Thursday 30 November 2023

The Church on Ruby Road images

The BBC have released a quartet of images from this year's Christmas Special this evening, despite us only being a third of the way through the anniversary episodes.
Guest artist is Davina McCall, who previously provided vocals in Bad Wolf.
An elfin / evil Yoda monster features in some capacity...

M is for... Mire Beasts

Large carnivorous octopus-like creatures which used to dwell in the slime at the bottom of the oceans of the planet Aridius. When the planet's suns began to move closer and the seas dried up, the Mire Beasts started to infiltrate the subterranean city of the Aridian people, on whom they preyed.
As numbers grew, the creatures spread through more and more of the city - forcing the Aridians to block off sections and blow up entrance points such as the ancient airlocks.
The beasts sometimes roamed on the surface, leaving a trail of slime. 
A break-in by a Mire Beast caused enough confusion for the Doctor and his companions to escape. They were being held captive by the Aridians who had been compelled to hand them over to the Daleks. Later, a Dalek was lured into a trap, falling down into the tunnels where it was attacked by a Mire Beast.

Played by: Jack Pitt. Appearances: The Chase (1965).
  • Pitt was a regular monster operator during the Hartnell era. He was a friend of the actor and sometimes put him up when he wanted to avoid theatrical digs in London.
  • The Mire Beast prop, in glorious colour:

M is for... Mire

A parasitic race who provoked conflict with less advanced races, who notorious through the cosmos as powerful warriors. However, they only picked on species which they could comfortably beat - their real aim being to identify and isolate their bravest members. 
These were beamed up to their orbiting spaceship where they were killed for their testosterone and other hormones.
To lure them into fighting, the Mire could conceal their true appearance holographically to look like figures from the target culture. When the Doctor and Clara encountered a Viking party they were taken captive to their village. The Doctor pretended to be Odin - only for 'Odin' to appear in the sky above them.
This was really the Mire commander in disguise. His warriors beamed down to the village, wearing bulky battle-armour which disguised their multi-fanged true form.
After harvesting the best raiders, the Mire were about to depart when a young woman named Ashildr challenged them to a fight to the death with the whole village. The Doctor was forced to improvise a defence.
The Mire armour allowed telepathic communication between warriors, and Ashildr used a captured one to plant false images in the Mire neural network. The Doctor had Clara film them panicking as they thought they were being attacked by a dragon - really only a wooden mock-up.
The Doctor threatened to broadcast the embarrassing footage across the universe, forcing the Mire to withdraw.
Use of the helmet proved fatal for Ashildr, but the Doctor used a Mire battlefield medical device to save her. It caused her to become immortal.

Played by: David Schofield (Odin). Appearances: The Girl Who Died (2015).
  • Often called upon to play detectives or criminals, an early film role for Schofield was as the only "Slaughtered Lamb" patron who is prepared to talk to the psychiatrist in An American Werewolf In London. He is best known for playing the villain's henchman in the Pirates of the Caribbean franchise.
  • He stepped in late in the day to replace Brian Blessed, who had to withdraw through illness.
  • Mire armour at the Doctor Who Festival (2015), and a full costume at the Doctor Who Experience in 2016. The pieces, which were made from lightweight foam, could be handled and worn by the public:

M is for... Minyans

An ancient humanoid race who encountered the Time Lords not long after they had achieved their mastery over time travel. At this stage in their history they believed that they could use their great powers to help developing races. One of these was the Minyans of the planet Minyos.
They provided advanced technology and other assistance. However, the Minyans were unable to absorb and manage this help. Their society advanced too rapidly for them to adapt to the changes, and it eventually broke down.
With powerful weapons now at their disposal, they almost destroyed themselves in civil war. This event caused the Time Lords to adopt their policy of non-intervention.
By way of recompense, they gave the Minyan survivors rejuvenation technology and a new home was established on another world - Minyos II. Unable to reproduce naturally, the Minyans sought their genetic race banks, but the ship carrying these - the P7E - had gone missing.
A commander named Jackson was despatched to locate it. His crew comprised Orfe, Herrick and Tala.
Their quest lasted thousands of years, but they eventually found the P7E in a region of space in which gravitational forces created new planets. The ship they sought was now at the heart of a new planetoid.
In the interim, the society on the P7E had degenerated. The ship's computer - Oracle - had developed an insane personality and now ruled like a god. Many of the crew's descendants were enslaved, oppressed by a tyrannical elite.
The Doctor and his companion Leela arrived on Jackson's ship - the R1C - just as it found the P7E, and they helped him retrieve the race banks from the Oracle. They left for Minyos II with the freed slave workers, whilst the computer and its elite were destroyed when the P7E was blown apart by explosives intended for Jackson's ship.

Played by: James Maxwell (Jackson), Alan Lake (Herrick), Jonathan Newth (Orfe), Imogen Bickford-Smith (Tala), Jimmy Gardner (Idmon), Norman Tipton (Idas). 
Appearances: Underworld (1977).
  • Underworld is based on the Greek myth of Jason and the Argonauts. This is reflected in the names: Jackson / Jason, Herrick / Heracles, Orfe / Orpheus, Tala / Atalanta. For Minyos read Minos, for RIC read Argos, and for P7E read Persephone, etc.
  • Jimmy Gardner first appeared in the series back in 1964, in Marco Polo.
  • Bickford-Smith's agent gained publicity for their client by claiming that she was a new Doctor Who companion.

