Tuesday 30 November 2021

Inspirations - The End of the World

The first few episodes of Doctor Who in the Spring of 2005 were all about the new series setting out its stall. 
The opening trio of episodes featured a story with a contemporary setting, followed by one if the future (this one), followed by one set in the past. This is something which has been carried forward for most new series ever since. 
The End of the World was also designed to showcase the quality of the costumes, make up, and visual effects which the new series was capable of. 
Two of the legacies of the very first Star Wars film, copied (homaged?) by many of those who came after, were a shot of a spaceship thundering overhead at the top of the screen, and a Cantina style scene featuring assorted aliens. Doctor Who had homaged both - the spaceship overhead shot appearing in The Invasion of Time, and the Cantina style scene appearing in Dragonfire. Regarding the latter, it had been a case of a single puppet creature (nicknamed Eric, after Mr Saward) and background artists wearing a motley assembly of old costumes.
This new episode would feature a group of different aliens assembling to witness a big event (the titular end of the world). Most are people in costume, but we also have one character who is basically a gigantic head in a jar, and another who is entirely CGI. One of the things Russell T Davies tended to do with new aliens was to have humanoid, bipedal figures but with animal heads. Here we have people with bird-like heads. (Later on we'll get pig heads, fish heads, fly heads, rhino heads, cat heads etc.).
Another popular alien shortcut makes its debut here - painting people a funny colour. The Steward and the servitors on Platform One are blue. Other blue aliens will appear in future, as well as red and white ones. Why so many blue-skinned aliens in the new series? They use green screen for the CGI work these days, not blue as in the old CSO days.
As far as the story itself goes, we have a disaster movie plot, coupled with a 'whodunnit' plot. 
The latter appears to be straightforward, as we see who the villains are right away - the Adherents of the Repeated Meme. A meme is simply an element of culture, like a symbol or idea, which is passed from person to person by imitation. The word was coined by Richard Dawkins in his book The Selfish Gene. (Dawkins was, of course, once married to Romana II, Lalla Ward). However, the Adherents prove to be a red herring. The problem is, there really only is one other suspect - and that's Cassandra. 
The disaster movie aspect of the plot is the disparate group of people trapped within a particular location (a place or, more often, a mode of transport) which faces imminent destruction. This is usually due to some human agency, even when the initial threat has come from an act of nature.
As far as the new series is concerned, The End of the World has more to do in setting up the Doctor as he is now - the last survivor of the Time War. There was a tiny bit of information in Rose, but things are spelled out more clearly here - either through what Jabe has to say, and what the Doctor then tells Rose.
He is the Last of the Time Lords.
Lastly, this is the latest in a long line of stories which dealt with endings of the world - final or otherwise. 
First of all we had The Ark in 1966, which was supposed to be the final end. Then we had The Ark in Space / The Sontaran Experiment (1975), which dealt with a temporary abandonment of the Earth after its surface has been destroyed. Lastly we had Trial of a Time Lord (The Mysterious Planet) (1986), which was another survivable world ending. 
Only this new story shows us the definite, categorical end of the world - as it's blown to smithereens.
Presumably, the "Manchester Suite" on Platform One derives its name from the fact that RTD had made that city his new home and based a lot of his work there.
Next time: A Christmas Special in March. It's the return of the celebrity historical...

On This Day... 30th November

On St Andrew's Day in times gone past, the second episode of Doctor Who was first broadcast. This was The Cave of Skulls, first screened in 1963. Immediately before it, An Unearthly Child was repeated, for those who had missed it the week before. This was arranged because of the shock arising from the assassination of JFK, plus a significant power failure - both of which dented viewing figures on the 23rd.
This repeat screening was one of only two throughout the entire 1960's - the other being the rerun of The Evil of the Daleks between Seasons 5 and 6.
In 1968, The Invasion reached its fifth instalment, which means that the Cybermen had actually turned up at last.
In 1987 Dragonfire Part Two debuted, whilst the following year Silver Nemesis also reached its second episode.

Today's birthday of note is the latest companion - John Bishop, who is proving to be very popular in the role of Dan Lewis. Happy 55th birthday!

Monday 29 November 2021

On This Day... 29th November

The anniversary season isn't quite over yet, as the documentary 30 Years in the TARDIS was first broadcast today in 1993, as part of the 30th birthday celebrations. Narrated by Nichols Courtney, this comprised clips from the programme, cast and celebrity interviews, plus some recreations (Daleks on Westminster Bridge - one of whom is inhabited by Mark Gatiss - and Cybermen at St Paul's). 
It was released on VHS as More Than 30 Years in the TARDIS, with about half an hour of extra material, and this subsequently received a DVD release alongside Shada in "The Legacy" box set. It really ought to have appeared on the Season 26 Blu-ray box set but wasn't included.
As for episodes that made their debut on this date, first of all we have Part Two of The Android Invasion in 1975.
It was a day for second episodes, as we also had Part Two of State of Decay in 1980, and of Survival in 1989.
In 1985, Trial of a Time Lord reached the 13th episode - the first part of The Ultimate Foe (which is also known by some as "Time Inc."). This was the final broadcast episode to be written by Robert Holmes before his death. Holmes had also written the 14th episode, but the breakdown in the relationship between Producer JNT and Script Editor Eric Saward meant that this script was withdrawn and never produced.

