Wednesday, 27 September 2023

Doctor Who: Unleashed

Coming in November is Doctor Who: Unleashed, a 30 minute-behind the-scenes show. It will follow the new broadcast episodes on BBC 3.
Not sure why they didn't just say it was the return of Doctor Who Confidential, so must be different in some way. It does have an on screen presenter, rather than just a narrator. 

What's Wrong With... The Invisible Enemy

The Invisible Enemy was the second story of Season 15 - but the first one recorded that year due to the cancellation of Terrance Dicks' vampire adventure. This swap around led to some production issues.
The pressures of studio recording added to the headaches.
For instance, we all know about the pillar which K-9 has to demolish to create a barrier in the corridor in the Bi-Al Foundation. This has clearly been pre-broken. However, the pillar was perfectly finished at the start of recording, the break concealed. Unfortunately, the scene had to be reshot - and the design team simply didn't have the time to finish it properly to the way it was.
K-9 itself caused all manner of problems due to its construction - using a remote control mechanism which interfered with the electronic cameras. These caused it to go out of control. The operator, Nigel Brackley, had to be very close to the prop to operate it without this interference posing too big a problem.
Later, Tom Baker impatiently dragged K-9 along very quickly on its leash, shearing the gears.
It was too heavy to lift, so a lightweight dummy had to be made for later appearances, once the decision had been made to turn it into a regular companion.
K-9's blaster ray never seems to emit from the same place twice. At one point Leela is knocked out, when the beam hasn't even touched her. Also, it was ordered to kill at the time, so why only stun?

When first attacked by the Virus, the Doctor surmises that he has been affected by the equivalent of St Elmo's Fire - but this is an atmospheric condition. Why would he think something like that could occur in deep space, and get inside the TARDIS in the first place?
The space shuttle crew slaughter their Titan base colleagues, when the Virus wants to infect people and spread its influence. A waste, surely? After this it always leaves its victims living and infected, so why destroy potential recruits?
Marius is an expert on alien biology - so why is he sent for when the Doctor is brought in? They don't know he's an alien. In fact, he'll be logged on their system as an Irishman!
We see the damaged Bi-Al Foundation long before the shuttle crashes into it. (This was due to the undamaged model footage being mislaid, and the wrong material used to replace it).

How can the clones be clothed?
Has Leela honestly never seen what she looks like? Has she never seen a reflection in her travels so far? Wouldn't she have seen a mirror when she changed clothes at Professor Litefoot's home?
Everyone knows they have only an 11 minute lifespan, so why make such a fuss about where the clones will emerge? They are hardly likely to survive that long.
The size of the Doctor's insides isn't taken into account. How can the clones be expected to travel all the way to the part of the brain where the Nucleus is settled and out again through the tear duct - bearing in mind they will have to hunt for the Nucleus. They don't know where it is.
And if time is so pressing, why does the Doctor's clone spend so much time sight-seeing and blabbing to the Leela clone?

The Doctor tells Marius that he thinks Leela's immunity is psychological rather then physical in the second episode. He then discovers this to be the case in the third episode, only after looking for physiological reasons. It then turns out, in the fourth episode, that she did have a physiological immunity after all.
How can the clones' genetic material be absorbed by the Doctor when they are so small? The action in the brain at the end is confusing. Why does the Nucleus look so different? How can something with six legs be so immobile?
Why do some bits of Leela survive (hair and knife) and not others. It's just not directed / edited very well.
The clones are physical entities, inside a biological being. How then can they witness "imaginings" at the interface between "brain" and "mind"? The interface surely cannot be a physical environment.

The Nucleus thinks it will benefit from entering the macro-universe as it won't be so vulnerable to attack - but full-size it is more vulnerable. It was much more insidious in its micro-level existence.
You can shoot or blow up a man far easier than you can attack a microscopic virus.
All the language we see printed is in a phonetic Year 5000 language - e.g. "Egsit" instead of "Exit". Except the word "Oxygen" is printed normally.

Monday, 25 September 2023

The Collection - Season 20: Review

The latest Blu-ray box set was released on 18th September in its gorgeous special edition packaging (artwork courtesy of Lee Binding). Repeatedly rumoured to be "the next release", it's been a long time coming. Season 19 was way back in 2018, so another Davison set is well overdue.
I must admit that I wasn't looking forward to this set quite as much as others might have been. I've always thought Season 20 a weak one - something I share with Peter Davison, so I'm not alone in this. His views were coloured by the chaotic conditions in which the series were made, whilst I just have qualms about the stories themselves. 

First up is Arc of Infinity by Johnny Byrne. Overseas filming in Amsterdam, Time Lords on Gallifrey, and the return of Omega. On paper this ought to have been a classic, but it fails on several levels. 
If you're going to bring something back, then bring it back. If you're going to change it so much it looks nothing like it did originally then you have to ask yourself what the point was. Just create something new of your own, why don't you. Omega gets a nice new outfit - but what was the point of changing it so radically?
Gallifrey was once a dark Gothic pile, like something out of Mervyn Peake. Here, it's more like an airport departure lounge, furnished by a well known Swedish home design store. The High Council costumes may be reused ones from earlier stories - but they've been horribly blinged up. The guy playing Zorac thinks he's doing a Noel Coward play.
Going to Paris back in 1979 proved germane to the script. Here, Amsterdam provides a pretty backdrop but nothing else. They needn't have bothered leaving West London.
The least said about the Ergon, the better...
Snakedance is another sequel, but whilst Omega went back a whole decade, the Mara were last seen just the previous year. It's superior in some ways, but lacks some of the imaginative direction of Kinda. Compare the nightmare sequences. Episode 4 has the option to replace the rubber snake with a CGI version, as they did with Chris Bailey's earlier story.
Mawdryn Undead is one of the better stories of the season. It sees the introduction of Turlough - a good idea to do something different with a companion, but one that simply can't be sustained. Big news was the rather clumsy return of the Brigadier as a school teacher (he was third choice after all). A highlight is the flashback sequence in the second episode - but you need to see it in the special edition version. All three Black Guardian Trilogy stories came with optional CGI upgrades on DVD.
If there's one big problem with Mawdryn, it's that bloody awful Terry & June music in the car stealing scenes.
Terminus certainly benefits from the new CGI due to the number of space-bound scenes. The titular space station especially benefits. Unfortunately, the first couple of episodes appear to have some fault, with noticeable lines running vertically down the sides of some sequences. This story sees the departure of Nyssa, who has matured this season. Thankfully Tegan is not quite as annoying this year.
She and Turlough get stuck in a ventilation shaft for two and a half episodes, and Nyssa takes her clothes off for no apparent reason -  though it's all done in the best possible taste... Certainly the weakest story of the trilogy.
The trilogy ended with Enlightenment, and there are three versions to choose from. You can stick with the original broadcast version; opt for the 75 minute omnibus Special Edition with CGI FX which featured on the DVD release; or you can go with the full broadcast version with 2023 VFX. No doubt you'll want to watch this once, then settle for your favourite version for subsequent rewatches.
The season limped to a close with the two part The King's Demons. The Doctor sums this up when he talks of how this represents a very low level of villainy for the Master. It's a disposable tale, and harmless, mostly. This is now the only story of 1983 which hasn't got optional CGI FX.
The season was plagued by industrial action, which almost lead to four whole stories being junked or deferred. This was one of the reasons why Davison opted not to commit to a fourth year. 
Season 20 should have ended with a Dalek story - "The Return", AKA "Warhead". This was pushed back to Season 21 when it became Resurrection of the Daleks. Something which didn't help this year was the Black Guardian Trilogy smack in the middle of the season. Ordinarily, a Dalek story would have taken precedence over a stand-alone one, but the need to complete the Trilogy meant that finishing Terminus and remounting Enlightenment had to take priority. JNT would ditch trilogies after this year, although future events would render them unworkable anyway.
The year wasn't done, however, as in November we got the special episode The Five Doctors. This now exists in a number of formats, and you can view three of them here. There's the original broadcast version, the extended Special Edition, or a new 40th anniversary one. This is basically the broadcast version with brand new CGI FX. Depending on which version you watch, there are four different commentary tracks - three old ones and a new one for the 40th anniversary one.
It's a fun story which you really can't complain about too much as it simply had a job to do - fitting in as many Doctors, companions and monsters as possible into its 90 minute runtime.
Richard Hurndall does a decent job of essaying the First Doctor, though this is hampered somewhat by having Hartnell appear in the opening shot. Nice to include him, but maybe they should have saved it for the close. 

