Wednesday 31 August 2022

On This Day... 31st August

The fourth episode of The Dominators was shown today in 1968. It was the penultimate instalment of the story - though that hadn't been the plan originally. The six part version was reduced to five by script editor Derrick Sherwin, much to the annoyance of the writers.

Today we remember a pair of key figures - one behind the scenes and one on screen. 
The latter actor is Michael Sheard, who appeared in the series on six occasions. He died today in 2005, aged 67.
His first role was as medic Rhos in The Ark in 1966. He skipped the Troughton era and was next seen as another doctor - Summers, in The Mind of Evil during Pertwee's tenure.
The third appearance is the one he's best remembered for - the doomed Laurence Scarman in Pyramids of Mars. A second Tom Baker role was as Supervisor Lowe of Titan Base in The Invisible Enemy.
In Peter Davison's first story he was a medic again - Castrovalva's apothecary Mergrave.
His last role was as the Headmaster of Coal Hill School in Remembrance of the Daleks. (The latter also featured George Sewell, whose birthday it would have been today. He died in 2007 aged 82).
Outside of Doctor Who he was associated with another famous fictional school - Grange Hill - in which he played the horrible Mr Bronson.
He had some notable big screen roles, including Imperial Admiral Ozzel in The Empire Strikes Back, and Adolf Hitler in Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade. Hitler was a role he played on four other occasions (including The Tomorrow People), and he also played Himmler three times.

Behind the scenes, we remember Gerry Davis, the series' fourth script editor, who died today in 1991, aged 61.
During his tenure he introduced the popular base-under-siege scenario and played a major role in developing the character of the Second Doctor, having overseen the series' first change of lead actor. He introduced a scientific adviser to the programme - Kit Pedler - with whom he created the Cybermen, and also later devised the Doomwatch series.
He left the series part way through Evil of the Daleks and later moved to the USA to work. He novelised some Cyberman stories for Target, but is last TV story - Revenge of the Cybermen - was heavily rewritten by his later successor Robert Holmes. (His first job on Doctor Who had been to rewrite his predecessor's work on The Celestial Toymaker, so he couldn't really complain).
He tried to tempt the JNT production team with a Cyberman origins story but this wasn't taken up.
After the series had been taken off the air, he and Terry Nation formed a partnership to produce the series independently, but this offer was declined by the BBC.

Tuesday 30 August 2022

L is for... Lancelot

Sir Lancelot, famous knight of King Arthur's Round Table, was of the characters summoned by the Doctor to fight the Master of the Land of Fiction. He appeared in full armour on horseback and overcame the villainous Blackbeard the Pirate in their mental duel.

Played by: John Greenwood. Appearances: The Mind Robber (1968).
  • Fight arranger Greenwood also played D'Artagnan in the same episode.
  • Ancelyn, the character from 1989's Battlefield, was based on Lancelot.
  • William Russell, who played companion Ian Chesterton, first came to fame playing the knight of Camelot in The Adventures of Sir Lancelot.

L is for... Lance

Lance Bennett was the fiancé of Donna Noble. They got together after she came to work at H C Clements, where he was head of Human Resources. The pair were about to get married on Christmas Day 2007 when Donna suddenly vanished from the church. Her body was full of Huon particles, which the TARDIS attracted towards itself.
When Donna finally made it to her reception she found that her friends and family had gone ahead with this in her absence, and Lance was dancing with her hated friend Nerys.
Lance insisted on accompanying Donna and the Doctor to their workplace to discover how she had been infused with the particles, after finding out that the company was a front for the Torchwood organisation. They had tunnelled to the centre of the Earth.
It transpired that she had been dosed deliberately over the last few months by Lance in her daily coffee. He was in league with the Queen of the Racnoss to resurrect her dormant children, hidden at the bottom of the Torchwood shaft, after being promised the chance to visit the stars. He confessed to Donna that he had always found her extremely annoying.
When Donna escaped with the Doctor, the Racnoss Queen decided to use Lance instead - dosing him with Huon particles. Once these had been released to reanimate her offspring, Lance was cast down the shaft to feed the the Racnoss which were ascending it.

Played by: Don Gilet. Appearances: The Runaway Bride (2006).
  • Gilet has had a very varied career. His first TV appearance was on a TV dating show (as the friend of a participant rather than a contestant himself). He has performed in pantomime, Shakespeare, music videos, and been a serial killer on EastEnders.

L is for... Lamia

Madam Lamia was the chief surgeon to Count Grendel of Gracht, on the planet Tara. Hers was actually a technical role, as she built and maintained androids. The planet had suffered from a terrible plague in the past, and the labour shortage had been filled with an android workforce. 
She and Grendel had enjoyed a romantic interlude in the past and whilst he had never considered it at all serious, she still carried a torch for him.
When Grendel discovered Romana on his lands, suffering from a sprained ankle, he had her brought to Lamia to repair - believing her to be an android replica of the Princess Strella whom she closely resembled. She was intrigued by the Key to Time segment which Romana was holding, and attempted to define its nature.
When the Doctor began interfering in Grendel's machinations to seize the Taran throne, he had Lamia create an android copy of Romana which was programmed to kill him in a trap set up in a summer pavilion on his estate. The Doctor managed to evade this assassination attempt. When Lamia ran out of the pavilion a trigger-happy Gracht soldier shot her dead.

Played by: Lois Baxter. Appearances: The Androids of Tara (1978).
  • Baxter, who turned 75 this year, was a regular fixture in British TV drama in the 1970's and '80's, in series such as When The Boat Comes In, as well as a run in Coronation Street. She is married to David Savile, whose Doctor Who guest credentials include The War Games, The Claws of Axos and The Five Doctors.
  • In Greek mythology Lamia was a female monster who devoured children, a character who later evolved into a nocturnal daemon. She had been beautiful once, but had physically changed as she mentally failed to cope with the loss of her own children to Hera, queen of the gods.

