Tuesday 31 May 2022

Schrodinger's Post (Updated)

Something rather odd going on with the blog today - with one post both existent and non-existent at the same time...
The first A-Z post yesterday was "K is for... Khan Family", but when I looked at the blog main page earlier today this post was missing. However, it is still listed on the posts list down the right hand side, and you can go straight to it, and it also appears if you click on the A-Z label - it just isn't there if you look at the blog main page.
Unless I've accidentally made this post invisible I don't know what's caused this glitch, though it might be significant that it was at the bottom of a page (or the top of the next). 
If you have any ideas do let me know.

Update: it popped back up again. Must have been something to do with it being top / bottom of a page.

On This Day... 31st May

Today in 2008 one of the most significant characters of the Moffat era made her debut - River Song. Alex Kingston appeared for the first time in Silence in the Library. As we've said before, for a programme about a time traveller, it rarely took full advantage of time travel other than as a means of getting to a particular setting. River's entire existence was dependent on temporal twists and turns.
Back in 1969, The War Games was still going strong with its seventh episode.

Monday 30 May 2022

K is for... Kinda

A tribe of peaceful humanoids who lived a tranquil existence in the forests of the planet Deva Loka. This world was visited by a military-scientific survey team which had come to evaluate the planet for potential colonisation. They took two of the Kinda as hostages after some members of their team failed to return from their explorations. Science Officer Todd informed the Doctor that they were mute, with telepathic abilities. Though they lacked any form of technology they must once have been a highly advanced people as a necklace they wore was a copy of a DNA sequence, and some wind chimes in a forest glade were arranged in perfect musical scale. They also possessed a small wooden box which was actually an advanced healing device, using ultrasonics.
The Kinda never dreamed alone, as to do so could allow a malevolent entity called the Mara to enter into the real world. The Mara were destined to destroy the tribe time and time again.
A crazed member of the survey team - Hindle - found he could manipulate the hostages after they saw their image captured in a mirror.

The Doctor and Todd encountered two female members of the tribe who dwelt apart - an old woman named Panna and her young acolyte Karuna. They could both talk.
When Panna died, her spirit merged with that of Karuna.
After Tegan Jovanka had accidentally allowed the Mara to cross over, it possessed a male Kinda named Aris.
The Doctor helped to destroy the Mara, freeing the Kinda from the cycle of destruction, whilst the survey team elected not to nominate Deva Loka for colonisation.

Played by: Aris (Adrian Mills), Panna (Mary Morris), Karuna (Sarah Prince), Michael Mungarven, Barney Lawrence (hostages), Lee Cornes (Trickster). Appearances: Kinda (1982).
  • Adrian Mills is best known as a TV presenter, who came to prominence on That's Life.
  • One of the younger Kinda children is played by Jonathan Miller, who is better known today as Jonny Lee Miller.
  • Lee Cornes was a regular on Grange Hill.
  • Mary Morris was one of the No.2's in The Prisoner. She previously starred in the classic BBC sci-fi drama A For Andromeda.

K is for... Kimus

A young man from the planet Zanak. A neighbour named Pralix was the brother of his friend Mula, and he had recently fallen ill. He was transforming into a telepathic Mentiad, who were a group persecuted by the Captain, who ruled this world. Kimus was more open-minded than the rest of his people, and did not fear the Mentiads. When they took Pralix away, he and Mula joined forces with the Doctor and Romana to find him. Mentiads were created through mental shock, when Zanak jumped through time and enveloped other inhabited planets. The death of the life-force smashed through mental barriers for some receptive individuals. 
On learning the truth about his planet, Kimus vowed to avenge the many dead worlds it had left behind. Kimus and the Doctor broke into the Captain's headquarters - the Bridge - when Romana was captured - only to be taken prisoner themselves. Later, it was Kimus who shot the Captain's nurse - really the ancient tyrant Queen Xanxia of Zanak in a new body - destroying her.

Played by: David Warwick. Appearances: The Pirate Planet (1978).
  • When he played the Police Commissioner in Army of Ghosts, Warwick became only the second actor to have appeared in both the classic era of the show and its revival.

K is for... Kimber

Mr Kimber was an elderly passenger on the Hyperion III spaceliner which, in 2986, was travelling from the planet Mogar to Earth. He identified a fellow passenger as a man named Hallett, who was an investigator. The man denied this, claiming to be a mineralogist called Grenville. This exchange took place in front of other passengers.
His real identity potentially exposed, Grenville faked his own death and disguised himself as a masked Mogarian instead. Later, Mr Kimber was attacked and killed by a Vervoid - a hostile plant creature which was being transported to Earth. His body was taken into the air ducts to be used as a form of compost for the Vervoids.

Played by: Arthur Hewlett. Appearances: Trial of a Time Lord (Parts 9 - 12) (1986).
  • Hewlett had earlier appeared in State of Decay as the rebel leader Kalmar.

K is for... Kilburne, Major Cal

A UNIT officer who came to debrief Brigadier Alistair Gordon Lethbridge Stewart following his visit to Peru. His visit coincided with that of Sarah Jane Smith and Rani Chandra. The Brigadier disliked him as he seemed to be ordering him around. Later, the Brigadier attempted to smuggle Sarah and Rani into UNIT's Black Archives, and they found Kilburne there. The Brigadier claimed to be looking for material for his memoirs, but the suspicious Kilburne checked the CCTV and saw Sarah stealing an artefact known as the Scroll of Horath.
He followed everyone back to Bannerman Road where he revealed himself to be an alien Bane in disguise. They were wanting to stop the rogue Bane Mrs Wormwood from using the Scroll.
He was overpowered by the Brigadier, who held him captive until after Mrs Wormwood had been stopped.

Played by: Simon Chadwick. Appearances: SJA 2.6 Enemy of the Bane (2008).

K is for... Khrisong

A warrior monk from Det-sen monastery in Tibet, 1935. He believed that the Doctor was responsible for the local Yeti becoming aggressive - especially when Professor Travers claimed that he had killed his companion. Travers was leading a small expedition to the area in search of the "Abominable Snowman", and thought the Doctor a rival. Khrisong had the Doctor tied to the outside of the monastery gates, expecting the Yeti to come and rescue their master, but was forced to release him when the young monk Thonmi announced that the Abbot Songsten had ordered this. The Doctor had returned a missing sacred relic, and was to be treated as an honoured guest.
He later came to trust the Doctor as they tried to protect the monastery. He refused to leave when all the other monks evacuated the complex. When he tried to get the Abbot to leave, Songsten - hypnotised by Padmasambhava, who was in turn under the control of the Great Intelligence, killed him.

Played by: Norman Jones. Appearances: The Abominable Snowmen (1967).
  • The first of three appearances by Jones in Doctor Who. The next was as Major Baker in The Silurians, and the last was as Hieronymous in The Masque of Mandragora.
  • Khrisong's name (and that of the monastery) derives from King Khrisong Detsen, ruler of Tibet in the 8th Century.

K is for... Khan, Noor Inayat

The Doctor encountered Khan when she and Victorian scientist Ada Lovelace were transported through time by the Kaasavin to Nazi occupied Paris in 1943. She helped to hide them from the Germans, who were being commanded by the disguised Master. Khan was a British agent, a member of the SOE (Special Operations Executive) who acted as spies and saboteurs behind enemy lines. The Doctor used her radio equipment to contact the Master, and then had Khan inform London that the Master was a British spy - knowing that the Nazis would be monitoring the signal.
She made a brief visit to England in 2020 after the Doctor stole the Master's TARDIS, but had her memories erased after the Doctor took her back to 1943.

Played by: Aurora Marion. Appearances: Spyfall Part II (2020).
  • Khan was the first female radio operator to be sent into France to assist the Resistance. She was betrayed and captured, and ended her life in Dachau concentration camp on 13th September 1944, aged 40. She was posthumously awarded the George Cross.

K is for... Khan Family

Several members of Yasmin Khan's family have been involved in her adventures. Her mother, Najia, was employed as General Manager of a huge new hotel which US tycoon Jack Robertson was about to open in Sheffield, where the Khan family live.
This hotel sat within its own golf course, but few people knew that it had been constructed over a dumping ground for toxic waste. This caused local spiders to mutate and grow to enormous size. Robertson sacked Najia when he found her at the hotel prior to it opening and discovered that the rooms were not ready. She was even threatened by Robertson with a gun. Najia found herself running for her life with her daughter when the giant spiders broke out of their tunnels into the hotel complex.
Najia had no issues with the idea that the Doctor might be Yaz's girlfriend.

Sonya Khan was Yaz's younger sister. There was a certain amount of sibling rivalry, such as Sonya wanting Yaz to move out so she could get her bedroom. She attempted to flirt with Ryan Sinclair. In 2017, Sonya had reported her sister to the police when she became worried about her mental health.
When the Doctor protected Yaz by hiding her from Swarm and Azure in her own time-stream, Yaz found herself playing computer games with Sonya - but knew that this could not be a real memory. A Weeping Angel was meddling with Yaz's timeline.

At her grandmother Umbreen's birthday party, Yaz became interested in the history of her family - especially how her gran had met her grandfather as this had coincided with the partition of India in 1947. Umbreen, a Muslim, had been due to marry Prem - a Hindu - when the country was thrown into turmoil by the creation of Pakistan. Prem was killed by his own brother and his friends. Yaz's grandfather was therefore Umbreen's second husband.
To date, Yaz's father Hakim is the only member of the family not to become embroiled in his daughter's adventures.

Played by: Shobna Gulati (Najia), Bhavnisha Parmar (Sonya), Leena Dhingra (old Umbreen), Amita Suman (young Umbreen), and Ravin J Ganatra (Hakim).
Appearances: Arachnids in the UK, Demons of the Punjab (2018), Spyfall, Can You Hear Me? (2020), Flux: Once, Upon Time (2021).
  • Shobna Gulati was well known for her 12 year stint on Coronation Street, and before this she had featured in the Victoria Wood sitcom Dinnerladies.
  • Leena Dhingra had previously played Miss Chandrakala in The Unicorn and the Wasp.

On This Day... 30th May

Romance was brewing for the First Doctor as he got acquainted with elderly Aztec lady Cameca, in The Warriors of Death - the second episode of 1964's The Aztecs.
The Earth was about to move in a different way for the Third Doctor, still trapped on the doomed alternative Earth today in 1970, in the fourth instalment of Inferno.

Today we remember one of the unsung heroes of Doctor Who. Mervyn Pinfield, who died on this date in 1966, aged only 54, was the series' Associate Producer. His role was two-fold - as a technical expert on a programme which was going to feature a lot of VFX, and later as a safe pair of hands to help Verity Lambert settle into her role.
Pinfield was the inventor of the Pini-Prompter - the very first autocue - and was part of the BBC's Langham Group - named after the hotel building opposite Broadcasting House which the BBC had taken over. This group experimented with new televisual techniques.
Pinfield also directed some episodes - the first three instalments of the four part version of Planet of Giants, which involved a lot of VFX, the first four episodes of The Sensorites and The Space Museum.
He was working on Galaxy 4 when he was taken ill, and had to be replaced by Derek Martinus after completing the Ealing filming. Pinfield suffered from a heart condition, which killed him a few months later.
He was portrayed by Jeff Rawle in the 50th Anniversary drama An Adventure in Space and Time.

A few birthdays of note today - Christopher Robbie (the Karkus in The Mind Robber and the first ever Cyber Leader in Revenge of the Cybermen) turns 84; Mark Sheppard (Canton Delaware III in The Impossible Astronaut / Day of the Moon) is 58; Tracy Childs (Metella in The Fires of Pompeii) is 59; and Rachael Stirling (Ada in The Crimson Horror) turns 45.

Sunday 29 May 2022

On This Day... 29th May

A day of Part Two's today.
The second instalment of The Chase promised The Death of Time today in 1965. It only delivered the death of some fishy Aridians and a Dalek, however.
The Daemons was also onto its second episode today, in 1971.
Cold Blood, in 2010, was the second half of the Silurian two-parter which had borrowed the invisible barrier around a village idea from that episode of The Daemons.

Today we wish pearl Mackie a very happy 35th birthday. It is a great pity that we only got Bill Potts for one series - especially when Clara had long overstayed her welcome.

