Sunday 30 April 2023

Episode 66: The Wheel of Fortune

Hiding from El Akir's men in a narrow alleyway, Barbara is seized by a man who emerges from the shadows behind her...
He merely wishes to make sure that she does not cry out and alert the soldiers. Taking her to his nearby home, he tells her that his name is Haroun ed-Din, and he lives with his daughter Safiya. He informs Barbara of his history - of how El Akir coveted his elder daughter Maimuna, and of how he slew his wife and son and abducted her whilst he was away on business. Every waking hour is now spent in plotting revenge on the Emir and freeing Maimuna from his harem. Safiya is unaware of the fate that has befallen the rest of her family.
At Jaffa, King Richard informs the Doctor and his friend the Earl of Leicester of his plan to marry his sister to the brother of Saladin, and so make peace. The Doctor welcomes the proposal, but Leicester is furious. A hardened soldier, he scorns diplomacy and wants victory through force of arms. He and the Doctor argue. Richard is insistent his plan will go ahead, and commands that this be kept secret from Joanna for the present.
Haroun decides to go out into the streets to check on El Akir's men. He tells Barbara of a hiding place which she and Safiya must use if the soldiers turn up, and also gives her his knife. Rather than see her fall into the Emir's hands, he would rather Barbara killed his daughter.
Joanna overhears the Doctor and Vicki discussing the latter's disguise, and so learns of their deception. She is angry at first but accepts their explanation. She orders the Chamberlain to provide female garments for Vicki, then holds a conference with the Doctor. She is aware that her brother is plotting something which involves herself, and asks the Doctor to find out what it is and tell her.
He is upset to find that they have become entangled in court politics.
As Ian travels across the desert, he rests for a time at an oasis. He is attacked by bandits, who overpower him.
Saladin discusses Richard's marriage plan with Saphadin. He is happy to accept it, but doubts it will ever come to pass. Too many people on either side are set on a course for war.
At his court, Richard learns that Joanna has discovered his plan. She rages against him and refuses to agree to it, going so far as to appeal above his head to the Pope to put a stop to it.
The Doctor realises that it was Leicester who informed Joanna, to ensure there would be no peace treaty - though the King blames the Doctor for the breach of confidence.
El Akir's men find Haroun and knock him out. They recognise him and so go to search his home. Barbara and Safiya take refuge in a hidden chamber, but when she hears them talk of setting fire to the house, Barbara urges the girl to remain hidden whilst she attempts to lure them away. She is captured and taken before El Akir.
The evil Emir informs her that he will make her beg for death - but that will be a long time coming...
Next episode: The Warlords

Written by: David Whitaker
Recorded: Friday 19th March 1965 - Riverside Studio 1
First broadcast: 5:40pm, Saturday 10th April 1965
Ratings: 9 million / AI 49
Designer: Barry Newbery
Director: Douglas Camfield
Additional cast: John Bay (Earl of Leicester), George Little (Haroun), Petra Markham (Safiya), David Brewster (Bandit)

For many years this was the only surviving instalment from this story, a 16mm film print having been retained by the BBC. 
It was one of the first orphan episodes released on VHS, when it was included on The Hartnell Years tape. As such it gained the story a great reputation, with its Shakespearean style of dialogue - iambic pentameter - and the quality of performance on show. Leicester's speech - quoted below - is reminiscent of Henry Vth's rallying cry before Agincourt.
The story is structured rather oddly. Saladin and Saphadin disappear after this episode, and Jean Marsh is also absent from the rest of the story. The significant character of the Earl of Leicester only shows up here, halfway through the narrative.
David Whitaker had strong views on how History worked in Doctor Who - views which his successor Dennis Spooner didn't necessarily agree with. In his novelisation of The Crusade - Doctor Who and the Crusaders - Whitaker takes the time to explain his views in the opening TARDIS scene (added for the book as there's no such scene in the televised story). Earth's history is somehow immutable, always bending itself back to fit the pattern we are familiar with from the history books. The Doctor can tinker with things around the edges - affecting peripheral characters such as the fictitious El Akir or Haroun - but the big players like Richard and Saladin must stick to the script, as it were. 
This poses a problem, dramatically.