L is for... Lakertyans

The people of the planet Lakertya were humanoid in appearance but exhibited reptilian and bird-like features, including a bony ridge across the top of the skull. They dressed in bright pastel coloured robes.
They were a pleasure-seeking race for the most part, almost to the point of indolence - spending their days relaxing in their centres of leisure. This meant they were easily conquered by the Rani and her Tetrap allies. She had discovered an asteroid composed of incredibly dense Strange Matter orbiting the planet. She devised a scheme to destroy this with a missile fired from Lakertya, as part of a complicated plot to create a time manipulator.
The leader, Beyus, and his daughter Sarn were made to work for her, whilst his wife, Faroon, and the rest of his people were fitted with ankle-bracelets which would kill them if they attempted to remove them. The centre of leisure was also fitted with a large metal sphere containing hundreds of insects whose sting was deadly - which would be released if the Lakertyans tried to rebel. 
A young male Lakertyan named Ikona refused to bow to the Rani and became an outcast from his people. He joined forces with the Doctor and companion Mel to fight against her and the Tetraps. 
Beyus was eventually forced to stand up for his people following the death of Sarn in one of the Rani's booby-traps. He sacrificed himself to ensure that the Rani's missile missed its target, and was blown up along with her base.
After the Tetraps had fled with the Rani as their captive, the Doctor offered the Lakertyans an antidote to the poisonous insects, but Ikona poured it away - stating that his people had to take responsibility and devise their own solutions to their problems from now on.

Played by: Mark Greenstreet (Ikona), Donald Pickering (Beyus), Wanda Ventham (Faroon), Karen Clegg (Sarn). Appearances: Time and the Rani (1987).
  • The name Lakertyan derives from 'lacertian' - meaning lizard-like.
  • Writers Pip and Jane Baker had intended the planet to be forested, instead of a grey quarry.
  • Pickering and Ventham had appeared together in a Doctor Who story before - 1967's The Faceless Ones.
  • He had also appeared in The Keys of Marinus, and she in Image of the Fendahl.
  • Ventham is the mother of actor Benedict Cumberpatch.
  • Mark Greenstreet is the great-nephew of Hollywood star Sidney Greenstreet, of The Maltese Falcon fame.

L is for... Lake, Jackson

When the Doctor visited London at Christmas, 1851, he was surprised to encounter another incarnation of himself who was battling the Cybermen. He had a companion named Rosita. The Doctor assumed that he was an incarnation from his future. Certain things did not add up, however. His sonic screwdriver was an ordinary wood and metal one - sonic only in that it made a noise when you hit it against something, and his TARDIS was a hot air balloon (Tethered Aerial Release Developed In Style). More tellingly, he only had one heart.
The Doctor discovered that he was holding the luggage of a man named Jackson Lake. It transpired that Lake had encountered the Cybermen in the cellar of his house, close to the Thames. They had killed his wife and abducted his son Frederic. They were using Infostamp devices to store data and one of these - full of information about their greatest enemy, the Doctor - had accidentally discharged itself into his mind. He had come to believe that he was the Doctor.
One he remembered who he was he joined forces with the Doctor to defeat the Cybermen and their human ally Miss Hartigan. They were using children like Lake's son as slave labour to build a Cyberking - a huge Cyberman craft / conversion unit.
After the threat had been eliminated, the Doctor using the balloon to get close to the Cyberking, he accepted an invite to Christmas dinner with Lake, Rosita and Frederic - something he generally declined.

Played by: David Morrissey. Appearances: The Next Doctor (2008).
  • Morrissey and David Tennant had previously starred opposite each other in the musical drama Blackpool.
  • He has recently starred in the Roman Britain series Britannia, and was the villainous "Governor" in the third and fourth seasons of The Walking Dead, as well as playing former British PM Gordon Brown.
  • The episode title was chosen as Tennant had announced he was leaving the role, and the successor had not yet been made public. Morrissey was unable to tell his children about his character in case they divulged the information at school, causing them to be worried that they would be moving to Cardiff.

L is for... Laird, Professor

Professor Laird was a scientist who was called in to assist an army bomb disposal unit in 1984 London. Workmen carrying out refurbishments on an old Thames-side warehouse near Tower Bridge had found a number of strange cylindrical objects, which they assumed to be unexploded bombs left over from the Blitz. They were in fact alien in origin - canisters containing samples of a virus in aerosol form, devised by the Movellans as a weapon against the Daleks.
Colonel Archer's squad were all killed and replaced with Dalek replicants, apart from Laird. She attempted to help Tegan escape from the warehouse to warn the authorities. She tried to flee herself when both were ordered to be taken to the Dalek spacecraft located at the end of a time tunnel in the far future, but was shot dead in the attempt.

Played by: Chloe Ashcroft. Appearances: Resurrection of the Daleks (1984).
  • Ashcroft was best known at the time for co-presenting children's TV series Play School and Play Away.
  • Laird is given the first name Sarah in Eric Saward's novelisation.

On This Day... 30th August

Terror of the Zygons, Part One, which made its debut today in 1975, should have been screened the week following Revenge of the Cybermen Part Four. Concerned about Gerry Anderson's new sci-fi series Space:1999, however, a decision was made to hold it back and use it to launch Season 13 four months early.
In 1981 Season 18 also got underway with the first instalment of The Leisure Hive. This marked a noticeable change in the look and sound of the series, thanks to new producer John Nathan Turner. Try watching it immediately after The Horns of Nimon and you'll see what I mean.
2014's Into The Dalek saw Peter Capaldi's Doctor encounter the Daleks for the first time, in an episode directed by Ben Wheatley - so of course it had Michael Smiley in the cast.

