Monday 31 July 2023

M is for... Master Brain

An immensely powerful super-computer whose origins are obscure. It controlled a domain outside normal space and time where fictional characters could exist. This was generated through the harnessed imagination of a captive human - a writer of boys' adventure stories, abducted from early 20th Century Earth. As a mortal human being, he could not maintain the Land of Fiction forever, and so the Master Brain sought out the Doctor to take his place. Its ultimate goal was to transfer the entire population of Earth into this domain, leaving the planet empty and open to exploitation for itself or its unknown creators. When the Doctor prevented this from happening - using fictional characters as weapons to defend himself and his companions, Jamie and Zoe - the Master Brain ordered its White Robot servants to destroy them. When Zoe began overloading the computer by randomly pressing every control, the Robots tried to stop her. They fired upon the Master Brain itself - destroying it in the crossfire.

Appearances: The Mind Robber (1968).

M is for... Master (8)

Quite how Missy survived her death at the hands of her earlier incarnation remains a mystery - but survive she did, to regenerate into another male form of South Asian appearance.
The Master infiltrated the British security service MI6 after killing one of their staff and assuming his identity. Codenamed "O" he gained a reputation as a bit of a loner, with his own idiosyncratic way of working, basing himself in the remote Australian Outback. He developed a keen interest in extra-terrestrial threats, and came into contact with the Doctor, who maintained regular communication with him.
The Doctor was called in by "C", head of MI6, when a number of agents around the world came under attack. They had been left in a comatose state, their genetic make-up drastically altered. "C" was then assassinated and the Doctor and her companions headed for Australia to seek "O"'s help. Together, they discovered that the beings behind the attacks were extra-dimensional - the Kasaavin. They seemed to be working with an IT entrepreneur named Daniel Barton, who had once worked for MI6.
On sneaking aboard Barton's private aircraft, the Doctor discovered that she and her companions had been lured into a trap. "O" revealed his true identity after giving himself away. He had claimed to be a poor sportsman, whereas the Doctor knew that "O" had won medals for running. His house had been his disguised TARDIS, which was shadowing them by remote control.
The Doctor was transported to the domain of the Kasaavin, but met there Ada Lovelace, the scientist daughter of Lord Byron. She helped the Doctor escape to Victorian London, but the Master followed. He had reverted to using his tissue compression weapon, which shrank its victims. The Doctor and Ada fled to Nazi-occupied Paris, but the Master followed - using a perception filter to look Caucasian and adopt the role of an SS officer.

Knowing that he would be hunting for her again, the Doctor broadcast a message based on the four beats of a Time Lords' heartbeat. The pair met atop the Eiffel Tower. He discussed his plan with her, revealing his intention of dropping the Kasaavin at the earliest opportunity to take control himself. 
The Doctor escaped after luring a squad of German soldiers to the Tower, and disabling the Master's perception filter. He was captured, and the Doctor stole his TARDIS to get Ada back to her time, and return to the 21st Century to find her companions. The Master's scheme had been, with Barton's help, to use his IT technology to rewrite human DNA - turning people into walking hard-drives for use by the Kasaavin. The Master reappeared, revealing that he had been stuck on Earth and forced to live through its history for the last seven decades. The Kasaavin arrived, but the Doctor had recorded the Master's comments atop the Eiffel Tower. With their scheme already wrecked through the Doctor's sabotage, Barton fled, but the Master was captured by the Kasaavin and dragged off to their extra-dimensional domain, where he would remain trapped.

Back in her TARDIS, the Doctor discovered a holographic message left by the Master. He revealed that he had discovered some great secret of the Time Lords - one so terrible that it had driven him to destroy Gallifrey. The Doctor travelled to her home planet and found the Capitol a lifeless ruin. The Master had been telling her the truth...
Some time later, the Doctor became involved in the Cyberwar. By this stage, she had encountered an incarnation of herself which seemed to predate that of her earliest memory - one who worked for a shadowy militaristic organisation operating out of Gallifrey, but who had run away.
The Cybermen had a new leader named Ashad, who still retained human emotions after being only partially converted. Under his leadership, the Cybermen had over-run the galaxy and almost wiped out the human race.
On an obscure planet, a man named Ko Sharmus was helping the survivors escape to worlds which were free of the Cyberman threat. The Doctor and her companions arrived there along with a handful of survivors, and learned that Ko Sharmus oversaw a strange space-time portal. When it opened, the Doctor was amazed to see Gallifrey beyond it. The Master suddenly appeared through the portal, and forced the Doctor to accompany him to her ruined homeworld.

He took her to the remains of the Panopticon where he captured her in a forcefield, and then proceeded to explain what he had discovered - and why he had destroyed Gallifrey. Hidden deep within the Matrix he had found a secret history which had been withheld from their people for millennia. The Doctor was really a being from another universe, who had been found as a child by an early Gallifreyan explorer and scientist - Tecteun. She had brought her back to her home planet, where she later witnessed the child's apparent death in an accident. However, the child had regenerated and survived, adopting a new male body in the process. After years of experimentation, Tecteun was able to reverse engineer this regeneration process for her own people. The Time Lords owed their ability to regenerate to the Doctor, who wasn't a native Gallifreyan at all, but a being from an unknown dimension - one who was actually immortal.
The Master could not stand the truth that he owed his very existence to his old enemy, and loathed the way the Time Lords had lied to their people all these years.
He then decided to draw the Cybermen through the portal, contacting Ashad and offering him his help.

Ashad had planned to turn the Cybermen into purely robotic creatures - finally removing all trace of their humanoid origins. To this end, he had developed a weapon which could disintegrate organic matter - the Death Particle. When he learned that Ashad held this weapon within his own body, the Master used his TCE to destroy him - shrinking him whilst managing to keep the Particle intact.
Ashad had also held the Cyberium within himself - the artificial intelligence which was the source of all their knowledge and strategy. It needed a host to function, and transferred into the Master.
He then put his plan into action. He had retained a number of Time Lord bodies when he destroyed their cities, keeping them stored near the Panopticon. These he would combine with Cyber-technology to create a new race of Cybermen - ones with the ability to regenerate. These he named Cyber-Masters, and thanks to the Cyberium they would be loyal only to him.
The Doctor was able to obtain the corpse of Ashad with its Death Particle and threatened to detonate it after the Cyber-Masters had been created, sacrificing herself to do so. The Master doubted she would do this, whilst she suspected that he now had some kind of death wish. At the last moment, Ko Sharmus took her place and detonated the Particle.

However, the Master had managed to escape in a TARDIS with a number of Cyber-Masters. He then embarked on his most audacious scheme - to become the Doctor himself.
He inveigled his way into the Imperial household of Tsarist Russia by posing as a priest with special powers - Rasputin. This provided him with a base - the Winter Palace - from which to organise his scheme. This involved allying himself once again with the Daleks, who were to destroy the Earth by triggering many volcanic eruptions simultaneously across the globe. He attacked a meeting of leading seismologists and killed them with his TCE to prevent them interfering with this part of his plan. He then allowed himself to be captured by UNIT - attracting their attention after adapting a number of famous paintings with his own features. This was a ruse to gain access to UNIT's new HQ. His TCE could grow things as well as shrink them, and he had cloned Ashad and used him as a Passenger Form. Within was a whole army of Cybermen, who quickly over-ran the HQ.
The Cyber-Masters, meanwhile, had abducted a powerful alien Qurunx in order to harness its energies to power a Cyber-converted planetoid - and which would allow him to transfer himself into the Doctor's body via a process known as forced regeneration.

The Doctor was captured by the Daleks and handed over to the Master at the Winter Palace, and the transfer process initiated. The Master became the Doctor as she was forced to regenerate into him, whilst her personality was left in his old body, slowly being compressed out of existence. One of his aims was to destroy the Doctor's reputation by carrying out evil deeds in her new form. Her companion Yaz was forced to become his companion instead. He stopped a war between two planets by simply destroying them both, and ensured that this was observed by other races. He adopted an outfit based on a mix of earlier Doctor's costumes, as well as of her most recent incarnation. Yaz and another friend of the Doctor - Vinder - were able to capture the Master, helped by a hologram of the Doctor's hitherto unknown earlier incarnation. He was forced back into his transfer machine and the Doctor and he swapped back again, powered by regeneration energy from the defeated Cyber-Masters. He had revealed a great self-loathing - not wishing to revert to his old self. 
The Doctor then travelled to the Cyber-planet to free the captured Qurunx powering it. She encouraged it to destroy the Cyber-planet instead. The Master followed, dying from the reversal of the forced regeneration process. He was able to divert the Qurunx's destructive energies to strike the Doctor - mortally wounding her - claiming that if he could not be the Doctor then no-one would.
The Master appeared to perish as the Cyber-planet was destroyed...

Played by: Sacha Dhawan. Appearances: Spyfall (I & II), Ascension of the Cybermen / The Timeless Child (2020), The Power of the Doctor (2022).
  • Dhawan, who was born in Stockport in 1984, came to fame as one of The History Boys - the school-set play by Alan Bennett which has produced a number of stars. It was turned into a movie, featuring most of the original stage cast.
  • His partner is Anjli Mohindra - Rani in The Sarah Jane Adventures and the Skithra Queen in Nikola Tesla's Night of Terror.
  • In 2013 he portrayed Doctor Who's very first director Waris Hussein in the 50th Anniversary drama An Adventure in Space and Time.
  • He had previously worked with Jodie Whittaker in a 2008 TV series called Wired.
  • He has guest starred in Sherlock, Dracula and Being Human, and was a regular on the Marvel series Iron Fist.
  • This incarnation of the Master differs from others in that he seems to harbour a death wish, untroubled by being destroyed though only if the Doctor shares the fate. He is more openly jealous of the Doctor, and unhappy at his own existence.
  • As the Master-Doctor his costume included elements from the Fourth, Fifth, Seventh and Tenth Doctors' outfits. He also plays a recorder like the Second incarnation.
  • The Master had been seen to dance in his Harold Saxon incarnation. In The Power of the Daleks he dances to Boney M's Rasputin - to the surprise of the Daleks and Cybermen. Dhawan ad-libbed the dance moves himself.

Sunday 30 July 2023

Episode 78: The Watcher

The TARDIS has left the planet Mechanus, and the Doctor and Vicki have just used the Time-Space Visualiser to observe the safe arrival of Ian and Barbara back in London.
He asks his young companion if she did not wish to go home as well, but she is happy to stay with him. As they talk together in the console room, they hear a sound coming from the living quarters - and worry that a Dalek may have come on board.
They discover that their unknown visitor is actually the astronaut Steven Taylor, last seen running back into the burning Mechonoid city to retrieve "Hi-Fi" - his toy panda mascot.
He staggers into the console room and collapses.
The TARDIS materialises on a rocky shoreline, its arrival witnessed by a figure on the cliffs above - a man dressed in a monk's habit, who seems strangely unperturbed by what he has just seen.
A recovered Steven explains how he stumbled into the ship after escaping the blazing city. Whilst accepting that this is a spaceship of some kind, he refuses to believe that it is capable of travelling through time. After cleaning himself up, they venture outside onto the beach, failing to spot the Monk who has been examining Police Call Box shell. 
He ducks behind a boulder and eavesdrops on the new arrivals.
Steven is impressed that they have arrived on Earth so quickly, but still won't accept that the TARDIS is a time machine. Vicki finds a horned helmet nearby - distinctive Viking headgear - and the Doctor explains that they must be in early medieval times. Steven is dismissive.
They split up to explore, as the Doctor refuses to climb the cliff. They will meet up further along the shoreline. 
After they have gone, the Monk slips away. He goes to look at his wrist, noticing that something which should be there is missing...
A man named Eldred, dressed in rough woollen clothing, has seen the TARDIS from above and goes to a nearby village to fetch his friend Wulnoth - thinking it some valuable cargo washed overboard from a passing ship. Wulnoth is the village leader.
By the time they get to the cliffs, the tide has come in and the TARDIS is submerged.
The Doctor has found his way to the village and is looking around Wulnoth's hut when he is confronted by his wife, Edith. 
She accepts his explanation that he is a harmless traveller and offers him food and drink. He works out from what she says that this is the year 1066 - late summer judging by the climate. The Battle of Hastings has not yet taken place. Edith explains that they fear further raids from the Vikings, more than any invasion from William of Normandy.  
The Doctor can hear chanting coming from somewhere close by. Whilst Edith is busy indoors, he hears the sound distort - the speed slowing down like a gramophone that needs winding. He hurriedly asks where the monastery is and is given directions by his host. She explains that the monks have only recently moved back into the monastery, though only one of them has actually been seen near the village.
Steven and Vicki are exploring the countryside when they come across a villager, who has found an intriguing object lying in the grass. They startle him and he runs away, dropping the object. It proves to be a wristwatch - which Steven takes to be evidence that they are certainly not in medieval times.
As he looks round the seemingly deserted monastery the Doctor comes across a 20th Century gramophone, with a 33rpm disc of monastic song, a pop-up toaster and an electric hotplate for cooking.
A sturdy wooden barrier suddenly drops from the roof, trapping him in an alcove, and he is confronted by the Monk...
Next episode: The Meddling Monk

Written by: Dennis Spooner
Recorded: Friday 11th June, 1965 - Television Centre TC4
First broadcast: 6:55pm, Saturday 3rd July, 1965
Ratings: 8.9 million / AI 57
Designer: Barry Newbery
Director: Douglas Camfield
Guest cast: Peter Butterworth (The Monk), Alethea Charlton (Edith), Michael Miller (Wulnoth), Peter Russell (Eldred)

For the first ten minutes of this episode, the viewer would be forgiven for thinking that this was simply the latest adventure in history for the Doctor. We see Anglo-Saxon characters and Vicki finds a Viking helmet.
The more observant viewer might have taken note of the Monk's strange reaction to the arrival of the TARDIS. For someone of the period, he seems oddly nonplussed. Lurking behind a boulder, he listens to talk of spaceships and time machines without any due alarm. It's as if such things are everyday for him...
We then learn that this is 1066, and assume that the story is going to revolve around the Battle of Hastings. It's probably the most famous date in British history, one that every school child knows.
But then the story takes a bizarre turn. 20th Century objects suddenly turn up in the Monk's possession - or lost by him. The Doctor hears the monks' singing wind down, like a tape recorder whose batteries are running low.
For at least one viewer, this was all too much.
Commenting in a BBC audience research report a housewife stated: "I didn't understand this at all - since when were there wristwatches and gramophones in 1066? I thought it an absolute waste of time watching something that didn't make sense".
The majority of those watching found the whole idea of anachronistic objects intriguing, however. Some even quickly guessed that the mysterious Monk might actually be a time-traveller - though none realised exactly what kind of time-traveller he might be...

What people were watching was the first of a new type of story for Doctor Who
Up until now, the plan had been to feature three sorts of adventure - those set in a period of Earth's history; those set in the future or on alien worlds; and those termed "sideways" stories, which would investigate different dimensions and states of being. This latter format had only featured a couple of times, and the series was pretty much dominated now by the first two formats which tended to alternate with each other.
The Chase had featured an episode in which the Daleks interacted with a genuine historical event - the mysterious abandonment of the sailing ship Mary Celeste in 1872. Terry Nation had intended another episode to have involved the TARDIS and Daleks arriving in ancient Egypt, at the time of the building of the Great Pyramid at Giza. Story editor Dennis Spooner found these ideas fascinating, and so decided that his farewell story to the series would build on this. He would write a story which was set in history, but would include strong science-fiction elements.
Today, we refer to this style of story as a "pseudo-historical", and they have become one of the most popular formats for the series. The revived series has often included a famous figure from the historical period featured, and these are sometimes called "celebrity-historicals".

Despite the famous date, Spooner opted to avoid the Battle of Hastings, and so we have no King Harold or William the Conqueror. Knowing full well the limitations of studio-bound TV production, he decided instead to set the story a few weeks before the Norman invasion - in the period running up to the Viking invasion which ended at the Battle of Stamford Bridge.
The Doctor provides the audience with a short history lesson as he meets and talks with Edith - commenting on how much History teacher Barbara Wright would have enjoyed this.
He learns that King Edward (the Confessor) has died and been buried at Westminster at the begging of the present year. Edward, who was born c.1003, died on 5th January 1066, and was interred in his new abbey. His decision to remain celibate led to arguments over the succession. Many believed that he intended William of Normandy to be his heir, but had then fallen under the influence of the Godwins, and changed his mind. He is supposed to have named Harold Godwinson his heir on his deathbed. William argued that his claim took precedence. 
Harold became King, and quickly came under threat from two quarters. One was William, and the other was his rebellious brother Tostig, who had exiled himself to Scandinavia. There he allied himself with the Viking ruler Harald Hardrada, and together they planned an invasion of England, with a landing in the North East.
It is this event which is about to take place in The Time Meddler.

With the arrival of a new companion, the series is able to remind established viewers (and educate the newer ones) of some of the basics of the series. Vicki restates the derivation of the name "TARDIS" - even if she gets it slightly wrong (see below). It can travel in time - though Steven refuses to believe it. She also mentions how it is bigger on the inside than it appears from the outside. Ex-companions Susan, Ian and Barbara are all name-checked.
The camouflage unit, and its malfunctioning, is spoken of by the Doctor - explaining how the ship ought to change appearance to blend in with its surroundings. The example of it looking like a howdah (the carriage carried on the back of an elephant) is given, were the TARDIS to land in India.
At one point the Doctor even starts to talk about Vicki's father, and the events of The Rescue - the last time we saw a new companion enter the TARDIS. References to The Chase include the fact they think a Dalek might have come aboard, and Steven recalling that Vicki is afraid of heights.

To play the Monk, Douglas Camfield cast Peter Butterworth. At this point he had still to join the Carry On... team, but had started to develop a successful career as a comedic performer. During the Second World War he had found himself interned in Stalag Luft III, where a fellow POW was Talbot Rothwell, who would later cast him in the long-running cinematic comedy series. This POW camp later became famous for the "Wooden Horse" escape attempt. Butterworth and Rothwell put on entertainments, which diverted attention away from the tunnelling, and the famous vaulting horse also helped disguise this activity. Ironically, when Butterworth went up for a part in the 1950 film of these events, he was turned down - despite having been an actual participant. The reason given was that he didn't look "heroic" enough.
In developing the character of the Monk, Spooner simply thought about what the opposite of the Doctor might be like. He took is travels into Earth history very seriously, struggling to protect the time-line. His opposite would see no problem with messing about with history. Indeed, he might even go out of his way to change things for his own benefit - or amusement. He would be like a mischievous schoolboy, though the draft script refers to him as being old throughout.

The rehearsals had seen Camfield plan his production schedule down to the nearest five minutes. Unsettled by the departure of Russell and Hill, and with John Wiles and Donald Tosh taking over, William Hartnell started throwing tantrums as a means of getting his own way. Tosh determined to get on his good side by complimenting him on his film work, which did the trick, but the star and Wiles would never see eye to eye. Wiles noted how Maureen O'Brien criticised the script, and decided that she wasn't happy in the role.
A small amount of filming, of the TARDIS on the beach, had taken place at Ealing on Monday 10th May.

The production moved away from its regular base at Riverside Studios for this story, returning to Television Centre. Faced with a limited amount of studio space, Barry Newbery made the most of it by creating different levels and areas that could be shot from more than one direction. To give a feeling of space and location, he employed a projected moving backdrop - suggesting clouds scudding across the skies of windswept Northumbria.
His researches into period buildings extended to learning of how the Anglo-Saxons "painted" the floors of their huts - crucks - with ox blood.
False perspective was used for ruined building behind the monastery entrance, based on a Saxon tower Newbery had seen in a book.
Purves had now shaved off the beard he had grown for The Planet of Decision and was wearing a false one for his opening scene. He removed this at the first recording break.
The fastidious Camfield was upset that the recording overran by seven minutes, due to a mix-up with the music. A certain amount had been cleared and paid for, but more had been used in one scene - necessitating a retake.
Following recording, Hartnell embarked on a week's holiday.
One scene, of Steven and Vicki looking for shelter whilst in the forest, was cut for timing. This came just after the Doctor first arrived at Edith's home.

This episode features some notable lines of dialogue:
On finding the Viking helmet, which Steven refuses to accept as proof of time travel, the Doctor exclaims: "What do you think it is, a space helmet for a cow?",
The Doctor's summation of the TARDIS to Steven: "That is the dematerialising control. And that over yonder is the horizontal hold. Up there is the scanner, those are the doors, that is a chair with a panda on it. Sheer poetry, dear boy. Now please stop bothering me".
And the Hartnell fluff: "But I'm not a mountain goat and I prefer walking to any day. And I hate climbing".

  • The working title for this episode was "The Paradox".
  • Future director David Maloney was the production assistant on this story, which was being called "The Vikings" by the production team. He pointed out that there were far more Saxons than Vikings, so they started referring to it as "The Saxons" instead.
  • The ratings are around half a million lower than for the preceding Dalek episode, though the AI remains the same.
  • This was the latest start time for any episode since the series began - and would remain so for many years. The reason was that afternoon's extended sports coverage - tennis from Wimbledon and the Henley Regatta.
  • Peter Purves took time out of rehearsals to appear in an episode of Dixon of Dock Green - a role he had already been contracted for before being cast as Steven.
  • Vicki gives the letter D in the acronym TARDIS as "Dimensions", whereas Susan had originally given it as the singular "Dimension". O'Brien made this change herself - it was scripted as "Dimension".
  • Peter Butterworth's first Carry On... was Carry On Cowboy, which he filmed one month after recording The Time Meddler. It didn't open until early 1966, by which time he had been seen playing the Monk for the second time.
  • Alethea Charlton had previously featured as Hur in An Unearthly Child. Edith got her name from the sister of King Harold.
  • Michael Miller was a direct descendant of King Henry VII. (He bears a striking resemblance to Henry Tudor's namesake son). Wulnoth got his name from the grandfather of King Harold (Wulfnoth).
  • The Doctor is seen to drink mead in this episode. Also known as hydromel, it is an alcoholic beverage made from fermented honey and water. The Doctor's attitude to alcohol will vary over time.
  • The clock which is seen behind the opening titles is not the one that has been previously seen in the series.
  • Only 8 minutes of new music had been supplied by percussionist Charles Botterill, to be used across all four instalments.
  • Radio Times delivered its usual opening episode feature on the Thursday before broadcast:

Friday 28 July 2023

What's Wrong With... The Face of Evil

Let's get the big question out of the way first: when exactly did the Doctor first encounter the Mordee expedition and carry out his repairs to its computer?
In his novelisation of the story, Terrance Dicks claims that this event took place whilst the Doctor was still recuperating from his last regeneration - slipping away from UNIT HQ during the events of Robot.
It can't have been whilst he was confined to the sickbay, however, as we see when the Doctor first finding the TARDIS key, and we also see when he adopts his costume. The giant sculpture of his face clearly shows that he was wearing his scarf when the Mordee descendants designed it.
It may well have been an unseen trip with Sarah, or even one post-The Deadly Assassin, when he is travelling on his own for a bit. However, the fact he has trouble recalling his last visit to this planet suggests that it cannot have been recently.

Not so much something wrong, but unanswered questions.
Who made the sculpture? The Sevateem seem scared of the area where it is located, so it won't be them. They also associate the face with the Evil One who has abducted their god, not the god itself. The Tesh are a more obvious candidate as it is the location of a gap in the energy barrier, leading to their spaceship home, and they may have seen Xoanon using the Doctor's features - but they are religious ascetics, and don't strike us as being prone to such monumental iconography. 
Presumably, then, Xoanon caused it to be made - using its mental powers to manipulate the Tesh, or the expedition members before they divided? However, when we see Xoanon's features in the inner sanctum - those of the Doctor - it isn't wearing the scarf either.
We later hear that Leela's ancestors - the expedition members - are from Earth. Who or what, then, is "Mordee"? Is this the name of the planet? We call an expedition to the South Pole a "South Pole Expedition", or an expedition to Mount Everest an "Everest Expedition" - i.e. it is named after its destination / goal. Was Mordee the planet they were heading for and, if so, was it this one or did they crash land here before they got there? Or, was Mordee the name of an Earth colony from whence they came?

On film Calib's name is pronounced differently to when he's in the studio. "Xoanon" is pronounced differently at times as well.
Leela will have seen pieces of spacesuit, as Neeva uses them in his ceremonies, yet she still thinks the Tesh in the tunnel is a person with another person inside it. She and her tribe wear clothes, so why does she not just assume this to be costume as well?
Why have the Sevateem never tried simply going around the mountain, or followed the path which must exist up to the mouth? Trial and error over generations should have told them something.
Why would psychokinetic projections of a huge face leave footprints?
The Doctor assumes that invisible creatures don't see, as they have no need for conventional sight, yet he's encountered other invisible beings (Visians, Spiridons etc.) who could see in the normal spectrum perfectly well.
Xoanon electrifies the walls of the spaceship - but doesn't do the same for the floor, which would achieve its goal of killing the Doctor and Leela. Why not do the same when the Sevateem break in?
Why does the Tesh leader only have a single guard on the whole inner sanctum level, if it's such a vital area and he knows the Doctor is heading for it?

The Doctor is supposed to be the Evil One, but after five minutes the tribe simply treat him as an unwelcome visitor. Then they're following his orders.
It's a problem in several stories - generations of belief are simply set aside just because the Doctor says so.
Why would the Test of the Horda prove him to be mortal? Wouldn't passing the Test equally prove he was the Evil One, with special evil powers?
From everything we see of Leela subsequently, why is she frightened to take the Test - to the extent that she meekly allows her dear old dad to take it in her place? She is presented after this as a fearless, highly skilled warrior. The scene is totally out of character for her.
Why does Neeva go to the bother of sending assassins after her, if everyone thinks that the Evil One's invisible creatures are sure to get her?

The molecular examination sequence is just plain annoying. How big a coincidence is it that one of them just happens to be holding a mirror when they've been rendered unconscious and strapped to a table, and that the beam should start with that particular hand?
Why does Xoanon take so long to overload the reactor? If it was serious about blowing itself and everyone else to bits then surely it could have done it quicker. If it has been bluffing in trying to destroy the Doctor and / or itself, why hasn't the Doctor deduced this - he's come across enough computers that are programmed for self-preservation?
Xoanon takes over the minds of everyone on the ship - Tesh and Sevateem alike - to stop the Doctor. Why not just concentrate its energies on him? We have already seen him overpowered by the Tesh alone, so he's not immune.

Last, but by no means least, just how did Leela manage to dematerialise the TARDIS when she's only been in there for a matter of seconds? Remember - at this stage the Doctor had stated that the controls were isomorphic, responding only to him, so that's what the audience of the time had been led to believe.

Thursday 27 July 2023

RTD's Wild Blue Yonder Tweet

I don't read emoji very well, so am curious what RTD is trying to tell us about the second of the 60th Anniversary Specials. Is the bell a reference to the Cloister Bell? Would tie in with the fire / explosion emojis as it signifies potential disaster.
What might an apple and a clock (or specifically midnight / midday) mean? The story Midnight? A penguin? Is Frobisher also making the leap from comic to TV, like Beep the Meep?
It probably isn't as simple as it seems - RTD is not going to spoil things this early. Might even just be some random emojis to provoke a reaction.

Story 272 (a): The Pyramid at the End of the World

In which the Doctor is called upon once again to take on responsibility as President of Earth. The reason for this is that a seemingly ancient pyramid has just appeared in a disputed region of Turmezistan, at a point where the influence of three super-powers meet - China, Russia and the US. The Doctor becomes involved when the Secretary General of the United Nations comes looking for him, disrupting Bill's latest date with Penny. The Doctor, Bill and Nardole travel to see the building.
They discover that it contains some of the mysterious Monks, one of whom states that they will soon be invited to take over the planet. The Doctor has realised that the location of the pyramid is a deliberate provocation to all three super-powers.
Meanwhile, at a laboratory in the north of England - Agrofuel Research Operations - two scientists are having a bad day. Erica had broken her glasses on leaving her house that morning, and colleague Douglas is seriously hungover. He accidentally administers a much higher dosage of a chemical to some test plants.
The Doctor uses the TARDIS to abduct the military commanders of the three powers, in order that they act together rather than be driven to compete and fight each other.

An American bomber is sent to attack the pyramid, but the Monks are able to disable it and cause it to land nearby. They also pluck a Russian submarine from the ocean and deposit it near the pyramid.
The Monks then invite a delegation inside for talks. The Doctor and his companions are accompanied by the UN Secretary General and the three commanders.
Inside they come to a chamber in which the Monks are operating the machine which generates their simulations. It appears as a mass of glowing threads, each representing a possible outcome.
They show the Doctor's party images of the Earth as it will be in one year's time. It is a lifeless wasteland. The Monks state that they will avert this disaster if they are asked to take over.
When the Secretary General agrees to this and gives consent, he is reduced to dust. He had given consent out of fear.
At the lab, Erica and Douglas see that his accident has created a bacteria which destroys the plants totally. It infects him and he is killed within seconds.
The Doctor deduces that the pyramid is a diversion, to make people assume that the conflict will begin there. He works out that it will commence somewhere else - probably some virus or bacteria in a laboratory, to act so quickly. He has all the research laboratory CCTV cameras disabled, then watches to see which one the Monks switch back on again first - Agrofuel's.

