Monday 27 February 2023

News Update

The cover of this week's DWM has been released. The main content relates to The Sarah Jane Adventures. The 'Fact of Fiction' covers the underwhelming Curse of the Black Spot. Surely a Sarah Jane Smith story would have made more sense, to give the issue more of a theme? It will be in the shops on Thursday.
One of the DWM interviewees, who worked on SJA is Phil Ford. In Radio Times, he has spoken about that other spin-off series, Torchwood. In this he states that it is highly unlikely that the series would return in the form where it left off (mainly due to the controversy surrounding John Barrowman, presumably) but he doesn't see why a prequel series couldn't be made. We know that RTD wants to create a "Universe", but whether or not this will include pre-existing spin-offs is unknown.

Regular readers of this blog will know that I was very much taken with a free e-book - Blackpool Remembered - concerning the Doctor Who Exhibition at Blackpool, which ran from 1974 - 1985. Having visited it myself between 1976 - 1978, it held a lot of nostalgia value for me. The book ran to 410 pages, and contained a lot of photographs of the exhibits, as well as a number of personal reminiscences of attendees (including a DWAS day-trip, Steve Cambden - K9 wrangler - and Edward Russell, brand manager of Doctor Who for many years). 
A follow-up e-book arrived the following year - Blackpool Revisited - which carried the story on to the later exhibitions, along with a sideways step to look at the Dapol exhibition in Wales, plus sundry other items. This ran to 639 pages.
I never visited the Longleat exhibition, which ran longer than the Blackpool one, but I will shortly be able to see images and read all about it in the third volume of this e-book series. It is due to be published on Saturday 1st April.
You can find the original Blackpool book at, and from there you will see links to the other publications.

A second e-publication is due to be released on-line later this very day (27th Feb) according to its originator. This promises to be a series of e-books looking at the coverage of Doctor Who by Radio Times magazine. The website to go to is
As of the time of writing (1pm), it is still showing only a Password prompt box, but I will keep checking back. I saw some sample images on Facebook and they looked great.
UPDATE: unfortunately not available as a download, but well worth reading online. 

I was extremely disappointed that Radio Times did not produce any decent special edition for the 50th Anniversary. Hopefully they will for the 60th, as they always had a much better relationship with RTD than they did with Moffat. 
In the absence of anything official, however, it is nice to see what fans are producing - especially when they have such high production values.

Finally - I've found another nice colour picture of an original Police Box. This was in suburban London (the bus is destined for Moorgate).

Countdown to 60: Facts of Fiction

One wonders if, back in 1967, the BBC costume designer allocated to "The Prophet" - latest of the Out of the Unknown sci-fi anthology series - would have had any idea that one of their designs would feature in a popular breakfast cereal promotion a decade later, be marketed as a figurine five decades later, and be used for a cosplay costume in 2023 - not that they would have known what cosplay was...
The Isaac Asimov adaptation required some robots, and the designer opted to keep it simple and go for a basic 'man dressed in carboard boxes and tubes' look.
They were painted in dark colours and had code numbers printed on their chests. One of the costumes was reused a few months later for another production called "Metal Martyr".

1968 sees a number of crises hitting the Doctor Who production office. Of particular concern to Derrick Sherwin is the script situation - his particular area of responsibility. Stories are beginning to collapse, and ones already commissioned, or even in production, are posing problems. 
One of these is The Dominators, from writing duo Mervyn Haisman and Henry Lincoln. They had provided the hugely popular Yeti stories - The Abominable Snowmen and The Web of Fear - and were working on a third.
Sherwin had trouble with this six part story, which he felt couldn't stretch that far without a lot of rather dull padding. There were lengthy scenes of the Dulkis council debating, and not enough action. Sherwin decided that drastic action was needed, and he opted to prune the story back to just five episodes, combining material from the last two instalments into one and hurrying the story along to its conclusion. The writers were unhappy - enough to consider withdrawing the story at one point, which would have really wrecked the season. Luckily they opted not to do this - settling for having their names removed.

The next story lined up was Peter Ling's The Mind Robber, which had begun life as "Manpower". 
This was set in the Land of Fiction, having been inspired by Ling's main job - scripting soap opera Crossroads. He was surprised by the number of people who regarded the soap characters as real.
Ling's story was a four-parter, but the deletion of an instalment of The Dominators would leave a one week gap in the schedules. 
Sherwin decided to add an extra episode to the beginning of The Mind Robber - an extended set-up. He had no money for new costumes, sets or guest artists, so whatever he came up with had to be set in the TARDIS or against black drapes, and feature only the three regulars who were already being paid anyway. Sherwin had included some robots, and found the costumes from "The Prophet" in the stores.
Rather than black drapes, he had decided on making the TARDIS landing site a white void instead. The robot costumes were painted various light colours, including yellow, which would appear white on monochrome TV screens.
The robot costumes aren't the only reused prop. In the TARDIS power room is the "Morok freezing machine", first seen in Doctor Who in The Space Museum but which originated in a British sci-fi B-Movie called Curse of the Fly.

It has been pointed out many times that The Invasion opens with the TARDIS being reconstituted (after breaking up at the conclusion of this opening episode), the Doctor is sitting in the same armchair as he was at that moment, and the Master of the Land of Fiction suddenly vanishes without comment. The candles which Zoe sees in a later episode are a complete mystery in The Space Pirates, and Jamie has to explain to her how they function. 
Episodes 2 - 5 of The Mind Robber existed only in the Doctor's mind, and never actually happened.
A story concerning a world of fiction is itself employing artefacts which derive from works of fiction beyond its text.
Look closely at the scene where the Doctor pushes Jamie and Zoe back into the TARDIS console room. The scanner reads: "Producer - Peter Bryant". The Doctor and his companions have just been turned into works of fiction. This episode has no writer credit, so Derrick Sherwin has avoided making himself fictional.
The villain has actually won, but the true Master of the Land of Fiction is Derrick Sherwin.

Sunday 26 February 2023

Episode 58: The Web Planet

Having just left ancient Rome, Ian notices that the Doctor is concerned about the TARDIS. He tells the teacher that it has been seized by some powerful force and is being dragged down to some unknown location...
The ship materialises in the middle of a bleak moon-like landscape, surrounded by craters and crags.
It appears to be devoid of life, though Vicki is overpowered by an ultra-high pitch sound which only she can hear.
Efforts by the Doctor to take off again fail, as the ship's power seems to be drained away. He decides that he must look outside for the source of this problem in order to neutralise it, inviting Ian to accompany him.
Having been badly affected by the strange sound, Vicki has taken to her room. Barbara is looking after her, and at last reveals that she and Ian had also visited Rome when Vicki notices a gold bracelet - gift from Nero - on the teacher's arm. Barbara is alarmed to find this arm moving involuntarily, even when she notices and tries to stop it. It is as if some magnetic force had control over it. She and Vicki are alarmed to hear that the Doctor and Ian are going outside.
They don special overcoats with breathing apparatus attached, as the Doctor suspects a thin atmosphere outside. He calls these his "ADJs" - Atmospheric Density Jackets. Ian points out that, despite life support and lighting still working, there is no power in the controls. The doors will not open.
The Doctor reveals that his blue crystal ring has special powers and uses it to operate a device that opens the main doors.
As they explore, they both hear the high pitch noise which Vicki had earlier experienced, but cannot locate the source as it seems to echo all around them. The Doctor thinks the echoes significant. He also notes a large number of moons orbiting this world. Ian notices a pool of water but is stopped from drinking from it by the Doctor. Borrowing Ian's tie (which he uses as a belt) he demonstrates how the pool is actually one of formic acid. Everything seems to point to this being the planet Vortis, in the Isop Galaxy, but that world should not have any satellites.
In the TARDIS, Barbara comes under the magnetic force once again, and this time becomes fully hypnotised. In a trance, she wanders out of the ship. Vicki hears the strange noise surrounding her, and the TARDIS then begins to move. Something is dragging it from its landing place.
The same magnetic force affecting Barbara causes Ian's gold pen to fly out of his hand. He and the Doctor come across a tall column, crowned by a winged figure. From the weathering, this appears to be an ancient monument.
Passing between two large rocks a sticky web-like mass springs up and ensnares Ian, stinging his hands and face. The Doctor cannot break it, and so decides to return to the TARDIS for help.
Nearby, still in a trance, Barbara is walking straight for one of the acid pools.
When the Doctor reaches the spot where the TARDIS had landed, he is shocked to find that his ship has disappeared...
Next episode: The Zarbi

Written by: Bill Strutton
Recorded: Friday 22nd January 1965 - Riverside Studio 1
First broadcast: 5:40pm, Saturday 13th February 1965
Ratings: 13.5 million / AI 56
Designer: John Wood
Director: Richard Martin
Additional cast: Robert Jewell, Gerald Taylor (Zarbi), Jack Pitt (Larvae Gun)

In interviews, William Harold Strutton gave a couple of personal recollections as inspirations for his story. 
One came from his own childhood, back in Australia, when he had spotted two large bull ants fighting each other in an old kerosene can. When he tried to separate them, he was bitten very painfully.
Later, he observed the way that his young sons used to fight each other, and they reminded him of the incident with the ants.
Meeting with Verity Lambert the writer - another member of Associated London Scripts - found that she welcomed the scope of the story. In its second season, she was keen to experiment and test the boundaries of what a Doctor Who could be. Strutton's idea was set on a moon-like planet, with only various forms of alien life present - all based on Earth insects. There would be no recognisably humanoid characters for the TARDIS crew to interact with - or for the audience to identify with.
Story Editor Dennis Spooner saw the story as having political subtexts, with the Zarbi representing communism, and the Menoptra free enterprise. This was later denied by Strutton, who claimed to be simply telling a good adventure yarn. 
Having seen the financial rewards coming to fellow ALS writer Terry Nation from his Daleks, Strutton was very hopeful that his insect creations would generate lucrative merchandising.
This would be the last non-Dalek six-parter for a time - the production team having now decided that all stories would be a standard four episodes in length, other than Dalek stories which would be granted six episodes.
Richard Martin had proven himself capable of handling big complex stories following The Dalek Invasion of Earth. He had originally been pencilled in for The Rescue / The Romans, but was moved onto this project.
He and Lambert enjoyed a fiery, but creative, working relationship.

Like The Daleks, this opening instalment features only the regular cast exploring a strange new world. There are no other speaking characters, though we do have some brief shots of Zarbi and a Larvae Gun.
The set comprised a cyclorama depicting a night sky, full of moons, above a range of distant mountains. On 405-line television this would have looked more impressive, but today we can see characters casting shadows on these distant crags. The studio floor was covered in sawdust and sand, with lots of raised areas and free-standing columns of rock to add interest.
The close-up of Ian's dissolving Coal Hill School tie was edited in - footage from the Ealing filming.
To indicate the thinner atmosphere, Martin elected to smear two camera lens fittings with Vaseline. A special filter which would have done the job proved too expensive. The Vaseline effect varied from camera to camera and sometimes obscured the action, and it would be eliminated in later episodes.
A model was created of the planet's surface, for a sequence in which the TARDIS is seen being dragged away. This was the one third scale TARDIS model built for The Romans.
Unusually, the TARDIS doors are positioned to the right of the screen - meaning we are seeing a wall of the console room which we have never seen before. This contains an alcove in which the Doctor has a small laboratory set-up, with first aid box and the Astral Map unit. We also see an ornate light device which the Doctor uses to open the doors, after passing his ring across it.
We also get to see the TARDIS console rotate on its castors, used by stagehands to easily move it in and out of the studio.

The Larvae Guns did not feature in Strutton's original scripts. He had the Zarbi themselves spitting fire. It was Spooner who added them as a separate species (presumably an earlier developmental form of the Zarbi). This may be why Strutton elects to rename the creatures as "Venom Grubs" in his novelisation of the story - he didn't invent them. They have also been named variously as "Sting Grubs" or "Sting Guns".

The Doctor dons a white version of his Astrakhan hat, and the ADJs are light coloured, for a very good reason. The particular special effect of characters being shown in front of photographic images, as previously seen in Planet of Giants, was achieved by the actors standing in front of black drapes, with the image reflected off a mirror and superimposed over the photograph. Had the actors been dressed in dark costumes, the dark areas would have vanished against the black drapes and become invisible. Had Hartnell not been wearing the white version of the hat, the top of his head might have disappeared.
Even with this precaution, the effect makes figures ghost-like and transparent.

The episode had been given a special trailer, which Martin was extremely unhappy with. He felt it gave away some of the plot, featuring as it did material from later episodes, but his biggest gripe was a humorous sequence where a Zarbi arrives for work at Ealing Studios. The newspapers were also given shots of a Zarbi standing at a bus stop. Martin felt that this undermined the menace of the monsters, which he was doing his best to create on screen. Lambert's response was that the Zarbi were perhaps too scary, and this had to be countered for the benefit of small children who would watch.
It would have been better had the first full sight of the Zarbi been held back until the next episode, when they reveal themselves to the Doctor, but having teased Zarbi, Martin and Spooner felt compelled to include them.

  • The trailer broadcast at the end of Inferno and other publicity clearly seized the audience's attention as we have a massive rise in viewing figures. 13.5 million would be a record which would remain unbroken until the advent of Tom Baker's Doctor.
  • The appreciation index also rises - so those watching liked what they saw.
  • Filming at Ealing took place over six days, from Monday 4th January to Monday 11th January 1965 incl.
  • Below, an example of the publicity which annoyed Richard Martin so much. NB: this Zarbi operator is not wearing the costume's leg pieces.
  • The original drafts were titled Doctor Who and the Webbed Planet.
  • William Hartnell usually stayed in digs when in London for the week, but also sometimes stayed with Jack Pitt, who operates the Larvae Gun in this episode.
  • The incidental music is courtesy of Les Structures Sonores - the French musique concrete performers whom Lambert had initially approached to compose the series' main theme. To reduce costs, the pieces used were from stock.
  • Strutton's wife Marguerite came up with the name "Zarbi".
  • In a House of Lords debate a few days after broadcast, the Earl of Bessborough referred to "Zarbies" as an alternative name for ants, when comparing worker productivity between the UK and USA.
  • As part of the big publicity push Radio Times afforded this serial Doctor Who's third cover:
  • Within was the usual feature / photograph which always marked the start of a new story:

Friday 24 February 2023

M is for... Maggots

When Global Chemicals began secretly pumping industrial waste into the abandoned mine workings in the Welsh village of Llanfairfach, the highly toxic substance caused a mutation in some of the local wildlife. 
Common or garden maggots grew to enormous size after consuming the waste. Their bite injected the toxin into the blood stream, causing the flesh of their victims to turn bright green as they died.
As soon as the first miner's body was discovered - that of a man who was carrying out one of the annual checks of the mine - UNIT were called in. However, their main role was to protect the chemical company from the demonstrations waged against it by ecologist Professor Clifford Jones, who ran a commune in the village. 
The Doctor found out about the giant maggots when he ventured into the mine to rescue Jo Grant, who had gone down to help another stricken miner. He brought an egg out with him to study. This later hatched at the commune and killed the henchman of Global's CEO, Dr Stevens, who had come to steal it as part of the company's cover-up.
This maggot was later found dead after consuming a meat substitute developed by Prof. Jones. The Brigadier, under pressure from Stevens and his powerful government supporters, had blown up the mine, but this had merely resulted in the maggots breaking out onto the surface all over the area.
The meat substitute was found to be able to destroy them, as well as providing an antidote to those infected with their toxin.

Sergeant Benton discovered an empty chrysalis. The Doctor realised that the insect which had emerged would be a giant fly, capable of spreading the "Green Death" all over the country. He and Benton were attacked by the creature as they went about poisoning the maggots. The Doctor threw his cape over it as it flew past, breaking its neck and killing it. The other maggots were destroyed before they could pupate.

Appearances: The Green Death (1973).
  • The maggots were realised in a number of ways, including rod puppets when interacting with actors, and using real ones on model landscapes. According to the VFX team, inflated condoms were also used, though the director claimed they were party balloons.
  • The script gave them a "thick chitinous skin". Jon Pertwee pronounced "chitinous" with a soft "ch" - as in church. A viewer wrote in to the production office with the short poem "The reason I'm writin' / is how to say kitin".

M is for... Magambo, Captain

Captain Erisa Magambo was an officer with UNIT, who worked with Rose Tyler to harness the power of the TARDIS to create a trans-dimensional time machine. This was in an alternative timeline in which the Doctor had died fighting the Racnoss - created after Donna Noble's life had been manipulated by a being known as the Trickster. The TARDIS would allow Donna to travel to her original timeline to stop future history being corrupted. The plan succeeded, at the cost of the alternative Donna's life.
In the normal timeline, Magambo was placed in command of the incident at London's Gladwell Road Tunnel beneath the Thames. A Number 200 bus had entered the tunnel and failed to emerge, and a strange Space / Time portal was discovered in the middle of it. This bus had the Doctor amongst its passengers, along with a notorious aristocratic thief - Lady Christina de Souza.
The Captain worked with UNIT's latest scientific adviser, Malcolm Taylor, to investigate the anomaly and find a way of bringing the passengers home. Contact was established with the bus, which had been transported to the planet of San Helios. On learning that the omnivorous creatures which had generated the portal were about to transfer through it to Earth, Magambo was prepared to kill Malcolm rather than allow Earth to be threatened. When the moment came, however, she relented. She and her troops destroyed the few creatures which did manage to get through the portal.
She returned the TARDIS to the Doctor, after it had been found in the grounds of Buckingham Palace.

Played by: Noma Dumezweni. Appearances: Turn Left (2008), Planet of the Dead (2009).

M is for... Maebh

Maebh Arden was a pupil at Coal Hill School - one of the children with special educational needs. Her older sister had vanished a year ago, which had upset her greatly. She and the other special needs pupils embarked on a sleep-in stay at London's Natural History Museum one night. Maebh felt compelled to leave the building before the others awoke, and found herself in the middle of a dense forest which had sprung up overnight, smothering the city. Clara Oswald and Danny Pink were the accompanying teachers, and they discovered her absence that morning, when they also learned of the forest which was actually covering the entire planet.
Maebh found her way to the TARDIS at Trafalgar Square, where the Doctor became intrigued by her. She had been able to read Clara's mind to learn about him. It transpired that she was also in psychic contact with microscopic creatures which lived within trees. Over the millennia, they had protected the planet from solar storms. 
Once everyone had been reunited in the TARDIS, the pupils wrote a speech to world leaders demanding protection for the forests. It was Maebh who was chosen to record this.
After the crisis was over Maebh went home to find that the forest had returned her sister to her family.

Played by: Abigail Eames. Appearances: In the Forest of the Night (2014).
  • The name "Maebh" (pronounced Mave) derives from the Irish for "she who intoxicates". Maebh was a powerful warrior queen of Connacht. 
  • Her surname - Arden - evokes the forest associated with William Shakespeare, both in real life and in some of his works.
  • Maebh's bright red coat is inspired by the fairy tale of Little Red Riding Hood, a girl who also has an adventure involving a wild animal in a forest.

M is for... Maddy

Maddy was one of the elderly Rezzies - residents - of the Paradise Towers housing complex. She liked to know all the local gossip which she shared with neighbours Tabby and Tilda - unaware that they had turned to cannibalism to make ends meet. When they had been killed - dragged into their kitchen waste disposal system - the Chief Caretaker decided to stop Maddy from making a fuss by offering her their now empty apartment, which was bigger than hers. 
When the Cleaning Machine began to massacre everyone they encountered, under the control of the Towers' architect Kroagnon, Maddy helped organise the surviving Rezzies and led them to the swimming pool area on an upper floor, where the Doctor was planning a fightback. She apologised to the Kangs for the behaviour of her fellow Rezzies towards them. She also suggested that her friends could use tablecloths and crocheted shawls to blind or trap the Cleaners. 
Once Kroagnon had been destroyed, Maddy attended the memorial service for Pex - which united all the disparate groups living or working in the complex.

Played by: Judy Cornwell. Appearances: Paradise Towers (1987).
  • Cornwell is probably best known for her role as Hyacinth Bucket's sister Daisy in BBC sitcom Keeping Up Appearances. Earlier in her career she had starred alongside Jon Pertwee in his long-running radio show The Navy Lark.

M is for... Maddox

In the year 2084 two power blocs were poised on the brink of nuclear war. To prevent false alarms triggering a genuine holocaust, a human operator was to be physically linked to the launch computers. This was achieved through an electronic implant in the brain, accessed via a port at the back of the skull. They would be able to double-check and intervene with the launch if necessary, but equally fire the missiles in the event of a real attack. This role was known as the Synch Operator. 
Sea Base 4's experienced Synch Operator was killed in a freak accident, leaving only the young trainee Maddox to fulfil the role until a replacement could arrive.
The death had been engineered by enemy agents - Dr Solow and an officer named Nilson - who planned to interfere with Maddox's conditioning - making him sabotage the missile systems. The young man already had serious qualms about the morality of his role. He was programmed to kill anyone who tried to stop him wrecking the launch equipment - and this included a young woman named Karina who had feelings for him.
Realising what he had been forced to do, Maddox turned on Nilson - who killed him by overloading his implant.

Played by: Martin Neil. Appearances: Warriors of the Deep (1984).

M is for... Macra

Macra were giant crab-like creatures which the Doctor first encountered on a planet on which an Earth colony had been established. They dwelt underground, only emerging onto the surface at night. They had managed to gain mental control over the colony's ruler - known as the Pilot - and through him established power over everyone else. Colonists were subjected to mental conditioning as they slept, which compelled them to work for the creatures - mining a toxic gas on which they thrived. An artificial state of happiness was imposed over the entire colony. Everyone was conditioned to believe that the Macra did not exist, other than a few individuals like the miner Medok who were immune to the mental manipulation. Even the Doctor's companion Ben fell under their malign influence. 
The Doctor eventually managed to convince the leader of the colony - the Co-Pilot - of the truth of their situation, and Ben's conditioning also began to break down. The gas pumping machinery was put into reverse by Ben and the resulting explosion destroyed the Macra.

In the far, far future, around the year 5 Billion, the Doctor made a return visit to the planet New Earth. His companion Martha was abducted and taken onto the motorway beneath New New York. This enclosed space had a toxic atmosphere from the millions of vehicles trapped there, and this was being exploited by Macra living on the motorway floor. So far into the future, the creatures had devolved and were now simply ravenous animals - capturing vehicles which ventured into their reach and consuming the occupants. These were physically much larger, with enlarged claws. The Doctor claimed that Macra had been a widespread species in the past.

Voiced by: Denis Goacher. Appearances: The Macra Terror (1967), Gridlock (2007).
  • A single Macra prop was constructed by Shawcraft Models. It was so large it needed to be moved around on the back of a van. With just the one prop available, scenes involving several involved it being filmed from different angles which were then mixed together. Brown in colour, it was repainted white for the final episode to act as the Control Macra.
  • A separate Macra claw was required earlier, to be seen at the conclusion of The Moonbase on the TARDIS time-scanner.
  • Until their return in 2007, fans were unhappy with The Macra Terror as it appeared to show the Doctor committing genocide.
  • Needing a monster for the motorway, Russell T Davies at first thought of an insect or reptile but then considered that New New York sat on a promontory with sea on three sides, and so decided on a water-based creature. With the Macra already existing he simply used them, but had them devolved to become savage monsters. 

M is for... Mack, Tony

Head of a drilling research project located in the small Welsh village of Cwmtaff in 2020. The aim was to drill deeper into the Earth than ever achieved before. Cwmtaff was virtually abandoned, with only Tony and his family now living there - daughter Ambrose, her husband Mo, and their son Elliot - along with scientific adviser Dr. Nasreen Chaudhry. Other staff travelled in through the week.
Just after reaching a record depth, Tony was confronted by the Doctor and his companions Amy and Rory. Mo had disappeared, and the village came under attack by creatures which had travelled up from the area which the drill had penetrated. 
It transpired that it had breached the roof of a Silurian city, triggering the reanimation of a military unit. This was led by a warrior named Restac. A Silurian soldier named Alaya was captured by the Doctor, after she had managed to wound Tony with her tongue. This contained a deadly toxin, and he began to ail. Mo had been abducted by the Silurians, and they also seized Elliot. A desperate Ambrose tried to force Alaya to release her family, but accidentally killed her. Tony had been in favour of the Doctor's plan to swap Alaya for the hostages, which also included Amy.
Tony later visited the city with the others, to return Alaya's body. The Silurian leader, Eldane, decided that the time was not right for humans and Silurians to coexist, and so triggered a poison decontaminant that would force Restac and her warriors to return to hibernation. Tony would remain behind, frozen until his illness could be cured. Nasreen was in love with him and so elected to stay with him. Both would help reconcile the two races in the future.

Played by: Robert Pugh. Appearances: The Hungry Earth / Cold Blood (2010).
  • Pugh had earlier featured in Torchwood, in the Series 2 episode Adrift, where he played the adult Jonah Bevan.
  • A claim to fame: I once took part in a fundraising quiz for a church in North London - and Pugh was member of a rival team. They won.

Wednesday 22 February 2023

Countdown to 60: An Officer and a Gentleman

The third episode of The Web of Fear features an event which will have massive repercussions for the series - even unto the present day: the Doctor meets a soldier named Lethbridge Stewart.
It is a fairly minor incident in the story, which concerns itself more with the fact that Edward Travers from The Abominable Snowmen is back, now as an old Professor, and the Yeti have returned after only a 12 week gap. The significance of the meeting only becomes apparent much later.
We can't even see it these days, unless the allegedly hijacked episode is returned. Until then, we have to make do with an appallingly bad animation, or the telesnap / soundtrack reconstruction.

Nicholas Courtney's first brush with Doctor Who had been when  he was considered for the role of King Richard I in The Crusade, should Julian Glover be unwilling or unable to do it. Director Douglas Camfield liked to have a small "rep company" of actors who he relied on, and Courtney was one of that number. 
Glover did take on the role, but Camfield found another for Courtney the following year - as Space Security agent Bret Vyon in the first four episodes of The Daleks' Master Plan. The actor later claimed that William Hartnell encouraged him to change agent (Hartnell's son-in-law was one), and he didn't work for a year.
Camfield looked to Courtney again for The Web of Fear, when he needed someone to play a young Captain named Knight. Courtney came from an army background, but he himself had never risen above the rank of Private during his National Service. Actor David Langton was due to play a more senior officer in the Yeti sequel - Colonel Lethbridge-Stewart - but he dropped out when offered something else. Courtney was asked if he would like a promotion - in more ways than one, as Capt. Knight doesn't make it to the end of the story. Naturally he said "Yes".
The Colonel was developed way beyond the Haisman / Lincoln script by Camfield, who added the hyphenated 'Stewart', seeing him as one of those Anglified Scots officers. Lt. Colonel Colin "Mad Mitch" Mitchell of the Argyle and Sutherland Highlanders was a big inspiration.
When we first meet him, we have no idea whether or not we can trust the Colonel. We know that the Great Intelligence uses a human host, and he has turned up in the tunnels with no-one to vouch for his story of being sole survivor of an ambushed convoy. Even when Driver Evans later does seem to recognise him, the Colonel's response is rather ambiguous. He's also the sole survivor of a second Yeti attack at Covent Garden. He is a suspect right up to the appearance of the real host in Part Six.

The following year, despite his intention to get away from the programme as soon as possible, script editor Derrick Sherwin had the idea of basing the Doctor on Earth for a while, inspired by the Quatermass serials. In this, he would need to be allied with a military force to provide a base of operations, as well as a source of additional drama. The format was tested out in a story Sherwin wrote himself - The Invasion. It would have cost a lot to use Travers and his daughter again, as well as Lethbridge Stewart, and not all the actors might be available anyway. A deteriorating relationship with their creators didn't help the situation. 
In the end only Courtney was brought back from The Web of Fear, as he was available and willing. To create a new military commander would have meant someone just like him anyway, so they might as well use the already established character.
The Colonel has been promoted to Brigadier, and has been placed in charge of the British branch of UNIT - then the United Nations Intelligence Taskforce. It was always believed that the Brigadier had helped to found the organisation, after his personal experience with the Great Intelligence and the Yeti. Nowadays, attempts have been made to backtrack on this, and have UNIT founded independently, with Lethbridge Stewart joining an already established outfit. Most fans regard this as nonsense.
Camfield was directing again, and was in his element when real life soldiers were used for the climactic battle scenes. Courtney was so convincing in the role that they asked their commander if they should salute him like a real officer.
During filming, Courtney was asked if he would like to come back in Season 7 as a regular - and he once again said "Yes".

With a new Doctor and a new companion being introduced in Spearhead From Space, it was up to the Brigadier to act as continuity with what had come before, so viewers knew that this was still Doctor Who they were watching.
Friendship with Pertwee took time to develop, as the tactless star managed to insult him on their first meeting. Courtney suffered from depression, which led to him being replaced by a double for location scenes on Terror of the Autons. (The Brigadier would never wear white socks in uniform!).
He featured in every story of the first two Earth-bound seasons - even managing two episodes of a story set on an alien planet (Colony in Space), albeit briefly.
Producer and script editor realised that the format couldn't be sustained, and so the Doctor was sent on two missions by the Time Lords in Season 9, and The Sea Devils opted not to include UNIT in favour of the Royal Navy.
The Three Doctors then saw the Doctor's exile lifted. This particular story features some classic Courtney ad libs - but also diminishes the Brigadier as a character. Up to and including Planet of the Spiders, he is increasingly Blimp-like. It is annoying to see him dismissive of aliens and odd events, considering his history and the whole reason for his creation.
When the next producer took over, the writing was on the wall: UNIT were to be phased out. Courtney elected to jump before he could be pushed - going out on a high in Terror of the Zygons.
UNIT limped on until the end of the 13th season without him (he was concentrating on regular stage work).

For the 20th anniversary season, a school-set story was planned to see the return of teacher Ian Chesterton, but William Russell was busy with stage work. Harry Sullivan was next choice, but Ian Marter was working in New Zealand. Third choice to appear in Mawdryn Undead was the Brigadier, uncomfortably shoehorned in to the plot as a retiree, teaching maths.
This return was quickly followed up with an appearance in The Five Doctors, when it was initially hoped that Courtney would feature alongside Pertwee and Katy Manning. JNT wouldn't pay for her to be flown over from Australia plus Tom Baker's refusal to take part led to a rejig and Courtney ended up partnered with his original Doctor. The pair very much steal the show.
Colin Baker's Sixth Doctor had a curtailed existence, and so never had the opportunity to meet the Brigadier (rectified non-canonically in that horrible 1993 CiN / EastEnders crossover).
Courtney's final appearance in Doctor Who came in the final season of the series. Battlefield was originally going to kill the Brigadier off. Courtney had always been fine with this, so long as it was an heroic send-off. The writer got cold feet and just couldn't bring himself to do it. Courtney starred opposite Jean Marsh, who had almost been his sister in The Crusade, and did play that role in The Daleks' Master Plan, though she exited Bret Vyon by killing him.

Attempts to include him in the revived series failed due to ill-health coinciding with the production of UNIT-related stories (such as Series 4's Sontaran two-parter), and a running joke about him being stuck in Peru, now Sir Alistair and an ambassador, was introduced.
However, he was not quite finished with the series. The spin-off The Sarah Jane Adventures saw him reunited with Lis Sladen in Enemy of the Bane
The Seventh Doctor had claimed that the Brigadier was supposed to die in bed, and this is exactly what we heard had happened in The Wedding of River Song. This had been added as a tribute to Courtney, who had died earlier that year. The Brigadier's daughter Kate was then introduced in The Power of Three, and she has run UNIT ever since. We already know that she is definitely in Series 14, and may also pop up in one of the 60th Anniversary Specials, or in the 2023 festive introduction to Ncuti Gatwa's 15th Doctor.

It is a remarkable legacy, which no-one would have dreamed of when an army Colonel encountered the Second Doctor in the darkened tunnels of the London Underground, and by pure chance a certain actor was offered a last minute change of role.
(This piece, and its content, was always planned to be posted today - but I only just realised this morning that 22nd February is the anniversary of Nick Courtney's death, so hopefully a fitting tribute to the actor and his character).

Class 06: Detained

In which Miss Quill has Charlie and all of his friends placed in detention after school, going so far as to lock them in the classroom. She has things of her own to do, and does not want Charlie interfering...
He had only been a couple of minutes late, and is unhappy about being locked in as he suffers from claustrophobia.
As the youngsters talk together, one of the tears in Space / Time opens and a small meteorite smashes into the room, embedding itself in the wall. At the same time, they discover that the classroom has been transported into a black void.
Suspecting initially that this is the work of Miss Quill, they then come to realise that this is something to do with the glowing meteorite. Matteusz picks it up, intent on tossing it out of the door, but it has a strange effect on him. He finds himself telling everyone about his life back in Poland. He mentions very personal details, and tells Charlie that as much as he loves him he is also frightened of him as he isn't human. He is unable to let go of the rock, until April knocks it out of his hand.

Matteusz is unable to explain why he said what he said - other than he felt compelled to tell the truth. As they discuss what has happened, Tanya notices that everyone is quick to lose their temper. She realises that this is the work of the meteorite. It makes the holder tell the truth, whilst affecting the mood of the others. She takes hold of it, hoping that it will allow her to communicate with it. Like Matteusz she feels compelled to talk. She states that none of the other students are real friends, and everyone looks down on her as she is younger than them. She decides to persevere and ask the stone some questions. They learn through her that it is a form of prison containing a sentient presence, and it needs their help. Holding it too long will damage the brain of the holder, so Ram knocks it from Tanya's hand.
Charlie finds that anything thrown out of the room bounces back in again, and they surmise that it has become part of the meteorite prison - trapping them all here.
Ram holds it next and expresses his feelings for April before discovering that the prisoner was a mass killer, and being forced to tell the truth was part of his sentence. April also takes the stone and talks about her love for Ram. They learn that in this void dimension they will never age or die and so be trapped for all eternity.

The anger issues amongst the group mount. Finally Charlie decides to tell everyone what he thinks of them and all about his desire to have used the Cabinet of Souls to kill all the Shadow Kin, even if Matteusz hated him for it. By telling the truth now, unforced, he thinks that the stone will have no power over him and so takes hold of it. His wish for genocide overpowers the meteorite and they find the classroom returned to Coal Hill School. However, the prison now sees Charlie as a greater criminal and attempts to imprison him along with the current occupant. For a Rhodian, thinking about a crime makes you just as guilty as committing it.
Miss Quill suddenly walks in and destroys the meteorite - now able to wield weapons. She has a livid scar down her face, and her hair is noticeably longer than when she locked them in. She reveals that the creature implanted in her head to prevent violent behaviour, enslaving her to Charlie, has now been removed - and things are about to change...

Detained was written by Patrick Ness, and first broadcast on 19th November 2016. It was made back to back with the following episode, which reveals what Miss Quill was doing whilst the younger characters were trapped in detention. You could call it the "Miss Quill-lite" episode.
The episode features only the regular cast in a single room and uses the confines of this setting and situation to further develop the younger ones. Each takes hold of the strange stone and reveals something about themselves and their relationship with the others.
Whilst it may have been necessary to have a focus on the others whilst Quill was away, such an episode might have better suited an earlier slot in the series. We've sort of found out a lot about everyone through the preceding episodes anyway. We know who loves who, we know of Tanya's issues about her child prodigy status, we know of Matteusz's unhappiness at Charlie's temptation over the Cabinet of Souls...
The most interesting aspect of the episode turns out to be Quill's appearance at the end.

Generally, many US TV series have what is called a "bottle episode", which is designed to be the cheap schedule filler. It usually features only the regulars in a limited setting (the main one being used throughout the series). They often arise from another script falling through, necessitating a last minute replacement, or simply a way of balancing the budget. (The worst type of bottle episodes are the clips shows, which rely on flashback sequences).
The revived series of Doctor Who has featured episodes which might fit the "bottle" description - but somehow transcend it. This is mainly because they have been given the same level of attention as more conventional episodes, and concentrate on good story-telling and great performances. Just consider Midnight (or The Edge of Destruction back in the day).
Where Detained really wins is in the performances. Everyone is given a chance to shine but it is a particularly good episode for Greg Austin and Jordan Renzo.
There is one additional member of the cast - the voice of the alien prisoner is that of Ferdy Roberts.

Monday 20 February 2023

Inspirations: Partners In Crime

Catherine Tate had enjoyed working on the 2006 Christmas Special - The Runaway Bride - but it wasn't immediately intended that she would return later to become the full-time companion. 
Russell T Davies liked Donna Noble's personality, and initially created a new companion named Penny Carter, who was a journalist. She would have been recently dumped by her boyfriend, and would share many of Donna's characteristics.
Realising that what RTD wanted was a character like Donna, his colleagues simply suggested why not just get Donna. Tate's availability was checked and it was found that she could be free for the Series 4 production dates.
In the meantime, RTD continued to develop Penny's first story. It would be set on contemporary Earth. Penny's mother - Moira - would be a lottery winner, who was also unlucky in love, and her grandfather would have a passion for astronomy. They would hail from the North of England, rather than be yet more native Londoners.
The episode's monster was always intended to be a CGI one. The opening scene would have featured Penny throwing a surprise party for her boyfriend, only to catch him with another woman. Storming off, she would have come across the TARDIS.

When Tate let it be known that she was happy to return as Donna, only a few elements of this first episode (draft title "Second Chances") were retained.
A journalist named Penny was included in Partners in Crime. Donna was unlucky in love, and lived with her mother, who was already established. As she already had a father as well, he was given the astronomy interest.
Bringing back an existing character allowed RTD to skip the introductions. He was able to show how Donna had been influenced by her brief encounter with the Doctor, and was investigating things that might have interested him, which might lead them to meet again. The episode could therefore hit the ground running, with both Doctor and new companion already involved in the main plot.
It would be funny to prolong the meeting - with both characters continually just missing bumping into each other. When the time finally came, it would coincide with the reveal of the main villain and their plan, and would overshadow this.
RTD had by now realised that the best series opener was a lightweight one, with a lot of humour but also some impressive CGI effects.

The sequence with the window cleaner's cradle was one which RTD had hoped to use in earlier episodes. It almost featured in Smith and Jones, and back when he first pitched his vision of the revived series to the BBC he had used this scene as an image, but with the characters being menaced by a Pterodactyl.
For the main plot, the never-ending fad for dieting and weight-loss provided the backdrop. Every month some new diet was promoted, 'guaranteed' by some minor celebrity. Botox injections were a big thing at the time, and RTD thought about there being some alien element hidden in the Botox, which would turn people into mutant creatures. RTD's dislike of cosmetic surgery and peoples' obsession with beauty had already led to the creation of the Lady Cassandra in 2005.
The aliens would be called the Adipose - 'adipose' being bodily tissue which stores fat (not fat itself).
Originally envisaged as looking like the finished version but giant sized, RTD thought it would be funnier to have them as little babies - based on the Pillsbury Doughboy advertising character, a giant version of which had featured in the Ghostbusters film. It was RTD who suggested the inclusion of a single fang - to suggest a more fierce adulthood for the creatures.
This then led to the human villain helping them being a sort of foster mother, so calling herself "Foster". Always intended to be a female figure, she was initially going to be called Rattigan, and she was inspired by Jo Frost, presenter of the Supernanny TV series. (RTD had previously used the name Rattigan for a family in his bizarre ITV soap Revelations, and he would use it this year for a character in the Sontaran story).

Director Peter Jackson had employed a new AI computer programme to animate the vast armies who battle each other in LOTR: The Two Towers. This was called Massive, and allowed figures to act randomly and independently of each other in large crowd scenes.
Miss Foster's demise - temporarily frozen in mid-air before plummeting to the ground - was inspired by Roadrunner cartoons, as it was a situation Wile E Coyote often found himself in. 
The spaceship was deliberately designed to mimic the Mothership from Close Encounters of the Third Kind.
The Doctor uses his "John Smith" alias yet again - first used for him by Jamie in The Wheel In Space, and by the Doctor himself in Spearhead From Space.
To hide her identity, the script referred to the woman whom Donna told about the car keys as "Bin Girl". RTD had quite early on decided to have Rose Tyler make an unexpected appearance in the first episode, with the scene omitted from preview copies to ensure a surprise on broadcast.

Howard Attfield, who played Donna's father Geoff, was ill. It had been known that he had cancer and was undergoing treatment, but it quickly became apparent that his condition was worse than the team were led to believe. He was able to film all of his scenes for this episode - the ones set at night on the allotment with his telescope. Soon after, his condition worsened and it was plain he couldn't carry on. The team had enjoyed working with Bernard Cribbins on Voyage of the Damned and wanted to do more with him. It was decided to invite him to take on the role of Donna's grandfather, Wilf, who would replace Geoff. This would be the same character as the newspaper vendor, who had never been named on screen. Penny Carter's grandfather had originally been an amateur astronomer. The allotment scenes were all re-recorded with Cribbins.
Attfield died soon after filming, and this episode went out with a dedication to him.

Sunday 19 February 2023

Episode 57: Inferno

Delos has Ian at his mercy, and Nero orders him to kill...
The young Greek has other ideas, and launches an attack on the Emperor instead. Guards rush in and Ian and Delos fight them off before fleeing - Ian calling back to Barbara that he will come for her that night. Nero kills one of the guards whom he thought did not fight well enough, then tells Barbara that a trap will be laid for Ian.
The next morning, in the palace, the Doctor finally discovers the nature of the intrigue revolving around Maximus Pettulian. Tavius lets slip that the elderly musician had come to Rome to assassinate Nero.
The Emperor remains in a foul mood, and decides to get rid of his artistic rival. He will have him perform for the general public in the arena just before a wild animal show - but then unleash the animals before he can take his leave. 
Tavius learns of this plan and notifies the Doctor.
He has also been instructed by the jealous Poppaea to have Barbara dismissed from the household. Barbara tells the major-domo of her encounter with Ian and of how he plans to come and rescue her. Tavius will help her, on the grounds that he will simply be doing what the Empress has ordered him to do.
As they plot their escape from the palace, the Doctor and Vicki come across papers belonging to Nero, which include his plans for his ideal city. He wishes to rebuild Rome, but the Senate will not let him.
The Emperor arrives and the Doctor delivers a series of puns relating to the arena, farewell performances, and wild animal allusions. Nero wonders how the Doctor might have known of his plans for him.
As the Doctor has been speaking, he has been holding his spectacles behind his back. The sunlight focuses through the lens and sets fire to the plans for the new Rome. Nero is initially furious and orders their deaths, but is suddenly inspired by the burning map and announces that they should instead be greatly rewarded.
He meets Poppaea, and informs her that he will burn the city to the ground, so that the Senate will have to approve his rebuilding scheme.
That night, the Doctor and Vicki slip out of the palace before Nero can change his mind yet again. The slave trader Sevcheria has rounded up a number of men to act as fire-starters, and Ian and Delos decide to use the rabble as cover to sneak into the complex.
Tavius gives Barbara a cloak and ushers her to a place to wait for Ian, revealing one of his motives for having helped her all this time. He is a secret follower of the Christian sect.
Ian and Barbara are reunited, and Delos uses a burning torch to blind Sevcheria to aid their escape. Delos will head for his home and family, determined never to be enslaved again.
Soon after, Nero plays his lyre as the city begins to burn.
A few miles away, the Doctor and Vicki see the blaze on the horizon. Vicki believes that the Doctor is responsible for this, having given Nero the idea. He disagrees, then thinks again...
Ian and Barbara reach the villa first. When the Doctor and Vicki arrive they find them refreshed and dressed in their fancier clothes - and assume that they have been lazing here like this since they left. The Doctor does not give them a chance to tell of their own adventures, and insists that it is time to return to the TARDIS and move on.
Later, the ship is in flight. As Vicki tells Barbara all about her experiences in Rome, the Doctor joins a worried Doctor at the console. He tells the school teacher that some powerful force has momentarily taken hold of the ship and is dragging it down.
"To where?", Ian asks...
Next episode: The Web Planet

Written by: Dennis Spooner
Recorded: Friday 15th January, 1965 - Riverside Studio 1
First broadcast: 5:40pm, Saturday 6th February 1965
Ratings: 12 million / AI 50
Designer: Raymond P Cusick
Director: Christopher Barry

This episode features the Great Fire of Rome. Ancient Rome was prone to outbreaks of fire, which destroyed whole neighbourhoods at a time. One in 6 AD prompted the Emperor Augustus to found the first fire brigade - the Cohortes Vigiles - which were financed by a tax on slaves. Augustus also built a huge wall to separate the densely populated Suburra district from the ceremonial and business centre of the city - partly as a fire wall. It can still be seen today behind the ruins of the Forum of Augustus.
The fire which broke out on the night of 19th July 64AD gained its reputation as the "Great Fire" due to its longevity and scale. It began in a mercantile area close to the Circus Maximus, to the south west of the Palatine Hill where the Imperial palace lay. There was a strong, dry wind, which helped fan the flames and rapidly further its spread through the narrow streets. This particular area had no temples or significant public buildings with large open spaces, which might have acted as a fire break. The population fled to the edge of the city. They reported seeing groups of people both looting and deliberately spreading the fire, or preventing others from tackling it. Some claimed that they were doing so under orders, though never said who.
The fire continued for six days, but reignited in the area of Tigillinus' private estate. As we've already mentioned, he was a close associate of Nero.
Of the city's fourteen districts, only four were left unscathed. Three were completely destroyed, with heavy damage to another four. Parts of Nero's own palace had suffered.

The picture of him "fiddling while Rome burns" is an old one. He was not in the city on the night the blaze started, but in Antium (present day Anzio), but this didn't stop his enemies blaming him for it. If he was responsible, he was keeping his distance, but we know that large fires were common. 
One fair criticism levelled against him was that he didn't do enough, quickly enough, to help in the initial emergency, though he did see that aid was given once he arrived back in the city. His rebuilding programme saw the raising of buildings in his favoured Greek architectural style - causing some to believe that Nero had planned this from the start. His main building project was the construction of the Domus Aurea, or Golden House, which formed part of his grand new palace, which took over a great deal of land previously used for housing - another cause for ill feeling against him.

Whilst some blamed Nero for the fire, he in turn blamed a troublesome religious sect - the Christians.
In this episode, it is revealed that Tavius is a secret Christian. Under his tunic he has a crucifix. This is an anachronism, however. The crucifix did not become a Christian symbol until much later (2nd Century). The earliest followers used the Ichthys symbol - a stylised fish. It was used to mark secret meeting places, and on tombs to identify the deceased as a believer. It derives from the biblical references to Christ as being a "fisher of men", and several of the Apostles had been fishermen, including Peter.
The Chi-Ro symbol was also used - an elongated P with an X on its stem. "Chi" (X) and "Ro" (P) were the first two letters of the Greek word for 'Christ'.

Following the events depicted in The Romans, Nero had only four more years to live - and Poppaea even less time remaining. She died in 65AD, allegedly kicked to death by her irate husband whilst pregnant with their child. A remorseful Nero had her ashes deposited in the Mausoleum of Augustus - but he was destined never to join her there.
The Emperor's behaviour increasingly alarmed the Senate and people. He favoured Greek arts - considered degenerate - and his sexual activities led to him castrating then marrying a slave named Sporus.
In 68AD a revolt over taxes in northern Gaul escalated, with the governor of Spain being encouraged to declare himself Emperor in Nero's place. This was Galba. As the rebellion progressed, support for Nero rapidly drained away - including the Praetorian Prefect, who was ostensibly captain of his personal bodyguard. He decided to flee Rome with Sporus and a number of his favoured freemen. They only got a few miles north of the city to a friend's villa when Nero elected to commit suicide rather than be captured and executed. He could not bring himself to carry out the deed himself, so had his private secretary stab him. He died, aged 30, on 9th June, 68AD.
His body was cremated just outside the northern gate to the city, on the Via Flaminia, roughly where the church of Santa Maria del Popolo now stands. A tree in the grounds of its associated monastery was believed in medieval times to be haunted by Nero's ghost.
Nero's death brought to an end the Julio-Claudian dynasty. There then followed the "Year of the Four Emperors" - Galba, Otto, Vitellius and Vespasian. The latter founded the short-lived Flavian dynasty, which comprised himself and his two sons, Titus and Domitian.

Dennis Spooner demonstrates a very different idea of History / Time Travel to the one set out by his predecessor. David Whitaker maintained that History could not be changed - though this was unique in relation to alien planets. In the novelisation of The Crusade, he provides a prologue in which Ian and Barbara specifically ask the Doctor about this very thing. The Doctor maintains that Earth History is immutable and nothing they can do to change it will make any difference. Shoot Hitler before he comes to power and the bullet will miss. Warn Napoleon about Waterloo and he will ignore the advice. Time behaves as if it is a sentient force, capable of intervening to keep History on a set course (an idea that has been picked up by a recent series, where Time is an entity).
This concept of History was also stated on screen towards the end of The Reign of Terror, written by Spooner but edited by Whitaker. At first glance this all seems to contradict The Aztecs, where the Doctor seems to believe that History is fragile and should never be tampered with, and he honestly believes his companion capable of doing this. It doesn't need to contradict. It may be that the Doctor simply observed that Barbara's attempts to change History failed, and so realised that it was more robust than he thought.
Spooner's concept of History is that it can be changed. There is no force to keep it to a set path. Someone can meddle in the past and the future will automatically change to assume a new shape.
Would Nero have had the idea of burning down the city had the Doctor not planted the idea in his head? Here, there is no clear answer to that. Vicki thinks him to blame and he flatly denies this - then seems to think otherwise. Coming from Spooner it is most likely that Vicki was right.

Very late in the day, Chris Barry decided that he wanted the viewers to actually see the Great Fire - otherwise we had all the build-up but no pay-off. Unfortunately Ray Cusick had spent all of his budget (bearing in mind that Inferno was the sixth episode of this particular production block). All he could do was produce a silhouette of a Roman-style cityscape and have flames set behind it. The flames did not look to scale, and he was bitterly disappointed by the end result - leading to him considering this one of his least favourite stories. 

After appearing as a slave trader in the first two episodes, the character of Sevcheria suddenly turns up at the palace fulfilling a henchman role for the Emperor. It is he who has been tasked with putting together the gang who will start the fires, as well as looking out to capture Ian when he comes to rescue Barbara. This remarkable elevation of status is purely down to the fact that another character should have taken on this role, but the director simply decided to reuse an existing one - and actor Derek Sydney - rather than have to cast a new role for only half of a single episode.

  • After last week's disappointing statistics, the viewing figures bounce back by 1.5 million, although the appreciation index remains at the low of 50.
  • Inferno is the final episode to credit Mervyn Pinfield as Associate Producer. He stood down from this role, but maintained contact with the series as a director.
  • Kay Patrick was very reluctant to slap Michael Peake's face, but he encouraged her just to imagine that she did not know him.
  • The scenes set at the villa at the end of the episode were recorded first, as it was easier to "dirty-down" William Russell and Jacqueline Hill over the course of the evening, and so avoid them having to go off and get smartened up.
  • Chris Barry employs a wipe shot as Ian and Delos enter the palace. Popularised by George Lucas in the first Star Wars movie as a post-production process (inspired by the old Flash Gordon serials), this form of edit between cameras via the vision mixer was uncommon in a 1960's TV studio.
  • Newsreel footage from the London Blitz is used as backing for the scenes of Nero playing his lyre as the fire rages.
  • The week before broadcast, Doctor Who was in the news when the pop group The Earthlings had their single banned by the BBC. Landing of the Daleks featured a Morse-code message, and the BBC argued that it could be mistaken for the real thing. The disc was withdrawn and hastily remixed.
  • Inferno was immediately followed by a trailer for next week's new story, The Web Planet, comprising clips from the first couple of episodes.

Saturday 18 February 2023

Countdown to 60: "They sleep in my mind"

No. 14.
As the opening episode of Season 5, producer Innes Lloyd and his script editor / heir apparent Peter Bryant elected to treat Tomb of the Cybermen as a soft relaunch for the series.
This was the beginning of Patrick Troughton's first full season, accompanied by a brand new companion - Victoria - and the series was no longer going to be partially defined by the Daleks.
This is why we get the lengthy TARDIS scene, unnecessary to the main plot, in which the Doctor tells Victoria - and new viewers - of the basic premise of the series. 
This scene takes place in a wonderful TARDIS set - the best it has looked since The Edge of Destruction. This is thanks to it being filmed at Ealing, because director Morris Barry didn't want to take up valuable studio space with the ship just for one scene when recording this opening episode.
The script goes a step further by having the Doctor address the subject of his age for the first time. This has proven to be a contentious continuity issue - with the Third suggesting he's thousands of years old, the Fourth settling for the mid-700's, and the Seventh being specifically 953 on his debut - despite the Tenth claiming to be only 900.

As always, fans have thought about this long and hard and there is a way round it. The Doctor here claims to be "about 450" in Earth terms, and that's after having to think about it for a moment or two.
I think he's having to convert it from Gallifreyan years to Earth ones, for the benefit of his two pre-20th Century human companions. There's absolutely no reason why Gallifrey has to have the same period of rotation / solar orbit duration as the Earth.
This difference then helps explain how he can be 953 one day, and only 900 much, much later. The 953 comes from Time and the Rani, where he says that he shares the same age as the Rani - i.e. another Time Lord. They are both using Gallifreyan years. The 900 comes from Voyage of the Damned, where he is talking to inhabitants of Sto - so presumably converting his age into terms they will understand. 

Not content with establishing the Doctor's age (roughly), the script for Tomb then goes on to discuss his family. This is still part of the move to establish Victoria as the new companion, as she has just lost her father to the Daleks and so become an orphan, but also to tell new viewers more about the Doctor.
When we first met him, he was travelling with his granddaughter Susan. That she is his blood relative is never questioned until long after she has left the series. At the time, there was no mention of her parents - one of whom must be a child of the Doctor if Gallifreyan reproductive biology mirrors that of human beings. (We'll later hear that it does). He and Susan talk about the possibility of going home at some point - but only ever mention the place, not the people who might be waiting for them there.
The Doctor tells Victoria only that he has family connections. It isn't clear if they are still alive or if they are dead from the wording he uses. 
The fact that he and Susan never mentioned anyone back home suggests the latter.
The Doctor says that he has to consciously think about his undefined family to bring them to the forefront of his mind - otherwise they "sleep" in his memory. Again, the implication is that they go back a long way, and they may be long dead. He doesn't mention Susan at all, so it isn't clear if he's counting her as part of this group or not.

As mentioned, the problem of Susan as a fully paid up member of the Doctor's own race, and a blood relative, arises after she has departed from the narrative - and the first time it does so is when we consider his age, as here. 
David Campbell is an ordinary human being of terrestrial origins, so has a life span of the usual three score years and ten, or thereabouts. What is going to happen when his wife gets to 70 and still looks like a teenager? What would his reaction be if she fell off a cliff and turned into another woman - or even a man? What would the children be like, assuming they had some?
Obviously, at the time no-one would have thought of this, but it worries fans later on. We also have the apparent apathy of the Fifth Doctor when he's reunited with her in the Death Zone. Not the reaction of someone seeing their only living relative for the first time in centuries.

In The Pilot, however, the Doctor has Susan's photograph in pride of place on his desk - the only other picture being of his "wife" River Song. The new series certainly seems to think that she was indeed his granddaughter.
The only other reference to family in recent years is when the Doctor told Rose Tyler that he was a father once, which we must assume refers to Susan's father or mother. 
The mysterious woman seen in The End of Time is assumed to be his mother, still alive on Gallifrey up to the last day of the Time War at least, but this has never been officially confirmed on screen.
Since the Timeless Child nonsense, however, the universe could be teeming with his children, grandchildren, great-grandchildren...