Sunday 31 July 2022

Episode 30: The Day of Darkness

Trapped in a narrow passage within the pyramid, Ian discovers that it is beginning to flood with water...
He moves up the tunnel and emerges into the tomb chamber through a secret panel built into Yetaxa's funeral bier. The Doctor rushes up to the temple to tell Barbara that Ian is trapped in the tunnel and at risk of drowning, but is very pleased to see him emerge from the tomb. They now know that they can access the tomb through the tunnel, and organise some way of opening it from the temple side. 
Leather cords on their own are no use as they break, and the Doctor decides that a wheel-and-pulley system is required. The Aztecs did not exploit the wheel, so he will have to fashion something himself.
Realising that Barbara has a powerful ally in Autloc, Tlotoxl decides that he must break this relationship - getting rid of Ian at the same time. He has Ixta attack Autloc in the gardens, striking him down from behind and leaving Ian's weapon behind.
The scheme works as the injured Autloc begins to think of Barbara as false. 
Ian has been arrested, to be executed before the sacrifice along with the punishment of Susan. She has been brought back from the seminary. Both will be held under guard in the army barracks.
Barbara is able to convince Autloc that she would never do anything to harm him, and he is forced to accept what she says. Now believing that their civilisation is doomed as she has predicted, he decides to leave the city to go into the wilderness. Beforehand he agrees to help Barbara by engineering the release of Ian and Susan. For this he solicits Cameca's aid.
She, meanwhile, has come to realise that the Doctor will be leaving them soon - a situation she reluctantly accepts.
The day of the eclipse has arrived, and Cameca goes to the barracks with Autloc's official regalia, which mean ownership of all his property. She tries to use this to blackmail the Guard Captain. When he hesitates, Ian forces the issue by knocking him out. Cameca then takes Susan up to the temple to join Barbara. She bids the Doctor farewell, giving him a small token of her love for him.
On finding the Captain unconscious, Tlotoxl orders Ixta to kill him for letting the prisoners escape. He also tells Tonila that he will be the new High Priest of Knowledge.
Ixta sees Ian climbing up the temple steps, and gives chase.
The two men fight as the Doctor, Barbara and Susan open the tomb door. Ian proves victorious as Ixta plunges from the pyramid summit to his death. He then joins the others in the tomb.
Undeterred, Tlotoxl proceeds with the sacrifice of the Perfect Victim as the eclipse reaches its totality.
In the tomb, the Doctor consoles Barbara by pointing out that she may have failed to save this civilisation, but she did manage to save one individual - Autloc.
He leaves Cameca's token on the funeral bier, but at the last moment snatches it back.

Some time later in the TARDIS, the Doctor and Susan are faced with a conundrum. He tells the teachers that his instruments are indicating that the ship has stopped, but she points out that other instruments are showing that they are still in motion. Ian suggests that they have landed on top of something, whilst Barbara thinks that they may have landed inside something... 
Next episode: Strangers In Space

Written by: John Lucarotti
Recorded: Friday 22nd May 1964 - Lime Grove Studio D
First broadcast: 5:15pm, Saturday 13th June 1964
Ratings: 7.4 million / AI 58
Designer: Barry Newbery
Director: John Crockett

Carole Ann Ford returned from her fortnight's holiday in Portugal to find that she had entirely missed working at Television Centre, as the series had returned to Lime Grove Studio D for this episode.
As summer had now arrived, the heat in the cramped studio was unbearable and the sprinkler system was activated during afternoon camera rehearsals.
The big fight sequence between Ian and Ixta had been filmed at Ealing on 14th April. This was set mainly at the top of the pyramid in the open air, so Barry Newbery did not have to worry too much about the lack of studio space to hang the scenic backdrop.
David Anderson, who was still playing the doomed Guard Captain, donned Ian's eagle headdress whilst Billy Cornelius wore Ixta's jaguar headdress. It was fortunate that the two men were wearing such head coverings, disguising as they did the identity of the stunt men. Derek Ware assisted Anderson in arranging this fight, for which he was co-credited. Cornelius had previously featured in another Ware fight - the one between Kal and Za in Episode 4: The Firemaker. They had also worked together on Marco Polo.
Ware was highly critical of John Crockett's handling of the action. He thought the director should have had faster cutting and some close-ups of the combatants' faces, but elected to show rather static long shots only.
When Ixta is killed, Cullen stood upright against a flat which had been painted to look like a section of paving, contorting his body slightly, and the camera image was then inverted - making it look like a bird's eye view of his dead body. This was in studio on the day of the recording, rather than pre-filmed at Ealing.
Newbery was unhappy to see that the tunnel which Ian climbed up would emerge from underneath the funeral bier. Had he known he would have finished this piece of set properly. As it is, you can see that it is made of wood rather than stone.

The history lessons continue as the Doctor and companions discuss how the Aztecs did not exploit the wheel in their technology. They did employ it, but merely as a toy for children rather than something which could help with transport or machinery.
The Aztecs shows the civilisation at its height, but does hint at its eventual destruction.
Autloc accepts that his way of life is doomed, and so takes himself off to become a hermit in the wilderness. 
In April 1519 the Spaniard Hernan Cortes landed in Mexico after departing Cuba. It was not the Conquistadores alone who defeated the Aztecs, ruled by Moctezuma II - Cortes was joined by various Mexican tribes who were traditional enemies of the Aztecs. The conquest was completed within two years. The Aztec capital fell in August 1521.
Many of the native peoples were killed by diseases for which they had no immunity, imported with the invaders. In late 1520 there had been a smallpox epidemic which killed thousands.
The Aztecs had been warned of their doom through supernatural omens. A series of eight events had taken place around a decade before the invasion, including temple fires, lightning strikes, a boiling lake and a comet or fireball.
It is claimed that Moctezuma actually believed that the Europeans were emissaries from the gods, as Quetzalcoatl was due a return. People from the east (the land of the sunrise) were prophesised to arrive, who would rule the Aztecs.