The Doctor and Nardole travel there by TARDIS. As the Doctor meets Erica and decides to incinerate the bacteria by blowing up the lab, Nardole goes back to the TARDIS and suddenly collapses.
Bill is still at the pyramid. The three commanders now give consent for the Monks to take over, but they are also reduced to dust. They had consented through strategy.
The Doctor finds himself trapped in the laboratory as the air filtration system is about to pump the bacteria into the outside world. Nardole cannot help him - and he cannot see the door entry code Erica has given him due to his blindness.
Seeing this on the CCTV at the pyramid, Bill decides to give consent if the Doctor can be given his sight back. Unlike the others her action is accepted, as she has given consent out of love.
The Doctor can see again and he gets out of the laboratory seconds before it explodes.
The Monks now rule the Earth...

The Pyramid at the End of the World was written by Peter Harness, and was first broadcast on Saturday 27th May, 2017.
Harness had last written the Zygon two-parter for the previous series. That had been inspired by current world affairs - namely the radicalisation of young people and proliferation of extremist terrorist organisations. The inspiration this time was political as well - the concerns being raised about the rise of right wing populist leaders, such as Donald Trump. The starting point was: how far would someone go to avert a global disaster - and what if that action turned out to be even worse for the planet in the long run?
The main threat would be a race who appeared to act benign, but had a sinister motive. Having seen mummified bodies discovered in bog land, he decided on a corpse-like species, but coupled this with the imagery of Buddhist monks, synonymous with peace and benevolence, but who could also exhibit martial arts skills.
Steven Moffat liked the idea of these creatures, and decided to devise a whole trilogy of episodes involving them - the first of which was Extremis. Whilst Harness tackled the middle episode, in which the Monks took over the Earth, another writer would take on the final episode in which the threat was defeated.

Needing a unique modus operandi, Harness decided that the Monks would study victim planets and target potential conflict points which they could exploit - arriving as supposed saviours. They would offer their help but really be operating like gangsters with a protection racket.
The writer noticed that there had been a number of "near misses" in history, when a war had almost been triggered by accident - such as a missile going off course, or a computer glitch in a weapons system. The Monks would look for these sorts of occurrences. The threat to Earth would be an obvious one, but the Monks would actually be secretly engineering a different one elsewhere.
Harness restructured his ending when he was told that the Doctor was to be blind going into this episode - providing a handy reason for Bill to accept the Monks' help.
Playing Erica is Rachel Denning (Ghosts), whilst her colleague Douglas is Tony Gardner (Last Tango in Halifax and The Thick Of It - the latter of which also starred Peter Capaldi).
The UN Secretary General is played by Togo Igawa. He had earlier portrayed Dr. Tanizaki in the Torchwood episode Cyberwoman.
The trio of military commanders are: Eben Young (US Colonel Brabbit); Andrew Byron (Russian General Ilya Svyatoslavovich); and Daphne Cheung (Chinese General Xiaolian).
Jamie Hill once again plays the lead Monk, voiced by Tim Bentinck.
Ronke Adekoluejo returns as Penny.

Overall, an impressive-looking story with some fine performances, in which the Monks from last week's episode actually make their move. Their mode of invasion is an interesting one, building on the events of Extremis. Quite why they wish to take over isn't explained. Hopefully that will become clearer in the next instalment. (Clue: it isn't).
Things you might like to know:
  • Word wise, this story has the longest ever Doctor Who title to date. It was inspired by Douglas Adams' The Restaurant at the End of the Universe.
  • It was originally intended that this would be a UNIT story.
  • Harness reuses his fictional central Asian republic of Turmezistan, which had featured in his earlier Zygon story.
  • A line of dialogue about terrorism was cut just before broadcast, in consideration of the victims of the Manchester Arena bombing which had taken place only a few days before.
  • The cliff-hanger was to have been Bill apparently reduced to dust as well - though it would be revealed in the next episode that the Monks had transported her away.
  • The research company was going to be Global Chemicals, as seen in The Green Death.
  • The plant enzyme which mutated was to have been DN8 - after the insecticide DN6 which had featured in Planet of Giants.
  • Bill's date with Penny goes wrong for the second time, as it is interrupted by the UN Secretary General. In Extremis, it had been the Pope - though that had been in a computer simulation.
  • The Doctor's sonic sunglasses reveal Nardole to be 237 years old.
  • This episode marks the final time we get to see Capaldi play his electric guitar.
  • The Monks use the Doomsday Clock to harass the humans into accepting their rule. Set up by nuclear scientists in 1947, this was designed to show the public how close we were coming to destruction should atomic technology not be properly regulated. Climate change has become a bigger element in recent years. There was a display about this at the recent "Science Fiction Exhibition" at London's Science Museum:

Wednesday 26 July 2023

Countdown to 60: On Trial

AKA: 1985 - what went wrong?
In November 1983, Doctor Who had reached one of its peaks of popularity. It had seen peaks and troughs over the previous 20 years - 'Dalekmania', Pertwee and the UNIT era, and the arrival of Tom Baker being high points, with the latter 1960's and the second half of Baker's tenure marking the lows.
Producer JNT had sought to rejig seasons so that one of the stories might debut around the 23rd of November. His boss said "no" - but then offered him a 90 minute stand-alone special instead. 
The Spring of 1983 saw an event organised for fans at Longleat House, home to a permanent Doctor Who exhibition. This was advertised on TV and radio, and big numbers were expected to attend. But not of the scale which the event was to actually witness. The event was massively over-subscribed. The organisers had to take to the airwaves to plead with those without pre-booked tickets to stay away. Those lucky enough to gain entry found massive queues everywhere, and missed out on a number of the scheduled activities.
There had been conventions, run by the DWAS, ever since 1977, but this event saw every living Doctor (and Hartnell's widow), most of the companions, a few villains, and some of the backroom boys attend - more guests than any previous convention.

The actual 20th season had aired, but proved to be a weak one - despite each story having some element of the past, including the return, after an 8 year break, of the Brigadier. JNT claimed these inclusions as a selling point, as though it had been planned - but it wasn't. Series adviser Ian Levine had pointed it out to him. Omega had been the villain of the Season 10 opener. The Mara had only been seen once, the year before. The Black Guardian got a trilogy, then we had the Master in his weakest outing.
Peter Davison wasn't happy with his sophomore season, and decided that he wouldn't do a fourth. 
There had been all sorts of problems with production due to industrial action, meaning that the planned Dalek story, which would have closed it, had to be postponed to allow the trilogy to be completed.

As November rolled around, Radio Times delivered its first Doctor Who cover since the start of Jon Pertwee's final season in 1974. Even better, they released a new special edition devoted to the series, in emulation of one they had produced for the 10th Anniversary.
A host of monsters appeared on Blue Peter with Davison and the new First Doctor Richard Hurndall, presenting a charity minibus. The series featured on Breakfast Time and Nationwide as well. Patrick Troughton had really found his feet as a spokesperson for the series, after shunning publicity for many years - even if he tended to act a force of anarchy at times (just like his incarnation of the Doctor).
Due to a slip-up, many fans were faced with the quandary of reading the novelisation of The Five Doctors first, or waiting to see the story on TV. It had been released to the shops too early by mistake.
On the evening of 23rd November, fans settled down to watch the special. In America.
British fans were up in arms at having to wait until the Friday, as the BBC top brass had decided to hold it back for inclusion in that year's Children in Need telethon.
Organised fandom in the UK was also very unhappy with the Americans for poaching all of the biggest names for a convention in Chicago, due to be held over the anniversary weekend. A number of smaller UK conventions found a distinct lack of big name guests available, as they had all been shipped over to Illinois.

As 1983 ended, the series was riding a wave of popularity, and fans were convinced that this was a programme that would comfortably see its 30th Anniversary in ten years time. Season 21 was on its way, and that would see the debut of a new Doctor - that Colin Baker off The Brothers - and that rearranged Dalek story. Baker, C, was going to get a whole story to himself at the end of the season, and he was promising to beat his namesake's tenure on the programme.
Despite a dreadful opener, Season 21 proved to be a successful one - with Davison even regretting his decision to stand down.. However, dark clouds were gathering.
Fans were unhappy at the thought of an American companion. Wasn't the series' Britishness one of the very things which the American audience liked about it? Was the producer pandering too much to the US fans?
We then got to see the new Doctor's outfit. It made him look like a clown. There was no chance that this might be a short-lived, post regeneration aberration, as we knew that JNT liked his cast in uniform costumes. Worse was to come, as we watched The Twin Dilemma unfold. Overall, it was cheap and tacky, and not in a tolerably kitsch way.
The Doctor was arrogant, unlikeable and cowardly. Had they let him get over this after the first couple of episodes, we might have been okay - but it carried on to the end of the story (and of the season), so that his "Whether you like it or not..." came across as the most terrible of threats. (Smiling like a psychopath as he said it didn't help).

1985 dawned, and we hoped that the production team might have carried out some retooling during the season break. But the costume was still there, as was the arrogance and unlikability. 
Season 22 saw new levels of violence enter the series, some of it - like the crushing of Lytton's hands - pretty graphic. The Doctor and Peri spent most of the stories in the TARDIS bickering. If you thought Tegan was bad, this was way worse. Why on Earth did this woman continue to travel with this man?
There were problems behind the scenes as well. The script editor would later state that he thought JNT's casting of Baker was wrong. Not so that he wasn't a good actor, but more the manner of his selection - JNT basing it on his entertainment of some wedding guests. A rift between producer and script editor was growing.
Bigger problems lay at a higher level than they at the BBC. Their names were Michael Grade and Jonathon Powell...
Neither man harboured even the slightest interest in Doctor Who - other than its budget. It could be used for other things - like new soap operas and daytime television.
The decision was made to cancel the series, and the way they did it was handled incompetently. They failed to notify their superiors, who first heard about it after the press were kicking up a fuss, encouraged by angry fans.
The incompetent duo quickly backtracked. The series wasn't being cancelled at all. No way. It was just being "rested" for a year, and would be back bigger and better in 1986. It was old and tired and needed a fresh approach. "Surely that would work better with a new producer and script editor?" thought the fans.
But no - it would be the same management who were being blamed for ruining the series who would oversee its regeneration...

They took some perfectly promising stories, which were in an advanced state of preparedness, and junked the lot. It would have been impossible to use all of them anyway, as the series was returning as only 14 x 25 minute episodes. It could have been possible to adapt The Nightmare Fair, or Mission to Magnus for Season 23, but Eric Saward came up with the notion that, as the programme was on trial, so the Doctor would be as well. (Despite this having been done already, back in 1969). Then it had taken just a single episode, but now all 14 instalments would be taken up with a single story - Trial of a Time Lord
It is the longest Doctor Who story ever. Except when it is not the longest story ever, but a linked series of four stories.

After a very impressive VFX sequence of a space station, Season 23 goes downhill rapidly. The first section proved to be Robert Holmes' final completed story. He was never happy with it. He used elements of The Krotons in the plot, in the same way that he used The Power of Kroll as the basis for The Caves of Androzani. Then, there had been a massive improvement, but not this time.
Sil was brought back, but they played up the humour a little too much. Peri's death failed to have the impact Adric's had. Somehow we just knew that the Matrix wasn't to be trusted. Or we just didn't care this time.
The rift between producer and script editor reached breaking point behind the scenes. Already deteriorating, Saward now had concerns about the casting of Bonnie Langford. (As did the whole of fandom). Holmes' illness and death affected him greatly - and then came an argument about the ending of the Trial season. Saward was determined to stick to Holmes' original plan - ending things on a cliff-hanger - and JNT had initially agreed. He then got cold feet - fearing that the powers that be would use this as a convenient place to end the series.
Saward walked, taking Holmes' 14th episode with him, and JNT had to draft in Pip & Jane Baker at the last minute to come up with something that would suffice. Under the circumstances, they did okay.
The series survived - but Colin Baker didn't. He was chucked out as part of the conditions for the continuance of Doctor Who. Once again, the obvious need for a new producer was ignored - though the BBC would later claim that there had never been anyone else who wanted the job, and they disliked JNT and weren't prepared to give him anything else. He would be left dangling until his contract ran out, or he could be safely made redundant.

To conclude, let's revisit that initial question. 
In 1983 Doctor Who was enjoying levels of popularity unseen since the advent of Tom Baker's arrival - and popularity inevitably wanes.
Fandom's attitude towards the programme was changing. It was certainly becoming more vocal in its criticisms. Whilst many were happy to see more adult storylines, others thought that the series was moving too far away from the family audience which had often sustained it, and there were those who thought that there was too much emphasis on continuity - especially when the programme got it wrong. Why bring back things from the past if they looked nothing like the originals, or contradicted older stories?
The producer and the script editor had stayed in their respective roles too long. Both needed fresh perspectives on the show. The popular Peter Davison had been replaced with an unlikeable character in a clown's outfit, who was accompanied by a whining New Englander.
All of this was being watched avidly by a senior BBC management eager to find economies. Doctor Who wasn't the only long-running series to find itself considered for cancellation. Children's favourite Crackerjack (Crackerjack!) had been running even longer than Doctor Who - since 1955 - yet it found itself taken off the air.
In short, the answer to our question is... complicated. It was a combination of general public, fandom, production, narrative, casting and BBC politico-economic factors.
Since when has anything to do with Doctor Who been straightforward...?

Monday 24 July 2023

Episodes - Afterlife: Mechonoids

Like the Voord, and the Sensorites, and the Zarbi, the Mechonoids never made a return to the series - but did have an afterlife of sorts in other media.
As mentioned in our look at the episode The Planet of Decision, the original history of the robots as envisioned by Terry Nation differed greatly from that given to them by the time they reached the screen. In The Chase, they are simply mindless robot drones, carrying out pre-programmed functions which include preparing a living environment for colonists from Earth, collecting specimens of flora and fauna, and protecting their work from aggressors.
They have a language, but it is a machine code which uses only a handful of English words, accompanied by numbers. Without the key to that code, Steven Taylor and the TARDIS crew are unable to communicate with them.
Terry Nation's original idea was that they were built by a humanoid race hundreds of years ago and developed some sort of sentience. They rebelled against their master and destroyed them, creating their own robotic society as self-governing artificial lifeforms. It's this version of the Mechonoids which arrived in the Dalek comic strip in TV Century 21 in March 1966.

On screen, there is some evidence of that earlier history - perhaps elements of that earlier draft which have survived. We hear a Dalek claim to have identified the Mechonoids - referring to them as "Mechons" - and they know that this is the planet Mechanus. It is odd, also, that the planet should be named thus, when it is due to be colonised by human beings.
In the comic strip, the Mechonoids are called "Mechanoids" by the Daleks, who have records of them - including images - but don't seem to have actually encountered them. These robots have different colour schemes (the props were all metallic blue in The Chase), and the Emperor claims they have positronic brains (as someone will later say of the Daleks themselves).
The comic strip Mechonoids also speak English fairly fluently, and are powerful enough to have their own empire. 

They see the Daleks as a threat, and so determine to stop them encroaching on their space.
To this end they send a spacecraft, hidden within a space cloud, to spy on them as they build a new space station. They also employ a suspicion-ray, which causes one Dalek on the station to turn against its own kind. The Daleks discover their presence and destroy the craft - only for the Mechonoids to retaliate and destroy a Dalek saucer.
Later, an alien race of blue-skinned humanoids - Zerovians - fear a Dalek-Mechonoid war. This coincides with a rogue planet travelling through space, which has been deflected onto a collision course with Skaro. The Zerovians don't want their presence noticed by either side, so send an android - 2K - on a mission to avert the war. The Daleks decide to divert the planet to save Skaro - and to send it off in the direction of Mechanus to destroy the Mechonoids. 2K has to visit both the home of the Daleks and the home of the Mechonoids to save both - making it look to each race that it was their supposed enemy which acted to save them. Thus, tensions are lessened for now.
The comic strip was discontinued a few weeks after this story, but no doubt the Mechonoids would have returned as a recurring threat had it continued.

The Mechonoids were also marketed as a small, cheap, plastic toy. They were manufactured by a company called Cherilea (the name deriving from its founders' names - Cherrington and Leaver).
They were already producing a range of Dalek figures, notable for being multi-coloured. Their gimmick was that children could swap components around to create new colour combinations. These were called "Swappits". The Mechonoid figures (once again called "Mechanoids") followed the same pattern, coming in a variety of colours.
When it became clear that the Mechonoids were just one-hit wonders, and wouldn't be coming back to the TV series, Cherilea decided to rebrand them as "space pods", divorced from any Doctor Who connection:

According to the BBC novel War of the Daleks, the Movellans were built as servants by the Mechonoids. Another novel has Morbius transport some into the Death Zone on Gallifrey. (And people wonder why I don't cover the books on this blog...).
The robots also featured on audio, such as in Big Finish's Juggernauts:

This saw Davros give the Mechonoids organic components and renamed as "Juggernauts". These ones had also been abandoned due to a cancelled Earth colonisation.

More recently, the BBC attempted a multi-platform Doctor Who adventure with the overall title of "Time Lord Victorious". Part of this was a crudely animated series of short on-line episodes called Daleks!. There were five instalments, running to 13-15 minutes per episode.
The Mechonoids featured in this, now ruled - bizarrely, for a robot race - by a Queen (voiced by Anjli Mohindra of The Sarah Jane Adventures). The Daleks and Mechonoids were forced to co-operate against an extra-dimensional entity which threatened them both, though the Daleks quickly exploited then abandoned their allies.
Presumably the self-same reasons for the Mechonoids failing to make a return still apply - their bulkiness and limited narrative value - so we shouldn't hold our breath waiting to see them back in the series, unless in a cameo role. At least one fan-built prop exists that could be used (though it's painted silver rather than metallic blue).

Sunday 23 July 2023

Episode 77: The Planet of Decision

Trapped in a cave with the Daleks closing in, the TARDIS crew see a panel in the rock wall open, with a large spherical robot beyond. It instructs them to enter...
They discover that this is a lift, and assume they are being taken up to the city which towers over the jungle. Attempts to communicate with the robot prove fruitless. 
Only the robots are seen. There are no signs of human life, until they are taken to a large chamber and locked in. Here they discover a large wooden climbing frame, which Ian likens to something from the monkey house at the zoo. A robot observes them from behind a screen.
A young man clambers down the frame from a level above - overjoyed to see them.
He is Steven Taylor, a space pilot from Earth who crashed on this planet some two years ago. He has been held here as a captive of the robots - which he identifies as Mechonoids - ever since.
He reveals that they were sent here decades ago to prepare the planet for colonisation, but interplanetary wars intervened. The Mechonoids have simply continued to follow their programming, which included capturing specimens of local wildlife - which now includes them. They communicate in a machine language, and without the right code they cannot interact with them.
The wooden structure was built by Steven to allow him access to the roof for exercise and fresh air. Everyone ascends to see if there is a means of escape, but Steven explains that they are too high up to ever reach the ground safely from here.
The Daleks have searched the cave and have employed their seismic locator to find the hidden panel in the wall. They open this and ascend to the city. 
In their cell, the Doctor and his companions see the Daleks arrive and challenge the Mechonoids to hand over their captives.
A length of cable was seen on the roof, and they must use this to climb down to the ground, despite the danger. The Doctor sets up his anti-Dalek weapon - an explosive charge which will detonate on contact.
One of the Daleks triggers it, starting a fire. The Dalek execution squad then battles the Mechonoids, further wrecking the city.
Vicki is scared of heights, and has to be lowered to the ground. Seeing the fire take hold, Steven rushes back down to the cell to retrieve his mascot - a stuffed panda toy he calls "Hi-Fi".
The Doctor and his companions reach the ground and hurry into the jungle as the city explodes - destroying the Daleks along with the Mechonoids.
After examining the Dalek time machine, Ian and Barbara realise that they could use it to get home. The Doctor refuses to help them at first, worried that they would be killed trying to operate it. Vicki convinces him to allow them to take that risk.
Nearby, Steven is wandering lost through the jungle, having managed to escape the burning city in time.
In the TARDIS, the Doctor and Vicki observe Ian and Barbara, back home in London, on the Time-Space Visualiser. The Dalek time machine has been set to self-destruct. They have arrived in 1965 - two years after they had left, a gap which they will somehow have to explain... 
Knowing they have arrived safely, the Doctor and Vicki leave Mechanus.
Next episode: The Watcher

Written by: Terry Nation
Recorded: Friday, 4th June, 1965 - Riverside Studio 1
First broadcast: 5:40pm, Saturday 26th June, 1965
Ratings: 9.5 million / AI 57
Designers: Raymond P Cusick & John Wood
Director: Richard Martin
Additional cast: Peter Purves (Steven Taylor), Derek Ware (Bus Conductor)

Two of the most significant sections of this episode were amongst the first to be filmed for the story - the arrival home for Ian and Barbara, and the epic battle between the Daleks and the Mechonoids.
The latter took place over two days - 14th and 15th April, 1965 - at Ealing. The press were there on the first day to see the Daleks and the new monster. Verity Lambert was photographed lighting a cigarette from a Mechonoid flame-thrower.
Three Daleks and an equal number of Mechonoids were present. One of each had a visual effects-made damaged upper section which could be swapped for the intact one to show their destruction.
Richard Martin employed actors he had previously used for Daleks and Zarbi to operate the Mechonoid props.
On the same day, the model of the Mechonoid city was filmed. It had been designed by Cusick and built by Shawcraft Models. For its destruction, it was decided simply to overlay smoke and flames from stock footage (a volcanic eruption) and keep the model intact, as at this time it was thought that the robots might be called upon for a return engagement.

In Nation's original scripts, the Mechonoids had been created a thousand years ago by a race of humanoids, but had turned against their creators and destroyed them, setting up their own robot society. Their role as more recent agents of colonisation was added much later. Presumably it would have been difficult for anyone to have known their history if no-one could communicate with them.
Fandom likes to think that the wars mentioned by Steven involved the Daleks, but a scene which was filmed then deleted had him having to ask Barbara about the Daleks, as he had never heard of them before.
In the end, the model of the city was never used again, as the Mechonoids were destined never to return to the series.
The reason was that they were too big and bulky, barely manageable in the relative spaciousness of Ealing's sound stages, but impossible to use effectively in a cramped TV studio - though they succeeded in having two on site for this episode. William Hartnell was vocal in his dislike for them, as he had to be more careful with his floor marks due to their lack of mobility.
Their history didn't exactly lend itself to further narratives either. The Dalek comic strip version of the robots elected to use a scenario closer to Nations' original idea of a robotic race which had developed its own society.
A rumour persists, however, that Ray Cusick knew exactly what he was doing in designing them so large - revenge against Nation. Whilst the writer had made a fortune from the Daleks, Cusick had earned only a £100 bonus - and that grudgingly - from the BBC, due to him being one of their employees when he designed them. Following a TV appearance together (Late Night Line-Up), Nation had given Cusick cause to believe that he would see more of a financial benefit, which never came.
The rumour is, therefore, that Cusick sabotaged Nation's plans to make even more money from something which he had designed by ensuring they would never become a regular fixture on the show.

The departure of Ian and Barbara was mostly handled by director Douglas Camfield, who was preparing to make The Time Meddler. He filmed the scenes of the two teachers arriving back in London at a garage opposite an Underground Station (a shot of White City) at Ealing on Monday 10th May.
William Russell and Jacqueline Hill had taken to the streets of London on the previous Thursday to pose for photographs at a number of well-known locations, showing the teachers celebrating being back home. These included Kensington Gardens, Hyde Park, the Embankment, Parliament Square, Trafalgar Square, Piccadilly Circus, and Regents Street, where they are seen to catch the bus.
With recording over on their final episode, both actors took a month-long holiday. On their return to England, they entered rehearsals for a play together - Terence Rattigan's Separate Tables. It would open in Leeds on the 20th of July.
A planned cameo at the end of The Massacre, when the teachers were to come across the TARDIS as it dematerialises from Wimbledon Common, was cancelled. Hill returned to the series in 1981, but in a different role - that of High Priestess Lexa in Meglos. Russell turned down a chance to reprise Ian Chesterton for the 20th anniversary season, being too busy on stage to feature in Mawdryn Undead.
The Day of the Doctor identified Ian as Chair of the Board of Governors of Coal Hill School.
Russell finally returned to the show as Ian, after a record breaking gap of 57 years, in The Power of the Doctor.

After portraying tourist Morton Dill in Flight Through Eternity, Peter Purves is back just three weeks later as astronaut Steven Taylor, who is to become the new male companion now that Russell has bowed out. Purves had grown a beard in the interim, aware of how close his two performances were going to be.
The new companion was originally going to be named Roger Bruck, and this is what appears in Nation's original scripts. He was to be 35 years of age, and hail from 500 years in the future.
Unsure of how exactly the character was to be introduced to the TARDIS, and how Ian and Barbara were to leave it, Nation left the ending open once the Daleks had been defeated - simply leaving a note for Dennis Spooner to come up with this. Had the teachers not been leaving in this episode, Steven would have been given the Dalek time machine to get home.
Bruck was first renamed Michael Taylor - the name when the part was offered to Purves - then amended to Steven after the actor and story editor had met to flesh out the character.

The day after broadcast, a critic on The Observer newspaper claimed they had no wish to go to the cinema and see Peter Cushing and the Daleks, as he was perfectly happy with William Hartnell as the Doctor. At a BBC review meeting, Sydney Newman thought this episode one of the best to date, and most critics expressed their admiration for the Dalek-Mechonoid battle. People were sad to see the departure of Ian and Barbara, and some expressed their confusion as to what had happened to the supposed new companion at the end of the episode.

The "Decision" of the title relates to the departure of Ian and Barbara in narrative terms, but two key members of the production team had also decided to make this their last work for the series in their respective roles of director and story editor.
The Chase was to be Richard Martin's last directing job on Doctor Who. Despite their fiery relationship, Lambert saw in him someone who was willing to experiment and push the envelope - stretching to the limit what the programme could achieve, dramatically and practically. He had been handed the big, complicated stories to do. His vision and ambition tended to outmatch what was possible in the confines of the TV studio, with limited time and budget, but he could never be faulted for trying.
The Planet of Decision is also the final episode to feature as story editor Dennis Spooner. He would continue to contribute to the series as a freelance writer, but his friend Terry Nation had courted him to come and work with him on the glossy adventure series The Baron, filmed at Elstree. Nation had found himself writing the bulk of the episodes and urgently needed help.
Spooner's replacement, Donald Tosh, had been shadowing him for some time, and he would depart leaving Tosh with the next story nicely set up, with little work needed - The Time Meddler - so that he could ease himself into the role full-time. David Whitaker had done the same thing when handing over to Spooner with The Rescue.

Much is talked about story arcs these days - an import from US television of a format which gained popularity in the 1980's and '90's. The Chase actually brings to an end Doctor Who's first great story arc - that being the attempts by Ian and Barbara to get back home.
This is hugely significant, though the audience would not have been aware of it at the time. The efforts of the Doctor to get the teachers back to London had been threaded through most of the stories of the first two seasons to date, if only as a brief mention at the start of the opening episode of a story.
That mission had now been achieved - though it would be a Dalek time machine rather than the TARDIS which managed it. From this point on, the Doctor simply becomes a wanderer in Time and Space, origins unknown, which is how we will come to know him for the next four years - until the next big change of format in 1969.
A hint as to his origins would come sooner than that, however - in the very next story...

  • The ratings slowly rise back to 9.5 million - still a half million less than the opening instalment. The AI figure does manage to match that of The Executioners. Summer weather will have had an impact on the viewing figures.
  • Episode duration could vary considerably at this time. This is the longest instalment of this story - at 26' 29". This is almost three minutes longer than the shortest episode, The Death of Time.
  • William Hartnell delivers one of his most famous fluffs, when he tells the teachers that they could be turned into "a couple of cinders, floating about in Spain - space".
  • It has never been explained - narratively or in production terms - why the Doctor had the Dalek time machine (which is supposed to be fully functional) take the teachers to London in 1965, rather than 1963. A happy ending should surely have seen them getting home without having to explain a two year disappearance, presumably now homeless and unemployed.
  • One of the Daleks is given a new attachment - a 'perceptor' arm. This appears to be a small dish-shaped unit in place of the usual plunger.
  • Look carefully at the opening elevator scene and you'll see a rectangular slot in the wall behind the TARDIS crew. This was to allow a camera to take shots from an alternative lower angle.
  • Another deleted scene - filmed but then cut for time - saw Vicki touch a Mechonoid and receive a mild electric shock from it.
  • Below, the press call for the Mechonoids at Ealing on Wednesday 14th April, with Verity using one of the robots as a cigarette lighter: