that here as well, as we have agents stealing information, corrupt regimes, spying on people (the Time Lords monitor the Doctor surreptitiously via his own TARDIS) and manipulating people (messing about with the Matrix).

The Doctor finds himself in a nocturnal Victorian-themed place. This again goes back to Holmes' literary obsessions, most notably seen in The Talons of Weng-Chiang. Holmes had wanted a large, cylindrical building, like the interior of a cooling tower, but the director hit on the idea of the potteries of Stoke-on-Trent, with their distinctive bottle-shaped kilns. The cooling tower interior may have been inspired by the Terry Gilliam movie Brazil, which opened in February 1985.
Holmes' intended cliffhanger conclusion is obviously inspired by The Final Problem, by Sir Arthur Conan Doyle, which saw Sherlock Holmes and arch-enemy Professor Moriarty plunge into the Reichenbach Falls.
In this Victorian realm, we come across an office clerk named Mr Popplewick, who derives from the sort of quirky characters created by Charles Dickens. His insistence on bureaucratic procedures are reminiscent of the Circumlocution Office, which features in Little Dorrit, where an inheritance case has been going round in circles for decades.
Dickens is also referenced when the Doctor is taken to his execution on a tumbril - it's Dickens' A Tale of Two Cities. Mel specifically refers to Sidney Carton, the anti-hero of the book, and the Doctor goes on to quote his famous "It is a far, far better thing that I do than I have ever done..." speech.
If JNT chickened out on the conclusion of the story, he also chickened out with the death of Peri - as we get a coda wherein the Doctor learns that she never died on Thoros Beta, but is now happily living with King Yrcanos. We also learn that the Valeyard has escaped death in the Matrix, though JNT ordered future writers never to include the character.
The story / series proved unpopular with fans (including future showrunner Chris Chibnall), but the BBC did decide that the show could continue. JNT was told to prepare for Season 24, despite him believing that he was going to be released to pursue other projects, and having no script editor or stories lined up, but first he had to let Colin Baker know that his services would no longer be required...

Sunday 13 September 2020

Fury From The Deep (animated) - Review

Monday sees the release on DVD / Blu-ray of the lost Troughton story Fury From The Deep, in animated form.
It comes in both colour and B&W versions, and it was the B&W version, on Disc 1, which I opted to watch last night. This was partly for aesthetic reasons, as the story was made in B&W, and intended to be seen in B&W, but for practical reasons as well - as Disc 1 is also where you find all the surviving material from the story. The colour version is on Disc 2, whose extras relate to the animation only. Disc 3 sees the making-of documentary, archive interviews with writer and VFX personnel, and the radio drama The Slide, which was this story's ancestor. More on these shortly.
Fury From The Deep is a story which I have long hoped would be animated, as it is one of the story's I know least. For some reason, the audio soundtrack was always either unavailable on Amazon, or listed at an extortionate price, so I never bought it. I tried to watch a reconstruction on YouTube, but certain sections of some episodes were missing.
I have got the complete set of telesnaps, and have read detailed synopses, so it wasn't a complete unknown.
A couple of criticisms of the animation have to be made. I find it odd that people can take such great care over facial likenesses, and yet pay little attention to limbs. Most of the characters in this animation have bizarrely long arms. Character movement isn't terribly well done either. For some reason the Doctor likes to spend a lot of time with his arms crossed, or on his hips - something Troughton rarely did. The likeness of Frazer Hines is rather poor, and Van Lutyens reminds you constantly of the Frankenstein Monster, as played by Boris Karloff, with his flat head and elongated arms.
One likeness which is very good is Robson's, as anyone familiar with Victor Maddern's work will recognise.
We also have the return of the Delgado-Master 'Wanted' poster, which first featured as a background joke in the The Faceless Ones animation. Unfortunately here it is in a rather prominent position in the Impeller Room, and there's a scene at the end of Part Two with two characters talking, with the poster annoyingly distracting in between them.
If you want an animation which reflects closely what you would have seen on TV at the time, then you are okay up to the cliffhanger of Part Five. Huge liberties are then taken with the seaweed creatures in Part Six. Part Five, on screen, ended with the Doctor and Jamie confronting Robson, who is alone in a mass of foam. Here, he is surrounded by other characters who have been taken over, and he is covered in writhing seaweed tentacles, which sprout from his body. It looks great - but has nothing to do with the broadcast programme. When the helicopter escapes from the sea fort, massive seaweed tentacles try to capture it - tentacles 100 feet long. On screen, the Doctor simply flew around the fort trying to get the hang of the controls. One of the possessed in the cliffhanger is Van Lutyens, who never featured after Part Four in the broadcast version. He's there at the very end of the story as well in the animation.
Overall, it is actually well done for the most part. I'll give the colour version a go on my next viewing. This was Debbie Watling's final story, and Victoria's departure has only really been set up here. At least they provide a lengthy coda, after the weed has been defeated, to give her a proper send-off.
As mentioned, Disc 1 contains the surviving material. This is in three forms - censor clips, film trims, and behind the scenes material from the Ealing filming for the conclusion (which is in colour). The whole sequence of the defeat of the weed is recreated using these elements.
Disc 2 is the colour version, as mentioned, with featurettes on the animation's creation. I haven't got round to watching these yet, so can't comment.
Disc 3 has a very good documentary, filmed on location at Botany Bay, near Margate, where the beach scenes were originally filmed. There is also a trip out to Red Sands Sea Fort by Michael E Briant (PA on this, and future director of several classic Doctor Who stories), Frazer Hines, and the helicopter pilot "Mad" Mike Smith. Unfortunately Hines is unable to manage the ladder up to the fort, but the older Mike, who walks with a stick, does make it. Back on dry land we get Margot Hayhoe (AFM), and actors Jane Murphy (Maggie Harris) and her husband Brian Cullingford (Perkins). The latter pair met on the show. Documentaries are so much better these days than the old "talking heads" ones. Hopefully the Blu-ray box-sets will see new documentaries in this more visually interesting style.
There are archive interviews with the late Victor Pemberton (the writer), whose memory of the rewrites either escapes him, or he just didn't want to admit defeat, and with Peter Day, the VFX man on this production.
Last, but by no means least, we get all 7 episodes of the 1966 BBC radio drama The Slide, which was written by Pemberton. This was originally proposed for Doctor Who in 1964, but rejected. It stars two future Time Lords - Maurice Denham and Roger Delgado. The plot has some links with Fury From The Deep, with a malevolent substance bubbling up from the depths, with the power to take over people's minds, and the efforts of the scientist heroes hampered by an obnoxious authority figure.
This was repeated only a few weeks ago on BBC Radio 4X, but I'm glad it's here on this release as when I tried to record it earlier the endings to most of the episodes were cut off. Radio 4X have form in this area.
As things stand, we now have no future releases confirmed. I'm hoping that the next Complete Season Box-set will be announced very soon. We all need something  to look forward to.

Thursday 10 September 2020

Story 230 - The Power of Three

In which the Earth is invaded. Very slowly.
One morning Amy and Rory are woken early by his dad, Brian. They see that the street is covered in small black cubes, all identical. The Doctor has parked the TARDIS opposite, and is examining a cube. They appear to be featureless, and impossible to open. The Doctor is at a loss to explain what they are, where they have come from, or why they are here, as the TV news reports that this is a global phenomenon.
As the Doctor and Amy discuss the situation, and Rory prepares to go to work at a nearby hospital, a squad of UNIT soldiers bursts in. They are commanded by a woman named Kate Stewart - a scientist rather than a soldier. She informs the Doctor that UNIT has set up an alarm to identify Artron energy, to let them know if the TARDIS has landed. The Doctor tells her that he will remain at the house to observe the cubes. It only takes him a short time to become bored. Brian decides to set up a video camera and train it on a cube, and to keep a log of any developments.

Time passes, and people become used to the objects. The Doctor, Amy and Rory then continue to make occasional journeys in the TARDIS. The Ponds have been discussing their life with the Doctor and have been thinking of giving it up. They are aware of missing out on a lot of things whilst they are away. Rory is being encouraged to work full-time. They see these new travels as a sort of farewell to the lifestyle. Things do not always go to planned. A visit to the Savoy Hotel on its opening night in 1890 ends disastrously when it transpires that the hotel is run by Zygon duplicates. One evening, at their wedding anniversary party, Brian confronts the Doctor - wanting to know if they will always be safe with him.
A year or so after the cubes first appeared, everyone has become complacent about them. This concerns the Doctor, as people have them in their homes and workplaces. They have yet to show any sign of life.
Then, one day, they begin to activate. Brian sees his start to move by itself. One flies into the air and fires laser bolts at the Doctor. Another produces tiny razor sharp needles, which cut Amy's hand.
The Doctor goes with Amy to UNIT HQ, still located beneath the Tower of London, where Kate Stewart reports that all the cubes seem to be exhibiting totally different activities.
At Rory's hospital, a strange little girl observes what is going on, a blue light shining in her eyes at times. A pair of orderlies, who appear to be identical twins, start abducting patients. Beneath their surgical masks they have inhuman features. Brian has been helping out at the hospital, and he too is taken by them. Rory had followed the orderlies, only to find they had vanished in a closed lift.

The cubes then all start to co-ordinate their behaviour - showing the number 7. When this changes to a 6, the Doctor realises that a countdown has begun. When the countdown reaches zero, all the boxes open. Across the planet, people begin to collapse - victims of heart attacks. The Doctor realises that the cubes have been silently monitoring the human race for the last year, looking for its weaknesses. The Doctor also suffers cardiac arrest, though only affecting one of his hearts, and is rushed to the hospital where Rory works. He spots the little girl and discovers she is an android observer. After Amy uses a defibrillator to kick start the Doctor's heart, Rory takes them to the lift. The Doctor reveals that it contains a disguised multi-dimensional portal. They pass through and find themselves on an alien spaceship. Brian is here. In control is a being who the Doctor identifies as one of the Shakri, an ancient, almost mythical race. They see themselves as the custodians of order throughout the universe, and they have foreseen how the human race will bring disorder. They have therefore come to prevent this from happening - by wiping out all life on the planet. The Shakri informs the Doctor that a second wave of cubes are about to be sent, then vanishes, as he was only a remote hologram. The Doctor realises that the cubes absorbed electrical energy to trigger the heart attacks, and this can be reversed. All over the planet, the cubes jolt people's hearts back into action. The Doctor then sets the spaceship to self-destruct, closing the portals to Earth.
Kate thanks the Doctor for his help, and he reveals he knows that her full name is Kate Lethbridge-Stewart - daughter of the Brigadier. Brian gives his blessing for his son and Amy to continue their travels with the Doctor...

The Power of Three was written by Chris Chibnall, and was first broadcast on 22nd September, 2012.
The story title is a play on both the alien cubes, and to the trio of the Doctor, Amy and Rory.
A number squared, multiplied by itself just the once, geometrically, would give a two dimensional object (length and breadth), whilst a number multiplied by itself twice (cubed) would give a three dimensional object (length, breadth and depth).
Viewers were already aware that Karen Gillan and Arthur Darvill would be leaving in the following story, so this episode provides their last hurrah, and very much focuses on them. We see a lot of their life without the Doctor, and what they have been missing whilst they have been away, and at the start they are contemplating giving up this lifestyle. They are now much older than their contemporaries, as they can be gone for months then returned a few minutes after they left. However, TARDIS travel is addictive, and it is clear that they will likely fail to make a clean break. This addiction to TARDIS travel will become a much deeper theme with the next companion. The ending is upbeat, but dark undertones have been introduced, and we the viewers know that ultimately an unhappy ending is looming.

