Thursday 30 June 2022

On This Day... 30th June

Another season drew to a close today in 2007 - the third of the revived series. The Last of the Time Lords saw the apparent death of the Master, but things were left hanging as someone removed his signet ring from his funeral pyre...
Earlier that morning you could have seen a compilation of the animated adventure The Infinite Quest, which had been a feature of that year's Totally Doctor Who.

Today we remember actor Edward Burnham, who cornered the market in eccentric scientists for a time. He was Professor Watkins in The Invasion, and Professor Kettlewell in Robot.
He passed away on this date in 2015, aged 98.
We also lost David Ellis - co-writer with Malcolm Hulke of The Faceless Ones - in 1978, aged 60; and actor Glyn Houston, who made two appearances in the series. The first was as Prof. Watson in The Hand of Fear, and the other was as Colonel Ben Wolsey in The Awakening
He died in 2019, aged 93.

Amongst today's birthdays we have Rupert Graves (Dinosaurs on a Spaceship) who turns 59, and Ashley Walters (Journey to the Centre of the TARDIS) who is 40.

Wednesday 29 June 2022

Story 254: Last Christmas

In which Clara is woken up during the night of December 24th by noises on her roof. She goes up to it and finds Father Christmas and a pair of Elves - Wolf and Ian. They try to pretend that they are ordinary people who have gotten lost, but Clara sees a reindeer fly past.
The TARDIS materialises and the Doctor ushers Clara inside - telling Santa that he knows what is going on.
As they leave, the Doctor tells Clara not to trust anything she sees or hears.
At a scientific research base at the North Pole, some of the crew are watching their colleague Shona attempt to traverse the infirmary. She plays music to take her mind off the figures who are sleeping in the bunks. The TARDIS materialises in the room and Shona thinks the new arrivals to be figments of her imagination. She urges them not to think about the sleeping figures, but they all start to rise up. They are humans, but with crab-like creatures gripping their skulls and covering their faces.

The Doctor realises they are deaf and blind, but see what is going on via telepathy - connecting with those who observe and think about them. Everyone is attacked by more of the creatures which descend from the ceiling.
The attack is suspended when a lot of clockwork and mechanical toys burst through the wall, followed by Santa, Ian and Wolf. Santa orders the affected humans back to bed.
The Doctor deduces that the creatures are Kantrofarri, otherwise known as Dream Crabs. They attack their victims by lulling them into a deep dream state whilst attached to their heads. They then feed off them by liquifying the brain. He realises that the presence of Santa Claus must mean that they are dreaming - and so are currently being attacked by the creatures.
One of the creatures is captured and kept in a glass container for study. It escapes and latches itself onto Clara. She finds herself back at home on Christmas morning, with Danny Pink. Her subconscious tries to warn her she is dying, but she is too happy to be home with Danny to notice.

In order to save Clara, the Doctor decides to enter her dream and allows one of the Kantrofarri to be attached to his head. He helps her accept that her life with Danny is a dream and both wake up. The Kantrofarri which had attached themselves to them both fall to the floor and die, crumbling instantly to dust.
Clara tells the Doctor that she has a pain in the side of her head, and Shona confirms that she also has one there. The Doctor realises that the reality they have awakened into is itself another dream. They were all attacked when they first came into the infirmary, and have been dreaming since then with Kantrofarri attached. They wake up and escape the room.
The Doctor notices that there are four staff manuals in the base, despite there being eight crew - the four awake - Shona, Albert, Ashley and Bellows - and the four in the infirmary. He decides to use an experiment called the Helman- Ziegler Test as he has a theory as to what is happening. Each of the crew must read the first word on a certain page. One of them differs as the words they read out are "very", "very", "very" and "dead". They should all have been the same, coming from the same page of the same manual, so they must all still be dreaming.

The people in the infirmary are images of themselves. One of them attacks Albert through the CCTV monitor, killing him. They rush outside into the snow where the TARDIS stands, but Clara points out that this is not the real TARDIS. The affected people from the infirmary appear but in growing numbers like an army. The Doctor decides to use the dream to their advantage, getting everyone to imagine a means of escape. They are all rescued by Santa and taken into the sky on his sleigh. Within a short space of time they are over London. Each of them starts to wake up in their real life, their Kantrofarri dying as they do so. Bellows is wheelchair-bound, about to have Christmas with grandchildren. Shona will be having her Christmas with her boyfriend watching DVDs.
Clara finds herself at home being visited by the Doctor on Christmas Eve, but she is now an old woman. This proves to be yet another dream, and the Doctor arrives and saves her.
Earlier both had admitted that they had lied to each other - he had not found Gallifrey, and she was not reunited with Danny. She elects to go travelling in the TARDIS with him once again...

Last Christmas was written by Steven Moffat, and was first broadcast on 25th December 2014.
Whilst it is Peter Capaldi's first festive special, it is the third to feature Jenna Coleman.
The title comes from the 1984 Wham! Christmas hit.
It had been planned that Coleman was to have left at the conclusion to Death in Heaven, but Moffat agreed to keep her on as she wanted to stay longer. This was the second time that Moffat had been in the process of writing Clara out of the series, only to have to amend the scripts to retain her. The first time Coleman had asked to stay, and this time Moffat and Capaldi had asked her to stay on.
The character of Shona was the planned new companion.
The inspirations for the story are pretty much explicit rather than hinted at. Several movies are referenced, and Shona just happens to have them on her Christmas DVD viewing list. These are Alien, The Thing From Another World and Miracle on 34th Street.
From Alien (1979) we get the look of the Dream Crabs as "Facehuggers". One of these spider-like creatures attaches itself to John Hurt's face to impregnate him with a baby Xenomorph. This film is actually referenced verbally within the episode as well, as a character actually describes the Kantrofarri as looking like "Facehuggers".
The Thing From Another World is the 1951 sci-fi movie which had already been one of the inspirations for The Seeds of Doom. It features a group of scientists at a remote scientific research station at the North Pole, who are threatened by an alien menace. 
Miracle on 34th Street involves a New York department store Santa Claus who claims to be the real thing. In this episode we are left wondering for a time if Santa really is Santa. I presume that Shona is going to watch the superior original 1947 version starring Edmund Gwenn, rather than the 1994 remake with Richard Attenborough.