And so to the Extras, of which there are far more than on any previous box set - though some may be relatively brief archive TV spots. These VAM items are another reason I wasn't hugely looking forward to this box-set, because Janet Fielding is all over them and I often find her presence irritating in the extreme. Negative, argumentative, and domineering pretty much sum up her contributions, and she doesn't seem to be mellowing with age...
All the stories have "Behind the Sofa" features. There are three panels: The "Season 20" team of Davison, Fielding, Sutton and Strickson; a "Doctors" team of Colin Baker and Sylvester McCoy; and a "Companions" team of Katy Manning and Sophie Aldred.
Most entertaining are McCoy and Baker. Most respectful are Manning and Aldred. Which says a lot about the contributions of the contemporary panel. Despite actually being there at the time, they contribute the least in terms of information or entertainment value.
I will only mention the new extras for each disc here, as all the previously released material gets ported over (unless moved to feature on a more appropriate season box-set).

Disc 1: Not a lot to see here. Additional studio footage. Small item from a BBC Christmas tape of Davison visiting the set of children's series Captain Zep.
Disc 2: The trailer - "The Passenger" - is to be found here, with a short BTS featurette. Sarah Sutton and Matthew Waterhouse are interviewed at the 50th Anniversary Celebration event (better placed on the Season 19 set surely?). Main new item is an entertaining interview with Martin Clunes, conducted by Fielding. Venue is Freud's house in North London - tying in with the "dream" theme of the Mara story.
Disc 3: An interesting half hour PBS documentary, made by a Denver channel. Basically a set of interviews with actors, JNT and fans at a Chicago convention in 1982, it's designed as an introduction for people new to the programme.
Disc 4: This set's big Matthew Sweet interview. Unfortunately it's with both Fielding and Sutton together, conducted at Jodrell Bank - so presumably originally intended for the Season 18 Collection. Some interesting perspectives on Anthony Ainley, and the outtakes of their attempts at a trailer for a cinema screening of Logopolis are funny.
I say "Unfortunately" as I think Sutton deserved an interview of her own. Fielding dominates, as usual.
Disc 5: Nothing we haven't seen before. The Breakfast Time item with Davison and Troughton is a good 15 minutes long. Even if you've seen the archive TV items on other releases, some may be fuller versions.
Disc 6: With only two episodes and no CGI option, this disc has a lot of extra material - though only one new item concerns the story itself. The King's Demons finally gets a proper making-of documentary, filmed at its location of Bodiam Castle. The piece is dedicated to the late Frank Windsor, who was interviewed shortly before his death.
The archive TV spots deal with Longleat, Davison's departure, or Colin Baker's arrival. There is footage of the Longleat event itself. Fielding also features in some Australian convention material. The Longleat stuff is a bit if a mixed bag, due to much if it being recorded by fans. There's some general material, and some Q&A panels.
Disc 7: The Five Doctors spans the last three discs. This one has the original broadcast version of the story plus "Behind the Sofa", along with all the archive material from the DVD release.
(Here I'll break my "new features only" rule to mention The Ties That Bind. Narrated by Paul McGann, it highlights all the references to past - and some future - stories contained in the 20th anniversary episode. The last few minutes comprise a number of well-selected clips set to music, which is simply magical).
Disc 8: More convention material, from Australia (Fielding in '83) and the UK (Doctors in '93 - of little relevance to the set. Too chaotic to enjoy). This disc has the new 40th anniversary version of the story. One VFX of note is the black monolith, which now looks more solid. Laser effects are upgraded, along with various computer screens. The Dark Tower sits more solidly in the landscape - and Rassilon's tomb chamber is a lot more impressive. The Raston Warrior Robot now (dis)appears in a flash of light - except on a couple of occasions when the effect is missing.
Disc 9: The final disc has the big new features for this set, alongside the Special Edition version of the story. The Season 20 team visit Amsterdam and discuss the season, with trips to some of the locations featured in Arc of Infinity. A nice touch is them surprising a group of cosplaying Dutch fans on a locations walking tour.
We then have Davison, Fielding and Sutton on a European road trip, as they drive to a convention in Germany. At times this seems utterly pointless, but there's one big bust-up they have that's actually rather funny.
When you see archive material of Fielding and Davison, you get the impression that the constant bickering is very much an act developed later, which they now feel compelled to keep going in public. The fact they could switch this off - but don't - can be very annoying.

Not the greatest season of Doctor Who. Not even the greatest Davison season, but a couple of good stories nonetheless. This set will probably be best remembered for the wealth of additional material. I haven't even mentioned the thousands of pages of pdf material spread over the nine discs.
Thoughts naturally turn to what comes next - we fans are never happy unless we have something to look forward to (preferably something we can also complain about). It all depends on whether or not they are going to release another set to coincide with the 60th Anniversary, still two whole months away. If yes, then Season One has to be a possibility, though we had a Hartnell set already this year.
If no new set until 2024, then it will either be another Tom Baker set (15 or 16), or Troughton's final year, Season Six. More than half way, and we still haven't had one of his, which is disgraceful.
(There is a rumour, based on comments from an actor involved, that Season 15 is planned for February. Time will tell...).

Sunday, 24 September 2023

Episode 85: The Exploding Planet

NB: This episode no longer exists in the archives, nor is there a full set of telesnaps. Representative images are therefore used to illustrate it.