Ben's namesake Alan Wheatley died today in 1991, aged 84. He became the series' first "guest star" when he took on the role of Temmosus in The Daleks, having already been a big TV star. He was known to millions as the Sheriff of Nottingham to Richard Greene's Robin in The Adventures of Robin Hood. He had previously featured opposite William Hartnell in Brighton Rock (1947).

Monday 29 August 2022

On This Day... 29th August

The Tyrant of France, the fourth episode of 1964's The Reign of Terror, no longer exits, and there are no telesnaps, so the above image is of the titular character - Robespierre - from the surviving sixth instalment.

When it came to that story's Target novelisation, it was Ian Marter who got the commission, rather than regular adapter Terrance Dicks. We remember 'Uncle Tel' on the third anniversary of his death, at the age of 84 in 2019. His involvement with Target resulted in 67 Doctor Who novels, plus spin-offs like The Making of Doctor Who and the two Monster Books. He also wrote a number of non-Who books for the company, aimed at young children and teenagers.
We also lost comic actor Bill Kerr on this day in 2014, aged 92. Best known for the original radio version of Hancock's Half Hour, he played Giles Kent in The Enemy of the World - which was in production round about the time that Dicks was arriving to take up the assistant script editor role.
Also on this day: 
Patrick Barr (Hobson in The Moonbase) died in 1985, aged 77, 
Dallas Adams (Prof. Howard Foster / Kamelion in Planet of Fire) died in 1991, aged 44.

Sunday 28 August 2022

Episode 34: A Race Against Death

Ian collapses onto the floor, and the Doctor asks the First Elder if he has the symptoms of their plague. The Sensorite ruler confirms that he has, so there is no hope for him...
The Doctor suspects some kind of poisoning and orders some salt and water to make an emetic. He and Susan then begin to work out what may have afflicted Ian in this manner. They have done everything together since arriving on the Sense-Sphere, except that Ian drank the inferior water. There must be a toxin in the water supply, which is why only certain parts of the city are affected at any one time, and why none of the Elders has succumbed. They use their own unique supply.
The Doctor asks the First Elder for permission to work with their scientists to identify the particular poison and so find a cure.
The City Administrator hears of this and suspects that the Doctor is trying to undermine their confidence in the water supply, which he believes to be perfectly healthy.
In the laboratory he realises that John senses his aggression towards them. The young man is undergoing therapy to clear his mind. The Administrator shrugs this off, believing no-one will take the astronaut seriously. Present in the lab with John is Carol, and she mentions to the Administrator that humans find the Sensorites so alike that they wouldn't recognise them without their various badges of office. This gives him an idea... 
He has the Second Elder abducted, in revenge for his having stopped the use of the disintegrator and because he has been advocating in favour of the visitors. He will use his sash to impersonate him. The Second Elder is held under guard by the Engineer in the disintegrator room, which is rarely visited. If he tries to escape his family group will suffer.
The Doctor has had water sampled from each of the ten districts of the city and soon discovers the presence of atropine poisoning in one of them. The cause is the plant belladonna, otherwise known as Deadly Nightshade. With the toxin identified a cure is prepared. 
As it is being taken to the Elders' palace for Ian, the Administrator - in the guise of the Second Elder - intercepts it and destroys it.
Unaware of this, the Doctor decides to visit the city aqueduct and investigate the source of the poison. The Sensorites warn him that it is very dark there, so they cannot follow, and the tunnels are also believed to be inhabited by monsters.
Fed up with waiting for the antidote, Susan goes to the laboratory herself and fetches another dose, which she gives to Ian. He makes a swift recovery.
The First Elder is alarmed to hear that it was his deputy who seems to have prevented delivery of the first dose.
In the darkness of the aqueduct, the Doctor hears the growls of some savage animal approaching...
Next episode: Kidnap

Written by: Peter R Newman
Recorded: Friday 19th June 1964 - Television Centre Studio 4 (TC4)
First broadcast: 5:15pm, Saturday 18th July 1964
Ratings: 5.5 million / AI 60
Designer: Raymond P Cusick
Director: Mervyn Pinfield

After a single episode back in Lime Grove D, this instalment returned to Television Centre, but to a studio it had not visited before (the smaller TC4).
Not present was Jacqueline Hill who was on a two week holiday. Her character had been left behind on the spaceship in the previous episode, and with nothing to add to the plot there had been no need for pre-filming any material involving Barbara. 

Viewers probably didn't notice it at the time, but a major change occurs in this episode. 
In An Unearthly Child, the Doctor wanted to get back to the TARDIS and leave, but was stopped by the cave people.
He was happy to leave the Thals at risk of attack from the Daleks, and was only prevented from leaving Skaro as the Fluid Link had been left behind in the Dalek city.
In 13th Century Cathay Marco Polo had confiscated the key to the ship so the Doctor was unable to leave.
On Arbitan's island the Doctor was leading his companions back to the TARDIS, having refused to help the old man, but was prevented from accessing the ship due to a force barrier surrounding it. When they returned from fetching the keys, the Doctor was quite prepared to leave, despite the Conscience machine now being held by Yartek, leader of the alien Voord.
In the Aztec city, the Doctor couldn't leave because he couldn't access the tomb in which the TARDIS was sealed.
Basically, other than the two-part TARDIS-set story, the Doctor has spent every adventure trying to get back to his ship in order to flee at the first possible opportunity.
In A Race Against Death we see the first occasion when the Doctor actually decides to stick around and do something to help just because it is the right thing to do. No-one asks him to investigate the aqueduct. He has already found the cause of the poison and therefore its cure, and could have used this to exhort the First Elder into giving him back the TARDIS lock.
But he doesn't. He puts himself at risk to go into the tunnels instead. Still an ambivalent character up to this point, the Doctor is starting to transform into the heroic character we are more familiar with.

What the Doctor is looking for in the aqueduct is evidence of the plant Deadly Nightshade. Atropa Belladonna is a toxic herbaceous plant of the Solanaceae family, which includes the eggplant, tomato and potato plants. It is native to Europe, North Africa and western parts of Asia, but has also been introduced into the USA and Canada. Every part of the plant can be poisonous to a different degree.
Historically, it was popular in ancient Rome. Agrippina, wife of Claudius and mother of Nero, is supposed to have employed it, on the advice of Locusta (See The Romans). The Empress Livia was also alleged to have painted some figs with it to poison her husband Augustus.
Before becoming King of Scotland Macbeth is supposed to have poisoned an entire invading Danish force.
It has hallucinogenic properties and is thought to be behind the myth of flying witches. On using it they believed they had flown and so confessed to having done so.
The Sensorites fails to mention where the Deadly Nightshade comes from. Has it been brought from Earth by the astronauts (and if so, why), or does it grow naturally on the Sense-Sphere?
It isn't a similar plant, as the Doctor specifically mentions the Earth variety.

No matter what the First Elder might think of his people, the City Administrator and his accomplice show that not every Sensorite is happy, peaceful and trustworthy. It seems odd, therefore, that none has previously tried to exploit their physical similarity, as the Administrator does here with a simple change of insignia.

  • This episode had very low viewing figures, but it was another case of those who did watch liking what they saw. It had the highest AI figure of the story. The low audience figure, not seen since the first story, cannot be easily explained as later episodes, shown deeper into the summer, achieved higher figures. Competition on ITV consisted of cartoons and reruns of old adventure serials.
  • Jacqueline Hill was given a credit on this episode despite her not appearing in it. This was the custom for regular cast members at this time.
  • Ken Tyllsen is credited as 'First Scientist' for this instalment.
  • Joe Greig stumbles over the word "antidote" - saying "anecdote" instead.
  • Radio Times hadn't included a feature alongside Strangers in Space, but printed one on William Hartnell to accompany this week's episode.

On This Day... 28th August

Today we wish Sir Lenny Henry a happy 64th birthday. He played Daniel Barton in Spyfall Parts 1 & 2. Back in 1985 he played a version of the Doctor in his own comedy series - the first black representation of the Doctor on TV. He and companion Peri faced Thatchos - a Cyber version of Mrs T. The sketch also featured Lee Cornes, who had been in Kinda playing the Trickster.

We also remember the Swedish actor / choreographer Tutte Lemkow, whose birthday it would have been today. He had four roles in Doctor Who, all during the Hartnell era, though only three were on screen. 
He was the devious Kuiju in Marco Polo, the bandit Ibrahim in The Crusade, and the mute spy Cyclops in The Myth Makers. The fourth role was as choreographer on The Celestial Toymaker.
He died in 1991, aged 73.

Saturday 27 August 2022

On This Day... 27th August

In 2011 Let's Kill Hitler launched the concluding half of Series 6, which had broken for the summer after the big revelation of River Song's identity in A Good Man Goes To War.
The Magician's Apprentice also had a debut today in 2015 - in an Edinburgh cinema as part of the city's International Television Festival. Series 9 wouldn't get underway on TV until 9th September.
Barry Letts' audio adventure The Paradise of Death, starring Jon Pertwee, Nicholas Courtney and Lis Sladen, had its opening episode broadcast today in 1993 on BBC Radio 5 Live.

Today we wish Suranne Jones a happy 44th birthday. She played Idris, who becomes host to the soul of the TARDIS, in The Doctor's Wife, as well as the Mona Lisa come to life in SJA: Mona Lisa's Revenge.
She shares her birthday with The League of Gentlemen / Inside No.9 star Reece Shearsmith, who played Rassmussen in Sleep No More. He is 53.

Friday 26 August 2022

The Art of... The Sensorites

The Sensorites was novelised by the Target Doctor Who range editor Nigel Robinson in July 1987, its original writer having died back in February 1975.
The cover features the Doctor (from a photograph taken on set for The Daleks' Master Plan), a Sensorite portrait plus a generic spaceship, all set against a bright red planet / outer space background. 
There is also a large flowering plant bottom right, which might have confused some people. I'm assuming that this is Deadly Nightshade. Whilst this plant is mentioned once or twice in the second half of the story, it really isn't all that prominent (it's what the human astronauts do with it that matters) and we never actually see it in any of the episodes. In fact, the astronauts themselves go out of their way not to use the name in front of the Doctor and Ian in the final episode. It certainly has no visual role to play, so not sure why it's so up front on this cover.
The person who might know is artist Nick Spender.

The story arrived on VHS towards the end of the range. In the UK and in Australia it was available only in a box-set with two other William Hartnell stories (The Time Meddler and The Gunfighters) - the last complete adventures of his era still to be released. The First Doctor Special Edition Box Set arrived in the UK in November 2002. 
In the US it was part of a much bigger set - the "End of the Universe" collection - which completed the VHS range for American fans with 11 separate tapes, the earliest of which was The Sensorites. This was released in October 2003.

At this point covers were of the photomontage variety. Part of the image is reproduced on the spine - in this case the Doctor, rather than the Sensorite. The same Sensorite portrait from the VHS cover adorned the side of the First Doctor box set.

Once again, the US version of the DVD has what I think to be the superior cover, with the main image unconstrained by the grey roundel band across the top. 
The Sensorite / Susan imagery derives from the cliff-hanger to the second episode, where she agrees to accompany two of the aliens down to their planet. Rather than use a single image from this scene, however, designer Lee Binding has edited two together - but they are not to scale. The Sensorite appears to be much bigger than they really are. Compare with the similar images on the soundtracks below. 
The Hartnell image, holding up his monocle, comes from this story - a group image of the TARDIS crew facing the two Sensorites on the spaceship bridge.

The original soundtrack was released on CD in July 2008. Narration was by William Russell, who also contributed a bonus interview feature. The cover is principally that image from the cliff-hanger to the second episode, as with the DVD cover. The designer has opted for a rather garish acid green-yellow colour scheme, however. 

When the soundtrack received a vinyl release in July 2022, the designer used some of the same imagery as the CD / DVD but went for a colour palette closer to what you would have seen had you been in the studio in June 1964. We know from colour photographs that the Sensorite uniforms are a blue-grey colour, and their masks orange. 
The cover is split in two halves - the Sensorites with Susan against a spaceship bridge backdrop take up the right hand side of the cover, with a couple of portraits of the aliens against the backdrop of the First Elder's chambers left and centre. The likeness of Susan is dreadful.
Ray Cusick's arch / circle motifs appear on other parts of the internal artwork, along with an image of the TARDIS.
The discs themselves were described as "Sense-Sphere marble" in design.

There are some audiobooks which use an alternative cover to the one used for the first edition of the Target publication - but this isn't one of them. Released in May 2012, like the story's soundtrack it is narrated by William Russell. One difference from the novelisation artwork is that the red background has been toned down a little.

On This Day... 26th August

How it might have been... 
The pilot version of An Unearthly Child finally made its debut today in 1991 It was screened on BBC2 as part of a themed day dedicated to Lime Grove Studios, which had just closed down as a TV production facility.
The pilot had additional sound effects on the theme music and on the TARDIS dematerialisation, the Doctor and Susan were specifically from the 49th Century, he wore an ordinary suit with collar and tie... Lots of things changed from this to the broadcast episode. A few mistakes as well - like the TARDIS doors refusing to close and Susan getting the chart position wrong for John Smith and the Common Men.
The Doctor Who Prom concert was shown on BBC1 this afternoon in 2013, presented by Matt Smith, Jenna Coleman and members of the Paternoster Gang.

Today we wish producer Phil Collinson a happy 52nd birthday. He was fortunate to have been in the producer's chair for much of the first Russell T Davies era, which meant we got to know him well through Doctor Who Confidential
He left at the end of Series 4 to take over the running of Coronation Street, but we now know that he is rejoining RTD and Julie Gardner for Series 14.
He shares his birthday with Annette Badland - the Slitheen otherwise known as Margaret Blaine - who turns 72 today.

We also remember a trio of classic era guest stars who passed away on this date: Gerard Murphy (Richard in Silver Nemesis) who died in 2013 aged 64; Martin Miller (Kublai Khan in Marco Polo) who died in 1969 aged 69, and Tariq Yunus (Cass in The Robots of Death) who was only 47 when he died in 1994.

Thursday 25 August 2022

On This Day... 25th August

Tom Baker, in character as the Doctor, was the guest presenter of BBC 1's Disney Time today in 1975. This show appeared only at Bank Holidays, and featured clips from the animation studio's movies. Jon Pertwee had also presented previously, in 1973. He got to go to Stockholm, whilst Baker only got as far as Upper St Martin's Lane, near London's Covent Garden.
The programme ended with the Doctor being handed a message from the Brigadier, asking for his help. This tied in with the opening episode of Terror of the Zygons which was due to be screened on the 30th August - although Revenge of the Cybermen had already set this up.
In 2011, Torchwood: Miracle Day gave us Immortal Sins.

Today's birthdays include Tracy-Ann Oberman (Army of Ghosts / Doomsday), who is 56, and Jessica Martin (The Greatest Show in the Galaxy and voice of the Queen in Voyage of the Damned) who is 60.
Keegan Joyce who played Starkey, the young male lead in the Australian K9 series, turns 33.

We also remember actor Christopher Burgess who appeared in three stories - all directed by Barry Letts.
He was Swann in The Enemy of the World, Prof. Phillips in Terror of the Autons, and Barnes in Planet of the Spiders. He died in 2003, aged 87.

Wednesday 24 August 2022

What's Wrong With... Carnival of Monsters

Can the TARDIS controls really be so useless that they can't tell the difference between Earth and a planet in another galaxy?

How, exactly, does the Miniscope work? 
If the exhibits exist in time loops, then the Doctor and Jo should be caught up in them as well and be stuck in their 20 minute loop. The Doctor might be immune but Jo shouldn't be. The "aggro-meter" shouldn't work as no external force should influence the exhibits. (Unless it's a Chronic Hysteresis, which is a really c**p type of time loop).
Alternatively, if the people and creatures have simply been programmed in some way to repeat their actions then they will need to be fed and watered to survive. Constantly walking round the deck, with no sleep, should have an impact on them, and Major Daly should be paralytic with all that alcohol he consumes every 20 minutes.
And lets not forget toilet needs...

The big one - how can the Doctor recall the mystery of the SS Bernice if it gets put back where it was supposed to be and continues on its journey? The only way round this is if the ship suffers some other disaster soon after and sinks without trace, so all these people - Major Daly, Clare and Lt Andrews - are doomed to a watery grave.
The plesiosaur's presence is never explained. Was it just thrown into the mix by whoever stocked the Miniscope, or was it actually swimming around the Indian Ocean in 1926, and was the cause of the ship's disappearance after all?
Maybe blowing a hole in the hull with dynamite was the cause of the sinking. Andrews didn't think that one through properly, did he?
(And how do miniaturised sticks of dynamite cause so much damage to the Miniscope's innards?).
Why does Daly's calendar have the dates for 1925 when it's supposed to be the following year?
The back of the Cyberman's helmet is clearly hanging open.

Orum doubts that the Drashigs will break through the external metal plating of the Miniscope, despite having just witnessed the Doctor emerge from it.
The strange metal plate on the floor of the ship may not be visible to the passengers and crew, but it sticks up by half an inch or so. Don't people stub their toes or trip over it?
Do the people who maintain Miniscopes have to be shrunk to do it? The hatches to each domain  have metal bands across them, which suggest that they are designed for tiny people.
Vorg is treated like a national hero for wiping out the Drashigs - despite the fact that they wouldn't have been there if it hadn't been for him.
The locals are going to twig to his sleight of hand pretty quickly, no matter how dumb Pletrac is, so Vorg and Shirna aren't going to survive very long on Inter Minor.

Are the Functionaries supposed to be wearing masks, as that's exactly what it looks like.
In any other story the plight of the Functionaries would have been a major plot point. The Doctor would have fought to free them from servitude. Not the case here. The Doctor doesn't raise an objection, let along take action to free them, and just clears off leaving them enslaved.

Behind the scenes, Barry Letts actually liked the new arrangement of the theme music - the one known as the Delaware version. It's the awful boingy-boingy one. Everyone apart from Letts hated it - even the people who made it.
What did the Australians do to upset him that they were sent episodes which included it?

Centenary Update (May Contain Spoilers)

News about the Centenary Special has been practically non-existent since the images released at Easter to coincide with the teaser which followed Legend of the Sea Devils
Soon after, everyone was talking about the 60th Anniversary, thanks to the return of David Tennant and Catherine Tate, followed almost immediately with news about the casting of Ncuti Gatwa as the next full-time Doctor.
The Chibnall-Whittaker swan-song was in danger of being totally overlooked - just a bump on the way to the 60th. He gave what seemed to be his last interview to DWM, and a month or so ago we learned that the producer isn't even involved in the editing of the episode, having already moved on to other things. There were rumours that the BBC weren't impressed and it was having to be re-edited.
There are people on Twitter getting worked up about the lack of air-date - despite the fact that the Special is date-specific. It's the BBC Centenary episode - so it's going to be screened either side of the BBC's 100th birthday, which falls on 18th October. If they stick to a Sunday broadcast, then it ought to be shown on either the 16th or the 23rd October.
In the last few days we had word that the Doctor would be seen wearing items of costume belonging to her predecessors, and that some other ex-companions might feature other than the ones we definitely know about - Ace, Tegan, Vinder, Kate Stewart and Graham.
(Some earlier Doctors have also been mooted - Colin Baker and McCoy have been mentioned, as well as David Bradley. The trio were photographed at a Cardiff hotel last summer, around the time that this was being filmed, but someone has claimed they were taking part in a documentary about the series. Would you go all the way to Cardiff for that?...).

Today, the TV Zone website has now stated that we will be getting a story title and poster image this coming weekend. It is a Bank Holiday in the UK, so the sort of occasion when this could be released - perhaps even another trailer with new scenes. With only 7 or 8 weeks remaining before it is due to be shown, this would make sense. It is also due to be previewed in the next issue of DWM, which comes out on 15th September.
The BBC haven't commented, so it's just rumour for now.

Another rumour while we're here concerns the 60th. Actress Rose Ayling-Ellis has just left EastEnders, and when asked what she was going to do next she claimed it was a big secret she wasn't allowed to talk about, which would be revealed at the end of the month. Ayling-Ellis is deaf and a sign language user. In the recent DWM Guest Star Special Andy Pryor mentioned that the next series would be actively promoting actors with disabilities. People are now thinking of her as a strong contender to be the companion to Ncuti's Doctor, as Yasmin Finney appears to be only doing the anniversary episodes.
It would be funny if the temporary Rose was replaced with a full-time one.

(UPDATE 27/08: She has since revealed that she is writing her own series focussing on disabled characters and is not joining Doctor Who).

Meanwhile, at a convention in the US, David Tennant would not be drawn on whether or not he would be using his Scottish accent for the 60th. This would have given away whether or not he was the Tenth reincarnated, or a 14th who just happens to look like Ten. He also stressed that a lot of the stuff he and Tate filmed took place behind closed doors - so we only know a fraction of what might be in store. This has led some to hope that there will be appearances from previous Doctors / companions (as also speculated above for the Centenary). There are three episodes, but so far we only know of two possible storylines (Beep the Meep and the Toymaker) thanks to location filming.

On This Day... 24th August

Today in 1968 The Dominators reached its third instalment.

We also wish Stephen Fry a happy 65th birthday. He was due to write a story back in the days of Series 2 but nothing came of it in the end. (See my recent "Inspirations: Fear Her" post). 
Back in 2001/2 he had played the Minister of Chance in the BBCi webcast Death Comes To Time, but more recently he finally made an appearance in the series proper playing "C", the Head of MI5, in Spyfall Part I.
He shares his birthday with My Beautiful Laundrette's Gordon Warnecke, who played Tuza in Trial of a Time Lord Parts 5 - 8 (Mindwarp). He is 60 today.

Tuesday 23 August 2022

On This Day... 23rd August

The first Doctor Who-ish movie opened in cinemas across the UK today in 1965. Dr. Who & The Daleks starred Peter Cushing as a human inventor named Dr. Who. Another big difference was that Barbara (Jennie Linden) was one of his grand-daughters, with Ian Chesterton (Roy Castle) her boyfriend. He was there mainly for comic relief. Susan was the much younger Roberta Tovey, who would be the only co-star to make it onto the second movie a year later.
On the same day that audiences could first see the Daleks in colour on the big screen, William Hartnell was nominating his favourite pieces of music on Desert Island Discs (on BBC Radio 4).
In 2014 the Peter Capaldi era got underway with Deep Breath. This also offered the first glimpse of Michelle Gomez's Missy, though we didn't know that at the time.