M is for... Minotaur

Over the centuries the Doctor has encountered a number of Minotaurs - on Earth, in deep space and from out of the pages of the Greek Myths.
His first meeting was in the Land of Fiction. In this realm, characters from literature were brought to life, and this included the stories from legend. 
The original Minotaur came about after King Minos of Crete asked Poseidon to send him a snow-white bull which he would then sacrifice to the god. Instead, he decided to keep it. Angered, Poseidon caused the king's wife, Pasiphae, to fall in love with the bull. The pair mated, and she bore a son who was half-man, half-bull. Minos had a labyrinth built beneath his palace at Knossos and the Minotaur was sealed in. Tributes of young Athenians were despatched and sent into the complex to be devoured by the creature. Athens had been responsible for the death of the king's son.
Stories of the creature were passed from generation to generation by mouth, before being written down.
The Master of the Land of Fiction brought this mythical beast to life in another cave-like labyrinth.
The Doctor and Zoe were threatened by it, but the threat was neutralised as they knew it wasn't real so could not harm them.

The next Minotaur was no work of fiction. A young nobleman of Atlantis had asked for the strength of ten men from the Chronovore Kronos. The fickle creature made him half-man, half-bull.
He was confined to a maze of tunnels beneath the Temple of Poseidon, to guard the Crystal of Kronos which had the power to trap the Chronovore. When Queen Galleia sent her one-time lover Hippias to the temple to steal the crystal - at the urging of the Master - the creature killed him, and threatened Jo Grant who had followed to warn him. The Doctor arrived and tricked the Minotaur into killing itself when it smashed through a wall in its blind rage.
On the planet of Skonnos, the Doctor encountered a whole race of alien beings which resembled Minotaurs, in that they were bipedal, with bull-like heads. These were the Nimon.

Related to the Nimon was another Minotaur which fed on the psychic energy of its victims' faith. The race who worshipped it eventually rejected it, and it was confined to a maze-like space platform in deep space. New victims were transported to the complex, which resembled a 1970's hotel interior. Within each room was a representation of the person's greatest fear - which in turn caused them to turn to their faith in order to cope with it.
The creature died when starved of the energy it fed on - something it had actually longed for.

Played by: Richard Ireson (The Mind Robber, 1968), Dave Prowse (The Time Monster, 1972), Spencer Wilding (The God Complex, 2011).
  • Richard Ireson revealed that he had played the Minotaur in an interview with DWM in 1996. He was due to play the role of Axus in The Krotons for the same director (David Maloney).
  • Dave Prowse gets the credit for The Time Monster, but he refused to do any stunt work. It is Terry Walsh who crashes through the wall and grapples with Hippias.
  • Spencer Wilding played Darth Vader on Rogue One: A Star Wars Story.
  • The Nimon will be getting their own A-Z entry.

Tuesday 28 November 2023

Inspirations: The Vampires of Venice

The big clue is in the title...
Fans of Hammer Horror will have spotted one of the main inspirations for this story - especially the 1960 film The Brides of Dracula. This stars Peter Cushing as Van Helsing but - despite the title - Dracula doesn't actually feature. Instead, the vampire hunter is up against one of the Count's disciples - Baron Meinster - who targets a girls' school. 
One of the heroine's friends, played by Hancock's Half Hour's Andree Melly, is vampirised, and she emerges from her coffin in what looks like a white night dress. There are a number of female vampires across the Hammer range who dress similarly, though they are supposed to be in their shrouds. Skimpy night dresses are obviously sexier. (Hammer turned to sex  towards the end, to spice up their flagging horror films, which included the lesbian-focussed Karnstein trilogy, the second of which also revolved around a girls' school).
The girls in this story are being set up to be brides of vampiric creatures.

The Vampires of Venice just happens to also be centred around a girls' school - and the pupils who have been transformed tend to wander about in their white night dresses.
In the same way that most werewolf lore derives from The Wolfman (Universal 1941), so much vampire lore derives from Bram Stoker and the Universal & Hammer movies.
We have the extreme light-sensitivity, an apparent ability to fly, fangs, and failure to cast a reflection. An aversion to running water is naturally omitted.
Another horror film trapping is the sight of the failed "brides" lying in their coffins.
A draft script had Francesco climbing up the wall of a building, as Dracula does in the novel (but which Christopher Lee didn't get round to doing until Scars of Dracula, 1970).
We should also bear in mind that the writer, Toby Whithouse, was the creator and lead writer on Being Human - the darkly comedic drama about a vampire / werewolf / ghost flat-share.
Google this episode and you might have also come across a horror movie starring Klaus Kinski, reprising Graf Orlok in a sequel to Werner Herzog's Nosferatu remake. Released in 1988, it is titled Vampire In Venice.

The story is also designed to reintroduce Rory and bring him aboard the TARDIS as a full-time companion - setting him for major plot developments later on.
It has already been established that Amy has run away with the Doctor on the eve of her wedding, so here we see him attending his stag party.
Venice is regarded as one of the most romantic cities in the world (moonlit gondola rides, etc.) so this helped determine the location of the story - the Doctor is determined to keep the couple together.
The fact that Series 5 is partly being filmed in Croatia - just across the Adriatic from Italy - is another inspiration. Trogir has similar architecture to Venice.
Since the series returned in 2005 one of the taboos has been the depiction of blood on screen. Characters can meet the grisliest of fates, but you can't show the red stuff.
A bit of a problem in an episode about vampires...
The way round it is to substitute nice safe water, and the location agrees with this - Venice being built on a lagoon and famous for its canals.
The threat of the city sinking at the conclusion derives from the genuine issues Venice faces.
Next time: the Doctor encounters his very own Monster from the Id. Rory dies, but not for the last time...