Trapped in the airlock, with the oxygen rapidly depleting, Steven collapses to the floor...
The Doctor and Vicki arrive with their Drahvin captive and Chumbley escort. The robot blasts open the airlock door and throws a smoke-bomb into the ship, freeing Steven.
Maaga leads her soldiers out but they are confronted by the Chumbley, through which a Rill addresses them. It warns them to go back inside or they will be destroyed. The Doctor and his companions hurry away to the Rill compound whilst the Chumbley stands guard.
Inside the Drahvin ship, Maaga formulates a plan of escape, following which they will seize the other craft.
The Doctor sets up a cable which will run between the Rill ship and the TARDIS. Vicki will accompany him whilst Steven recovers from his ordeal in the airlock.
One of the Drahvin soldiers sneaks out of a rear service hatch and moves round to attack their Chumbley guard - destroying it with an iron bar.
Night begins to fall - the last this planet will ever see - as the Doctor connects the power transfer cable, then he and Vicki head back to the compound.
The Doctor and his companions are invited into the Rill spaceship to meet the occupants and talk with them. After their friendly discussion they leave to return to the TARDIS, accompanied by a Chumbley for protection.
One of the Drahvins manages to breach the compound, but she is stunned by a Chumbley. 
Now fully powered, the Rill ship takes off.
With this escape route gone, Maaga decides that they must seize the TARDIS instead. They give chase.
Rushing back to the ship, Vicki hurts her ankle. They get inside whilst the Chumbley holds the Drahvins at bay. The planet begins to disintegrate as the TARDIS dematerialises.
Steven and Vicki look to the scanner to observe the destruction of the planet, but the Doctor explains that the TARDIS has already left Galaxy Four far behind.
Vicki studies a planet on the screen, and wonders aloud what might be happening there.
In a jungle on the remote world, a uniformed man named Garvey stumbles through the dense vegetation, muttering to himself over and over again that he must kill...
Next episode: Mission to the Unknown

Written by: William Emms
Recorded: Friday 30th July 1965 - Television Centre Studio TC3
First broadcast: 5:50pm, Saturday 2nd October 1965
Ratings: 9.9 million / AI 53
Designer: Richard Hunt
Director: Derek Martinus
Additional cast: Bill Lodge, Brian Madge, Peter Holmes and David Brewster (Rills), Barry Jackson (Garvey)

The Exploding Planet was the final episode to be recorded in Doctor Who's second year, as far as the regular cast were concerned. After this, they could embark on a six week holiday. The production team had one more instalment to make, however, which would be Verity Lambert's final story as producer.
In the weeks before rehearsal a number of changes were made to the script. To give Steven something to do, he held a longer conversation with the Rill (reinforcing the theme of never judging by appearances) whilst the Doctor and Vicki went off to connect the power cable to the TARDIS. The farewell scene between the TARDIS crew and the Rills was also lengthened.
Vicki hurting her ankle was added, to explain why she remains in the TARDIS at the beginning of The Myth Makers. To make the finale more tense, dialogue was changed to shorten all the timescales by three hours - making all the escape activity seem more urgent.

Production moved to a different studio for the final instalment of the story - TV Centre Studio 3.
In the afternoon, new publicity photographs were taken of the Drahvins - this time inside their spacecraft.
The attack on the Chumbley by one of the Drahvins was a pre-filmed sequence from the earlier Ealing work, as were some of the scenes of the Doctor and his companions fleeing back to the TARDIS at the conclusion. A damaged Chumbley prop was moved onto set whilst the attack scene was played in.
The departure of the Rill ship was achieved not by a model shot but simply by playing a flickering light on the faces of the regulars accompanied by a sound effect.
For the scenes of the planet's destruction, the film shot at Ealing was reversed. This then faded to a "white-out".
It is never actually explained why the planet is destroyed, other than the Doctor claiming that it will be reduced to a cloud of hydrogen. It may be due to it having three suns - the result of gravitational pressures perhaps. What is also unclear is how the timescale of the disaster can be predicted so accurately by the TARDIS - or inaccurately by the Rills. If the Astral Map is linked to the TARDIS, it may well be able to show sectors of space through time. The Doctor must just look and see when this solar system changes. If that's the case, the Rills have actually done remarkably well in getting within 14 dawns (much shorter than days) of the event without the benefits of such an apparatus.
We've heard how the planet has all the attributes conducive to life, yet it hasn't any. Has it never harboured any animal life, or has it been killed off / departed?

The sequence with Barry Jackson as Garvey was recorded on Friday 6th August, during the making of the following episode. This was to avoid having to erect the jungle set in studio for just one short scene, or to hire Jackson for more than one week's work. 
Best known for playing police pathologist Dr George Bullard in Midsomer Murders for 14 years, Jackson had previously portrayed the mute assassin Ascaris in The Romans, and would later play rogue Time Lord Drax in The Armageddon Factor.

John Wiles checked with the BBC legal department regarding ownership of the Drahvins. As Lambert had made a major change, altering their gender, he was advised that they ought to be regarded as jointly owned by Emms and the BBC. This suggests that a further story involving the aliens was under consideration - or some merchandising. It later transpired that detailed drawings of the Drahvin guns were supplied to Walter Tuckwell & Associates - the company responsible for the marketing of the Daleks. A Chumbley toy was also under consideration, along with Drahvin badges. The failure of the Zarbi and Mechonoids to take off with the public put paid to the plans for Galaxy 4's commercial exploitation.
Stephanie Bidmead kept her pistol from the series, which she gave to her son to play with.

William Emms often had an unhappy time getting his work on screen, complaining that it was frequently re-written without his consent or participation. Other scripts which had been rejected were never sent back to him. 
He actually singled out Doctor Who as one positive experience of script writing as he felt Donald Tosh had respected his work (though he disliked changes to dialogue made by Hartnell and O'Brien). He contributed to most of the long-running British TV series of the 1960's before becoming writer in residence at Nottingham Playhouse. After a stay in Australia he returned to the UK but returned to teaching, and concentrating on writing novels, rather than write for TV again. He died in May 1993.

  • The ratings remain strong at just under 10 million, with the appreciation figure falling by only a single point.
  • The Rill performers were not credited on screen, so we don't know which one featured in Airlock. All four costumes were seen in this episode.
  • The Drahvins have never returned to the series, though they were said to form part of the Pandorica Alliance, in dialogue from The Pandorica Opens.
  • When actors playing Shadow Proclamation staff were seen on location during the making of The Stolen Earth, all women with blonde wigs, some fans speculated that they were playing Drahvins.
  • The videotapes of all four episodes were wiped between 1967 - 69, but film copies were retained. As a clip from Four Hundred Dawns was used in the Whose Doctor Who documentary, we know that this episode at least was still complete as late as 1977.
  • The story was released in animated form in November 2021, in both colour and B&W versions, along with Airlock and other existing material. The Drahvins were given blue uniforms for some reason, and the likeness of William Hartnell was appallingly bad. Peter Purves, Maureen O'Brien and Lyn Ashley (Drahvin Three) contributed to one of the Commentaries.

