Friday 31 March 2023

Class 08: The Lost

In which the trauma of their detention, and Miss Quill's strange reappearance, have caused the group of students to drift apart. The pregnant teacher is hibernating, and Charlie fears what she will be like when she wakes, now that she no longer has the Arn implant preventing her causing harm to him.
Corakinus launches another campaign against Earth - he and his Shadow Kin emerging across the Coal Hill area through various tears in Space / Time. 
Amongst his victims are Ram's father, and Tanya's mother. She goes to see Quill to ask for her help, whilst Charlie and Matteusz seek support from Dorothea Ames, threatening her to do so.
When Corakinus goes after Tanya's brothers, Quill steps in and defends them. She then teaches Tanya how to fight back against the Shadow Kin. She must be able to defend herself and her family in the coming conflict.
Following the loss of their respective parents, the distraught Ram and Tanya approach Charlie and demand that he employ the Cabinet of Souls in revenge.

Corakinus threatens Matteusz and attempts to force April to sacrifice herself. Her death will finally free him from being linked to her via their shared heart. He claims he will leave Earth if she agrees, but is lying.
The Shadow Kin invade in force, and Charlie has to finally accept that he must use the Cabinet.
However, Corakinus has linked himself with Charlie as well as April, and both will die if he does so.
The Cabinet wipes out all of the Shadow Kin on Earth, including Corakinus. Quill manages to save Charlie, but April wakes up to find herself in Corakinus' body. As their vanquisher, Charlie is now Shadow King.
Ames passes through a hidden doorway and meets with the Governors. They are unhappy with her handling of the situation, and she is no longer worthy to help them with "the Arrival". She is attacked and killed by a Weeping Angel...

The Lost was written by Patrick Ness, and first broadcast on 3rd December 2016.
It was the final episode of the first series - and would subsequently prove to be the last episode full-stop. The BBC had failed to devote any care and attention to Class, wasting the chance to work meaningfully with a hugely popular author like Ness. The series was shown during a Doctor Who gap year, and it is obvious that Steven Moffat was equally neglectful of the series.
The Lost ends with some loose ends dangling and a cliff-hanger, such as April now trapped in the body of Corakinus, so it is clear that a second series was intended.
Ness later revealed that this would have featured the Governors more, and would have seen a Weeping Angel civil war.

Joining the cast as the Chair of the Governors is Cyril Nri, who had appeared as the enigmatic Shopkeeper in The Sarah Jane Adventures. This makes two Doctor Who spin-off series where he was due to contribute more significantly - only to see it cancelled.
Critics found the Governors to be far more interesting than the Shadow Kin, who were such a generic alien warrior race.
The whole episode was felt to be too rushed, with characters killed off who had never been properly developed in the first place. 
Overall, a huge disappointment to what had been a promising series. The final viewing figure for this finale was 0.32 million.

Wednesday 29 March 2023

DWM 589

DWM 589 is in the shops from tomorrow. It promises to give us the results of the first part of the 60th Anniversary Poll - the Hartnell and Troughton stories. Voting will open for the 1980's stories this week.
Other contents include a look at the Amazing Worlds of Doctor Who Typhoo Tea promotion of the 1970's. You collected photographic cards in boxes of tea bags and could send away for a book and poster on which to mount them. The book, which had a cover by Chris Achilleos) had some monster features, as well as fiction lifted from the annuals. It is topical as some of this fiction is about to be released on vinyl.
The cards were: The Fourth Doctor (publicity picture from Genesis of the Daleks), Sarah Jane Smith (with rifle, from Pyramids of Mars), Dalek (Death to the Daleks), Davros (Genesis of the Daleks), Cyberman (Revenge of the Cybermen), Ice Warrior (costume from Blackpool Exhibition), Krynoid (bipedal version from The Seeds of Doom), the TARDIS (from Part 6 of The Seeds of Doom), Sea Devil portrait, Alpha Centauri (Monster of Peladon), the K1 Robot, and a Zygon.
Flatline is this month's "Fact of Fiction". Cleo Sylvestre, should you be wondering, was a background artiste on The Crusade.

M is for... Maldovar, Dorium

Dorium Maldovar was a large blue-skinned humanoid - a native of Crespallion - who ran a successful trading post which he named the Maldovarium. A black marketeer, he could obtain any item for a price. River Song approached him to purchase a Vortex Manipulator. Dorium obtained one by killing its Time Agent owner. To avoid paying, River spiked Dorium's drink with microscopic explosives, the remedy for which which she then swapped for the Manipulator.
He had established relations with the infamous Headless Monks, and was approached by Madam Kovarian and Colonel Manton of the Church of the Papal Mainframe to get information about them - as they sought to forge an alliance against the Doctor. Fearing he would be dragged into the conflict, Dorium shut down his trading post and was on the point of fleeing when he was stopped by the Doctor - come to call in an old favour. He wanted Dorium to help find the kidnapped Amy Pond and her child.
Dorium accompanied the Doctor to the asteroid Demons Run, where the Headless Monks and the Kovarian forces had gathered. 
Dorium attempted to negotiate with the Monks, thinking they would treat him as a friend, but they decapitated him.

His still living head was deposited in an ornate box in the Seventh Transept, a subterranean complex where the Monks stored their heads. The Doctor was taken there by a man named Gantok. Dorium passed the time with a computer chip in his brain. He was able to tell the Doctor about the legends of his fate: to perish on the Fields of Trenzalore when the final question was asked - a question that should never be answered. The Doctor took Dorium's head with him in the TARDIS whilst he investigated ways of escaping his fated demise at Lake Silencio. After achieving this, he had Dorium's head returned to the Seventh Transept. Dorium asked him the question: "Doctor who?"...

Played by: Simon Fisher-Becker. Appearances: The Pandorica Opens (2010), A Good Man Goes To War and The Wedding of River Song (2011).