Sunday 26 November 2023

Episode 93: Devil's Planet

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

As an alarm sounds across the Dalek city, Bret informs Katarina and Steven that he cannot wait any longer for the Doctor. He prepares for lift-off...
The Doctor hurries onboard at the last minute, and the Spar 7-40 speeds away from the surface of Kembel.
The Dalek Supreme orders that the ship must not be destroyed. A device called a Randomiser is to be used instead, which will disrupt its controls.
The Doctor informs Bret and his companions of what he learned whilst in the Dalek conference hall. He explains about the Taranium Core, and the Time Destructor weapon it powers. It must be kept from the Daleks at all costs.
On Kembel, Zephon is accused of threatening their entire scheme by the Black Dalek, thanks to his negligence. The delegate from the Fifth Galaxy attempts to shift the blame onto Chen, pointing out that his attackers appeared to be human. He threatens to take other delegates - Beaus and Celation - with him if the Daleks turn against him. Realising his threats are not enough, he tries to flee back to his ship but is surrounded by Daleks and exterminated.
On the Spar, the Doctor is demonstrating the power of the Core. He then asks Bret to locate a tape player, remembering the recording which he found in the jungle beside the skeletal remains.
They play this back and hear the message from doomed Space Security agent Marc Cory. 
This is evidence which can be taken to the authorities on Earth, possibly to Chen's deputy - a man named Karlton. Steven warns that he may also be involved with Chen's treason.
As the ship passes the planet Desperus, it suddenly goes out of control. The Daleks have operated their Randomiser device, forcing the Spar to crash-land.
Bret explains that Desperus is the penal world of the Solar System, a harsh jungle environment full of hostile wildlife, where prisoners are confined for life. Worst of the creatures are the Screamers - huge flying reptiles which emit a screeching noise which can eventually drive people mad. There are no guards here, and only prison ships delivering new convicts ever land.
The Daleks will send a pursuit ship to find the Spar crew, exterminate them, and retrieve the Core, well away from any Earth authorities.
To allay suspicions back home, Chen agrees to return to Earth. The Supreme furnishes him with a craft similar to his stolen one.
On Desperus, the arrival of the Spar is seen by a trio of convicts - Bors, Garge and Kirksen. Bors rules the group as he is the only one with a knife. They decide to steal the ship and make their escape.
As Bret carries out repairs, the Doctor sets up a defence by laying a power cable around the ship's hatch area.
This succeeds in knocking out Bors and Garge.
The Dalek pursuit craft approaches as the Spar lifts off - and they are pleased to see it crash-land more heavily than they had.
The Doctor asks Katarina to check that the inner airlock door has been closed properly.
However, Kirksen has made it onto the ship. Katarina screams as he seizes her and drags her into the airlock, sealing them both inside...
Next episode: The Traitors

Written by: Terry Nation
Recorded: Friday 5th November 1965 - Television Centre Studio TC3
First broadcast: 5:50pm, Saturday 27th November 1965
Ratings: 10.3 million / AI 52
Designer: Barry Newbery
Director: Douglas Camfield
Additional cast: Douglas Sheldon (Kirksen), Dallas Cavell (Bors), Geoffrey Cheshire (Garge)

Barry Newbery takes over design duties from Ray Cusick for the third instalment of The Daleks' Master Plan as the action moves away from Kembel. When we do cut back to the planet, it will be to a different Dalek control room setting until the closing episodes of the story.
The main setting for this episode is the planet Desperus - Terry Nation employing his usual naming convention once again. The planet is full of desperate convicts - hence Desperus.
We have very few images from this episode - other than photos taken on the Spar set - so can't see how different Newbery might have made Desperus look in comparison to the jungles of Kembel.
The soundtrack suggests that the setting was primarily at night, or that the planet was very dark, as there is a lot of reference to lights moving towards the crashed ship.
Another thing we can't know is the quantity or quality of the model work. I suspect that much of the spaceship action was achieved as "noises-off" - either through sound effects or characters simply describing what they see, like when the Dalek pursuit ship crash-lands.
The Screamers were achieved mainly through sound and lighting effects, though a large bat-like prop was also briefly seen.

The story moves onto a quest footing from this episode onwards, Nation revisiting the format he had employed in both The Keys of Marinus and The Chase.
This will become even more apparent once the TARDIS is retrieved in the sixth instalment - though the episodes which most resemble The Chase are ones written by Dennis Spooner.
One change from the draft script was the resolution to the threat from the convicts. Originally, they were to have been distracted by the arrival of the Dalek craft, enabling the Spar to escape.
Describing Desperus to the others, Bret explained that there had been a sudden leap in the crime rate 50 or 60 years before, which had prompted the Earth authorities to adopt the old "Devil's Island" model of imprisonment (see Trivia).
The principal convicts were named Breton, Wingate and Kirkland.

Cast as Kirksen was Doug Sheldon, who also used his full name of Douglas at times. He came from a carnival family background, so showbusiness was in the blood. In 1961 he had landed a small part in the classic war movie The Guns of Navarone. At the time he was sharing a flat with other hopeful young actors by the names of Michael Caine and Sean Connery.
A theatre performance led to Sheldon being offered a recording contract with Decca, despite the fact that he had never sung professionally. He released a handful of singles between 1961 - 64, the highest ranking of which reached 29 in the charts. A couple never charted at all, which led him to turn his back on the pop music business.
Concentrating more on acting, he then had small roles in many of the popular series of the 1960's, including The AvengersDixon of Dock Green and Softly Softly: Taskforce.
He later became a novelist.

Publicity images of Bret on the Spar flight deck were taken on the afternoon of recording, as were the photographs of Mavic Chen with Zephon and a Dalek lurking behind him.
Marc Cory's message was different to that heard in Mission to the Unknown. It is also delivered by someone else - Dalek voice man Peter Hawkins.
A camera script error had the "Next Episode:" caption read The Daleks' Master Plan, which had to be changed to The Traitors.
There was one brief cut for timing before broadcast. In this, the Supreme assured an underling that it would personally oversee Chen's destruction once his usefulness was at an end, which led into a scene with the Doctor and Katarina looking at an image of Desperus on a monitor in the Spar.

Like many other episodes, this one had the actors re-enact afresh the closing scene from the previous instalment as the reprise. This was not always the case. Some directors opted to simply edit in the footage from the previous episode close. As well as some different choice of shots or camera angles, this is noticeable in the poorer picture quality when you watch the material back on VHS or DVD.

  • The ratings continue to increase, rising to over 10 million, whilst the appreciation figure remains the same.
  • The episode title refers to Cayenne - Devil's Island - the notorious penal colony off the coast of French Guiana. Established during the reign of Napoleon III in 1852, this became infamous due to the Dreyfus affair, as a result of Emil Zola's J'accuse!.
  • A sequence featuring the Daleks' use of their Randomiser and the reaction of the crew of the Spar exists from this episode, thanks to its inclusion in an edition of Blue Peter.
  • Dallas Cavell had previously played the roadworks overseer in the second instalment of The Reign of Terror. He would go on to appear in stories featuring the Second, Third and Fifth Doctors, as well as JNT's Who-themed pantomimes (as one of the Ugly Sisters).
  • Geoffrey Cheshire had previously played the Viking commander in The Time Meddler. He was one of Camfield's rep of actors, and would later feature in The Invasion.
  • On Monday 29th November, the name of self-appointed guardian of the nation's morals - Mary Whitehouse - first became attached to Doctor Who. Newspapers were picking up on comments from some parents about how (in)appropriate the show was for children - especially the Daleks' propensity for death-dealing. Whitehouse tried to argue that the Daleks' chant of "Kill, kill, kill!" might incite a child to go out and do so... Radio Times featured a response from the BBC that programmes broadcast between 5 - 6pm were not necessarily intended for children. A parent also responded to Whitehouse, claiming she was talking "Twaddle".
  • This episode was the first of this story to get an Audience Research Report. There were 340 respondents and the reactions were mostly positive. Some people were critical of William Hartnell's performance, however.
  • Outside of the letters pages, for the third week running the programme had some attention from Radio Times:

Saturday 25 November 2023

The Star Beast - a review

Spoilers ahead...

As with Dalek or Human Nature - which were also based on pre-existing Doctor Who media - those of us lucky enough to have read the original Doctor Who Weekly comic strip which inspired The Star Beast already had a head start as regards the basic plot. RTD2 could have taken liberties with this, but he has elected to remain faithful and respectful to the source material.
It's condensed, of course - the comic strip ran over 8 issues. Certain subplots, mainly involving the Wrarth Warriors, are set aside as we cut to the heart of the story.
Cute alien crashes to Earth, hunted by nasty looking insectoid aliens. The Doctor and friends naturally assume cute is good and insecty is bad - only to find they've been fooled. Cute is a psychotic despot, and the insectoid bunch are out to arrest it. 
It's a "don't judge by appearances" tale, so hardly original. Doctor Who has been using this scenario since the Hartnell era.

As an example of the story type, however, it's a very good one thanks to character and design - and now performance. Into this mix we have the first story for a new, complex Doctor. Complex in that, for the first time, he's assumed a face he's worn before, and doesn't know why. 
In lieu of a scary or action-packed pre-credit sequence, we have the Doctor and Donna, separately, recapping for the benefit of those who missed, or can't recall, the events of 2008/9.
As performed, this isn't simply him looking like the Tenth Doctor. This is the Tenth Doctor, back again.
The first thing he does is bump into Donna Noble. Back in 2008/9, the coincidences  revolving around her and her granddad Wilf were cosmically significant. 
What's going on here, we don't yet know. Interestingly, in the accompanying Unleashed show, RTD2 claimed that in the third special they are going to do something never seen before in 60 years if the series...
We get a cryptic comment this week from the Meep about its "boss". Presumably this will be the Toymaker.

The Meep was wonderfully realised (details of how it was brought to life shown in the BBC 3 show). I worried about the voice in advance, but needn't have. 
I loved the new UNIT scientific adviser, Shirley Anne, and hope to see her again in the third special, and into the fifteenth series.
It was obvious from her first casting that Yasmin Finney's Rose would have some significance. Davies wouldn't be casting her just to use her as a background character.
Her true role turns out to be key - the reason why Donna regaining her memories doesn't kill her. The Metacrisis has been passed on and shared by mother and daughter.
A preview talked of this episode being preachy, but I didn't feel this. Yes, it has something to say about gender fluidity, but this is germaine to what's going on with the character in the context of the story. There's no lecturing going on, of the type we suffered under the previous regime. 
I'm sure most of us were looking forward to seeing Bernard Cribbins, but it looks like that bittersweet pleasure will have to wait until The Giggle.
Donna and the Doctor separated by a glass wall at the crisis point reminded us of Wilf and the Doctor in The End of Time II, and the Doctor producing a barrister's wig from his pocket looked like a nod to The Stones of Blood, which fell on the 15th anniversary.

The new TARDIS is magnificent. In general plan it has elements of the 2005 incarnation, but with different levels joined by sweeping ramps. What makes it special for me is the fact that its lighting can be changed to suit the scene or the mood. The plain grey look is impressive, but could be a bit cold and clinical if left unchanged over long periods - especially a space of this massive size.
(I recall wishing they'd bring back the original design, only to regret when they did it in Heaven Sent. It just lacked atmosphere). 
The new opening titles were wonderful - visually very exciting. I wasn't sure about the closing theme, which sounded overly cluttered with effects - not that we got to hear much if it thanks to those pointless continuity announcements. 
No preview of next week's episode - unless you switched to BBC 3.
Unleashed contained a brief clip from Wild Blue Yonder, and it was followed by a trailer. 

If I had one issue with the episode, it was to do with the contraction of the plot.
The true nature of the Meep is found out really rather quickly. It might have been nice to have prolonged the mystery a little longer, but the Doctor guesses what's going on after five minutes. 
A superb start to the new era, I think it could have benefited from an extra 30 minutes.

What's Wrong With... The Invasion of Time

One of the things we fans have is a knowledge of what went on behind the scenes on various Doctor Who stories. Some have a rough idea about the better known events, whilst others - and I count myself here - have a fairly in-depth understanding of the programme's history, thanks to reading a lot and absorbing all the extra detail to be found on the DVD releases, etc.
Whilst the casual viewer might watch a programme which appears to have been thrown together, has terrible set / effects, or is badly plotted, I know just why it may have come across that way on screen. It might not justify production decisions, but it does explain them as often as not.
Season 15 was particularly badly hit by two events totally out with producer Graham Williams' control - inflation and industrial unrest.
We saw how the former affected the previous story - Underworld. It was still a factor with the series finale, but added to this was the coincidence of a BBC strike.
This affected the studio work, so a lot more of the serial had to be made on location. This shows on screen - both in terms of the juxtaposition in image quality between film and video, and the nature of the locations themselves (a lot of brick walls in a futuristic space-time machine, for instance).

With The Invasion of Time, problems had reared their head long before the story went into production, however.
Script editor Anthony Read had offered the slot to an old friend, David Weir. A Gallifrey setting was requested, after the success of the previous year's The Deadly Assassin (and sets and costumes still existed, saving money). Weir came up with the idea that the planet's original inhabitants, who allowed the Time Lords to set up home there, were cat people. As cats like to play with and torment their prey, these cats would stage huge gladiatorial events. The script called for thousands of cat folk in an arena the size of Wembley Stadium. Did we mention inflation already...?
It quickly became apparent that the script was unworkable, but time was pressing. Williams and Read were forced to come up with a replacement at the last minute, keeping their Gallifrey location but ditching everything else.
BBC politics led to the story going out under the authorship of "David Agnew" - a pseudonym to be used if the writer wasn't supposed to be writing, or had withdrawn their name due to being dissatisfied with some aspect of a production.

As for the story itself, there was one other major headache to add to the others which had already plagued this production - the decision of the second lead actor not to renew their contract.
One thing everyone notices about The Invasion of Time is the hugely unsatisfying departure of Leela at the conclusion. From out of nowhere, she suddenly decides to stay in the rather dull and dusty environs of the Capitol to marry a man she has only just met and has barely interacted with throughout the previous six episodes.
If it's badly handled, it's because right up until the last minute Williams was hoping that Louise Jameson would change her mind. It was never going to happen - she had already signed up to play a pair of Shakespeare roles at Bristol Old Vic. She had already been compelled to suffer the antipathy of co-star Tom Baker for the last 18 months. He hated the character of Leela, and this crossed over to him being quite stand-offish with Jameson. The role was unrewarding, and the working environment was strained, so why put yourself through another year of it?
Williams and Read ought to have grasped this, so their lack of forward planning is hard to explain, let alone justify.

On to plot, and we can just about accept the Doctor taking Leela to Gallifrey so soon after him refusing to take Sarah. He is working under the malign influence of the Vardans, so isn't exactly tripping over himself to adhere to Time Lord rules or laws.
What doesn't make sense is his not dropping her off somewhere else first. On Gallifrey, he knows the risk she poses and has her thrown out of the Capitol at the earliest opportunity. Why bring her to his homeworld in the first place?
Whilst we have a reuse of set designs and costumes, the previous story had used a bit of TV trickery to show massed ranks of Time Lords in the Panopticon. The Capitol is rather sparsely populated in this story.
The relics of Rassilon - of which there are many - start to get a bit confusing. We heard about his key in the previous story, where it was identified as an ebonised rod which slotted into the floor and released the Eye of Harmony. That key is now the Rod of Rassilon, and the key looks like a conventional mortice one. Unless the Key of Rassilon and the Great Key are supposed to be two different things...
Other relics are introduced - like the coronet - or have new functions - like the Sash. It was implied in The Deadly Assassin that the latter was purely ceremonial and if it had a practical use it no longer works (it certainly didn't save the Lord President from being shot dead).
What is odd about these items is that K-9 - a machine - can use them to do what it does to eject the Vardans and time-loop them.
The Vardans travel via any form of wavelength, including thought - so why do they need a great big spaceship?
Why are the Vardans working for the Sontarans, and not the other way round? The ability to travel by thought etc. should have made them an invincible species.
When we finally get to see them, the image is greatly disappointing after the build-up...

Talking of Presidents, have the Time Lords really gone all this time without electing his replacement?
Borusa had previously specifically pointed out that it would not be a good idea for the Time Lords to be seen to be disorganised and leaderless.
It should have been obvious that the Doctor only invoked Article 17 to save his own neck, and never had any intention of actually becoming President of the High Council. Surely they weren't waiting for him to turn up again?
The space traffic control centre is one of the highest security areas on Gallifrey - but no-one seems to have thought about how the Transduction Barriers are powered. All you have to do is pop down the basement, knock out one guard, then blow up the machinery - and Gallifrey is defenceless.
Why do the people who have renounced life in the Capitol continue to live so close to it? With a whole planet to explore, you'd think they would have sought their new life well away from their old one.
A continuity gaffe is the Doctor wearing his scarf on the Vardan flight deck, whilst we can see it on the TARDIS hatstand at the same time, and he returns to the ship not wearing it.

The Sontaran two-parter feels tacked on at the end - partly in keeping with the Robert Holmes model of handling six part stories but also, presumably, a victim of the rushed rewriting process.
This also leads to a very confusing and underwhelming conclusion.
Much is made of how awesome the Demat Gun is, yet it simply acts like an ordinary laser rifle in the end. It is used to shoot two Sontarans, including Commander Stor, then the next thing we know the invasion's off.
If the weapon removed people and things from time, then that throws up all manner of paradoxes, such as how Stor could lead the invasion if he never existed in the first place. If the gun is sentient and can handle these paradoxes, then the story certainly never states it.
Stor knows all about the Great Key, but isn't aware that the Doctor and the President are one and the same. The entire invasion plan hinges on the Doctor becoming President. The Sontarans were employing the Vardans, so why did they not tell Stor this vital fact?
Why did Kelner try to destroy the TARDIS with the Doctor inside it - in possession of the key which Stor is looking for?
Why are there only a handful of Sontarans for such an important campaign as the invasion of the Time Lord planet?
Why was Stor put in charge of this mission, when he can't even put his helmet on straight?

Thursday 23 November 2023

A New Adventure In Space And Time...

Anyone who elected to skip the repeat of 2013's An Adventure In Space And Time missed a brand new cameo from Ncuti Gatwa, replacing the original appearance by Matt Smith. 
I did suspect they might do this, as Smith's cameo would have dated it by an entire decade. Wasn't sure it would be Gatwa necessarily. With him about to return on Saturday I thought it might have been Tennant. He is the current Doctor after all, though very much caretaking.

The Daleks in Colour - a review

I'm not so much of a purist that I disagree with any and all reimagining of old Doctor Who - provided it remains optional. I usually watch DVDs with the enhanced CGI, and sometimes prefer the omnibus versions of some stories if not feeling like sitting through the whole thing.
Tonight's The Daleks in Colour is apparently the first of four monochrome stories which have been colourised and edited to omnibus length. (If a new video from the BBC today is anything to go by, two of these may be The Dalek Invasion of Earth and Tomb of the Cybermen. The War Games is also rumoured - good luck cutting that to 74 minutes...).
As well as the colour, we have CGI inserts, new music, and a re-ordering of some scenes. Apparently this is to make this early material more palatable for da kids 'n' da yoof.
When it's released on DVD / Blu-ray next year, the original seven B&W episodes will be included - so no-one's being forced to accept this anniversary experiment.
And experiment it is - and only a partly successful one, I'm afraid.

It gets off to a bad start with a dodgy arrangement of the theme music. Overall, I thought the music terrible throughout. Some of it was far too loud and / or slapped over scenes where it just wasn't needed. It was really intrusive - like the scene where Temmosus and the Thals first appear. And as for that lift escape scene... Oh dear.
What was wrong with Tristram Cary's classic score (so good they used it several times afterwards)? I thought Mark Ayres was supposed to be some sort of guardian of the Radiophonic Workshop / classic soundtrack legacy. Dereliction of duty, I think. What made him think he could better any of it?
Personally, I think he was trying to match the Aaru movie at times. If that's the case, he failed, and I can watch the movie itself (where it's handled far better) if I really wanted that style.

The colour looks unnatural. I think they thought that if it's going to be colourised then best go the whole hog, but some constraint might have been nice. Some scenes were excruciatingly gaudy. If only they hadn't given Barbara that horrible acid-pink blouse, some of the scenes in the TARDIS and in the cell would have been fine. It stood out like a sore thumb in the cave sequences.
The CGI looked just like CGI. Not using the Shawcraft model, designed by Ray Cusick, in the opening scene I thought disrespectful to the series' pioneers.

The re-arrangement of scenes I could just about cope with - it was being condensed to 74 minutes after all, and is aimed at people who haven't seen the story loads of times, like me. Having a cut to the flashing radiation meter when the crew first start to feel unwell did smack of treating the audience like idiots though, unable to work things out for themselves or wait for the explanation in the monitoring laboratory scene.
Hartnell's fluff about "radiation gloves" was corrected - which takes half the fun out of these old episodes.
David Graham was brought back to add some new Dalek voices. Nice to use him, but you could clearly hear how his voice has aged. Other times you could hear Briggs, when whole swathes of Dalek dialogue had to be contracted. 
The Daleks say "Exterminate!" a lot, which they never did until later in the '60's. I suppose the newbies expect it.

As far as the actual narrative goes, it did its job reasonably well, bearing in mind that target audience. There were no big crucial scenes skipped. The action concentrates more on the first four episodes of the original. I suspected that the lengthy trek might be curtailed. A lot was padding anyway, when Nation was asked to extend the story by an episode. I was surprised at how much of the crevasse leap sequence was retained.
Did love the montage of clips at the end.
I'm glad I watched it - though mainly so I don't have to again, I'm afraid. Not unless I turn the volume and colour down on the telly... so I might as well just watch the story as Verity Lambert, Terry Nation, Chris Barry, Richard Martin, David Whitaker and Ray Cusick intended it to be seen - seven episodes long and in B&W.

Happy Doctor Who Day

Fingers crossed we might get word of the next Collection boxset or animation later today.
Will let you know my opinion on the colourised The Daleks later.
Enjoy the day.

Wednesday 22 November 2023

Countdown to 60: Back to the Future

It's the end, but the moment was always prepared for. Finally reached No.60...
I had assumed when I started these that the first of the Specials would have fallen on 23/11/2023. It won't be screened until Saturday, but tomorrow is still "Doctor Who Day".
(I also never thought that these posts would be so big, as the theme of each triggered a more substantial essay nine times out of ten).
This one is mercifully brief. 
In October last year, the BBC celebrated its centenary, and we were presented with the final story from Jodie Whittaker and from Chris Chibnall. The Power of the Doctor was an opportunity to look back as well as forward. We had appearances from two ex-companions in significant roles, with cameos from several others. We also got to see a number of old Doctors.
The regeneration was a mix of forward and backward looking, as the Thirteenth became the Fourteenth - but the latter looked and sounded just like the Tenth...
The previous anniversary story had also seen a mix of nostalgia and forward looking. It was another "Three Doctors", which looked back to another earlier incarnation (the War Doctor), and included an ex-companion (or at least the Bad Wolf version of Rose). Day of the Doctor also saw the eventual return of the Zygons, not seen since 1975. As far as the future was concerned, we had Gallifrey reinstated (albeit briefly) and our first glimpse of the Twelfth Doctor.
The Five Doctors was designed to be nostalgic, with first Robert Holmes then Terrance Dicks being handed a lengthy "shopping list" of elements to include. It was more about reminding the audience about the journey already taken
But the real The Three Doctors had also mixed the past with the future - in that the current Doctor was granted his freedom from exile at the conclusion.
Anniversaries are primarily about nostalgia and celebrating the history of the series. But they are also, for the most part, about looking forward to the future...
Can't wait for Countdown to 70...

Tuesday 21 November 2023

Radio Times (not so) Special

Radio Times talked about a Doctor Who special edition a few weeks ago, which naturally got our hopes up for something similar to that produced for the 10th and 20th anniversaries - even though they did little for the Big 5-0.
There's a few more pages than usual, but it's hardly jam-packed with features:

Monday 20 November 2023

Countdown to 60: (Dis)Continuity

A double one this - the 58th and 59th items in the Countdown to 60. I've decided to join them together as the first leads inexorably into the second...
As we mentioned the last time, Chris Chibnall had steered clear of continuity throughout his first series in charge. The series concluded with a lukewarm finale which was a real let-down. One of his failings throughout had been "tell, don't show" and an episode with a battle in the title, which opens after said battle is finished, is guaranteed to be anti-climactic (not the thing you want for an event episode). Stealing ideas from Douglas Adams didn't help either...
Coming only a few week's after The Battle of Ranskoor Av Kolos, a lot of fans prefer to think of Resolution as the real series finale. This brought the Daleks back - or at least a single specimen of the race. Chibnall manged to do something new with them, by having this one forced to construct a temporary casing out of scrap metal. 
Unfortunately we then had a year long gap in production, but when the series returned it was with a regenerated Master in its opening story, and a visit to Gallifrey - destroyed by the Master for some reason. Publicity images had already revealed that the Judoon would be back later in the series, and Cybermen were spotted on location by some fans. 
After a dearth of familiar elements, Series 12 was going to include lots of returning elements.
Unfortunately, Chibnall would stick with the Daleks for all three of his New Year stories, and they and the Cybermen would be back in Flux, along with Weeping Angels, and an Ood.
Chibnall went further with redesigned Sontarans and Sea Devils. Unlike Moffat, Chibnall respected their original designs and refused to make major changes.
His final story featured the very first Master-Dalek-Cyberman get-together.
Considering that he only ran two and a bit seasons, one of which featured zero continuity, by the time he departed Chibnall had given us the Master, Daleks - with their own mini-continuity - Cybermen, Sontarans, Weeping Angels, Ood, and Sea Devils.
It should have been a golden age - but one of these stories triggered the most divisive concept in the series' history...

Mention The Timeless Child and the vast majority of fans will scowl and prefer you didn't. I use the term "vast majority" advisedly, as - if the internet is anything to go by - the haters outnumber the likers.
True, haters might be more vocal and only appear to be in the majority, but I've done my homework and have found that far more people disliked it than loved it.
Even the accepters would rather Chibnall hadn't done it.
The sad fact is that there was never any need for it. We all love the Hinchcliffe-Holmes era, but they made a few cock-ups between them. Holmes thought that the Time Lords had been behind all of the Doctor's adventures to date, for instance. The pair also thought that there had been Doctors before the Hartnell incarnation, and this was written into The Brain of Morbius.
The Three Doctors had already made it explicit that there had only ever been those three.
The faces seen in the mental duel between the Doctor and Morbius could easily be explained away as incarnations of the latter. They are the last thing we see just before he loses, so as far as fans were concerned these were earlier incarnations of Morbius.

Fugitive of the Judoon, whilst adding to continuity with a returning monster, begins to mess with it in a major way. We had already seen a previously unknown incarnation of the Doctor in The Name / Day of the Doctor - but he had derived from within the Doctor's established timeline - between what we knew of as the Eighth and Ninth Doctors. Holmes and Saward had also given us the Valeyard back in 1986 - a future incarnation, so again one that could be contained within the established timeline.
At first glance, the Fugitive Doctor appears to be another such incarnation. She has a TARDIS in the shape of a Police Box for instance, and it only got stuck in that form after Totter's Lane.
The problem was, the Doctor clearly couldn't fit this incarnation into her timeline as she remembered it...
The resolution came in The Timeless Children, where it was revealed that the Doctor wasn't even a Time Lord. She was an immortal orphan from another universe who had fallen into this one, and been found by a Gallifreyan who then reverse-engineered her, genetically, to give her people the ability to regenerate. Her life since she looked like William Hartnell was simply that which she recalled. 
Prior to that there had been innumerable incarnations, who each had their memory wiped. She had also been a soldier / security officer - a member of some Black Ops Gallifreyan agency known as The Division.

Part of Chibnall's reasoning was that any child, of any ethnicity or gender, could be just like the Doctor. He also felt that he was opening up the format - suggesting that he found the established set-up as being constrictive in some way. No-one before him had ever thought this way.
Things could have been worse. A lot of people who would have hated all this had already stopped watching...

In the aftermath of the "Davros Controversy", here's something (by Jonathan Morris) I just read in the new DWM special 60 Moments in Time, pertaining to continuity:
"It's about maintaining the world of the series, making sure that the stuff the audience has been told to care about doesn't get contradicted or forgotten. Because when it is, it breaks the bond of trust between the writer and viewer".
"They (the showrunner) know it inside out - and know to check if not sure. Because if they start changing things that have already been established, they risk breaking the entire universe".
Someone tell RTD2...

Sunday 19 November 2023

Episode 92: Day of Armageddon

The Doctor returns to the TARDIS but is shocked to find it guarded by Daleks...
He discovers that Steven and Katarina have been talked into leaving the ship by Space Security agent Bret Vyon, and they are hiding in the bushes nearby. The Doctor scolds them for having left the TARDIS as they would have been safe there, and he and Bret argue about what their next move should be.
In the city, the Dalek Supreme orders that the jungle surrounding the complex be burned down, to kill or flush out the enemy aliens. Daleks armed with pyro-flame attachments spread out and set light to the vegetation.
Seeing what is happening, the Doctor decides that the city is the best place for them to make for. It takes them away from the fires, and the Daleks won't think to look for them there.
Mavic Chen is watching the fires from the city with a fellow delegate named Zephon. He is Master of the Fifth Galaxy, and appears to be a bipedal plant-based creature, clad in black robes and cowl. The pair spar verbally, with Zephon unable to conceal his arrogance. When it comes time to gather in the main council chamber, Zephon elects to keep the Daleks waiting.
Bret spots Chen's personal spacecraft and realises that his superior is in league with the Daleks. With the TARDIS unreachable, they decide to steal it since the agent knows how to pilot it.
Seeing Zephon alone, Bret knocks him out and the Doctor decides to borrow his robes in order to infiltrate the city and find out what the Daleks are up to.
He finds himself in the council chamber, and learns of the Time Destructor. This awesomely powerful weapon can manipulate time - capable of ageing enemies to death. It is powered by one emm of the ultra-rare mineral Taranium, which has taken fifty years to mine on the planet Uranus. This has been Chen's contribution to the Dalek masterplan to conquer the Solar System.
As Bret, Steven and Katarina break into the Spar 7-40, Zephon frees himself from his bonds and activates an alarm.
The assembled delegates panic, and in the confusion the Doctor is able to pocket the Taranium Core.
On hearing the alarm sound, Bret informs Katarina and Steven that he cannot wait any longer for the Doctor, and prepares to take off...
Next episode: Devil's Planet

Written by: Terry Nation
Recorded: Friday 29th October 1965 - Television Centre Studio TC3
First broadcast: 5:50pm, Saturday 20th November 1965
Ratings: 9.8 million / AI 52
Designer: Raymond P Cusick
Director: Douglas Camfield
Additional cast: Julian Sherrier (Zephon), Roy Evans (Trantis), Jack Pitt (Gearon), Ian East (Celation), Brian Edwards (Malpha), Gerry Videl (Beaus), John Camm (Technix Engineer), Dennis Tate (Technix Pilot)

Day of Armageddon is the first of three episodes from this story which survive in the archives. They permit us to see the alien delegates which make up the "United Galactic Headquarters", and so we can see how they have changed, often significantly, since Mission to the Unknown.
Malpha remains the same, though played by a different actor. Other costumes are amended. Some of the figures - such as the tall black chess piece-shaped character - have disappeared altogether. Celation, who has an odd floating movement and is covered in black spots, is new. Trantis is similar to his previous appearance, but no longer has facial tendrils, and he too is played by another actor.
Zephon was supposed to feature in the single episode story / prequel, but in the end there was no place for him. His absence is explained in this episode by him stating that he attended another conference, to allay suspicions.
In practical terms, the differences can be explained by this having a different director, with a different creative team behind him. Mission to the Unknown was also produced during the second season, but held over to this one. To the viewer, the changes occur after just six weeks, but several months separate the appearances in production terms.
Within the context of the narrative, the changes can be explained away as the names being the planets or galaxies which the delegates represent (such as we later see in the Peladon stories) - and these might have a diverse range of inhabitants.

The episode's survival also allows us to see Adrienne Hill as Katarina. For many years we only had a brief clip of her from The Traitors - the fourth instalment - courtesy of its inclusion in an edition of Blue Peter.
Another survival, prior to the rediscovery of the episode, had been some Ealing filming footage of the Daleks setting light to the jungle.
Day of Armageddon was returned to the BBC by one of its own former engineers - Francis Watson - in January 2004. He also possessed a copy of an earlier Dalek episode - The Expedition.

In Nation's first draft, the episode saw the time-travellers steal Banhoong's space yacht, and the Daleks set off in pursuit. The cliff-hanger was the crashing of the yacht.
It was specified that the Time Destructor would be used not to age enemies but to regress them into the past.
In a later draft, Chen's motivation for allying with the Daleks was outlined as a wish to reset Earth's history so that he could guide it down a new path, under his leadership (shades of Operation Golden Age).
Zephon was going to be President Elect of the Fourth Galaxy rather than the Fifth - changed, presumably, after Galaxy 4 came along. He was described as having incredibly long fingers. The robes were there from the start, as the Doctor needed a disguise to infiltrate the conference.
In studio, it was these costume changes between Hartnell and Sherrier which determined the recording breaks.
The Ealing filming of the pyro-flame-wielding Daleks had taken place on Friday 1st October. Three casings had been fitted with butane gas cylinders. A smoke effect was superimposed over some jungle studio scenes.
There was a slight technical fault at the close of recording when the end credits wouldn't run at the correct speed.

  • The ratings increase significantly, almost hitting the 10 million mark, though the appreciation figure drops slightly on the opening instalment.
  • The Core's mineral was originally going to be called Vitaranium. Donald Tosh realised that William Hartnell might have trouble pronouncing this, so Nation agreed to it being shortened to Taranium. The writer favoured words or names which were contractions of his own name - Taron, Tarrant etc.
  • There was a cut to the episode in which Katarina explained to Steven that she and Bret had taken him to a clearing which was free of Varga Plants. These creatures do not feature in this episode. They had only been seen as static props in the opening instalment.
  • Roy Evans will return to the series twice in the Pertwee era, playing miners on both occasions. He's Bert in The Green Death and Rima in The Monster of Peladon.
  • Zephon's chunky square amulet will later be sported by rogue Time Lord the War Chief in The War Games.
  • Chen claims that Zephon's position is under threat from the Embodiment Grise. This was inspired by the "Eminence Grise" - someone who wields power behind the scenes. The title was first used to describe Francois Leclerc du Tremblay, the right-hand man of Cardinal Richlieu.
  • With Christmas on the horizon, The Times published an item about Dalek merchandise on Monday 22nd November. 
  • The programme had a short feature in Radio Times for the second week running. This included an image of Chen with a Dalek: