Friday 31 December 2021

On This Day... New Year's Eve

In 1966 the third episode of The Highlanders made its debut on Hogmanay, appropriately enough.
The only other thing to make its debut today was the second instalment of The Scream of the Shalka on-line animation.
Happy Hogmanay everyone!

Thursday 30 December 2021

On This Day... 30th December

It was only one month and one week after the 9th anniversary of the programme that the 10th anniversary story commenced broadcast with Part One of The Three Doctors. The actual date of the first transmission wasn't that important back then - more that this was the launch of the tenth season. The Three Doctors didn't even start broadcast during the anniversary year, which would have been 1973. This opening episode carried a copyright date of MCMLXXIII, despite it still being MCMLXXII.
Back in 1967 The Enemy of the World gave us its second episode, as did The Power of Kroll in 1978.
Also on this day, in 2003, the first instalment of the on-line animated adventure Scream of the Shalka was released. It had been hoped that this would be the official continuation of the series with tales of a Ninth Doctor, played by Richard E Grant. However, by the time it arrived, the BBC had already announced that the series would be coming back to TV in 2005, under the auspices of Russell T Davies.
It is now regarded as something akin to the Peter Cushing movies, or TV Comic strips. Just because something is officially BBC sanctioned, doesn't make it canon.

Wednesday 29 December 2021

On This Day... 29th December

The Time Warrior delivered its third episode today in 1973, and The Horns of Nimon its second in 1979.

Today's birthday of note is that of (Saint) Bernard Cribbins - actor and National Treasure. He is 93 today.
Cribbins' first contact with the worlds of Doctor Who came in 1966 when he played PC Tom Campbell in the Aaru movie Daleks: Invasion Earth 2150AD. This character replaced both companion Ian Chesterton and London resistance member David Campbell in an adaptation of The Dalek Invasion of Earth. Later, Cribbins played the Doctor in a sketch on his own Thames TV show.

He was invited to play a cameo role in the 2007 Christmas Special - Voyage of the Damned - playing a newspaper vendor who refuses to leave London despite frequent alien threats to the city in recent years. The Paratroop Regiment badge on his hat was the actor's own.
The 2006 Special had introduced Donna Noble (Catherine Tate) and her parents Geoff (Howard Attfield) and Sylvia (Jacqueline King). 
Both parents were due to feature in Series 4, when Donna was to become the regular companion. Sadly, Attfield was terminally ill, and only managed to record some scenes for the first story of the series - Partners in Crime. It was decided to bring back Cribbins, playing the same character but now revealed to have been Donna's grandfather Wilf Mott - his absence from the wedding explained away by him having been ill on the day. Cribbins appeared in several stories through Series 4.
For David Tennant's finale, The End of Time Parts I and II, Cribbins was elevated to guest companion status. His unplanned return to the series in 2008 was written into the story - with the Doctor noticing how their paths kept crossing. It transpired that it was Wilf who was the one who would 'knock four times' - that being the prophecy concerning the person who would be responsible for the end of the Doctor's tenth incarnation.
In 1974, Bernard Cribbins was also in the frame to have played the Fourth Doctor. He wanted to play an action-man Doctor, when Barry Letts was more in favour of an older Time Lord at the time.
Cribbins' fellow Silver Cloak member, Minnie Hooper, was played by that other National Treasure, June Whitfield. She passed away on this date in 2018, at the age of 93.

Tuesday 28 December 2021

On This Day... 28th December

47 years ago today, Tom Baker made his debut as the Fourth Doctor. Part One of Robot was first broadcast on 28th December 1974 - launching Season 12. An omnibus repeat of Planet of the Spiders the day before got the viewing public in the mood, and reminded them of the regeneration from Pertwee into Baker.
In 1963, The Daleks reached its second episode - The Survivors - which finally gave us a proper view of the titular aliens.
In the same way that we never actually saw a Dalek in their first ever episode, so we didn't get to see The Krotons in their first episode, which was broadcast today in 1968.
Meanwhile, in 1988, Season 25 drew to a close with the third and final episode of The Greatest Show in the Galaxy. This was the last occasion on which a continuity announcer would give us the reassuring news that a new series of Doctor Who would be shown next year.

We had something special on this day in 1981 - Doctor Who's first ever spin-off. This was K9 and Company: A Girl's Best Friend. Lis Sladen had been asked to return to the series as Sarah Jane Smith, to help smooth the transition from Tom Baker to Peter Davison, but she had declined. K9 had just been written out of the series earlier in 1981, but JNT knew from the media reaction to this that there was still more mileage to be gained from him. A series of his own, with an old companion, seemed like a good idea. The story did well, despite a major regional power failure, but the BBC decided not to pick it up for a full series.

Today we also remember the writer Donald Cotton, who provided two historical stories during the William Hartnell era. These were The Myth Makers, and The Gunfighters. He died on this day in 1999, aged 71. Both of his stories were characterised by a great deal of humour in the first three episodes, followed by a bloodbath in the fourth. He also novelised Dennis Spooner's The Romans for Target Books - another historical with lots of humour and a more serious conclusion.

And finally, we also remember Edward Brayshaw. He was the first truly villainous Time Lord - the War Chief, in The War Games - practically a rehearsal for the Master.
Brayshaw had earlier appeared as another villain - the duplicitous Leon Colbert in The Reign of Terror. To many he is best remembered as the long suffering Mr Meaker in the classic BBC TV kids show Rentaghost. He passed away on this date in 1990, aged only 57.

Monday 27 December 2021

On This Day... 27th December

Just before Christmas we hit a day on which no new Doctor Who made its debut. There was one item to mention - an on-line prequel / mini-episode. Today we don't even have one of those. 27th December has always been a Doctor Who-free day.
With no episodes to talk about, I'll instead point out that today is the birthday of actor Christopher Benjamin. He turns 87. He has featured in Doctor Who three times. In 1970 he was Sir Keith Gold in Inferno, and in 1976 he was Henry Gordon Jago, manager of the Palace Theatre in The Talons of Weng-Chiang - his most fondly remembered role. He has recreated it many times on audio.
In 2008, he returned to the series to play Colonel Hugh Curbishley in The Unicorn and the Wasp.

Sunday 26 December 2021

Season 17 Collection - A Review

I won't say too much about the stories which comprise Season 17, as I only recently featured them in a Season Knock-Out post (it beat Season 16).
Destiny of the Daleks was already given enhanced CGI effects for its DVD release, and on this set Nightmare of Eden gets the same. Personally, I would have saved these for Creature from the Pit, whose fourth episode is very effects-heavy.
The set includes Shada - in different versions, including the partly animated one which was released in 2017. However, here it has been presented in episodic form, and some of the animation has been improved.
The extras include the regular feature of "Behind the Sofa". There are seven individuals, in three groupings, but include only two people who actually worked on this season. The first is June Hudson, costume designer, and the other is Mat Irvine, VFX designer. Each of them only worked on parts of the season, not its entirety. They are accompanied by director Graeme Harper. The other two pairings are Katy Manning with Nicola Bryant, and Colin Baker with Matthew Waterhouse. For the most part they seem to enjoy the season, and are impressed with the way Shada was completed. They also seem to be in synch with things they did not like - such as commenting on the poor pacing of certain stories. Hudson and Irvine can obviously provide proper information about the stories they worked on, or comment on the work of their colleagues on the others.
The Lalla Ward interview is nearly 20 years old. A more recent Ward appears in the Douglas Adams tribute, interviewed in Hong Kong. 
The Matthew Sweet interview is with writer Bob Baker, who contributed his only solo effort for this season (Eden). Of course, Baker passed away just before this set was released - too late for this to be mentioned anywhere on it. Ironically, Sweet ends the interview pointing out to Baker that he is "last man standing" as far as Pertwee era writers are concerned.
Destiny of the Daleks gets a brand new "Making of" documentary - Return to Skaro.
Of the older material, from the DVD releases, the overview of the Graham Williams era remains the best item. The Destiny disc also includes The Dalek Tapes, which is an overview of all the Dalek appearances over the course of the whole Classic era.
The second half of the Dudley Simpson interview covering the 1970's stories - The Doctor's Composer - is also present.
There's a short archive interview with David Brierly - but the BBC presenter can't shut up so we don't really get to hear much from him.
No news yet of what the first Collection release of 2022 will be. I suspect it will be a Peter Davison one, probably Season 20.

On This Day... Boxing Day

Today in 1964 The Dalek Invasion of Earth concluded with the episode entitled Flashpoint. This ended with the departure of the Doctor's granddaughter Susan. Carole Ann Ford was the first star of the show to want to leave it, disliking the lack of characterisation for Susan. She had been promised something more akin to an Avengers companion, with special powers. William Hartnell delivered a wonderful farewell speech to her - which was subsequently reused at the beginning of The Five Doctors in 1983, and was both repeated and recreated for An Adventure in Space and Time in 2013.

"One day, I shall come back. Yes, I shall come back. Until then, there must be no regrets, no tears, no anxieties. Just go forward in all your beliefs, and prove to me that I am not mistaken in mine. Goodbye Susan. Goodbye my dear."

Saturday 25 December 2021

On This Day... Christmas Day

"A Happy Christmas to all of you at home!".

So said the First Doctor in 1965, at the conclusion of The Feast of Steven - Part Seven of The Daleks' Master Plan. This was the only episode of the Classic series to be broadcast on Christmas Day.
The episode is credited to Terry Nation, but was heavily reworked by Donald Tosh. It was long thought that this breaking of the fourth wall was an ad-lib on the part of William Hartnell, but this is not the case - it was scripted.
The episode was designed to be skipped over when the story was sold overseas - the ending to Part Six just about matching up with the opening of Part Eight (sort of).

When the series returned in 2005, the Christmas Special became a regular fixture. 
The first was The Christmas Invasion that year. We had robot Santas, a lethal Christmas Tree, and the Doctor sitting down to a Christmas dinner. The snow turned out not to be real.
This story was followed by Attack of the Graske - an on-line game which also had a Christmas setting.
In 2006 we had The Runaway Bride. More robot Santas and lethal Christmas trees (explosive baubles). The snow turned out not to be real.
2007 delivered The Voyage of the Damned. Aliens celebrating Christmas above Earth in a replica of the Titanic - BBC and ITV having usually saved blockbusters like disaster movies for a Christmas premiere. The snow turned out not to be real.
In 2008 we had The Next Doctor. A Christmas setting, and Victorian London reminding us of Dickens. Again the Doctor has a Christmas dinner. Real snow this time.
David Tennant bowed out on New Years Day in 2010, but the first part of his final story was shown on 25th December 2009. This was The End of Time Part I. Just another Christmas setting. No snow at all.

Steven Moffat's first Christmas Special was 2010's A Christmas Carol - about a Scrooge-like figure who is changed over the course of a single night through visits from ghosts of the past, present and future. There are a whole load of Christmas Eve's on display. The real Santa (his name's Geoff) attends a party, though we don't actually see him. Real snow, though we are on an alien planet for a change.
The 2011 Special was The Doctor, The Widow and the Wardrobe. Another Christmas setting, and another alien planet which is snowy, and has trees which grow things which look like baubles. The Doctor visits Amy and Rory for another Christmas dinner at the end.
2012 saw another Victorian Christmas in The Snowmen. A Christmas setting, with killer snowmen (embodiments of the Great Intelligence).
Matt Smith stood down at Christmas 2013, just a month after the 50th Anniversary story. Peter Capaldi arrived at the conclusion of The Time of the Doctor. A town called Christmas, which is in permanent winter, so it's Christmas every day.

Capaldi's own first Christmas Special was 2014's Last Christmas. Another Christmas setting, and the presence of Kantrofari dream crabs led to appearances by Santa Claus and his elves, plus his reindeer, at the North Pole. Clara dreams a perfect Christmas morning, including the presence of her dead boyfriend. A stocking-filler satsuma is significant. Again, references to the sorts of movies we watch at Christmas. The story title comes from Wham!s Christmas hit.
2015's The Husbands of River Song, and 2016's The Return of Doctor Mysterio were consecutive stories, as there was no new series in 2016.
The former had River Song dressed in a red cape, with white fur trimmings, first appearing on a snowy world. The latter simply had a Christmas setting.
2017 gave us another regeneration, as Capaldi became Whittaker. But first he encountered his first incarnation, as played by David Bradley, in Twice Upon a Time. An ancestor of the Brigadier features - allowing us to witness the Christmas Truce of 1914. 

Moffat had expected Chris Chibnall to have written the 2017 Christmas Special as the introduction to the 13th Doctor, but was surprised to find he wasn't ready. Rather than lose the prestigious slot, Moffat then came up with Twice Upon a Time - stretching out Capaldi's departure. As it was, Chibnall had no intention of keeping the Christmas slot anyway. He would produce New Year Specials instead.
Time will tell if Russell T Davies will want to retain New Year Specials - or to resurrect the Christmas ones...
Before I go - a special mention of Georgia Moffett - daughter of Peter Davison and wife of David Tennant, who played The Doctor's Daughter. It's her 37th birthday today.

Merry Christmas Everyone!!!

Friday 24 December 2021

On This Day... Christmas Eve

The Highlanders moved on to its second episode today in 1966.
The only other Doctor Who related episode to debut today was Combat, part of Torchwood's first series in 2006. 
This was written by Noel Clarke, who played Mickey Smith in the parent programme. It is basically Fight Club with Weevils.

Today we wish John Levene a very happy 80th birthday. No matter how many promotions he gets, he will always be Sergeant Benton of UNIT to us. Levene first got into acting when Telly Savalas came into the men's outfitters he was working in, in London's West End. Savalas was in the UK filming The Dirty Dozen, and suggested Levene should try for an extras role on the movie. He didn't get the part as he had no Equity card, so went about getting one. 
His first brush with Doctor Who was in The Moonbase, when he played one of the crowd scene Cybermen on the Moon's surface. Director Douglas Camfield, who was to become one of his mentors, then cast him as a Yeti in The Web of Fear. He used him again, this time without a burdensome costume in The Invasion. This is when we first got to see Benton, a member of the newly formed UNIT. Benton was a lowly Corporal in this. When the actor playing Sergeant Walters was late for rehearsals one time too many, and sacked by Camfield, Levene found himself being given a more prominent role to play in the final episode.
In The War Games, Levene once again found himself in a Yeti costume, for the trial scene in Part 10.
Benton was absent from the first two UNIT stories of the Pertwee era, but Camfield let it be known that he intended to use the character prominently in Inferno, he was written in to the preceding story - The Ambassadors of Death - appearing in only the later episodes and now promoted to Sergeant.
The rest is history. Levene realised that Benton's days were numbered when Tom Baker and Philip Hinchcliffe took over. His last appearance was in The Android Invasion - playing both the real Benton and his android replica.
Levene starred in the first ever video spin-off from the programme - Wartime - playing Benton. He continues to reprise the character on audio.
There is a wonderful DVD extra of Toby Hadoke spending the weekend with Levene at his home in Salisbury. It's on the Special Edition of The Claws of Axos (and now the Season 8 Collection Blu-ray box set). His rare appearances on DVD commentaries are also worth listening to.

Thursday 23 December 2021

On This Day... 23rd December

The Enemy of the World got underway today in 1967 with its first episode. This was future producer Barry Letts' first involvement with the programme, as he was called upon to direct this story.
The other story to make its debut on this date was The Power of Kroll, in 1978.
Today's birthday of note is that of George Gallaccio. He acted as Production Unit Manager on the show, and was first choice by the BBC to replace Graham Williams as producer of Doctor Who. He turned the job down, and so they went with Williams' own choice, the later PUM John Nathan-Turner. George is 83 today.

Wednesday 22 December 2021

On This Day... 22nd December

In 1973 we had the second episode of The Time Warrior, and in 1979 the first part of The Horns of Nimon.
The latter's appearance in the run up to Christmas, coupled with the impression that the cast weren't taking things very seriously, has led many to regard this latter story as a bit of a Panto, and even a spoof of Doctor Who itself. Perhaps a very clever spoof. We have shaky sets - but they're supposed to shake (the spaceship control room being built on a moveable platform); lots of running up and down corridors (but these corridors move by themselves, and are intrinsic to the plot); the aliens look like men in masks (but originally the Nimon were supposed to be humanoid aliens who wore bull-head masks); and some of the actors aren't taking things seriously (Graham Crowden laughs as his character dies - but he honestly thought it was a rehearsal and not the final take). We also have very elaborate costuming - but June Hudson is designing it, so that's only to be expected. Also, the Skonnons are supposed to be a people who think they are more important than they really are, and so are likely to wear exaggerated uniforms. Most Pantos are based on much older fables - and this story is based on the legend of the Minotaur, from ancient times.

Tuesday 21 December 2021

Blog Festive Update

My copy of the Season 17 Collection arrived yesterday, and so far I have only watched the first disc - Destiny of the Daleks and its extras. (One of the early highlights is a clip from Blue Peter, where Goldie, the BP dog, becomes obsessed with a homemade Dalek). With Christmas just around the corner I'll be concentrating on watching the other 5 discs, and preparing for a review once I get to the end of Shada - so I'll only be doing my "On This Day..." posts for the next few days.
Things won't really get back to normal until after Eve of the Daleks.

From January the story reviews will recommence with The Day of the Doctor, and you'll also get more A-Z entries (J is for... Jones seems to be taking forever). 
There will be more Inspirations (Aliens of London / World War III will be next), and more What's Wrong With... (The Invasion).
There will also be further Season Knock-Outs (it's Pertwee's first versus Colin Baker's last next time).

Additionally, there will be a totally new set of entries, which will take a very long time to work through, but I think you'll enjoy them. This blog will be a decade old next year, and there's a lot of information about each TV story scattered all over the place. I've therefore decided to start doing an episode by episode guide to the series, which will say everything you might want to know about each instalment in one place. I'll be doing one episode per week, as that was how they were broadcast (though I won't be taking long inter-seasonal breaks).

On This Day... 21st December

A few days ago we mentioned the opening of the play Doctor Who and the Daleks in Seven Keys to Doomsday. This was the second time that the Daleks had taken to the boards. The first time was today in 1965, when The Curse of the Daleks opened at Wyndham's Theatre.
Written by David Whitaker, Doctor Who's former story editor and the person responsible for much of the written Dalek material of the "Dalekmania" period, this was a stand alone Dalek adventure.
The Doctor did not feature. The story had certain similarities to The Power of the Daleks (a human villain wanting to turn the Daleks into servants) and even featured an actor who would appear in that TV serial - Nicholas Hawtrey. The Thals also appeared as the story was set on Skaro, where a spaceship from Earth had crash-landed.
Like the 1974 production, the play ran for one month - the Panto Season - but proved more successful at the box office.

The Daleks were about to make their first appearance today in 1963, with the debut broadcast of The Dead Planet - Part One of the story which I tend to call The Daleks, though some purists insist on calling "The Mutants". The episode ended with the first glimpse of a Dalek plunger.
One of the stars of this story - John Lee, who played Alydon - passed away on this day in 2000, aged 72. He didn't actually feature in this episode - his hand being played by Production Assistant Michael Ferguson, who also wielded that plunger. Lee spent his later years in his native Australia, where he became well known for playing Mrs Mangel's dodgy husband Len in Neighbours.

Also on this date, The Invasion concluded with its eighth instalment in 1968, and The Greatest Show in the Galaxy delivered its second episode today in 1988.

Monday 20 December 2021

On This day... 20th December

It had to happen eventually - that we would hit a date on which no episode of Doctor Who, or any of its spin-offs, has been broadcast for the first time. 
There is one item we can mention, however. Thanks to all the additional material (usually on-line) which accompanies certain special episodes of the programme, we can state that Vastra Investigates was first made available on this date. This was a short mini-episode featuring the Paternoster Gang, which acted as a prequel to The Snowmen, 2012's Christmas Special.
The only other item of note is a Doctor Who themed edition of the quiz show Celebrity Eggheads, which was broadcast today in 2010. The Who team called themselves "Behind the Sofa", and comprised Colin Baker, Frazer Hines, Louise Jameson, John Leeson, and Katy Manning.

One of those odd little coincidences - today is the anniversary of the death of actor Walter Fitzgerald (in 1976, aged 80), who played the Dulcian leader Senex in The Dominators. Just yesterday I was watching the 1948 film version of The Winslow Boy - and there was something very familiar about the person playing the First Lord of the Admiralty. It was the 20 years younger Walter Fitzgerald.

Sunday 19 December 2021

J is for... Jones, Martha

Travelling companion of the Tenth Doctor, and later a member of UNIT.
Martha was training to be a doctor at the Royal Hope Hospital in London when the building was hijacked by Judoon and transported to the Moon. Martha had been surprised to see the Doctor amongst the patients, as she had just bumped into him in the street earlier that morning on her way into work. He was impressed by the way she reacted to what had happened, keeping her cool whilst most staff and patients panicked. At one point, in order to decoy the Judoon, the Doctor kissed Martha - providing a transfer of genetic material - but she read more into this. Once the hospital had been returned to its proper location, Martha went to her brother Leo's birthday party at a local bar, but encountered the Doctor outside. He offered her a trip in the TARDIS, by way of a thank you for helping him earlier. To prove it was a time machine, he travelled back to that morning, which is when she had met him in the street.
Their trip took them to Elizabethan London, where Martha had the chance to meet Shakespeare and see one of his plays at the Globe. Martha used a bit of Harry Potter to help banish the witch-like Carrionites from the theatre. The Doctor extended his offer of a trip to the future as well as one to the past, and he took her to New Earth, and the city of New New York. Martha had a crush on the Doctor, and was not best pleased to discover that he was taking her to the same place he had taken Rose Tyler. She had wanted to see his home planet. After she was abducted by a couple of motorists on the city's interminable motorway, the Doctor eventually had to be honest with her and tell her about the events of the Time War. She then got to meet the Daleks in person, in 1930's New York. The Doctor then took her home, but he was intrigued by her sister Tish's new boss. Professor Lazarus claimed he was going to change what it meant to be human. This turned out to be rejuvenating technology, but something went wrong and he mutated into a monster.
The Doctor decided to offer Martha one more journey, but she refused. Either she travelled full-time, or not at all. The Doctor accepted this. However, Martha almost came to regret this as she realised, when trapped on a seemingly doomed spaceship, that her family would never know what happened to her.

Under threat from some formless aliens out to steal his body, the Doctor at one point had to disguise himself as a human school teacher, in 1913 England. Martha retained her memories, and posed as a servant in order to look after him. She was upset to see the Doctor fall in love with a human - that wasn't her.
Martha got to meet Captain Jack Harkness after he hitched a ride on the TARDIS to the end of the universe. Here they encountered the Master and the Toclafane.
Unbeknownst to Martha, her mother, Francine, had fallen under the sway of the Master, who was posing as politician Harold Saxon. When he brought the Toclafane to Earth via a temporal paradox, the Doctor made a secret plan with Martha then allowed her to escape. She travelled across the planet, telling everyone about the Doctor and planning an event precisely one year after the Master took over. This lead to everyone thinking about the Doctor at the same moment, which combined with the Master's telepathic satellite system to enable the Doctor to defeat his old enemy.
With the Toclafane's defeat, time was reversed for the whole world - apart from those who were at the centre of the paradox. This included Martha and her family. She elected to leave the Doctor to look after them - but also because of her unrequited love for him. The Doctor gave her a mobile phone which she could use to contact him in an emergency.

On qualifying as a doctor, Martha found herself headhunted by UNIT, guessing that the Doctor had engineered this. One of her first duties was to liaise with Torchwood Three in Cardiff, over a number of unexplained deaths. These revolved around some clinical trials, and a drug named Reset. This proved to have alien origins - extracted from a huge alien insect. During their investigations, Torchwood's doctor Owen harper was shot and killed. Jack used the "Resurrection Glove" to bring him back to life for a few moments, so everyone could say their farewells to him - but once resurrected he remained so. Martha stayed on in Cardiff to investigate this further. It transpired that Owen had been selected by an extra-dimensional creature - Death incarnate - to allow it to cross over into our universe. At one point the Resurrection Glove drew energy from Martha, turning her into an old woman.
The Doctor was reunited with Martha when she summoned him back to Earth with the phone he had left her. He was travelling with Donna Noble at this time.
Martha and UNIT were investigating the ATMOS factory - producer of a catalytic converter which seemed to have been responsible for a number of deaths across the globe. The company owner, Luke Rattigan, was actually in league with the Sontarans. They captured Martha and cloned her - using her duplicate to work against UNIT. Once the Sontarans had been defeated, Martha was saying farewell to the Doctor and Donna in the TARDIS when it suddenly dematerialised. It travelled to an alien planet in the far future, where Martha became separated from the others. She found herself captured by the piscine Hath. They befriended her when she inadvertently helped them.
Back on Earth, Martha joined forces with many of the Doctor's previous companions and friends after the Daleks moved the planet across space. Martha was going to employ the Osterhagen device - which could destroy the planet to prevent it being taken over- but the Daleks teleported her away to their space station. One of the people Martha met was Mickey Smith, who had been living in an alternative universe for a time. He returned to this Earth after the Daleks had been defeated. 

Martha left UNIT and married Mickey - the pair becoming freelance alien investigators. Just before he regenerated, at the end of his Tenth incarnation, the Doctor saved them from a lone Sontaran.

Played by: Freema Agyeman. Appearances: Smith and Jones - Last of the Time Lords (2007), TW: Reset, TW: Dead Man Walking, TW: A Day In The Death (2008), The Sontaran Stratagem / The Poison Sky, The Doctor's Daughter, The Stolen Earth / Journey's End (2008), The End of Time Part II (2010).
  • Agyeman had featured in 2006's Army of Ghosts, playing the character Adiola, who worked for Torchwood One. She was killed by the Cybermen. The Doctor met her, and would have remeberd her - which may be why he singled out Martha to join him after losing Rose, and being turned down by Donna. The resemblance had to be explained, as Smith and Jones followed so soon after Army of Ghosts, and this was that Martha Jones had a cousin named Adiola, who disappeared when Torchwood One was attacked. The Doctor never tells her what really happened to her relative (at least not on screen).

J is for... Jones, Leo

Leo was the younger brother of Martha Jones. He had a partner and a two year old daughter, Keisha. The Doctor first met Martha on the day of Leo's 21st birthday. There was to be a party that evening, but his father was planning on bringing his new girlfriend, to the annoyance of his mother. The following evening Leo accompanied his mother, Francine, to an event planned by older sister Tish - the unveiling of Professor Lazarus' latest invention. The device caused Lazarus to mutate and attack the guests, and Leo was amongst those injured. He was saved by the Doctor and Martha, suffering only a mild concussion.
A few days later, Leo and his partner went to the south coast for a short holiday, so were away from London when new Prime Minister Harold Saxon - really the Master - rounded up the rest of the Jones family. Leo was able to remain hidden with his family for the duration of the "year that never was", when the Master and the Toclafane ruled the Earth.

Played by: Reggie Yates. Appearances: Smith and Jones, The Lazarus Experiment, The Sound of Drums (2007).
  • Yates was already well known as a TV presenter and actor (Grange Hill amongst others) when cast as Martha's brother. He only really cameos in two of his three episodes, The Lazarus Experiment providing his most substantial appearance.

J is for... Jones, Ianto

A member of Torchwood Three. However, before joining the Cardiff branch, he was a member of Torchwood One in London's Docklands. There he had a girlfriend named Lisa Hallett, who also worked for the organisation. When the Cybermen infiltrated the HQ then invaded in force through the Void from a parallel Earth, they immediately began converting Torchwood personnel. At first they transplanted the human brain directly into a Cyberman body, but as parts depleted they started converting people piece by piece. This was the fate which befell Lisa. 
Ianto managed to rescue her, and some of the conversion equipment, and kept them in hiding. He travelled to Cardiff, where the last surviving Torchwood team was based, and went out of his way to win a job from Captain Jack Harkness. He would flirt with him and bring him coffee every day. After assisting Jack with capturing a pterodactyl, which would become a pet named Myfanwy, he was finally offered a job. This would be a general assistant, charged with looking after the Hub and making the coffee. Ianto's sole reason for getting the job was so that he could smuggle Lisa and the conversion equipment into the Hub, then find a way of bringing her back.
Ianto was mainly based in the Hub, rarely going out on field work. One time he did go out on a mission, he was captured and almost killed by a group of cannibals.
When the rest of the team were away, he would try to help Lisa. This included sneaking a medical expert named Dr Tanizaki on site one evening. Lisa killed him then began draining the Hub's power. This is when Jack and the others discovered what he had been doing. Ianto was ordered to kill Lisa, or be killed himself. Lisa was killed by Ianto's colleagues after she had transplanted her brain into the body of a pizza delivery girl. 
Despite his subterfuge, which had put them all at risk, Jack allowed Ianto to keep his job.

When the Rift which ran through Cardiff began to open, Ianto fought with Owen Harper over opening it fully. Owen thought that his lost love would reappear. Ianto ended up shooting Owen to prevent him doing this. Eventually an image of Lisa caused Ianto to also want to open the Rift, and he turned against Jack.
Over time, Ianto and Jack became lovers.
As he was in charge of the Hub, Ianto was the first to notice something odd about team member Adam. Although everyone knew he had been with them for some time, he did not appear in recent CCTV images - suggesting he could only have arrived. To prevent him investigating further, Adam - really an alien who could manipulate memory - caused ianto have false memories of being a murderer, the stress of which gave him a nervous breakdown. Jack eventually worked out what Adam was, and gave Ianto and the others a heavy dose of their Retcon drug so that they would no longer remember him, or the false memories he had planted.
Ianto and Gwen Cooper were left to defend the Hub when it came under attack by a Dalek, after the Earth had been moved across space.
When the aliens known as the 456 returned, they demanded a number of Earth's children. Ianto helped his sister's children and many of their friends to evade being taken by the authorities. Later, however, he was trapped in Thames House, London, when a 456 ambassador released quantities of toxic gas, killing him.

Played by: Gareth David-Lloyd. Appearances: Torchwood Series 1 - 3 (2006 - 2009), The Stolen Earth, Journey's End (2008).
  • Despite the fact that Torchwood ended a decade ago, and the character was killed in 2009, there still remains in Cardiff Bay a shrine to Ianto Jones.

On This Day... 19th December

Again, only a single episode to have debuted on this day. This was the fifth instalment of The Dalek Invasion of Earth - The Waking Ally.

Today's birthday of note is Matthew Waterhouse, who played Adric. He turns 60. Waterhouse was a fan of Doctor Who. Working on the show should have been a blast, but he did not get on well with the stars, both of whom were unhappy at the time for their own reasons. He had been working in the BBC post room when he got the part, having only acted once on TV (in the WWI public school drama To Serve Them All My Days). Once Tom Baker and Lalla Ward left, Waterhouse had to contend with Peter Davison and Janet Fielding. JNT finally accepted that there were too many companions, and so decided to bump one off. The person chosen was Adric - whom writers just weren't getting right anyway.
Waterhouse complained that this would mean he couldn't be brought back (although he was back in the first episode of the next story, and in Davison's last episode). He also claimed that no companion had ever died before, and as a fan he should have known this wasn't true. His autobiography - Blue Box Boy - was written in the third person. He still performs Adric on audio, but is better known now as an author.

Let us also remember the actor Donald Pickering - one of those who appeared in Doctor Who on more than one occasion. He featured in three stories - The Keys of Marinus (1964), The Faceless Ones (1967), and Time and the Rani (1987). He passed away today in 2009, at the age of 76.

Saturday 18 December 2021

On This Day... 18th December

Only a single episode of Doctor Who has ever made its debut on today's date. In 1965 The Daleks' Master Plan reached its sixth episode - Coronas of the Sun.

Friday 17 December 2021

On This Day... 17th December

Today in 1966 you could have seen The Highlanders Part One for the very first time. The last of the regular run of historical stories, it introduced a character by the name of Jamie. As Frazer Hines often tells it, the character proved very popular with the general public and so the ending of the story was changed - from Jamie being left behind in Scotland, to Jamie entering the TARDIS to become a new companion. However, his memory isn't all that reliable on this, as the new scene of him entering the TARDIS was filmed before Part One was even broadcast.
In 1977 The Sun Makers reached its conclusion, with Part Four. At one point, this episode was actually going to include the death of Leela. Sadly, I only just read of the death in November of Henry Woolf, who played the Collector in this story.
The Torchwood episode Out of Time also premiered today in 2006.
Back in 1993, as we have mentioned before, the BBC screened a repeat of Planet of the Daleks on Friday evenings, as part of a 30th Anniversary celebration. It reached its final episode today. Following each episode there had been a short documentary item about the series, and tonight they showed the UNIT Recruitment Film, which has subsequently appeared on one of the Third Doctor DVDs. This was the item which included a phone number to ring - which took you to a recorded message from the Brigadier, telling the caller about a repeat of The Green Death that was due to begin on the Sunday morning. I recall that I didn't dial the number, and only found out about the Sunday episode about five minutes before it ended - and too late to record it.

Thursday 16 December 2021

K.O. Round 1.6

The latest Classic Era season knockout competition sees a pair of consecutive Tom Baker seasons battle it out. Both are also Graham Williams seasons. Both feature Romana as companion - though we have a different incarnation in each. 
Season 16 was the Key to Time season. This had been Producer Graham Williams' first idea on taking on the job - a series of linked stories providing a season long story arc. On taking up the post, planning on Season 15 was already too far advanced, so he had to wait until this one to put his idea into practice. The stories comprise The Ribos Operation, in which the Doctor is given his mission to locate the six segments of the Key to Time, as well as a new companion to help find them. There then follows The Pirate Planet, The Stones of Blood, The Androids of Tara and The Power of Kroll. The arc comes to an end with The Armageddon Factor. Unusually, only one of the stories this year takes place on Earth (and even then half the episodes see the Doctor trapped on a spaceship).
The first half of Stones is quite good, but the spaceship stuff is inferior. Tara is just a rehash of The Prisoner of Zenda - and isn't altered enough from the source material. Kroll will be done far, far better when it comes to Peter Davison's last story.
Despite this, the season is also rather light on alien monsters, preferring humanoid villains. David Fisher writes two consecutive stories, which means we have some strong female characters for a change. The Taran Wood Beast costume is terrible, and a communications problem between director and VFX means that the Kroll puppet isn't properly integrated into the filming, but apart from that there are no serious problems with the visuals. Performances are fairly solid throughout. If there's a criticism, it's that the series is rather a dull one, which is let down by its conclusion. When the success of the entire season depends on the climax to an individual story, that's a serious problem.

Season 17, on the other hand, has some dreadful performances, and some really bad VFX. One director ended up being replaced mid-job, and to top it all the final story of the season was cancelled. Tom Baker was being over-indulged. The new Script Editor was Douglas Adams, who had been involved in that unsatisfying conclusion to the previous season.
The season kicked off with Destiny of the Daleks - a sequel to Genesis of the Daleks, and featuring the return of Davros. It should have been the highlight of the era - but things went awry. The Daleks were in a terrible state of repair, as was Davros' mask, whilst the ones on location were clearly lightweight copies. Terry Nation forgot that his creations weren't robots.
The next story, however, was a bit of a gem. City of Death regularly features in Top Ten polls of the series. Clever, witty, great performances and no naff SFX to let it down. It was written by Adams and Producer Graham Williams, after a David Fisher script fell through. Fisher did contribute the next story - The Creature From The Pit. An OK story on paper, it included a monster almost impossible to realise on screen. The following story was the one which lost its director - Nightmare of Eden. It was also great on paper, but let down by poor performances, bad SFX and a dodgy monster costume. The same could be said about The Horns of Nimon, which prematurely ended the season. Its broadcast close to Christmas led to obvious comparisons with pantomime. What should have followed was Shada. This was to have ended the participation of Adams and Williams, but was cancelled a third of the way through production due to strike action. We can see what it would have looked like as all the location filming had been completed, plus one third of the studio work. We'll include it here, as we allowed The Five Doctors to form part of Season 20.

Which season do I prefer? Well, Season 16 is better produced, has the proper K9, and makes for a more satisfying whole - but I also think it's a bit dull. Season 17 is all over the place, has an inferior K9, but has the greater imagination. It might fail in places, but at least it tried. 17's Romana is more watchable than 16's incarnation. Finally, City of Death helps swing things in favour of 17.

On This Day... 16th December

The stage play Doctor Who and the Daleks in Seven Keys to Doomsday opened at the Adelphi Theatre in London's West End today in 1974. The show opened with the Doctor regenerating from Jon Pertwee (on screen only) into Trevor Martin. A couple of members of the audience got up to help him - one of whom was Wendy Padbury, who had previously played TV companion Zoe. There then followed an adventure with the titular Doctor out to stop the titular Daleks from obtaining the titular Keys, and thus prevent the titular doomsday. A lot of the action took place on the planet Karn, where there were creatures with a single giant crab-like claw - elements which writer Terrance Dicks used later for The Brain of Morbius. TV's Arthur Dent - Simon Jones - was also in the cast, playing the Master of Karn, who looked like Dan Dare's Mekon on stilts. James Acheson, future Oscar winner, and creator of iconic costumes for the Time Lords and Zygons amongst many others was also involved with this.
The show ran for only a few weeks over the Christmas period, but was injured by low audience numbers due to IRA bomb alerts in the city. Critics had actually been quite positive. It never went on tour. The play was referenced not long ago in Night Terrors, where the Doctor mentions a bedtime story called "Snow White and the Seven Keys to Doomsday".

On TV, meanwhile, this day in 1967 saw the sixth and final instalment of The Ice Warriors.
Then, in 1978, The Androids of Tara concluded with its fourth episode.
Christmas 2009 saw David Tennant practically take over the BBC as he neared his departure from the series. One of his extramural activities was to host a Doctor Who Special of music quiz Never Mind The Buzzcocks on this date.

Wednesday 15 December 2021

On This Day... 15th December

Season 11 got underway on this day in 1973, with Part One of The Time Warrior. This episode was notable for a number of reasons. We were introduced to new companion Sarah Jane Smith, as played by Elisabeth Sladen. It was the first story to feature a Sontaran, in the form of Commander Linx (Kevin Lindsay). And it was the first time the opening titles featured the "time tunnel" effect.
The part of Sarah was already cast with another actress - April Walker - but this was later vetoed by Jon Pertwee as she was too tall, and rather statuesque. He wanted the companion role to always be someone smaller than himself, so he could act as the protector figure. Walker had already been paid for the whole season, so had to work gratis for the BBC for the next few months until they had got their money's worth (including a regular role alongside The Two Ronnies).
Also first shown today was the fourth episode of Nightmare of Eden. It was the final recording session of this story where Tom Baker's criticisms of the director resulted in the latter being dismissed and replaced by producer Graham Williams. Who was that director? Why, it was Alan Bromly - who had previously directed... The Time Warrior.

Tuesday 14 December 2021

Flux Ratings

The 7-Day ratings for The Vanquishers are now in, so we can get a reasonable overview of how well Flux / Series 13 performed. Below are those 7-Day viewing figures, the Appreciation Index, and the chart placement for the week. 

Chapter I:    5.79m / AI 76 / Placement = 9th
Chapter II:  5.10m / AI 77 / Placement = 13th
Chapter III: 4.67m / AI 75 / Placement = 19th
Chapter IV: 4.55m / AI 79 / Placement = 21st
Chapter V:   4.72m / AI 77 / Placement = 25th
Chapter VI: 4.61m / AI 76 / Placement = 26th

The placement figures aren't too bad, especially when you consider that the latest series of I'm A Non-Entity... Get Me Some Work! began half way through the series, with multiple episodes each week. Soaps and Strictly... would all have beaten Doctor Who as well.
The AI figures I've already talked about in an earlier post, but now we see the whole picture, and they aren't good. The finale saw a notable drop from the high of the Weeping Angels chapter (IV). 
The average viewing figure for the series was 4.91 million - the lowest season average since the programme returned in 2005.

On This Day... 14th December

First broadcast today in 1963 was The Firemaker - the fourth and final instalment of An Unearthly Child. The TARDIS arrived in a strange misty forest at the end - the first indication to viewers that this was going to be an on-going serial, comprising distinct stories. After the first episode, there hadn't been a lot of Science-Fiction in the series, but next week's episode threatened a radiation danger, and promised a dead planet...
The Invasion reached its seventh episode in 1968. This was the first time a story had exceeded six episodes since The Daleks' Master Plan in nearly 1966, and it still wasn't finished.
Then, in 1988, Season 25 arrived at its final story, with Part One of The Greatest Show In The Galaxy. The preceding Cyberman story had originally been earmarked to end the season, but episodes were moved about so that the silver anniversary story opened on the 23rd November itself. This led to a continuity error - Ace being seen to wear a badge in Silver Nemesis, which she doesn't actually obtain until this story.
Now that stories are out on DVD or Blu-ray, we can watch them in any order we want. There are those who question Jo Grant's incredulity about the TARDIS in Colony In Space, when she's seen it dematerialise in front of her eyes in The Claws of Axos. This has led them to watch these stories in reverse order. 
Another switch around some fans prefer is to swap Inferno for The Ambassadors of Death. The Doctor sort of hands Liz over to Dr Cornish to assist him at the end - which is marginally more satisfying than her just vanishing after Inferno - returning to Cambridge off screen.
Where do you place K9 & Company, if watching stories in order? Technically it comes between Logopolis and Castrovalva - but as the latter follows on directly from the former, you really can't pause to watch Sarah Jane Smith and K9 muck about with Hecate-worshippers in deepest Mummerset mid regeneration. As all of Season 18 is linked together, I tend to watch it after Castrovalva, before moving on to Four to Doomsday.

Monday 13 December 2021

What's Wrong With - The Mind Robber

Not a lot to say about this story. Where problems occurred for the production team, the fantastical nature of the story meant that they could often be incorporated into the story. Other problems the director encountered just had to be dealt with at the time - like painting a horse white with blanko in the middle of the night when the one which turned up proved to be the wrong colour.
When the Doctor drags Jamie and Zoe back into the TARDIS from the white void, take a look at the ship's scanner. It states quite clearly:    
                                                           Peter Bryant

In the 1960's and early '70's, music, sound effects and film footage all had to be played in as live during the studio recording. The opening and closing credits would be included. The reason that the closing title background appears upside down on three of the episodes of The Green Death is because the director couldn't wait for them to be rewound and so just played them backwards. 
What we're seeing in The Mind Robber Part One is the closing titles being set up, ready for the end of episode.
The thing is, because of the bizarre nature of this story - in which real people can become fictionalised - this mistake actually fits. The producer is being turned to fiction, like the Doctor and his companions.
The following week, Frazer Hines caught chickenpox from his nephew, and couldn't appear. It was simple enough to have Jamie lose his features in one this domain's many puzzles, and for the Doctor to get it wrong reassembling them - allowing for another actor to step in for an episode.
The only problem here is that Hamish Wilson has a Glaswegian accent, whilst Hines always used a soft Highland accent. Jamie's voice shouldn't change that much with just a different face.

The costumes used for the White Robots came from another programme (an Asimov adaptation from Out of the Unknown), so you could argue that they are also already fictional.
The Doctor is reunited with his companions in a forest of words. The letters as they appear in the studio don't match the ones seen in the model work. In the model they are wide and flat, in studio more compact and tall.

The Doctor works out that the strange man in 18th Century garb whom they keep meeting is Lemuel Gulliver, and he can only speak the words which his creator, Jonathan Swift, wrote for him - yet the Doctor says he is looking forward to a long talk with him later on.
In the labyrinth, Zoe claims that the way through the tunnels has an arithmetic progression - one left, two right, three left and so on. We see a map of this labyrinth, and it bears no relation to Zoe's description.
The Doctor faces a lot of dangers, ones which could easily kill him. Yet the whole point of the exercise is that the Master Brain computer wants him to replace the current master of this domain.
The other thing to say about this story - it never happened in the first place. Later writers using the Land of Fiction in their own fiction is a complete nonsense.

On This Day... 13th December

Today, in 1975, saw the debut of the fourth and final episode of The Android Invasion. This was more than just a story finale - it marked the proper end of the UNIT era. Yes, they would be back in a couple of stories time, but there wouldn't be a single member of the UNIT team we knew present.
Today's episode didn't feature the Brigadier, as Nicholas Courtney was enjoying a long run in a stage play, but it did feature John Levene as Benton, and Ian Marter as Harry Sullivan, in their final Doctor Who appearances. The story was directed by someone who knew UNIT all too well - Barry Letts, who had produced all but one of the Jon Pertwee stories.
Unfortunately, it was a poor send off for these two characters - especially Benton. He is last seen lying lifeless on the floor, and could be dead for all we know. For most of the story the two actors play android versions of themselves, so are lacking the very character which we loved them for.
The other episode which debuted today was Part Four of State of Decay, in 1980.

Sunday 12 December 2021

On This Day... 12th December

It was The End of Tomorrow for the Doctor and his companions in The Dalek Invasion of Earth today in 1964. This was the story's fourth instalment. William Hartnell did not feature as he had injured his back during the recording of the previous week's episode. Actor Edmund Warwick appeared briefly in his costume, with his back to camera, at the start of the episode then collapsed in a faint - so that the Doctor could be written out of the action. Warwick, who had played botanist Darrius in The Keys of Marinus, would go on to play the android Doctor in The Chase. There may have been a similarity with his back to us, but it certainly wasn't there when you saw his face.

Today's birthday of note is that of Sarah Sutton, who turns 60. She played companion Nyssa of Traken, introduced towards the end of Tom Baker's tenure. She was Peter Davison's favourite companion. A child actor (The Moon Stallion, Alice in Wonderland), Sutton never went to drama school, which is something she regretted. After Doctor Who work dried up, so she gave up acting to concentrate on family. She still portrays Nyssa on audio.

Saturday 11 December 2021

On This Day... 11th December

The Daleks' Master Plan gave us its fifth episode today in 1965 - Counter Plot, This is one of only three instalments of this 12 part serial which still survives.
It is also the only Doctor Who episode (or its spin-offs) to have made its debut on this day. Many of the series of Nu-Who had their openings in the Spring, whilst seasons in the classic era often paused for a break over Christmas and New Year, to avoid stories being interrupted halfway through. 
Even when Nu-Who series opened in the Autumn, they had usually finished by late November, to allow a long enough break until the Christmas Special.

Friday 10 December 2021

Chris Achillios - An Appreciation


Christos Achillios was born on Cyprus in 1947, moving to Britain in 1960. He studied art at Hornsey College of Art. His first book cover art was for Tandem Books - subjects ranging from Westerns to Science Fiction and Fantasy (such as the Pellucidar books of Edgar Rice Burroughs).
The Target imprint began in earnest in 1972, when they bought the paperback rights to three previously published Doctor Who novelisations - Doctor Who in an Exciting Adventure with the Daleks, Doctor Who and the Zarbi and Doctor Who and the Crusaders
Achilleos was commissioned to provide new covers for these and we saw his trademark style for the first time. This featured a B&W image of the Doctor, in a colourful setting, but against a stark white background. The background would be made more interesting with some special effects, such as planets and starscapes or strange clouds. The Cave Monsters was enlivened with a volcanic landscape.
The first three books were published in 1973, and Target had agreed with the BBC for the novelisation of more stories. Initially these concentrated on the current Doctor - Jon Pertwee. Achilleos' personal favourite Doctor to paint was Patrick Troughton, because of his interesting lined face.
Later books dispensed with the white background. After a time, Achilleos grew dissatisfied doing the covers, the amount of work far outweighing the money he was receiving. He painted the covers for the first 12 books, then stood down for the next 4 (Peter Brooke took over). He then did the next 16 consecutive covers, after which he finally moved on to other projects. As well as the story titles, Achilleos also provided the art for a number of other publications - such as the two Target Monster Books. He was not happy to discover that the artwork for the first of these was being adapted for advertising without his knowledge or consent. He was particularly angry when the cover art of the Second Doctor Who Monster Book was used to promote Time Life's purchase and broadcast of the run of Tom Baker stories in the USA.
In recent years a number of artists attempted to create book covers for Nu-Who stories in Achilleos' style - so it only made sense for him to return and create some himself.
In May 2016 I had the pleasure of seeing some of his original cover art at London's Cartoon Museum, where it hung alongside the work of other Target artists.

Like all Target cover artists of the time, Achilleos was rather dependent on publicity images supplied from the BBC. His likenesses of the Doctors were superb, and you can often spot the photographs from which he took them. Other characters were sometimes taken from photographs as well. The Nestene octopoid on the the cover of Doctor Who and the Auton Invasion, however, came from an unrelated comic strip. For Doctor Who and the Zarbi, he provided some wonderful real ant images - but the BBC vetoed this, saying the Zarbi had to look like they were seen on screen. When it came to Daleks, he tended to use the ones taken from the TV Century 21 comic strip. For Doctor Who and the Dalek Invasion of Earth, he got the right Daleks, but used the movie spaceship and Roboman.
My personal favourite of his covers just happens to have the wrong thing on it - Doctor Who and the Cybermen is an adaptation of The Moonbase, but features a Cyberman from The Invasion. (Still, another artist - Jeff Cummins - made exactly the same mistake for Doctor Who and the Tomb of the Cybermen).
A lot has been said about the importance of the Target books in the pre-video days, as the only means of reliving these stories. There was a general dearth of imagery from the series as well, unless you happened to have the Radio Times 10th Anniversary Special or those aforementioned Monster Books. Achilleos' covers gave us a visual reminder of those stories, so were treasured just as much as as the contents.