  • A couple of props from this story were reused in later ones. The Drahvin guns reappeared a decade later in Genesis of the Daleks, where they were wielded by Thal soldiers...
  • And sections of a Chumbley casing were repurposed for the dome of the Emperor Dalek in The Evil of the Daleks in 1967.
  • William Emms never wrote for the series again, though he did submit a story which almost went into production for a slot in Season 4. Titled "The Imps", this would have been one of the first stories for Patrick Troughton's new Doctor. It was centred around a spaceport which had come under attack from imp-like creatures and hostile plant-life. Emms fell ill, and the programme entered a state of flux as far as companions were concerned, and then a change of producer / script editor. Its original slot was taken by The Underwater Menace. In 1986 Emms reused elements of the story for a Sixth Doctor "Make Your Own Adventure" book titled Mission to Venus.
  • An image from Galaxy 4 was used to illustrate the programme in the BBC Handbook for 1966. 

Saturday, 23 September 2023

Toymaker Confirmed

The trailer proved to be a very good one, with a lot of new clips from all three Specials, which has certainly whetted the appetite. The BBC then confirmed that - as fans have suspected almost since day one - that Neil Patrick Harris will be playing the Toymaker, last seen in 1966 when he was played by Michael Gough.
I'll need to sift through the trailer a few times, as there were a lot of quick clips, but the sense is that there is a story arc running through all three episodes.
And funny seeing the word "Arse!" in big letters on the Beeb at 6:15 on a Saturday evening...

Inspirations: The End of Time (I & II)

The End of Time is the only two-part story since 2005 which does not have a separate title for each instalment.
It was designed to see out not just David Tennant as the Tenth Doctor, but pretty much the whole production team behind him. The biggest change behind the scenes was the stepping down of Russell T Davies as show-runner after 5 years, 2 Doctors and 3 full-time companions.
As we've previously mentioned, the quantity and scheduling of the 2009 specials remained fluid for quite some time - the only "known" being that the last of them would inevitably be the regeneration story.
It was finally decided that the story would be shown over the festive period of 2009, and when it became clear that it would be a two-parter, the decision was made to show it on Christmas night and on New Year's night, of 2010. Steven Moffat would then launch his new series, with new Doctor Matt Smith, in the Spring of 2010. At one point it had been thought that The End of Time could be shown in two parts on the same night - in the same way the soaps had split double episodes on Christmas night.

Thoughts had been given to including the Master in one of the Specials, and RTD decided to make him the main villain for the final one. Tennant and John Simm had enjoyed working with each other, and the actor had expressed an interest in returning for a final time. Simm actually turned down a major stage role to reprise the Master.
In resolving his story arc - explaining away the drumming in his head which hadn't been a feature of any previous incarnation - it was also decided to bring back the Time Lords. They were the obvious culprits.
They had been categorically wiped out back in Series 1, off screen in the gap between the Eighth and Ninth Doctors in the Time War, but it was possible to depict them at a point just before the Doctor destroyed them. RTD reasoned that they would have gone to extreme measures to survive the War, and so would no longer be the aloof, peaceful observers of previous years. They had embarked on a war to the death for a start.
RTD could have had Borusa resurrected to lead them, but elected to go with Rassilon instead. Whilst only seen once as an elderly (dead?) man, dialogue in The Five Doctors had suggested that he may have been something of a tyrant, who was turned against by his own people for his cruelty.
The idea of using lesser species to fight for his entertainment certainly did not sit well with him being an enlightened ruler.
The role would be ideal for a big name guest artist - and what better than a James Bond.

As far as a companion was concerned, RTD wanted to resolve Donna's story, but she had been left in the condition that recalling her travels with the Doctor would kill her. She could be included, but be oblivious to events surrounding her. RTD had previously liked the idea of an older female companion, had he gone with the hotel storyline that might have starred Helen Mirren or Judy Dench. Why not an older male one? This story would allow him to give the hugely popular Bernard Cribbins a significant role as Donna's grandad Wilf Mott.
Cribbins had been disappointed not to have had a scene in the TARDIS in Series 4.

RTD had decided on the Tenth Doctor's final words as far back as September 2007, when planning for the story had begun. Later that year he met with Moffat to discuss the handover, promising to set up the Doctor at a point which suited his replacement to take over (in the TARDIS, and wearing a tie). They also discussed elements to be included in the Specials which ought to be avoided if Moffat intended to include them in Series 5.
The original idea for the story was much more low key - RTD thinking that the Doctor's demise should arise from a fairly mundane event. He would save the life of an alien who was travelling on a spaceship with his family - the Doctor sacrificing his own life and suffering radiation poisoning. 
There were shades of Terminus in that the spaceship's destruction might trigger the birth of the Solar System or even of Gallifrey.
Julie Gardner and Jane Tranter pushed for something more spectacular, and so it was decided to have a rematch with the Master.
The scene with someone picking up the Master's ring (containing his genetic material) from his funeral pyre in Last of the Time Lords had been included by RTD in case someone wanted to bring the character back - little realising at the time that it would be him.
RTD was inspired by the closing scene of Flash Gordon - the 1980 film version - which hinted at Ming the Merciless' survival.
The seemingly occult resurrection of the Master was inspired by that of Voldemort in Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire.

At a very early stage RTD decided on the Doctor's "farewell tour" of old companions. Moffat was going to start with a clean slate, and it might be the last time we saw some of them in the parent series, although The Sarah Jane Adventures and Torchwood were still in production at this time.
Which characters appeared depended on actors' availability. Elton Pope from Love & Monsters was one possibility, and it was decided that Jessica Hynes appearance could be dispensed with if she wasn't free to feature as Joan Redfern's granddaughter. 
Only Rose and Donna were essential for the tour.
Donna would finally get married, and would receive a winning lottery ticket as a gift - setting her up for the future.
Initial thoughts would be that all the companions sensed the Doctor's demise - including Rose and her Doctor on Pete's World.
Having killed off half of the Torchwood team, RTD had toyed with the idea of adding Mickey to the team now that he had returned from Pete's World in Journey's End. He and Martha were to be married now, so both actors had to be free on the same day for the filming of their scenes with a cameo from a Sontaran.
Captain Jack's scene was set in the city of Zaggit Zoo, on the planet Zog. RTD had previously used the planet Zog as an example of the sort of alien world which casual viewers would fail to engage with - hence his setting of every story of Series 1, and most of 2, on or near Earth.
The bar could be filled with a variety of old monsters, and was inspired by the Star Wars cantina sequence.
Wilf taking to the spaceship cannons was another Star Wars inspiration.