It has to be said that the Doctor is given very little to do in this story, with Vicki getting nothing to do beyond dressing up as a medieval boy and then dressing up as a medieval girl. Richard and Joanna get on with delivering the factual historical matter, and the Doctor can only react to it. The Barbara / El Akir half of the story is entirely fictional, so Ian and they can get up to all sorts of adventures, without upsetting the history books.
This is a problem which has reared its head again more recently, with episodes like Rosa and Demons of the Punjab. The Doctor is totally redundant in these stories, stuck on the periphery of real life figures or events.
Spooner's view of history is best explained by events in his The Reign of Terror - namely the reactions of Ian and Barbara to Leon Colbert's death. Barbara - the history teacher - insists on stepping back and taking a balanced view of the socio-political events of the time. There is good and bad on both sides of the struggle. But Ian points out that sometimes you have to get involved. Sometimes you have to take sides.
I think we'd all agree that Ian's view is the one which works best for the programme. Stranding your key character(s) impotently on the periphery of history makes for poor drama generally, and dreadful Doctor Who in particular.
The Crusade only just manages to avoid this, thanks to those strengths of production values and performance mentioned above.

There are a number of memorable lines:
JOANNA (to the Doctor): "There is something new in you, yet something older than the sky itself".
SALADIN (to Saphadin): "So you write your letter, and I'll alert the armies. Then on either day - the day of blissful union or the day of awful battle - we will be prepared".
LEICESTER (to the Doctor): "A parley here, arrangements there, but when you men of eloquence have stunned each other with your words, we - the soldiers - have to face it out. On some half-started morning while you speakers lie abed, armies settle everything, giving sweat, sinewed bodies, aye, and life itself".
CHAMBERLAIN (of Vicki): "A girl? Dressed as a boy? Is nothing understandable these days?".

William Russell was on holiday this week, and his single brief scene had been pre-recorded at Ealing on Tuesday 16th February, on the first day of filming on this story. The bandit played by David Brewster features only in these pre-filmed scenes - he is absent from the material which picks up this plot strand in The Warlords. The apparent discontinuity is covered by having him address an unseen accomplice.

Barry Newbery was at this time the series' regular designer of the historical stories, alternating with Ray Cusick (mainly) on the science fiction material. For his research on The Crusade, Newbery used a book called Behind the Veil of Arabia, by Danish explorer Jorgen Busch, who had lived in the Middle East in the 1950's. For Richard's palace, Newbery referred to Norman architecture, with its distinctive rounded arches. Jaffa still contained buildings which dated to the time of the Crusader occupation.

  • The ratings remain below double figures for the second consecutive week - though slightly up on the The Knight of Jaffa - and the appreciation figure has fallen below the 50 mark.
  • This episode had the working title of "Changing Fortunes".
  • The principal Saracen soldiers were played by Chris Konyils, Raymond Novak and Anthony Colby.
  • Petra Markham was the sister of Sonia Markham, who was the Make-up Supervisor on this and much of the Hartnell era.
  • Maureen O'Brien provided some of the background voices for the scenes of the soldiers searching the town.
  • New series writer Gareth Roberts reused Joanna's line "The eye should have contentment where it rests" in the script for the "lost play" in his The Shakespeare Code.
  • Critic John Holmstrom of The New Statesman magazine was not impressed by this story - or any of the historical ones, really. On Friday 16th April he wrote of the "wooden charmlessness of the adventures" with their "pasteboard Romans, Saracens or French Revolutionaries". Each to their own...

New 60th Teaser

A short, cryptic teaser for the 60th Anniversary episodes was screened by the BBC on Saturday evening. Apparently showing in reverse it depicted a fly in a venus flytrap, what looked like outer space and then possibly a coastline at sunset. Images were extremely distorted, and quick.

We then saw the TARDIS windows, followed by a dark tunnel which looked initially like a huge white eye - but is possibly the latest temporal vortex effect.

There was a UNIT soldier with glowing eyes, and also - perhaps most significantly - the container that held the Doctor's severed hand, which led to the Doctor-Donna metacrisis.

There was a shot of Donna, and of the Doctor on a suburban street at night. One image had text referring to the DWW issues which had the Beep the Meep comic strip.
What it all means is anyone's guess, other than a couple of clips from, and a reference to, what we believe to be the first of the Specials. 
The relevance of the fly in the venus flytrap, and the clip running in reverse, are no doubt up for discussion across the internet tonight.

Saturday 29 April 2023

DWM Chronicles 1963-64

The next issue of the Doctor Who Chronicles bookazine covers the birth of the series. (I suspected that they would combine 1963 and 1964 into one volume. '63 is key - but only a handful of episodes were broadcast that year). 
As well as the creation of the series and its pilot episode, it will cover the following stories: An Unearthly Child, The Daleks, Edge of Destruction, Marco Polo, The Keys of Marinus, The Aztecs, The Sensorites, The Reign of Terror, Planet of Giants and The Dalek Invasion of Earth.
If previous issues are anything to go by, there will be profiles of the key players both behind the scenes and in front of the camera, VFX, studio work, location work, what else was on TV, and Doctor Who in the media. 
We usually get pieces on that year's Annual and merchandise, but this should be limited to just the beginnings of Dalekmania.
This is the second Hartnell volume, and the first time we'll get consecutive years. Colin Baker is yet to get one, or any of the new era Doctors save for Ten, but it was only to be expected that the origins of the series would be released as a Chronicle in this anniversary year.
It is released on 8th June, and is available to pre-order now at the Panini website.

DWM 60th Anniversary Poll (2)

Doctor Who Magazine Issue 590 has revealed the second batch of results, covering the tenures of the Third and Fourth Doctors.
All of these stories exist in their entirety, and include ones which often feature highly in the complete polls, produced and script edited by some of the most popular figures in the series' history. I suspect that when a full poll is released later in the year, a lot of what we see here will make up the top 20 overall.
Starting with the Pertwee years, which had a consistent production team behind them, the top three are:

1. Inferno
2. The Green Death
3. Spearhead from Space

Inferno has been top rated Pertwee story in every poll since 1998, so it was only to be expected that it would win out again. Great performances (especially from Pertwee himself) and the gimmick of the villainous alternative universe UNIT characters are what sell this.
The Green Death is the last hurrah! for the UNIT family. It's the one forever to be known as "the one with the maggots", so even the non-fans liked it. Jo's departure is reasonably well handled, and it has enough interest to make it one of the better six-parters (environmental themes, a trip to Metebelis III, lots of location work, the maggot monsters, mad computer).
Spearhead is the only Pertwee not to be produced by Barry Letts, though it does have Terrance Dicks as script editor. It was the Third Doctor's debut and it benefitted greatly from industrial action - being filmed on location instead of being produced in the electronic video studio which Pertwee had little experience of. It's far from original - Nigel Kneale was very much in the huff with it - but as "the one with the shop window dummies", it's another story that resonated beyond fandom. Russell T Davies looked to this to launch the revived series in 2005.

Just outside the top three we had The Daemons at (4), The Three Doctors at (5) and The Time Warrior at (6).
For the Troughton poll, I noted the relative lack of change, with many stories maintaining the same poll position over the years. The lower half of the Pertwee poll mirrors this, with eight of the bottom ten stories all staying in the same position as 2014.
The bottom three are:

22. The Mutants
23. The Monster of Peladon
24. The Time Monster

It seems that recent re-releases on shiny Blu-ray don't necessarily help a story's reputation. Poor old The Time Monster has held bottom place consistently since 1998.
Of Pertwee's three Dalek stories, two of them are in the bottom half of the poll (Planet of the Daleks at no.18, and Death to the Daleks lower down at no.20). Highest rated is Day of the Daleks (11th) which really surprises me. I think it the weakest Dalek story of the colour era.
Comparing 1998 to 2023, the story with the biggest move up the poll is Invasion of the Dinosaurs (20 to 13), and the one with the biggest drop is Frontier in Space (11 down to 17).

The top rated Tom Baker story isn't a Hinchcliffe-Holmes production - but they do make up eight of the top ten stories. The only other non H-H story is Horror of Fang Rock, which has a distinctly Hinchcliffe-Holmes feel. It is at no.8.
The top three are:

1. City of Death
2. Genesis of the Daleks
3. Pyramids of Mars

The other H-H stories of the top ten are The Robots of Death, The Talons of Weng-Chiang, The Seeds of Doom, Terror of the Zygons, The Ark in Space and The Deadly Assassin.
The lowest rated H-H story is Revenge of the Cybermen at no.31 (though they would argue that they never commissioned this in the first place. The lowest one that is all their own work is The Android Invasion - in 28th place).
Once again we have some consistency over the years.
City of Death has risen slowly up the ranks from 5th, to 4th, to 2nd, to 1st over the four polls. It is a witty and clever Douglas Adams script (mostly), with Tom and Lalla on good form and Paris location work. Julian Glover makes for a wonderful villain.
Genesis held the top slot in 1998, 2009 and 2014, only dropping to 2nd this year. Daleks only feature for about 15 minutes of a story that's 135 minutes long, so it's very much Davros' show.
Pyramids has held third place in three of the last four polls. Another great villain, with an atmospheric mix of Egyptian Mythology and English Gothic.

