Thursday 30 September 2021

On This Day... 30th September

The last day of September in 1967 saw the opening episode of The Abominable Snowmen debut, marking the first appearance of the Yeti.
On the same day in 1978, the first episode of The Pirate Planet was shown - Douglas Adams' first official involvement with the show.

Wednesday 29 September 2021

On This Day... 29th September

The City of Death Part One was first broadcast on this day in 1979. 
Also on this day, in 2008, Series 2 of The Sarah Jane Adventures opened with The Last Sontaran. This was the last regular appearance by Maria Jackson. Part One was shown on BBC One, with Part Two following immediately afterwards on CBBC.
Then, in 2012, Amy and Rory departed the series in The Angels Take Manhattan, bringing the first half of Series 7 to a close.

Tuesday 28 September 2021

J is for... Jenny (1)

Jenny was a member of the resistance group in 22nd Century London who were struggling against a Dalek invasion force. She was initially very cold towards Barbara and Susan when they were taken in by the group, but fellow resistance member David Campbell explained that this was simply her psychological defence mechanism. Like many others, she had lost close friends and family, and so did not like to get close to new people. In Jenny's case her brother had been captured and turned into a Roboman in one of the Dalek saucers.
After a failed attempt to attack one of the saucers at Chelsea Heliport, Jenny joined Barbara and resistance leader Dortmun in fleeing London. This entailed a hazardous daylight journey across the city to the transport museum where they could find a vehicle to carry them to the Dalek base in Bedfordshire. Dortmun sacrificed himself to distract the Daleks and allow Jenny and Barbara to escape in an old dustcart. After this was blown up by a saucer, Jenny and Barbara took refuge for the night with a couple of women who lived close to the Dalek mine workings. They informed the Daleks about them in exchange for food, and they were captured. Both were freed when the Doctor and other resistance members attacked the Dalek HQ.

Played by: Ann Davies. Appearances: The Dalek Invasion of Earth (1964).
  • Davies is Mrs Richard Briers, who would appear in the series 23 years later.
  • Jenny wears a balaclava for large parts of the story. This is because her dark hair had not yet been dyed blonde, as it would be for the studio sessions. The change of hair colour was requested as Susan and Barbara were both dark haired.
  • The character of jenny evolved out of ideas for a younger resistance member, named Saida, who would become the new companion when he stowed away at the end of the story. Jenny simply disappears from the story once the Daleks are defeated, and doesn't appear in the scenes back in London. This was a consequence of these last minute companion changes.

J is for... Jenkins

Private Jenkins was a member of UNIT at the time of the Sontaran attempt to turn the Earth into a planet where they could breed vast armies of clones. He was assigned by Colonel Mace to drive the Doctor and watch over him. The Sontarans attempted to kill both when they took control over the vehicle they were using and drive it into a river. Many cars, buses and lorries had the ATMOS system built into them - supposedly for cutting down pollution, but really a means of creating the toxic gases the Sontarans needed to adapt Earth's atmosphere.
Jenkins was killed during a battle with a Sontaran advance party at the ATMOS factory.

Played by: Christian Cooke. Appearances: The Sontaran Stratagem / The Poison Sky (2008).
  • Fandom likes to think that Jenkins is related to another UNIT soldier of that name - the one whom the Brigadier ordered to shoot Bok in The Daemons with "Five rounds rapid...".
  • Cooke starred in an ITV series which was designed as a deliberate rival to Doctor Who, but which failed to lure viewers away. This was 2009's Demons.

J is for... Jellicoe

Arnold Jellicoe was the assistant to Miss Hilda Winters, head of the Think Tank organisation. Like her, he was also a member of the fascistic Scientific Reform Society, which sought to impose its views on the whole of society. To this end, the SRS intended to blackmail the world after gaining access to every country's nuclear missile launch codes. They employed Professor Kettlewell's K1 Robot to achieve this. 
It was Jellicoe who carried out the modifications to the robot to make it obey Miss Winters, and go against its prime directive.
Jellicoe was captured by UNIT when the SRS plan was foiled.

Played by: Alec Linstead. Appearances: Robot (1975).
  • Linstead had previously appeared in the series as a member of UNIT. He was Sergeant Osgood in The Daemons. He would return to the series in 1984 playing Arthur Stengos in Revelation of the Daleks.
  • Director Christopher Barry had also considered Colin Baker for the role of Jellicoe.

J is for... Jefferson

John Maynard Jefferson was the chief of security for Sanctuary Base 6, which had been established on the planet Krop Tor. This bizarre world was held in a fixed position on the edge of a black hole. An expedition had come to seek the power source which had been discovered deep beneath its surface.
When the crew came under attack by an entity known as the Beast, everyone was haunted by some secret from their past about which they were ashamed. For Jefferson, this involved his wife refusing to forgive him for some unstated action. The Beast took over the Ood servants of the base and turned them against the crew. Everyone was forced to take to the ventilation shafts under the base to escape from them and get to their rocket.
Jefferson sacrificed himself to buy the others time - asking his commander, Zachary Cross Flane, to remove oxygen from the shaft he was trapped in before the Ood could kill him.

Played by: Danny Webb. Appearances: The Impossible Planet / The Satan Pit (2006).

J is for... Jean & Phyllis

Jean and her friend Phyllis were evacuees from wartime London, who had been sent to live with a Miss Hardacre in the north east of England. They disliked the old woman due to her strict ways. The Doctor's companion Ace attempted to befriend them when she arrived in the area, but declined to join them when they decided to swim in the sea at maiden's Point. Miss Hardacre had specifically warned them against going there, and they were rebelling against her. Once in the water, they were attacked and turned into vampire-like Haemovores. They attacked and killed some of the Soviet commandoes who were on a mission in the area. Jean in particular took great pleasure in trying to undermine the faith of the Reverend Wainwright, the parish vicar. He was greatly disturbed by the civilian casualties from allied bombing. The girls broke his faith and killed him. 
Once the evil entity Fenric had no further need of the Haemovores, he had the Ancient One destroy them. Jean and Phyllis were reduced to dust.

Played by: Joann Kenny (Jean), Joanne Bell (Phyllis). Appearances: The Curse of Fenric (1989).