Early thoughts saw the Doctor and Master teaming up, and the latter sacrificing himself to save the Doctor. The two Time Lords may have body-swapped at one point, though RTD realised he had done this on New Earth
The cliffhanger to Part 1 might have been the apparent destruction of Earth.
Once the story took shape, things could be threaded through the earlier episodes to prefigure events here. These began with the Ood warning that the Doctor's song would be ending soon in Planet of the Ood, and the appearance of Ood Sigma at the conclusion of The Waters of Mars. The End of Time would begin with the Doctor visiting the Ood-Sphere. Here he would mention marrying Queen Elizabeth - which went back to The Shakespeare Code.
"He will knock four times" was said by Carmen in Planet of the Dead. Fans would be led to think that this referred to the Master's drumming sound, but would eventually be seen to be Wilf - in a scene which began life with the aborted spaceship family scenario. Wilf wasn't always going to be the one trapped in the booth. It might have been an ordinary technician (named Keith) whom the Doctor sacrificed himself to save.
The alien Vinvocci were green-skinned cousins to the red-skinned Zocci, one of whom we met in Voyage of the Damned. Their spaceship was named the Hesperus - from the Tennyson poem The Wreck of the Hesperus.
RTD liked to simply reuse concepts for his subsidiary aliens - like putting animal heads on men in boiler suits.
Rassilon's plan was originally going to be swapping the Earth with Gallifrey, putting us into the Time War in its place.
The Woman in White was the Doctor's mother as far as RTD was concerned, though this would never be stated on screen - leaving fans to decide themselves who she might be (Susan or Romana perhaps).
Next time: new Doctor, new companion, new TARDIS, new titles, new producers, new show-runner, new era...

New trailer tonight

Now that Summer is over we've been expecting publicity to start gearing up for the 60th Anniversary. You'll recall that marvellous trailer for the 50th back in 2013, featuring elements from throughout the programme's history. Not sure if we'll get anything that good tonight, but a teaser with a binary message has been translated to state that we'll be getting something at 6:13pm, just before Strictly.
Hopefully something substantial this time, as we really need the publicity to up the ante now.
"Who Spy" has returned - last used in 2006 - with odd images from behind the scenes. One of these depicted a carved clown face (presumably from the NPH episode) and another depicts a computer with a Bannerman spaceship on it, and a post-it note with "Tuesday - Thursday 9:30am" - which has prompted some to think that the trio of Specials will be shown on those nights (21st - 23rd November) though hardly likely to be half nine in the morning.
The days might be right, though they could equally be shown Thursday to Saturday, so debuting on the anniversary date.
Let's see what tonight brings...

Thursday, 21 September 2023

The Underwater Menace details

The cover art for the DVD / Blu-ray and Steelbook versions of The Underwater Menace has been released, and the release date has been confirmed as November 13th in the UK. As with all the animated releases, there are both colour and B&W options, and the two surviving episodes are included in remastered form.
One extra of note is an episode of an old TV series which also featured Patrick Troughton and Joseph Furst acting opposite one another.

Countdown to 60: We should be so lucky...

Who's the biggest guest star Doctor Who has ever entertained? 
Christmas 2007 saw pop superstar Kylie Minogue make her appearance as one-off companion Astrid Peth in Voyage of the Damned. One of her team was a huge Doctor Who fan and his influence had seen backing dancers dressed like Raston Warrior Robots. RTD seriously doubted he could get such a busy star to feature in an episode, but luckily the dates worked out.
Kylie was almost joined by a Hollywood legend - Dennis Hopper. It had been hoped that he might play Mr Copper and, though willing, he had limited availability and his dates didn't work out so well.
Instead we got Clive Swift, who was a big name on British TV thanks to his appearances as the long-suffering husband of Hyacinth Bucket ("it's pronounced Bouquet") in the hugely popular sitcom Keeping Up Appearances. To the general public, he was actually more famous than Hopper.
(A short time later, Swift would give an ill-tempered interview to DWM, obviously unhappy to see this performance highlighted over other work he deemed more worthy of attention. I wonder how Hopper would have reacted).

It is often mentioned that Julian Glover was Doctor Who's first big guest artist. He was certainly a big draw, being an accomplished stage actor who was now breaking into television, and his acceptance of a role probably eased the concern of other thespians who might have thought the series beneath them, only for children. But he wasn't the first big hitter to feature.
Before Glover, the series had hosted George Couloris, playing Arbitan for the opening instalment of The Keys of Marinus. A member of Orson Welles' Mercury Theatre company, he had featured prominently in Citizen Kane, arguably the greatest movie of all time.
However, back in the UK he was turning up in low budget horror movies like The Woman Eater.
Whilst the very first Doctor Who story had featured some strong character actors, it was with The Daleks that the series gained its first major guest artist. He's little known nowadays, but Alan Wheatley was a big name in 1963. He was the newspaper man hunted down and killed by Richard Attenborough's juvenile gangster Pinky in Brighton Rock, a film which gave William Hartnell one of his greatest ever big screen roles. However, to the public at large Wheatley was the wicked Sheriff of Nottingham to Richard Greene's outlaw in The Adventures of Robin Hood.

The programme gave guest roles to many fine actors over the years, most of whom claimed that they accepted the work mainly to please their children or grandchildren. It was claimed that Doctor Who was a bit like The Morecombe and Wise Show, in that people wanted to guest for the kudos, and a chance to have a bit of fun.
Once John Nathan-Turner became producer, however, we had a sudden influx of people who weren't necessarily known first and foremost as actors. The phrase "stunt casting" springs to mind. A lot of guests in the 1980's were from comedy or light entertainment backgrounds - Ken Dodd being a perfect example - though some like Alexei Sayle did have some acting experience. At other times, the guest simply seemed to be miscast - Beryl Reid as a hardened space-freighter captain, anyone?
The problem with JNT's casting was that it was obvious he was primarily looking for column inches in the tabloids, rather than doing what was best for what has always been a drama series.
The casting, seen alongside a certain tackiness in the overall production values, fed into a growing dissatisfaction with JNT as producer, and when he selected someone best known for song and dance as the full-time companion, it was the final straw.
(Bonnie Langford proved to be a very competent actor, and she has improved greatly over the intervening decades, so I for one am looking forward to seeing her again as Mel in Series 14.
There are definite parallels between Langford and Catherine Tate. Both were better known for other things yet both were cast as companions - leading to complaints from certain quarters of fandom. In both cases, those concerns proved completely unfounded).

Right from the start, expectations for the revived series seemed to be that it would attract big stars - including those better known in other fields. 
I recall the newspaper reports of David Beckham playing his Tussauds' waxwork (really an Auton) in Series 1, or Helen Mirren / David Jason playing the Master.
Having an actor of Christopher Eccleston's calibre in the title role certainly helped attract some very good guest actors. We had Simon Callow portraying Charles Dickens in only the third episode - a role he had performed on stage and screen many times. We would later see theatrical knights like Derek Jacobi and Ian McKellen guest. The latter is a global star, thanks to the X-Men and Lord of the Rings / Hobbit blockbusters. Another actor of similar stature actually played a Doctor - the much missed John Hurt. Since playing Hercules Poirot for the final time (a role for which he is famous globally), David Suchet has been very particular in his work choices - but immediately accepted the Landlord role in Knock, Knock.
There has been the odd allegation of stunt casting since 2005 (comedians like Lee Mack. Lee Evans or Frank Skinner) but these have mainly been ignored. In most cases, the individual has proven to be perfectly fine for the role. Many of us would have liked to see Skinner's character take up that job offer from the Doctor.