The bottom three for Tom Baker are:
39. Meglos
40. The Horns of Nimon
41. Underworld

No real surprises there. Underworld has been the worst rated Tom Baker story over all four polls. Nimon has been in 40th place for three of the polls, and Meglos has always floated about the bottom five.
Unlike the Troughton and Pertwee polls this year, the Tom Baker one shows a lot more movement, with only nine of forty one stories retaining their position from 2014.
The biggest winner is Full Circle (18 to 25). Biggest loser is The Masque of Mandragora (15 down to 26).
In terms of production teams, of which Tom Baker had five distinct ones, we've already pointed out the H-H supremacy.
JNT stories range from Logopolis (12th) to the aforementioned Meglos at 39. Most of Season 18 lies in the middle of the poll, however, with only The Leisure Hive languishing in the lower half.
It's the Graham Williams stories which are all over the place - from 1st to 41st places.
Season 16 - the Key to Time - has stories ranging between 13th (The Stones of Blood) to 38th (The Power of Kroll). The marmite Season 17, script edited by Douglas Adams, might get the top spot, but the rest of this season languishes in the bottom dozen.

Voting is already open at the magazine's website for the next batch of episodes - those of the Seventh, Eighth (i.e. the 1996 Movie) and Ninth Doctors. You have until 24th May to give Time and the Rani the one point it deserves...

Friday 28 April 2023

The Art of... The Crusade

Doctor Who and the Crusaders was the third and final of the original story adaptations published by Frederick Muller Books, arriving in shops in February 1966. Like the Dalek volume, it was written by former story editor David Whitaker, who had written the TV scripts.
The TARDIS features prominently, taking up half of the cover image, but it is accompanied by a generic image of King Richard I - how he was imagined in the public's eye rather than what he might have looked like in the flesh, or as seen portrayed by Julian Glover.

A hardback reissue came from White Lion is 1975, once again featuring current Doctor Tom Baker on the cover, despite having Henry Fox's internal illustrations of Hartnell. The knight on the left looks surprisingly like Roger Delgado, but the figure on the right bears no relation to any of the screen characters. The two figures grappling in the background derive from one of the internal illustrations (des Preaux is attacking Luigi Ferrigo), which in turn derives from one of John Cura's telesnaps.

The first paperback version of the book was published by Green Dragon in 1967. The artist is Mary Gernat, and she has opted for a very cartoonish style, with the Doctor comically fleeing from a squad of Crusaders. This paperback featured a new set of internal illustrations - artist unknown. The back cover text specifically mentions 'Dr.Who', Ian and Barbara, but omits mention of Vicki.

The story then formed part of the initial trilogy of books published by Target in 1973, with a cover by Chris Achilleos. He has used a portrait shot of Glover as Richard,  but the background depicts generic Saracen / Crusader imagery. Despite this being the only purely historical book of the trilogy, we still get Achilleos' trademark cosmic background of stars, comets, suns and weird energy forms.

The book was reprinted by Target in 1982, featuring the then current neon logo. The artist is Andrew Skilleter, from who we expect better. This is terribly weak. The TARDIS features in the centre of the composition, but it is surrounded by more generic Saracen / Crusader imagery, none of which bears any relation to what was seen on screen (or even features in the book). There are no battle scenes beyond the small-scale forest ambush in the first episode.

Foreign language versions include a Dutch one which reuses the Chris Achilleos artwork, whilst the cover of the French edition (presented as usual by TV presenters Igor & Grichka Bogdanoff) is at least humorous. The Doctor seems to be despairing over a knight on horseback bending his jousting pole against the TARDIS. As usual with the French artwork, the Doctor has the long white hair of Hartnell, but with Tom Baker's scarf. The artist is Jean-Francois Penichoux.

The Portuguese version opts for a minimalist look, with a simple sword and shield motif. The artist is Rui Ligeiro.

Above are a couple of Henry Fox's internal illustrations.

In November 1994 Titan Books issued the script of The Crusade, edited by John McElroy. This was the final release in the range. (The Abominable Snowmen and The Pirate Planet were due to follow, but the range was cancelled). Artist Alister Pearson has recently revisited this artwork as part of the forthcoming Riverside Studios event devoted to this story. The Doctor is now no longer tinted purple, and he has repainted the figures of Richard and Saladin from scratch, though in the same poses. The background colour is now a stronger chestnut brown.

The Crusade arrived on VHS as part of a special release, it being incomplete. The recently rediscovered The Lion was coupled with The Wheel of Fortune on a set which included the following story - The Space Museum. (The Wheel of Fortune had previously featured on The Hartnell Years release, presented by Sylvester McCoy, back when it was the only surviving instalment). 
The new set came with a CD of the missing episode soundtracks (a little confusing as there was no narration), a set of B&W photo postcards, and a TARDIS keyring. 
You could also enjoy the missing episodes courtesy of William Russell, in character as Ian, telling the audience the plots from the comfort of his baronial castle home... The footage was actually recorded in Ian Levine's dining room. 
Of the two stories, The Crusade seemed to be the one they were using as the big selling point, as the main image is of the Doctor with King Richard. This release arrived in July 1999.                                                      

The Crusade never got a separate DVD release. With only two of its episodes still in the archives, they made up part of the Lost in Time triple disc set in November 2004, which brought together all the orphan episodes and clips / film trims from the Hartnell and Troughton eras in one place. In the UK we got all of this in a single three disc set only, but in the US you could also purchase separate Hartnell and Troughton volumes. The US set arrived the day after the UK one, with Australia getting its a month later. 
The release of the animated stories and The Collection Blu-ray box sets are gradually rendering this set redundant.

The Crusade soundtrack was released in May 2005, narrated by William Russell. (Oddly, the cover image I found on Google Images gives a running time of 0 hour 00 minutes...). The cover is the usual gaudy photomontage, featuring all the principal guest characters, but omitting poor Barbara from the regulars - despite her playing such a prominent role in this story. Vicki is also missing, but she has very little to do in The Crusade apart from dress up.

The Whitaker novelisation was issued as an audiobook right at the beginning of the range in 2005 - one of a trilogy of those original Muller / Target releases. You could buy them separately, or together in a special "Travels in Time and Space" tin. The narrator is once again William Russell, who also provides a bonus interview. As with all the early audiobooks, the original novel's artwork is reused.

Finally, the film and TV database moviedb has an original colourised photomontage image for this story, as there wasn't a DVD cover to copy.
The story has recently been rereleased on Blu-ray in the Season 2 box set. King Richard features on the Lee Binding cover, and it gets a disc image and feature in the accompanying booklet. The missing episodes are covered by telesnaps and images taken from other episodes, with narration from the soundtrack - or you can enjoy Ian in his upscaled medieval dining room...

Thursday 27 April 2023

Who in WoH (5)

The 7th issue of World of Horror magazine had a generic cowled skull photograph on the cover. Tales from the Crypt and Dr Terror's House of Horrors had both featured such an image in their publicity. (The former film was more recently released, and featured a skull with a single eyeball prominently in its poster, so probably a reference to it).
Space 1999 was the next big thing in TV sci-fi at the time - threatening to knock Doctor Who off its Saturday evening perch. The magazine had a big colour spread featuring some of the aliens that would feature in the opening season. Of course, ITV failed to network it properly, and only a couple of regions placed it against Who, and those who did watch found it a trifle dull and switched back to BBC 1. Personally, I much prefer the first season to the sub-Star Trek second.

For the second issue running, the inside front cover quiz had a Doctor Who element - First Doctor William Hartnell was the answer to "C". The only other one I knew was Peter Boyle from Young Frankenstein (B). Apparently "A" is from a film called Tomb of the Undead, which I can't trace. I suspect it's an alternative title for something like The Living Dead At The Manchester Morgue. Very hard to see is "D", which is an image from the bizarre Sean Connery film Zardoz, and "E" is from Hand of Death - a mad scientist B-movie from 1962.

There was mention of the Terrance Dicks stage play Doctor Who and the Daleks in Seven Keys to Doomsday on page 43, with a photo of stage Doctor Trevor Martin with a pair of Daleks. I've seen colour images from this press call, and the Daleks were black and red. (The header to this article would make a great name for a band / album).

Whilst the Doctor Who Appreciation Society was still a twinkle in the milkman's eye, there was the Doctor Who Fan Club. This Edinburgh-based group was run by Keith Miller, ably assisted at times by a certain Peter Capaldi of Glasgow. For many, the advert in World of Horror was the entry point into organised fandom.
FYI, Brigadier Bambera (Angela Bruce) was one of the cast of The Rocky Horror Show, then at the King's Road Theatre, and if you've been reading my "Episodes" posts lately you'll know that one of Douglas Camfield's repertoire of actors was a co-founder of The Dracula Society, who were looking for some fresh blood...
Finally, on the last couple of pages, we got to the main Doctor Who content - more "Petrifying Pin-ups".

It was back to the Pertwee era again this month. A lovely full page shot of Bellal from Death to the Daleks faced smaller images of his fellow Exxilons, Ogrons, Linx and a pair of Ambassadors (of Death!). Two of the pictures were B&W, and pretty much just silhouettes.
Did you know that the photographs of Pertwee posing with Ogrons (and Daleks) were actually taken during the Ealing filming of The Curse of Peladon, and not on location for Day of the Daleks? Note Pertwee's outfit.
This was the last of the monster-focussed photo spreads, but the series would feature in different ways in next two issues...

Countdown to 60: "The one with the maggots..."

The insanely popular TV series Friends adopted an episode-naming convention - each one being "The one with...".
Doctor Who had already found this particular naming convention useful, having naturally evolved amongst non-fans. 
Fans knew the story titles off by heart, so they quoted Spearhead from Space or The Green Death or Planet of the Spiders - but non-fans didn't register these titles. To them, it was "the one with the shop window dummies" or "the one with the maggots" or "the one with the giant spiders".
I own a copy of every single Doctor Who episode left in the archives. I watched most of them go out on BBC 1 from the early 1970's onwards (plus the odd Troughton episodes), and read the Target novelisations. I then bought them all on VHS. I replaced them with DVD (twice in some cases due to Special Editions), and now I'm currently buying them all for the third time on Blu-ray.
I know every story inside out, which is why I started to record it all in this blog over the last 12 years.
The non-fan isn't like that.

If you've read my recent piece on the Worlds of Wonder exhibition you'll know that I attended it with a friend who put me up for the night at his house afterwards. He had a huge 4K TV, with Britbox, Netflix etc. So after ordering a Chinese home delivery (lemon & honey chicken) and having earlier bought a bottle of wine (dry white), I settled down to watch some Doctor Who with him. Whilst he likes the series, and has watched it on and off over the years, he is not the sort of fan who boasts an encyclopaedic knowledge of the series. His remembrance is of the "the one with..." variety.
That evening we watched An Unearthly Child - just the episode, to show how it had all started - then Planet of the Spiders ("the one with the giant spiders" for him), and finally the second Dalek movie, as I wanted to see that in 4K.
We talked about various old stories as I was recommending them as good ones to dip into - to give a taste of each era. What I found interesting was his occasional misremembrance. Some stories had obviously become mixed up - with memories of two different stories combined. This is something I've experienced myself, outside Doctor Who. There are certain movies which I'm convinced feature two or more specific scenes - but when I finally catch up with them again I find I've actually recalled bits of different, albeit similar, movies.
Publicity photos from older films can also confuse. How many people are convinced they saw Boris Karloff as The Mummy, taking the parchment from the stunned archaeologist? In the actual film, you only see Karloff's hand, but a well known photo shows him standing over the other character - and that's the image people have in their mind.
When faced with criticism about the stories he was producing, when they were compared unfavourably with older episodes, JNT used to claim "The Memory cheats". He was right about the inconsistency of memory (but not about the quality of his stories in comparison to those of, say, Hinchcliffe-Holmes).

No doubt the more recent stories have generated new "the one with..." titles for viewers who aren't necessarily fans: 
  • The one with the angels, 
  • The one with Kylie,
  • The one with the werewolf,
  • The one with Van Gogh / Shakespeare / Dickens etc,
  • The one with the mummy on the train... 
And so many more. Better to be remembered only vaguely, than not be remembered at all.

Wednesday 26 April 2023

What's Wrong With... Pyramids of Mars

A hugely popular story - but not without its problems...
A lot of these revolve around the scene where the Doctor takes Sarah and Lawrence Scarman into the future to see the Earth as it would be, should they fail to stop Sutekh in 1911.
The TARDIS has gone into a potential future - and it has never been seen to do this before as a controllable function. It did once visit a potential future due to a fault - in The Space Museum - and the human guerrillas and Daleks could come and go with ease from a 22nd Century which would ultimately never exist in Day of the Daleks.
But we've never seen the Doctor deliberately pilot the TARDIS into what must either be a parallel universe, where Sutekh does win, or a future which gets shut down. The latter is more likely, as we saw that the Doctor didn't exist in the Inferno universe, and is apparently unique to our own one.
If the TARDIS is able to do this with ease - why has the Doctor never used this function before? We know he likes to explore, so would find it boring to always time travel to see how things work out, but it would surely be a useful function where there is a particularly high risk to himself, his companions or to the universe in general.

An additional problem is that he claims that this is 1980 they are seeing - and Sarah claims that she comes from 1980. This feeds into the whole "UNIT Dating Controversy", as it suggests that the UNIT stories, of which she is part, are set in a near future.
It has long been confirmed that the UNIT stories are all set at the time of broadcast - thanks to Sarah's own spin-off series and her crossovers with the parent programme.
One of the SJA stories sees Sarah using her super-computer Mr Smith to block a NASA live relay from Mars, in order to conceal the presence of a large pyramid structure- clearly a reference to this story. However, the earlier The Ambassadors of Mars had already seen at least two lots of astronauts (from the UK) already spending time on the Red Planet.
In the pyramid, when confronted by the deadly puzzles Horus has set up to stop anyone from freeing Sutekh, Sarah comments that it is just like the city of the Exxilons.
The problem is, she was left outside to steal the minerals from the Daleks, and only the Doctor and Bellal actually entered the city and experienced the puzzles. Maybe the Doctor told her all about it afterwards?

The Doctor is a bit mixed up about his previous companions. Sarah is wearing a late Victorian / Edwardian dress, but the Doctor claims it belonged to Victoria, who arrived wearing high Victorian fashion, with hoops, bustle and stays, of the 1860's. He also refers to Victoria as "Vicki" despite that being an entirely different person. At no time was Victoria ever called "Vicki" by the Doctor.

UNIT HQ is now established as being out in the country, but Sarah states that they are heading for London when knocked off course.
If the Priory is the site of the future UNIT HQ then it most certainly isn't in London.
It's odd that a building either totally remodelled in Gothic style by the Victorians, or new built in the 1800's, should still have a priest hole within its walls - something which dated back to Tudor / Stuart times.
Namin has stored the mummies and some crucial Osirian tech in a wing of the house which he has locked off - not wanting anyone to go there. But it's on the ground floor, and has an unlocked window, so any passing burglar - or Time Lord - could easily get in.
Why does the mummy kill the valet? He claims Sutekh needs no other servant, but why does the reanimated Scarman cadaver kill Namin as soon as he arrives? Surely he would have been useful for a bit longer?
It's clear that Ernie the poacher doesn't know that it is Scarman who he has just shot in the back. Why was he shooting at anyone through the window, without knowing who or what they are?
He is trapped in the woods, but surely a wily old poacher would have been able to find a decent hiding place to sit things out?

Why has Horus hidden Sutekh on a populated planet - one which is clearly developing technologies which might ultimately lead to his freedom? Why wasn't he stuck immobile on Mars itself, or some other planet or moon? Why leave puzzles to guard Sutekh, when something more deadly would have been more efficient?
Light and sound emerge from the sarcophagus time tunnel - so why doesn't Sutekh use his great mental powers to stop the Doctor sabotaging it?
Some people find the fate of Sutekh a bit confusing. He seems to perish in a matter of seconds, but the Doctor has moved the end of the time tunnel so far into the future that the Osirian takes more than 7000 years to get to the end of it - which is just beyond his lifespan.
Last, but by no mean least, there's the hand that holds down the Cushion of Sutekh when he first stands up - suggesting some poor soul is lurking behind his throne, maybe for centuries.

Monday 24 April 2023

The return of Murray Gold

It has been confirmed today that composer Murray Gold will be back to provide the music for RTD's Doctor Who - just as he did from 2005 until Twice Upon A Time. I'm pleased about this, as Gold gave us some memorable themes, including those for the Tenth, Eleventh and Twelfth Doctors plus companions, as well as distinctive pieces associated with Daleks and Cybermen. Segun's music never really did much for me - too few pieces stuck in the head. I certainly wouldn't have paid to see his work performed live, as I once did for Gold's.

Worlds of Wonder @ Edinburgh

The Worlds of Wonder exhibition was first launched in Liverpool in May 2022, which coincided with the part the city had played in the Flux TV story. Rather than a straightforward exhibition of costumes and props, the exhibition had a specific focus - looking at the real science behind the Doctor Who stories. As such, there were educational displays about real life robots, animals with strange abilities, time travel etc. As well as interactive displays, there were video talks. 
The exhibition was always billed as a travelling one, and I was pleased to see that its second venue would be in Scotland - at Edinburgh's National Museum of Scotland - from December. 
Health issues had prevented me from spending a weekend in Liverpool - and the same issues almost prevented me from catching the Edinburgh showing, as I have been in and out of hospital several times between January and March. Knowing that the exhibition closed on 1st May, I made sure that I would be able to go the week before - combining the visit with a couple of walks around the city and a stay over at a friend's in South Queensferry (between the Forth Road and Rail Bridges, half an hour from the capital).

Adult tickets were £12. I pre-booked, just to be on the safe side. One of the slots for Friday 21st April was already full. It was busy when we attended, but far from crowded. We were about 20 minutes early for our slot, but were allowed to go straight in. Photography was fine - so long as flash wasn't used.

The first thing you see is a TARDIS console - the one built for An Adventure in Space and Time (2013).
Nearby was a First Doctor outfit in glass case. 

The first big room was devoted to robots. Present were the K1 Robot, who is like an old friend now. I saw him at Blackpool, and later at MOMI, then again at Cardiff. Always one of the most impressive props from the classic series, it was better presented here than at the DWE

K9, the Skovox Blitzer, and masks of a Heavenly Host, Voc Robot and Clockwork Droid shared its stage, along with Cyber-head "Handles" and a bust of the Half-Face Man. 

Glass cases opposite held a display of sonic screwdrivers - and sonic sunglasses - as well as some other props (the Paternoster Gang's sonic implements, the Doctor's confession dial etc.).

Next up was the Crooked Man from Hide. Close up, you could clearly see where the actor was able to see out of the costume. He and a couple of other costumes (the Fisher King and the second Omega) were housed by themselves in mirrored alcoves.

The video behind Omega was a piece about the feasibility of time travel. 
The next room had a theme of space travel, so some spacesuit costumes were on display. First though was Gadget from The Waters of Mars.

The costumes included the Impossible Astronaut, the Oxygen one, the red Sanctuary Base 6 one, and the Library / Vashta Nerada one. The latter had a skull barely visible in its helmet.

Opposite the spacesuits were some model spaceships, courtesy of Mike Tucker of the Model Unit. These came from Dragonfire and from Shada.

There was also a model TARDIS and a full size prop - beside which everyone wanted to have a photo taken. Naturally, we got ours taken. Had to be done. nearby was a small model of the Doctor in his diving suit from Thin Ice, and I was pleased to note the tiny Doctor's modelled features within.

Before moving into the next room, we had a cabinet containing various heads plus a Dream Crab in its tank. Present were the Ood Elder, Pig Slave, Mire, Hath, Jabe, Whisper Man, and the Flood-infected Andy.

Once past the Fisher King it was into the last main room - devoted primarily to full costumes. Present on one side were a Weeping Angel, Cybermat (2011 version), Iraxxa and a classic era Ice Warrior, Flux Sontaran and Legend Sea Devil, a Dreg, plus busts of the 1980's Silurian and the 2010 version.

Opposite them we had representatives of Mondas / Telos and Skaro. The 2006 Cyber-Controller was the only full costume, but there was a range of Cyber-heads from across the ages next to him.

The Davros was the 1980's Terry Molloy version, and the only Dalek prop was a 1963 version.

The final section of the exhibition was a bit of a mixed bag. Going past Karvanista's costume (just the outfit - not the mask) we had the Teller surrounded by some creepy creatures - a spider germ from Kill The Moon and the Dalek mutant from Resolution.

After the Face of Boe, we then had a variety of costumes and mask - including Novice Hame, Emojibot, Morbius monster, Kerblam! Man, Matt Lucas and Greg Davis head casts from Husbands of River Song and a Tesselecta Antibody from Let's Kill Hitler. Opposite these was Cassandra. Rather than a static prop, they had projected video footage of her features moving in synch with Zoe Wannamaker dialogue to animate it.

Mark Gatiss presented a video just before the exit, which included clips from stories across all 59 years. I've mentioned pretty much all of the Doctor Who exhibits, but have only added a fraction of the photographs I took that afternoon. From the images people had uploaded from Liverpool I had not picked up on the scale of the exhibition, as they were mostly from a single room. It was much larger than I expected - and there's all the educational aspect I've not really touched on. There's less than a week to go in Edinburgh, but if you live near enough then I highly recommend catching it before it closes. 
I've just checked the exhibition's official website and there is no third venue listed so far. Edinburgh was already advertised long before it left Liverpool - so it looks like this might well be the end of the road for Worlds of Wonder.