J is for... Jasmine

A young girl who lived in Cardiff, in a house next to an ancient piece of woodland. A lonely girl, Jasmine Pierce was bullied at school and unable to get on with her stepfather. She found solace playing alone in the forest. Here she befriended a race of Faery-like creatures. Captain Jack Harkness of Torchwood had encountered these creatures once before, in India at the turn of the 20th Century. Some soldiers under his command had run over and killed a child. It transpired that this child was a Chosen One, selected to join the Faeries. In revenge, they wiped out Jack's platoon. Jasmine had also been selected as a Chosen One. Whenever anyone threatened her, the Faeries would step in and harm them. A paedophile who attempted to snatch her was killed in his police cell, choked on rose petals. It was these which made Jack realise the connection to events in India, as his men had also been choked in this way. 
Jasmine's stepfather attempted to block off her route to the woods, but this prompted the Faeries to attack and kill him. Jack realised that he could not stop the creatures from taking what they wanted, and he was forced to allow Jasmine to go away with them, as was her wish. Some time later, Gwen Cooper noted that a girl resembling Jasmine appeared in the famous Cottingley Fairy photographs.

Played by: Lara Phillipart. Appearances: TW: Small Worlds (2006).
  • Lara also appears as one of the family who all sit down together to watch the coronation in The Idiot's Lantern
  • Her sister has also appeared in Torchwood, in the second series episode Sleeper.

J is for... Janus

The Janus were a race of humanoids who had faces on both the front and the back of their heads. For the female of the species, the forward facing one allowed them to see into the future, whilst the backwards facing one allowed them to see into the past. They were hunted and enslaved for this ability. One Janus named Anah took refuge in a Trap Street in London along with her daughter Anahson. The girl pretended to be a boy in order to protect herself from exploitation. A Trap Street was a hidden realm, concealed in the heart of a city, where alien refugees could live in peace. The London street was was presided over by Ashildr, the girl whom the doctor had made immortal. Anah had been murdered by a friend of Clara's - Rigsy. The Doctor did not believe this and his investigations, helped by Anahson, revealed that Anah wasn't dead at all, merely held in suspended animation. The whole situation had been created by Ashildr in cooperation with the Time Lord High Council to capture the Doctor.

Played by: Letitia Wright (Anahson), Patricia Dichler (Anah). Appearances: Face the Raven (2015).
  • Wright is another of those instances where an actor appears in a relatively minor role in Doctor Who, just before they suddenly hit international stardom. For her it was an appearance in 2018's Black Panther, before reprising the role of Shuri in Avengers: Infinity War and Avengers: Endgame.

On This Day... 28th September

The third instalment of The Mind Robber was first broadcast on this day in 1968.
Then, in 1987, Time and the Rani drew to a close with its fourth and final episode.

Monday 27 September 2021

Evil of the Daleks - an animated review

The animated The Evil of the Daleks was released today, and I have just watched it, along with its Extras. The 3 disc set comprises the B&W version (with the option to watch the surviving Episode Two in place of the animated one) or the colour version, with the third dis containing bonus material.
I elected to watch Disc 2 - the colour version.
Compared to the abomination which was the animated The Web of Fear Part Three, this reverts to good old fashioned 2D work. The animation is fine, with some goof likenesses - though the quality is nowhere near as good as the special edition of the other Troughton Dalek story. Figures are slightly more basic.
I spotted a couple of Easter Eggs, though more may have slipped past. The ones I saw were an image of Maaga (from Galaxy 4, the next story to be animated) on a poster in Episode One; candlesticks shaped like Weeping Angels in Maxtible's sitting room; and the names of Doctor actors on some heraldic shields (Baker, Eccleston and Whitaker). These latter were rather prominent, so very easy to spot.
The daytime sequences in Maxtible's home are over-lit and somewhat gaudy - though that was the mid-Victorian style after all. Much more atmospheric are the scenes of Jamie's mission to rescue Victoria, along with Kemel, in the darkened, candle-lit parts of the house. The sequences on Skaro, are also most effective, with the exterior bathed in reddish light, whilst the interior of the city is lit a cold blue colour.
The Daleks don't bother with bright light, as they seem to use their eye-stalks as torches.
One change which I felt was quite unnecessary was the very last scene. In the original TV broadcast, it is a light in the body of the Emperor which gives a sign that they might survive, but the animation has one of those eyestalk torches light up on an ordinary Dalek. A stupid and pointless change, especially when you consider that Tim Combe specifically refers to this scene in the story's "Making Of" documentary. This doc is called "The Dalek Factor", and interviews a number of people involved with the production at its Grims Dyke House location, including Combe, Frazer Hines and the daughter of director Derek Martinus. There is also a 15 minute interview with Chris Thompson, who was the designer on the show. The VFX footage known as "The Last Dalek" is included. This had appeared on several earlier Troughton DVDs as an extra. The TV version of the Dalek city does not match the animated version.
One other extra worth mentioning is the audiobook of the story, as read by Tom Baker back in the 1990's.
As for the story itself, I still think there's too much padding in the middle, with the characters of Ruth, Arthur, Mollie and Toby all surplus to requirements. I also suspect that the climactic battle scenes would have been a bit of an anti-climax - every time Louis Marx toy Daleks have been used in the series, they have looked like Louis Marx toy Daleks.
This release means that there are now only two stories from Season 4 not on DVD - the two historical stories.

On This Day... 27th September

Planet of Evil Part One was first broadcast on this day back in 1975. 
Also on this day we could have seen the first episode of Meglos in 1980, and the fourth part of Trial of a Time Lord in 1986 (which brought the section known as The Mysterious Planet to a close).
Battlefield also drew to a close on this day in 1989, with its fourth instalment.
Moving on to Nu-Who, The Caretaker was first broadcast on this day in 2014.

Sunday 26 September 2021

Saturday 25 September 2021

On This Day... 25th September

On today's date, back in 1965, the third episode of Galaxy 4 was first broadcast. This was Airlock, the only surviving episode from this story.
In 1976, the fourth and final episode of The Masque of Mandragora made its debut.

Friday 24 September 2021

RTD - The Second Coming

Well, well, well... that was totally unexpected. Announced today is the news that Russell T Davies will be returning to Doctor Who as showrunner once Chibnall has ended his run. Joining RTD will be Julie Gardner and Jane Tranter, who were intimately involved in the return of the programme in 2005 and worked alongside RTD until he made way for Steven Moffat.
They will be in post for at least one year / season, as the 60th Anniversary is mentioned, though the BBC had earlier suggested that whoever took over would be taking the show into the future. There was also talk of a completely new vision for the programme - but today's announcement seems, at first glance, to be more of a backwards step.
As far as I'm concerned, today's news is a good thing. I liked the RTD era. It was populist, showy, deliberately manipulative emotionally - but I had no problems with any of this.
My first reaction to the news was that he's been brought back to save the show, and the BBC think that it has lost its way in recent years. On further consideration, we still have one more series from Chibnall, plus a couple of Specials culminating in November 2022's BBC Centenary celebrations. If the BBC really didn't like what Chibnall was doing with the series, he would have been shown the door at the end of Series 12.
But the series certainly has lost its way recently, with falling viewer numbers, and plummeting audience appreciation figures. This can't all be placed at Chibnall's door - the slide began during Moffat's tenure - but CC didn't help matters by having a really tedious first season, followed by a continuity-laden second season (derived from a minor plot point from 1976).
The series needs to get back to the viewership and appreciation levels of the RTD era - so what better way of doing this than bringing him back to achieve them, getting the series back into the general public's attention.
Of course, RTD on his own won't be able to turn things around. His choice of Doctor is the big unknown at the moment, and that decision will determine his chances of success. Could we see the return of David Tennant as the Doctor? Or is Olly Alexander back in the running with the bookies?
Jodie Whittaker will be recording her regeneration any day now, as it's reported that she's currently making her final episode. The second half of a regeneration doesn't have to be filmed until months later, however, so there's no great rush to announce her replacement. Indeed, RTD may want to wait until the last minute so as not to divert attention way from her, until it's too hard to keep the new person a secret.
Interesting times ahead...

On This Day... 24th September

The Smugglers reached its third episode on this day back in 1966.
In 1977 the fourth and final part of Horror of Fang Rock was first broadcast, whilst in 2011 the Series 6 story Closing Time made its debut.
24th September 2007 was the day that the very first series of The Sarah Jane Adventures commenced, with the two part story Revenge of the Slitheen shown (Part One being broadcast on BBC One, with the second half following on CBBC immediately afterwards. Viewers without access to digital channel CBBC had to wait a week to see Part Two on BBC One).

Thursday 23 September 2021

On This Day... 23rd September

The fourth and final episode of Tomb of the Cybermen was broadcast on this day in 1967.
Also on this day, in 1978, the fourth episode of The Ribos Operation made its debut. 

Wednesday 22 September 2021

KO Round 1.1

Our knockout competition begins with Season 9 versus Season 5 - both very strong seasons which are probably overall favourites for some fans.
Season 9 marks the mid-point of the Jon Pertwee era, and includes the return of the Daleks after a lengthy absence - and in colour for the first time on TV. The Ice Warriors are also back after a break. UNIT and the Master are both present.
The season comprises: Day of the Daleks, The Curse of Peladon, The Sea Devils, The Mutants and The Time Monster.
These are (mostly) highly regarded stories. Day of the Daleks suffers from some poor direction - such as the failure to pay off the ghosts from the future / past UNIT HQ scene, and the rather feeble battle with just three Daleks. Having a gold leader Dalek was probably a good idea to begin with, but they hadn't considered how the battle sequence would look. And was having gunmetal grey Daleks really the best idea for their first colour outing? Even the 1960's B&W era Daleks were more colourful, with their blue hemispheres. 
Pros for this story include the introduction of the Ogrons and some nice performances from both regulars and guest cast. For the first time in a long time, the consequences of time travel are considered, as the guerrillas have gotten themselves tangled up in a temporal paradox.
The Curse of Peladon can be a little wordy, and short on incident, with too much politicking (though not as much as its sequel). Pros include the return of the Ice Warriors (also seen in colour for the first time, but benefiting more than the Daleks did), and the carnival of monsters which include Alpha Centauri, Aggedor and Arcturus.
The Sea Devils introduces another classic '70's monster with its title characters, and brings the original Roger Delgado Master back after a short break, in what is one of his best stories. UNIT are left behind at their HQ as the Doctor teams up with the Royal Navy for this story, and much use is made of RN stock footage.
The Mutants is the second of the stories this season set on an alien world, as the Doctor is sent on missions by the Time Lords. The two previous stories were swapped in broadcast order to split these alien jaunts up. Another political story, with a great monster design. These TARDIS trips do mean that we get to see very little of UNIT this season (which may be a good thing for some people, but not for others like me). Even Day of the Daleks didn't feature them for a large part of the running time, and they don't get to turn up against the Sea Devils.
The final story of the season - The Time Monster - does feature UNIT prominently (though only up to Part Four) and sees a return visit by the Master. It was an attempt to make lightning strike twice after the success of The Daemons at the close of the previous season - but fails badly. It's that dodgy director from Day of the Daleks back again. The story is all over the place, with seemingly random ideas thrown together to try to make a cohesive narrative. Kronos is unimpressive in both its forms.
Apparently, the first recording block for this story was the last time that the whole Pertwee "UNIT Family" (including the Master) were together in studio at the same time.

Season 5 is the one which introduces key elements which will go towards making that Pertwee UNIT Family. This one is often called "the Monster Season", or the "base-under-siege" season. 
It comprises Tomb of the Cybermen, The Abominable Snowmen, The Ice Warriors, The Enemy of the World, The Web of Fear, Fury from the Deep, and The Wheel in Space.
Cybermen top and tail the season, as this follows on from Terry Nation's withdrawal of the permission to use the Daleks in the series. The producer Innes Lloyd was after a regular enemy which he didn't have to pay extra for anyway, and the Cybermen had taken the place of the Daleks as the new Big Bad. As it was, Nation relented very quickly once he saw that his plans for his creations weren't going to get him anywhere, and he was already saying the BBC could have them back by the end of this season - so long as they didn't feature in any Cyberman story.
It should be noted that only two of these stories exist in their entirety for us to watch today. Recently one completely missing story was fully animated, and I have the audios and telesnaps for the others.
Tomb of the Cybermen was regarded as a perfect story in every way - whilst it was missing. As soon as it came back a lot of flaws were noted, but it still remains a very good story - one of the best Cyberman stories in fact. Whilst we have a monster, this isn't really a base under siege story - unless you say the Cybermen themselves are under siege from archaeologists, as it's their base we're in.
The Abominable Snowmen ticks the boxes for monsters and base-under-siege (in this case the Yeti and a Tibetan monastery respectively). The Yeti appear rather cuddly, and yet they seem to work as monsters. The setting is unusual - bases under siege in the programme tending to be high-tech scientific or industrial environments.
The Ice Warriors sees another popular new monster introduced, and another odd base, in that it is a scientific establishment - but it's set up in a Georgian mansion. The third story in a row with a cold, icy backdrop - and we're going to be on Earth for 5 consecutive stories, which the Doctor will even mention in dialogue.
The Enemy of the World is monster free, but does have a human villain who just happens to look identical to the Doctor. It's a globe-trotting spy-fi story, which was generally reviled when only Episode Three existed, but was revaluated positively once the rest of it turned up.
Before the first Yeti story had even been broadcast, a sequel was commissioned. The Web of Fear is one of that rare beast - a sequel which is better than its original. Significant for the first appearance of Nicholas Courtney as Lethbridge-Stewart - here a colonel but soon to be a brigadier - the Brigadier.
Fury from the Deep has always been held in high regard as a rather superior example of the monster / base-under-siege story. Companion Victoria bows out in this story, though Debbie Watling will be credited in Episode One of the next story - the return of the Cybermen in The Wheel in Space. Watling only appears in a reprise of the ending of the last story, but her replacement doesn't appear until Episode Two of this - Wendy Padbury's Zoe. The Cyber-plan is quite insane, and it is a real drop in quality from the story which opened this season.

So - which season do I prefer? Season 9 is a good one, but I think the series on either side of it are superior. The Dalek story is one of their weakest, and the closing story isn't terribly good.
I am a Troughton fan, and a Cyberman fan, and Season 5 offers a great run of stories. Yes, lots of bases come under lots of sieges, but there is enough variety in settings for this not to be a problem.
Season 5 therefore wins, and in Round 2 will compete with the winner of the next match...

On This Day... 22nd September

On this day, back in 1979, we saw the fourth and final episode of Destiny of the Daleks for the first time.
Also on this day, in 2012, The Power of Three debuted.

Tuesday 21 September 2021

Knockout Tournaments

I've never posted any sort of ranking of stories / seasons / Doctors / companions etc. on this blog - so it's probably about time I did. 10 best or 10 worst listings seem to be very popular with bloggers and vloggers
Later I will try ranking Master / Dalek / Cybermen stories, but to start with I'm going to look at Seasons.
I was going to try covering all 38 series, from 1963 to 2020 - but this might be like comparing oranges to bananas. I'm therefore going to split the Classic Era from Nu-Who. We'll start with the 26 seasons of the Classic Era.
The format I've chosen is the sudden death knockout format. I placed pieces of paper numbered 1 - 26 in a bowl and drew out the following first round matches:
9 v 5
26 v 11
13 v 19
3 v 25
12 v 20
17 v 16
7 v 23
6 v 15
8 v 21
18 v 22
10 v 24
1 v 4
2 v 14
We'll therefore start by comparing Seasons 9 and 5, and I'll decide which is my favourite - giving reasons why. Winners will naturally go through to the next round.
Once we get started, I'm sure some of you will have opposing opinions, so do make use of the comments section to log your assent / dissent.
We'll get started later in the week, once I've had a chance to consider the relative merits of the seasons in the first match.

On This Day... 21st September

Episode Two of The Mind Robber debuted on this day in 1968. This was the episode during which Frazer Hines was ill with chickenpox, and his role had to be played by Hamish Wilson after the Doctor got a puzzle wrong and gave him a new face. Luckily, the bizarre nature of this story allowed for such strange goings-on. The beginning of this episode was recorded during the making of a later episode, once Hines had been given the medical all-clear.
Also on this day, in 1987, the third part of Time and the Rani was broadcast.

Monday 20 September 2021

What's Wrong With... The Abominable Snowmen

The Abominable Snowmen was filmed in North Wales, and if you've seen any of the many images depicting the TARDIS landing site, you'll know that there wasn't a drop of snow anywhere in the area. The surviving episode also shows this. However, Victoria talks about huge footprints in the snow.
Trees are mentioned - and they're absent as well. So where does the shoring timber come from to hold up the roof of the cave where the pyramid of spheres is to be found?
Jamie and Victoria stumble upon this cave within minutes of leaving the TARDIS. Travers has been at the monastery for some time, yet he hasn't been able to find it. Surely the monks would know about it. Have they deliberately not told him about it and, if so, why?
It has taken the Great Intelligence some 200 years to prepare for its physical manifestation on Earth, including the building of the Yeti robots. Where would it have gotten the materials and equipment to construct these machines, and who built them? Was it Padmasambhava, all on his own?
The Yeti are designed to scare people away so the Intelligence can work undisturbed. This is one of the remotest areas on Earth, so who exactly is it they are supposed to be scaring away. The locals will already know all about Yeti and not be scared by them. If anything, Travers' presence suggest that the Yeti have had the exact opposite effect - attracting people to the region.
Khrisong has some anger management issues, as well as a lot of distrust, hate and paranoia. Hardly the sorts of attributes you'd expect from a Buddhist monk.
But then again he's the leader of the Warrior Monks. Why does a small remote monastery need a whole cadre of warriors, bearing in mind the last trouble we know about happened way back in 1630? 
Again, anything war-like does not appear compatible with Buddhist ideals.
Considering it went missing in 1630, young monk Thonmi seems to recognise the Ghanta remarkably quickly.. Are all novices shown a picture of it and told to keep an eye out for it?
Did Padmasambhava not know that it was the Doctor who took it for safekeeping?
Not so many issues with this story - but just wait until we get to its sequel, when this story will generate a whole load of other problems.

On This Day... 20th September

What should have been the final episode of Season 12 was finally broadcast on this day in 1975. This was Part Four of Terror of the Zygons. This story was held back to launch Season 13 early, as the BBC wanted to spike the guns of ITV, who had bought Gerry Anderson's latest series - the hugely expensive Space 1999. As things worked out, the Anderson series failed to make much of an impact in the UK due to the regional patchwork nature of ITV.
Also on this date, in 1980, we had the fourth and final instalment of The Leisure Hive.
In 1986 the third episode of the epic Trial of a Time Lord was first broadcast, and in 1989 the third episode of Battlefield was shown.
Moving onto the revived series, Time Heist debuted on this date in 2014.

Sunday 19 September 2021

On This Day... 19th September

The Magician's Apprentice opened Series 9 on this day back in 2015.

Saturday 18 September 2021

On This Day... 18th September

Trap of Steel - the second episode of Galaxy 4 - was first broadcast on this day back in 1965. We'll get to see an animated version of it very soon - on 15th November to be exact.
In 1976 the third part of The Masque of Mandragora debuted.

Story 239 - Nightmare In Silver

In which the Doctor is blackmailed into taking Artie and Angie on a trip in the TARDIS with Clara. They materialise on Hedgewick's World of Wonders, whose surface is covered in a vast amusement park. The Doctor possesses a gold ticket for this, which he has always meant to use. However, the park is now derelict. They are met by a man named Webley who informs them that people stopped coming after visitors began to disappear. He still maintains an exhibit here, but is just waiting for passage off world. Amongst his exhibits are various waxworks - including one of the missing Galactic Emperor - and a Cyberman, but this proves to be an empty shell. It is seated at a chess board, and Webley challenges Artie to a game against it. The Cyberman beats him. Suspicious, the Doctor opens up a cabinet beneath the chessboard and they find a small man hiding inside. He introduces himself as Porridge.
After everyone has left, Webley discovers that his Cyberman is no longer dormant. A tiny metallic insect-like creature - a Cybermite - has reanimated it. Webley himself becomes infected by the creatures, partially converting him.
Porridge informs Clara that a great war was once fought against the Cybermen in this sector of space. The then Emperor was forced to blow up an entire planet to defeat them. 
The Doctor discovers that there are others on this planet, when they encounter a squad of soldiers under the command of  Captain Alice Ferrin. She seems to recognise Porridge. Ferrin explains that her squad is actually a "punishment platoon", comprising people who have failed to fit in with regular companies of soldiers.

The Doctor comes across a Cybermite, and fears that their masters won't be far away.
First Artie, then Angie, is abducted by a Cyberman. The Doctor notices that these are of a new design, with advanced features such as remarkable speed. Their body parts can also act independently of the whole, and a number of soldiers are killed by them.
The Doctor returns to Webley's exhibit, where he finds the children partially converted. Webley explains that they will together make an ideal Cyber-Planner, but the Doctor would make an even better one. This surprises the Doctor, as Time Lords were not compatible subjects for conversion previously. The Cybermites can convert any being now.
To get the children back, the Doctor agrees to go to the Cyberman base - a repair complex left over from the earlier war. Pretending to be part of the Imperial Government, he first orders Ferrin to obey Clara's orders. She decides to move everyone to Nattie Longshoe's Comical Castle - a tourist attraction which will offer a defensive position. Ferrin reveals that the platoon has a weapon which is similar to the one which the Emperor used to end the last war - one capable of obliterating this entire planet.
The Doctor, meanwhile, has encountered the Cyberiad - the universal Cyberman neural network. He is partially converted, causing his mind to become half Time Lord, half Cyber-Planner.
The Doctor terms his Cyber half "Mr Clever". A mental battle will be fought to gain complete control over the Doctor, based on a game of chess. Mr Clever can already access parts of the Doctor's mind and memories which he would rather were kept private.

A real battle begins as a vast army approaches the Castle. An attempt to electrify the moat succeeds initially, but these new Cybermen have the power to adapt quickly to any new situation, and they soon break in.
The attack is stalled when the Doctor gives Mr Clever a chess problem to work out - one which requires the combined data processing of the entire army.
It transpires that Porridge is really the absentee Galactic Emperor, and he tells Clara and Ferrin that he ran away from court specifically as he did not want to ever face the choice his predecessor made - to sacrifice an entire planet to stop the Cybermen.
Giving away his position, he and the others, including Artie and Angie, are transmatted up to an Imperial spaceship, just as the planet-destroying weapon activates.
The planet is imploded, but one of the Cybermites survives...

Nightmare in Silver was written by Neil Gaiman, and was first broadcast on 11th May, 2013.
Gaiman had previously contributed the highly regarded The Doctor's Wife for the previous series, and was pretty much allowed to come up with whatever he wanted for his follow up.
As a big Cyberman fan - especially of the Troughton era - he wanted to make them scarier again, and was invited to help with their latest redesign. The face masks were deliberately intended to look like the Troughton versions. As well as a physical makeover, the Cybermen were given a load of new attributes which were designed to make them stronger. A huge fan criticism since their earliest days was the number of things which they were allergic to / could kill them - radiation, gravitational influences, nail varnish remover, emotions, fire extinguisher contents, gold etc.
Gold does play a part here as the Doctor has a gold ticket for Hedgewick's World, and he uses this to stun Mr Clever at one point.
The appearance of the gold ticket hints at one of Gaiman's inspirations - Charlie and the Chocolate Factory. The story seems to be deliberately set up as being very kid-friendly.
We have Artie and Angie involved, the Charlie reference, the zany location - including the Comedy Castle - the equally zany punishment platoon members and that Ewok bloke (Warwick Davis plays Porridge).

The problem was, adults have little or no interest in stuff aimed specifically at kids, and even kids prefer stuff aimed more at adults. No-one, apart from Mr Gaiman and Mr Moffat, had very much good to say about this story. Even the redesign of the Cybermen was criticised for making them look too much like Iron Man. Another complaint as that the Cybermen were now copying the Borg from Star Trek, whereas before Star Trek had copied the Cybermen.
Whilst Artie is bearable, Angie is a complete mess of a character. Taken to an alien planet where there's a giant amusement park, she simple moans and claims she's bored. What on Earth made Gaiman think the audience would find any interest in this character? Annoying characters annoy audiences.
Instead of a crack section of troops such as we had in Aliens, what we get here are a bunch of unfunny comedy characters who would never have gotten near the army in a million years. Tamzin Outhwaite is wasted as Captain Ferrin. The comedy troupe fight the Cybermen in a Comedy Castle.
Why should the audience take any of this seriously if the writer and producers don't? 
We've mentioned a couple of guests artists. The other actor totally wasted here is Jason Watkins, who plays Webley.
If you think my criticism is unfair, do please bear in mind that this story came in at No. 203 (of 241) in the DWM 50th Anniversary Poll. It was the second to lowest rated Cyberman story - only Silver Nemesis being considered worse. Obviously the word "silver" is best avoided in story titles.

Overall, not very good. Everyone expected so much from Gaiman after his first contribution that we were always going to be disappointed - but not this disappointed...
Things you might like to know:
  • As with The Doctor's Wife, we have a lot of nods to the series' past:
  • Those semi-circular hand and foot holds in the Cyberman base (see image above) were based on the ones from the ice tombs in Tomb of the Cybermen.
  • The susceptibility of the Cybermen to gold first appeared in Revenge of the Cybermen.
  • A Cyber-Planner had first appeared in The Wheel in Space.
  • The lone surviving Cybermite at the end was a nod to the Cybermat seen at the conclusion of Tomb of the Cybermen.
  • Webley's exhibit includes an Uvodni and a Shansheeth (both from The Sarah Jane Adventures), a ventriloquist dummy from The God Complex, a Blowfish (from Torchwood) and some of the market characters from The Rings of Akhaten.
  • Webley claims that there are 699 Wonders in the Universe - a reference to Death to the Daleks, wherein the 700th - the Exxilon city - is destroyed.
  • Up until quite late in the day, this story had a the title "The Last Cyberman". Other titles included "Silver Ghosts" and "The saviour of the Cybermen".
  • Gaiman had hoped to feature a scene in the Cyberiad, where we would see all the older versions of Cybermen - including the Mondasian ones.
  • Early drafts had a group of alien circus freak show performers instead of the punishment platoon.
  • The chess-playing Cyberman was inspired by the Turk - an automaton exhibited around Europe in the 18th Century. It also turned out to be fake, with an operator hidden under the chess board.
  • Hedgewick's World of Wonders, and Webley's World of Wonders. Was no-one paying attention to the script this week?
  • This is the third series in a row to feature the Cybermen in its penultimate episode.

Friday 17 September 2021

On This Day... 17th September

On today's date, in 1966, the second episode of The Smugglers was first broadcast. This story was the low-key opener for Season 4.
You could tell the Autumn was when new series of Doctor Who usually started, back in the classic era of the programme, as Season 15's first story was also underway, in 1977. Today saw the debut of Part Three of Horror of Fang Rock.
Since 2005, new series tended initially to commence in the Spring, but not so for Series 6. The second half of this series was held back to start in the Autumn, which is why The God Complex could first be screened on this date in 2011.

Thursday 16 September 2021

On This Day... 16th September

Season 5 - "the Monster Season" - was well under way as the third episode of Tomb of the Cybermen was first broadcast on this date in 1967.
11 years later, Season 16 - the Key to Time Season - was at an identical place, with the third episode of The Ribos Operation debuting.

Inspirations - Survival

The most obvious inspiration for this story is all things feline. At one point this was going to be called "Cat-flap" , as in the little hatch you have at the bottom of your door which allows puss to come and go as he or she pleases.
I almost just wrote "she" in that last sentence. For some reason I've always thought of cats as female, and dogs as male, despite the genders probably being around 50% for each.
Apparently I'm not alone in this impression. I suspect it goes back to old, rather sexist, notions about male and female personality traits.
These notions may have been in the mind of the writer back in 1989, as Survival also has a lot to say about women and feminism.
The other thing to say about the story revolves around what it eventually came to be called - survival of the fittest etc. It's the second story this year to look at Darwinism. 
Letting the feline go first, we have that working title. It's a very good one, referring to the way the Cheetah People can just slink in and out of our world as though through a cat-flap, thanks to the Kittlings. 
The Cheetah People are bipedal big cats. The Kittlings look like ordinary black cats.
We also have a lot of cat imagery, such as posters for the musical Cats. It may be just coincidence but one of the characters wears a David Bowie t-shirt. He had turned his hand to acting since the late 1970's, and one of his appearances was in a remake of the classic psychological horror The Cat People. Except it had absolutely nothing to do with the original, beyond the name.
The food store owners have a pet cat, and the Doctor shops there for cat food. Later, a pet cat is killed by Midge.
The story's broadcast title can refer to the fact that people transported to the Cheetah planet have to fight to survive. Sergeant Patterson teaches self-defence classes, but these appear to be as much about being aggressive and beating your opponent as they are about defending yourself. The youth club walls are covered in posters promoting boxing events, again suggesting belligerence.
Ace's friend is collecting funds for hunt saboteurs. Those who hunt foxes try to maintain that they do the fox population a favour, by hunting out the weaker members of the species.
We only ever see one of the Cheetah People in human form, and it's a she. You can tell that all the others are played by women from their body shape (in the same way you can tell all the new Silurian warriors are played by women).
Ace becomes rather enamoured by this Cheetah prior to her turning back into a person. There's a definite lesbian vibe going on. These days they would have easily made the character gay from the outset, as with Bill. With Ace it is more subtle. She does appear at times to hit it off with male characters, like Mike Smith, but in his case she might have been more into what he did than who he was. Her big chat-up of a soldier in the last story was a ruse to distract him, and she wasn't terribly good at chat-up lines anyway. 
The final thing to say about this story is, of course, that it is an ending.
Cast and crew did not know at the time that the entire season would be coming to an end, but the previous story had brought Ace's personal story pretty much to a conclusion, with this story allowing her to move forward, seeing that she no longer felt connected to Perivale and any of her old friends. Script Editor Andrew Cartmel had to write a closing speech for the Doctor to say, which Sylvester McCoy recorded as a voice over. This gave the season a coda, but would also act as one for the entire season. McCoy recorded his speech on the 23rd November, the programme's birthday...

Wednesday 15 September 2021

On This Day... 15th September

Part Three of Destiny of the Daleks, the opening story of Season 17, was broadcast on this day in 1979. 
In 2012 we had the debut of A Town Called Mercy.
In 2011, the last series of Torchwood to date (Miracle Day) concluded with the episode titled The Blood Line.

Galaxy 4 - Animation Confirmed

It has now been confirmed that the William Hartnell story Galaxy 4 has had its three episodes animated and will be released on DVD.
The release date is 15th November for the UK according to the news source I read (SciFiBulletin), yet Amazon have it listed for the 8th.

Tuesday 14 September 2021

On This Day... 14th September

On this date, in 1968, the remarkable first episode of The Mind Robber debuted.
This episode was written to plug a gap when the previous story was shortened by an episode. With no money for sets, costumes or guest artists, the episode features only the regular cast, the TARDIS set, and a blank white space occupied by robots already in stock from another BBC production.
It carries no writer credit, as it was written by the series' Story Editor, Derrick Sherwin. It is one of the shortest Doctor Who episodes, as the cast (especially Troughton) balked at the idea of carrying an entire episode on their own.
In 1987, the second episode of Time and the Rani was also broadcast on this date - but the least said about that, the better...

Monday 13 September 2021

On This Day... 13th September

Quite a few episodes of Doctor Who debuted on the 13th of September over the years.
In 1975 we first saw Part Three of Terror of the Zygons.
In 1980 we had Part Three of The Leisure Hive, at the opposite end of Tom Baker's tenure.
1986 saw Part Two of Trial of a Time Lord, and 1989 saw the second episode of Battlefield broadcast for the first time.
Moving on to "Nu-Who", 2014 saw the debut of the Peter Capaldi story Listen.
On a personal note, today is also the birthday of an old acquaintance of mine by the name of Eric Potts, who appeared in Aliens of London. Happy birthday Eric. 

Sunday 12 September 2021

On This Day... 12th September

Prisoners of Conciergerie - the sixth and final episode of The Reign of Terror - was broadcast on 12th September, 1964. It marked the conclusion of Doctor Who's first season.
Apart from a two week break for Wimbledon during The Sensorites, the series had been running continuously since November 1963.
William Russell had to wait until this story before he got his fortnight's holiday - his scenes in the second and third episodes having been pre-filmed at Ealing.

Season 17 next for Blu-ray?

According to a US YouTuber, who is usually fairly reliable on such matters, the next season to get the Blu-ray boxset treatment with be 17 -  Tom Baker's penultimate series. A date of 13th December is being mooted, but it probably won't be out until late January if previous boxsets are anything to go by.
Season 17 is regarded by many as the weakest of Baker's series, despite having Douglas Adams as script editor (or because of, depending on your sense of humour).
It was the final season to be produced by Graham Williams, and infamously remained incomplete after the story which was to end the season was cancelled due to industrial action.
This was Shada, and I think we can all agree that any Season 17 boxset is going to include this story. It was completed using animation not that long ago, and another version exists with Tom Baker filling in the missing sections, whilst visiting the old MOMI exhibition.
The other significant thing to say about Season 17 is that it saw the introduction of Lalla Ward as the second incarnation of Romana, whilst K9 was temporarily voiced by David Brierley (and Roy Skelton briefly).

The season opens with Destiny of the Daleks, which was the final story written by Terry Nation. It acts as a sequel to the far superior Genesis of the Daleks. Inflation was running rampant during Williams' time as producer, and budgets were stretched to breaking point - leading to some poor production values across this whole season. 
Whilst many dislike this season overall, they always claim that it does contain some good things. City of Death is definitely a "good thing". It's one of the greatest ever Doctor Who stories, and I suspect some people will buy this boxset just to get a lovely upscaled version of this story.
Quality dips for the next story - The Creature From The Pit - which is best known for its terrible monster. Even this story has its good points - with some nice performances and some atmospheric Ealing filming.
Nightmare of Eden is infamous for its nightmare final recording session, when it lost its director. The main reason people have problems with this season is that it was where Tom Baker was overindulged as the programme's star. He was allowed to go over the top too often, bullied cast and crew, and added too much humour which failed to be funny.
The season ended prematurely with The Horns of Nimon in the run up to Christmas, and many see it as a bit of a pantomime. It's actually one of those stories which is good on paper, but suffers from poor production values, and too much of that "humour".
As far as possible Extras go, the obvious big Matthew Sweet interview would be with Ward. Would she share a sofa with her ex-husband nowadays?
Destiny of the Daleks has already been given the new CGI effects treatment. I wouldn't touch the VFX for City of Death, so that leaves three stories that could potentially have new effects, and all three contain scenes set in outer space. Of the three, personally, I would pick Nightmare of Eden to get optional improved spaceship sequences.
In closing, just a reminder that this is not confirmed. However, Season 17 has been mentioned frequently when it comes to imminent releases - so it is a good bet that this will prove to be accurate.

Tuesday 7 September 2021

J is for... Janley

Janley was one of the assistants to chief scientist Lesterson, in the Earth colony on the planet Vulcan. She and a man named Resno were helping him investigate the spacecraft which had been discovered in the nearby mercury swamps - and its strange, metallic occupants. Janley watched as the Dalek they were examining suddenly shot Resno dead. She hid this fact from Lesterson, pretending he had only been injured. This would give her some leverage over the scientist later, as she could foresee an excellent use for the Daleks. Janley was really one of the leaders of a rebel group, who were planning to overthrow the colony's governor. She could see how the seemingly obedient Daleks would make useful weapons in their uprising.
When the recently regenerated Doctor began to investigate, Janley had first Polly then Ben kidnapped, to try to force him not to interfere. She refused to heed the Doctor's warnings about the Daleks.
When the revolution took place, the Daleks began exterminating all humans, including the rebels. Janley was one of their victims.

Played by: Pamela Ann Davy. Appearances: The Power of the Daleks (1966).
  • Davy was a TV regular back in the 1960's - appearing in all the usual ITC series like The Avengers and Department S, as well as this story. In 1971 she returned to her native Australia. She died there in 2018, aged 84.

J is for... James (VI and I)

The Doctor and her companions met King James I of England (and VI of Scotland) when he was investigating witchcraft in Lancashire, in 1612. Local landowner Becka Savage had uncovered and punished numerous witches in the area around Pendle Hill. James was travelling incognito with a small party of servants. At first James took the Doctor for an ally. Her companion Graham was made Witchfinder General, whilst the monarch took a personal shine to Ryan. However, Becka Savage soon turned James against the Doctor, accusing her of being a witch herself.
It transpired that the witches were really reanimated corpses inhabited by an alien presence - the warlike Morax. Becka herself had become possessed by them. The Morax had been buried under Pendle Hill in prehistory, and Becka had accidentally freed them.
James helped to trap the Morax back in their prison, and he used a flaming torch made from wood which was toxic to them to kill their queen which possessed Becka.
The Doctor later urged James to be more open minded, and less superstitious.

Played by: Alan Cumming. Appearances: The Witchfinders (2018).
  • King James VI of Scotland became obsessed by witchcraft after a ship he was sailing on became caught up in a terrible storm as it returned to Scotland. He believed that the storm was unnatural and had been created by some witches who lived on the eastern coast of Scotland. He therefore felt that witches had a personal grudge against him, so he would personally persecute them. 
  • He became King James I of England in 1603, on the death of the childless Queen Elizabeth, commencing the Stuart dynasty which lasted until his grandson James II's expulsion in 1690.
  • James was famously quite unattractive, but liked to surround himself with handsome young men at court - hence his interest in Ryan in this story.

J is for... Jake

Jake Simmonds was a member of the Preachers, a rebel group who lived in the London of an alternative universe. In this universe, the streets under martial law, whilst the wealthy floated above them in their private airships. The Preachers were part of a global organisation which was monitoring the activities of a man named John Lumic, whose business was eating up companies across the planet. Jake abducted Mickey Smith to go on a mission, after mistaking him for his boyfriend Ricky Smith. He was shocked when Ricky then turned up their headquarters. The Doctor later discovered that Lumic was about to unleash a version of the Cybermen on this Earth. Jake helped rescue the Doctor and Rose, but later Ricky was killed trying to escape. Jake was initially antagonistic towards Mickey, wishing he had been killed instead, but the two came to accept each other and to work together. 
When it came time for the Doctor to return to our universe, Mickey elected to remain behind. He and Jake would travel through Europe looking for other Lumic factories where Cybermen were based.
Some time later the Doctor found himself captured by the Torchwood organisation, at the base in the Canary Wharf Tower. he was reunited with Mickey, who had travelled across dimensions as the Cybermen were breaking through from one Earth to another. Jake arrived soon after, with Pete Tyler - Rose's father from the parallel universe. They now worked for an alternative Torchwood, which had been battling the Cybermen until they vanished into the void between dimensions, to come to our Earth.
This coincided with the return of the Dalek group known as the Cult of Skaro, whose craft was held by Torchwood.
The Doctor defeated both Daleks and Cybermen by opening the void, sucking them all inside. However, this meant that Jake, Mickey and anyone else on the parallel Earth would no longer be able to cross the dimensions.

Played by: Andrew Hayden-Smith. Appearances: Rise of the Cybermen, The Age of Steel, Army of Ghosts, Doomsday (2006).
  • Hayden-Smith began his acting career on children's TV series Byker Grove (which also begat Ant & Dec).

J id for... Jagrafess

The Mighty Jagrafess of the Holy Hadrojassic Maxarodenfoe was secretly installed on the news broadcasting Satellite Five by the Dalek Emperor. The plan was that the Jagrafess would manipulate human history, weakening it, so that the Earth would be easily invaded and conquered by the Daleks.
The Jagrafess employed a human news Editor, who called his boss "Max".
The creature appeared to be a huge mass of flesh, with a mouth full of razor sharp teeth. It clung to the roof of Floor 500, at the very apex of the satellite. Its metabolism was such that it overheated very easily, and so the floor had to kept at sub-zero temperatures. Max and the Editor required some human helpers, but these were always killed, and their bodies then animated like puppets.
When the Doctor visited Satellite Five in the year 200,000, he immediately spotted that something was wrong. Not only was the place extremely hot (as the Jagrafess had to channel excess heat to lower floors), but the Earth was going through an isolationist phase - when it ought to be embracing alien cultures.
After being captured by the Editor, the Doctor was able to convince one of the satellite's employees to channel all the heat back up to Floor 500. The Jagrafess overheated and exploded, killing the Editor in the blast.

Voiced by: Nicholas Briggs. Appearances: The Long Game (2005).
  • The main inspiration for the Jagrafess was the corpulent newspaper owner Robert Maxwell.

J is for... Jago

Henry Gordon Jago was the owner-manager of the Palace Theatre in London in the closing years of the 19th Century. Not only did he labour behind the scenes to manage the theatre, he also acted as Master of Ceremonies at each and every performance - delighting the audience with his flamboyant alliterative introductions for each act.
In the winter of 1889, the top act at the palace was the Chinese magician and mesmerist Li H'sen Chang, who was often accompanied by his grotesque ventriloquist dummy Mr Sin.
Little did Jago know that Chang was a servant of a war criminal from the far future, whom he believed to be a god. He had helped Magnus Greel establish a base in the cellars beneath the theatre, and was procuring young women from the neighbourhood, upon whose life essence Greel was forced to feed. Greel had become horribly disfigured by his time travel experiments and he was desperately searching for his lost time machine, which had been traced to London.
Jago joined forces with the Doctor, whom he assumed at first to be from Scotland Yard, but later considered to be some kind of private detective. Their investigations brought Jago into the orbit of  Professor Litefoot, the local police pathologist. The two attempted to work together to assist the Doctor, but were captured by Greel's Tong of the Black Scorpion. In captivity, Jago admitted that he was not as brave as he liked to make out. The Doctor and Leela arrived in time to rescue them. 
Once Greel had been defeated, and with his star attraction dead, Jago dreamed of making a fortune by selling guided tours of Greel's lair.

Played by: Christopher Benjamin. Appearances: The Talons of Weng-Chiang (1977).
  • One of three performances by Benjamin in the series. He first appeared as Sir Keith Gold in Inferno, in 1970, then became one of the few people to appear in both the classic series and "Nu Who" when he guested in The Unicorn and the Wasp in 2008.
  • It is said that Robert Holmes and Philip Hinchcliffe considered a Jago & Litefoot spin-off series back in 1977. This never happened on TV, but the characters enjoyed a long relationship in audio adventures until the death of Litefoot actor Trevor Baxter.
  • Jago's name derives from the 1896 book A Child of the Jago by Arthur Morrison. The Jago here refers to a fictitious slum area of East London.