Sunday 18 December 2022

Episode 50: The Waking Ally

Ian and Larry find themselves on the edge of a deep mine shaft, with the Slyther bearing down on them...
A large spoil bucket hangs a few feet away, and Ian urges his friend to jump for it. They succeed but the creature attempts to leap after them. It is unable to hang on and plunges down the shaft. Ian and Larry decide to remain in the bucket until things quieten down. However, it suddenly starts to descend down the shaft.
It comes to a halt near the bottom. Worried that it will start rising again they decide to jump down. Larry does so just as the bucket starts moving, and he injures his leg as he falls.
Susan is reunited with her grandfather in the sewers. Checking the street level above, Tyler inadvertently attracts the attention of a pair of Robomen. With ammunition limited, they must try to dispose of both before they can call on reinforcements. The Doctor knocks one out, whilst Tyler shoots the other as it tries to climb out of the tunnel.
Barbara and Jenny, meanwhile, have decided to move off the roads now that they are getting closer to the mine workings. In a forest clearing they come across a cottage. An elderly woman lives there with a younger one. They invite them in to eat and rest a while, explaining that the woods can be full of wild dogs. The younger woman is then sent out into the night with a bundle of clothing. The older woman explains that they are allowed to do work for the mine workers, mending clothes in return for food, so the Daleks leave them alone.
In the mines, Ian and Larry are confronted by a Roboman. It transpires that this is Phil - Larry's brother, whom he came here to find. Larry sacrifices himself to allow Ian to escape, killing Phil after his brother has fatally wounded him. He recognises him in his dying moments.
At the cottage in the woods, Barbara and Jenny discover that they have been betrayed to the Daleks in exchange for more food. They are taken into the mines and put to work.
The next day the Doctor and his group have set up camp on a cliff overlooking the mine workings. The Doctor notices Susan and David flirting together on his return from a reconnaissance. He asks Tyler why they did not concentrate their efforts here, as this is undoubtedly the heart of Dalek operations on Earth. They discuss the theory that the Daleks may be planning to remove the planet's magnetic core, replacing it with a propulsion unit that would allow them to pilot it through Space.
Ian sees Barbara in the mines and then comes upon Wells. He asks him to get a message to her. However, she has already devised a plan to get out of the tunnels by offering information to the Daleks. She has Dortmun's notes about his bomb, but this does not interest the Daleks. She then fabricates an imminent attack, and is sent with Jenny to the Dalek control centre.
Looking for somewhere to hide, Ian finds himself in the command complex. He enters a chamber in which the bomb is being prepared.
He hides in the bomb casing, which is still in two sections. The Black Dalek orders that the bomb be made ready to drop down the shaft, and he finds himself trapped inside it as the halves converge.
As he frantically tries to disarm the device, the Daleks position it over the shaft and begin to lower it...
Next episode: Flashpoint

Written by: Terry Nation
Recorded: Friday 16th October, 1964 - Riverside Studio 1
First broadcast: 5:40pm, Saturday 19th December, 1964
Ratings: 11.4 million / AI 58
Designer: Spencer Chapman
Director: Richard Martin
Additional cast: Meriel Hobson and Jean Conroy (The Women in the Woods), Peter Badger (Phil)

As we mentioned last week, Verity Lambert had reservations about the design of the Slyther, thinking it wasn't quite frightening enough. It was very much a large sack-like costume. Shawcraft were instructed to add extra features, the most obvious being the eyes on stalks. (The eyes weren't terribly clear on screen, but can be seen better in publicity pictures taken at Shawcraft's workshops). The whole top third of the costume is new.
Unfortunately, the Slyther is on screen for so short a time - and the old costume is seen in the reprise - that the audience probably didn't even notice the changes, but it is a mark of Lambert's insistence on quality that they took the time and expenditure to make the alterations. There may have been some thought to having the Slyther return in a future Dalek story, as Nation had already been approached about writing their third appearance, which he believed at the time would be their last.

On Friday 28th August Richard Martin's team had descended on John's Hole Quarry, at Stone in Kent. This was the location for the Bedfordshire mine workings. This was the first time that the programme ever filmed in a quarry - and here it was actually standing in for a quarry, rather than some alien planet.
None of the regulars or guest artists were required for this filming. After the specific location had been lost for many years, it was finally tracked down in 1988, thanks to an OS map of the Dartford area. The rail track and tunnel were the key identifying markers. The full story is told in Nothing at the End of the Lane No.1, the archive / research publication from programme historian Richard Bignell. The Bluewater shopping centre now takes up part of the site.
Curiously, when the Government was looking for geologically stable areas where nuclear waste could be stored, central Bedfordshire was one of them - so the Daleks have picked one of the worst possible places in England in which to drill.

To portray the 'Women in the Woods'  Richard Martin cast Jean Conroy and Meriel Hobson. Conroy, playing the younger of the women, had been an old friend of his from his acting days with Coventry Rep. These characters represent another aspect of World War II imagery - the collaborators who allowed themselves to be used by the invaders in exchange for food or freedom. Left behind when the Nazis fled, many encountered summary justice at the hands of the resistance movement. No doubt Jenny would have ensured that the "Women in the Woods" paid for their treachery.
Tragically, four weeks to the day after the recording of this episode - on Friday 13th November - Conroy was hit by a vehicle outside her London home, and died in hospital the next day. She was 29 years old. Her only Doctor Who work was therefore broadcast posthumously.

A highlight of this episode is the emotional scene involving Larry and his Roboman brother. We've quickly grown to like Larry, so having him die under these circumstances is tragic - coming all this way to save his brother, only to learn he is far too late. He is killed by him - but saves Ian and destroys Phil as he dies - freeing him as he does so.
In The Sensorites the Doctor had accepted weapons for his mission with Ian into the aqueduct - describing them as "handy". There is no indication that he intends to ever use them, and we do later see that they have a stun setting anyway. Here he makes his views on violence explicit. He never takes life unless his own (and presumably Susan's by extension) is directly threatened.

Nicholas Smith, playing Wells, was asked if he would like to stay on the production to feature in the last two episodes. With nothing lined up at the time he was more than happy to accept the extra work.
Like Martyn Huntley who featured as a speaking Roboman in the last episode, Peter Badger had also been a speaking Roboman in The Daleks, in the scenes set on the riverside.

Carole Ann Ford and Peter Fraser were both concerned that the planned romance between Susan and David was not very well developed in the scripts. They decided to work on this by themselves and a lot of what you see - such as the whole  "I can see something's cooking" sequence on the lip of the quarry was actually unscripted. One problem raised by these scenes is that they appear to have lit a fire right on the edge of the Dalek mine-workings, where it would be sure to be noticed.

What exactly is "the waking ally"? Presumably it is supposed to refer to the human slave workers, but there is no sign of them beginning to rebel in this particular episode. The only people doing this are the ones who've been doing so since the beginning of the story.

  • There is a slip in audience figures from last week, no doubt due to the proximity to Christmas (the last Saturday before December 25th being one of the busiest shopping days of the year). This explains the audience numbers, but the AI figure also drops a point.
  • This episode was captured directly onto 35mm film rather than 405-line video tape due to a shortage of tape recording machines at the BBC - due to a General Election.
  • In the draft script, this was the first appearance of the Black Dalek. The Larry character was called Robbie and the Roboman who killed him wasn't his brother. He also gave a different history to the invasion. Earth was already at war with itself, and a new world government had been formed in Japan.
  • The draft script also had three old women, rather the young / old pair seen on screen - a reference to Macbeth's trio of witches.
  • Peter Diamond rejoined the production as fight arranger, and played the Roboman who fights with Tyler in the sewers. Diamond had worked on the first episode, when he was seen as the Roboman who walks into the Thames, and he doubled Ian when he hangs off the broken stairwell in the warehouse.
  • Keep an eye out for the Black Dalek prop in future 1960's stories - or at least its upper half, as they will repaint and mix and match the top and bottom sections until the end of the classic series. The Black Dalek has a strip of wood supporting one of the horizontal hoops in the area beneath the dome, presumably a quick repair job that was supposed to be temporary. You can see it in the image above, on the underside of the middle hoop, just above the gun.
  • Radio Times featured the series yet again for this episode, with a stylised Dalek illustration and a brief resume of the story so far:

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