Before we go, let's not forget about the unknown young actors, fresh from drama school, who had early appearances in Doctor Who and who then went on to bigger things, sometimes internationally - from Hywel Bennett in The Chase, or Martin Clunes in Snakedance, to James Norton in Cold War, Carey Mulligan in Blink, or Andrew Garfield in The Daleks in Manhattan / Evolution of the Daleks.
And David Tennant, Matt Smith and Ncuti Gatwa have all been relative unknowns when cast as the Doctor. Let's see how far Gatwa goes.

Looking forward to the 60th Specials and Series 14, we know that Neil Patrick Harris is playing a significant role. David Tennant and Catherine Tate are back, along with what will be the final appearance of the late Bernard Cribbins. British performers Anita Dobson and Aneurin Barnard might not be well-known outside the UK, but Jonathan Groff has a wider fan base.
They're just the ones we've been told about - so who knows who else might be appearing, in scenes that were filmed entirely in studio?

Tuesday, 19 September 2023

Story 275: World Enough And Time / The Doctor Falls

In which the Doctor decides to let Missy lead an expedition in the TARDIS. He will remain in the ship whilst she takes charge, accompanied by Bill and Nardole. This is all part of the Doctor's attempts to rehabilitate his old frenemy.
The ship is responding to a distress signal, and materialises in a control room. Missy must investigate and work out where they are, whilst the Doctor listens in. They have landed on the command deck of a vast cylindrical spacecraft - 400 miles long - which appears to be stationery in space, sitting on the edge of a Black Hole. Its engines are actually straining to move it slowly away and prevent it from being sucked into the phenomenon. 
A blue-skinned humanoid appears. Jorj is a janitor, and he has been on his own for two days, after his colleagues descended in a lift to the lower levels. He is armed, and appears frightened. He is concerned that one of the trio is human, which has attracted someone who is ascending in one of the lifts. Realising the danger he poses in this state, the Doctor emerges from the TARDIS. Jorj panics and shoots Bill, blasting a hole through her chest. The lift doors open and masked figures emerge, taking Bill away with them.
Nardole checks the monitors and discovers that there are thousands of life forms on the lower levels of this craft - the end furthest away from where they have landed.
There are hundreds of levels, each containing its own biosphere.

Bill wakes to find herself in a hospital, with a bulky artificial heart and lung unit attached to her chest. Exploring, she finds wards full of heavily bandaged figures. She is horrified to discover that they are silently crying out in pain. They long for death.
Looking out of a window she sees a nocturnal cityscape - a heavily industrialised area. A man named Razor introduces himself to her. He explains that she was brought to the lower levels of the spaceship some time ago. The other patients are in the process of being cured. He agrees to take her in.
In the control room, only a few seconds have passed since Bill was taken away. The Doctor realises that the ship is so large that time is moving at different speeds at either end of the craft, due to the effects of the gravitational pull of the Black Hole. Whilst minutes pass here, months or even years may pass at the other end.
The life signs Nardole detected are descendants of Jorj's original colleagues. The Doctor calls a lift, intent on searching for Bill. He is knocks Jorj out when he tries to stop the lift being called.
Bill is able to see the control room on a scanner Razor has set up, but the Doctor, Nardole and Missy look like they are frozen, with time passing so slowly in relation to where she is.

He explains that all of the people on this level are undergoing medical procedures in order to embark on a mass exodus to higher levels.
Ten years pass for Bill. Seeing that the Doctor has gone to the lift, Razor pretends to take her to the lift door on this floor to meet him. However, he delivers her instead to an operating theatre where she is told that she is to undergo a full upgrade.
The others arrive. Whilst the Doctor and Nardole go in search of Bill, Missy begins checking the computers. She discovers that this craft was a colony ship from the planet Mondas...
Razor appears and asks her if she recalls having been here before. He removes a mask to reveal that he is the disguised Master - her previous incarnation. 
The Doctor is confronted by a Mondasian Cyberman in the operating theatre, escorted by Missy and the Master. He is horrified to discover that the Cyberman is Bill...

The Doctor is taken up to the roof of the hospital where the Master explains that the Cybermen have evolved on this ship, and their 'Operation Exodus' is the planned invasion of the higher levels. They will take the entire ship, converting all the humanoids they encounter as they move towards the command deck. On Level 507 there is an agricultural zone, where the humanoid inhabitants struggle to prevent Cyberman incursions.
Missy knocks out the Master as Cybermen attack. They have always ignored non-human lifeforms, but the Doctor had altered their programming to make Time Lords just as vulnerable to conversion as human beings. The Doctor is blasted by a Cyberman, but Nardole arrives in a shuttlecraft. The three Time Lords and the Bill-Cyberman enter it and it takes off - punching its way up through a number of floors before crashing on Level 507.

Two weeks pass. Bill has been unconscious and wakes to find herself in barn where she meets a woman named Hazran. She looks after a group of children, and defends this level. She explains that Bill is kept outside their farmhouse as she frightens the children, and Bill sees her reflection in a mirror - that of a Cyberman. She had blocked her fate from her mind. The Doctor notes that she has managed to retain her human emotions.
As Nardole helps Hazran prepare defences against the full invasion, the Master leads Missy and the Doctor into the woods near the farm. The latter is concealing that the injury he received from the Cyberman on the roof was actually terminal, and he is holding back his regeneration. The Master shows them both a lift entrance, and suggests they use it to find the Doctor's TARDIS and escape. His own ship is disabled on the hospital floor, its dematerialisation circuit burnt out. Missy carries a spare - due to a vague memory of these events.

The Doctor thinks they will never reach the TARDIS alive, and he wants to stay and help defend Hazran and the children. He asks his fellow Time Lords to join him. The Master and Missy refuse, and set off for the lift.
A number of booby-traps destroy some of the Cybermen, many of whom have evolved into more advanced versions. The Doctor orders Nardole to guide Hazran and the children to an upper level, as he plans to destroy this one with all the Cybermen concentrated in one location - even though he is likely to perish himself in doing so.
At the lift, the Master and Missy betray each other. She has taken on board much of what the Doctor had done to rehabilitate her, whilst he hates what the Doctor has done to his future self. They kill each other. The dying Master descends to the hospital level to find his TARDIS, where he will regenerate into her, whilst she is left for dead in the woods - the Master having ensured that she can no longer regenerate.

Nardole leads Hazran and the children to Level 502, whilst the Doctor and Bill battle the Cyberman army. He is shot several times, but manages to blow up the Level. Bill finds his body and takes it to the TARDIS. 
The water entity Heather appears, never having lost contact with Bill. The pair will travel the universe together, with Bill transformed into an ethereal being like her.
The Doctor wakes up in the TARDIS, and emerges to find himself in a bleak snowy wasteland. He refuses to regenerate. A figure approaches through the icy fog, and he is shocked to see that it is his own first incarnation...