The guest cast can be divided into two groups - Santa and his Elves, and the crew of the scientific research base. Previously seen midway through the closing credits of Death in Heaven we have Nick Frost playing Santa Claus. Dan Starkey, who has previously played Sontarans (including Strax), plays elf Ian, and Nathan McMullen is Wolf. McMullen was well known from the E4 sci-fi series Misfits, about a group of community service young offenders gaining superpowers.
The base crew comprise Michael Troughton - son of Second Doctor Patrick - as Professor Albert; Natalie Gumede as Ashley; Maureen Beattie as Bellows; and Faye Marsay as Shona. Marsay had a notable role in The Game of Thrones (which also just happens to be on Shona's list). She played the bullying Waif opposite Maisie Williams' Arya Stark in seasons 5 and 6.
The character of Shona would have made for a great new companion, though we've no idea who might have played her had it been an on-going role.
This episode marks the departure of Samuel Anderson as Danny Pink.

Overall, an entertaining enough Christmas Special, but really an episode that would have worked just as well - if not better - as a standard one, without the Christmas trappings. Santa and the Elves are simply not needed.
Things you might like to know:
  • The Doctor has encountered Santa Claus on a couple of occasions in the past: 
  • The First Doctor met him at the North Pole and discovered that children all over the world wanted TARDISes for Christmas. A Demon Magician was also hampering Santa's efforts to deliver toys. The Doctor used the TARDIS to duplicate toys for Santa and the Demon was lured away into space. This was all in the 1965 TV Comic strip "A Christmas Story".
  • In the 2010 Christmas Special, A Christmas Carol, the Doctor attended a party in 1950's Hollywood at which Father Christmas was supposedly a guest. The Doctor claimed that Santa's real name was Jeff.
  • The Doctor is offended to hear that there is a sci-fi horror movie called Alien, which he thinks is racist. However, he had previously recommended that someone see the film in the 2009 animated adventure Dreamland.
  • Moffat considered having K9 feature in this story.

On This Day... 29th June

Another day of no new Doctor Who being broadcast, but two more instalments of Totally Doctor Who on the CBBC channel.
The edition today in 2006 featured Fear Her, and had Abisola Agbaje as the studio guest.
The 2007 edition didn't have any special guest. The latest episode of the animated The Infinite Quest was shown and The Sound of Drums was the featured TV episode, with Barney Harwood visiting the set of the Valiant.

Today we wish Maureen O'Brien a happy 79th birthday. She played companion Vicki in 1965, from The Rescue to The Myth Makers. She quickly became a close ally of William Hartnell and was never shy about expressing concern with the quality of scripts. After one particular complaint, producer John Wiles decided to let her go - assuming she wanted to leave. She came home from an expensive holiday to discover that she only had a few more weeks of steady work left.
The experience cast a shadow on her attitude towards the programme for many years, and it was only relatively recently that she re-engaged with it. She has also become a successful crime writer, with a series of books about a North London detective - Inspector Bright.
She shares her birthday with Welsh singer Katherine Jenkins, who appeared as Abigail in A Christmas Carol. She turns 42.

Today we also remember the actor John Abineri, who made several appearances in the programme. The first was as Dutch engineer Van Lutyens in Fury from the Deep in 1968, and his last was as Swampie leader Ranquin in The Power of Kroll a decade later. In between he featured in two Jon Pertwee stories - as General Carrington in The Ambassadors of Death, and as the MSC officer Railton in Death to the Daleks. Outside of Doctor Who he played Herne the Hunter in Robin of Sherwood, and was the butler in a series of popular TV adverts for a certain chocolate, served - appropriately enough - at an Ambassador's Ball.
Abineri died in 2000, aged 72.
We also lost Declan Mulholland today, in 1999 at the age of 66. He was the person who gave The Sea Devils their name, and later played Count Grendel's servant Till in The Androids of Tara.
Helen Griffin, who played Mrs Moore in Rise of the Cybermen / The Age of Steel, also passed away on this date in 2018, aged 60.

Tuesday 28 June 2022

On This Day... 28th June

Today in 2008 saw the Children of Time begin to gather in The Stolen Earth. This marked a crossover of all three of the RTD series. It has been said that he wants to (re)establish a "Doctor Who Universe", akin to other multi-part franchises.

Today we wish Lalla Ward a happy 71st birthday. She played the second incarnation of Romana in Seasons 17 and 18, and was once briefly married to a certain Tom Baker.

Monday 27 June 2022

The Collection: Season 22 - A Review

The latest Blu-ray box set release is for Season 22 - Colin Baker's first (and, in some ways, only).
The stories covered are Attack of the Cybermen, Vengeance on Varos, Mark of the Rani, The Two Doctors, Timelash and Revelation of the Daleks. Two very good stories, three okay ones, and one pretty bad one.
The Cyberman story is famously bogged down by continuity, which is a shame. There is the hint of a good story here, but there are too many references to previous Cyberman stories. Even fans disliked this as they failed to honour the continuity properly. Controller and Tombs look nothing like the ones seen previously. Lots of characters get introduced whose plot goes nowhere.
Varos is the only story to have no references to previous stories, and is a far better story. Sil makes for a great villain. Mark of the Rani suffers from the Master's presence. He is simply one Time Lord too many. A lot of nice location filming. The Two Doctors is a bit of a mess. Robert Holmes was presented with too many plot elements, which don't all gel. The biggest problem is that the two Doctors don't get to spend more than about 10 minutes screen time together, and Troughton is even separated from Frazer Hines for much of it. Apparently Holmes was not happy with the previous Sontaran story, but they are woefully underused here.
Timelash is the season's turkey. This one gets new CGI effects which help a little, as this was one of its biggest embarrassment areas. The plot and acting can't be improved with CGI, however. One of its issues was that JNT took the regulars out of rehearsals for his pantomime, which he prioritised over the programme.
The Dalek story is the other very good one. It also has new CGI, dating back to the DVD release.

Apart from the Rani story, the level of on-screen violence has certainly been upped this year - which is one of the reasons given for the hiatus imposed upon the programme, announced part way through The Two Doctors. This event runs like a thread throughout the various interviews and documentaries on this set.
There are three interviews courtesy of Matthew Sweet. The first is with Colin Baker. This is an excellent piece, which only gets to Doctor Who in its final third. The rest is very much about his early life and other work, plus the events surrounding the death of his baby son. The interview with Nicola Bryant seems to get stuck on the fact that she only pretended to be an American to get the role, which Sweet just can't get over. She has more to say about JNT, especially his more controlling aspects.
The reason she did not feature in the Jim'll Fix It Sontaran skit was because she had refused to do the pantomime.
The third interview is with Michael Grade, in which he admits that there was never supposed to be a hiatus but a complete cancellation. He seemed surprised to learn that the series continued for a further four years after the suspension. He is quite unapologetic about his actions, claiming (rightly in a way) that the series was past its best, was too violent, and it was a mistake to throw licence payers money at something which just could not compete with other sci-fi TV and movies of the mid 1980's.
He certainly does not come across as the villain fans thought him to be.

As far as documentaries go, only The Two Doctors gets a new one. The others all had perfectly good ones accompanying their DVD releases. This new doc has its issues. We get a bloke in a Sontaran costume wandering around Seville - except he's just badly superimposed over some still images. There's also a really annoying deliberate image flicker prior to each interviewee being introduced, enough to trigger an epileptic fit.
One other doc associated with this story is a 2006 piece, wherein Nicola Bryant went back to Seville with some fans to visit the locations. This comes across as a very amateurish piece, and should have been better edited. It would have worked far better with Bryant presenting on her own, instead of being part of a large group. More than half the doc sees the group visit locations which didn't even feature in the story, like being forced to watch someone's holiday video.
Sticking with The Two Doctors (which does get two of the eight discs to itself) the short A Fix With Sontarans is included. This comes with a commentary (Baker, Fielding and Gareth Jenkins). The piece is edited to entirely omit Jimmy Saville, his appearance at the end being replaced with an image of Sontaran spaceships on the TARDIS scanner.
Another extra on these discs is the radio serial Slipback. I have to admit that I had managed to go 36 years without listening to this. I really wish I could have gone another 36 years without listening to it.

A popular extra on these sets is "Behind the Sofa". We have three sets of viewers for these stories. The first is Baker and Bryant, joined by Terry Molloy, who features in the first and last of the stories present). The second group comprises Peter Davison, Janet Fielding and Sarah Sutton. The third is Sylvester McCoy, accompanied by Wendy Padbury. She gets one of the best lines when, after commenting on the violence in the Varos story she longs for the return of one of her old foes - "Bring back a Quark, I say".

I know there are those who refuse to buy these sets. The reasons given are usually that most of the content is already out there on DVD, the picture quality can't get all that much better due to the nature of the archive video material, and cost. 
I certainly agree that these are expensive, but thanks to the (over)long gaps between releases you can budget for them easily enough. The picture quality is noticeably improved, and I long to see what they can do with older monochrome material. There are always enough new items as extras to justify the purchase as far as I'm concerned.
Talking of those long gaps, we have yet to be told what the next release is going to be. There are two seasons where we know for definite that new material has been recorded - Season 2 and Season 20.
Of the two, I'd obviously prefer the Hartnell season to be next, but Davison is now lagging behind, with only the one release (19) going back a few years now. An anniversary season for an anniversary year would make sense, so if not next then Season 20 will certainly be seen before 2023 is out.

On This Day... 27th June

Who exactly were The Unwilling Warriors? This was the title of the second episode of The Sensorites, broadcast today in 1964. I'll be looking at this question when I cover the episode in a few weeks time...

Sunday 26 June 2022

Episode 25: Sentence of Death

As he opens the display case in which the key is held, someone strikes Ian down from behind. As he lies on the floor beside the body of a dead man, his attacker places a club-like weapon in his hand...
He awakes to find himself being studied by a man in black uniform who introduces himself as Tarron, an Investigator. Ian is informed that he is suspected of killing the man he had found lying on the floor of the vault. Challenging Tarron to prove it, he is horrified to learn that the justice system in Millennius is that people are guilty until proven innocent, rather than the other way round. Ian is already guilty and sentenced to death, unless he can demonstrate his innocence.
Barbara, Susan, Sabetha and Altos are permitted to visit him. When he asks who in the city might be able to defend him, the Doctor appears and claims the role. He reveals that the dead museum guard was Eprin - the friend of Altos, who the Doctor had gone ahead to meet.
Altos and Sabetha are despatched to the library to study case files of similar crimes.
Susan and Barbara go to the vault where the Doctor recreates the crime. They work out that the only person who could have done the killing was the guard who was first on the scene - having gone out into the corridor and then only pretended to be arriving. This is a man named Aydan. However, knowing this does not necessarily mean Ian can be freed. Proof is needed.
When they go to visit Aydan they meet his wife, Kala. The young man becomes angry at being questioned, and they witness him assaulting Kala when he thinks she has spoken to them about him. After they have gone, Kala is contacted by phone by a man who tells her that her husband is becoming a liability...
As the trial begins, the Doctor must face Prosecutor Eyesen. He has decided to force Aydan to reveal his guilt by setting a trap for him. Called as a witness for the defence, Sabetha claims that one of her keys is actually the one stolen from the museum - and that it was given to her by Aydan. When it looks like he is going to break down and tell of what really happened in the vault he is shot dead by an unseen assassin in the crowd which surrounds him.
The Doctor admits his subterfuge to the court. The senior judge states that these events do not necessarily acquit Ian. Unless there is new evidence, his execution will proceed. 
Concerned about the investigation, the criminals decide to take action.
Barbara receives a note claiming that there will be another death, and then takes a call from Susan, telling her that she has been kidnapped and will be killed if the investigation continues...
Next episode: The Keys of Marinus

Written by: Terry Nation
Recorded: Friday 17th April 1964 - Lime Grove Studio D
First broadcast: 5:15pm, Saturday 9th May 1964
Ratings: 7.9 million / AI 61
Designer: Raymond P Cusick
Director: John Gorrie
Additional Cast: Henley Thomas (Tarron), Donald Pickering (Eyesen), Fiona Walker (Kala), Martin Cort (Aydan), Raf De La Torre (Senior Judge), Alan James & Peter Stenson (Judges), Michael Allaby (Larn).