Saturday 28 May 2022

Abominable Update

Apparently a release date for The Abominable Snowmen DVD / Blu-ray / Steelbook has been issued for the USA, and it will be in early December. The Australian release is supposed to be coming in August - so that means that it must be getting a UK release before then. As it isn't mentioned in the latest DWM, even in the preview of the next issue on 23rd June, then a date of 25th July, 1st or 8th August seems likely. 
The Abominable Snowmen just happens to have been broadcast in 1967 - which is the year about to be covered in the latest of the excellent Doctor Who Chronicles, published by DWM.
The year began with The Highlanders, and ended with The Enemy of the World. In between we had The Underwater Menace, The Moonbase, The Macra Terror, The Faceless Ones, Evil of the Daleks, Tomb of the Cybermen, The Abominable Snowmen and The Ice Warriors. A classic run of adventures.
Present should be the usual features covering merchandising, the 1968 Annual, VFX of the day, cast and crew profiles, a production diary for the year, what else was on TV, and Doctor Who in the national news.
I suspect that there will also be a feature on the animating of lost stories, as this year's batch has benefitted greatly from this. 1967 also saw the hugely successful Design-a-Monster competition from Blue Peter.
The bookazine will be released on June 16th.

Episode 21: The Sea of Death

The TARDIS materialises on the beach of a strange island, dominated by a huge pyramid structure. The scanner shows a calm grey ocean, with no sign of life - though Ian thinks he glimpsed movement just as the Doctor switched the screen off. 
They go outside to explore, picking their way through jagged rock formations and over glass-like sand. The Doctor advises that Susan not go into the sea, as they don't know what creatures might lurk beneath the surface. Instead she decides to have a paddle in a rock pool. One of her shoes falls in and Ian stops her from stepping in as he sees it start to dissolve. This is not water but acid. As the pool is a tidal one, it means that the entire ocean is acidic, which explains the glass on the beach. Ian lends Susan his boots so that she can return to the TARDIS to fetch a spare pair of shoes. 
A sinister looking figure clad head to foot in black rubber has been observing them.
Barbara discovers a torpedo-like glass craft on the beach, obviously designed to carry a single operator through the acid sea. A black rubber figure is seen within, but it proves to be an empty suit. Both the craft and the suit have holes in them, and they realise that the occupant has been dissolved.
When Susan fails to return, and is not inside the TARDIS, they suspect she has gone to investigate the pyramid.
When they get there, they split up - the Doctor walking round in one direction, and Ian and Barbara the other. The Doctor then also disappears. They discover that there are hidden panels in the walls of the structure, and soon all find themselves inside. Susan is attacked by the black-clad figure, but it suddenly falls dead with a knife in its back. Ian spots a hooded man dressed in white robes. When he tries to speak to him, the man is attacked by another black-clad figure. This one falls through a hidden panel, plunging into the acid sea below.
They are all reunited in a large chamber in which there is a large machine. The old man in white robes introduces himself as Arbitan. This machine is known as the Conscience of Marinus - that being the name of this world. The Conscience was designed to suppress evil and wrong-doing, making Marinus one of the most peaceful planets in the galaxy. However, a man named Yartek and his followers - the Voord, who are the figures who dress in black rubber - found themselves immune to its effects. Arbitan has now perfected it so that it will work on them as well, but he requires the four micro-circuit keys which operate the Conscience to do this. To prevent these falling into hostile hands, they have been scattered across the planet. Arbitan asks the Doctor and his companions to go and fetch them. They refuse and return to the TARDIS - only to find that Arbitan has placed a force-field around it. They will have to comply with his wishes.
He explains that he has sent several of his followers to fetch the keys - including his daughter - but so far none have returned. They are given special wrist-worn travel dials programmed to reach each key location. Barbara goes on ahead, so the others quickly follow.
As soon as they have gone, a Voord enters the Conscience chamber and kills Arbitan.
The Doctor, Ian and Susan find themselves outside a large building, with no sign of Barbara. Ian spots her travel dial lying on the ground, and is horrified to find that it has blood on it...
Next episode: The Velvet Web

Written by: Terry Nation
Recorded: Friday 20th March 1964 - Lime Grove Studio D
First broadcast: 5:30pm, Saturday 11th April 1964
Ratings: 9.9 million / AI 62
Designer: Raymond P Cusick
Director: John Gorrie
Guest cast: George Coulouris (Arbitan), Peter Stenson, Martin Cort, Gordon Wales (Voord).

Following the success of his Dalek story, Terry Nation was approached about contributing a further script. This was to have been a historical one, set against the backdrop of the Indian Mutiny - a story known as "The Red Fort". This fifth slot had originally been earmarked for a story by Malcolm Hulke, generally referred to as "The Hidden Planet". This would have seen a world identical to Earth but on the opposite side of the Sun, where the ruler looked like Barbara, and various things would be reversed or inverted. Problems arose and this story was pushed back to later in the season. (It would eventually be written off after multiple attempts to rewrite it over the next two years).
To replace it, Terry Nation was invited in for a meeting with Verity Lambert, David Whitaker and Mervyn Pinfield, and was asked to come up with another futuristic story. It was needed quickly but they knew that he could write swiftly and need little editing.
A follow-up meeting with Whitaker saw Nation come up with the idea of four linked mini-adventures, making up a quest scenario. The writer had already used elements of this form of storytelling to pad out The Daleks.
In its earliest form, the Voord were immune to the Conscience machine and had been ejected from Marinus. Now through interbreeding they had become more like Marinians, and only Arbitan - last of the great scientists who had built the machine - was immune. He needed to dismantle it and put it back together to make it work, and for this needed its keys. The TARDIS crew would have been sent to the first location by a transmat booth, and would only know the location of the next key at each of their destinations, so could not jump ahead.
Strangely, Arbitan is not the villain of the story. Ordinarily, someone who put a force-barrier up around the TARDIS to coerce the travellers into doing what he wanted would be the enemy for the week, and the episode would be spent trying to free the ship and to defeat him. Instead, he's presented more as a neutral character, who initiates further adventures. There is a noticeable jump, however, between the travellers finding the force-barrier and them agreeing to use the travel dials so there may have been more of a struggle, just off screen.

It was hoped - especially by Nation - that the Voord might prove to be just as popular as the Daleks. The newspapers took lots of photographs with Carole Ann Ford posing with one of them (played by Peter Stenson). Verity Lambert made sure to tell the press that they did not feature in every episode, but that there were other monsters to be seen over the course of the story.
Nation gave only a vague description of the Voord, so Daphne Dare designed them based on beetles and on frogman wet suits. The helmets and webbed gloves were made by father and son contractors Jack and John Lovell, whilst their submersibles were made by Shawcraft (builders of the Daleks), who also made the Conscience machine and the titular keys.
In an interview conducted many years later by Steve Cambden for his book The Doctor's Effects, Jack Lovell claimed that it was professional wrestlers who were cast as the Voord, but this was not the case.

George Coulouris was a very big name draw as a guest star, having featured in the Orson Welles classic Citizen Kane. He had worked with William Russell before, and later claimed to have enjoyed his single week on the programme.
You will notice that Coulouris is not playing Arbitan in the early scenes where he is silently walking around the pyramid corridors, with his hood up. Instead, he is being played by extra John Beerbohm. This was because there had to be a very brief fight sequence with one of the Voord.
Arbitan's name derives from "arbiter" - someone who has influence or has the ultimate authority to make decisions.
Marinus was named for the fact that it has a distinctive ocean. Terry Nation had previously given us the scarred Skaro, and will provide descriptive names for many more planets and species over the years.

Ray Cusick had some serious concerns about this story, as it would not be using the same sets and props throughout. The quest nature of the story meant different locations each week, and therefore different design elements. This issue was apparent from this very first episode when, after completing the Conscience machine, there was no money left for the background. Cusick had to resort to black drapes, when the walls should have been lined with books and documents as in a library. The set had elements which were due to be binned following a light entertainment show added to make it more visually interesting.
He also found the director disinterested in the VFX - reporting that he sat reading his newspaper when they were being filmed. When the Voord falls through a wall panel after attacking Arbitan, Cusick pointed out that it looked as if it was simply falling into a broom cupboard. He suggested showing it falling down into the acid sea, achieved using a model shot. A small rubber Voord was dropped down a cardboard tube into a bowl of water, with suitable sound effects added.

William Hartnell has a very unsettled few minutes at the beginning of the episode, with three noticeable fluffs.
Before leaving the TARDIS to explore: "Yes, I don't think... I don't see why not. There's nothing... no danger about".
When asked if the sea could be frozen he responds: "No, impossible at this temperature. Besides, it's too warm".
After Ian has given his boots to Susan: "And if you'd had your shoes on, my boy, you could have lent her hers".
Ian's remark that his boots will give Susan lovely corns was an ad lib by Russell.

  • This is the first episode of a story which has always been known as The Keys of Marinus.
  • This is the first time that the TARDIS is actually seen to materialise - a model shot filmed at Ealing in early March. It materialises silently.
  • In an early version of the script the Doctor told Barbara that he had colour TV in the TARDIS, and had been visiting the BBC when he had a problem with it, but they refused to help. On screen he simply says that his colour scanner is hors de combat - 'out of the fight'.
  • Carole Ann Ford wears a green corduroy top in this story - made by her mother.
  • Peter Stenson and Martin Cort will both be back playing other characters before this story ends.
  • Stenson later wrote about his experience in the Voord costume for a rubber fetish magazine.
  • Despite there not being a cliff-hanger leading into this episode from the previous one, Ian is wearing the same Chinese silk tunic from Assassin At Peking, so clearly this follows directly after. This tunic later sold in auction at Bonhams for £2520.
  • After Barbara falls through the revolving wall, Jacqueline Hill can be seen in the background of the very next scene, hurriedly trying to get out of shot.
  • We also get to see one of the stagehands behind the revolving wall when it opens.
  • Later on, William Russell is doing his finest miming-of-an-invisible-wall routine, when Carole Ann Ford passes right in front of him, between him and the TARDIS.
  • The plural of the villains in this episode can be both Voord or Voords - both names are used on screen and in documentation.
  • As had become the norm, Radio Times publicised the opening episode of the new story, in this case including a paragraph on William Russell:

On This Day... 28th May

The Doctor thought he had come across an advanced and enlightened society today in 1966, in the opening episode of The Savages. This was the very first instalment not to have its own individual episode title.
In 2005 the Doctor showed off some of his moves in The Doctor Dances, one of the stupidest titles ever. The Doctor does dance, but only at the end of the episode after the actual plot has ended. Moffat was using the word as a euphemism for sex, but there's none of that either. He and Rose just talk about it briefly - again nothing to do with the plot at all.
2011 saw the debut of The Almost People, another concluding episode of a two-parter.

Today we have a brace of female guest artist birthdays - 
   Anne Reid (The Curse of Fenric, Smith and Jones) turns 87,
   Carey Mulligan (Blink) is 37,
   Michelle Collins (42) is 60,
   Faith Brown (Attack of the Cybermen) is 78,
   Patricia Quinn (Dragonfire) is also 78,
And Kylie Minogue (Voyage of the Damned) is 54.

Friday 27 May 2022

On This Day... 27th May

After being seen in Canada first, and then in the US, Doctor Who - The Movie finally made its debut on the BBC today in 1996. The film had already been released on VHS prior to this.
Back in the classic era, The Evil of the Daleks moved on to its second episode in 1967 - the only one remaining from this story.
In 1972 The Time Monster had also reached its second instalment.
More recently, Series 2 gave us The Idiot's Lantern in 2006, and Series 10 The Pyramid at the End of the World in 2017.

Today we remember Dr Kit Pedler, the co-creator of the Cybermen. He died on this day in 1981, aged 53. Christopher Magnus Howard Pedler was brought onto Doctor Who by story editor Gerry Davis, who was looking for someone to act as a sort of scientific adviser on the show. Pedler was an eye specialist. Their first collaboration led to The War Machines, when they thought about the Post Office Tower being taken over by a malign force. Pedler suggested a computer for a villain, attacking people through the telephone lines. The next idea they came up with was the Cybermen, who first appeared in The Tenth Planet. Pedler had been inspired to create them after discussing spare part surgery with his wife one day - what would happen if too much was replaced? Pedler co-wrote the first three episodes but then ended up in hospital, so Davis wrote the final chapter by himself. They next worked together to bring us The Moonbase and then Tomb of the Cybermen. Pedler was the ideas man, and Davis the writer. 
By the time Tomb was made Davis had left the series, however, and Pedler's final two contributions were story ideas only, realised by David Whitaker (The Wheel in Space) and Derrick Sherwin (The Invasion). Davis and Pedler went on to work together again when they created Doomwatch.
Ecological issues were of great concern to him and he wrote books on the subject.

We also remember one of the stars of a story mentioned above. George Cormack featured in the latter episodes of The Time Monster as King Dalios, and later portrayed the Time Lord K'anpo in Planet of the Spiders. He passed away on this day in 1983, aged 75.

Thursday 26 May 2022

Story 252: In The Forest Of The Night

In which the Doctor is disturbed by someone knocking on the door of the TARDIS... 
This proves to a be a young girl named Maebh, who says she is looking for a doctor. The Doctor is concerned that the ship is not going where he wants it to go. It should be in Trafalgar Square, but is instead in the middle of a forest.
Maebh takes him outside and shows him that they are in the Square, but an entire forest has sprung up in it. 
At the Natural History Museum in Kensington, Danny and Clara have just come to the end of a sleep-over with their class of "gifted" children. On trying to exit the building they discover that a lot of foliage is now blocking the doors, and they have to force their way out. They also discover that one of their pupils has disappeared - Maebh.
It transpires that this overnight tree growth is not confined to the UK, but is replicated all over the planet. The British government announces that it will burn the trees down.

Assuming that the Doctor will already be investigating this, Clara phones the Doctor and learns that he has Maebh with him at Trafalgar Square. Danny organises the rest of the pupils and they head in that direction through the forest. Maebh's mother is also heading into the city on her bicycle to find her.
Everyone gathers in Trafalgar Square where the Doctor allows them all into the TARDIS. One of the pupils, Ruby, shows him a branch which has no growth rings in it - meaning that the forest must have sprouted overnight.
Danny spots homework folders in the ship - proving that Clara has not been honest with him about no longer travelling with the Doctor. Amongst the papers are drawings which appear to feature a ball of fire from the sky, which the Doctor interprets as a solar flare. Today's date is also mentioned. It transpires that it was Maebh who drew these. Clara tells the Doctor that the girl has been hearing voices ever since her older sister went missing the previous year. The Doctor realises that someone has been trying to warn everyone through Maebh, but no-one has been listening. They notice that she has gone missing again, and decide to track her through her mobile phone.

Maebh leaves a trail of belonging and the Doctor and Clara follow, whilst Danny remains in the TARDIS with the rest of the pupils. However, they talk him into all going after them. The Doctor and Clara come upon a group of men in protective suits, who are using flame throwers on the vegetation. However, the plants and trees will not burn.
They eventually find Maebh, who is being threatened by a pack of wolves, escaped from London Zoo. They are chased away by another escapee - a tiger. When this approaches them, it too is chased off, this time by Danny and the other pupils who dazzle it with a flashlight.
Maebh finds herself surrounded by tiny points of light which dance around in the air. The Doctor uses his sonic screwdriver to hold them still, and they communicate through Maebh. They are the life-force of the trees. They have existed for all of time, and will always exist. They warn of the impending solar flare, then ask to be released. The Doctor lets them go, freeing the girl.

Clara wants the Doctor to use the TARDIS to carry them all to safety, but they refuse to leave their families, and Danny also refuses to go. Clara decides to also stay behind. The Doctor realises that this sort of global event has happened before. The trees have saved the Earth, and will do so again. On hearing from the children that the world's governments are going to use chemical defoliants, he has them all compose a message to send out to world leaders, urging them to protect the trees as they have protected the planet. Maebh's mother turns up to find her daughter, and the rest of the pupils decide to head for home. Only Clara accepts the opportunity to observe the solar flare from space. They see a ball of flame envelope the Earth, but fail to cause damage due to the tree cover. This event is also being observed by Missy...
Back in London, Clara and the Doctor see the additional trees crumble away. On her way home, a vanishing bush reveals Maebh's missing sister.

In The Forest Of The Night was written by Frank Cottrell-Boyce, and was first broadcast on Saturday 25th October 2014. The title comes from the 1794 poem The Tyger, by William Blake:

Tyger, tyger, burning bright
In the forests of the night
What immortal hand or eye
could frame thy fearful symmetry?

Cottrell-Boyce elected to make it "forest", singular, as his is a single global entity. As well as the forest setting, the title sets up the appearance of a tiger, escaped from the zoo at Regents Park, later in the episode.
The writer was best known for his children's fiction, including a sequel to Ian Fleming's Chitty Chitty Bang Bang. He came to national fame when he was selected to write the scenario for the opening ceremony of the 2012 London Olympic Games. This was based loosely on themes from The Tempest.
For his Doctor Who debut Cottrell-Boyce delivered a story which very much leans on magic and fantasy, despite it attempting to give a scientific explanation for events. This don't really work but, coming just a few weeks after someone has attempted to sell the idea that the Moon is an egg, it doesn't seem as bizarre as it should be.
This time we are expected to believe that trees have spirit life-forms which can work together to predict solar flares and pre-empt them by growing flame-retardant forests that cover the entire surface of the Earth overnight...
The only damage which we see is Nelson's Column collapsing. When the forests vanish there ought to be widespread devastation, but this is simply glossed over.

Maebh's full name is Maebh Arden. The name Maebh is an Irish one, meaning "she who rules" or "the intoxicated one". It was also the name of a warrior queen of Connacht, as well as a queen of the fairies. Presumably it is the latter which inspired Cottrell-Boyce. Arden is the name of a famous forest in central England, which has connections with William Shakespeare. It is the setting for As You Like It, and "Arden" was his mother's miden name. The forest stretched from Stratford-Upon-Avon in Warwickshire to Tamworth in Staffordshire.
Children, and children's literature, feature prominently - the story having few adult guest artists. Maebh wears a bright red coat, inspired by Little Red Riding Hood (even encountering wolves), and her leaving of a trail of belongings reminds us of Hansel & Gretel.
Fortunately the child cast are very good, otherwise this could have been a complete disaster (Fear Her and Night Terrors had been let down by their child actors).
Maebh is played by Abigail Eames, and her mother by Siwan Morris. The main speaking child actors are Jaydon Harris-Wallace (Samson), Ashley Foster (Bradley) and Harley Bird (Ruby).
Michelle Gomez makes her final cameo as Missy, as her identity will be revealed in the first part of the series finale next week.

Overall, an enchanting, magical episode. Just a pity it isn't a Doctor Who one... The appearance of Maebh's missing sister at the end is one of the naffest scenes in the whole of Doctor Who.
Things you might like to know:
  • Blake's poem had featured in the series once before. When Tommy had his mental abilities boosted by the blue crystal from Metebelis III in Planet of the Spiders he read the first four lines of the poem.
  • Doctor Who is advertised on the side of a bus. This is one of only two occasions when the series got self-referential, the other being the near announcement of the programme about to start on TV in Remembrance of the Daleks.
  • The story was filmed in a Welsh forest (Forest Fawr) using pieces of London street furniture, cardboard cut-outs and photo blow-up backdrops to make it look like the characters are in the capital.
  • The Doctor mentions two historical events - Tunguska, Siberia (1908), and Curuca, Brazil (1930) - in which something from space exploded in the air before it could strike the ground. He suggests that these were both incidents when the forests saved the planet in the past.
  • He insists that everyone will forget about this event - citing previous incidents involving alien invasions and monsters running amok. However, people didn't walk about with cameras in their phones when the Yeti were in the Underground, or when the Skarasen swan up the Thames. Nor was there CCTV everywhere.

On This Day... 26th May

The Green Death delivered its second episode today in 1973.
2007 saw the Virgin New Adventures novel Human Nature adapted as a two-part story for the Tenth Doctor. The first half was broadcast today - titled after the book.

Today we remember actor Stephen Thorne, who passed away on this date in 2019, aged 84. He tended to be hidden behind masks and make up for his performances in Doctor Who - all four of them.
The first role he was given was that of the Daemon Azal in The Daemons. Originally the character was going to be voiced by another actor, but as he was an established radio performer it made sense to let Thorne speak his own lines. He was back in Season 10 as the Time Lord Omega in The Three Doctors. He was an Ogron in Frontier in Space which, although shown after The Three Doctors, was made first. His final role was as the male version of Eldrad in the fourth episode of The Hand of Fear.
Thorne was employed by Barry Letts to act opposite the candidates in their audition for the role of Sarah Jane Smith, and he also used him in his second Doctor Who radio story "The Ghosts of N-Space".

We also remember Peter Cushing - the cinema Dr Who - on what would have been his birthday. He starred in Dr Who and the Daleks and Daleks: Invasion Earth 2150AD, as well as in the pilot for a radio series, written by Malcolm Hulke, which sadly never made it into full production. The latest issue of DWM, out today, has a lot to say about the movies. Cushing passed away in 1994, aged 81.
The films are about to get 4K restorations and will have a limited cinema outing. They used to be shown regularly on C4 in the UK, but have lately appeared on both Talking Pictures and the Horror Channel (indeed, they are back to back on the latter this Sunday - 29th May - alongside Hammer's Quatermass and the Pit).

Wednesday 25 May 2022

On This Day... 25th May

The Wheel in Space reached its penultimate episode today in 1968. This just happens to be the very first episode that I can say I definitely saw on its first broadcast. I have vague memories of the Yeti, but nothing that would let me pin them down to any specific episode.
In 1974 the Doctor and Sarah were on the planet Metebelis III - the Planet of the Spiders. This was the story's fourth instalment.

Today we wish a very happy 83rd birthday to Sir Ian McKellen - voice of the Great Intelligence in The Snowmen.

Tuesday 24 May 2022

On This Day... 24th May

The only episode to have made its debut on this date was the sixth instalment of The War Games in 1969.
In 2012, however, a schools competition winning short was broadcast on the CBBC channel. The rules were that the piece had to be set within the TARDIS, feature only the Doctor and Amy, plus one monster. Good As Gold tied in with the forthcoming London Olympics and saw the torch bearer end up inside the TARDIS, and a Weeping Angel also made an appearance.

Today we remember the man who is widely regarded as the best writer of the classic era - Robert Holmes. He passed away on this date in 1986, aged 60 - an event which led to a controversial period for the series.
Holmes first submitted a story idea when Donald Tosh was story editor. This had previously been submitted to the Out of the Unknown sci-fi anthology series. It was resubmitted in 1968 when it drew the attention of Terrance Dicks. He was allowed to develop it as a spare for Season 6, but after a number of scripts had fallen through it was produced as The Krotons. He quickly followed this up with The Space Pirates. Holmes was selected to write the debut story for Jon Pertwee - the first of the Earth exile stories (Spearhead From Space). The following year he introduced the Master in Terror of the Autons, and three years after that he introduced Sarah Jane Smith and the Sontarans in The Time Warrior. When Dicks announced that he was standing down as script editor at the end of Season 11, Holmes was lined up to replace him. 
There then followed his hugely successful collaboration with producer Philip Hinchcliffe - the gothic horror years. Holmes was called upon to write many of these stories himself, including classics such as The Ark in Space, Pyramids of Mars, The Deadly Assassin, and The Talons of Weng-Chiang.
He stayed on to work with Graham Williams (whose birthday it would have been today) for six months or so, and thereafter contributed the occasional story.
When JNT took over he instituted a policy of not using people who had written for the series before. When it came to the 20th Anniversary story, however, then script editor Eric Saward insisted that it should be written by someone who knew the series inside out. Holmes was first choice. His unused story did see light of day some time later as elements of The Two Doctors.
Holmes wrote Peter Davison's final story - The Caves of Androzani - which is often regarded as best story ever.
After writing the opening section of Trial of a Time Lord, Holmes fell ill. He had been due to round the story off. After he died, Saward insisted on honouring his final scripts, but JNT did not want to end the season on a cliff-hanger. The subsequent fall-out led to Saward quitting, attacking JNT in an interview he gave a short time later.

Monday 23 May 2022

What's Wrong With... Colony In Space

Time Lord files appear to be paper ones, in cardboard folders, kept in filing cabinets. Not the most secure way of keeping secrets such as a weapon that can blow up a galaxy.
On learning that the Master has stolen this particular file, the Time Lords decide to send the Doctor to the planet Uxarieus to prevent him getting his hands on the device.
However, they don't actually tell him where he is going, or why - nothing that might actually allow him to carry out the mission which is so vital to them.
He even arrives on the planet before the Master, but can't take any advantage of this because he hasn't a clue why he's been sent there or what he is up against.

Their arrival coincides with the presence of some colonists and the sudden arrival of some miners. The two groups are antagonistic towards each other, to the extent that relations rapidly break down and they start shooting at each other.
The Master is a Time Lord who has a fully operational TARDIS and can therefore travel to any point in the history of this planet. So why does he elect to arrive in the middle of a range war? Just two years earlier would have seen the planet empty apart from the natives.
Why initially find in favour of IMC, when he must not want them digging up the place whilst he's trying to get his hands on the weapon. Surely it would be better from the off to have to deal with some fairly feeble hippies.

An issue which afflicts many other stories - the colonists just happen to have established their settlement within a stone's throw of the Primitive city, and the miners just happen to want to land right on top of the colonists. There is a whole planet to play with. IMC could have landed on another continent and stripped it bare before the colonists were even aware of them.
We know why IMC have come - lots of lovely duralinium - but why are the colonists even here?
All we see is barren rock - no forests or grass cover. What made them decide that this was the best planet to start farming on?
There must be plant life somewhere, otherwise what do the natives live on. If it isn't around here, why did they not go to where it was?
Why is Earth classifying planets as suitable for colonisation when they are rich in the minerals that it desperately needs? Surely some sort of mineralogical survey should take place before any decision would be made?
Even if their spaceship can't lift-off safely ever again, the colonists could have moved off to another region by other means once they found that their crops weren't growing where they were.
At one point Gail from Coronation Street (Helen Worth plays Mary Ashe) says that the planet has no animal life - and then says there are birds and insects. 

This is the first time that Jo Grant travels in the TARDIS. It is also the first time that she even sees the inside of the ship, which just seems wrong. It is hard to believe that she has worked with the Doctor all this time and she has never asked to see inside, or been shown. If The Mind of Evil really took place 18 months after Terror of the Autons, then that makes it all the more unlikely that she has never been inside the ship.
She's the Doctor's assistant, so surely she would have seen the main thing that the Doctor wanted assistance with?
As for the TARDIS being capable of travel - she just saw it dematerialise in the last story. Why so incredulous now? Surely she must have heard stories from the Brigadier, Benton and Yates as well.
Mind you, Jo actually thinks that the colonists could have left Earth in 1971 when told they left back in '71. She also manages to forget within a couple of minutes that the Master's TARDIS has a booby-trapped entrance, despite only just having to slide along the floor to get inside.
The Master does not use lethal gas because he needs the Doctor's help in accessing the city - before he knows that the Doctor can help him access the city.

Earth is terribly over-populated, yet IMC can only manage one expert mineralogist on their team (Caldwell).
Caldwell pretends that he has killed Winton, and the IMC guards just accept this. They don't even offer to take the corpse away with them. When Dent finds out about this, won't he be suspicious that this does not sound like the sort of action Caldwell is capable of? He's been really outspoken in his opposition to violence.
Caldwell allows the Doctor to drive them both to the IMC spaceship - despite the Doctor not knowing where the spaceship is. (This is because petrol-head Jon Pertwee insisted on driving).
We keep hearing of how the Primitives are harmless, yet they go around with spears and knives at all times and abduct people as hostages for food. 
They are telepathic, yet the Doctor easily fools one with the old coin behind the ear trick, and later the Master launches an attack with smoke bombs, which they surely ought to have seen coming. Even if Time Lords can shield their thoughts, it doesn't explain other human characters like Caldwell knocking them out.
The Doctor realises straight away that a 50 foot high dinosaur can't fit through an 8 foot high door - but the colonists don't, and IMC obviously haven't realised it either or they wouldn't have done something that could so easily be disproved.
IMC must come across a lot of gullible opponents to launch the giant lizard attacks, and to have a spy posing as someone from an unknown colony, all turn up at the exact same time they arrive.
The spy - Norton - goes out of his way to make himself look suspicious, and later when there's a gun battle he shouts out a warning when it's guaranteed to get him killed. That's some loyalty he has to IMC.

The Doctor talks as though the radiation will vanish overnight once the weapon has been destroyed, and crops will suddenly flourish.
The colonists have pretty much declared UDI from Earth, in an armed insurrection. With all that duralinium on the planet, surely it is only a matter of time before the colony gets wiped out after the Doctor and company have left. There isn't even a site of special archaeological significance any more, that might protect the planet from mining, thanks to the Doctor.
Lastly, the TARDIS lands back at UNIT HQ in the opposite corner of the lab from where it took off from. Good job the Brigadier moved to the other side of the room for no real reason then...

On This Day... 23rd May

The Doctor and his companions found themselves in The Temple of Evil today in 1964 - that being the first episode of The Aztecs. One of the best historical stories, we are lucky that it still exists in the archives. A great story for Barbara.
In 1970, the Doctor spent the whole of Episode 3 of Inferno in the parallel world, where he was threatened by nasty versions of his UNIT friends.

Sunday 22 May 2022

Episode 20: Assassin At Peking

At Cheng-Ting way-station Ian is confronted by Tegana, who approaches with sword drawn - goading him into attacking him...
Kuiju is killed as he tries to flee, and Tegana accuses Ian of being responsible for the theft of the TARDIS. They set off for Peking.
In the Imperial Palace at Peking, the Doctor and Kublai Khan play backgammon together. The Doctor is doing well - winning 35 elephants, 4000 white stallions, 25 tigers, the sacred tooth of Buddha, and all the commerce of Burma for one year. He proposes one further game, gambling all his winnings for the return of the TARDIS. When Marco enters, he is shocked to see his gift to the Khan possibly being won back by the Doctor. He reports back to Barbara and Susan what he has seen. 
The Doctor appears a few minutes later, and lets them know that his luck had turned to the bad. He has lost everything, although the Khan has given him a piece of his new paper currency by way of a consolation prize.
Kublai Khan inspects his new gift and Marco admits that he seized it for him solely in order that he might let him return home to Venice.
There is good news for Ping-Cho that evening when the Khan informs her that her husband-to-be has expired after drinking a virility potion. She may stay on in Peking if she wishes it.
The Doctor and his companions realise that Tegana intends to assassinate the Khan, and they rush to warn Marco. He enters the throne room just as the warlord launches his attack, killing the Vizier.
Marco and Tegana fight a fierce sword duel, which the Venetian wins.
Rather than face capture and execution, Tegana elects to throw himself onto the spear of one of the surrounding guards.
Grateful for their warning, Marco gives the Doctor the keys to the ship and the travellers hurry inside. The blue box vanishes in front of everyone.
The Khan informs Marco that he may not be believed when he tells everyone back in Venice of what he has seen in Cathay - thus informing the explorer that he will now be allowed to go home at last.
They ponder where - and when - the travellers may have gone next...
Next episode: The Sea of Death

Written by: John Lucarotti
Recorded: Friday 13th March 1964 - Lime Grove Studio D
First broadcast: 5:30pm, Saturday 4th April 1964
Ratings: 10.4 million / AI 59
Designer: Barry Newbery
Director: Waris Hussein
Additional cast: Claire Davenport (Empress)

And so, after seven weeks, the epic Marco Polo comes to an end. Unusually for the time, it concludes not on a cliff-hanger into the next story but with an image of the travellers standing around the TARDIS console, superimposed against a starry backdrop, and the dialogue remains on the guest characters.
The reason for the star-scape background is that the console had been set up against some black drapes, to avoid having to use up space in the already cramped studio with the full TARDIS set.
As well as the story's lengthy run time on television, a fan with maybe too much time on their hands once worked out that the duration of the adventure, as far as the Doctor and his companions would have experienced it, would be about three months. The events of the second episode alone cover some ten days.
The conclusion is a rather rushed affair, as the travellers suddenly realise what Tegana is up to, and Marco rapidly believes them, after scoffing at their suspicions for the last six episodes. 
The climactic sword-fight between Marco and Tegana was one of the first things filmed for the serial - at Ealing Studios on Wednesday 14th and Thursday 15th January. It was arranged by Derek Ware, who had been the fight arranger on An Unearthly Child, also directed by Waris Hussein. On both occasions, the director handed the action over to his production assistant, Douglas Camfield, as he had a lot more film experience.

Assassin At Peking suffered from an over-run. At this time, episodes went into studio on a Friday after four days of rehearsals. The sets would have been erected the night before. The daytime was used for camera rehearsals, publicity photographs and so forth. The actual recording happened in the evening after dinner, commencing at 8:30pm. Recording had to finish before 9:45pm, as this is when the technical staff would shut the production down, turning off the lights and walking out. The only way round this was to agree an over-run in order to complete a production, where it would be extremely difficult to stage a remount at a later date. The technical staff had to agree this over-run - if they declined, it didn't happen. The cast were also asked, but more as a matter of courtesy as they naturally wanted to complete their work. An over-run meant over-time for the crew, so it was an expensive occurrence which all directors obviously wanted to avoid.
In this instance the cause of the over-run was down to multiple issues. The studio fireman objected to gangways being blocked, a lift bringing camera equipment broke down, and Studio D was often being used as a dumping ground by other productions.
Instead of a 9:45pm finish, this episode wrapped at 9:57pm. A wrap party followed. John Lucarotti could not attend as he had fallen ill, and was also busy writing a second historical story for the series.
The executive producer, Mervyn Pinfield, had to answer to their superiors about the over-run. Donald Wilson responded by stating that in future he expected the production assistant and the studio fireman to resolve these issues quickly between themselves.

Historically, Kublai's rival Noghai lived until 1299, five years after the death of the Khagan. As a great-great-grandson of Genghis Khan, the two men were related. He never ruled in his own right, preferring to be regarded as a general and "king-maker" who would co-rule with others.
One of Kublai Khan's great achievements was the overhaul of China's economy. Part of this was to open the country up to foreign trade. He needed a sound economy as his various foreign invasions cost money. One highly lucrative move was his gaining of a monopoly on salt production.
The Mongols had been issuing paper currency since 1227. In 1260, Kublai Khan issued the first unified paper currency (known as jiaochao). It could be translated into gold or silver, and you could pay your taxes with it. A new version was introduced in 1287, just before the events of this story, but it was an inferior version which could be translated to copper. It may be this which the Doctor is given after losing his backgammon game.

Sadly, Hussein never worked on the programme again. In 1983 Producer John Nathan-Turner attempted to get him back to direct the 20th Anniversary story The Five Doctors, but he declined.
After Marco Polo he directed a BBC adaptation of A Passage to India, as well as the highly regarded Edward and Mrs Simpson. He was reunited with Verity Lambert on the suffragette drama Shoulder to Shoulder. One of his big screen ventures was the film version of the BBC's Six Wives of Henry VIII, once again starring Keith Michell.
He lost a partner, Ian, of 12 years to AIDS during the 1980's. The illness formed the backdrop to another drama of his - Intimate Contact, which starred Daniel Massey and Claire Bloom.
Much of his later career was spent in the United States, on projects as diverse as Copacabana, a musical based on the song, starring Barry Manilow, which earned him an Emmy.
At 83, he has now retired.
In the anniversary drama An Adventure in Space and Time Hussein was portrayed by Sacha Dhawan, who has since gone on to play the Master.

  • The one million viewers which the previous episode lost are more than compensated for by a two million increase this week - confirming that the Easter weekend was probably to blame. The AI remains stable, however.
  • It wasn't the Daleks which first drew the attention of movie-makers to Doctor Who. In July 1964 the Walt Disney organisation made some enquiries about potentially adapting this story as a movie. As nothing came of this approach, it is not known if they were only interested in the historical aspect of the drama, minus the TARDIS and its crew, or if they wanted the whole concept.
  • The Doctor is given a walking stick by Kublai Khan. This prop, which featured carved monkeys on its shaft, would be used by Hartnell on and off over the next three years.
  • For Miller's performance, John Lucarotti had recalled the Canadian TV serial he had written, in which the director had asked the actor playing the Khan to behave more like a fussy little bureaucrat than a great warrior.
  • Mike and Bernie Winters (a sort of poor man's Morecambe and Wise) spoofed Doctor Who in their ITV variety show on the night this episode was broadcast. Bernie played a character called Doctor Shmoo. The sketch also featured Daleks.
  • The video tapes for this story were wiped by the BBC in August 1967, with the film prints following in 1972. As all of the episodes from either side of it still survive (only two other episodes are missing from the rest of the season) this story's rediscovery is often anticipated. It was sold to more than a dozen countries, so perhaps one of these still has a copy, hidden away somewhere...