Today we remember producer Innes Lloyd, who successfully steered the programme through the first regeneration of the programme's lead actor. He died in 1991, aged 65.
Lloyd took over from John Wiles, who had only been in post a relatively short time. He was quite open about his dislike for science fiction. He formed an uneasy partnership with script editor Gerry Davis and together they got rid of the purely historical stories and introduced the base-under-siege format. The first of these was The Tenth Planet, which saw the debut appearance of Cybermen and the final regular appearance of William Hartnell, replaced by Patrick Troughton. Lloyd was also responsible for bringing Frazer Hines onto the programme as a regular. Davis left and was replaced by Peter Bryant, who was then groomed to take over from Lloyd. His final story as producer was The Enemy of the World, though Bryant was handling most of the day to day business by this time.
Lloyd went on to produce a number of award-winning collaborations with Alan Bennett - Talking Heads, An Englishman Abroad, and A Question of Attribution.

Monday 22 August 2022

Story 258: The Woman Who Lived

In which the Doctor is attempting to trace an alien energy signal. He is travelling alone as Clara is on a school trip, and the TARDIS has brought him to a forest west of London in the year 1651. 
The Doctor tracks the signal to a coach which is in the process of being held up by the infamous Highwayman known as the Knightmare, who has an accomplice hidden in the bushes - a figure with glowing eyes.
The coach is occupied by a man named Fanshawe and his wife. They manage to escape as the Doctor and the Knightmare argue over the object they were both seeking - a jewelled amulet known as the Eyes of Hades which belongs to Mrs Fanshawe. The Doctor knows that this is really an alien artefact of potentially destructive power which should not be on Earth.
The Highwayman unmasks to reveal Ashildr, though she now calls herself Me.
She takes him to her mansion where he learns something of her life so far. She is very rich, having amassed a lot of money over the centuries. She no longer uses her old name as it is forgotten in the past. She is known as Lady Me now, and has been known only as "Me" for a very long time. She has a room which is full of diaries detailing some of her adventures as her experiences are too many to remember.

She fought at Agincourt and acted as a village wise woman who cured it of scarlet fever, until suspected of being a witch. She has been married and has lost husband and children to plague. The Doctor admits that he has sometimes kept an eye on her, such as when she founded a leper colony, but not so much recently. Whilst he reads through some of the volumes, she sneaks outside and meets a hooded figure hiding in the undergrowth - the figure with glowing eyes. He is suspicious of the Doctor's presence but she lets him know that she has a plan to use him to help obtain the Eyes of Hades.
In the house, the Doctor refuses to take Ashildr with him on his travels. He does agree to join forces with her to break into Fanshawe's home to steal the amulet.
The theft is successful though they wake Fanshawe up and he comes after them with a blunderbuss. Ashildr is on the point of killing him to facilitate their escape, but the Doctor stops her. He is shocked that she should kill just for an item of property.
On their way back to her mansion they are waylaid by a gang led by another Highwayman named Sam Swift. 

Ashildr quickly gets the better of him, and once again the Doctor sees her about to kill someone - forcing him to intervene. Swift is soon after captured by troopers and sent to London to be hanged.
Back at her mansion the Doctor insists on meeting Ashildr's accomplice and discovers that he is an alien - a fire-breathing inhabitant of Delta Leonis named Leandro. It is he who has been seeking the Eyes of Hades as it can be used to create a portal to his homeworld. He has agreed to take Ashildr with him. For the amulet to work, a human life must be sacrificed to energise it. They were going to use Ashildr's aged servant Clayton, but decide to use Sam Swift instead.
Troopers arrive to check that Lady Me is safe, after Fanshawe's reports of burglars in the vicinity. She informs them that the Doctor is the accomplice of the Knightmare and should be arrested. She and Leandro then depart by coach for London. The Doctor is able to extricate himself from the troopers and takes a horse to follow them.

A large crowd has gathered at Tyburn for Sam's execution. The Highwayman begins cracking jokes to entertain them, in order to delay the hangman. When the Doctor arrives he joins in, to buy time while he thinks of a way to stop Leandro. He uses his psychic paper to claim that he and Swift have been pardoned by Cromwell. Ashildr places the Eyes of Hades round Sam's neck, and it immediately begins to drain his life-force. Leandro emerges from hiding as the skies open, revealing a portal to his home planet. However, he really intends to use it to allow his people to attack and invade the Earth. Realising she has been cheated, Ashildr seeks the Doctor's help. She had been given one other Mire medical chip by the Doctor, should she ever want to create an immortal friend for herself. She uses it on Sam, bringing him back to life. No longer being energised, the amulet stops powering the portal, causing it to collapse. Just before it closes, Leandro's people blast him dead for his failure.

Later, at a local inn, Ashildr asks the Doctor if Sam is now also immortal. He doesn't think so - the excess energy having been used to close the portal - but, just in case, he asks her to keep an eye on him. She starts to realise why the Doctor refused to let her travel with him. They are too similar in many ways. The Doctor wants companions who have alternative views to himself. He explains to her that he did once travel with an immortal person - Captain Jack Harkness - and warns her she may bump into him sometime.
She decides that she will be happy to remain on Earth from now on, but will be devoting herself to protecting the planet from the consequences of the Doctor's actions.
Back in the 21st Century the Doctor is reunited with Clara in the TARDIS. She tells him about her school trip and shows him a few photographs on her phone. He sees a familiar figure in the background of one image, observing Clara. It is Ashildr...

The Woman Who Lived was written by Catherine Tregenna, and was first broadcast on Saturday 24th October 2015.
Tregenna had previously written a number of episodes of Torchwood's first two series - Out of Time, Captain Jack Harkness, Meat and Adam. She was only the fifth woman writer on Doctor Who, and was the first to write for the revived series since Helen Raynor delivered The Sontaran Stratagem / The Poison Sky. Not one female writer had been employed for the whole of the Matt Smith era.
As we have mentioned already this series, Steven Moffat had stated that there would be a few two-part stories this year, but the definition of a two-parter might be shaken up a bit. 
To date, the first four episodes clearly made up two two-part stories, and the similarity of the title structure / content seemed to indicate that The Girl Who Died and The Woman Who Lived would comprise a third.
However, the two episodes are linked, rather than conjoined. This second episode could just as easily have been placed later in the series - where it would actually have worked better - and didn't have to immediately follow the Viking episode.
It was necessary that the Doctor revisit Ashildr and see the consequences of his actions, but that could have taken place any time prior to her third appearance in Face The Raven.

Treganna was a good choice for this story, as she tended to produce stories which had a strong emotional element, and often added considerably to the development of some of the main characters. Out of Time gave Owen Harper his first proper relationship, the ending of which would have implications in the Series 1 finale as he put the whole world at risk to win her back. Captain Jack Harkness introduced some back story for Jack, as we met the man whose name he had stolen, producing a doomed love affair at the same time. Meat was a "Save the Whale" scenario but it also finally brought Rhys into the Torchwood team for the first time. And Adam offered up a lot of Jack's childhood history and revealed information about his long-lost brother, which would play into the Series 2 finale.
In The Woman Who Lived, the most powerful sections are those dealing with Ashildr's immortality - the initial highs and the inevitable lows which seem to far outweigh the former. She was a respected wise woman in her village - only to then have them turn against her and accuse her of witchcraft, and -most poignantly - we see her bury her husband and children.
We also have the Doctor facing up to the fact that he is the person responsible for all this.
The story juxtaposes two seemingly immortal people - one who can flit around in time, and another who has to travel by the "slow road".
The actual Leandro / Eyes of Hades plot might as well be an after-thought - a bit of conventional Doctor Who tacked on to keep the kids happy.

As with the previous week, Maisie Williams leads the guest cast as Ashildr / Lady Me. 
Leandro is portrayed by Ariyon Bakare, under impressive lion-like prosthetics. Bakare is best known these days for his role as the villainous Lord Carlo Boreal in His Dark Materials. Its third season arrives later in 2022.
The servant Clayton is played by Struan Rodger - his only on-screen role in the series to date. He provided the voice of the Face of Boe in New Earth and Gridlock, and would go on to provide the voices of the Kasaavin in Spyfall I & II.
The Fanshawes are played by John Voce and Elisabeth Hopper. 
Sam Swift is Rufus Hound who has had a varied career, from comedy to West End musicals. He featured as a celebrity fan in the special programme which introduced Peter Capaldi as the Twelfth Doctor, and has lately played the Meddling Monk on audio.
It should be noticeable from the synopsis that Jenna Coleman had little to do this week. It is a companion-lite story. This was to allow the story to concentrate on Ashildr.

Overall, it's an episode which concentrates on character over the usual sci-fi adventure trappings, and in this it is successful. 
Things you might like to know:
  • The first draft of the story had the title "The Doctor and Me".
  • In writing this episode, Treganna did not know the plot of The Girl Who Died. It was still being written. All she knew was that Ashildr was a Viking girl.
  • She watched the 1945 version of The Wicked Lady, which features a Highwaywoman, as part of her research, as well as reading up on 17th Century folklore about a Welsh Highwayman called Twm Sion Cati.
  • The Doctor tells the troopers who try to arrest him that he has the Dunbar Victory Medal. There were actually two battles fought at Dunbar. The first was in 1296 as part of the Scottish war of independence, but the Doctor will be referring to the more recent one - in 1650 - in which Cromwell's New Model Army defeated a Scottish force during an English invasion of Scotland, which had recognised Charles II as the new monarch following the execution of his father.
  • Ashildr fought at the Battle of Agincourt, fought on 25th October 1415. This episode was broadcast the day before the battle's 600th anniversary.
  • The Doctor makes reference to events of The Visitation, regarding the Terileptils shortly starting the Great Fire of London.
  • Peter Capaldi celebrated his 57th birthday on the day that the Tyburn scenes were filmed, whilst Maisie Williams celebrated her 18th when filming forest scenes.
  • The Doctor refers to Leandro as "Lenny the Lion". He was a 1950's ventriloquist puppet.
  • He also refers to the Knightmare as "Zorro", as both wear similar eye masks.
  • A subtitle error on some copies of the Region 1 DVD of Doctor Who Series 9: Part One saw the Doctor exclaim "Oh s***!" instead of "Of course!" when talking to Ashildr and Leandro.

On This Day... 22nd August

There was A Change of Identity for the Doctor today in 1964 as he donned the apparel of a Revolutionary Official, in The Reign of Terror's third episode. It didn't do him a lot of good as the tailor he got it from went straight out and shopped him to the authorities.

Today we wish a happy birthday to a couple of Matt Smith guest artists - US chat show host James Corden (The Lodger and Closing Time) is 44, and Mark Williams (Rory's dad Brian) is 63.
Today would also have been the birthday of Honor Blackman (Terror of the Vervoids - died 2020 aged 94); Ivor Salter (The Space Museum, The Myth Makers and Black Orchid - died 1991 aged 65); and Robert Marsden (Abraham Lincoln in The Chase - died 2007 aged 85).