World Enough And Time / The Doctor Falls were written by Steven Moffat, and first broadcast on 24th June and 1st July, 2017.
They brought the tenth season of the revived series to a close, and marked the final appearances (to date at least) of Michelle Gomez as Missy, and John Simm as the Master. The story also introduced David Bradley as the First Doctor, after the actor had previously portrayed William Hartnell in the 50th Anniversary drama An Adventure in Space and Time.
The episodes were also supposed to mark the departure of Peter Capaldi as the Twelfth Doctor, regenerating at the conclusion due to multiple blasts by Cyberman attackers. 
Steven Moffat had assumed that his successor as show-runner was going to write the 2017 Christmas Special, presumably introducing the Thirteenth Doctor. However, Chris Chibnall informed him that he was going to pass on writing a Christmas episode and would not be providing his first story until the Spring of 2018. Not wanting to see the series lose the prestigious Christmas night prime-time slot, in which had fared well in the ratings, Moffat hurriedly altered the ending of The Doctor Falls so that it would segue into a new final story for Capaldi, to be screened on 25th December.

Capaldi had earlier stated that the original Cybermen were one of his favourite monsters from the classic era of the series, and he'd love to see them make a return. These were the costumes designed by Sandra Reid for The Tenth Planet in 1966, characterised by blank cloth faces. He had suggested to Moffat that they could do the costume much better nowadays with current materials. 
By way of a thank-you to his departing star, and because he himself was leaving, Moffat elected to write a story which included the Mondasian Cybermen. This would also act as a Cyberman origins story - an idea first mooted by their co-creator Gerry Davis back in the mid 1980's. This time it was Capaldi who suggested it - possibly inspired by the Big Finish audio Spare Parts
Moffat re-read Davis' Doctor Who and the Cybermen which demonstrated how the Cybermen simply wanted to survive. The two newer versions of Cyberman could be included as the creatures would be seen to evolve.
Cybermen had featured in a number of series finales since Moffat took over - or the penultimate episode of the season: The Big Bang, Closing Time, Nightmare in Silver, Dark Water / Death in Heaven, and Hell Bent.

The story would be seeing the conclusion to the Missy story arc - and the departure of Gomez. To make this series finale even bigger, Moffat decided to deliver a "Two Masters" tale, bringing back John Simm as the previous incarnation. He had last been seen in The End of Time Part II,  leaving the show with David Tennant and Russell T Davies. At the time he had claimed that he would not be returning - as Gomez was to claim on the occasion of her departure.
As a nod to the Delgado and Ainley incarnations, Simm sported a goatee beard this time. The use of disguises was another of their traits.
The Master states that before he left Gallifrey, the Time Lords cured him of the persistent drumming in his head - hence why it hasn't affected Missy of the Sacha Dhawan incarnation. They no longer have the X-ray skeleton effect which we saw in The End of Time.
Presumably the Master had stolen his new TARDIS from Gallifrey, as he had not been seen to possess one since The Mark of the Rani (though not seen on screen, he must have used it to get to 18th Century Northumbria). Missy's failure to recall any of the events here, involving as they do her earlier self (apart from her unconsciously carrying of a spare dematerialisation circuit) can only be explained by the trauma of their mutual destruction of each other, though it isn't terribly clear.
It was originally intended that Simm's return would be a closely guarded secret, but then the BBC released the news as they thought he would be spotted on location. As it was, no-one did notice, so the return was spoiled by the production team themselves.
Other than the rogue Time Lords already mentioned, there are two additional guest artists of note. Playing Hazran is Samantha Spiro, who had recently played Carry On... star Barbara Windsor in biographical drama Babs, having previously played her in an earlier biopic titled Cor, Blimey! about the relationship between Windsor and Sid James. And Stephanie Hyam returns from The Pilot to play Heather.
Jorj is played by Oliver Lansley, and the surgeon and nurse who upgrade Bill are Paul Brightwell and Alison Lintott respectively.

Overall, an excellent pair of episodes that would have made for a fitting swansong for Peter Capaldi's Doctor. Lots to please long term fans with references to the classic series and even spin-off material. The Mondasian Cybermen may be slightly over-designed, in comparison with the originals, but Moffat gives them a great origins tale. Recently voted the top Capaldi story in the DWM 60th Anniversary polling.
Things you might like to know:
  • "World enough and time" is a line from the 1681 poem To His Coy Mistress, by Andrew Marvell. In it, the poet promotes living life to the fullest as death may be just round the corner. It was published posthumously.
  • One of the reasons John Simm agreed to return to the programme was because he was disappointed not to have been involved in the 50th Anniversary.
  • It was assistant director Michael Williams who coined the phrase "Mondasian Cybermen". 
  • Moffat addresses Cyberman continuity by claiming that whilst they evolved on Mondas, they came into being on many other worlds as well, quite independently. Wherever there are humanoids struggling in adverse conditions, there is the potential for them to resort to cybernetic implants to survive.
  • Planet 14, mentioned in The Invasion as somewhere the Cybermen once encountered the Doctor, has long been puzzled over by fans. Is it the Moon? Is it Telos? Is it the scene of some unscreened adventure? According to this story, it's simply another planet where Cybermen evolved.
  • Marinus is also mentioned, tying in with a DWM comic strip - "The World Shapers" - in which Voord evolved into Cybermen.
  • The Doctor also mentions places where he has defeated the Cybermen in the past, which include Telos (Tomb of the Cybermen and Attack of the Cybermen), the Moon (The Moonbase) and Voga (Revenge of the Cybermen).
  • According to this story, it is the handlebar attachments on the Cybermen which act as the emotional inhibitors. In The Tenth Planet they simply held the head lamp in place.
  • Amongst the silly names Missy uses for Bill and Nardole, she calls them "Exposition" and "Comic Relief", which just happen to be two story functions of the companion character.
  • The scenes in the snowy wasteland with David Bradley were shot during the making of the Christmas Special, and only edited into these episodes just before broadcast.
  • Earlier regenerations are referenced. The Doctor talks of Sontarans perverting the course of history as he wakes up in the TARDIS (as with the Fourth in Robot); says "No!" - the final word of the Second Doctor; and "I don't want to..." - as in Ten's "I don't want to go".

Monday, 18 September 2023

The Collection S20 box set

Despite having been told that I wouldn't be receiving it until next Monday, the Season 20 Blu-ray box-set arrived just after noon. I'll be watching it over the next few days, and a review will follow once I've worked my way through it. This might take a while, as it is absolutely jam-packed full of extra material. The Five Doctors alone is spread over three discs (7 - 9), with a huge amount of 20th Anniversary archive items. Little old The King's Demons lists 29 additional features.