Today's birthday of note is Naoko Mori, who played Toshiko Sato in Aliens of London and Torchwood Series 1 & 2. Happy 50th Birthday!

Sunday 28 November 2021

Survivors of the Flux (Flux Chapter V) - A Review

This episode finally gives us some explanations and revelations, as well as introducing a whole new threat - which is a bit of a mistake in my view. Spoilers ahead!

As it opens, Survivors of the Flux picks up the story of Yaz, Dan and Professor Jericho from last week, with them now apparently stranded in the early years of the 20th Century. The Doctor had left Yaz with a hologram message, sending her on a mission to track down some information. She, Dan and the Professor head into Indiana Jones territory as they hunt for artefacts and information that will reveal a date for the end of the world. They make for an entertaining trio, and could easily hold the attention for a whole episode on their own. Throughout their globetrotting, they are threatened by people with a snake tattoo, and this connects with that new threat. Despite being only a peripheral figure in the third chapter, the Grand Serpent returns with his own storyline, which involves him manipulating and influencing UNIT since its inception. Mention is made of the events of The War Machines, and we get a cameo voice of a certain well-known UNIT member. We find out why he's called the Grand Serpent, as he bumps off those who might stop him gaining overall charge of UNIT, and he gets what he wants up until he meets his match with Kate Stewart. The big reveal that the Grand Serpent is working in league with the Sontarans is the thing I'm not happy about. It's a bit underwhelming, to be honest. The problem is that they've already been quite prominent in this series - been there, done that. Had they been revealed for the first time, out of the blue, then that would have really meant something. Had it been someone else - like the Master - revealed at the end, that would have worked better. The other issue with this storyline is that it takes attention away from the Ravagers. They feature very little in this episode - appearing briefly with Vinder, then again at the conclusion.

The Doctor doesn't stay Angel-fied for long. She's been transported to the place where Barbara Flynn - Awsok - is based. There's an awful lot of exposition here, linking back to the previous series.
It turns out that she leads the Division, and we get a lot of information of what it is and how it came into being. It started off on Gallifrey, but soon outgrew it and took in many species across the universe, such as the Weeping Angels. Awsok cares so much about the Division that she has moved it to the gap between universes. The Flux has been created to destroy the old universe and help push the Division onto and into the neighbouring universe, which might be the one that the Doctor originally came from. The reason Awsok knows all this is because she is really Tecteun - the Gallifreyan woman who originally found the Timeless Child, experimented on her, and gave the Time Lords regeneration. Tecteun possesses a fob watch, which contains many of the memories which were removed from the Doctor by the Division. We see it being opened in the trailer for next week's episode...
Meanwhile, Yaz, Dan and the Professor end up in Liverpool, and we finally get an explanation for Joseph Williamson's odd appearances. He has seen the end of the world in his tunnels. He's found various doors lead to different times and places - which is how he came to turn up in the 21st Century, or on the planet Time. Presumably this will also be how the TARDIS crew manage to get reunited.
There's one last storyline to mention - Bel and Vinder. He arrived at the Ravagers' base and was just about to be reunited with her when she got pulled away by Karvanista (due to her having pinched a Lupari ship). He encounters Swarm and Azure and gets captured by a Passenger. Here he meets Dan's friend Diane.
So only one more chapter to go, and all of this has to be satisfactorily tied up. The Doctor just happens to be in the place where the Flux is controlled from, so presumably that's where it can also be undone from. If characters aren't quite where they need to be, don't worry - there's the Williamson tunnels to help them get into position for the finale. From the trailer, it looks like the Sontaran invasion will take up quite a bit of the running time, when it's really Swarm and Azure we want to see. Now we know they weren't the ones behind the Flux, it looks like they're being pushed further down in the mix. We are also promised cameos from Daleks and Cybermen next week.

On This Day... 28th November

The Dalek Invasion of Earth continued today in 1964 with an episode entitled The Daleks
In 2015 one of the most remarkable episodes of Doctor Who ever screened made its debut - Heaven Sent

Today's birthday of note is that of Karen Gillan - Amy Pond. She turns 34. Prior to becoming Amy, Gillan had featured in The Fires of Pompeii under heavy make-up, playing one of the Sibylline Sisterhood. Many happy returns!

Saturday 27 November 2021

On This Day... 27th November

The second half of Dimensions In Time was given its only ever broadcast on today's date in 1993. As the piece was made for Children in Need, and everyone gave their services for free, it was decreed that the mini story would only ever be shown once, with no future VHS release. This second instalment went out as part of Noel Edmond's regular Saturday evening show House Party. Jon Pertwee introduced it when he visited the studio.
The only proper Doctor Who to be broadcast on this date was Devil's Planet - the third instalment of The Daleks' Master Plan, in 1965.

Friday 26 November 2021

J is for... Jones, Harriet

You know who she is, so I'm not sure she needs an A-Z entry... 
For the sake of complete-ism, she was the MP for Flydale North. In March 2006 she went to Downing Street in order to get the Prime Minister to adopt a policy she had devised concerning cottage hospitals. Her visit coincided with the disappearance of the PM, and the crash-landing of an alien spaceship in the Thames, after striking Big Ben.
Sneaking into the cabinet room to leave her proposal, she witnessed the interim PM Joseph Green and a couple of officials - Margaret Blaine and Oliver Charles - unzip their foreheads. They were alien Slitheen wearing skin suits, and Jones saw them kill General Asquith. His body was taken by the Slitheen who had been posing as Charles. Now trapped in Downing Street, Jones joined forces with the Doctor and Rose Tyler. The Doctor was sure he knew her, and later remembered that she would become Prime Minister herself, ushering in a new golden age for Great Britain.
But first Harriet had to help the Doctor and Rose defeat the Slitheen.

Jones did become PM. That Christmas, Britain sent a space probe to explore Mars, but it was hijacked by the alien Sycorax, who were on their way to invade and enslave the Earth. Jones was one of a group who were beamed up to the Sycorax spaceship, which was hovering above London. They knew who she was. The Doctor had just regenerated, and was unable to help initially. When he did recover, he killed the Sycorax leader and warned the rest of the aliens to flee, as Earth was defended. Jones decided to launch an attack on the retreating spaceship, having Torchwood destroy it with captured alien weaponry. She did this as the Doctor had earlier stated that Earth had drawn attention to itself, and could expect other invasion attempts - and she had seen what might happen if the Doctor was not around to help. Furious, the Doctor took steps to have her deposed by sowing doubts about her health.
Jones redeemed herself when the Daleks transported the Earth through space. She employed a subwave computer network developed by Mr Copper (an alien from the planet Sto, whom the Doctor had met on the spaceship Titanic) to contact all the people associated with the Doctor. The subwave network could not be accessed by the Daleks. In order to locate the Doctor, the network had to be exposed. The Daleks found Harriet Jones - they knew who she was - and exterminated her, but not before she had handed over the network to Torchwood Cardiff.

Played by: Penelope Wilton. Appearances: Aliens of London / World War Three, The Christmas Invasion (2005), The Stolen Earth (2008).
  • Jones' golden age can't have lasted very long, if the Doctor helps depose her only a few months after she becomes PM.
  • His actions against her actually allow the Master, posing as Harold Saxon, to become the next PM and so help the Toclafane invade and conquer the Earth.

J is for... Jones, Francine

Francine was the mother of Martha Jones, companion to the Tenth Doctor. Francine was fiercely protective of her children, and wanted Martha to do well in her medical studies. She felt that a romantic relationship would divert Martha from her studies, and assumed that the Doctor was her boyfriend when she started spending time with him after son Leo's 21st birthday party. As Martha was unable to tell her the truth about the Doctor, this played into Francine's suspicions. 
They met for the first time when Martha attended the launch of Professor Lazarus' latest scientific project. Francine's elder daughter Tish was Lazarus' PA. Francine took an instant dislike to the Doctor that night, and was convinced that he was putting her daughter in danger. Things were made worse by a man who worked for politician Harold Saxon, who was helping fund Lazarus' work. This man deliberately fed her suspicions, making false allegations about the Doctor being a threat not just to Martha, but to the whole country.
As Martha was continuing to travel with the Doctor, Francine's paranoia about him grew. On the day of the General Election, Saxon became Prime Minister. Francine and her family were suddenly arrested. Because of their relationship to Martha, Saxon - really the Master - decided to make them all suffer. Francine was forced to become one of his servants on the Valiant aircraft where he was based after the Toclafane invasion. Her imprisonment lasted for a whole year, during which she and her family were forced to witness terrible things. When the Doctor, with Martha's help, defeated the Master, Francine came close to killing their tormentor - such was her hatred towards him.
The ordeal would help bring the family closer together, especially her estranged husband Clive.

When Martha joined UNIT, Francine was now supportive of her daughter's role in fighting alien menaces. When the Daleks moved the Earth through space and invaded, Martha used the Project Indigo device to flee UNIT's New York HQ. It took her to where she most wanted to be at that moment - which was with Francine back in London.

Played by: Adjoa Andoh. Appearances: Smith and Jones, The Lazarus Experiment, 42, The Sound of Drums, Last of the Time Lords (2007), The Stolen Earth, Journey's End (2008).
  • Francine Jones was the second role Andoh played in Doctor Who. The first was the villainous Catkind nun Sister Jatt in 2006's New Earth.

J is for... Jones, Eugene

A young man from Cardiff, who became a bit of a Torchwood 'groupie'. As a child he had taken part in a maths competition, but his team was beaten after he failed to answer a question. That night, his father left home, and the young Eugene felt this to be his fault. To cheer him up, one of his teachers gave him an object which he claimed was an alien's eye. This was actually a real alien artefact - a Dogon sixth eye. These could help people see their past more clearly and learn from it. 
In later years, Eugene developed an obsession with UFOs and aliens, which is how he came to follow the exploits of Torchwood. To them, he was just a bit of a nuisance. Eugene believed that the Dogon would one day want its eye back. He decided to put it up for sale - hoping to encounter the alien when it bought and claimed it. However, his friends played a trick on him and secretly bid for it themselves. When he found out, Eugene swallowed the eye to stop them taking it. He ran off, and was unfortunately hit and killed by a car. Though dead, he found himself still around, able to observe what was going on. This was because of the eye.
Torchwood gave his death only a cursory investigation, but Gwen Cooper decided to look into it further. She found his father, working at a garage only a few miles away from his family. He reconciled with his wife at Eugene's funeral. 
Eugene saved Gwen from a similar fate to his own, and for a few moments was visible to her and the rest of Torchwood, as well as his family. He then passed over.

Played by: Paul Chequer (and Luke Bromley as a boy). Appearances: TW: Random Shoes (2006).

On This Day... 26th November

In 1993, to mark the programme's 40th Anniversary, a 3D Doctor Who mini-story was devised, which was a crossover with the popular soap EastEnders. Part One of Dimensions In Time was shown on today's date, as part of Children in Need
Back in 1966, The Power of the Daleks reached its fourth episode.
In 1977, The Sun Makers debuted with its first instalment.
Torchwood's first season continued with Greeks Bearing Gifts, which showcased team member Toshiko Sato.
The most recent spin-off, Class, gave us The Metaphysical Engine, or What Quill Did, today in 2016.

Thursday 25 November 2021

On This Day... 25th November

UK fans had to wait until today's date in 1983 to see the 20th Anniversary story, The Five Doctors. The BBC elected to hold it back two days to form part of that year's Children in Need programming.
American viewers had been able to see it on the evening of the 23rd.
Back in 1967, Part Three of The Ice Warriors made its debut. In 1978, The Androids of Tara got underway with its first episode.
In 2018 The Witchfinders was first broadcast.

Happy birthday today to Simon Fisher-Becker, who turns 60. He played Dorium Maldovar in The Pandorica OpensA Good Man Goes To War and The Wedding of River Song.

Wednesday 24 November 2021

What's Wrong With... The Wheel In Space

Oh dear - where to begin?
The Wheel in Space has the most convoluted Cyberman scheme of all time. It's not just dramatically improbable, it's scientifically impossible.
First of all, the story opens with the TARDIS breaking down again. It needs mercury - something which happened once before, so you'd think that the Doctor would make sure he always had a supply to hand. The ship shows images of dangerous things as a hint that it's not safe where they are. Why does it not do this all the time - as there's constant danger in every location it ever lands at? If the ship's so smart, why does it not just avoid unsafe locations?
The Doctor removes the Time Vector Generator as he and Jamie exit the TARDIS. This is supposed to shrink the TARDIS interior down to the same dimensions as the Police Box shell.
The Doctor now has the same problem he left the Meddling Monk with in 1066. How do you fix the ship if everything's shrunk to tiny size?
Last time we spoke about how Chief Robson was completely unsuited to manage the ESGO gas refinery. Jarvis Bennett, who commands the Wheel, is even less suitable. Anything which doesn't fit with his world view gets dismissed out of hand. He won't even listen when his most trusted friend and adviser attempts to warn him that recent strange occurrences might be related.
His attempts to absorb other happenings outside his limited range of experience result in a complete mental breakdown. He starts off pig-headed and stubborn, then descends into paranoia, then becomes almost catatonic, shutting down emotionally before ultimately committing suicide by going after the Cybermen unarmed.

The Cybermen have a thing called a Planner. They should ask for their money back. 
They need a radio signal to act as a homing beacon in order that their invasion fleet can reach the Earth. They intend to capture the Wheel and use it to provide this, because Cybermen can't find planets any other way. 
Here's how they go about it:
  • Blow up a star in the Hercules Cluster, which is 22,180 light years from Earth.
  • The radiation effects of this explosion will cause the Perseid meteoroids to change course towards the Wheel.
  • Five weeks before the meteoroids are due to hit, capture an Earth cargo ship (the Silver Carrier).
  • Stock the ship with boxes of bernalium and refuel it.
  • Use a Servo Robot to guide it towards the Wheel.
  • Don't capture a spaceship from closer to the Wheel, that could conceivably have drifted there - you want people to get suspicious and draw attention to yourself.
  • Once in close proximity to the station, have the Servo Robot jettison a number of pods containing Cybermats into space.
  • Have the Cybermats break into the Wheel, hunt down any stocks of bernalium and destroy them.
  • Hope that a random passing Scotsman will sabotage the Wheel's X-ray laser before it can blow up the Silver Carrier as a navigation hazard.
  • Make sure that the humans discover that the Silver Carrier was carrying some bernalium, and will send a couple of astronauts over to collect it.
  • After mentally subjugating the astronauts, hide in bottom of the bernalium box.
  • Get carried over to the Wheel.
All this, just to get two Cybermen onto the Wheel. They would have had to have started their work on this back in prehistoric times. And how can something happening 22,180 light years away influence something in our local area?
Throughout the story constellations are talked about as though they are distinct galaxies, whereas they're just shapes as viewed from Earth, which could comprise stars from different galaxies.
The Cybermen don't breath air, so why not just blow a few holes in it and kill the crew, or use the Cybermats to do this.

Some of the VFX are a bit woeful. The Perseids are perfectly spherical, and apparently composed of tin foil. The Cybership looks like a giant kazoo. 
The Cybermen who get ejected into space are just paper cut-outs. They also look different to the ones who've been seen on the Silver Carrier and the Wheel.
(The reason for this is that yet another new design was prepared, but proved impractical. The new helmets were retained, but the costumes were replaced with diving suits painted silver. All that remains of the original rejected design is the filmed sequence of the Cyberman spacewalk).
The Cybermen have their chest units on upside down.
In Episode Three, the device which created the Cyberman voices broke down in studio, so they sound different as the episode progresses.
When Vallance broadcasts mental images of people on the Wheel for the Cybermen, he hits upon the Doctor rather quickly - considering that Vallance could hardly have met him.
Spacewalking is the same as swimming, requiring no artificial methods of propulsion, and you can easily nip backwards and forwards. You don't even need to be roped up.
Instead of the obvious Scottish, Zoe thinks that there are people called Kilties, and they come from Scandinavia - possibly Denmark.
Dr Corwyn explains that all the crew are protected from brainwashing by special drugs. The Cybermen easily brainwash the crew. Also, just how common is brainwashing in space for them to have felt the need to protect all crews from it?
Lastly, the Doctor decides to show Zoe a repeat of Evil of the Daleks. Why does he start by showing her the end of Part One?

Some weird and wonderful dialogue:
Jamie (to Zoe): "... just you watch your lip., or I'll put you across my knee and larrup you".
Zoe's response: "This is going to be fun! I shall learn a lot from you".
And Troughton famously refers to the "sexual air supply", instead of the sectional air supply.

On This Day... 24th November

The Nightmare of Eden began today in 1979. 
The only other Who-related episode to debut today was The Temptation of Sarah Jane Smith Part Two.

Tuesday 23 November 2021

New Year's Day Special

We are but two thirds of the way through Flux, but the BBC have released a small amount of information about the, as yet untitled, 2022 New Year's day Special, along with the above image which appears to show a damaged TARDIS. This might relate specifically to the episode, but then again it may be some sort of hangover from the events in Flux.
The brief synopsis reads:

"Sarah (Aisling Bea) owns and runs ELF storage, and Nick (Adjani Salmon) is a customer who visits his unit every year on New Year's Eve. This year, however, their night turns out to be a little different than planned...".

Another guest artist named is Pauline McLynn - Father Ted's Mrs Doyle.
Might the name of the storage facility be a clue as to the nature of the villains?

The Abominable Snowmen - Animation Confirmed

Announcements about the programme are often held back for Doctor Who Day, and this year is no exception. We've known about it for ages, but today they've confirmed that the next lost story to be animated will be The Abominable Snowmen. There's a trailer on YouTube and it's available for pre-order. Amazon have it listed as release date 31/12/21, but the trailer clearly says it's due 2022. It's highly unlikely anyone would release something on New Year's Eve anyway.

On This Doctor Who Day... 23rd November

First of all - a very happy Doctor Who Day!
On the evening of 23rd November, 1963, Coal Hill School teachers Ian Chesterton and Barbara Wright were concerned about their pupil Susan Foreman - who seemed to be An Unearthly Child. They followed her home one evening and discovered that she appeared to live in a junkyard which, incongruously, had a Metropolitan Police Public Call Box standing in the middle of it. They then encountered Susan's grandfather - an old man known only as the Doctor. Barbara and Ian pushed their way inside the Police Box when they heard Susan call out from it - and the rest is history.
Naturally, anniversary related episodes have made their debut on this date. These include:
Silver Nemesis Part One in 1988 - the Silver Anniversary story. It was supposed to go out fourth in the season, but was brought forward in order to begin broadcast on today's date.
The Day of the Doctor in 2013 - the 50th Anniversary story.
Other episodes broadcast on this date include Part One of Dragonfire, in 1987, and The Invasion Part Four, in 1968. 
To tie in with The Day of the Doctor, we also had Doctor Who Live: The Afterparty, which was dreadful, and The Five(ish) Doctors Reboot, which was brilliant.

A birthday of note today is Michelle Gomez, who played Missy, the first female incarnation of the Master. She turns 55 today. Many happy returns!

Monday 22 November 2021

Bernard Holley (1940 - 2021)

It has been announced that actor Bernard Holley has passed away, at the age of 81. He was best known to Doctor Who fans for his role as the lead golden-skinned Axon in the 1971 story The Claws of Axos. In this he also provided the voice for Axos.
This was Holley's second appearance in the programme. In 1967 he had played the hapless archaeologist Peter Haydon, who is killed at the conclusion of the first episode of The Tomb of the Cybermen. Rather than use a body double or dummy, his corpse had to feature in the second instalment, so he got an extra week's work just for lying down.

Prior to appearing in The Claws of Axos, Holley had been a regular in the BBC police series Z-Cars. He wore his police officer's cap with his Axon costume on the first day of recording as a joke.
In later years he did a lot of commercials and voice work, alongside his theatre work.

On This Day... 22nd November

The Android Invasion got under way today in 1975 - one of only two stories written by Terry Nation that did not involve the Daleks. 
In 1980, Terrance Dicks' State of Decay finally saw the (twi)light, with its first episode. An earlier version of this story was supposed to have opened Season 15.
Trial of a Time Lord reached the end of the Vervoid segment with Episode 12 today in 1986.
One year before, Colin Baker had led most of the companions and a few ex-Doctors out of the TARDIS to hand over a cheque to Terry Wogan in 1985's Children in Need.
The series was about to end, though we didn't know it at the time, as the final story of the final season - Survival - got underway today in 1989.
As part of the 50th Anniversary celebrations, two Doctor Who themed programmes were shown on Friday 22nd November 2013. First of all, Matthew Sweet presented the main new documentary, which was a Culture Show special titled "Me, You and Doctor Who". Later, Graham Norton had Doctors David Tennant and Matt Smith amongst his guests.

The anniversary of note today is the death of Verity Lambert, in 2007, at the age of 71. Without her, Doctor Who would probably have lasted a mere 13 episodes - 6 months at a push. Lambert was the first producer of the show, brought over from ABC TV by her old boss Sydney Newman. Newman hated the titles, the music and the Daleks. Lambert fought to retain all three, and they're still emblematic of the series. She remained as producer until the beginning of Season 3, when she handed over to John Wiles.
Lambert later became a significant figure in the world of TV drama, originating many well-known filmed series (and the odd misfire, such as the BBC soap Eldorado).
She lived long enough to see Doctor Who successfully return under Russell T Davies. The 2007 Christmas Special - Voyage of the Damned - carried a dedication to her.

Sunday 21 November 2021

Village of the Angels (Flux Chapter IV) - A Review

Considering that it was a statue in a graveyard which inspired Steven Moffat to create the Weeping Angels, it's taken the programe long enough to come up with a story which places them in that most atmospheric of environments. It really is their natural habitat. 
The Angels were used very effectively in this story, which was another of the more conventional episodes in this current series - or as conventional as you can get when it comes to the quantum locked creatures. We only had two time zones to worry about - the "present" of 1967, and the same village in 1901. In both instances, the inhabitants of the village are on record as having disappeared overnight.
I guessed early on that the missing ten year old, Peggy, was going to be the old woman warning the 1967 villagers of impending danger.
If bringing an od foe back, it is now customary to try to find something new for them to do, or some new character quirk to give them.
In this episode, it looked like we were going to have an Angel disguised as a human (Claire), but instead we went back to the old idea of an Angel taking you over if it inhabits your mind as a mental image. We saw this in 2010's Time of the Angels / Flesh and Stone, where Amy thought her hand had turned to stone, and stone dust came from her eyes instead of tears.
Another Matt Smith story borrowed from was 2012's Hide. The retro time period, the scientist investigating the paranormal using a young woman as a test subject, and the image of a landscape which suddenly drops away to outer space.
As the mystery of the village unfolded, we discovered that everything was connected to the Division (it always is these days). The Timeless Child very much seemed to say that this was a Time Lord organisation, and only a Time Lord organisation, but now it seems that the Division employed all sorts - including the Weeping Angels. One of them had gone rogue, and it's the one hiding in Claire. The Angels have removed the village from time - hence all the weird goings-on - in order to extract the rogue, but now they have decided that the Doctor will be a better prize. It was a truly shocking conclusion to the story to see the Doctor recalled to the Division, and being transformed into an Angel herself. Sensibly, the BBC didn't show any scenes of the Doctor - apart from one of her in Angel form - in the trailer for next week's episode.
Dan and Yaz were sent back to 1901, as was Prof Jericho, so he'll be back next week. One thing which wasn't clear was why anyone was sent back to 1901 at all.
Swarm had a week off, and Azure only appeared briefly, in the latest bel instalment. She is still looking for Vinder, and he for her. We know she's running about in a Lupari spaceship, but how exactly is he getting around?
All in all, it was an excellent episode - the highlight of Flux so far, and I'd go so far as to say it's one of the best of the Chibnall era. Shame it took someone else's creations to achieve this, and how significant is it that this is the episode that has a co-writer?

On This Day... 21 November

As the programme approached its first birthday, the general public were on tenterhooks for the return of the Daleks. Little did they know that Terry Nation liked to save their first appearance for the Part One cliff-hanger, so the first glimpse of a Dalek wasn't until the closing seconds of World's End - the first instalment of The Dalek Invasion of Earth
49 years later to the day, the Doctor's closing speech from that story formed part of An Adventure in Space and Time - in which David Bradley portrayed William Hartnell in a drama about the creation of Doctor Who and its first star. It made its debut today in 2013 as part of the 50th Anniversary celebrations.
Blue Peter helped to celebrate the series on a number of occasions - including today in 2003 for the 40th, and in 2013 for the 50th. They had a habit of using the same set of clips, and even the same script - first shown for the 10th anniversary, and repeated verbatim for the 20th.
The Weakest Link presented a Doctor Who special today in 2003 for the 40th anniversary.
There was one other Doctor Who story broadcast on this day. Face the Raven made its debut today in 2015.

Saturday 20 November 2021

(More Than) 30 Years...

This week's episode of Doctor Who happens to see two actors returning to the series after first appearing in the classic era of the programme. In both cases, the gap between first and most recent appearance is more than 30 years.
Kevin McNally first appeared as Lt Hugo Lang in The Twin Dilemma (1984).

Jump forward 37 years and he is playing Professor Jericho in Village of the Angels (2021) - and possibly later episodes of Series 13. That's a gap of 37 years.
In the same episode is Vincent Brimble, playing the character named Gerald.

He also appeared in the programme 37 years ago, though you'd be hard pushed to recognise him. He played the Silurian Tarpok in Warriors of the Deep, in the same season in which McNally first appeared. 

Brimble was in the first story of Season 21, and McNally in the last.

It's understandable for regular characters in a long-running series to be brought back for cameos and guest appearances. Tom Baker bowed out as the Doctor in Logopolis in 1981, but returned to play the Curator in The Day of the Doctor in 2013 - a gap of 32 years. Peter Davison became Doctor in 1982 with Castrovalva, and returned to the role for Time Crash in 2007 (25 years). Katy Manning first played Jo Grant in 1971, and her last appearance in the role was in SJA: Death of the Doctor in 2010 (39 years). John Leeson first voiced K9 in 1977 (The Invisible Enemy), but went on to play the robot dog on and off until SJA: Goodbye, Sarah Jane Smith (2010) - a gap of 33 years.
Talking of Sarah Jane Smith, Lis Sladen first played the role in 1974 (The Time Warrior). Her final appearance was in 2011 (SJA: The Man Who Never Was), which is 37 years in the same role.
The record, however, goes to Nicholas Courtney, who first appeared in the series in 1966 (as Bret Vyon in The Daleks' Master Plan) then returned as Colonel (later Brigadier) Lethbridge Stewart in 1968. He made his last appearance as the Brigadier in SJA: Enemy of the Bane in 2008 - 42 years from first to last, 40 of which were as the same character.
It used to be a small, select group of actors who had appeared in both the classic era and the post 2005 version, but that number continues to grow.
Here are a few non-regular actors whose performances in Doctor Who span 30 or more years:
  • Brian Miller (1983 - 2014, 31 years).

Husband of Lis Sladen, Miller made his first appearance in Snakedance, playing the fairground Hall of Mirrors showman. His last appearance was in Peter Capaldi's debut Deep Breath, where he played the old tramp whose overcoat the Doctor "borrows".

  • Christopher Villiers (1983 - 2014, 31 years).

Villiers' appearances match those of Brian Miller - Season 20 and Series 8. We first saw him playing the impetuous Hugh Fitzwilliam in The King's Demons. He returned to play Professor Moorhouse, the expert in alien myths and legends, in Mummy on the Orient Express.

  • Gabriel Woolf (1975 - 2006, 31 years).

As with a couple of people later in this list, Woolf never got to be seen on TV, but he was heard. He voiced the evil Sutekh in Pyramids of Mars in 1975. He also played the Osiran, but was masked throughout. Later, in 2006, he returned to voice the Beast in The Impossible Planet / The Satan Pit.

  • Robin Soans (1981 - 2015, 34 years).

Robin Soans made his first appearance in The Keeper of Traken, when he played Consul Luvic. Luvic ended up ascending to the Keepership himself, though only because there wasn't anyone else around to take on the role. His Keepership would have been short-lived, as the entire Traken Union of planets was destroyed by the entropy field in Logopolis (assuming that Nyssa and Adric were seeing it in her present day time zone. Also, the powers of the Keeper might have allowed Luvic to survive in a non-corporeal way).
Soans returned in 2015 for Face the Raven. His character didn't even get a name - simply being billed as "Chronolock guy". He's the old gentleman who we see killed by the Raven.

  • Anthony Calf (1982 - 2016, 34 years).

Calf only appeared in the opening section of The Visitation, playing the squire's son Charles. His character was killed off in what these days would be the pre-titles sequence. He returned to the programme for the more substantial part of Colonel Godsacre in The Empress of Mars.

  • Louis Mahoney (1973 - 2007, 34 years).

Mahoney first appeared in Doctor Who playing a newsreader in The Frontier in Space in 1973. He returned two years later to play the Morestran trooper Ponti in Planet of Evil. His last appearance was as the aged Billy Shipton in Series 3's Blink.

  • Robert Glenister (1984 - 2020, 36 years).

Glenister had previously starred alongside Peter Davison in the sitcom Sink or Swim, so it only seemed natural for him to be cast in Davison's final story as the Doctor - The Caves of Androzani - in 1984. Glenister played a dual role, though the two characters were identical physically and even temperamentally - Lt Salateen and his android replica.
He returned to the show only recently - playing inventor Thomas Edison in Nikola Tesla's Night of Terror (2020).

  • Bella Emberg (1970 - 2006, 36 years).

No clear image of her from her first story, The Silurians, where she was an extra playing one of the cottage hospital nurse. Neither is there a good shot of her as one of the kitchen workers in The Time Warrior. She had a much better role in Love & Monsters, when she played Mrs Croot, neighbour and friend of Jackie Tyler. She was supposed to reprise the role in The Runaway Bride, but the scene was deleted.
  • Tony Osoba (1978 - 2014, 36 years).

Osoba played one of the Movellans - Lan - in Destiny of the Daleks. He returned in Dragonfire playing Iceworld's officer Krakauer. His last appearance was as the elderly astronaut Duke in 2014's Kill The Moon.

  • Geoffrey Palmer (1970 - 2007, 37 years).

Palmer made his first appearance in The Silurians, in 1970. He played civil servant Masters, who only arrives at the half way mark, and is killed by plague a short time later. All of Palmer's roles in the series will see him bumped off after a relatively short time. In The Mutants he doesn't get beyond the first episode. His final appearance was as Hardaker, captain of the spaceship Titanic in the 2007 Christmas Special Voyage of the Damned. He was killed when the ship was struck by meteoroids.

  • Christopher Benjamin (1970 - 2008, 38 years).

Another actor from Season 7, Benjamin first appeared as Sir Keith Gold in Inferno. He's best known, however, for the character of Henry Gordon Jago - larger than life owner of the Palace Theatre - in The Talons of Weng Chiang. His last appearance was as Colonel Hugh Curbishley in The Unicorn and the Wasp in 2008. (Were we to have factored in the Big Finish audios, Benjamin's time span would have reached 51 years, as he continues to play Jago in them).

  • Margaret John (1968 - 2006, 38 years).

Best known for Gavin & Stacey, Margaret John appeared as Megan Jones, the no nonsense Director of the Euro Sea Gas company. This was in 1968's Fury From The Deep. She returned to the series to play Tommy's grandmother in The Idiot's Lantern in Series 2 in 2006.

  • Pauline Collins (1967 - 2006, 39 years).

The first of two actors who appeared in stories 39 years apart, Collins made her debut as Samantha Briggs in The Faceless Ones in 1967. She was approached about becoming a regular but declined - something she would do again in 1968. Her next appearance was as Queen Victoria in 2006's Tooth and Claw. A portrait of her, as Victoria, appeared in The Empress of Mars in 2017.

  • Nick Hobbs (1971 - 2010, 39 years).

A stuntman and background artist, Hobbs may well have featured in the series earlier than 1971, but our first clear sight of him is as the UNIT soldier hypnotised by the Master in The Claws of Axos. As far as Doctor Who is concerned, his best known role was as Aggedor, royal beast of Peladon.
He still does stunt work (you'll see him in Rogue One: A Star Wars Story), and Doctor Who invited him back to play Mr Nainby in Amy's Choice in 2010.

  • Garrick Hagon (1972 - 2012, 40 years).

Our last few actors actually have appearances spanning four decades or more. Hagon first appeared as the rebellious Solonian Ky in The Mutants in 1972. He also provided some of the Skybase tannoy voices in the story. Famously having most of his scenes as Biggs in Star Wars deleted, Hagon returned to Doctor Who in 2012 for an appearance as the undertaker in A Town Called Mercy.

  • David Troughton (1967 - 2008, 41 years).

I couldn't find a clear image of Troughton from his first appearance - as a background guard in The Enemy of the World. The image above is from 1969's The War Games, which was his first credited role in the programme - Private Moor. After a stint as King Peladon in 1972's The Curse of Peladon, he did not return to the show until 2008 when the injury of another actor led to him being offered the role of Professor Hobbes in Midnight.

  • Arthur Cox (1968 - 2010, 42 years).

Cox appeared as the rebellious Cully in the 1968 story The Dominators. He returned 42 years later to play Mr Henderson in Matt Smith's opening adventure - The Eleventh Hour.

  • Lynda Baron (1966 - 2011, 45 years).

Although she didn't make it to the screen until the story Enlightenment, in 1983, Baron's first credited performance in Doctor Who goes back to 1966's The Gunfighters. It was Baron who sang the song "The Ballad of the Last Chance Saloon" throughout the story.
Her last appearance was as the salesperson Val in Closing Time, in 2011.

  • Ysanne Churchman (1972 - 2017, 45 years).

Like Baron, Ysanne Churchman's first appearance in Doctor Who meant that she was seen and not heard. Unlike Baron, Churchman never got the chance to appear in person. She voiced the Federation delegate Alpha Centauri in the two Peladon stories, then voiced the Queen Spider in Planet of the Spiders. In 2017 she voiced Alpha Centauri once again in The Empress of Mars.

  • Donald Sumpter (1968 - 2015, 47 years).

As far as on screen appearances go, Donald Sumpter is the actor with the lengthiest span of years between first and last performances - 47 years. He first featured as communications officer Enrico Casali in The Wheel in Space
By 1972 he had been promoted to command a Royal Navy submarine in The Sea Devils, but by 2015 he was leading the High Council of Time Lords on Gallifrey, as the reincarnated President Rassilon in Hell Bent.

The first actor to appear in the new series, who had also featured in the classic era, was William Thomas. He had been the undertaker's assistant in Remembrance of the Daleks in 1988, and returned for Boom Town in 2005, 17 years later. He'd go on to play Gwen Cooper's father up to Torchwood: Miracle Day in 2011, giving him a 23 year association with the series.

Amongst the others missing the cut with 20 - 29 years between firsts and lasts we had, in no particular order:
Jeff Rawle (Frontios 1984 - SJA: Mona Lisa's Revenge 2009, 25 years),
John Normington (The Caves of Androzani 1984 - TW: Ghost Machine 2006, 22 years),
Trevor Cooper (Revelation of the Daleks 1985 - Robots of Sherwood 2014, 29 years), 
Colin Spaull (Revelation of the Daleks 1985 - The Age of Steel 2006, 21 years), 
David Warwick (The Pirate Planet 1978 - The Army of Ghosts 2006, 28 years), 
Christopher Ryan (Mindwarp 1986 - The Pandorica Opens 2010, 24 years), 
Anne Reid (Vengeance on Varos 1985 - Time of the Doctor 2013, 28 years), 
Clive Swift (Revelation of the Daleks 1985 - Voyage of the Damned 2007, 22 years), 
Janet Henfrey (The Curse of Fenric 1989 - Mummy on the Orient Express 2014, 25 years), 
Trevor Laird (Mindwarp 1986 - Smith and Jones 2007, 21 years).

A number of the actors mentioned above have now passed away, so when we say it was their last appearance then this is truly the case. However, there is always the chance that some of those still around may be invited back for another appearance over the next couple of years.