M is for... Mailer

Harry Mailer was a convict at Stangmoor Prison. This was the location for a criminal rehabilitation experiment by Professor Emil Keller. He had devised a machine which drained negative emotions from the minds of criminals, rendering them passive and able to rejoin society. Mailer was the next convict to be processed in this way, when the professor arrived at the prison. This proved to be the Master - his device really containing an alien mind parasite which fed on evil.
A noted London gangster, Mailer held a lot of sway over his fellow convicts and so made an ideal agent for the Master when he organised a revolt. Mailer was to help him hijack a nerve gas missile, which UNIT was transporting through the Stangmoor area. The ambush succeeded and the missile was handed over to hired mercenaries, whilst Mailer returned to the prison - hoping to coerce the authorities into providing an escape route for him whilst he held hostages such as Jo Grant.
When UNIT later raided the prison, Mailer was on the point of killing the Doctor when he was shot dead by the Brigadier.

Played by: William Marlowe. Appearances: The Mind of Evil (1971).
  • Marlowe returned to the series in 1975 to play Lester in Revenge of the Cybermen.
  • For many years, fandom was told that he was married to Fernanda Marlowe, who played UNIT's Corporal Bell in this story and the next (The Claws of Axos). This was untrue.
  • Marlowe did go on to marry Kismet Delgado - widow of the Master actor Roger Delgado.

M is for... Mags

An inhabitant of the planet Vulpana, who was travelling companion to the famous intergalactic explorer Captain Cook. The Doctor and his own companion, Ace, encountered the pair on the planet Segonax, where the Psychic Circus had settled. The Doctor could not understand why Mags remained with the Captain, who was a well-known bore, and suspected that he might have some hold over her.
It transpired that her people were lycanthropes. Sight of the moon - even an image of one - could be enough to trigger the metamorphosis - turning her into a savage beast. Cook attempted to use this against the Doctor, using a circus lighting effect to transform her so she would attack him. However, she turned on her companion instead and killed him.

The circus had been taken over by the evil Gods of Ragnarok for their own private entertainment. After they had been defeated, Mags elected to stay on and help relaunch the circus with its one-time leader Kingpin. The Doctor had convinced her that she could control her transformations.

Played by: Jessica Martin. Appearances: The Greatest Show in the Galaxy (1988).
  • Impressionist Martin later voiced Queen Elizabeth II in Voyage of the Damned.

M is for... Magpie

In the early 1950's, Mr Magpie ran an electricals shop on Florizel Street, near Alexandra Palace in North London. His main business was in the new television sets, but the shop was struggling to stay afloat due to mounting debts. One night, an alien energy being known as the Wire materialised on the premises, arriving in a lightning bolt and housing itself in one of the TV sets. It promised Magpie great wealth and power if he helped it. He soon started selling TV sets at very low prices - which were snapped up as the new Queen's coronation was imminent and was to be broadcast on television. The Wire fed on energy of human beings via these sets, absorbing their personality, so was keen to see them spread widely across the region.
Magpie eventually rebelled against the Wire, unhappy at what it was making him do. After he had been forced to link it to the BBC transmitter on Coronation Day, it released him by disintegrating him. The Doctor then trapped and destroyed it.
Despite the controversy of the time, Magpie's company survived. Martha Jones, in 2008, had a Magpie Electricals TV set, and Sarah Jane Smith one of their computers, and the company was still going strong into the 33rd Century, being present on Starship UK.
The Doctor even employed Magpie Electricals components in the TARDIS.

Played by: Ron Cook. Appearances: The Idiot's Lantern (2006).
  • I first came across Ron Cook when he played Richard III in the BBC Shakespeare plays in 1983.
  • He has twice played Napoleon, previously acted opposite David Tennant in Russell T Davies' Casanova, and was Lady Penelope's chauffeur Parker in the movie version of Thunderbirds
  • More recently he featured in the Star Wars: Rogue One spin-off Andor.

M is for... Magnedon

The Magnedon encountered by the Doctor and his companions on the planet Skaro was long dead. The creatures were quadrupeds, their bodies composed of overlapping metal plates. The Doctor surmised that these were held in place by an inner magnetic field, and that Magnedons probably drew their prey towards them by magnetism, if they were also metal in nature. Dead Magnedons maintained their magnetic energy and the Thals discovered that they could harness this to power some of their equipment such as lamps and heating units.

Appearances: The Daleks (1963/4).
  • Producer Verity Lambert kept the Magnedon prop in her office.

M is for... Magma Beast

A savage dragon-like creature native to the planet Androzani Minor. They lived in subterranean passages where they hunted their prey. When soldiers from Androzani Major arrived on the planet to fight the criminal Sharaz Jek and his robot forces, many were attacked and killed by the Magma Beast. The Fifth Doctor was attacked by one, but was saved by the intervention of some of Jek's androids.
He later found it dead, killed during one of the frequent scalding mud-bursts which afflicted the planet.

Played by: Colin Taylor. Appearances: The Caves of Androzani (1984).

Monday 27 March 2023

Countdown to 60: Colour Separation Overload

No.19 sees us finally reach the 1970's, and the arrival of colour episodes...
Throughout the 1960's monochrome years, one particular effect that was used many times on Doctor Who was that of inlay. This was first seen in only the fifth ever episode - when the time travellers observe the Dalek city on the horizon. Two cameras were employed - one looking at a model, and the other at the actors on a practical set. This set would feature a section of black drapes. This would be masked off, and the model scene inlaid in its place. As such, the two elements had to be carefully positioned on either side of the screen. If you watch The Keys of Marinus, you will see that characters stand off to the side against a black background before disappearing with their travel dials.

With the advent of colour television, new techniques could be employed. Chief of these was a process known as Chroma Key - or Colour Separation Overlay as the BBC specifically termed it.
It's a similar process to inlay in that it employs the merging of the output of two cameras. Again, one is concentrated on a practical set, whilst the other is pointed at a set covered in a particular colour material. Initially this was blue, but when director Paul Bernard worked for the BBC after a spell with ITV he recommended yellow. (These days the process is known as green screen, as that is the usual colour).
A person or object placed on the coloured set could then be superimposed onto the practical set - the camera being keyed to ignore the CSO colour. The process wasn't perfect. CSO artefacts would often have a halo of the CSO colour around them. If the CSO colour featured anywhere on the practical set it would be rendered invisible. Reflective objects (like Giant Robots) would pick up the CSO colour and so have parts of them go invisible.

Despite the complexities and problems, CSO was embraced by some at the BBC - and one of its biggest advocates was Barry Letts, recently appointed producer of Doctor Who. He actually produced a training video to demonstrate its benefits. With the very first colour Doctor Who being produced on film due to industrial action, CSO first featured in the series in the second story - The Silurians.
In this we get a couple of sequences where the Silurians employ a scanner device which has images projected onto it - an Orangutan, the Silurian city and Major Baker.
One scene of note is when the Doctor and Liz Shaw encounter a dinosaur in the Silurian shelter. A full size costume was created, occupied by Bertram Caldicott of the VFX Dept, who usually ran the stores. (The dinosaur was nicknamed "Bertram the Friendly Monster"). 
This costume was so bulky and heavy that it had to have a metal ring attached to the head, so that it could be held upright by a chain connected to the gantry above. Pertwee and Caroline John stood on one set, which had a blue screen set up in a doorway. Caldicott was on another set depicting a cavern in his dinosaur costume. He was then superimposed onto the blue screen, resulting in the Doctor and Liz seeing a massive monster beyond the doorway.
It was only later that Barry Letts realised that they hadn't needed to go to the trouble and expense of making the full size costume and employing someone to fill it. A small puppet would have done the trick just as well for less time and money. Such was the learning curve with this new technology.

Another champion of CSO was director Michael Ferguson, who was due to direct the next story - The Ambassadors of Death. He and Letts ran an experimental session, looking at what CSO could do. One trick, which didn't really work out, was to slowly cover someone in blue polystyrene pellets, so that it looked as if they gradually vanished. 
A CSO sequence of note in this story was the arrival of the Doctor inside the alien spaceship. One camera was trained on the Perspex model interior, whilst the other covered Pertwee and the Recovery capsule on a blue set, accompanied by a forklift truck which had also been painted blue and thus rendered invisible. Pertwee stepped onto the forklift and appeared to float to the ground in the composite image. It is notable that there is no dialogue in this scene, as the forklift made too much noise.

Barry Letts then got to direct a story of his own - Terror of the Autons - and he basically went CSO-crazy. 
Not only did he use it for scenes similar to those mentioned above, but he dispensed with whole sets in order to CSO characters onto photographic backgrounds - a museum guard, the Master creating the Autons, and Mrs Farrell in her cavernous kitchen. The technique failed to work as there were problems of scale or perspective or both.
Used sparingly, CSO could be effective - but there are many instances throughout 1970's Doctor Who where it is very hard to suspend disbelief. Graham Williams decided to start filming models in the video studio then using CSO to place them on their backgrounds, which was far inferior to the old proper filming of model work. Things reached their nadir when rampant inflation meant that the cavern sets for Underworld could no longer be afforded - and a decision was made to use CSO and model caves.
The alternative was to cancel the production. Maybe that ought to have been the right decision...

Sunday 26 March 2023

Episode 61: Crater of Needles

Fleeing from the Zarbi, Ian and Vrestin take refuge in a crevice in the rocks. However, the ground gives way beneath their feet and they plunge into the darkness...
They find themselves in a subterranean chamber, where they are confronted by small grub-like beings, armed with sharpened quartz weapons. Their leader - Hetra - identifies his people as the Optera. They have lived underground for generations and have come to fear the surface of Vortis and hate anything which comes from there. They threaten to sacrifice Ian and Vrestin.
At the Crater of Needles, Barbara and Hrostar have been set to work, piling vegetation into pools of acid. This feeds the Carzenome and helps it grow. There are several other Menoptra captives here.
In the Zarbi control chamber the Animus orders one of the creatures to place a gold wishbone device on Vicki, to coerce the Doctor into hurrying his efforts to trace the Menoptra invasion force.
An alarm sounds at the Crater, and the captives are forced into their lean-to shelter. Hrostar fears that Barbara's friends may have helped the Animus, as it is on the plateau above them that their invasion will shortly land. The Zarbi will now be ready for them.
They and another two Menoptra - Prapillus and Hylnia - manage to escape and make for the plateau.
The Doctor is able to use the TARDIS Astral Map to deactivate the wishbone device, neutralising its effects on them. The Animus once again addresses the Doctor, but this time it is able to activate his recording of the Menoptra communications - proving he had been lying to it. He and Vicki both have the wishbone devices placed on them.
Underground, Vrestin has learned that the Optera think of her people as their gods. She opens her wings and shows them that she is one of that kind - saving them from sacrifice.
Barbara and her friends reach the plateau. The invasion has commenced, and hundreds of Menoptra swoop down from the sky, led by Captain Hilio. However, the Zarbi are waiting for them, accompanied by Larvae Guns. A massacre ensues, as the Menoptra weapons prove ineffective. The survivors split up and rush for shelter.
Barbara and her Menoptra friends find themselves trapped on a narrow ledge, with Zarbi closing in all around them...
Next episode: Invasion

Written by: Bill Strutton
Recorded: Friday 12th February 1965 - Riverside Studio 1
First broadcast: 5:40pm, Saturday 6th March 1965
Ratings: 13 million / AI 49
Designer: John Wood
Director: Richard Martin
Additional cast: Ian Thompson (Hetra), Barbara Joss (Nemini), Martin Jarvis (Hilio), Jolyon Booth (Prapillus), Jocelyn Birdsall (Hylnia).

The relationship between Verity Lambert and Richard Martin took another knock when she wrote a memo to him complaining about the cast making changes to dialogue in rehearsals, which he seemed to be encouraging. She disapproved of this, and insisted that Dennis Spooner, as story editor, could be available to oversee any changes required in a more structured fashion. One major concern was that Hartnell liked to fix his lines on the very first day and was reluctant to deviate thereafter. Changes late in the day unsettled him - even though he was usually happy if it meant a decrease in his workload.

This episode introduces the Optera - underground cousins of the Menoptra. These creatures never featured in Strutton's original storyline. They were created between director and story editor, when it was felt that the later episodes needed an extra element. Strutton was consulted and agreed to the changes.
Short actors were chosen to portray them. Ian Thompson (Hetra) was an old acquaintance of Martin's, and together they worked on developing the odd Optera speech patterns. They use a lot of symbolism and imagery to describe events.
The costume was made of a felt material. Vestigial limbs are simply pieces of shaped material hanging above the sleeves containing the actors' arms.

All of the Menoptra artistes came from a dancing background. One young man who auditioned for the role of Captain Hilio was Peter Purves, who had been on the chorus line at the London Palladium. Martin was impressed, but decided on Martin Jarvis instead. He offered to give Purves another role soon, suggesting he deserved something better.
Jarvis was known to Richard Martin as he had acted alongside the director's girlfriend in 1963.
Jarvis has since become of Britain's favourite stage and television actors, especially known for voice work. He and his wife have produced thousands of talking books for the blind.
Jocelyn Birdsall had just returned to acting after the death of her husband, cartoonist Timothy Birdsall.
Martin had worked with her at Stratford in the 1950's when he had followed an acting career.

The vegetation which Barbara and her fellow captives had to handle was seaweed, provided by a company called "Cornish Manures", though it was actually collected from a couple of Norfolk beaches. Unfortunately the material was quickly warmed up beneath the hot studio lights and began to smell, stinking out the whole studio.
(The script had actually referred to the vegetation as seaweed - suggesting that Vortis had oceans until the coming of the Animus).
When Ian and Vrestin fall down the chasm at the start of the episode, we clearly hear someone laughing as they are covered in debris - a female voice, so presumably Roslyn De Winter.

  • This episode saw an increase in the viewing figures up to 13 million, and yet the appreciation index fell to below 50 for the first time.
  • The invasion / ambush material was filmed at Ealing between Tuesday 5th January and Thursday 7th January, 1965, with the flying scenes filmed on the last day. Friday 8th was supposed to be a standby day but the complexity of these scenes meant it had to be used, and a remount was also necessary, which took place on Monday 11th January.
  • The flying Menoptra are Roslyn De Winter and Martin Jarvis only.
  • Jarvis would return to the series on two further occasions - as Butler in Invasion of the Dinosaurs, and as the Governor in Vengeance on Varos.
  • Ian Thompson would return later in this season, as Aridian Malsan in The Chase. That story also featured Arne Gordon (Hrostar) as the Empire State Building tour guide, and De Winter portrayed the ghostly Grey Lady in the Haunted House sequence.
  • When not acting, Arne Gordon ran an antiques stall in West London.
  • New BBC 1 Controller Huw Weldon was enjoying the series, but another executive complained that he couldn't tell the "goodies" from the "baddies", and another found the weird names confusing.

Saturday 25 March 2023

The Collection: Season 9 - Review

Season 9 sits at the very heart of the Jon Pertwee era - third of his five seasons. It is also the mid-point for Katy Manning's three seasons as companion Jo Grant. You would expect this set to be full of UNIT adventures - yet they only feature in the first and last stories, and even then are absent from some whole episodes.
After two seasons very much restricted to contemporary Earth, with just one off-planet mission for the Time Lords, Season 9 coincided with frustration on the part of Barry Letts and Terrance Dicks to get the Doctor back into Time and Space again. As such, we have two missions for the Time Lords - out of just five stories. The middle story - neither UNIT nor Time Lord mission - is The Sea Devils. This acted as a means to reintroduce the Master, last seen being captured at the conclusion of The Daemons.
This season saw a major production change - one we take for granted these days. The stories were broadcast out of order. Due to the heavy amount of filming at sea, The Sea Devils was brought forward so that better weather was more likely in the Solent, whilst the all studio The Curse of Peladon could be made in any weather. Barry Letts also wanted to split the two Time Lord mission stories to vary the shape of the season overall.
We open with Day of the Daleks, which began life as a non-Dalek story about time-travelling assassins caught up in a temporal paradox. Deemed not strong enough for a season launch, the Daleks were brought forward from Robert Sloman's closing story. It's probably the weakest of all the classic Dalek stories, hampered by the obvious fact that the director only has three Daleks to play with, and making one of them a unique gold version severely limits their impact in the final battle. The voices are terrible as well.
You get three different versions of this story for your money - the original broadcast one, the souped-up Special Edition, and the omnibus. The latter is a bit of a cheat as it no longer exists, so it is simply the broadcast version newly re-edited.
When it comes to improved picture quality then The Curse of Peladon is the perfect example. The improvements are stunning. I know many people refuse to buy these sets as they are just upscaled SD, but the picture and sound quality is way over and above that seen and heard on the DVDs.
The first colour appearance of the Ice Warriors, accompanied by Alpha Centauri and Arcturus, the story was inspired by The Hound of the Baskervilles but Peladon's entry into the Galactic Federation also mirrored the entry of the UK into the EEC.
The third story is The Sea Devils, which began life as a sequel to The Silurians. Malcolm Hulke opted to feature their marine cousins instead. The Master returned, escaping from prison, whilst ex-Royal Navy men Barry Letts and Jon Pertwee got to play with a lot of military hardware.
This story really should have featured UNIT, and it is very odd that it doesn't, but the production team wanted to keep the RN happy and feature one of their own as the surrogate Brigadier character.
The Mutants is a story inspired by colonialism and racism, from Bob Baker & Dave Martin. It's the second mission for the Time Lords. Some very good location filming in Kentish chalk caves, and the Mutants themselves are a wonderful design (courtesy of future Oscar winner James Acheson).
Bringing up the rear, in more ways than one, is The Time Monster. Like the previous season finale, it's a collaboration between Letts and Robert Sloman, combining mythology with science fiction. Unlike The Daemons, it really fails to work. The Season 8 story had continuity of location and linear narrative, but this story wanders all over the place - a mish-mash of half-baked ideas.
Losing the Daleks, Sloman retained the mixed-up history from his original scripts and inherited the Master as the main villain. It's a rare trip into history for Pertwee's Doctor - even if it is a mythological history.

That's the stories, what of the Extras?
As well as those extra two versions of the Dalek story we also get the omnibus for The Sea Devils - but that's also a modern reconstruction. There are also a few miscellaneous PAL episodes converted from US or Canadian 525-line NTSC episodes, which were used to add colour to the BBC's B&W film copies. These allow you to compare the picture quality between DVD and Blu-ray versions.
On the sofa we have Katy Manning with director Michael E Briant. She is able to talk about her personal role in the season, whilst he can talk more generally about working on the series during this time period, before dealing specifically with his Sea Devil story. Then we have the usual Fifth Doctor panel - Davison, Sutton and Fielding. I've said enough about the latter's negativity previously, so won't say any more. Much more enjoyable is watching Sophie Aldred and Wendy Padbury. The former states that she was 10 when this season went out, so Pertwee was very much her Doctor, whilst Padbury shows loyalty to her Doctor by intimating she stopped watching after she left - but of course actors in the early 1970's were never at home on a Saturday evening in those pre-video recorder days anyway. Davison confirms this - he was too busy working in theatre to watch the series when Pertwee was Doctor.
The Time Monster never got a making-of on its DVD release, and they make up for that now.
Annoyingly they haven't re-edited the Peladon documentary. The two Peladon stories were released on DVD as a double-pack and the documentaries looked at both of them mixed together. Here we are getting interviews about Monster of Peladon mixed in with stuff about Curse.
Another annoyance is the presentation of convention footage, which I've mentioned before. I really don't understand why they can't give us subtitles when it comes to audience questions, which we simply cannot hear. No care at all is taken over these features. On this set, we get Nicholas Courtney and Richard Franklin interviewed at a con in 1986. Both are quite critical of the Trial season, which was being broadcast at the time. A second convention feature has Ingrid Pitt and Terrance Dicks as the panelists.
The main new documentary feature is a locations one. Katy Manning tours Southern England to visit some of the season's locations, meeting up with Anna Barry (Anat) near Bull's Bridge (the tunnel in the Dalek story), Briant on the Isle of Wight, and Ky actor Garrick Hagon at Chislehurst and Stone farm Caves, Kent, which once doubled for the planet Solos. Manning also gets to have a go on one of the trikes seen in Day of the Daleks. It ends with Katy remembering Pertwee and Delgado and becoming quite emotional.
No Matthew Sweet interview on this set, but we do get a couple of new interviews on the second Sea Devil disc - one with Briant (50 mins), which looks at his entire career and goes sailing with him, and another with stunt performer Stuart Fell, again looking at his work both in and beyond Doctor Who (26 mins).
Audio-wise we get Jon Pertwee reading an abridged version of Doctor Who and the Curse of Peladon, as well as a couple of period radio interviews. Other items include a comedy item with Pertwee and Cybermen, and a Nationwide piece on the Science Museum's BBC VFX Exhibition - precursor to the permanent Blackpool and Longleat exhibitions.

All in all - it's another fantastic box-set, which takes us to the half-way point in these releases (13 of 26). The first set came out in 2018, which means we have roughly five more years to see the completion of 'The Collection'. I suspect that Season 20 will be coming later this year - an anniversary season for an anniversary year, and would obviously hope to see a Troughton set added very soon (probably the mostly complete Season 6), though I suspect we will get another Tom Baker release before then. Season 16 - the Key to Time one - marks another anniversary after all: the 15th (and the 100th story).

Friday 24 March 2023

The Art of... The Web Planet

Doctor Who and the Zarbi was the novelisation of The Web Planet, by its original author Bill Strutton. It was the second Doctor Who novelisation to be published in hardback by Frederick Muller Ltd in 1965 - one of three Hartnell adaptations. The cover is by John Wood (no relation to the designer on the story), who also provided the internal illustrations - some examples of which can be seen below.

A hardback reissue came from White Lion in 1975, which featured then current Doctor Tom Baker on the cover - but still had Wood's Hartnell inner illustrations. It's a proper Zarbi, and the Baker image comes from a photograph taken at the Dartmoor location for The Sontaran Experiment.
Along with two David Whitaker books (Doctor Who in an exciting adventure with the Daleks and Doctor Who and the Crusaders) the rights were bought by Target to help launch their new junior imprint range in May 1973. Richard Henwood, of Target, seriously considered replacing the Hartnell illustrations with ones featuring Jon Pertwee, the Doctor of the day.

All three had cover art by Chris Achilleos, who adopted a consistent style for each - a stippled pen and ink B&W portrait of the Doctor, based on a BBC publicity photo, set against a colourful background based on story elements. He had originally used real ants to represent the Zarbi, which he was very pleased with, but was instructed that he had to use images which matched what had been seen on screen.

The book was reprinted in 1991 with a new cover by Alister Pearson, using the image from the VHS release. Pearson has recently revisited this work as a charity piece, adding a Larvae Gun in the foreground of the main image and an Optera in a separate circle, and adding colour to the Doctor. It was sold at an event at Riverside Studios in March 2023.

As with the other two releases, the book was sold to various foreign markets. The Dutch version - Doctor Who En De Zarbi's - reuses Achilleos' artwork, whilst the Portuguese version - Doutor Who E Os Zarbi - gives us a bizarre giant eye emerging from a volcano. Presumably this is meant to represent the Animus. The back cover depicts more of these eyeball volcanoes, as well as a couple of little figures dropping from a spaceship.
Oddly, we never got a French version presented by Igor and Grichka Bogdanoff.

John Wood's internal illustrations are clearly based on photographic images in that they depict the Zarbi, Larvae Guns and Menoptra as they appeared on screen - though they are not copying specific photographs. The Zarbi wield strange guns, and this derives from the text. Ian and the Doctor came across a huge pyramid-like structure in the broadcast version, and you couldn't really see the top, other that it appeared to be a winged figure.

The story was issued on VHS in the UK in September 1990 with, as mentioned above, a cover by Alister Pearson. An early release, it was issued in two separate volumes of three episodes each, though retailers were expected to sell the two volumes together. The only difference between the two volumes is the colour panel with the tiles - purple text on a yellow ground, or vice versa. The story was released in the US with the same cover in August 1994.

The Region 2 DVD arrived in October 2005, with a cover by Clayton Hickman. He opted to use the same image of Hartnell as Pearson, which appropriately enough came from this particular story.

The Region 1 DVD had a different photo-montage cover, but again it is using images that actually come from the story - a Menoptra posing with a Zarbi and a Hartnell image from the scene where he first encounters the ant-like creatures. This US release was issued in September 2006.

The novelisation was released as an audiobook in October 2006, using the Achilleos cover. The reader is William Russell.
Below is the cover for the recent vinyl release of the soundtrack (December 2019) from Demon Records. Unlike many of the Hartnell stories, lost or not, it had never been released in this form on individual CD. Maureen O'Brien provides the narration.

Lastly, just for a laugh - what if the third Peter Cushing Dr Who movie hadn't been another Dalek adaptation..?

Wednesday 22 March 2023

What's Wrong With... Terror of the Zygons

Producer Philip Hinchcliffe often bemoaned the fact that some of his favourite stories were let down by one particularly bad special effect. There are a couple of things he probably had in mind when he said this - the giant rat in The Talons of Weng-Chiang, and the Skarasen in Terror of the Zygons.
If you're going to do a story about the Loch Ness Monster, you have to show the Loch Ness Monster. Despite all the problems the previous production team had with dinosaurs in Season 11, "Nessie" was to appear.
Two versions were built - a model to be animated using stop-motion photography and a more basic glove puppet. Unfortunately there was insufficient time and money to produce enough material using stop-motion. We get a small amount as the Skarasen chases the Doctor over the moors, which looks okay. For the story's conclusion, however, we get the glove puppet - looking just like a glove puppet - badly superimposed against some film of the Thames by Millbank.
Director Douglas Camfield was so unhappy with the animation that he elected to only use the small amount - meaning he had to add the material about the Brigadier and his men being gassed at the inn to make up the running time.

How long have the Zygons been lurking at the bottom of the loch? The first recorded sighting of the monster was in early medieval times. St Columba, founder of the community on Iona, is said to have encountered a great water beast in the River Ness (not the loch itself). Modern sightings of "Nessie" only go back to the early 1930's when a new road was opened that gave relatively uninterrupted views of the loch.
If the Zygon ship has been down there for centuries, why does it take so long for the Zygons to repair it? Even if only there for decades, it is very clear that they aren't quick workers.
However long the ship has been there, when did Broton start impersonating the Duke? It appears to be only a very recent thing, with the current Duke, yet there has been a tunnel between ship and castle for a long time.
The chronology is further confused by the fact that it will take centuries for the Zygon refugee fleet to reach Earth. How many inhabitable planets will they pass to get here? Earth isn't even suitable as it stands - it will need to be totally terraformed to make it fit for Zygons.

What exactly is Broton's plan? How does destroying a conference allow him to take over the planet and enslave its population? The Skarasen might be virtually indestructible - but Zygons aren't, and there are only three of them. The Skarasen needs the Zygons to direct it. Look what happens at the end of the story. Once Broton is dead, it simply swims off back to Loch Ness.

The Doctor whispers to the Brigadier that the inn might be bugged - clearly not wanting whoever is listening to know that he is on to them. What does the Brigadier do in response? He loudly orders Benton to search for bugs...
There's no explanation on screen why the Zygons change back to their natural form when they are going to attack people. The novelisation at least gives them a deadly sting. Why does the Zygon copying the nurse kill Angus, but only shut Sarah in the decompression chamber?
Benton claims never to have seen a death like that of the soldier stepped on by the Skarasen - despite having seen at least one of his troops trodden on by a Giant Robot not that long ago.

Why does everyone traipse back up to Scotland at the end? The Brigadier might want to go and clear things up, and the Doctor is returning to the TARDIS, but why are Sarah and Harry there? The latter is planning on staying in London anyway, and Sarah hasn't committed to continuing in the TARDIS at this point - the Doctor has to talk her into it, and she only appears to agree on the condition that they go to the very place that she's just travelled away from.

The Zygon costumes are very good, but we do get to see the top half of John Woodnutt's costume come unstuck from the bottom half when he gets killed. You can also see the microphone hidden in one of the nodules in his chest.

Monday 20 March 2023

Class 07: The Metaphysical Engine, or What Quill Did

In which we see what Miss Quill was doing whilst the students were trapped in detention with an alien meteorite prison...
Dorothea Ames has offered her a means by which she can rid herself of the Arn - the creature implanted in her head which prevents her from using weapons. She warns that the procedure could be fatal, but Quill is determined to try. Meeting in the school hall, they are both joined by a man named Ballon.
Ames produces a machine which will miniaturise and transport them all.
They emerge to find themselves in a strange forest of red-leafed trees, unlike anywhere on Earth.
Ballon goes hunting and returns with a dead creature which is identified as an Arn. Ames explains that the device which transported them is known as the Metaphysical Engine. It allows people to enter into a thought or belief of another - including their concept of heaven or hell.
The device takes them into the afterlife of Ballon's people - the Lorr. It transpires that he is a shape-shifter who has become trapped in this one humanoid form. Ames needs the blood of the Lorr devil. He is so terrified of it that he cannot carry out the task, but is helped by Quill.
They must next retrieve a Quill brain so that Ballon can examine their anatomy. Quill finds herself in the Quill heaven, despite her refusal to believe in such a place. She encounters the original Quill goddess. Quill attacks her, accusing her of allowing her people to have died at the hands of the Shadow Kin. Ballon kills the goddess, decapitating her for the brain.

The trio return to Coal Hill School, now that they have the items needed to remove Quill's Arn - the dead Arn, the Porr devil's blood, and the Quill goddess' brain. Ballon carries out the operation and Quill is freed of the creature, although left with a scar down her face. She and Ballon have sex.
Going to find Ames, they find that they were never back at the school. They are really in a bleak desert landscape, within the Cabinet of Souls.
Ames claims to simply be a holographic projection. There is only enough energy to transport one of them out of the Cabinet. They must fight to the death. Time within the Cabinet moves at a faster rate, so they have no time to debate the matter. Ballon wins the fight but when he shoots Quill, it is he who dies - Ames having sabotaged the weapon.
Quill vows to destroy the Rhodian souls who inhabit the Cabinet.
She returns to the school and frees the students from detention. 45 minutes have passed for them, but Quill is several months older - and several months pregnant...

The Metaphysical Engine, or What Quill Did was written by Patrick Ness, and first broadcast on 26th November 2016.
In the previous episode we had seen Quill turn up with longer hair and a deep scar on her face - and this instalment explains how this came about.
It is refreshing to focus on Katherine Kelly's Miss Quill - who has been the most interesting and wickedly funny character of the series. The students are all too po-faced and hung-up on their relationships, whilst the purported hero of the show - Charlie - is deliberately set up to be humourless as part of his characterisation. It is also nice to see the series break away from Coal Hill once again, visiting a few new alien worlds - though they are more metaphysical spaces than actual planets.

There is just the one additional guest cast member this week - Chike Okonkwo as Ballon. The Quill goddess is played by Spencer Wilding, who had recently been playing monsters like the Minotaur in Doctor Who (as well as Darth Vader in Star Wars: Rogue One).
After coming across as an ambivalent character, Pooky Quesnel's Dorothea Ames is established as a proper villain, and we get lots of hints about the, as yet unseen, Governors who she works for.
They have been studying the tears in Space / Time centred on the school, but are not responsible for them.
Overall, one of the better episodes of the series.

Sunday 19 March 2023

Episode 60: Escape to Danger

In the Zarbi control chamber a glass dome descends from the roof and covers the Doctor's head. He hears a powerful female voice demanding to know why they have come here...
The unseen speaker believes the time travellers to be Menoptra, who are threatening to invade Vortis. The Doctor assures her that he knows nothing of these creatures, but agrees to help defend against them. By way of coercion, a tendril on the wall - a form of weapon - rises and fires at the TARDIS. It has no effect, as the TARDIS power has returned and its defences are now active.
The voice is that of the Animus, which controls the Zarbi, and this organic lair which it is creating for itself is known as the Carzenome.
The Doctor is able to convince it that he can be trusted to help. Ian is taken into the TARDIS to treat the stings he previously received from the web trap on the surface. He is planning an escape. They have learned that Barbara has been captured as well, and is being held in a place called the Crater of Needles. Ian intends to go there and find her.
The Doctor has Vicki bring the TARDIS Astral Map device out of the ship. He tells the Animus that he cannot get it to work due to interference from the control chamber systems, and requests that they be temporarily shut down - a ruse to allow Ian to escape.
The Animus agrees, and the Zarbi become dormant.
Ian runs through the passages of the Carzenome in search of the portal leading outside. He finds himself trapped by closing wall panels as a Larvae Gun approaches. It fires on him, but this proves beneficial as it actually opens a gap for him to dash through. He reaches the entrance and escapes onto the surface of the planet. As he takes cover on a crag overlooking the Carzenome, he is suddenly joined by a Menoptra - Vrestin - who swoops down.
In the control chamber the Doctor is able to convince the Animus that Ian was acting alone, as he and Vicki have not tried to leave. 
When Ian accuses Vrestin's people of being invaders she explains that Vortis was once their home as well, but they were forced to abandon it when the Animus took control over the Zarbi. It had arrived unnoticed, only discovered when it was too late. The Menoptra took refuge on the nearby planet of Pictos, but this is remote from their sun and they will eventually die out if they stay there much longer.
The Animus has established itself at the planet's magnetic pole, and has attracted several small moons to the orbit of Vortis. 
In the Zarbi control chamber, the Doctor has managed to break into the Menoptra communications and learns of their massing on Pictos, prior to invading Vortis to retake their planet. They have selected the nearby Sayo Plateau, which lies above the Crater of Needles. 
The Doctor decides to keep this information to himself, to keep the Animus at bay for a while longer. He sends Vicki to fetch a recording compound from the TARDIS but his directions cause her to bring him a specimen of a large spider-like creature instead. The Zarbi guards appear frightened by this.
Outside, Ian and Vrestin are being pursued amongst the crags. 
As the Zarbi close in on them, they are forced to hide in a crevice in a rockface. The ground suddenly collapses beneath their feet and they plunge into the darkness...
Next episode: Crater of Needles

Written by: Bill Strutton
Recorded: Friday 5th February 1965 - Riverside Studio 1 
First broadcast: 5:40pm, Saturday 27th February 1965
Ratings: 12.5 million / AI 53
Designer: John Wood
Director: Richard Martin

It was decided back in December 1964, due to the unavailability of certain technical equipment, that this episode would record later in the evening - between 9 - 10.15pm.
Things got off to a bad start when parts of the Vortis and TARDIS sets had not been delivered to the studio. The floor of the Zarbi control chamber had not been painted. In the afternoon there were problems with the lighting, which led to a loss of 40 minutes rehearsal time.
Once recording got underway, a camera broke down and there was an 18 minute break which disturbed the concentration of the cast.
A well-known fluff from this episode saw a Zarbi, pursuing Ian through the Carzenome, collide very noticeably with a camera.
The Animus' weapon - known as a spine gun in the script - was operated simply by having a crew member insert their arm from behind the set into a long glove attached to the wall.
Roslyn De Winter's flight was supposed to have been pre-filmed at Ealing, but this footage was not used - possibly due to the costume adaptations - and so she had to perform the action in studio using a Kirby flying harness.
Recording did not finish until 10.52pm, by which time it was too late for the cast to have their regular late drink at the pub across the road from the studios (known as "Studio 3" - see below). The lights throughout the building had already been switched off, and the cast had to negotiate their way outside in the dark.

The lair of the Animus is called the Carzenome - from 'carcinoma', a cancer. This signals the malign presence of the creature on this planet, destroying the natural order of things and turning parts of it against the rest.
"Animus" can mean hostility or ill-will, as in animosity. Psychologist Carl Jung defined 'animus' as the unconscious masculine side of females (and 'anima' as the unconscious feminine side of males).
"Anima" is also the Latin word for the soul - as in the animating spirit. It used to be believed that all living creatures had varying amounts of anima, which could not be destroyed. Instead it transformed into other life. A decaying corpse produced maggots and flies and this was seen as anima in action.

On the Monday following broadcast of Escape to Danger it was announced that Verity Lambert would be leaving the series, to become producer on a new soap called 199 Park Lane. This had replaced the fashion magazine soap Compact. In the end, this transfer did not take place. Morris Barry (future director - and supporting actor - on Doctor Who) took on the role instead. The series failed to take off.
Another change at the BBC saw the arrival of Huw Weldon to replace Donald Baverstock as Controller of BBC 1. The latter had never been a friend of the series. He quit after being asked to take over BBC 2, which he saw as a demotion. Weldon was a big fan of Doctor Who - especially the Daleks.
(Baverstock went on to help set up Yorkshire Television, and one of his projects was the successful soap Emmerdale Farm, later just Emmerdale, which has been home to companions such as Frazer Hines, Louise Jameson, Richard Franklin, and Jenna Coleman).

Barbara does not feature in this episode, as Jacqueline Hill was on holiday the week that it was rehearsed and recorded. This led to a formal complaint from Hill as she did not receive a credit on the episode. During the first season, whenever any of the regulars took a week or two's break, they continued to be credited on the episode(s) even when they did not feature. She expected the matter to be resolved with a credit reinstated for overseas sales of this episode, but this failed to happen.
As Barbara was carrying the Menoptra side of the story they are all absent save for De Winter's Vrestin, who allies with Ian - whom she calls "Heron" - for the remainder of the tale.

  • The viewing and appreciation figures remain healthy - in fact unchanged since the previous week.
  • Later on the evening of Saturday 27th February, Bernard Cribbins appeared as the Doctor in a sketch in his own show. Little would he have known that his very last job would have been an appearance on Doctor Who some 58 years later, after being a regular on the series as well as appearing in a Dalek movie.
  • The following weekend, the pop magazine Fabulous featured a photo-story in which Screaming Lord Such played "Dr What", fighting the Daleks.
  • It was just before recording of this episode that Radio Times filmed the trailer which Richard Martin objected to so much. Part of it featured Zarbi arriving at the BBC studios for work and being shown to their dressing rooms.
  • Should you wish to follow in the footsteps of Hartnell and company, "Studio 3" still exists. It is a mock-Tudor pub called "The Chancellors", at 25 Crisp Road, Hammersmith, W6 9RL. Reviews on Facebook and Trip Advisor are very good.
  • The Web Planet was one of the stories which was recreated for the 50th Anniversary drama An Adventure in Space and Time. Writer Mark Gatiss' husband Ian Hallard played director Richard Martin (centre below).

Saturday 18 March 2023

Countdown to 60: Trial and (T)error

If the change in leading man had been a seismic change back in October 1966, then a much bigger change was laying in wait in the future. This would coincide with the next change of Doctor.
Newer fans, unfamiliar with the history of the show and knowing only the structure of Nu-Who, would be shocked to learn that the first ever regeneration passed by with such little fanfare.

The Tenth Planet wasn't a season finale. It wasn't even a season opener. It was the second story in Season 4, following the forgettable late historical The Smugglers. William Hartnell didn't even show up for his penultimate episode, though that was due to ill health rather than something planned.
Eight episodes into the season, Hartnell bowed out and we got our very first glimpse of Patrick Troughton. Just a glimpse - and he didn't get a mention in the end credits. None of your "And introducing X as the Doctor" those days.
If the first regeneration was marked at all, it was with a six part Dalek story to properly introduce the character - one of the best. There then followed another five stories in which Troughton got to test out the part. Things were complicated by the introduction straight after him of Frazer Hines as Jamie, who had to share lines written for Ben, or be conveniently hospitalised, until the writers caught up with him.

A character actor, fiercely defensive of his privacy (he refused to attend conventions until late in life and even then only in the US where he could distance his Doctor Who fan work from his day job - the only thing he cared about professionally), Troughton elected to quit after three years. He actually wanted to go sooner but needed regular income to pay for two households. During the making of The Enemy of the World he had outlined most of his grievances to his old friend Barry Letts, who was directing. The biggest problem was workload. He and the other regulars had to give up their days off to do pre-filming, leading to 7 day working weeks. They would be pulled out of rehearsals to pre-film as well. The seasons were too long, at 48 weeks. On top of this hard work, Troughton had also started to report chest pains. He mentioned these to Debbie Watling whilst making The Ice Warriors. (He would suffer a serious heart attack in the 1970's, and a second fatal one in 1987).
Letts would take note of these problems, and when he became Producer of the show a short time later he saw that all the changes Troughton wanted were introduced - but too late for him.

To see Troughton out of the series in 1969, the Script Editor was asked to fill the slot left by two stories collapsing - a 4-parter and a 6-parter, so 10 whole weeks. Terrance Dicks knew this was impossible for him to do himself, so he turned to his old writing mentor (and one-time landlord) Malcolm Hulke for help. They came up with The War Games. Dicks insists that it was Derrick Sherwin, Producer, who came up with the idea of the Time Lords being the Doctor's own people - he thought it was the writers.
The structure of the story allowed for it to be concertinaed out if necessary - prolonged with more war zones (cheap to achieve as the BBC had access to costumes covering just about every historical period ever recorded). Director David Maloney contributed to the scripting by asking his son what periods of military history interested him.

The story falls into two camps when it comes to its popularity. There are those who love it and see it as a classic - the best Troughton of all. Then there are those of us who think it nine weeks of capture and escape whilst you wait for the Time Lords to turn up... 
It probably falls somewhere in between.
Whichever way you look at it, the tenth episode is a highlight. We finally find out where the Doctor comes from (though not the name of the planet) and how he came to be a wanderer in Space and Time in a "borrowed" TARDIS. 
The Time Lords appear as a god-like race, capable of great mental as well as technical powers - willing to intervene despite the Doctor's claim to the contrary. How else did they respond to his call for help? Why else did they take action against the War Lord and his people?
Now that they have captured him, the Time Lords have to punish the Doctor. After he makes an impassioned plea for protection for the universe from the likes of Daleks, Cybermen, Yeti, Ice Warriors and, er, Quarks, they decide that he may have a point. (There was also supposed to be a Kroton, but the costume had already been badly damaged in storage). They claim to have spotted a liking the Doctor has for Earth - which kind of makes you wonder just how long they've known about where he was...
I suspect that they've known all about him for a very long time, but left him to his own devices so long as his meddling didn't cause too much damage to the timelines (and who knows how many of his earlier travels weren't the result of the odd prompt by the Time Lords?). It's only when he calls them in here that they are forced to finally take action against him and bring him to heel.

When criticised for making the Time Lords all too human in The Deadly Assassin, Robert Holmes pointed out the number of evil rogue Time Lords that were running around the universe, and the hypocrisy of them claiming never to interfere when they obviously did. Terrance Dicks would always say that the Holmes Time Lords were his favourites, and even though he helped create them he always used the Holmes version, capable of all the human vices as well as the virtues, in his later original novels.
Thing is, we didn't need to wait until The Deadly Assassin. The hypocrisy of the Time Lords is here on view in Part Ten of The War Games for all to see, if you just take the time to look...