Sunday, 17 September 2023

Episode 84: Airlock

Sensing movement, Vicki looks up to see a hideous creature staring at her from within the Rill spacecraft...
The Doctor is still at the entrance to the compound, examining the pyramidal machinery, which appears to be converting ammoniac gas. Vicki sees a Chumbley approach and runs to the entrance - only for a gate to close, trapping her inside. She is escorted by Chumblies back to where she saw the creature. Unable to breach the gate, the Doctor decides to sabotage the machinery and starts to dismantle it.
Steven remains in the Drahvin spaceship, where he pretends to be sleeping. Nearby, Maaga is bemoaning the fact that she has to put up with her inferior soldiers, making her task of space exploration more difficult. She had wanted only pure-bred Drahvins troops to accompany her, but her superiors had refused.
Vicki finds one of the Chumblies repeating what she says, assimilating her language. The creature behind the screen - a Rill - is then able to communicate with her. They have no vocal chords, but can project their thoughts through their service robots. The Rill explains that they were subject to an unprovoked attack by the Drahvin ship after a stand-off in space above this planet. 
Since the crash, which killed two thirds of their crew of twelve, they have attempted to help the Drahvins, but their efforts have been spurned. The Rill tells Vicki of how they witnessed Maaga shooting dead one of her injured soldiers - an incident which she had been blaming on the Rills to frighten her troops.
On discovering that the Rills need an ammonia atmosphere to survive, Vicki realises that the Doctor will kill them instead of just forcing them to free her, so she runs to the entrance to stop him.
The soldier guarding Steven starts to fall asleep, so he seizes her weapon and knocks her out. He rushes into the airlock, only to find a Chumbley waiting outside. Thinking them still a danger, he believes himself trapped.
At the compound, the Rill informs the Doctor that they are drilling for a power source for their ship. They rely on sunray-power but haven't enough, so were looking for an alternative. The Doctor tells him of his findings regarding the time left to this planet, and the Rill claims that they won't have time to obtain the power they need.
He offers a power transfer from the TARDIS.
When Steven refuses to come back inside the spaceship, Maaga begins to remove the oxygen from the airlock.
The Chumbley outside reports these events back to the Rill who warns the Doctor. He and Vicki hurry back to the Drahvin ship to free Steven, only to run into one of the soldiers. Vicki manages to grab her gun and they force her to escort them back to her ship.
In the airlock, the pressure is such that the door will no longer open. 
Steven collapses to the floor...
Next episode: The Exploding Planet

Written by: William Emms
Recorded: Friday 23rd July 1965 - Television Centre Studio TC4
First broadcast: 5:50pm, Saturday 25th September 1965
Ratings: 11.3 million / AI 54
Designer: Richard Hunt
Director: Derek Martinus
Additional cast: Robert Cartland (Rill Voice), Pepe Poupee (Chumbley)

On Sunday 11th December, 2011, attendees of a "Missing Believed Wiped" event at the British Film Institute in London were delighted to hear that two of the series' lost episodes had been returned to the archives - one of which was Airlock. The print originated in Australia, where it had been in the possession of a television engineer named Terry Burnett. He hadn't realised that it was a missing instalment. 
The episode had been found back in July. It was missing some closing scenes, including the end titles.
When told that one of her old episodes had been rediscovered, the title meant nothing to Maureen O'Brien - until told that it featured the Chumblies. She had fond memories of them.
The episode was released on DVD in March 2013 as an extra on The Aztecs Special Edition. It accompanied the six minutes from Four Hundred Dawns which had been saved by the DWAS, with the remainder of the story represented by a reconstruction from fan group Loose Cannon.

Every missing episode is covered by an off-air soundtrack recording, and many have a visual record thanks to photographer John Cura and his telesnap service. BBC and Radio Times photographers also visited the studios and locations to take images, sometimes in colour. Added to this, designers Ray Cusick and Barry Newbery kept a photographic record of their work, often in colour.
Where the telesnaps don't exist - because the director declined to commission them - visual imagery from some episodes is entirely absent, as the official photographers often only attended on a single recording day. This means that only certain actors, costumes and sets are represented in the archives.
With only the audio to go by, fans are left to imagine what certain scenes looked like on screen.
The rediscovery of Airlock meant that we finally got to see scenes which had no visual record - and fans were particularly surprised to see the sequence describing the "execution" of the injured Drahvin soldier by Maaga. Those who had seen it on its original broadcast had neglected to report that the sequence came in the form of a flashback, filmed as a POV shot from the Rills' perspective.
Both techniques were rare in the series up to that point.

Four Rill costumes were built by freelance prop contractors John and Jack Lovell. Black in colour, they were based on walruses, with large tusks. Only one Rill was used for this episode, seen through a frosted glass panel. The costumes were shrouded in dry-ice, simulating the ammonia gas on which they thrived, and helping to hide any deficiencies in the costumes.
Anthony Paul had been hired to provide the creature's voice. At a late stage he was replaced by Robert Cartland, who had already been booked by Mervyn Pinfield to play delegate Malpha in the stand-alone Dalek episode which formed part of this production.

Another Chumbley operator joined the cast for this episode, operating the machine which Steven thinks is blocking him from leaving the spaceship. This was Kathleen Gearan, who went under the stage name Pepe Poupee. She was married to fellow Chumbley operator Angelo Muscat (of The Prisoner fame). Pepe, also known as Pepi, was the only female Oompa Loompa in the 1971 film Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory, and featured alongside Tom Baker in the horror movie The Mutations.
One of Maureen O'Brien's clearest memories of this story was of Poupee and Muscat arguing all the time. Ironically, one of her film roles was in a 1983 movie directed by actor Robert Duvall, titled Angelo My Love.

A late script change saw the expository dialogue between Vicki and the Rill reduced considerably, and the sequence of the Doctor and she encountering the lone Drahvin soldier was added to cover the gap.
A bit of dialogue that really ought to have been rethought, but wasn't, is that relating to the Rills' lack of power. They claim to need "sun-ray" power but are having to drill for an alternative - presumably some fossil fuel. However, we have been told that this planet has three suns, with nights only a couple of hours long - so how can the Rills not have enough "sun-ray" power?

  • The ratings take a big leap upwards, to over 11 million, with only a single point drop in the appreciation figure. The series won't see viewing figures like this again until the Tom Baker era.
  • William Emms had suggested in his script the use of a speeded up / slowed down tape to represent the Rill assimilating human speech.
  • Lyn Ashley, who was already playing Drahvin Three, portrayed the injured soldier who is killed by Maaga. She was filmed lying face-down to hide her identity.
  • William Hartnell was issued with a revised contract on the day this episode was recorded, to take into account the forthcoming 12-part Dalek story. Purves and O'Brien were then issued contracts with options for a further 20 weeks each - though the latter's was not to be taken up...
  • A few days after recording, Hartnell gave an interview to the Daily Mirror, in which he stated that he had gifted his wife Heather a half-inch high solid gold TARDIS, topped with a sapphire.
  • William Shearer, one of the Chumbley operators, recorded a short interview for Junior Points of View about the experience. Whilst some young fans thought the robots looked like jellies that hadn't set properly, others thought that they could give the Daleks a run for their money and hoped they would make a return.
  • As mentioned last week, it was believed for many years that no photographs existed of the Rills. When readers wrote into DWM asking to see what they looked like, the magazine claimed no photos had been taken. A couple of images then turned up in the late '80's. Despite a Rill featuring in an exhibition, both images appear to have been taken in the studio with the prop on the landscape set: