Monday 30 November 2020

Inspirations - The Happiness Patrol

When Andrew Cartmel was interviewed for the post of script editor on Doctor Who he was asked about what he would like to do with the show. He said he would like to use the programme to bring down the government. At the time, this referred to the Conservative government of Margaret Thatcher. The Happiness Patrol is very much intended as a satire on Thatcher and her -ism.
It shows how little the media were paying attention to the programme at this time, that it took them about 30 years to notice this.
The popular press were interested in when the Daleks might be reappearing, or whenever some Light Entertainment luminary had been cast in the series, but they obviously weren't actually watching the show.
Helen A, the ruler of the planet Terra Alpha is obviously based on Mrs Thatcher. She rules with a rod of iron, has little regard for the planet's society, and certainly doesn't entertain industrial unrest - even employing snipers to assassinate demonstrators. The Thatcher era in Britain saw various industrial disputes, the biggest being the year long Miners' Strike. Mrs Thatcher once claimed that there was no such thing as "Society", so she couldn't see what damage was being done to it by her policies. How can you damage what doesn't exist? Helen As methods don't really match those of Maggie T - more her good friend Pinochet of Chile and his ilk.

If Helen A is Thatcher, then Ronald Fraser's Harold C is the Iron Lady's husband Denis. Seen by the general public as a tipsy, somewhat brow-beaten man, thanks to John Wells' impersonations of him.
Some have also seen a gay subtext to this story. Harold C runs off with the rather camp Gilbert M at the end. Cy Town plays a moustachioed man who is executed by pink fondant. Moustaches went out of fashion with heterosexual men in the 1980's, but did become popular with gay men. The leather scene had a subset known as "Clones", for whom a moustache was obligatory. The way that agent provocateurs entrap the sad members of this society mirrors the entrapment of gay men in cottaging stings by the police.
And let's not forget that the TARDIS gets painted pink.

We have said before that Cartmell gained a lot of his inspiration from comics and graphic novels, including the hugely influential 2000AD. A Judge Dredd story revolved around a sweet which killed people - Umpty Candy - "the sweet that's too good to eat", created by a character called Uncle Umpty. The Kandyman makes sweets which kill people. The bowler hatted Trevor Sigma looks like Max Normal, another character from Judge Dredd.
The exterior scenes, filmed in studio, are so obviously studio-bound that it looks like a cartoon feel was intended.
The design of the Kandyman is, of course, more than inspired by the Bertie Bassett character which advertises such sweets as Liquorice Allsorts. Back in the 1970's, Tom Baker swapped Jelly Babies for Liquorice Allsorts, even though he still described them as Jelly Babies. Most people think that Jelly Babies first started with Baker, but they were first seen being offered by Troughton's Doctor.
Once again music plays a significant role in this story, as it has done more recently in the series (see Delta and the Bannermen). Earl Sigma is a Blues musician - the blues being synonymous for feeling down / depressed, which is what Helen A wants to stamp out. His harmonica playing even leads to the death of Helen A's pet, which prompts her personal revelation about grief.
The director wanted to record this story in black & white, as he felt it had a film noir feel.
The story title - "The Happiness Patrol" - conjures associations with "Joy Division", a band who were, ironically, famously miserablist.
Next time: it's the Silver Anniversary story, so the monsters most closely associated with silver are back...

Sunday 29 November 2020

Revolution News & Trailer

A trailer has been released for this year's festive special, Revolution of the Daleks. It confirms the rumours that Chris Noth would be reprising his role as the Trump-like Jack Robertson, last seen in Arachnids in the UK. A lot of people hated that story (it regularly came in second from last in season polls), and many of these were US fans - so it'll be interesting to see what the reaction to this news will be.
Also joining the cast is Harriet Walter, who appears to be playing Britain's latest Prime Minister.
The trailer depicts several scenes set on the prison world, which some fans think might be Shada, and these are the only ones to feature the Doctor. Graham, Yaz and Ryan are left to defend the world, still in possession of the TARDIS they used to escape from Gallifrey. It looks like they team up with Captain Jack for much of the story. I had assumed that the Doctor would have been broken out of jail by Jack in the pre-credit sequence, but perhaps she only turns up near the end to resolve the problems posed by the Daleks. 

The new black Dalek, first seen on location and currently starring on the cover of the Radio Times, is seen. We also see Yaz attacked by a casing-less Dalek mutant. The black Dalek is a repurposed version of the remote control one seen in Resolution.
From the trailer it looks like the Prime Minister has been duped by Robertson into accepting Daleks as "defence drones" - shades of Victory of the Daleks' Ironsides.

It has also been confirmed that this will be the final story for Graham and Ryan. Of the three companions, Yaz was the most underdeveloped - and yet she's the one they are sticking with.
Will a new male companion be joining, and if so will it be in this story or in the opening episode of Series 13? If he's joining in this story, then might it be Nathan Stewart-Jarrett, who appears in these images with Noth?

UPDATE: It's now confirmed this episode will be broadcast at New Year, rather than Christmas, as with the last couple of Specials. 

Thursday 26 November 2020

Planet of the Mechanoids / DALEKS!

The third episode of the Daleks animated series sees the Emperor head for Mechanus, seeking assistance from the Mechonoids (although they're named Mechanoids in the title).
While it has a lengthy chat with the blue Mechanoid leader, the Strategist insists that a scientist helps repair the planet's defence screens - despite the fact that it was the Daleks who broke it in the first place.
Whilst these two characters have their lengthy chats, the rest of the Daleks throw a wobbly and decide to attack the Mechonoids for no real reason - resulting in them all being wiped out. Stupid Daleks.
The Emperor then tells the blue leader that the green lighting effect extra-temporal entity has followed it.
And that's it. A rather pointless one-sided battle, and some robots talking to each other.
It was basically a retread of the conversation between the Emperor and the archive robot in the first instalment. The Mechonoids on screen were one-hit wonders, who featured only in a single episode. They were simply servo-robots left to get on with their mission, and weren't hot on conversation.
The ones in this have been taken from those '60's Dalek comic stories, where they have a rival space empire. Having a Mechonoid, with a female voice, chat about beauty, just didn't look or sound right at all. The only way they can make these things - Dalek and Mechonoid - interesting is to change everything about them.
I'll stick with this, but it's not something I could ever see myself revisit.

Wednesday 25 November 2020

Season 8 Blu-ray Boxset - Confirmed

News today that Season 8 will indeed be the next one to be released as a Blu-ray box set. There's a rather nice video trailer for it which you need to check out, featuring Katy Manning and Stewart Bevan as Mrs and Mr Jones, under attack from carnival-masked Autons.
Lots of extra material is promised, and the picture remastering looks great - including on the technically challenging The Mind of Evil.
Terror of the Autons is given the optional new special effects treatment, with a CGI troll doll appearing in the trailer.
The Mind of Evil has a feature in which three Doctor Who directors visit its location of Dover Castle - Tim Coombe, Michael Briant and Graeme Harper, who all contributed to this season (Harper as Briant's PA on Colony In Space). 
The Claws of Axos has an extended version, presumably using elements from the studio footage of the first recording block. 
Nothing extra mentioned specifically for Colony In Space, but The Daemons is presented in a feature length version, and we have a feature called "Devil's Weekend", which sees Manning and John Levene visit the Devil's End location of Aldbourne.
Two other features of note are an in depth interview from Matthew Sweet with Manning, and a tribute to the late, great Terrance Dicks, fronted by Frank Skinner.
There appear to be three "On The Sofa" sittings. As well as Manning and Bevan, we also have Janet Fielding paired with Sarah Sutton, and Anjli Mohindra with Sacha Dhawan. It'll be interesting to hear the latter's thoughts on the original Master, who features in all five stories. 
No sharing of Fielding's blanket this time, as the sitters have a perspex screen between them - so maybe they need to temporarily rename these segments "On The Armchair". I'm assuming that Covid-19 restrictions are the reason for the most obvious panel not being present - Manning, Levene and Richard Franklin, who together appear in four of these stories.
No release date yet on Amazon, though Zoom have it as 31st December 2099. Clearly something wrong with the year there, but the day and month may be correct (though these usually come out on Mondays), as the US retailers had a February 2021 release date and they usually have to wait a couple of months longer than the UK. In some ways the release date is immaterial, as they frequently get pushed back in the schedules, sometimes more than once.

PS: if you want to hold out for the steelbook of The Web of Fear, according to Amazon you'll have to wait until June 1st - 2022!

Tuesday 24 November 2020

News Update

Hope you had a lovely Doctor Who Day yesterday - the 57th anniversary of the programme. I rewatched the More Than 30 Years In The TARDIS documentary to mark the occasion. 
Very little from the BBC itself, other than a promotional image for the forthcoming Christmas Special (above), and a tiny teaser clip with Captain Jack, and therefore final confirmation that Barrowman is in the episode - something we've known for the last 8 months thanks to the BBC themselves issuing a photo with him in costume in the background. So much for their obsession with spoiler avoidance.
Still no word of when Revolution of the Daleks will actually be broadcast, though many people think it will be Christmas Day rather than New Years Day. This will be known at the beginning of next week.
The people who make the Blu-ray box sets gave us absolutely nothing.
The people behind the animations at least gave us the news I reported earlier about the rerelease of The Web of Fear, with the missing third episode animated. Great news - until I saw the teaser for it.
I sincerely hope that the whole episode isn't as awful as this.
One other release due next year will be a steelbook of the 50th Anniversary Specials - The Day of the Doctor, The Time of the Doctor and the Hartnell docudrama An Adventure in Space and Time, along with all the associated extras, such as the McGann mini-episode Night of the Doctor.
Specific dates for the Troughton story and this steelbook are yet to be released.

The Web of Fear Special Edition

Just browsing website to look at their Black Friday deals, and came across a new release scheduled for The Web of Fear, which is going to have the missing third episode animated. The release date is still TBC. DVD, Blu-ray and Steelbook versions will all be available. 
We all hoped that that missing episode might have been obtained, as we know it exists, but this suggests that they don't expect to see it back in the archives any time soon.

Sunday 22 November 2020

Story 235 - Cold War

In which the crew of a Soviet nuclear submarine discover a figure entombed in the ice near the North Pole. The year is 1983, and the Cold War between East and West is at its hottest. One of the crew decides to thaw out the figure, but it comes to life and kills him. It then sabotages the vessel, causing it to sink, out of control. In the middle of the emergency the TARDIS materialises on board. The Doctor and Clara had been aiming for Las Vegas, but the ship has gone off course. Shortly after they emerge, the TARDIS dematerialises on it's own, leaving them stranded. They are confronted by Captain Zhukov and his crew, who assume them to be spies. The Doctor gives Zhukov some advice on how to stop the submarine sinking further, by moving itself laterally onto a rocky shelf. He then discovers the reason for the emergency, as an Ice Warrior storms onto the bridge. It identifies itself as Grand Marshal Skaldak, who is known to the Doctor due to his fearsome reputation. One of the crew uses an electric prod, intended to ward off polar bears, to disable the Warrior.
Stepashin, the submarine's political officer, wants the Doctor and Clara locked up, but Captain Zhukov decides to trust him due to his saving of the vessel, and his knowledge of the alien. A scientist named Grisenko, who had the icebound figure brought on board in the first place, also wants the Doctor and Clara to remain free. Clara finds that he is more interested in western pop music than their current predicament. The Doctor is concerned about the attack on Skaldak, as this will automatically trigger a response. To do any less would be dishonourable to the Martian.

He advocates a parlez with Skaldak, who is now chained up. He and the submarine crew will be regarded as enemies, so it is agreed that Clara should be the person to negotiate with him as a neutral figure. She goes to see the Ice Warrior and speaks with him, but the Doctor becomes suspicious. Clara discovers that she has been talking to an empty shell. Skaldak has emerged from his armour and is now running loose in the vessel. The Doctor warns that this will make him even more dangerous.
Skaldak runs amok, killing anyone he encounters. Stepashin attempts to forge an alliance with him, but fails and also dies. When he captures Grisenko, however, Clara manages to talk him into letting him go.
The Ice Warrior regains his armour and takes control of the submarine's nuclear missiles. He plans to trigger a full scale war in retaliation for his treatment. He has attempted to call on his own people for rescue, but has received no response. The Doctor succeeds in convincing him that starting a war which would kill millions of innocent people could never be an honourable course of action. 
A Martian spaceship suddenly arrives above the submarine, and Skaldak is teleported away, but still has control over the missile launch sequence. This deactivates after a few minutes, and the Doctor realises that Skaldak had taken on board what he had said about honourable actions. 
He, Clara, Zhukov and Grisenko see the spaceship depart. The Doctor receives a signal from the TARDIS. He had set the HADS - the Hostile Action Displacement System - and it had automatically relocated to the Pole when it found the submarine on the point of destruction. Unfortunately it is at the South Pole, rather than the North. The Doctor enquires of Zhukov if they can get a lift...

Cold War was was written by Mark Gatiss, and was first broadcast on 13th April, 2013. It marked the first appearance of the Ice Warriors after an absence of almost 4 decades (their final on screen appearance having been in The Monster of Peladon, which was on screen exactly 39 years before). At the time, this was the only Ice Warrior story not to have been written by their creator, Brian Hayles. (It's also the first Ice Warrior story not to feature Sonny Caldinez).
Gatiss, a big fan of the Pertwee era, had asked Steven Moffat about bringing the Ice Warriors back, only to be told that the showrunner wasn't too ken on them. He regarded them as stereotypical big green monsters, who could be easily outrun as they were so slow and cumbersome. Gatiss managed to convince him, and resolved the mobility issue by having Skaldak able to emerge from his armour and move quickly around the submarine.
The Ice Warrior first appeared in two stories during Patrick Troughton's era - and this is reflected in some aspects of the script. Skaldak is found entombed in ice, just as the original Warrior Varga had been, and the HADS is mentioned. This had only appeared once before - in The Krotons.
The submarine setting came from Gatiss' love of movies set on such vessels - especially The Hunt for Red October and Crimson Tide, which have a Cold War setting.

The story has an impressive cast list, though some of the actors are poorly served. As Zhukov we have Liam Cunningham, who was one of the strongest contenders for the role of the Eighth Doctor back in 1996. As Grisenko we have David Warner, a friend of Gatiss. He had portrayed an alternative Doctor on audio. Stepashin is played by Tobias Menzies, who took over from Matt Smith as Prince Phillip in The Crown, and who, like Cunningham, had appeared in Game of Thrones. In a minor role, as a crewman named Onegin, is James Norton, who was just about to become a big TV star thanks to his role in 1950's detective drama Grantchester.
Playing Skaldak is Spencer Wilding, who had previously played the Minotaur in The God Complex, and the Wooden King in The Doctor, the Widow and the Wardrobe. He would go on to play Darth Vader in Rogue One. The Ice Warrior is voiced by Nick Briggs, meaning he had now voiced the "top three" monsters.

Overall, a reasonably good story with a strong cast, the return of a fan-favourite monster, and a claustrophobic setting. However, fans have never really warmed to it.
Things you might like to know:
  • One reason why fans might not have taken to this story is the way the Ice Warrior is represented. The controversial thing is Skaldak's abandoning of his armour and running around like Gollum. Original costume designer Martin Baugh stated in interviews that, as far as he was concerned, the armour wasn't something which the Warriors could remove - it was part of their body. The creature's elongated hands don't fit with the claws of the armour, which are no longer large clamps as in their previous appearances. The fur sticking out of the joints is also missing. It does seem rather pointless bringing back the Ice Warriors, to then not show the Ice Warriors for most of the episode running time. Why not just have a new monster for this story?
  • Grisenko's love of music is mainly a devotion to what was known as the New Romantic style - Ultravox and Duran Duran.
  • Skaldak is a Grand Marshal. One Ice Warrior of this rank was seen in The Seeds of Death, but then he was of the "Ice Lord" design, like Slaar, Azaxyr and Izlyr.
  • Many aspects of the Ice Warrior' s background come not from their original creator but from subsequent books and comic strips.
  • This is the first story since 1978's The Power of Kroll to have no female characters other than the Doctor's companion.
  • An original draft had Skaldak not being found in the ice, but travelling back through time from the 31st Century to destroy the Earth in 1983 and prevent a future human invasion of Mars. Grisenko was a villain in this version, and the Doctor and Clara would have been rescued by a British submarine at the conclusion.
  • Stepashin gest his name from Sergei Stepashin, Prime Minister under Boris Yeltsin. Zhukov led the Russian European forces during World War II, and Onegin comes from the novel Eugene Onegin, by Alexander Pushkin.

Thursday 19 November 2020

The Sentinel of the Fifth Galaxy / DALEKS!

The second instalment of the animated Dalek series has now premiered on the Doctor Who YouTube channel. 
Last week we saw the Daleks trundle into a trap, and this time we get to see what that trap entails. It's basically a big green lighting effect, which is supposed to be some sort of extra-temporal entity. It chases the Daleks back to Skaro, and we see the city exactly as it appeared in The Magician's Apprentice / The Witch's Familiar.
The planet falls, though we hear this but don't really see it. This is a problem this week. Later there is a battle between two Dalek factions and they just hover and shoot at each other. They don't seem to hit anything, yet we are told that one side is beating the other. It's just not apparent on screen.
Before we get to the battle, only the Emperor's ship seems to have survived, and he sets off to find reinforcements. There are 10,000 of them stored on a planet, guarded by the Sentinel of the title. Half the episode is taken up between the Strategist talking to the Sentinel, which is a rather stereotypical cartoon robot. It is voiced by Joe Suggs, who - according to Google, I had to look him up - is an "Internet Celebrity". I certainly didn't recognise the voice, so they could have hired any old actor.
The green lighting effect has got to the planet first, and turned the reinforcements against the Emperor - hence the big battle, which is just a glorified son et lumiere show.
The Emperor legs it once again, with the green lighting effect still in pursuit. A Dalek on the bridge explodes for no reason whatsoever...
As with last week's initial instalment, Daleks on their own are pretty boring. Only the Strategist has any kind of personality, but it's all one note. This really needs human characters.

Wednesday 18 November 2020

I is for... Isolus

Isolus are a space-dwelling species which travel inside egg-like pods in huge family groupings. They thrive on the companionship of these groups, and cannot bear to be alone. One particular specimen was accidentally diverted from its course and crash-landed on Earth, the heat-seeking pod landing in some fresh tar on an East London street. Despite being mid-summer, the pod absorbed all the heat from the area, and it drained the energy from vehicles which passed over it.
The Isolus creature found a lonely and withdrawn young girl named Chloe Webber, who lived on the street. It merged with her and gave her strange psychokinetic powers. Desperate for companionship, it made Chloe draw local children who were then transplanted to another dimension. Its needs grew, and a few children weren't enough. Soon, it had made Chloe draw the whole of the Olympic stadium and its population, yet this still wasn't enough. Chloe captured the Doctor, to prevent him interfering with the Isolus' plans, as only the entire world would satisfy it.
Rose Tyler and a council workman dug up the pod, and the Isolus left Chloe and rejoined it. It homed in on the Olympic torch which was passing the end of the street, and this gave it an energy boost. It released its captives, and the Doctor used the Olympic flame in the stadium to give it the energy to leave Earth and rejoin its kin in space.

Appearances: Fear Her (2006).

I is for... Isabella

Daughter of a Venetian gondolier named Guido. Her father thought himself extremely fortunate that he managed to enrol her at the exclusive school for young ladies run by Rosanna Calvierri - a noted benefactor to the city.
However, he was shocked to discover that he could never see Isabella again. An attempt to make contact with her one day led to him discovering that she had become highly photosensitive, and her school friends appeared to be vampires. This was witnessed by the Doctor, who decided to investigate.
Amy Pond was enrolled in the school in order to find a way to help the Doctor, Guido and Rory to find a way in. She discovered that Rosanna and her son, Francesco, were really water-loving alien Saturnyns. They were converting young women so they would be suitable for breeding with Saturnyn males. They attempted to convert Amy but she was rescued by Isabella. As they tried to leave the school, however, the sun had come up and Isabella was forced to retreat. For her act of betrayal against them, the Calvierris had her thrown into a canal, where she was devoured by Saturnyn young.

Played by: Alisha Bailey. Appearances: The Vampires of Venice (2010).

I is for... Isaac

Marshal of the town of Mercy, Nevada, in 1870. When the Doctor arrived in Mercy and identified himself as an alien doctor, the citizens threw him beyond a barrier which they had erected around the town, where he was threatened by a cyborg gunslinger. Isaac rescued him and back at his office he revealed that he was sheltering the alien doctor which the gunslinger wanted to kill - Khaler-Jex. Jex had arrived some time before, and had given the town an electricity supply, as well as curing a serious infection.
However, the Doctor later discovered that Jex was really a war criminal, and the gunslinger sought revenge for the atrocities he had committed. When the Doctor had him thrown over the boundary, Isaac sacrificed himself to save the alien doctor, taking the shot intended for him. As he died, he passed his badge on to the Doctor and asked him to continue to protect Jex.

Played by: Ben Browder. Appearances: A Town Called Mercy (2012).
  • Browder first came to fame as the astronaut John Crichton in Farscape (1999 - 2003). He later went into Stargate, and has featured in Arrow
  • He turned down another role to play Isaac as he had always wanted to do a Western.

I is for... Ironsides

 "Ironsides" was the name given to the war machines invented by Professor Bracewell, to help Winston Churchill win the Second World War. Bracewell was continually coming up with scientific ideas. When the Doctor arrived in wartime London, at the behest of the Prime Minister, he was horrified to find that the Ironsides were actually Daleks. Bracewell had given them a khaki camouflage design, with utility belts below the neck section. A Union Jack was added beneath the eye-stalk, and they could be fitted with canvas coverings for their dome lights to comply with blackout rules.
They were allowed to roam freely around Churchill's War Rooms, and came across as helpful servants, as well as being lethal weapons - able to shoot down entire squadrons of enemy aircraft.
The Doctor had to find a way to reveal their true nature to Churchill. However, they were part of a ploy to get the Doctor to confirm their identity, so that a progenitor device on their spaceship would recognise them as Daleks. This was necessary as their DNA had become corrupted over time. Bracewell was really an android created by them, implanted with false memories.
The progenitor created a whole new Dalek race which saw the Ironsides and their like as genetically inferior, and they allowed themselves to be destroyed them.

Appearances: Victory of the Daleks (2010).
  • The Ironsides were inspired by the Daleks of The Power of the Daleks, which pretended to be subservient to humans.

I is for... Irongron

Irongron was a robber-baron in medieval England. He and his mercenaries took advantage of a foreign war to take over the territories of nobles whose troops were fighting abroad. One castle he seized was neighbour to that belonging to Sir Edward of Wessex, and Irongron had set his sights on this. One night he and his men saw a shooting star fall into the forest nearby. Whilst he was determined to go and investigate straight away, his superstitious men, including his dim-witted henchman Bloodaxe, refused to go. The following morning they rode out and discovered a crash-landed Sontaran spaceship, and its owner Linx.
Linx agreed to provide Irongron with weapons in return for the facilities to repair his ship. The robber-baron was first given an android, but a stray crossbow bolt caused it to go haywire. Later Linx supplied him with rifles. Their relationship was a fiery one. An attack on Sir Edward's castle was foiled by the Doctor. When it was time to leave, Irongron finally turned against Linx, but the Sontaran shot him dead.
His men fled as the spaceship blew up the castle.

Played by: David Daker. Appearances: The Time Warrior (1974).
  • The part was originally offered to Bob Hoskins, but he was unavailable. Instead, he recommended Daker to the director.
  • Daker returned to the programme during Tom Baker's tenure, as Captain Rigg in Nightmare of Eden.
  • The exact historical period of The Time Warrior is never specified. Many assume that it is the time of the Crusades, though it could be during King John's disastrous continental campaign.

I is for... Interface

The medical complex known as the Two Streams Facility on the planet Apalapucia employed many diversions to keep its terminally ill patients amused and entertained during what was, for them, a lengthy stay. The planet had been struck by the Chen-7 plague, which killed people in a day. Those infected were admitted to part of the Facility where a compressed time-stream operated - dragging out their day for years. Each patient had access to the Facility's computerised Interface, which acted as their guide. It appeared as a beam of light, and spoke with a soothing female voice. After becoming trapped in the compressed time-stream, Amy Pond was able over time to reprogramme her Interface to tell her about the workings of the Facility, so that she could avoid the Handbots, whose attempts at care could prove fatal to her. However, the one thing it couldn't tell her was how to escape.
Two versions of Amy were created - one newly arrived and one who had lived in the Facility for years. When the older Amy sacrificed herself to prevent her younger self from becoming trapped, the last thing she asked of the Interface was one last look at the planet Earth.

Voiced by: Imelda Staunton. Appearances: The Girl Who Waited (2011).
  • Oscar nominated Staunton is one of a number of major stage and screen stars who have appeared in the programme in vocal only roles, due to their heavy workloads (e.g. Michael Sheen, Brian Cox, Sir Ian McKellen). 
  • Her best known role is probably as the villainous Dolores Umbridge in the Harry Potter movies. She'll be taking over from Olivia Colman as Queen Elizabeth II in The Crown for the final two seasons.

Sunday 15 November 2020

Inspirations - Remembrance of the Daleks

This story marks the beginning of the programme's 25th season, and what a difference since the last significant anniversary. It can be difficult now to comprehend just how far the programme had fallen in the opinion of fans, general viewers and BBC bigwigs in 5 short years. 
However, this is Andrew Cartmel's first full season in complete control of the scripting department - and he has a plan...
Yes, Remembrance of the Daleks sees the beginning of what has been called the "Cartmel Masterplan" - though never by the man himself.
Cartmel had decided that there was too much background known about the Doctor, baggage which could get in the way of good storytelling. He wanted to put some of the earlier mystery back into the character, and we see the first inkling of that here.
Cartmel also disliked the randomness of the Doctor's travels, preferring that he arrived where he did for a reason. From this point on, many stories will see the Doctor going somewhere because of some unfinished business, or because he has heard some disquieting rumour.

As the opening story of an anniversary season, Remembrance spends a lot of time looking back to the series' history. We have direct references to the very first story - An Unearthly Child - and to a number of older Dalek stories.
The setting is Coal Hill School and its surrounding area - including the junkyard in Totter's Lane (although this appears to have transformed itself into a builders merchants, rather than a junkyard). The suggestion is that this story takes place just after Ian and Barbara left the area with the Doctor and Susan in the TARDIS. It is supposed to be the winter of 1963, although the weather suggests otherwise, and it is far too bright for a new science fiction TV show to be screening at 5:15pm.
Ace finds a history text book in a science laboratory, one covering "The French Revolution". If they think that we believe this to be the one Barbara lent to Susan, then they're wrong. The cover is a different colour, and Susan took Barbara's book with her when she went home on that last evening in London.
The Doctor who left the casket containing the Hand of Omega at the funeral parlour is described as being a white-haired old man - obviously implying it was the First Doctor.
Of course, this doesn't match anything we know about the series' earliest days. There's no suggestion that the Doctor had a Gallifreyan super-weapon on him back in 1963, and why would he rush off with Ian and Barbara if he was supposed to be looking after such a thing? Also, there's no indication that he knows the Daleks when he first meets them on Skaro, let alone that he has left some elaborate trap for them back in London.
Other old stories referred to by the Doctor include The Web of Fear and Terror of the Zygons, as the Doctor talks about how humanity has a way of forgetting about uncomfortable events.

The story acts as the latest sequel to Genesis of the Daleks, in that it shows us the continuing adventures of Davros, and what he has been up to since his last appearance in Revelation of the Daleks. That ended with hi being carted off by the Supreme's Daleks to be tried by his creations.
Clearly he has managed to evade Dalek justice, and instead has actually managed to stage a coup. He is now in charge, and has declared himself Emperor. He has created a new casing for himself, which suggests that he has relinquished the remainder of his crippled organic body.
The new Dalek Emperor, with its spherical upper section, is clearly inspired by the gold Dalek Emperor from the TV Century 21 comics (although a closer design inspiration might be a roll-on deodorant).
The notion of a Dalek civil war has been seen before - not just since Davros started to kick back against the Supreme's leadership of the species by creating a whole new race of Daleks loyal only to him. 
We had civil strife in those Dalek comic strips, where one Dalek started to question orders and to challenge the gold Emperor; and then we had the consequences of the Second Doctor's meddling on Skaro in The Evil of the Daleks. There is also a reference to Planet of the Daleks, when the Doctor mentions having previously created a device which scrambles Daleks' minds on Spiridon.

Something else from established Dalek history is their focus on racial purity, and the parallels between Daleks and Nazis. This story has a lot to say about race - be it the "No Coloureds" sign in the B&B, the reason for the Dalek internecine conflict, the Doctor's conversation with the café worker, or the inclusion of Mr Ratcliffe and his "Association". Ratcliffe is clearly a one-time supporter of Oswald Mosley's Blackshirts, mentions how he feels that the UK supported the wrong cause in the last war, and of how he and his friends were locked up for the duration.
Back in The Daleks, Ian Chesterton explained the antagonism from the Daleks towards the Thals as "a dislike for the unlike". Terry Nation based the Dalek Invasion of Earth on the Blitz and what might have happened had the Germans invaded and taken over. We even see them making Nazi style salutes as they parade around London's landmarks. The Daleks talk of "extermination", "final solutions" and cultural subnormalcy. Genesis of the Daleks takes the Nazi parallels further - just take a look at Davros' henchman Nyder, or listen to what General Ravon has to say about the war.

As far as the "Cartmel Masterplan" goes, we have the Doctor speaking to Ace about the origins of the Hand of Omega - where he suggests that he was around when it was created, even though it was supposed to be in Gallifrey's ancient past. When she notices this, he clams up. Later, he tells Davros that he is no ordinary Time Lord, though this scene wasn't broadcast. He does claim on screen to be President-Elect of the Time Lords, despite him having turned down the role last time it was brought up (at the conclusion to Trial of a Time Lord) - perhaps suggesting a missing adventure?
We also have the first sign that this Doctor likes very long-term plans and is a bit of a schemer.
One non-Doctor Who reference worth mentioning is Rachel speaking about Bernard and the British Rocket Group - which implies that the Quatermass universe is part of the Doctor Who one. Nigel Kneale would never have approved.
Next time: it's the late 1980's, so it's about time we had a story that dealt with Maggie Thatcher...

Thursday 12 November 2020

Season 8 for Blu-ray next?

Some of you may be too young to remember, but once upon a time the BBC were releasing Classic Doctor Who in Blu-ray box-sets... 
It has been an absolute age since Season 14 was released, but now some on-line retailers in the USA are saying that Season 8 is going to be released in February 2021. Which means, if true, that the UK might see it earlier, as all the previous releases have been available in the UK sometimes months in advance of the US. (In the US, these releases are titled differently - Season 18 being called "Tom Baker Season 7", for instance, or Season 23 being "Colin Baker Season 2" - which would make this one "Jon Pertwee Season 2" over there).
It is a very significant set of episodes. The stories are Terror of the Autons, The Mind of Evil, The Claws of Axos, Colony In Space and The Daemons.
(It will be interesting to see what they do with the variable colour quality, especially Mind).
It's the first season that was wholly under the control of producer Barry Letts, and introduced the popular companion Jo Grant, as well as UNIT's Captain Mike Yates. Most importantly, it brought us the greatest Master of them all - Roger Delgado. In fact, he features in every story of this season, something which Letts and Terrance Dicks later admitted was a bit of a mistake.
Only a rumour for now - but here's hoping this proves to be the next box-set. A Pertwee set would make sense, as he had the second highest number of seasons after Tom Baker, who already has three releases to his name, to just the one so far for Pertwee.

The Archive of Islos / DALEKS!

The first episode of the new Daleks animated series has debuted on the official Doctor Who YouTube channel. It runs to just over 13 minutes and will comprise five episodes. It is all part of the "Time Lord Victorious" multi-platform series, and as it is free to watch it will be the only thing from TLV that I'll be bothering to look at here.
I haven't read or listened to any of the TLV content, apart from the DWM comic strip, but didn't feel I was missing anything watching this. All you need to know is that this is some point in history when the Daleks are powerful, and some of them have personalities based on their jobs. The main three we see here are the Emperor (as seen above), the Strategist (who looks like one of the original 1963 versions), and the Executioner (a bit of a pointless title for a Dalek). The Emperor sounds like Christopher Lee as Saruman, and the Strategist sounds like Wormtongue. The Executioner just sounds like he enjoys his work. They are all voiced by Nick Briggs, naturally enough as he has the ring modulator and won't let anyone else play with it.
The basic plot is that the Daleks have attacked a planet in order to seize a vast archive, presided over by some robotic creatures. Rather than just invade, they have to make things complicated for themselves by analysing everything - thanks to the Strategist. When they finally do land to take over, they find they have trundled into a trap.
The whole thing basically feels like one of those TV Century 21 comics of the mid 1960's. The Emperor is clearly based on the one from those strips, but doesn't look anywhere near as good.
The animation is... variable. The Daleks themselves look great, as it's helluva difficult not to animate a mechanical object effectively. The robotic Archivists are also okay, for the same reason. Daleks and their spaceships in space also okay. The problems lie with the humanoid figures, seen briefly at the start, and with some of the effects. The fire / explosion effects in particular are pathetic.
To be honest, even though it only runs to less than a quarter of an hour, I grew somewhat bored with this. Giving Daleks a bit of personality just isn't enough to make them, wall to wall, interesting. It needs a human element (which, I believe, it isn't going to get).
All in all, a bit of a vanity project for Briggs. I will continue watching - but mainly because it is free and doesn't last very long.
PS - those Dalek comic strips have just been re-released in a glossy mag from DWM today (£9.99). I love to revisit them (having the older compilation) - something I don't think you could say about this animated series.

Series 13 News

It's been announced via the new edition of DWM that the next series of Doctor Who will consist of just 8 episodes, as opposed to the usual 11 we've had of late. The Coronavirus was always going to have some significant impact on TV production this year, and so we knew something like this would happen. It was either a reduced output, or a longer delay.
With production officially beginning last week, this does mean that Series 13 should be on our screens in the autumn of 2021, instead of having yet another gap year.
No mention if the 8 tally includes the next festive special.
Something else not mentioned is the companion cast. If there is to be a new companion (or companions) in Series 13 then it might be hard to keep that a secret before the broadcast of Revolution of the Daleks, which is rumoured to see the departure of at least one of the TARDIS crew, if not all three of them. A shorter run of episodes would certainly be of benefit to the busy Bradley Walsh, so hopefully we'll see more of Graham, who is by far the best of the trio.
With a reduced episode count it is all the more important that we get a good batch of stories. There simply isn't the space to deliver any of the sorts of clunkers which we've been subjected to over the last couple of series.
It's already known that one of the stories is a "celebrity historical", as Sara Powell's agency website gives the role she has taken.

Monday 9 November 2020

Story 234 - The Rings of Akhaten

In which the Doctor embarks on an investigation into Clara, prior to seeing if she is going to take a trip with him in the TARDIS. He learns of how her parents first met - when her father, Dave, was distracted by a wind-blown leaf and was almost run over, but saved by her mother, Ellie. He witnesses her growing up, a seemingly normal child, then observes as she and her father bury her mother. Nothing he sees appears to be abnormal, and yet he has now met her, or a version of her, three times.
On returning to the present, the day after he had offered her a trip, she agrees to go with him.
The Doctor decides to take her to the exotic market at the Rings of Akhaten, for the Festival of Offerings. This takes place every thousand years, on a series of asteroids which circle a huge fiery gas giant planet. It is believed by the various races in this galaxy that all life in the universe began here. Clara is initially overwhelmed by the various alien species in attendance, but is more alarmed when the seemingly young Doctor mentions having visited the Festival before with his granddaughter. 

Clara sees a young girl in ornate red robes who is trying to hide from some similarly robed adults. Also searching are a group of sinister looking masked aliens, known as the Vigil. She follows the girl and tries to take her into the TARDIS, but the doors refuse to open for her. She learns that the girl is named Merry and she is to sing a special song at the Festival. She follows in a long line of young choristers known as the Queen of Years. Their task is to placate someone known as the Old God, who sleeps in a pyramid on one of the smaller asteroids, in closer orbit to the gas giant. The song maintains his sleep, but failure can mean his reawakening, and the death of the singer. Clara attempts to reassure the girl she will be okay, as the adult Choristers find her.

The Doctor and Clara then join the crowds for the performance. Unfortunately Merry makes a mistake, which seems to horrify the audience. She is caught in a tractor beam and pulled towards the pyramid. The Doctor and Clara give chase on a hired bike, Clara having to give her mother's ring in payment as the vendor, Dor'een, only accepts items of sentimental rather than monetary value.
They fly over to the pyramid. Merry is inside, confronted by a mummified being encased in glass. One of the adult Choristers joins her and attempts to sing the placating song. He fails, and the mummified being comes to life. When the Doctor attempts to remove Merry to safety, the Vigil materialise and attack them with sonic powers.

The Doctor uses his sonic screwdriver to beat them back, as the mummy smashes its way out of its glass cage. The Doctor and Clara get Merry outside, and the Doctor realises that the Old God was not the mummified figure after all. It simply acts as a conduit for the real Old God - the fiery gas giant itself. It stirs to life, taking on a the appearance of a malevolent face. Realising that it feeds on stories and memories, the Doctor sends Clara back to the market with Merry. He then offers his great life experience to the planet. This seems to sate it, but it then demands more. Clara takes to the space-bike and returns to the pyramid asteroid to help him. She offers the Old God the preserved leaf from her book. For her this symbolises the life her mother never had - all the potential experiences she could have had. These are infinite. The Old God over-indulges and is destroyed.
The Doctor takes Clara back home, and he recalls having seen him at her mother's grave when she was younger. The Doctor simply tells her that she reminds him of someone he once knew, who died. He still doesn't know what it is that is so impossible about her...

The Rings of Akhaten was written by Neil Cross, and was first broadcast on 6th April 2013.
It marks Clara's first trip in the TARDIS - but also begins to flag up a dislike the ship has for her. It refuses to open the doors when she tries to take Merry inside, and also fails to translate alien languages such as Dor'een's for her.
We are introduced to Clara's father, Dave - her mother having been introduced in the prequel for the previous episode.
Cross was the showrunner on the crime drama Luther, and he had already contributed a story for Series 7 - Hide. That wouldn't be shown until later in the series, but was made first.
Music plays a significant part in the story. Events revolve around a young singer and her failure to sing a particular song - the Long Song which is supposed to placate an ancient god. The Vigil use sound as a weapon, and the Doctor uses concentrated sound from the sonic screwdriver to unseal the pyramid and to defend against the Vigil's sonic attacks.
The monster-makers Millennium FX have their work cut out for them in this story. As well as the Vigil and the mummified being, they are called upon to populate the market with a variety of alien creatures, such as Dor'een. One of these creatures has a modified Hoix mask.

Clara's parents are played by Michael Dixon and Nicola Sian. They appear in flashback sequences as the Doctor looks into Clara's past. Merry is Emilia Jones - who is the daughter of singer and TV presenter Aled Jones (famous for We're Walking in the Air, from the Raymond Briggs animation The Snowman).
The adult Chorister is portrayed by Chris Anderson, whilst Dor'een is Karl Greenwood, a monster performer at various Doctor Who musical events. The mummy is Aiden Cook. This will be the first of a number of monster parts for him, including the Crooked Man in Hide, a Cyberman in Nightmare in Silver, and Zygons in The Day of the Doctor and The Zygon Invasion / The Zygon Inversion.

Overall, whilst visually stunning, the plot is really rather weak. There's a lot of build-up but all the jeopardy lies in the last fifteen minutes of the episode. How much you like the music makes a huge difference to your opinion on it. Most fans didn't like it, however - the DWM 50th Anniversary poll saw it at 233rd place (out of 241), making it the second worst story of the revived series.
Things you might like to know:
  • Ellie Oswald's date of death is given as March 5th 2005. This was the date of the Auton attack in Rose. Was she killed by an Auton?
  • The name of the planet was originally going to be Akhat - from the Egyptian hieroglyph akhet - meaning "the place where the sun rises".
  • Aliens seen in the market include Hooloovoo, Terraberserkers, Pan-Babylonians, Lucanians, Lugaleracush, a Ultramancer, and a Citizen of the City of Binding Light. The latter featured in The End of the World back in 2005.
  • The market scenes were a deliberate homage to the Star Wars cantina sequence, as was the use of a space-bike similar to those seen in Return of the Jedi.
  • There are similarities with a DWM comic strip - "Thinktwice" - where the Tenth Doctor destroys a memory-devourer by overloading it with his own many experiences.
  • The Vigil masks were based on old fashioned radio facades, in keeping with the musical theme of the story.
  • The Doctor is seen reading the 1981 Beano Summer Special - which prompted the comic to issue a reprint.
  • As I pointed out in my review of this story, wouldn't the destruction of the Old God have rather a disastrous impact on this whole planetary system?

Friday 6 November 2020

Geoffrey Palmer (1927 - 2020)

There are many actors who have appeared in Doctor Who on two or more occasions. Far fewer are the number who appeared in both the Classic and New iterations of the programme. And I can't think of many at all who were killed in every story they appeared in. And there's certainly only one person who fits all that and had a Doctor Who director for a son and a "companion" actor for a daughter-in-law - Geoffrey Palmer.
Sadly, news comes today that he has passed away, at the age of 93.

His first appearance in the show was in 1970's The Silurians, in which he portrayed the civil servant Masters. This was the type of role he was often given. Masters appears mid-story, and dies midway through the penultimate episode, victim of the Silurian plague virus.
The scene at Marylebone Station of him getting off a train was him actually getting off his real train from his home in Gloucestershire.
He returned later in the Pertwee era as another official - the unnamed Earth Administrator in The Mutants. In this, as well as not even having a name, he is assassinated in the very first episode.

When the programme returned in 2005, his son Charles directed a number of stories during the Tennant and Capaldi eras. Geoffrey himself appeared in the 2007 Christmas Special, Voyage of the Damned, playing the doomed Captain of the Titanic spaceship, who sacrifices his life for the financial benefit of his family. Charles Palmer was the husband of actress Claire Skinner, who was the temporary companion opposite Matt Smith in The Doctor, the Widow and the Wardrobe, the 2011 Christmas Special.
Palmer, born Geoffrey Dyson Palmer in 1927, came to public prominence in the 1970's in a number of sitcoms - most notably Butterflies, and the Reggie Perrin series (getting his own spin-off series). He also featured in a classic episode of Fawlty Towers - the one about the dead guest and the toxic kipper.
Another big sitcom hit was As Time Goes By, which ran for almost ten years. He starred opposite Judi Dench in this, and the two were to be seen together on screen on many occasions - including the Bond movie Tomorrow Never Dies. All his scenes were with Dench's "M".
Palmer was awarded an OBE in 2004.

Tuesday 3 November 2020

What's Wrong With... The Highlanders

The Highlanders is the last of the purely historic stories, in that there are no aliens or monsters - just common or garden human villainy. Some try to argue that Black Orchid is the last historical, but that story just couldn't help but have a monster (and we'll have a great deal to say about what is wrong with it when we get to it).
The main reason given for the abandonment of the historicals was that viewers didn't like them and switched off. Poor ratings for The Gunfighters, which producer Innes Lloyd and Davis inherited, is the excuse often cited. This isn't the whole picture, however. Some episodes of the OK Corral story did better than The Tenth Planet - which helped launch the more favoured "base under siege" monster stories. What was really bad for The Gunfighters was not so much the viewing figures as the audience appreciation ones. Feedback from viewers was often negative about historical stories, with the audience claiming they preferred the outer space / monster stories.
Like the second to last historical, The Smugglers, The Highlanders goes more for literary historical than celebrity historical, though this time it does at least dwell on a particular famous historical event.
Budget conscious, it decides to dwell on the aftermath to the Battle of Culloden, 1746, rather than the build up or the battle itself.
There are two authors credited, but it was only one of them who actually wrote any of it - story editor Gerry Davis. Elwyn Jones had to withdraw at a very early stage, leaving Davis to write it himself.
As with some other depictions of the Jacobite Rebellions, this story tends to make it a more simplistic English versus Scots affair. English Catholics supported the Jacobite cause, and many Scottish Protestants supported the English crown. The rebellions were more of an addendum to the European Wars of Religion, rather than a foretaste of future England v. Scotland football matches at Wembley or Hampden.
With The Highlanders, the English characters are generally baddies, and the Scots ones the good guys. The only nice Englishman - Lt Algernon ffinch - is only helpful because Polly and her new friend Kirsty blackmail him. He's also presented as a bit of an upper class twit.
The story introduces Jamie McCrimmon (played by Frazer Hines). Believing he was only going to be appearing in four episodes, he adopted a lilting Highland accent. Once offered a regular role, during the studio recordings, he realised that this accent would be unsustainable and went for what he himself termed more of a "TV Scottish accent". Hines is actually from Yorkshire, but had a Scottish mother. He played a Scots boy in the 1956 Hammer sci-fi film X - The Unknown, and in the 1957 BBC TV adaptation of Huntingtower, so had experience of using a Scots accent.
The McCrimmons are a real family. However, at the time of the 1745 Jacobite rebellion they were allied with the McLeod clan - who were pro-government, so Jamie should technically be on the side of the Redcoats. They really were noted pipers (though we never actually see Jamie show any interest in playing the pipes throughout his long tenure in the TARDIS - despite the Doctor having a set in the TARDIS trunk).
This is Patrick Troughton's second story as the Doctor, so the character has not properly developed yet. He does a lot of dressing up and pretending to be other people (a German doctor, an old washerwoman and a Redcoat soldier) but this aspect of the character won't last beyond this story (apart from an obsession with hats, but even that will fade rather quickly). He is also rather aggressive and ill-tempered. There's a slightly malicious side to his anti-authoritarianism. 
On finding a Scottish bonnet with the Jacobite cockade on it, he snorts "romantic piffle", which isn't very open minded of him. He should be more accepting of both sides of an argument. 
Later, he'll gleefully smash someone's head against a table - repeatedly. The Second Doctor is still cooking.
Plot wise, there isn't much to be said - until we get to the end. The main villain of the piece plans to make a fortune selling Jacobite prisoners into slavery, and he gets arrested at the conclusion for this. Trouble is, Jacobite prisoners were sold into slavery - officially. Solicitor Grey is only doing what others were doing, so it's hard to see how he will be punished for it.
Jamie has shown nothing but loyalty to his laird, and yet when he has the chance to go abroad with him to safety he abandons him and decides to accompany the Doctor and companions back to the TARDIS. What does he intend to do once he has bidden them farewell in this now hostile land where he is going to be a hunted fugitive? Why does he agree to get inside a small wooden box with three people he hardly knows? For a poorly educated 18th Century country boy he seems to grasp rather quickly that this box can travel by itself.
When it came to the novelisation, Gerry Davis took the opportunity to amend a line of dialogue. ffinch threatens someone with 300 lashes, which would have undoubtedly proven fatal, so he changes it to a more survivable 6 in the book.
Dallas Cavell, as Captain Trask, seems to think he's understudying Robert Newton as Long John Silver, with far too may "Ooh Arrs!" and "ye scurvy dogs!".
One unfortunate line of dialogue: "Take a man round the rear, sergeant".

Sunday 1 November 2020

Inspirations - Dragonfire

Ian Briggs, the writer of Dragonfire, clearly has an interest in cinema and film theory. The plot contains references to a number of movies, and many of the characters have names relating to cinema.
Briggs also has the task of writing out the current companion, Mel, and introducing the new one, Ace.
Producer John Nathan Turner asked for the inclusion of Sabalom Glitz, who is returning from Trial of a Time Lord.
The dragon of the title is the Biomechanoid. Its design is inspired by the Xenomorph from Alien / Aliens. This is most noticeable in the body, with large projections on the back. Aliens is referenced further in the "ANT hunt" in the third episode. Two of the Iceworld staff search for the dragon using motion detectors, and the sequence is clearly supposed to mirror scenes from the Alien sequel - where the creatures close in but can't be seen, their presence only known from the detector sounding.
The new companion, Ace, has the real name Dorothy, and she arrived on Iceworld after being caught up in a time storm. This is a reference to The Wizard of Oz, in which a girl named Dorothy is transported to a fantastical land by a tornado. The Wizard of Oz is best known through the 1939 MGM film version, which starred Judy Garland. The Wonderful Wizard of Oz was written by Frank L Baum, and was first published in 1900. Three silent versions of the story were filmed before the 1939 version, one of which featured Oliver Hardy.

The main part of the plot for the first two episodes is a treasure hunt, or Quest type story. We've only ever had a couple of those in the series before - e.g. The Keys of Marinus, "The Key to Time" season.
Characters on a quest, trying to steal a crystal from a dragon might well be a reference to The Hobbit.
The villain of the piece is a man named Kane, the name deriving from Citizen Kane - Orson Welles' 1941 film which many regard as the greatest movie ever made. His criminal background seems to reference Bonnie and Clyde, whose story was filmed in 1967 with Warren Beatty and Faye Dunaway in the title roles, one of the most iconic of gangster movies.
Kane's demise, melting in the heat of the sun, is inspired by the deaths of archaeologist Belloq and his Nazi allies at the climax of the 1981 film Raiders of the Lost Ark. (Ronald Lacey, who played the Gestapo man in the film, was considered for the role of Kane).
The cafeteria sequence where the Doctor and Mel meet Glitz, and first encounter Ace, is meant to reference the Mos Eisley Cantina scene in the first Star Wars movie.

Kane's assistants are named Belazs and Kracauer. Belazs gets her name from Bela Balazs (1884 - 1949), the Hungarian film theorist. Kracauer comes from Siegfried Kracauer (1889 - 1966), another film theorist, this time from Germany.
Other characters are named McLuhan - from Marshall McLuhan, the Canadian media studies expert; Bazin - named for the French film critic Andre Bazin; and Podovkin - named for the Russian film director Vsevolod Pudovkin, a contemporary of Sergei Eisenstein. One other character is named Arnheim, from film theorist Rudolph Arnheim.
More film theorist names were intended for other characters, but were dropped.
Glitz's spaceship is called the "Nosferatu", which gets its name from the 1922 filmed version of the Dracula story, directed by F W Murnau.
Some of the dialogue is lifted from the pages of the academic tome Doctor Who: The Unfolding Text, by John Tulloch and Manuel Alvarado. Script Editor Andrew Cartmel had encouraged his new writers to read this, and Briggs quoted from it directly (the "assertion that the semiotic thickness of a performed text varies according to the redundancy of auxiliary performance codes" dialogue).

Moving away from film theory and media studies, the Doctor is seen reading the book The Doctor's Dilemma, a play by George Bernard Shaw first performed in 1906.
In Asian mythology, dragons are supposed to have a crystal in their heads which enables them to fly. This inspired the dragon having the power crystal hidden in its cranium.
The setting of Iceworld is a combination of a frozen foods store (Bejams, which was renamed Iceland) and a motorway services station.
The Doctor's speech to Mel when she announces she is leaving comes from Sylvester McCoy's audition piece.
Next time: the return of the Daleks for the series' 25th Anniversary year, but not in the 25th Anniversary story...