This is the only story in which the villain of the piece avoids any form of comeuppance. Only Tlotoxl's henchman, Ixta, is seen to be defeated as he is killed in a fight with Ian. Our last glimpse of the High Priest of Sacrifice is of him going about his grisly business, no doubt even stronger in his position now that Autloc has departed.
However, as Ian and the Doctor both point out at different times, Tlotoxl is simply doing what he is supposed to do, what his beliefs tell him is right. Autloc is the one who is at odds with his own culture and society.
At one point the Doctor declares: "I serve the truth!" - despite the fact that he and his companions have been deceiving the Aztecs the entire time. His treatment of Cameca is especially poor.
Tlotoxl believes Barbara to be false, and he's absolutely right. Poor Autloc is manipulated and led astray by Barbara's lies. Assuming that the arrival of the Spaniards isn't imminent, Tlotoxl is going to thrive, whilst Autloc is going to live a miserable existence in the desert, when he could have enjoyed a pleasant retirement in the city.
What makes Barbara's actions even worse is that she - a white Westerner - has taken it upon herself to decide what is best for this society. People wouldn't have thought twice about this at the time of broadcast, but it is very noticeable now. She is imposing her values on the Aztecs, whose belief system she cannot or will not respect.
This story may be a good one for Barbara, but she's exhibiting her colonial attitudes throughout. There would be much talk of cultural appropriation if this were to be made today.
(To be honest, we could talk about this with regards hundreds of stories - it's just that those involve alien planets instead of Meso-American civilisations. The Aztecs are the most "alien" of cultures handled by the Historical stories, being so unlike modern Western society. All later Historicals will tend to feature societies that really aren't all that much different to our own).

The story ends with a mystery, which seems to imply that the TARDIS has never landed inside a moving object such as a spaceship before - otherwise why would the Doctor and Susan be so baffled? Considering the number of spaceships and other modes of transport which it will land in / on in the future, this does seem odd. It could be taken to mean that the Doctor and Susan have not been travelling all that long before meeting the school teachers.
So far we only know of one alien planet they have visited, and then it was some sort of jungle (Quinnis), whilst all the other destinations appear to have been in Earth's history (the French Revolution plus the description of things which the TARDIS has previously taken the shape of. Susan's description of noisy plants in Episode 23: The Screaming Jungle could mean another alien planet visited, though it could also have simply been Quinnis again, which was certainly a very noisy place).

  • This was the first William Hartnell story to be released on DVD. It was only the second B&W release (after Tomb of the Cybermen).
  • The Aztecs was selected by BBC America to represent the Hartnell era during the series 50th Anniversary celebrations.
  • Back in 1983 it had also been selected to represent the era as part of the 20th Anniversary celebrations, shown at the National Film Theatre in London before touring regional arthouse cinemas.
  • Rehearsals began a day later than usual, on a Tuesday, as the Monday was a Bank Holiday. Carole Ann Ford, fresh from her fortnight in Portugal, attended a fete that weekend, accompanied by the two Daleks which had been loaned to the Barnardo's children's charity.
  • The episode's recording had a later than usual finishing time of 10:15pm.
  • John Crockett never worked on the series again. A devout Catholic, after leaving the BBC he went to live at Prinknash Abbey, Gloucester, and was buried there when he died in October 1986.
  • The Aztecs was destined to be wiped in August 1967, but the BBC Film and Video Library retained copies. Additional copies of three of the episodes, including this one, were returned to the BBC from a TV station in Cyprus in 1985.

On This Day... 31st July

Today we remember Beatrix Lehmann, who passed away on this date in 1979, aged 76.
One of her final performances was as Professor Amelia Rumford in The Stones of Blood. This story was the 100th broadcast, and fell around the time of the programme's 15th Anniversary.
Lehmann was adored by Tom Baker, and particularly hit it off with John Leeson, who voiced K9. On learning that he was a keen photographer (he took publicity shots of actors for the Spotlight directory as a side-line to his own acting work), she gifted him a vintage Leica camera.
Lehmann is one of two people to whom Christopher Isherwood dedicated his Goodbye to Berlin - one of the books which would later form the basis for the musical Cabaret. In the novel, Sally Bowles is a young English woman, rather than an American, as she was based on Lehmann.
Lehmann had one other brush with Doctor Who, though no-one would have known it at the time. In 1967 she appeared in an episode of BBC sci-fi anthology series Out of the Unknown in an adaptation of an Isaac Asimov story. This was broadcast as "The Prophet". It featured robots which would later be repainted and used as the White Robots in The Mind Robber.

The Scots actor Robert James also died on this date, in 2004 aged 80. He played Hieronymous' priest of Demnos colleague in The Masque of Mandragora, but Doctor Who fans will remember him best as the scientist Lesterson in Power of the Daleks.

Saturday 30 July 2022

Hello and Welcome

I've noticed a slight increase in traffic on the blog in the last couple of days, which I hope means some new people reading it who might want to stick around.
I launched this blog 10 years ago, just after the 2012 BBC Convention in Cardiff, so perhaps it's time to give a quick recap on what I'm about, for the benefit of newer readers. 
The 10th anniversary was earlier this year. It wasn't any sort of modesty which stopped me celebrating the fact - I just didn't realise it until weeks later.
I concentrate on televised Doctor Who, covering the "Classic Era" from 1963 to 1989, and "Nu-Who", which began in 2005, plus the 1996 Paul McGann movie. Torchwood, The Sarah Jane Adventures and Class are all considered canon with the TV series.

What you don't get:
I don't do audios, and I don't do novels. It's the televised series only.
The only merchandise I touch are the DVDs / Blu-rays of the TV stories, and just occasionally non-fiction works including the monthly magazine and its specials.
I'll comment on the news if it interests me and pertains to the TV series.
There are lots and lots of news and merchandise sites / blogs / vlogs elsewhere on-line, so I leave all that to them to cover.

What you do get:
I have been writing overviews of each story in order for quite some time, so am already on Peter Capaldi's second series. These I post roughly every 10 days.
Weekly, on a Sunday normally, I am writing an in-depth analysis of each individual episode, again from the start. This has reached the end of The Aztecs.
Other regular posts are "What's Wrong With...", an often humorous look at the fluffs, mistakes and plot holes for every story. This has reached Season 9. Usually posted weekly.
Then we have "Inspirations" - also weekly - wherein I look at how a story came to be written in the first place, including popular references. This has reached the 2006 series.
The other regular post is my 'A to Z', in which I have been providing a profile of every major character and race seen in the series and its spin-offs. This is about to complete the letter 'K'.
Since September 2021 I have been writing a short "On This Day..." feature daily, mentioning the episodes which debuted over the years, as well as significant birthdays / deathdays. Rather than just list these, as others do, I like to provide some narrative to go with them. One thing I've enjoyed doing with these is to highlight some of the series' lesser known contributors. This series will end in September this year, as otherwise I will just start repeating myself. I'm able to do these daily posts as I'm off work at the moment, but hope to remedy this by the Autumn.

That's the regular stuff. I also write reviews of new episodes as they come along, as well as of archive stories as they are released on DVD / Blu-ray.
Unfortunately I didn't bother with tags very much in the early years, so not everything is easy to locate that way, should you wish to go back and look through older stuff. Exploring off piste is more interesting anyway.
If you are new here, welcome, and I hope this gives you an idea of what TARDISmusings is about, and you'll visit often.

On This Day... 30th July

Two of Britain's most talented actors share a birthday today. Phil Davis, who portrayed the city augur Lucius Petrus Dextrus in The Fires of Pompeii is 69; and Jason Watkins - Mr Webley in Nightmare in Silver - is 56.

In 1973 the actor Guy Middleton passed away at the age of 65. He featured in only a single episode of Doctor Who - the fourth instalment of The Highlanders, in which he played Colonel Attwood.
Middleton had been a huge star in the 1940's and '50's, often playing slightly dodgy, rakish characters. One performance of note is in the film The Halfway House (1944), a supernatural drama about an eerie Welsh hotel during WWII. (Roland Pertwee - father of Jon - appears in a scene with Middleton as a prison governor). A great comedy performance is in Laughter in Paradise (1951). I mention these two films in particular as they are shown fairly frequently on the Talking Pictures channel.

Friday 29 July 2022

Inspirations: Love & Monsters

Love & Monsters is the series' first ever Doctor-lite episode. When Series 2 was commissioned, the 13 standard episodes were to be produced along with a Christmas Special. The amount of time available to make 14 episodes was the same as that for 13, however. 
Options were to drop one of the standard episodes, or "double bank" - i.e. have two episodes filmed at the same time. The former option was not popular, as it would mean a shorter season and 13 episodes were more ideal for overseas sales, as this was exactly one quarter of a TV station's output year.
With double-banking however, you had the problem of needing to have your regular cast in two places at the same time. The way round this was to drastically reduce their screen time, so they basically became cameos in their own series.

Davies himself agreed to write this story, and decided to have it focus on how other people viewed the Doctor from a distance. This was partly inspired by a Star Trek: TNG episode called "Lower Decks", which focused on an incident as viewed by non-regular crewmembers; and "The Zeppo", an episode of Buffy which was told entirely from the viewpoint of one particular character (Xander).
The episode began life as a story called "I Love The Doctor" (or I 'Heart' The Doctor) which was a potential comic strip by RTD. 
The Elton Pope character was originally going to be female.

RTD was mainly inspired by his experiences of organised fandom. At conventions and other events he had seen people come together due to their love of Doctor Who and become friends - their friendship actually growing beyond their shared liking of Doctor Who. Whilst it remained a passion, they could enjoy other non-Who things together. However, there was a minority of people who were so diehard in their love of the show that they could not think of anything beyond it, always wanting to drag things back to the programme, whose minutiae they pored over. They tended to be regarded by the majority as killjoys, being so overly obsessed with the show.
This all formed the backdrop to the 'LINDA' group, who had the shared obsession about the Doctor but could build on this to explore other areas; and Victor Kennedy - obsessed to the exclusion of everything else. 
These total obsessives had a tendency to suck the fun out of things, which probably chimed with the alien which had been planned for inclusion in this episode. (It has been claimed that Victor is based on one fan in particular - Ian Levine, who acted as continuity consultant under JNT until the two had a huge falling out. You might think that, but I couldn't possibly comment).

For the second series, RTD had organised increased cross-promotion with Blue Peter, the BBC children's magazine programme which had long been a great friend of Doctor Who. The series had featured regularly ever since the initial success of the Daleks (designer Ray Cusick had been granted a coveted Blue Peter badge). Former companion Peter Purves had been a presenter on the series for around a decade, and it became a tradition that new Doctors would appear on the programme as one of their very first publicity acts. Sophie Aldred had worn her own BP badge as part of Ace's costume, and her number one wish had been to be a BP presenter. (Offered the choice, she would probably have picked it over Doctor Who).
For Series One, Blue Peter had been invited to watch the filming of Dalek, and a specially recorded clip of Blue Peter had been recorded to appear in Aliens of London - the making of a spaceship cake.
Back in 1967 BP had featured a design-a-monster competition, which had attracted record numbers of entries. The normally reclusive Patrick Troughton had helped judge it, but in character as the Doctor only.
RTD decided that Series Two would also feature a link-up with Blue Peter in the form of another design-a-monster competition. This time, however, the winner would actually get to feature in the series itself.

Among the runners-up were a football-inspired alien and a creature named "Sad Tony", who looked a bit like a weeping clown. (David Tennant appeared in the BP studio to announce the winner, and was going to call it live on air as "Sad Tony" - just to see what RTD would do with such a character).
The real winner was the Abzorbaloff, created by 9 year old William Grantham of Colchester, Essex.
This looked like a large green sumo wrestler, and was unique in that it absorbed people, whose faces could still be seen emerging from its flesh.

What young William had neglected to tell anyone was that he had envisaged the creature as being the size of a double-decker bus. This was simply ignored.
To play the Abzorbaloff comic Peter Kay was cast, after he had written to RTD to express his admiration for the 2005 series. He helped work out the idea that the alien spoke with his own Lancashire accent, whilst his human alter-ego Victor Kennedy had a posher voice.
As the alien is large and green it was decided that he looked a bit like a Slitheen, so RTD decided to have him come from the twin planet of Raxacoricofallapatorius. As this had a long, complicated name, he jokingly called the twin world Clom.

The framing device for the episode was Elton Pope who, with his friends in LINDA, represented the sort of fandom RTD favoured. Elton would narrate much of the story in the form of a video diary. His experiences with the Doctor ranged from childhood to more recent events - allowing for the use of clips from Rose, Aliens of London, and The Christmas Invasion, plus specially shot re-enactments of the Auton attack.
An earlier draft had a much older Elton, whose mother had been killed by a plastic daffodil (Terror of the Autons) and who had witnessed the Skarasen attack on London (Terror of the Zygons).
Interestingly, the music references in this story, of which there are many, imply an older character, with Elton named after Elton John and his favourite band being the Electric Light Orchestra.
LINDA was inspired by one of RTD's earlier children's projects - Why Don't You...?. Then it had been the "Liverpool Investigations 'N' Detective Agency".

In order to track down the Doctor, Victor Kennedy has computer files from Torchwood, which have unfortunately been corrupted by the Bad Wolf virus. At one point he is seen reading a newspaper which mentions a certain politician named Saxon.
This means that this episode includes references to the story arcs for the first three series. This is the very first reference to Mr Saxon. If you consider that Clom will be one of the missing planets, we actually have all four of RTD's season-long story arcs referenced.

RTD enjoyed writing for the character of Jackie Tyler, and felt that actress Camille Coduri was somewhat underused. There was to be a lengthy gap between Jackie appearances (in the two Cyberman double parters), so he decided that a further function for Love & Monsters would be to show what happens to the family and friends of the companion when they are left behind. The series had never really touched on this before.
Elton would try to track down the Doctor through Rose by making friends with her mother. In the process, he actually becomes very fond of her and resents having to lie to her - only for her to find out what he's up to anyway. She shops him to her daughter, which is where the Doctor and Rose finally engage with the story proper. There had been one earlier scene (the one with the Hoix, which was unconnected to the main narrative) but the Doctor and Rose only really feature in the scene in the alley where the Abzorbaloff threatens Elton. Tennant and Piper were making The Impossible Planet / The Satan Pit at the time. 
The Hoix was made up of left-over bits of monster costume in Neil Gorton's workshop.
The Hoix sequence, with characters running back and forth, was inspired by the Scooby Doo cartoon series.

This episode is generally regarded as a 'Marmite' one - that being a foodstuff which people either really love or really hate. As a rough rule of thumb, LINDA types tend to like it, whilst Victor Kennedys hate it. Stupidly, some people object to it because the Doctor and Rose aren't in it enough - missing the whole point of the episode entirely.
Next time: the series attempts to make an ordinary suburban street scary - only to fail miserably...

On This Day... 29th July

Today we wish Marcus Gilbert a happy 64th birthday. He played Ancelyn, the heroic knight from an alternative dimension, in Battlefield. In a story based on Arthurian myth, Ancelyn was derived from Lancelot.
Also turning 64 today is writer Simon Nye, creator of the sitcom Men Behaving Badly, and who wrote Amy's Choice
They share their birthdays with Simon Chadwick, who played UNIT Major Kilburne in SJA: Enemy of the Bane opposite Nicholas Courtney, in his final appearance as the Brigadier. He is 53.
Thomas Nelstrop, who played Kathy Nightingale's husband-to-be Ben Wainwright in Blink turns 42.

Today would have been the late David Warner's 81st birthday.
We also remember the actor / comedian Mike Reid, who passed away on this date in 2007, aged 67. Best known for playing the long-running character of Frank Butcher in EastEnders, he started off his acting career as an extra, appearing in The Myth Makers, The Massacre and The War Machines
The two worlds collided when he featured as Frank in the 30th Anniversary 3-D crossover Dimensions in Time.

Thursday 28 July 2022

Saint Bernard

Whoever coined the phrase "national treasure" to describe an entertainer whose popularity spanned decades may well have been thinking of Bernard Cribbins when they thought it up.
Much of his popularity derived from children's projects. I'm of an age to recall him giving voice to The Wombles, presenting Jackanory, and featuring in the film version of The Railway Children, in which he played station master Perks.
That distinctive voice formed part of the soundtrack to my childhood. As a Doctor Who fan, I also knew that he had played Tom Campbell, the comic relief character in Daleks: Invasion Earth 2150AD.
He had Peter Cushing as a guest on his light entertainment show around the same time, and starred with him again in the Hammer film version of She. Whilst making the Dalek movie he popped into the studio next door to cameo as a taxi driver in the James Bond spoof Casino Royale.
He starred in several of the Carry On... movies (... Spying would be my personal favourite), as well as many stand alone comedies of the 1960's.
Whilst horror films were unusual for him, he did appear in the late Hitchcock thriller Frenzy, and played a killer in an episode of detective series Dalziel and Pascoe. He was also a detective himself - Dangerous Davies, a character later portrayed by Peter Davison.
One other sci-fi appearance was the Space: 1999 episode "Brian the Brain", in which he voiced the titular computer and also played its creator.
For many, one of his most popular appearances will be the Fawlty Towers episode "The Hotel Inspectors".

Bernard returned to Doctor Who to play a cameo role, as a newspaper vendor who is determined not to abandon London at Christmas time, when it has lately been threatened by aliens. Whilst everyone was wowed to be appearing with Kylie Minogue, she was wowed to be appearing with Bernard Cribbins.
This was Voyage of the Damned, the 2007 Christmas Special.
An unfortunate set of circumstances led to him being offered a recurring role - that of Wilf Mott, grandfather of Donna Noble. Howard Attfield, who played Donna's dad, fell ill and died just as Series 4 was getting off the ground. Bernard was invited back to become the new character of Wilf, who would take on Attfield's role in the series. He was invited back to become the latest one-off companion for David Tennant's swansong - The End of Time. It was Wilf who ultimately caused the Tenth Doctor's demise.
We all know that David is back as the Doctor in a trio of specials for the 60th Anniversary, and know that Bernard was filmed on location in Camden. He looked frail, and was confined to a wheelchair, and his place was taken by a double when the filming moved to Bristol. A short time later a fan who had written to him for an autograph was notified that he was in hospital. That was a couple of weeks ago.
It looks as though his final work will have been Doctor Who - a job he loved, and for which he was loved in return.
Bernard Cribbins 1928 - 2022.

The Abominable Snowmen on 5th September

It has finally been announced that the animated The Abominable Snowmen will be released on DVD / Blu-ray and Steelbook on Monday 5th September in the UK. We knew it was imminent as it was getting a screening at the NFT on Saturday 3rd.
The three disc set includes both colour and B&W versions of the animation, a restored original Episode Two, telesnaps / soundtrack for the five missing instalments, home movie footage from the Welsh location filming, plus a making-of documentary.

On This Day... 28th July

Dead of Night was the third instalment of Torchwood: Miracle Day, which made its UK debut today in 2011.
A couple of birthdays of note - Brigit Forsyth, best known for playing Thelma in Whatever Happened To The Likely Lads? and who also portrayed Ruth Maxtible in The Evil of the Daleks, is 82.
David Weston - Nicholas in The Massacre, and Biroc in Warriors' Gate - is 84.

Bernard Cribbins 1928 - 2022

The legend that was Bernard Cribbins is sadly no longer with us, but his legacy will live on and on. I'll be writing an appreciation later today.

Wednesday 27 July 2022

What's Wrong With... The Mutants

For fans who like to stick to earlier story titles, The Mutants poses a problem - for it is also the name of the first Dalek story. This is based on mentions in production paperwork back in 1964. To get round this they refer to this Pertwee story as The Mutants (1972) - i.e. they add the date.
The rest of fandom moved on and adopted the VHS / DVD nomenclature, so simply don't have this problem. The older story was The Daleks and this - and only this - is The Mutants. (By the logic of the more pedantic of the diehard fans, The Claws of Axos ought to be called "The Vampire from Space", as that was the title used by the production team. But it isn't).

Anyway, it's another mission from the Time Lords, which means yet again that they tell the Doctor nothing remotely useful that might help him carry out the mission effectively. If you want a parcel to get to where it is supposed to go, you put the name and address on it, do you not?
The sphere which the Doctor is given to deliver will only open for the person for whom it is intended, so he basically has to shove it against people to see who it responds to.
Trouble is, when it does finally get to its intended recipient - the rebellious young Ky - he hasn't a clue what the contents are, or what they mean. They are totally useless to him. It is only when the Doctor and the Earth scientist Sondergaard take a look at them that they start to make some sort of sense - so why was the Time Lord box not intended for Sondergaard in the first place?
If the tablets in the container are of vital importance to the evolution of the Solonians, what were the Time Lords doing with them in the first place? Talk about interference in the affairs of other races...
In the end, the tablets simply give them the information that Solos has very long seasons. It is the crystal in the cavern and the associated radiation which are the things which actually matter to the Solonians.
Sondergaard knows that the planet takes 2000 years to go round its sun, but hasn't figured out that this would mean very long seasons.
Why would an entire species become dependent on a single crystal for its evolutionary processes? Does life exist on Solos only within a couple of miles of the cave system?
There's also the question of how this race can forget such a Very Big Thing every 500 years, like clockwork. 
And where does the next generation of human-like Solonians come from?

There is a teleport system set up between Skybase and Solos. It only appears to have a single station on the entire planet, right in the middle of nowhere. Not only that, but this vital link with the planet which the Marshal intends to dominate is never seen to be guarded. Anyone can walk in and use it.
The story is about racism and colonialism, so we get things like segregation. The Solonians have to use a separate teleport - but it's in the same building as the Overlords' one, in fact right next to it.
This lack of any form of security is especially odd when you consider that the humans believe there to be a deadly plague ravaging Solos.
Security within Skybase is just as bad. The only door that seems to have a working lock is the storeroom where the TARDIS materialises, which looks empty. The Marshal's office and the hydroponics areas can all be accessed by anyone, any time.
If the Marshal's office does have a working lock, wouldn't it have been sensible to use it before gunning down Varan's son just before daddy walks in on you?
Varan thinks pushing a chair aside to be an effective means of escape from the Marshal's office.

Did Christopher Barry really not twig that calling a Black character "Cotton" might jar, in a story that's supposed to be about race and colonialism? He was responsible for casting. The writers intended him to be a white Cockney character - hence his odd language, which wasn't changed to suit the West Indian actor cast.
Stubbs and he seem to switch sides very quickly. Varan's motivation is all over the place as well. One minute he's friendly to the Doctor for helping him escape Skybase, and the next he's throttling him, just because the cliff-hanger's due. 
End of Part Two sees them fighting outside the teleport. Beginning of Part Three, they're in the teleport...
A later cliff-hanger is much worse for Varan, as his hand disappears due to shoddy CSO work.
This is the scene where an exterior wall has been blown open, and the warrior is sucked into space. For the others it looks as if there is just a bit of a strong breeze blowing, which they then just walk away from, now that the cliff-hanger is finished.

It's a good job that they opt to make the Marshal insane, as otherwise his scheming makes no sense at all. He clearly hates the planet and its people, so why so determined to hold on to it? A return to Earth and a nice office job should have been far more inviting than this. How does he intend to populate his "New Earth" if the natives are wiped out, with Skybase only having male staff and crew?
Why does he go to such lengths to fool the Earth Investigator, if he's simply going to lock him and his guards up and force them to live on Solos anyway?

Bob Baker and Dave Martin liked to do a lot of research for their stories, including scientific research. Yet they seem to think that "particle reversal" is the same as time travel - i..e. that it will put things back the way they were, rather than turn things inside out as the phrase is used to mean in other parts of the story. The Bristol Boys wrote two stories set in nuclear power stations, yet they don't seem to understand the way radiation works at all. Sondergaard dons a protective suit when visiting the cavern, yet later the radioactive crystal is handled by him and the Doctor without any form of protection. We know that the Doctor is only ever harmed by radiation when there's a regeneration in the offing, but Sondergaard should have been harmed by it. Later, its radiation seems to pour into Ky to help him evolve into Super-Ky. Why did it not do this with the Mutants in the cave system earlier?

To replicate the effects of earth tremors, director Barry employs the old Mirrorlon trick. You point your camera at this flexible mirrored material then poke it from behind so that it wobbles. It's been the way in which Ice Warriors kill people since 1967. Unfortunately he decides to film some other non-earthquake scenes in the laboratory bounced off Mirrorlon, making them look distorted.

There's a very rare Pertwee fluff, when he accidentally says "I couldn't even if I wanted to..." twice in the same sentence in the UNIT lab scene.
Finally - that hirsute old man rushing towards the camera in the opening shot. When they do the commentary on the DVD, the assembled team go "It's...!" as in the opening of any Monty Python episode. Surely Barry should have noticed this at the time.

On This Day... 27th July

The first ever Doctor Who Prom was broadcast on BBC Radio 3 today in 2008. As with the later ones we have recently mentioned, Murray Gold's music was joined by some sci-fi related classical pieces - e.g. Mars, Bringer of War from Holst's Planet Suite, which was used as the theme to Quatermass and the Pit, or Also Sprach Zarathustra, from 2001: A Space Odyssey.
The Prom (or Promenade Concert) was hosted by Freema Agyeman but David Tennant was busy that night. He contributed by appearing in a pre-filmed item called The Music of the Spheres, recorded on the TARDIS set and featuring Jimmy Vee as a Graske.
Davros seemed to enjoyed it, if no-one else.

Today we remember actor Geoffrey Hughes, who died in 2012 aged 68.
Best known for long-running roles in soap Coronation Street and sitcom Keeping Up Appearances, he portrayed the Dickensian office clerk Mr Popplewick in the final section of Trial of a Time Lord - a character who proved to be the disguised Valeyard.

We also wish a happy birthday to director Matthew Robinson (Resurrection of the Daleks and Attack of the Cybermen) who turns 78, and actor Nigel Plaskitt, who played Unstoffe in The Ribos Operation. He is 72 today.
Graham Simpson, who was the hitchhiker in Image of the Fendahl, is 76, and stuntman Dinny Powell (The Ambassadors of Death, Colony in Space, The Curse of Peladon and Creature from the Pit, is 90.

Tuesday 26 July 2022

K is for... Krasko

A racist mass murderer from the 52nd Century. Whilst incarcerated in the Stormcage penal facility, he had a device implanted into him which prevented him from carrying out any further acts of violence.
He used a Vortex Manipulator to travel back to the town of Montgomery, Alabama, in the year 1955, in an attempt to stifle the nascent Civil Rights movement. This was the location where Rosa Parks would refuse to give up her seat on a bus to a white passenger, just because of their colour.
Krasko could not harm her directly, so went about trying to make sure that the incident never took place, such as attempting to detour the bus. He failed.
The Doctor's companion Ryan caused him to become displaced in time with his own equipment, back to the age of the dinosaurs, after the Doctor had destroyed his Vortex Manipulator.

Played by: Joshua Bowman. Appearances: Rosa (2018).
  • The Civil Rights history aspects of Rosa may be great, but Krasko has to be one of the most pathetically conceived villains the series has ever produced.

K is for... Krafayis

The Krafayis were a species of space-going carnivores, whose origins were obscure. They hunted in packs and any sick, injured or otherwise weak individual was abandoned. One of the creatures which was blind found itself alone in late 19th Century France, where it was painted by the artist Vincent Van Gogh. The Doctor spotted this image whilst visiting an exhibition about the Dutch painter, so he and Amy Pond travelled to Auvers-sur-Oise in 1890 to investigate. Due to its blindness, the creature had been killing randomly.
The Doctor had to employ a species-identifying device to confirm what the creature was. A large reptilian quadruped, it had the facial features of a bird, with a large beak.
Krafayis are invisible, but Vincent was able to see this one, due to his unique way of looking at the world around him.
On the night when the painter saw it at the church, the Doctor and Amy joined him. In the confusion of its attack, Vincent accidentally stabbed it with the sharpened feet of his easel, killing it.

Appearances: Vincent and the Doctor (2010).

K is for... Kracauer

One of the officers who supervised the Iceworld trading post on the dark side of the planet Svartos. Kracauer was employed by its controller Kane, who had been exiled here by his own people of the planet Proamon. He helped Kane recruit unwilling customers to expand his army of mercenaries, which he was planning to use to get revenge on his enemies - not realising that they had been wiped out centuries ago in a supernova. Along with colleague Belazs, Kracauer was little more than a glorified slave of Kane's. Together they plotted to destroy him. He could only survive in sub-zero temperatures, and Kracauer entered his inner sanctum where he slept to raise the temperature. However, Kane woke up in time and killed him with his freezing touch.

Played by: Tony Osoba. Appearances: Dragonfire (1987).
  • Second of three appearances in the series by Osoba, who is best known for his regular role in the classic BBC sitcom Porridge. He had previously played the Movellan Lan in Destiny of the Daleks, and would later play veteran astronaut Duke in Kill the Moon.
  • Most of the characters in this story are named after film historians, directors and theorists. Kracauer gets his name from the German film theorist Siegfried Kracauer (1889 - 1966).

K is for... Kraals

The Kraals were a belligerent race from the planet Oseidon. This world had unnaturally high levels of natural radiation, made worse by the technological exploitation of the planet. In appearance they looked like thick-skinned bipedal rhinoceroses.
They decided to abandon the planet and invade a new one - selecting Earth as a suitable candidate. It was chosen as they had encountered a human astronaut named Guy Crayford, whose spaceship had failed catastrophically near Jupiter. Their chief scientist Styggron convinced him that the Kraals had saved his life and rebuilt his shattered body. In return he would help them invade the Earth, although he believed they only wanted part of the planet for themselves. Styggron was working with military leader Chedaki on a scheme to wipe out the Earth's population using a lethal virus, which would be spread by android duplicates.
An android testing ground mimicking the UK Space Defence complex and the neighbouring village of Devesham was set up on Oseidon, created from Crayford's memory patterns. When the TARDIS materialised here the Doctor thought it was the Earth version, though he was suspicious of the high background radiation levels.
When Crayford returned to Earth he had Styggron hidden aboard his ship. Chedaki was following with his fleet, which would only land after the virus had done its work. However, the Doctor used a reprogrammed android copy of himself to destroy the scientist, who fell onto a sample of his own virus.
With Earth's defences now on high alert, Chedaki withdrew the fleet.

Played by: Martin Friend (Styggron), Roy Skelton (Chedaki) and Stuart Fell. Appearances: The Android Invasion (1975).
  • This was only the second story written by Terry Nation not to include the Daleks.
  • Producer Philip Hinchcliffe was unhappy with the creature design as he couldn't see how these brutish-looking beings could possibly handle intricate android circuitry.
  • The Doctor would encounter another race of bipedal rhino beings in the Judoon.
  • The final sentence of the profile above is an assumption. The story simply fails to mention what the rest of the Kraals do once Styggron is killed.

K is for... Kovarian

Madame Kovarian led a breakaway faction of the Church of the Papal Mainframe. She was at times aided by Colonel Manton of the Clerics, and by fellow members of the Order of Silence. 
Amy Pond began seeing visions of a woman wearing a black eye-patch from the time when the TARDIS visited the United States in 1969. The woman would appear very briefly, as though looking through a small hatch, then vanish again. It transpired that she had been abducted by the woman - Madame Kovarian. She was pregnant and being held on the heavily fortified asteroid known as Demons Run. The Doctor and Rory were initially unaware of this as she had been replaced with a duplicate composed of the substance known as Flesh, which retained her personality and memories. 
Kovarian's first plan had been to blow up the TARDIS, but this plot had failed when the Doctor used it instead to reboot the universe.
Her next plan was to keep Amy's baby, which had Time Lord abilities due to being conceived in the TARDIS whilst travelling through the Vortex. It would be reared to become an assassin, mentally programmed to kill the Doctor. This was because it was feared that he would be responsible for reigniting the Time War, bringing back the Time Lords during his stay on the planet Trenzalore.
The baby grew up to be River Song.
When River failed to kill the Doctor, shattering a fixed point in time, all of Earth's history was damaged. In one of these timelines Kovarian attempted to kill the Doctor using the Silents but her efforts to sabotage the eye-patches of her enemies resulted in the destruction of her own, which electrocuted her. As this was an ultimately aborted timeline, it is not known what her true fate was.

Played by: Frances Barber. Appearances: Day of the Moon, The Curse of the Black Spot, The Rebel Flesh / The Almost People, A Good Man Goes To War, Closing Time, The Wedding of River Song (all 2011).
  • Barber is one of Britain's hardest working actors, with some 160 credits on IMDb - and that's just TV and cinema. I recall seeing her in the theatre in the Pet Shop Boys' musical Closer to Heaven in 2001.
  • She and Alex Kingston previously appeared together in the credits of the 2003 TV movie The Warrior Queen, in which Kingston played Boudicca, and Barber played Nero's mother Agrippina.

K is for... Korwin

Hal Korwin was the husband of Kath McDonnell, captain of the spaceship SS Pentallian which was crossing the Torajii system in the 42nd Century when the TARDIS materialised on board. The vessel had recently used a banned piece of technology to scoop up solar matter to use as fuel. However, this particular sun was a sentient lifeform, and it sought revenge against the ship and its crew. It was dragging the ship down into itself. Korwin became infected by it, his internal body temperature rising greatly. One look from his eyes could incinerate a person, and he began killing off the crew. He also sabotaged the ship to prevent it from being steered clear of the sun. Freezing him could suppress the infection, but for a short time only. To move around the ship he donned a welders helmet with darkened visor. In order to speed the destruction of the vessel he transferred some of the infection into the body of fellow crewman Dev Ashton.
Knowing that her husband could never be saved, and taking responsibility for their predicament, Kath lured Korwin into an airlock and ejected both into space, to fall into the sun.

Played by: Matthew Chambers. Appearances: 42 (2007).

On This Day... 26th July

It's a very happy birthday today to Eve Myles, who turns 44. 
She first appeared in the 2005 Doctor Who story The Unquiet Dead, as psychic Cardiff maidservant Gwyneth. A year later she was Cardiff policewoman Gwen Cooper of Torchwood. The crossover Doctor Who story The Stolen Earth / Journey's End put their similarity down to proximity to the space / time Rift which ran through the city. 
She shares her birthday with monster performer Spencer Wilding (the Minotaur in The God Complex, the Wooden King in The Doctor, the Widow and the Wardrobe, Ice Warrior Skaldak in Cold War, the lead Dreg in Orphan 55, and a Quill in spin-off series Class). He was also Darth Vader in Rogue One: A Star Wars Story. He is 50 today.

Today we also remember Mary Tamm, who passed away on this date in 2012, aged 62. 
She portrayed the original incarnation of Romana throughout Season 16 - the Key to Time season. As a fellow Time Lord, she was promised a more proactive, independent sort of companion role, but quickly found that this was not the case. She therefore determined to leave after one year. Producer Graham Williams was so sure he could get her to change her mind that no exit was planned for her, so the character regenerated between seasons. She subsequently stated that she would have come back for a regeneration if asked.
We also lost actor John Normington today, in 2007 aged 70. He was the villainous Morgus in The Caves of Androzani, and later Trevor Sigma in The Happiness Patrol. In 2006 he featured in the Torchwood episode Ghost Machine, as Tom Flanagan.

Monday 25 July 2022

David Warner 1941 - 2022

It has been announced today that the actor David Warner has passed away at the age of 80. He died yesterday from a cancer-related illness.
He only appeared in Doctor Who on the single occasion - as Russian scientist Professor Grisenko, in 2013's Cold War. Prior to that he had voiced the villain Lord Azlok in the animated adventure Dreamland.
His main connection with the series was through the Big Finish audio range. He portrayed an alternative version of the Third Doctor several times as well as guesting in a large number of other productions in a variety of roles, ranging from Sir Isaac Newton to Mycroft Holmes.
Star Trek fans will remember him from the fifth and sixth movies of the original franchise - The Final Frontier, in which he was a human ambassador, and The Undiscovered Country, in which he was the Klingon Chancellor. He also appeared in ST:TNG as a Cardassian interrogator.
Other genre roles included Tron, The Time Bandits, Avatar, Babylon 5, and the 2001 version on Planet of the Apes. A particular favourite of mine was Time After Time (1979), in which he played Jack the Ripper opposite Malcolm McDowell's HG Wells, transported to present day San Francisco.
He spent a large part of his career in the US, appearing in many TV shows and TV movies there.
A quick look at Wikipedia reveals 90 movies and 95 TV programmes, from 1962 onwards. Latterly some of these were voice work rather than on screen appearances.
And, of course, alongside this he also had a hugely successful stage career, on Broadway as well as with the RSC. 

On This Day... 25th July

Viewers today in 1964 might have been wondering why the fifth episode of The Sensorites was titled Kidnap. The actual kidnapping (of astronaut Carol) only took place in the closing seconds.
In 1985 the TV series was on its hiatus. To tide things over it had been agreed that Eric Saward would write a story for radio, with Colin Baker and Nicola Bryant. The result was Slipback, the first two 10 minute instalments of which made their debut today on a children's section of BBC Radio 4. If you bought the Season 22 Collection box-set recently you will have found this as an extra. It includes an extremely annoying computer and a massive contradiction to the recently broadcast Terminus (script edited by Saward), in that it gives an entirely different reason for the Big Bang.

Today we wish Queen Thalira of Peladon a very happy birthday. Nina Thomas is 70.
She shares her birthday with actor Oscar James, who turns 80. He was only a background artist in The Crusade, but later went on to become a regular on EastEnders, playing Tony Carpenter.

We also remember a couple of Hartnell era guest artists. Robin Phillips, who played Altos in The Keys of Marinus, died in 2015, aged 73. This was the same age as Hywell Bennett (Aridian Rynian in The Chase) when he passed away in 2017.
Mike Mundell, the Gallifreyan outler Jasko in The Invasion of Time, died in 2003, aged 58.
Also on this date, the stunt man and fight arranger on Battlefield Alf Joint passed away - in 2005 aged 77. He performed stunt work on The Ambassadors of Death and Colony in Space as well. His movie work included several James Bond and Superman films, as well as Return of the Jedi and A Bridge Too Far.

Sunday 24 July 2022

Daleks & Zombies (& Three Headed Monsters)

With the two Daleks movies in the news at the moment I was doing a bit of internet browsing and came across these two US drive-in cinema adverts, dating to December 1968.
Apparently it was felt quite appropriate to have Dr. Who and the Daleks share a double-bill (or even a triple-bill) with George A Romero's classic low budget horror Night of the Living Dead (1968).
This movie basically kick-started the whole flesh-eating Zombie genre, which is still going strong with The Walking Dead and its spin-offs.
The advert above is from Chicago, and the one below from San Francisco. There, the two movies were joined by one of the Toho kaiju movies - Gidrah The Three Headed Monster (AKA Ghidorah, the Three Headed Monster, 1964). That at least was aimed at a similar audience to the Dalek movie, but the Romero movie is most definitely for adults only.
Images came from the BroaDWcast site, which archives information about Doctor Who from overseas sources (such as TV listings and articles from Hong Kong, Australia etc.).

Episode 29: The Bride of Sacrifice

Ixta has Ian at his mercy as Barbara arrives. Tlotoxl mocks her: if she truly is the reincarnated Yetaxa, let her save her servant...
She seizes the High Priest's own knife and holds it to his throat, telling everyone that he will die if any harm comes to Ian. He is forced to demand Ixta withdraw. The Perfect Victim tells the warrior that he may not claim the victory.
Once everyone has left, Tlotoxl reassures Ixta that he will have Ian at his mercy again soon, but this time Yetaxa will not be able to save him.
Barbara approaches Autloc and asks for his support in stopping the sacrifices - beginning with that of the Perfect Victim which will take place the next day. There is to be a total eclipse and Tlotoxl will claim that only a blood sacrifice can bring back the Sun.
Tlotoxl, meanwhile, goes to speak with Tonila, intent on winning him to his cause.
The younger Priest of Knowledge is shocked that they should even consider challenging a god, especially when the High Priest of Sacrifice suggests plying her with poison to test her divinity. Tlotoxl reasons that it cannot harm her if she is immortal. 
Fortunately, Ian is secretly listening in during this discussion.
A short time later Tlotoxl and Tonila visit Barbara in the temple and offer to share a drink with her by way of a peace offering. Ian manages to silently warn her of the danger, so she insists that Tlotoxl drink from the cup first. 
He naturally refuses and is forced to admit it is poisoned - but a furious Barbara admits the truth about herself as well. Tonila had already withdrawn, so she dares Tlotoxl to expose her, as he has no proof and no-one will believe him.
Unable to get at her directly, he decides to bring her down through her friends - beginning with Susan.
At the seminary, Susan refuses to take the hand of the Perfect Victim in the presence of Autloc and Tonila. The latter warns her that she will be severely punished for this, as his every wish must be granted. He informs Tlotoxl.
Barbara is then tricked by him into agreeing to this action, which will take place as part of the sacrificial ceremony - unaware that it refers to Susan.
The Doctor meets with Cameca, who has told Autloc that she hopes to wed the aged servant of Yetaxa. She has some cocoa beans, and the Doctor agrees to help her prepare a brew - unaware that this is tantamount to a marriage proposal in this culture. He is shocked when he finds out what he has just done.
He learns of a secret passage running from the garden up into the tomb. He tells Ian about this, and also lets him know that he has just gotten engaged - much to the teacher's amusement.
That night both enter the garden and approach the base of the pyramid. They remove a stone slab which is decorated with Yetaxa's symbol and find a tunnel beyond.
As Ian moves up the narrow passage the Doctor is surprised by the sudden arrival of Ixta in the garden. Knowing full well what is going on, having spied on them, he tells the Doctor that the stone must be replaced to prevent the gardens being flooded as a dam above the city is often opened. The Doctor is powerless to stop him doing so without admitting Ian is in the tunnel.
Trapped in the passage, Ian is shocked to realise that it is beginning to fill with water...
Next episode: The Day of Darkness

Written by: John Lucarotti
Recorded: Friday 15th May 1964 - Television Centre Studio 3 (TC3)
First broadcast: 5:15pm, Saturday 6th June 1964
Ratings: 7.9 million / AI 57
Designer: Barry Newbery
Director: John Crockett

This episode saw Carole Ann Ford still on holiday with her family, and therefore featured the second sequence which John Crockett had filmed with her at Ealing on 13th April. Again it only featured the guest trio of Pyott, Randall and Boulay.

This episode is remembered best for the Doctor's unwitting engagement to the elderly Aztec lady Cameca. 
This comes about when he makes a drink from cocoa beans which she has gathered.
Chocolate was well known to the Mayan peoples, and to the Olmecs who preceded them. Traces of a chocolate drink have been found in pottery dating back to 3500 BC. As cocoa beans were used as a form of currency, chocolate tended to be the preserve of the wealthy, though poorer people enjoyed it at weddings and other ceremonies. As well as a stimulant, it was also regarded as an aphrodisiac. It is this latter function which John Lucarotti may have been thinking about when he had it tradition that brewing a chocolate drink signified a marriage proposal. There was one 12th Century example of a royal wedding being sealed with a brew, and a woman could be asked to brew a chocolate drink to prove to her prospective husband that she would make a good housewife. 
I haven't found any specific mention of a man making a brew acting as a marriage proposal.
"Cocoa" is actually an English misspelling. The Aztecs called it "Cacao".

William Hartnell started his movie career in what were known as "Quota Quickies", many of which were comedies. He always regretted how little comedy he did in his later career. We get a glimpse of his talents in this area here.
All four regulars get a fair share of the action in this episode - including Ford who isn't even in the studio. Her single scene shows how quickly Susan has learned about the Aztec culture, but also reinforces her determination never to do anything she disagrees with - her opposition to arranged marriage having already been established by Lucarotti in the last episode, as well as in his previous story.
Barbara proves herself a capable adversary, able to think on her feet as she rapidly turns the tables on Tlotoxl, saving Ian from a seemingly impossible danger.

Despite all the effort the writer and production team have taken to make this as historically accurate as possible, one obvious question does arise: where is the ruler of this city? 
There's no mention of any king such as Moctezuma, so it may not be the capital Tenochtitlan (now the historic heart of Mexico City). Even if a smaller regional city, there should still be a political or dynastic ruler, but none are mentioned. The story seems to imply that the place is ruled between them by Tlotoxl and Autloc.

We mention below that an Audience Reaction Report was conducted for this episode, in which the sets and costumes were praised. However, one particular set dressing did not impress, but this was mainly down to the way in which the actors handled it. Barry Newbery had created a stone panel, with Yetaxa's emblem on it, out of jablite (expanded polystyrene). It was therefore very light. William Russell and Ian Cullen were both tasked with moving it and making it look like solid stone, but it is obviously lightweight when seen on screen.
During rehearsals in the run up to recording this episode it was announced that the series would be returning to Lime Grove Studio D, and Television Centre facilities would not be available to the programme again for another 12 weeks.

  • The audience figure rises by half a million on the previous two weeks - but the AI is the lowest recorded since the final episode of An Unearthly Child.
  • This instalment was selected for a BBC Audience Reaction Report, published the following month. Children still found it "super" and "fab" but adults were less impressed. Some stated that the series had been going on too long, with too much capture-escape. Someone wondered why bad things always happened wherever the TARDIS landed, and others preferred the science fiction stories over these adventures in history. The sets and costumes were praised.
  • Keith Pyott has some problems with the word "seminary" - pronouncing it semin-in-ery at one point.
  • The inclusion of a total eclipse of the sun may help to date this story. Barbara thinks that the tomb dates to around 1430, and both Autloc and Cameca knew the builder (and probably Yetaxa himself), so the earliest it can be is around 1450. The latest is 1519, when the Conquistadores arrive. There was an eclipse whose totality was seen from Mexico in the middle of this date range - on 8th August 1496. The novelisation places it in 1507, but there was no eclipse that year seen from Mexico.
  • Walter Randall was bearded when offered the role of Tonila, and was advised to shave his beard off as the Aztecs didn't have facial hair.
  • The closing credits for this episode had to be redone as the roller caption wasn't printed properly.
  • William Russell didn't get his feet wet in the closing scenes. This was filmed at Ealing with a stand-in on 14th April.