UNIT plays a prominent role in proceedings. We revisit their HQ, hidden under the Tower of London as first revealed in The Christmas Invasion. The character of Kate Stewart is introduced. She is the Brigadier's daughter, who dropped the "Lethbridge" so that she could make her own mark on the organisation. Following his many experiences with the Doctor, her father had advised her that science should lead, rather than the military side of the equation, and she has fought to bring this about.
Kate is played by Jemma Redgrave.
As we wait for the mysterious cubes to actually do something, there is plenty of time to show various little incidents in the life of Amy and Rory, including some TARDIS trips. Most significant of these is the Savoy Hotel visit, which was meant to be a romantic event for the pair. We don't ever see one, but it is revealed that the hotel has been infiltrated by Zygons. We also briefly see them in the time of Henry VIII, where Amy is supposed to have accidentally married the monarch. We mentioned this last time, under A Town Called Mercy, when a trip to Henry's court was mentioned and mobile phone charger lost. In many ways, this section of the episode is a companion piece to the Pond Life prequels, by the same writer.
This week's variation for the series logo is to have it patterned with the black cubes.

As well as Redgrave, the main guest artist is actor and playwright Steven Berkoff, who portrays the Shakri. He only appears very briefly in the closing section of the story, but makes for a sinister presence, with effective make-up. Berkoff is best known for more experimental theatre work and movies, but does go mainstream as well. He was one of the principal villains in a Bond movie - Octopussy - as a Russian general, and played a similar role in the second Rambo film.
Brian Williams is once again played by Mark Williams, having been introduced by Chibnall in Dinosaurs on a Spaceship two stories previously. The identical twin orderlies are indeed played by identical twins, David and Daniel Beck, rather than realised through any split screen / CGI means.
There are also two appearances from TV personalities playing themselves - Alan Sugar and Brian Cox.
Lord Sugar appears in a clip from The Apprentice, where the would-be apprentices have been tasked with marketing the cubes, and Dr Cox appears as part of a BBC news segment. In 2013, Cox would present a special programme about the science of Doctor Who, as part of the 50th Anniversary celebrations.

Overall, a fairly enjoyable episode, with enough variety to keep your attention. The main threat has an extremely weak resolution, meaning the journey is more enjoyable than reaching the destination.
Things you might like to know:
  • The working title for this story was "Cubed".
  • Chibnall stated that one of his inspirations was the running aground of a cargo vessel on the coast of Devon. The contents of its containers washed up on shore and there was a frenzy amongst the locals to collect the items, even though they didn't necessarily need them, or even know what they were sometimes.
  • Back in 1971, the draft scripts for The Daemons gave the Brigadier a wife. She was to have been called Fiona. This was all cut before the final drafts, and Nicholas Courtney at the time was glad as he felt it a mistake to show the Brigadier's home life. The Daemons was directed by Christopher Barry, who also had a hand in the final drafts of the story, and he returned to direct a made-for-video spin-off in 1995 - "Downtime". Written by Marc Platt, it was a sequel to the two Yeti stories of the Troughton era. The Brigadier featured, and in this he had a daughter - Kate. She lived on a narrow boat and had a son, and the Brigadier had been estranged from them both. Kate was played by Beverley Crossman on this instance. This Kate also found her way into other spin-off material. There is little to connect her and the Kate we see here beyond the name. Kate Stewart of UNIT never mentions a son, and the Kate from "Downtime" showed no signs of joining, and taking over, UNIT.
  • The satellite shot of Rory's hospital is actually one of the BBC's White City complex in Hammersmith, though turned upside down.
  • Some of Brian's dialogue, where he wonders about what the cubes might be, is lifted from a computer game called "Surviving Mars".
  • Chibnall is the first writer since 2005 to have more than one story commissioned in the same season - normally something reserved for the showrunner only. He was due to contribute a third story, for the second half of the series, but his crime drama Broadchurch was commissioned and he was too busy on that.