This episode owes its inspiration to the courtroom drama and the locked room murder mystery - genres which the viewing public would have been very familiar with.
The twist is that in this society you are guilty until proven innocent, rather than the conventional opposite.
We learned in the first episode that the Conscience Machine had made Marinus a peaceful world, as it suppressed evil intent in the population other than for the Voord. The Doctor does mention that murder is a very rare crime in the city, but not that it is non-existent. The citizens also have a judicial system set up to deal with the crime, including the penalty, at a moment's notice. What kind of job security would Eyesen and the guards have if crime never took place? All the evidence points to crimes other than murder being fairly common in the city, as it seems to be across the whole planet, where we've seen Darrius afraid of thieves and Vasor capable of murder and rape. We have no idea about the motivation of the Ice Soldiers, as their nature is never explained, but the Morpho creatures are able to enslave and kill, so it's not just the Voord who are immune to the machine's pacifying effects. Again, we are never told the true nature of the Morpho - are they alien interlopers, or a homegrown menace?
The question we therefore have to ask ourselves is: how long is it that the Conscience has been inoperative? The timescale mentioned by Arbitan is quite confusing, suggesting at times that the machine has only just stopped working, and at others indicating that many years - even centuries - have passed.

Last week I questioned the whereabouts of the other travellers, and I'll repeat it here, for we are never given any explanation. The whole set-up of the story is that Ian hasn't got any witness to prove his innocence, despite travelling with four other people from Vasor's cabin in the mountains at the exact same time. Only he has appeared inside the museum vault. As he is knocked unconscious, and the scene doesn't pick up until we see him wake up, we have no idea where his companions were or what they were doing in the immediate aftermath of the assault.
Another issue is that Tarron seems quite content to leave the unconscious Ian lying on the floor with a head injury, rather than, say, take him to hospital. He's also quite happy to sit alone with someone who he believes to be a murderer. Ian hasn't been tied up and there aren't additional guards present.
For one TV critic at least - Bob Leeson of the Daily Worker - this episode's trial setting was a sign that the story was flagging. Viewers may well have agreed with him, as one million viewers failed to tune in for the next instalment. A lack of monsters this week, and a general lack of incident, may also have been a factor.

In The Daleks Terry Nation had given the Thals Germanic names initially - e.g. Kurt - which were amended at David Whitaker's suggestion to be something more other-worldly. In this episode, however, we get the first example of a character being called Tarron or similar. Nation will deliver variations of this for many of his stories, including episodes of Blake's 7. We will get Taron, Tarron, Tarrant and others. (He is also quite fond of single syllable first names, ideally of only three letters - Del, Roj, Kert, Kerr, Marc, Bret, Bors, Lan, Gan, Zen etc. B7's Del Tarrant has the ultimate Terry Nation name).
I believe that the "Taron" names might well derive from his own name - Terry-N.

Ray Cusick was happier with the sets for this episode. Nation had described the courtroom as a U-shape, with the judges at the open end and Ian on a dais in the curve. The colour scheme was white, with highlights, such as the swastika-like symbol, picked out in red.
Kala's rooms were deliberately kept sparse and minimalist, and used set elements from earlier episodes, such as room dividers from The Velvet Web.

William Hartnell is back and feeling refreshed after his fortnight's break. He told reporters that he had spent some of the holiday at Lingfield racecourse, where he bet on two winners and two runners-up.
He appears to have one good fluff, however: "I can't improve... I can't prove at this very moment...".
Surprisingly, this fluff was actually scripted.
Carole Ann Ford was absent from the first day of rehearsals as she was at Ealing Studios filming material for the second and third instalments of The Aztecs, which would allow her to be the next regular to have a holiday.

  • From this week the series reverts to its original start time of 5:15pm, positioning it between the Telegoons and Juke Box Jury.
  • The change in time did the series no favours at all - it lost 2.5 million viewers on The Snows of Terror. There were two reasons for reduced audiences when programmes changed their start time in the pre-video recorder age. One was that the change simply took people unawares and they tuned in too late, and the other is the impact of whatever was on the ITV channel opposite Doctor Who. If a popular programme on ITV has already started, you might be reluctant to turn over when the BBC show starts 5 or 10 minutes later.
  • Alan James, who had played an Ice Soldier, now plays one of the non-speaking judges - they simply nod or shake their heads whilst Raf De La Torre gets all the lines. 
  • Michael Allaby, another Ice Soldier, plays the character Larn, who is Tarron's guard colleague.
  • Third appearances by Martin Cort and Peter Stenson. Cort gets a proper speaking role this week, whilst Stenson is the other judge.
  • Donald Pickering and Fiona Walker will both feature again in the series right at the very end of its first incarnation, in the Sylvester McCoy era - he in Time and the Rani and she in Silver Nemesis. Pickering will also appear in a story opposite Patrick Troughton - The Faceless Ones.
  • Gorrie cast Walker after she wrote to him: "I am an actress. I am a good actress. I am too good an actress not to be working, so I hope you can do something about this". He found this letter so amusing that he offered her the role of Kala.

On This Day... 26th June

Following a battle between the Daleks and the Mechonoids today in 1965, school teachers Ian and Barbara finally managed to get back to London, albeit 2 years late. These were the events of The Planet of Decision, the sixth instalment of The Chase. The episode also introduced new male companion Steven Taylor, played by Peter Purves, and it was the final episode to be directed by Richard Martin.
The still images of Ian and Barbara running around London, and the film of them on a bus, were the work of director Douglas Camfield, and were part of the production of The Time Meddler.
In 2010 Steven Moffat demonstrated that he had a problem with two-part stories. After the superb The Pandorica Opens, The Big Bang was more of a damp squib. Too much gimmicky timey-wimey nonsense, and a plot that didn't stand up to close examination.

Saturday 25 June 2022

On This Day... 25th June

Only the one episode ever to have debuted on this date, but it is a significant one. The War Machines Episode 1 in 1966 saw the TARDIS arrive in contemporary London for the very first time, other than the odd brief stopover, and we have the bizarre image of the Doctor visiting Covent Garden's trendiest night club in his "fab gear". The episode also introduces a pair of contemporary companions - sailor Ben and secretary Polly. There hadn't been a present day companion since Ian and Barbara left, and they were hardly the embodiment of the '60's zeitgeist.

Today we wish designer Roger Murray-Leach a very happy 79th birthday. When we talk about the Hinchcliffe-Holmes era of the programme, we should also include Murray-Leach's design work as part of its success (alongside costumes by James Acheson and direction by David Maloney).
His first work on the programme was the space station setting for The Ark in Space, which would be reused in Revenge of the Cybermen. As well as the curving outer transom, which could be filmed from either end to vary the shots, he had the cryogenic chamber built upwards rather than horizontally, and used mirrors to create a sense of neighbouring chambers.
With little to do on the Dartmoor location for The Sontaran Experiment, it was Murray-Leach who was tasked with taking the injured Tom Baker to hospital.
Murray-Leach devised the figure-8 Prydonian Seal emblem which is still used as a generic Time Lord symbol to this day. It was first used as a Vogan emblem in Revenge of the Cybermen, then reused for The Deadly Assassin. Murray-Leach was responsible for the grand Panopticon set for this story, which was reused for The Invasion of Time. Future Time Lord stories failed to adhere to his designs, and suffered for it accordingly.
The highlight of his Doctor Who career is undoubtedly the jungle setting created at Ealing Studios for Planet of Evil - a set which was later used as a teaching aid for good design.
His contribution ended alongside that of Hinchcliffe and Maloney, going out with a bang on The Talons of Weng-Chiang, in which he designed the realistic sewer sets plus Greel's impressive House of the Dragon lair, with its huge golden dragon statue.
A few examples of his work:

Friday 24 June 2022

On This Day... 24th June

The action moved away from Victorian Kent to the planet Skaro, and the Doctor came face to face with the Emperor at the conclusion of The Evil of the Daleks Episode 6 today in 1967.
The Time Monster was also on its sixth instalment in 1972, bringing Season 9 to its conclusion. The final image was of a naked Sergeant Benton...
In 2006 Fear Her proved to be a huge disappointment. Devoid of atmosphere, it proved to be the lowest rated story of the revived series in the DWM 50th Anniversary poll (and therefore the worst David Tennant story, and the worst story of the RTD era).
An episode from 2017 which should feature at the opposite end of any 60th Anniversary poll was World Enough And Time, which featured two incarnations of the Master, plus the return of the Mondasian Cybermen - not seen since The Tenth Planet.
This was supposed to be the first half of Peter Capaldi's swansong, but things had to be rejigged when it transpired that Chris Chibnall wasn't going to provide a Christmas Special that year.

Today we remember actor Valentine Dyall, who passed away on this date in 1985, aged 77. 
He portrayed the Black Guardian in The Armageddon Factor in 1978, then reprised the character for a trilogy of stories in 1983 - Mawdryn Undead, Terminus and Enlightenment.
His final involvement with the series was a role in the radio story Slipback, made during the series' enforced hiatus. He died two weeks after recording it, and it was broadcast posthumously.

A few birthdays of note also today:
Yasmin Paige (Maria in The Sarah Jane Adventures) is 31,
Iain Glenn (Father Octavian in The Time of the Angels / Flesh and Stone) is 61,
Simon Rouse (Hindle in Kinda) is 71, as is David Rodigan (Broken Tooth in Trial of a Time Lord: The Mysterious Planet).
Brendan Price (Tomas in The Face of Evil) is 75.
And Julian Holloway (Sgt. Paterson in Survival) turns 78.

Thursday 23 June 2022

On This Day... 23rd June

Season 10 drew to a close today in 1973 with the sixth episode of The Green Death. There wasn't a dry eye in the house as Katy Manning's Jo Grant left the series, and the Doctor drove off alone into the sunset.
In 2007 the third series was nearing its conclusion as the two part finale got underway. The Sound of Drums saw the Master, posing as Harold Saxon, become Prime Minister of the UK. There are those who say this is the middle episode of a three part finale, but it has a totally different director / production team to Utopia, and RTD himself at the time did not see it as a trilogy.

Today we remember Jackie Lane on the first anniversary of her death, at the age of 79. She played companion Dodo Chaplet from the fourth episode of The Massacre through to the second episode of The War Machines.
Others we lost on this date include Nigel Stock (Prof. Hayter in Time-Flight), aged 66 in 1986; Frank Gatliff (Ortron in The Monster of Peladon), aged 62 in 1990; and Peter Birrell (the Draconian Prince in Frontier in Space) aged 68 in 2004.

Today's birthdays include Colin Ryan (Harry in Knock Knock) who turns 36; pop singer Leee John (Mansell in Enlightenment) who is 65; James Marcus (Rask in Underworld) who is 80; and Caitlin Blackwood - young Amelia Pond - who turns 22.

Wednesday 22 June 2022

On This Day... 22nd June

You may have noticed that there have been a few end-of-season episodes recently, so we are heading into the summer months when Doctor Who has rarely been shown (other than repeats). 
Thus, all we have to offer today is more Totally Doctor Who.
The 11th edition of Series 1, in 2006, covered Love & Monsters and had Russell T Davies as guest.
The 11th edition of Series 2, in 2007, covered Utopia. RTD was guesting again, alongside John Barrowman.

Today we remember director Pennant Roberts, who passed away on this date in 2010, aged 69. 
He first worked on the series directing Leela's first story The Face of Evil. He and Louise Jameson became life-long friends. They also worked together on Tenko. He next directed The Sun Makers and The Pirate Planet. His next project was the aborted Shada, which should have closed Season 17 and the Graham Williams era. Attempts to salvage this project led to Roberts becoming the only director to be retained by John Nathan Turner. No other director from before his time was ever employed by JNT.
For JNT he directed Warriors of the Deep and Timelash - two poorly regarded stories. Roberts agreed that they weren't terribly good. He only directed the latter story when he became unavailable to direct the Season 22 story he was originally pencilled in for - Attack of the Cybermen.
As well as Doctor Who, Roberts directed a number of Blake's 7, Survivors and Doomwatch episodes.

We also lost Don Henderson (Delta and the Bannermen) on this date in 1997, aged 64; Daphne Heard (Image of the Fendahl) in 1983 aged 78; and Victor Maddern (Fury from the Deep) in 1993, aged 65.

Birthdays today include Patterson Joseph (61) who featured in Bad Wolf / Parting of the Ways and who was often tipped as a potential Doctor himself. Joe Dempsie (The Doctor's Daughter) is 35; Laila Rouass (The Death of the Doctor) is 51; and Richard Hampton, who was the belligerent villager in The Visitation turns 85.
Ian Levine, the series' unofficial continuity adviser for most of the JNT era, and who is responsible for the saving of a great many B&W episodes, is 69.

Tuesday 21 June 2022

On This Longest Day... 21st June

Yesterday I talked about Inferno being the real end of the 1960's as far as Doctor Who was concerned. 
In several other ways - not least by date - the era ended today in 1969 with Part 10 of The War Games
This marked the conclusion of the Troughton era, and the end of the monochrome era. It saw the appearances by Frazer Hines as Jamie, and Wendy Padbury as Zoe, as series regulars (they would both be back, briefly, for The Five Doctors, and Jamie would get another full story with The Two Doctors).
This episode is also notable for a significant beginning - the debut appearance by the Time Lords.
2008 saw the return of Rose Tyler in Turn Left. She had been seen briefly in a couple of the Series 4 episodes, but made a full appearance here. It is the series' Doctor-lite story, and very much a showcase for Catherine Tate's not-inconsiderable acting abilities. Bernard Cribbins and Jacqueline King are excellent as well.

Today we remember another triple appearance actor - Ivor Salter. He passed away on this day in 1991, aged 65.
His first appearance was as the Morok Commander in The Space Museum, and this was followed a year later by the more substantial role of Odysseus in The Myth Makers. His final appearance in the show was as police Sergeant Markham in Black Orchid.
A couple of birthdays of note today - David Morrissey (The Next Doctor) is 58, and Will Thorp (The Impossible Planet / The Satan Pit) turns 45.

Monday 20 June 2022

Blog Update

These two items arrived today, so for the next few days I am going to be watching classic Doctor Who and reading about classic Doctor Who, instead of writing about classic Doctor Who.
Additionally I have a hospital outpatients appointment on Wednesday in Glasgow, and a bit of dog sitting Thursday afternoon.
Unless there is some big news to comment upon, the blog will therefore be light on updates for the rest of the week.
I will, however, carry on with the "On This Day..." posts as they're fairly quick to do, and I hope to have "Episode 25: Sentence of Death" ready on Sunday.
Expect a review of the Season 22 Collection at the beginning of next week.

On This Day... 20th June

Today in 1964 we would have seen the Doctor and his companions encounter Strangers In Space. This was the opening instalment of The Sensorites.
The seventh and final episode of Inferno, broadcast today in 1970, marked the end of an era for the programme. Although shown in 1970, Season 7 was conceived and partly made in the 1960's, and has a 1960's feel to it at times (or even a 1950's one, when you consider all the Quatermass references).
This episode was the last to feature Liz Shaw (a scientist companion introduced to cover for the equally bright Zoe, after Wendy Padbury had declined to stay on), and it's the last we see the beige uniforms for UNIT, introduced in The Invasion, which Nicholas Courtney hated.
When the series returns for Season 8, it will have truly entered the '70's, with shorter, more colourful stories, and the establishment of the "UNIT Family" who will see us through the first half of the decade.

Today we remember an actor who featured three times in the series - the first being in the story which acted as the template for the later UNIT stories. 
Ralph Watson, who passed away on this date in 2021 aged 85, played Captain Knight in The Web of Fear. This role was to have gone to Nicholas Courtney, with David Langton scheduled to play Colonel Lethbridge Stewart. Courtney would therefore have been killed off, and never played the Brigadier.
Watson returned to the series during Jon Pertwee's final season, playing the crazed rebel miner Ettis in The Monster of Peladon. His final role was a small one, as his character gets killed in the very first episode of Horror of Fang Rock - lighthouse keeper Ben.
We also remember Philip Latham, who played the final incarnation of Borusa in The Five Doctors. He died in 2020, aged 91.

Sunday 19 June 2022

Episode 24: The Snows of Terror

The travel dials take Ian and Barbara to a snowy wasteland, where they are overcome by the freezing temperatures...
They are found by a fur trapper named Vasor, who takes them to his remote cabin. When they awake he informs them that he had help in bringing them here - Altos. He has left to go up the mountain to look for Susan and Sabetha. Once Ian has recovered, he sets off to find them all. In return for furs, he is forced to hand over his travel dial. Once he has gone, Barbara finds that Vasor has all the travel dials hidden in a drawer.
Ian finds Altos tied up in the snow. He was attacked by Vasor and left for dead. When they discover that wolves are on their trail they find that the trapper had filled Ian's bag with raw meat to deliberately attract the beasts.
Both head back to the cabin and arrive back just in time to stop the trapper from forcing himself on Barbara. Vasor claims that he left the girls some furs and materials to build a fire when he showed them how to reach a cave on the mountain. Ian forces him to lead them all to it. The trapper is afraid, claiming there are evil spirits on the mountain.
With their fire dying, Susan and Sabetha have decided to leave their cave, but find they cannot recall the way out. They actually go deeper into the mountain and find a cavern in which the key is located - frozen in a huge block of ice. Surrounding this are four armoured figures, armed with a variety of weapons. To reach this cavern they had to cross a flimsy rope bridge.
The others arrive and are so pleased to be reunited with the girls that they fail to see Vasor slip back and unhook the bridge, leaving them stranded.
They decide to make a temporary bridge using some large icicles which should freeze solid. In the cavern a pipe system holds hot water, which Barbara assumes comes from some volcanic vent deep within the mountain. These pipes surround the block of ice, and once turned on it begins to rapidly melt. 
As soon as the key is freed, however, the four soldiers stir to life. They give chase, determined to retrieve the key. Susan risks going across the icicle bridge and succeeds in hooking the rope bridge back up. Once everyone has crossed it, Ian unhooks it again to leave the soldiers trapped, though one of them plunges into a ravine.
Vasor is shocked to see the travellers return to his cabin. He is horrified to see that the remaining soldiers are fast approaching. Ian distributes the travel dials to his friends and they leave seconds after the trapper is killed by one of the soldiers thrusting his sword through the wooden door.
Ian finds himself alone in a vault in which there is a glass display case. Within is the next key. A uniformed man lies dead on the floor.
As he tries to open the case someone strikes Ian down from behind, and places a club-like weapon in his hand...
Next episode: Sentence of Death

Written by: Terry Nation
Recorded: Friday 10th April 1964 - Lime Grove Studio D
First broadcast: 5:30pm, Saturday 2nd May 1964
Ratings: 10.4 million / AI 60
Designer: Raymond P Cusick
Director: John Gorrie
Additional cast: Francis de Wolff (Vasor), Michael Allaby, Alan James, Peter Stenson and Anthony Verner (Ice Soldiers).

After the hot, jungle backdrop to last week's instalment, Terry Nation wanted the contrast of a cold, snowy environment for this one.
The only new character is Vasor. He lusts after Barbara in explicit fashion, seemingly intent on raping her. Despite this, the story was granted a "U" rating when it came out on VHS in 1999.
He claims to be able to kill wolves single-handedly, yet Barbara gets the better of him, and he seems afraid of what Ian might do to him. Why does he not simply kill Altos instead of leaving him tied up in the snow, and why does he likewise not simply kill the girls? Why he thinks that the travel dials are of worth to him we also don't know.

Each of the Ice Soldiers is given a different weapon. One has a sword, another a battle axe, the third a lance and the fourth a mace. This was used in the scripts to indicate which soldier was doing what - e.g. "'Sword' raises his weapon".
The actual nature of the soldiers is never made clear. We see a close up of the helmet of one of them and it can be seen that there is a human face beneath. (One of them is actually blinking as the travellers first enter the cavern). Later, one of the soldiers plunges into a ravine and he screams as he falls.
Everything points to them being humanoids, and yet they survive being frozen into immobility in the cavern for an unknown period of time - probably years at the very least.
In the draft scripts for this episode, the soldiers were themselves going to encased in pillars of ice.
When it came to his factual Target book The Adventures of K9 and other Mechanical Creatures (1979), Terrance Dicks actually listed the Ice Soldiers as robots.

Arbitan's actions with the keys are rather difficult to fathom. The keys operate the Conscience Machine, so have been scattered across Marinus to prevent them falling into the wrong hands. And yet one of them is kept with the machine. Why not hide that one as well? The key that went to Morphoton is simply given to Sabetha when she asks for it - suggesting that the Morpho arrived later and did not know its true value. Darrius has traps set which could easily kill genuine agents of Arbitan, who have come legitimately to retrieve his key. The key in The Snows of Terror is encased in a block of ice, guarded by strange living dead soldiers. Who put it there, and how was a genuine agent of Arbitan supposed to retrieve it without the Ice Soldiers killing them?
In the City of Millennius, the key is actually left on public display in a museum, as though the citizens know what it is. However, the people who set out to steal it in the latter two episodes of the story believe it has great monetary value, yet don't seem to know what it does.
It is odd that some people on Marinus seem to know all about Arbitan and the Conscience Machine, whilst others haven't got a clue.

For the second time this story, the travel dials seem to separate the travellers in both space and time. Barbara had time to do lots of things in Morphoton before Ian, Susan and the Doctor caught up with her, and here Ian finds himself alone in the museum vault, with no sign of the companions who left at the same time as him, and who were standing right next to him. He's there for a good couple of minutes without them appearing. Where are they? They can't be just the other side of the door in the corridor, otherwise they would know who attacked Ian and killed the guard.

Ray Cusick was generally dismissive about the sets for this story, but he singled this episode out for special condemnation. He particularly hated the ravine / bridge set. Producer Verity Lambert had seen this and expressed her dissatisfaction, asking him what he was going to do about it. Unfortunately, he had no money to do anything to improve the set. The ravine area was supposed to look like it was carved out of ice, but he had to make do with sets from stock which looked like stone walls, rather than natural rock. To disguise this he covered them with cling-film to make them look like they were coated in ice, and asked for the lighting to be kept as low as possible, plus tighter shots omitting the background as much as possible.
The tunnels and the key cavern used paper over chicken wire covered in cling-film to better effect. Other rocks, such as the one which blocks the tunnel, were made from jablite, which is expanded polystyrene.
The rope bridge actually collapsed during rehearsals whilst Carole Ann Ford was crossing it. She was shaken but otherwise unhurt.
Model shots of the ravine had been filmed, but these went unused in the end.

  • This is the second of three roles for Peter Stenson in this story. He stepped in to cover for Martin Cort, who had been offered another job that week.
  • Francis de Wolff will return in The Myth Makers, where he plays Agamemnon. During the production of that story he was quite rude to Hartnell, but the two don't meet in this episode due to the star's holiday.
  • Robin Phillips was only due to feature as Altos in the second episode (The Velvet Web) but Hartnell's holiday led to him being made a regular for the whole story.
  • There is a rise of half a million viewers for this episode over the previous week, making this the highest rated episode of this particular story.
  • The footage of the wolves in the snow came from a 1957 Russian thriller called The Grey Robber.

On This Day... 19th June

Despite telling prospective writers that the character was "The Doctor" and not "Doctor Who / Dr Who" the production team let through an episode entitled The Death of Doctor Who today in 1965. This was the penultimate instalment of The Chase. Maybe "Doctor Who" was the name of the Daleks' android duplicate...
Season 8 drew to a close with the fifth episode of The Daemons. After causing all manner of problems throughout the year, the Master was finally captured by UNIT. Five was a strange number of episodes for a story at this time, and so a few years ago there was an April Fool's joke that the missing sixth episode had been found.
In 2010 we had the first real monster team-up when The Pandorica Opens. The recycling-bin Daleks, Cybermen, Sontarans and Autons were all present and correct - but where were the Terileptils, Drahvins and Zygons who were also supposed to be there? What we got was a motley collection of whatever costumes they happened to find in stock - meaning the ranks of the Alliance comprised such "greats" as the Hoix, Roboforms and Uvodni...

Today we wish Derren Nesbitt a happy 87th birthday. If you've been following my "Episodes" posts he'll be a familiar face by now, having played the villainous Tegana in Marco Polo back in 1964.
He shares his birthday with Thelma Barlow, who played Lady Thaw in The Lazarus Experiment. Best know for her long-running role as Mavis in Coronation Street, she turns 93 today.
Sam West, who featured as the Rani's assistant in the Dimensions In Time Children in Need adventure turns 56. His character was dubbed Cyrian by fans, as apparently Sir Ian McKellen had been offered the role first.

We also remember Brian Cant, a hero to generations of children in the UK for his TV appearances in Play School and Play Away, and for voicing Camberwick Green and Trumpton. He passed away on this date in 2017, aged 83. He did some serious acting as well, and featured as space agent Kert Gantry in The Daleks' Master Plan, and as Chairman Tensa in The Dominators.
His son Richard played Kathy Nightingale's grandson Malcolm in Blink.

Saturday 18 June 2022

On This Day... 18th June

A day of farewells today - on screen and in real life.
In 1966 Steven said goodbye to the Doctor and Dodo in the fourth and final part of The Savages
The actor Frederick Jaeger, who played Jano in this story, passed away on this date in 2004, aged 86. As well as Jano he played Professor Sorenson in Planet of Evil, and K9's creator Professor Marius in The Invisible Enemy. The character Jaeger in The Mutants was named after him.
In 2005 we bade farewell to Christopher Eccleston as the Ninth Doctor. He regenerated into David Tennant's Tenth Doctor at the conclusion of Parting of the Ways, which brought the revived series' first season to a successful conclusion.
Eccleston declined a return to the role for The Day of the Doctor - necessitating the creation of the hitherto unheard of War Doctor, though he has since agreed to essay the role again on audio. He has ruled himself out of a 60th Anniversary appearance, stating he would only do it if it was him alone, not as part of a multi-Doctor set-up.

Today we especially remember Roger Delgado. It was on this date in 1973 that he was killed in a car accident whilst on location for a film in Turkey. He was 55. 
The definitive Master, he first appeared in Terror of the Autons, and then in all the rest of the stories in Season 8. Realising that his appearances were becoming too predictable he featured in fewer stories after this - two in Season 9 and only one in Season 10 (Frontier in Space being his last story). However, this reduction in appearances led to him wanting to leave, as he was not being offered work due to people thinking he was on the show full-time.
A grand finale was planned for him at the end of Season 11, when the character would be killed off, but events in Turkey meant this was not to be. Delgado's death was one of the reasons that Jon Pertwee chose to leave the series after five years.
His widow Kismet was given the role of a Spider voice in Planet of the Spiders, the story that filled the slot which would have seen Delgado's departure from the series.

Friday 17 June 2022

The Art of... The Keys of Marinus

The Keys of Marinus novelisation, which was written by the series' one-time producer Philip Hinchcliffe, has one of the worst covers in the series. It's not that it's badly executed - it's just that it is bland, and has no relevance to the story as broadcast. It depicts the TARDIS in space, orbiting above a planet. At no point in the story is the TARDIS ever seen like this.
The artist is David McAllister.
Hinchcliffe's successor, Graham Williams, was the producer at the time this novel was being prepared for publishing (November 1980), and he raised a concern about the cover - though this was mainly his observation that the TARDIS wasn't grey, and did not have a red light.
Of all the stories which needed a reprint with a new cover, this one failed to be given one.

Apparently a story-specific cover was prepared for this book, but for some reason it went unused.
Andrew Skilleter published the above image as an unused VHS cover on one of his calendars, and often the book reprints and the videos made use of the same cover. Oddly, Skilleter has opted to include an Ice Soldier, but not a Voord - supposedly the main villains of the story.

When the story was released on VHS in 1999 it was during a period when they had foresworn the painted covers and were only providing photomontage ones - which is probably why Skilleter's image went unused.
This was a two tape release, so it had the cover image reproduced on the spine. Not every double pack had this feature (and the early double length stories had each tape released individually).

The UK and US DVDs carried the same photomontage cover, with an image of William Hartnell that was taken from a publicity shot for this story's first episode - the one which had featured in the Radio Times. Alongside the Doctor we have images of Arbitan, two Voord, and the Conscience Machine. In the background is the swastika-like symbol of the City of Millennius, and there is a snowy mountain backdrop to the right - so they've tried to fit as many story elements in as possible.
Like many of the DVD covers, this was the work of Clayton Hickman, who was editor of Doctor Who Magazine either side of the 2005 relaunch.
The UK releases had a permanent brand image of the title printed against a backdrop of TARDIS grey roundels taking up the top third of the cover, giving the entire run some consistency. 
The US covers also had a certain consistency of design, but on the spine rather than the front. The image from the front cover wrapped around the spine on the UK releases, but the US ones didn't have this - just the title against black, with the relevant Doctor's image at the top.

For the forthcoming audiobook reading of the novelisation, they have employed Jamie Glover. The son of series guest stars Julian Glover and Isla Blair, he had portrayed William Russell in the 50th Anniversary drama An Adventure In Space And Time. Unfortunately, they have not taken the opportunity to commission any new artwork, so it is lumbered with the boring and irrelevant original novelisation artwork.