Sunday 31 December 2023

Episode 98: Volcano

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.

On the planet Kembel, the Daleks are ready to test their Time Destructor - still unaware that the Core they retrieved from the Doctor is a fake. He, meanwhile, has discovered that there is another time machine following them on the same path. He suspects that the Daleks have discovered his deception and are now pursuing him once more.
With Mavic Chen and Trantis constantly trying to undermine each other, the Supreme decides to eliminate the conflict - by using Trantis to test the Destructor.
Placed in a sealed chamber with the device, the Supreme observes with Chen and Celation. They see it fail to work. Chen is accused of trying to deceive them, but he counters that the Daleks should have checked the Core themselves. A time machine is summoned from Skaro - then the Supreme orders that Trantis be exterminated anyway, sending a message to all of their alien allies that the Daleks can dispense with them if they no longer need them.
The TARDIS briefly materialises on a cricket ground - the Oval in South London - in the middle of a test match between England and Australia. Radio commentators Scott and Trevor worry only about the effect this might have on the home team's chances, and check the records to see if anything similar has ever happened before. The blue box vanishes a few moments later, and play continues.
When the time machine arrives on Kembel, Chen finds himself forced to accompany the Dalek pursuit force. Success or failure to find the Doctor and retrieve the real Core will be his responsibility.
The TARDIS next arrives on the hostile volcanic planet of Tigus. The time machine which has been following them materialises nearby in the form of a huge boulder. It is the TARDIS of the time-meddling Monk.
On escaping from the England of 1066 he has been determined to exact his revenge upon the Doctor. He will strand him here, as he was marooned, by sabotaging the TARDIS lock - leaving the Doctor and his companions shut out of the ship.
The Doctor is able to effect a temporary repair by harnessing the sun's rays through the crystal on his ring - explaining that the star in this system has strange properties. Frustrated, the Monk sees the TARDIS depart and so gives chase.
The ship materialises next in the middle of Trafalgar Square. It is seconds to midnight on New Year's Eve, 1965, and the Doctor, Steven and Sara witness the celebrations as the bells strike, heralding 1966.
They move on - unaware that the Daleks are now also on their trail...
Next episode: Golden Death

Written by: Dennis Spooner
Recorded: Friday 10th November 1965 - Television Centre Studio TC3
First broadcast: 5:50pm, Saturday 1st January 1966
Ratings: 9.6 million / AI 49
Designer: Barry Newbery
Director: Douglas Camfield
Additional cast: Terence Woodfield (Celation), Bruce Wightman (Scott), Roger Brierley (Trevor)

Dennis Spooner now takes over for the second half of the story, though he will be following notes by Terry Nation for some sequences.
From the outset, this episode was to have included a sequence set around a volcano, but was also going to be the instalment to feature the Hollywood film set. Knowing it was going to be broadcast on New Year's Day, it was to have ended with a rendition of Auld Lang Syne, though in what context we don't know.
Landings at a cricket match, a volcano, and finally Trafalgar Square were quickly settled on. Spooner wished to include the return of his Meddling Monk character - a component of his TARDIS allowing the Doctor to later steer his own ship properly. Initially he didn't feature until the ninth episode.
The Monk would add some humour to the story, and it was felt that Peter Butterworth might help lessen the load on Hartnell's shoulders. By this stage he had made his first Carry On... film - Carry On Cowboy, which also featured the future Doctor Jon Pertwee.
Elements of The Chase - script edited by Spooner - were brought back, including the Dalek time machine (still called a "Dardis" in the scripts), and the TARDIS time-path indicator which showed other traffic on the ship's route.
In the draft script, Sara ordered the Doctor to return them to Kembel, whilst he and Steven guessed that the Daleks would pursue them with one of their time machines. On being killed, Trantis was to have decomposed into a large blob on the floor.
The Monk explained how he had overcome the Doctor's sabotage of his TARDIS in 1066. 
The cricket sequence was to have been purely vocal, with the two commentators speaking over a view of the pitch.
Spooner suggested newsreel footage of New Year celebration in Trafalgar Square, ideally one which featured a genuine Police Call Box.

VFX footage of the volcanic surface of Tigus was mounted at Ealing on Monday 27th September, but the main filming took place on 8th October. This involved shooting on a 12 foot square model set. Lava flows were created using polyurethane filler squeezed up and lit from beneath the table. Unfortunately, the TARDIS model supplied by Shawcraft was not to scale with the set, so the footage was rejected.
Problems with this sequence were to continue, and it wouldn't be completed to Camfield's satisfaction until 15th November, on the fourth attempt.
A model TARDIS was filmed at Hammersmith Park on 25th October to show the ship on the cricket pitch.
Other filming of revellers, shot against a street corner backdrop, and of cricketers and an umpire, were completed successfully on 8th October.
The Time Destructor prop was created using a number of red plastic beakers, arranged in a starburst pattern in a circular metal frame. It was specifically designed to be lightweight as it was known that Hartnell was to carry it for much of the final instalment.

It has been claimed in some interviews that Kevin Stoney was given blue make-up to portray Mavic Chen. This came from someone who had seen the story being recorded in studio. However, his make-up was actually of an orange hue.
After being played by Ian East earlier in the story, Celation was now portrayed by Terence Woodfield, who would go on to play Maharis in The Ark. The costume was redesigned slightly to give him a more ghostly black and white face.
During the afternoon of recording, the script was changed to delete the Doctor's explanation of how he managed to open the TARDIS door - changing it to the one seen on screen. Hartnell disliked this change as he didn't think it fitted with established facts about his ring. (However, in The Web Planet, it had been shown to open the TARDIS doors after a light was shone through it).
The "Dardis" was the reused prop from The Chase. The evening's recording breaks were mainly to allow movement, on and off sets, of it and the Monk's disguised TARDIS - a large boulder.
Some stock footage from the BBC's own archives was used to illustrate the cricket match.
Other stock footage was used of volcanic activity. 
As well as using sealing foam as lava, dry ice was used to simulate volcanic geysers. At one point a pipe broke, sending dry ice shooting up Butterworth's cassock. 

After its light-hearted detour the previous week, the humorous content continues with the comedic cricket commentators and the return of the Monk. However, we also have the Daleks back after a week away - and see them exterminate one of their allies, seemingly on a whim, in the first few minutes. 

  • The viewing numbers and the appreciation figure bounce back significantly after the Christmas plunge last week.
  • Bruce Wightman had earlier been cast by Camfield as de Tornebu in The Crusade. He would use him again as a radio operator in Terror of the Zygons.
  • Roger Brierley was later cast to play the L3 robot Drathro in The Mysterious Planet. Suffering a claustrophobia attack, he couldn't wear the costume and so provided the voice only.
  • Despite having lived in 1960's London for at least 5 months, the Doctor does not recognise cricket when he sees it. He will later become quite obsessed with the game.
  • Assuming that the TARDIS hasn't travelled too far from New Year 1966, the test match must be the one played at the Oval on 13th August 1964 - the last time Australia had visited England on an Ashes tour. That match ended with a draw.
  • There's reference to an unseen visit to London by the TARDIS as the Doctor is reminded of the celebrations in Trafalgar Square on news of the lifting of the siege of Mafeking during the Boer War in May 1900.
  • Four extras - Peter Holmes, Ken MacGarvie, John Bohea and Geoffrey Witherick - played both an umpire and cricketers, and New Year's revellers.
  • We are extremely fortunate in having a number of behind the scenes colour images for this episode, taken in studio during rehearsals. At the top of this post we have Chen, Celation and Trantis with the Time Destructor prop behind them.

Whilst the time-path indicator in The Chase was simply a component on the console, above we see that it is now a large circular perspex unit dominating one wall of the TARDIS.

Above, an out of costume Kevin Stoney, cup in hand, can be seen chatting on the left, with the TARDIS crew rehearsing at the far end of the studio. The large free-standing domed item of Dalek equipment was previously seen in Mission to the Unknown.

Hartnell, Purves and Marsh on the Tigus set. You can see how part of the background is back-projected model footage.
And finally, below, a bird's eye view of studio TC3 as it was on the afternoon of Friday 10th November 1965, allowing us to see how the main four sets for the episode were laid out. The "Dardis" can be seen next to the TARDIS prop top right on the Tigus section, with the TARDIS interior bottom right. The Time Destructor chamber where Trantis meets his fate is top left, with the main Dalek control room bottom left.

Friday 29 December 2023

M is for... Monoids

Millions of years in the future, the Monoids sought refuge on Earth after their own planet suffered some terrible catastrophe. Reptilian in nature, they had a single eye beneath a thick mop of hair. Mute, they learned to communicate with humans via a form of sign language. 
When the Earth itself came under threat, the entire population - human and Monoid - embarked on a 700 year-long voyage to a new home on the Earth-like planet Refusis II. The majority were miniaturised and placed in suspended animation, but a certain number of humans were to act as Guardians, accompanied by a similar number of Monoids. They were used as servitors by the Guardians.
When the TARDIS materialised on the vast spacecraft - nicknamed 'the Ark' by the Doctor's companion Dodo - they noted how the Monoids were treated as a servant class.
Unfortunately Dodo was suffering from the common cold, and this ran riot through the Guardians and Monoids who lacked a natural defence to the virus, it having been eliminated generations ago. It proved fatal in this environment. The Doctor found a cure and the TARDIS departed - only to immediately arrive back on the Ark at a point 700 years later, when it was approaching Refusis II.

The Doctor and his companions discovered that the Monoids had taken over in the intervening centuries. They had grown stronger thanks to some after-effect of the cold virus, which had in turn weakened the Guardians. The Monoids had developed artificial voice boxes, and had also created heat-guns.
A revolution had taken place and the Guardians were now a slave class.
The Monoids adopted a numerical system to identify themselves, with their leader being "One".
Monoid One proposed to seize Refusis II for his people alone. Their miniaturised brethren would be transferred down to the planet, but the humans would be forced to remain on the Ark, which would then be destroyed by a powerful bomb.
There were some amongst his people who disagreed with Monoid One's autocratic rule, however, thinking he was leading them into danger. Civil conflict broke out between One's supporters and those of Monoid Four - his chief critic. The bomb was found and detonated harmlessly in space, thanks to one of the powerful incorporeal Refusians. Monoid Four's people were the victors in their internecine struggle, but many had been been killed on both sides.
Human and Monoid would have to learn to cohabit peacefully on Refusis II.

Played by: Edmund Coulter (One), Ralph Carrigan (Two), Frank George (Three), John Caesar (Four). Voiced by: Roy Skelton, John Halstead. Appearances: The Ark (1966).
  • The Beatles-like mop of hair was added to disguise the end of the zip which ran up the back of the costume. An early close-up shows how the eye is really half a ping-pong ball held in the actor's mouth by a small peg, which allowed him to manipulate it.
  • John Caesar appeared as a background artist in a number of stories, ranging from The Romans to Invasion of the Dinosaurs.
  • This is the first story to feature Roy Skelton, who would go on to take over from Peter Hawkins and David Graham as the voice of the Daleks for much of the classic era of the series.
  • A puppet Monoid features in The Time of the Doctor.
  • A deleted scene from An Adventure in Space and Time would have seen someone dressed as a Monoid attending Verity Lambert's leaving party - despite the fact that they weren't created for another year after that event.

M is for... Monks

A race of obscure origins who could take on any form they wished. When they attempted to take control of the Earth in the early 21st Century it amused them to look like animated human corpses.
Their mode of operation was to be invited to take over rather than to invade and conquer by force. The invitation had to be "pure". It could not be made through fear, for gain, or to deceive. Anyone harbouring ulterior motives was destroyed.
The Monks engineered situations in which the population would feel obliged to seek their help. Prior to this, they would run a complex simulation to test out all possible outcomes.
The simulated Doctor was able to warn his real-life self about their interest in Earth. They arrived in a vessel which looked exactly like an ancient pyramid, which appeared in a region contested by the US, Russia and China. This was a distraction however, as they were manipulating events at a biofuel research unit in England. A substance capable of destroying all organic life was about to be released.
In order to save the Doctor, his companion Bill Potts made them a genuine invite to take charge in return for saving his life.

Recognising the threat he posed, they had the Doctor incarcerated on a ship in the North Sea. They then set about rewriting history to incorporate themselves into every significant event, making people believe that the Monks were benevolent and had been guiding them for millennia. 
They exerted control psychically through the person who had invited them to take over - Bill - boosted through a network of giant statues of themselves which were disguised transmitters. Anyone who questioned their new truth was arrested and deported to a labour camp.
The Doctor escaped from his prison ship and sought help from Missy, as she had some experience of the Monks.
She told him of the psychic link, and told him of how she had once broken this by killing the person - a girl whom she pushed into a volcano.
The Doctor and his friends broke into the Monk's pyramid in the centre of London where they found one of the aliens acting as a focus for their psychic powers. The Doctor's attempt to interfere with this failed, but Bill was more successful - using memories of her mother to override the Monks' transmissions.
The public rapidly came to realise the true nature of the Monks as the truth reasserted itself. Lacking neither the means nor the will to conquer by force, the Monks took to their craft and abandoned the planet.

Played by: Jamie Hill. Voiced by: Tim Bentinck. Appearances: Extremis, The Pyramid at the End of the World, The Lie of the Land (2017).
  • The Monks as they appeared at the Doctor Who Experience in Cardiff in September 2017:

M is for... Monk

When the TARDIS materialised in 11th Century Northumbria, the Doctor discovered evidence of anachronistic technology at a remote monastery. The solitary monk who resided there turned out to be a member of his own race. The Monk had left their home planet some fifty years after he had. Rather than explore the universe, he instead wanted to exploit it - for financial gain, and simply for fun.
The Doctor branded him a time-meddler. 
His TARDIS was disguised as a Saxon sarcophagus in the monastery chapel, and contained many treasures he had looted over the course of his travels.
His diary revealed that he had helped ancient Britons to build Stonehenge with the help of anti-gravity lifts; had given Leonardo da Vinci ideas for powered flight; and deposited money in a bank in 1966 so that he could collect a fortune in compound interest 200 years later.
He was in the north-east of England at this time in order to subvert the course of history. He wanted to ensure that King Harold won the Battle of Hastings by preventing him from having to travel north to fight the Vikings at the Battle of Stamford Bridge. He would lure the Viking fleet into a trap - destroying it with an atomic bazooka.
The Doctor and his companions were able to turn the local villagers against him and he was forced to abandon his plans. The Doctor sabotaged his TARDIS - removing the dimension control so that the interior matched the size of the exterior shape - leaving him stranded in 1066.

He succeed in bypassing the sabotage and set out to pursue the Doctor and gain his revenge. On the volcanic world of Tigus he sabotaged the TARDIS lock so that the Doctor would be stranded as he had been. However, the Doctor was able to use the light of the planet's sun, focussed through the crystal in his ring, to make a temporary repair.
He then followed the Doctor to ancient Egypt, where his TARDIS materialised in the form of a stone block at the building works for the Great Pyramid. Unfortunately, he was not the only one hunting the Doctor. A Dalek time machine had also arrived, containing a pursuit group accompanied by the villainous Mavic Chen. They sought the Doctor to retrieve the vital Core of their Time Destructor weapon which he had stolen. The Monk was forced to help them locate him.
His attempts to flee in the Doctor's TARDIS all failed. When he tried to waylay the Doctor in the pyramid's tomb, he found himself bound up in wrappings and deposited in a sarcophagus.
Captured by the Daleks along with Steven and Sara Kingdom, the Monk tried to benefit from the situation by claiming that he had actually delivered the Doctor's companions as hostages to them. 
Freed as part of an exchange, the Monk fled to his TARDIS - only to find that the Doctor had altered its appearance to look like his own ship to distract the Daleks. On leaving Egypt, he found himself on a bleak ice planet - and discovered that his TARDIS had been sabotaged once again. This time its directional control had been taken by the Doctor - leaving him unable to navigate.

Played by: Peter Butterworth. Appearances: The Time Meddler (1965), The Daleks' Master Plan (1965-66).
  • Butterworth (1915 - 1979) is best known for his regular appearances in the Carry On... series of films. His first was Carry On Cowboy - made soon after first appearing as the Monk - and his last was the series' final regular entry in 1978, Carry On Emmanuelle.
  • A POW in WWII, he had been held at Stalag Luft III where he met the future writer of the Carry On's, Talbot Rothwell. The camp became famous for the 'Wooden Horse' escape. When he learned later that this was to be made the subject of a movie he auditioned - only to be rejected on the grounds that he didn't look like a POW...
  • In 1946 he married Janet Brown, the impressionist best known for her comic portrayals of Mrs Thatcher.
  • Butterworth died whilst on tour as Widow Twankey in pantomime, suffering a fatal heart attack in his hotel room. One of his movies - The First Great Train Robbery, starring Sean Connery - had just been released in the cinemas at the time.
  • Apart from an emergency call-back to help launch the Second Doctor, Dennis Spooner moved on from Doctor Who after The Daleks' Master Plan, so we were denied a third meeting with the Meddling Monk. The character has, inevitably, returned in other media - joining forces with Ice Warriors in a DWM comic strip for instance. On audio he has been played by Graeme Garden and Rufus Hound, and even David Tennant.
  • In spin-off material he has been named Mortimus.

M is for Monitor

The Monitor was the leader of the Logopolitan people. An ascetic race devoted to advanced mathematics, they had refined the technique of Block Transfer Computation, in which numbers could be made to shape matter and energy.
The Doctor sought out the Monitor and his people when he wanted to overhaul the TARDIS, starting with the long-faulty Chameleon Circuit, which was supposed to alter its external appearance to match its surroundings. 
The ship materialised around a real Police Box near London in order that he and Adric could measure it. Despite almost falling prey to a trap by the Master, the Doctor then travelled to Logopolis. He was surprised to see a radio telescope dish - a reproduction of the Pharos Project on Earth - overlooking the community, as the Logopolitans always worked out their calculations mentally, intoning their formulae.
Unfortunately the Master followed and sabotaged the calculations, then attempted to blackmail the Monitor into revealing a great secret he knew them to be hiding.
It turned out that the universe had long passed its natural end due to entropy, and the Logopolitans were extending its life by allowing the passage of energy through Charged Vacuum Emboidments - CVEs. These were portals to smaller pocket universes such as E-Space.
The Master's meddling caused entropy to accelerate and the universe began to crumble to dust. The Monitor died with his people and his planet - but he had prepared for their work to be run from the real Pharos Project in England.

Played by; John Fraser. Appearances: Logopolis (1981).
  • Fraser (1931 - 2020) was nominated for a BAFTA for playing Lord Alfred Douglas - "Bosey" - in The Trials of Oscar Wilde (1960). Tom Baker, who played Wilde on stage, recalled this role on the Logopolis DVD commentary.

M is for... Monarch

Monarch was the supreme ruler of the toad-like Urbankan race. He had made repeated visits to Earth over many thousands of years, each voyage taking half the time as technology advanced. A small group of humans would be taken on these visits, with Monarch's declared aim being that he wished his people to settle on Earth after Urbanka became uninhabitable. 
The TARDIS arrived on his vessel as it neared Earth on its final journey. Monarch was accompanied by only two other Urbankans - his ministers Enlightenment and Persuasion.
The Doctor was suspicious of how oxygen was only provided in areas in which he and his companions were permitted, and there was no sign of the millions of other Urbankans said to be aboard.
The truth dawned when the two ministers appeared looking exactly like sketches Tegan had made of current Earth fashions. They had android bodies, and their fellow creatures existed only in microchip form.
Monarch had an abhorrence for what he called the "flesh time" and sought to abolish organic forms. He wanted control of Earth in order to exploit its minerals, having exhausted the resources of Urbanka in the pursuit of his ultimate goal.
That was to travel even faster and go back in time to meet the universe's supreme being - which he expected to be himself.
Life on Earth was to be eliminated using a deadly toxin which shrank organic matter. 
He manipulated Adric into helping him, hoping to steal the TARDIS. 
It transpired that despite his expressed loathing for the "flesh time", he had in fact retained his own organic body. The Doctor used the toxin to destroy him.

Played by: Stratford Johns. Appearances: Four to Doomsday (1982).
  • Johns (1925 - 2002) was best known for his long-running role as Inspector Charlie Barlow. The character first appeared in 1962 in Z-Cars, before featuring in spin-offs Softly, Softly, then Softly, Softly: TaskforceBarlow at Large and finally in Second Verdict in 1976.
  • Having seen how Rupert Davies had been typecast after playing Maigret, Johns was determined not to have this happen to him and so took on a diverse range of roles in the early '80's, of which Monarch was one.
  • In 1981 he gave a memorable turn as the game-playing Belkov in an episode of Blake's 7, in the episode "Games".

Thursday 28 December 2023

Story 280: Arachnids in the UK

In which the Doctor finally gets her companions back to Sheffield. Graham returns to the home he shared with Grace, now haunted by her memory. He is shocked to find so many spider webs in the short time he has been away. He finds a letter for Ryan, from his father.
The Doctor is invited into Yaz's home and meets her family. Her dad tends to be swayed by conspiracy theories, whilst her sister wants her to move out so she can have her bedroom. Her mother, Najia, is about to begin a new role managing a big new golfing hotel on the outskirts of the city. This is one of US millionaire Jack Robertson's properties, and he is there with his PA Frankie and bodyguard Kevin and taking a look around prior to it opening. Frankie is his niece-in-law, and she warns him there is a problem here which money can't fix. He sends her down to the basement and report back to him what she has found there. He then discovers that one of the bedrooms is full of spider webs.
When Najia arrives, Jack is sure she has overheard their talk of a problem. He shows her the web-filled room, tells her he is unhappy with her work, and promptly fires her.

The Doctor is alerted to an issue at the block of flats in which Yaz's family live, as a young woman is concerned that a neighbour is not answering her door. Yaz gets a call from her mother to come and collect her, and sets off for the hotel. When Yaz's dad mentions that he has been trying to deliver a parcel to the neighbour for a few days now, she uses it as an excuse to get involved. The young woman - Dr Jade McIntyre - is still there at the door and there still isn't any response. The Doctor uses her Sonic to open the door and they enter, and are immediately concerned by the mess. They go into the bedroom and find it covered in webs - and the occupant is dead in bed, wrapped in web like a cocoon. They then encounter a gigantic spider. It appears to have gained entry through the rubbish chute, and the Doctor decides it must be trapped here to prevent it getting into the wider community.
At the hotel, Jack is angered by the arrival of Yaz - with Kevin even pulling a gun on her.
Graham arrives at the flats and tells the Doctor of the webs he found at his house. It transpires that Jade is a scientist who just happens to study arachnids, and the dead woman was her assistant. The Doctor thinks this too great a coincidence, and they all go to Jade's laboratory to see what they were working on. Ryan is uninterested in the letter from his father, which Graham gives to him.

The Doctor plots the sightings of giant spiders on a map of the city, and discovers that they centre on the golfing hotel complex. They all head there and are reunited with Yaz and her mother. As Jack uses a bathroom to freshen up, the tub is smashed apart as a giant spider emerges. He flees - leaving Kevin to deal with it. The Doctor takes charge and they encounter more spiders. Exploring, they discover a series of tunnels beneath the hotel from which the creatures seem to be coming. They find Frankie, cocooned like the neighbour. Following one of the main passages they come to a huge subterranean chamber which is full of rubbish, including toxic waste. It becomes obvious that Robertson has built his hotel on waste ground without first clearing the site. The chemical waste has mutated the local spiders, causing them to grow to their great size. 
A plan is formulated to imprison the spiders in a kitchen storeroom, attracting them with loud music. Only a vast female spider remains at large, but it is struggling to cope with its change in size. As the Doctor tries to work out what to do with it, Jack shoots it dead - arguing that he has simply put it out of its misery. The Doctor calls upon UNIT to clear up the situation. Ryan, Yaz and Graham elect to continue their travels with the Doctor - aware that she had been reluctant to see them leave the TARDIS.

Arachnids in the UK was written by Chris Chibnall, and was first broadcast on Sunday 28th October, 2018.
The title is a play on the 1977 Sex Pistols punk anthem Anarchy in the UK.
The episode introduces us to Yaz's family - mum Najia, dad Hakim, and sister Sonya. Unlike previous companion families since 2005, they will feature very little in forthcoming stories.
Someone who will return in a significant way is the American businessman Jack Robertson. He is clearly based on Donald Trump and, in case no-one spotted this, the former POTUS is name-checked. 
Robertson is arrogant, selfish and not very bright. Ordinarily, characters such as he usually have something particularly nasty befall them. He's directly responsible for two deaths - those of Frankie and Kevin. They may fall victim to spiders, but in both cases they are placed in danger through his direct instruction. It's rather annoying to see him walk off, seemingly scot-free, at the conclusion.
It is he who kills the biggest spider, and unfortunately this scene flags up a major problem with the series under Chibnall. We've already seen the Doctor rather powerless within the narrative - either hidebound by history or by her newly acquired insistence on being a pacifist.
Here, the Doctor dithers as the spider slowly suffocates to death, so when Jack shoots it he really is putting it out of its misery and proactively resolving the situation. The Doctor just stands impotently by.

'Giant' spiders almost featured in the very first Doctor Who story, back when it was hoped that the first one would involve the TARDIS shrinking the Doctor, Susan and the two Coal Hill school teachers to an inch in height. Having what might be termed a "Bug Eyed Monster" on screen was just one of the reasons for the "Miniscules" story being deferred for mounting another time. They finally made it on screen right at the end of the Pertwee era. Planet of the Spiders used a mix of static props, puppets and clockwork spiders to realise the rulers of Metebelis III.
Most recently we had seen huge spider-like creatures on our Moon in Peter Capaldi's first series, though these were supposed to be oversized microbes. Between, spiders or spider-like creatures featured only very rarely in the series - mainly  due to the difficulty of realising an effective 8-legged creature. The marsh-spiders of Full Circle were brought to life in a mix of ways similar to those in the Pertwee finale.
Of the cast, the main guest artist is Chris Noth, playing Robertson. Noth was very well-known for his role as Mr Big in Sex and the City, and prior to that a regular role in Law & Order.
Yaz's family comprises Shobna Gulati as Najia - best known for her long-running role in Coronation Street; Ravin Ganatra as dad Hakim; and Bhavnisha Parmar as Sonya.
Frankie is Jaleh Alp, and Kevin is William Meredith. 
Playing Jade is Tanya Fear, who featured in the 2013 superhero comedy-drama Kick-Ass 2.
We also have a cameo from Sharon D Clarke as Grace, remembered by Graham at their old house.

Overall, it really ought to have been one of the highlights of the season, but suffers from the Doctor's impotence, coupled with the caricatured nature of Robertson. The tone of the episode is all over the place. A number of polls placed this second from bottom for the series.
Things you might like to know:
  • This episode provides us with our first glimpse of the new Space / Time Vortex through which the TARDIS passes. Often in the past  resembling the series' titles sequence, here we see that it comprises multiple paths which the ship can take.
  • The Sex Pistols influenced title was suggested by Vinay Patel - part of Chibnall's "Writers Room" approach to scripting - who was working on his own story for later in the season.
  • There is a trope in drama known as "Bury your gays", in which non-straight characters are introduced by a writer or director who are denied any sort of happy ending. Quite often they are killed off, or at best denied the sort of happiness which straight characters are given. It is often seen as a form of tokenism - including a minority character in your drama when you have absolutely no intention of actually doing anything with them. Chibnall will be guilty of this, and it begins here with Frankie. There is no reason whatsoever to present her as a lesbian character. She's there simply to be killed off in the next scene.
  • The Doctor mentions having had sisters. 
  • As well as Trump we have references to Ed Sheeran and Stormzy (whose music lures the spiders into their trap). 5 years later they are all still newsworthy, but contemporary cultural references have a habit of ageing some stories quicker than others.
  • When shown in Brazil, the Sheeran reference was amended to Silvio Santos, a Brazilian businessman, media baron and would-be populist politician.

Wednesday 27 December 2023

What's Wrong With... The Androids of Tara

A lot of Doctor Who stories wear their inspirations on their sleeves - as my regular  "Inspirations" posts have already amply demonstrated. Just think of all the classic horror movies and Gothic novels which Robert Holmes "homaged".
The problem with The Androids of Tara - the second story from the pen of writer David Fisher - is that the source is too apparent...
He has pretty much transplanted the bulk of the plot of the classic novel The Prisoner of Zenda into a Doctor Who setting. Anthony Hope's novel, first published in 1894, has been adapted for the large and small screens on many occasions, the best known being the 1937 movie version starring Ronald Colman.
Not only has Fisher plundered the plot, but he even employs parallel characters, like Zadek replacing Captain Zapt, or Count Grendel replacing Duke Michael.
The Key to Time is at its least relevant here. Not only can the Doctor not be bothered to go look for it, regardless of the threat from both the Black and the White Guardian, but Romana finds it a couple of minutes into Part One, then everyone forgets about it until the last three minutes of Part Four.
Clearly Fisher wasn't all that interested in the arc, and paid the Key only lip service. We saw similar with his previous story for this season.

The one everyone talks about - the Taran Wood Beast. It resembles a man in a furry suit wearing a papier mache mask so much that some fans have theorised that it is supposed to be a man in a furry suit wearing a papier mache mask... 
Basically, Count Grendel gets some lackey to dress up so he can go hunt them.
Grendel has a large complement of men, but the heir to the throne of Tara appears to have just Zadek and Farrah to call upon. Where is his army? Even in their attack on the castle at the end, he seems to have only a handful of men.
Why base himself, practically unguarded, in a remote lodge which seems to be easily accessible by Grendel?

The TARDIS has costumes for different planets - but fashions change over time. Why would the outfit necessarily match the time-zone in which the TARDIS might arrive, as here? The presence of the outfit suggests that the Doctor must have visited Tara before - but there's no evidence on screen that he recognises it. The other option is that all TARDISes come already equipped with outfits for different planets - but again that doesn't explain them fitting the correct time-zone.
K-9's blaster comes from everywhere apart from where it's meant to come from.
Tom Baker clearly gets impatient waiting for the VFX to cut through the wall, so punches the piece out. It may also be in character, but I think we can see Tom's infamous irritability bleeding into the performance.
When Madam Lamia is shot, the guard just happens to hit her right in the middle of the amulet she hangs round her neck - just where a VFX man might hide a small explosive charge...
With Mary Tamm playing four roles - Romana, Strella, android Romana and android Strella - the split-screen work has to be up to scratch. It is - mostly - but we see Grendel's arm disappear in the scene in Lamia's workshop where the android Romana is first unveiled.

Monday 25 December 2023

The Church on Ruby Road - A Review

The Church on Ruby Road
is our first Christmas Special since Peter Capaldi handed over to Jodie Whittaker in 2017, and follows hot on the heels of the third 60th Anniversary story which introduced us to the latest incarnation of the Doctor, as portrayed by Ncuti Gatwa. (Apparently Disney are counting this as the fourth 60th Special, and it's only from this point that they are seriously plugging the show).
Our first proper look at the 15th Doctor, this episode also introduces Millie Gibson's Ruby Sunday - her character named from the titular church, for her backstory is that she was found abandoned as a baby there. She has since been brought up by a family in Notting Hill, West London.
It's a very long time indeed since we had a companion who simply wanted to travel with the Doctor for the fun of it. They all have to have ulterior motives or have some complex mystery in their past these days, and they have to be embedded within a family unit of some kind (even if they are sometimes rarely used).
With her true parentage unresolved, Ruby is obviously going to be no exception to the rule. (RTD2 has already said that the church will be revisited at some point in the next couple of seasons).

We've conditioned ourselves not to expect too much from the festive specials, the argument always being that they're aimed at a general audience which might not normally watch the series. With the way people view TV nowadays, that argument should no longer hold. There's a great deal of material available on streaming services, so Doctor Who on 25th December, or 1st January, is only really being watched by those familiar with the programme.
Not expecting too much would have done you a favour with The Church on Ruby Road, however.
The plot is wafer-thin. We get only two significant sequences with the Goblins, one of which was already featured heavily in the recent music video. The other was their defeat, which was rather hurriedly done.
The bulk of the 55 minute running time was pure soap.
I can well imagine any casual viewer losing patience with the opening section, which dragged. We had a pointless cameo from Davina McCall then a very lengthy set-up of Ruby and her adoptive family - mother Carla and gran Cherry.
The Doctor comes across Ruby a few weeks beforehand, and is interested in her due to the interest that the Goblins have in her. There's a lot about the power of coincidence, as Carla takes in a new baby on the same day she had taken in Ruby.
The exact nature of the Goblins is never explained, other than they have some relationship to Time, and eat babies. 
As mentioned, they are really underused, with RTD2 borrowing from Gremlins and Return of the Jedi for their makeup. 

If the plot is lightweight and soapy, we need some decent performances to hold our attention. Luckily Gatwa and Gibson are eminently watchable. Her character is still a bit of a "make-your-own" companion cliche, but we are already starting to see some of Gatwa's range. A lot of people were spouting the "he's already my favourite Doctor" garbage after he'd only appeared on screen for a few minutes, but others - myself included - cautioned that we really needed to see how he handled the darker material before judgement could be made.
We saw some of this here, like the scene in which he realises that Time has been rewritten, but overall the episode was too flimsy and cartoonish to allow him to really demonstrate what he can do with the role.

Plot, 3 / 10, visuals, 8 / 10, performances, 7 / 10. A harmless bit of fluff for Xmas, and that's really the best thing you could accuse it of.
When the thing people are probably talking about the most is a comment by an incidental character in a pause in the closing credits, then you know it can't have been a terribly strong episode.
(And the song? Could easily have been cringeworthy but I thought it worked okay as incorporated into the sequence. Singing or dancing to distract your enemy is perfectly compatible with the Doctor's style. Just don't make a habit of it...).

Richard Franklin (1936 - 2023)

Hate to put a damper on Christmas Day, but we've just had the sad news that Richard Franklin - UNIT's Captain Yates - has passed away at the age of 87.
When Barry Letts was looking for a new regular, to work alongside the Brigadier, he went to the theatre and saw a play in which Franklin was appearing. At the interval he mentioned his quest to the person sitting next to him, stating that Franklin was the sort of actor he was after. His neighbour turned out to be Franklin's agent.
He featured as Yates from The Terror of the Autons onwards, but theatre work sometimes led to him sitting some stories out (such as The Three Doctors).
Very rare for its time, Franklin was given a story arc for his character, which got underway in The Green Death, in which he was hypnotised into trying to kill his friends. The affect this had on him led to him actually turning traitor, as he joined Operation Golden Age in Invasion of the Dinosaurs.
His treachery uncovered, he was quietly retired from UNIT, but found redemption in Planet of the Spiders - his last full-time story.
Franklin appeared in the CiN adventure Dimensions in Time, and his final appearance as Yates was as a phantom version of him in The Five Doctors.
More recently he appeared on the sofa with Katy Manning and John Levene to review Season 10 episodes.
He attempted to enter Parliament many times, including standing for the Lib Dems, the Referendum Party, UKIP, and his own "Silent Majority" party - obtaining votes ranging from 78 to 5273.
One of his last screen roles was in Rogue One: A Star Wars Story.
Richard Franklin, RIP.

Sunday 24 December 2023

Have A Masterly Merry Christmas!

Episode 97: The Feast of Steven

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.

The TARDIS has materialised at its next destination - but the Doctor announces that the atmosphere outside is highly toxic...
It is not some far distant alien world, however, but a city in Northern England.
The Doctor decides that he will carry out the repair to the scanner himself as he is used to alien environments, whereas they hail from a time when the air was much purer, and the pollution would harm them.
The TARDIS has already been noted by the local police force, for it has materialised right outside their station.
When he emerges he is spotted by a Constable who suspects him to be a vagrant squatting in their new Police Call Box. He is taken inside to be questioned by an Inspector from CID.
Steven has observed this and follows him out of the ship. He spots a spare uniform in the back of a car and puts it on. Posing as an officer from another division, he claims to know the Doctor of old so as to help extricate him. Fed up waiting, Sara then follows them both. She is also arrested, but Steven helps her and the Doctor flee back to the TARDIS which dematerialises - leaving the policemen wondering where their new call Box has gone.
The ship rematerialises after a few minutes - and they are shocked to see a man dragging a young woman towards a circular saw.
Rushing to the rescue, they discover that they are actually in a Hollywood film studio of the silent era.
A Victorian melodrama is being filmed on the sawmill set, starring Blossom Lefavre and Darcey Tranton, and directed by Steinberger P Green. He sees Steven and Sara in action and wants them for his next movie.
Sara then find herself on the set of a movie about an Arab Sheikh, and director Ingmar Knopf also wants her to be his next big star. The Doctor is mistaken for an English professor named Webster, who has come to Hollywood to act as adviser, and meets a clown who is thinking of changing careers - but is worried about being taken seriously with a name like Bing Crosby.
After being chased by the directors and getting mixed up with the 'Keystone Cops', they finally make it back to the safety of the TARDIS.
As they ponder the weird environment which they have just left, the Doctor appears with a tray of  drinks. He points out that when they had been at the police station he had noticed that it was Christmas Day. They rarely have the opportunity to acknowledge these events in their travels, so will do so now.
The Doctor wishes everyone a Merry Christmas...
Next episode: Volcano

Written by: Terry Nation
Recorded: Friday 3rd December 1965 - Television Centre Studio TC3
First broadcast: 6:35pm, Saturday 25th December 1965
Ratings: 7.9 million / AI 39
Designer: Raymond P Cusick
Director: Douglas Camfield
Additional cast: Clifford Earl (Police Sergeant), Norman Mitchell, Malcolm Rogers (Policemen), Keneth Thornett (Detective-Inspector), Reg Pritchard (Man in Mackintosh), Sheila Dunn (Blossom Lefavre), Leonard Grahame (Darcy Tranton), Royston Tickner (Steinberger P Green), Mark Ross (Ingmar Knopf), David James (Sheikh), Paula Topham (Vamp), Robert Jewell (Clown), Albert Barrington (Prof. Webster), Buddy Windrush (Props Man).

Of all the missing episodes of Doctor Who, The Feast of Steven is the one least likely to ever be recovered. The reason for this is simple: it was never sold to any overseas territory thanks to its uniquely festive nature. Unless the original BBC master copy turns up, this is lost forever.
Having listened to it, there are many who might argue that this is no great shame...
As soon as it was noted that the seventh episode of The Daleks' Master Plan would fall on Christmas Day, it was realised that this instalment would need to be something different. It had to be lighter in tone, and it was decided that the Daleks should not actually feature. After The Chase, it was clear that the Daleks and humour did not go happily hand in plunger.
Whilst there would be mild threat, there would be no deaths in this episode.
The production team were looking to The Chase for the second half of their Dalek epic. A pursuit through time and space would help it reach its necessary twelve episode duration, and allow for a mix of locations which would hopefully retain audience interest.

The Christmas instalment - originally called "The Feast of Stephen" before Peter Purves' character was given his final name - would have two settings.
For the first of these, it was hoped that the cast of the popular police serial Z-Cars might be involved as a special festive cross-over event.
It was intended that the Hollywood section would take place first - with Vicki being tied to a railway line by a melodramatic villain - and then the police station.
The draft script set up more of a mystery as to what lay beyond the TARDIS doors, until the Doctor got the scent of a local delicacy:
"The warm and inviting aroma of fish and chips! Ah! It brings back memories... In 20th Century England they were nectar... A piece of crisp, golden rock and two penn'oth... Divine... Hot, greasy chips... a pinch of salt... a dash of vinegar... Last Sunday's newspaper... I can't resist! I'm going to get some...".
Sara began to think that fish and chips were addictive, and Steven wondered about the terrible things people had to eat before they invented vita-pills.
A power loss was the reason why the TARDIS only moved 30 or 40 years and remained on Earth to visit the film studio. The Doctor told Green that his film worked out fine as he recalled seeing it, and there was mention of the "talkies" destroying the careers of many silent stars - and the actor playing the Sheikh had a high-pitched voice.
The Doctor was to inadvertently invent the custard-pie fight (and fight-arranger Derek Ware was booked to rehearse the regulars in a climactic fight only a week before recording, so it must have been a late change to cancel it).
The episode would have ended with the Doctor, having somehow avoided the mess, being pied by Steven and Sara in the TARDIS.

On Friday 1st October checks were made that the Z-Cars set would be available for filming, as well as some of its cast - Collin Welland, Brian Blessed, James Ellis and Joseph Brady as the Inspector. It had originally been hoped that the Inspector might be Charlie Barlow, played by Stratford Johns.
Unfortunately, the Z-Cars producer David Rose then vetoed the idea of a cross-over. His reason was that it would undermine what he saw as a hard-hitting crime drama. It was also found that the police series would still be in production on the dates the Doctor Who team wanted, so the cast would be unavailable anyway.
Donald Tosh rewrote the section to feature alternative characters, so that it ended up spoofing the serial.
A Liverpudlian setting was retained, though the accents are variable. Purves manages a passable Scouse.

The dating of the Hollywood section is debateable. Some BBC documents claim the setting as "c.1919", with others citing "California 1921".
We do have two real historical figures appear. Charlie Chaplin is seen in passing, and the Doctor talks with a man who reveals that he is Bing Crosby. Crosby only moved to California in October 1925, when he and some friends performed as a vocal group on stage. His first film work - some short musical comedies for Mack Sennett - was in 1931, after the "talkies" had already taken over. There's no evidence he ever attempted a career as a clown. Additionally, Crosby was always a slight, wiry figure - quite unlike the fuller-figured Robert Jewell.
The 'Keystone Cops' were mainly active between 1912 and 1917. They included future solo stars Edgar Kennedy and Roscoe "Fatty" Arbuckle among their number.
The Arabian movie is clearly based on romantic drama The Sheikh (1921), which starred Rudolph Valentino. It inspired a sequel - The Son of the Sheikh - also starring Valentino and released in the final year of his life, 1926.
Moustachioed villains were a staple of many melodramas based on the old barnstorming plays - often to be seen throwing helpless widows out of their homes on Christmas Eve and lusting after the heroine, who might find herself strapped to the railway line or in front of a circular saw if she did not submit to his amorous advances.
Inspirations for the directors are no doubt Cecil B DeMille, famed for his lavish Biblical epics, and the dictatorial Erich Von Stroheim, with Knopf possibly gaining his name from Swedish auteur Ingmar Bergman. De Mille is mentioned by Green, as are stars Douglas Fairbanks and Mary Pickford, whom he hopes Steven and Sara will become as great as.

Recording on Friday 3rd December saw the production move back into Studio 3 at Television Centre, after a few weeks in TC4.
Joining the cast for the day was journalist William Hall, film critic of the Evening News. Rather than simply write an article about the experience, he was given the background role of a cowboy in the episode. He had been best man at Douglas Camfield's wedding to Sheila Dunn - cast here as Blossom Lefavre. Hall met the poet Jean Pestell, who was working as an extra in the same scenes as he - and the pair subsequently married.

During the afternoon, a major photocall was held to introduce Jean Marsh's space agent Sara Kingdom to the public. She was pictured on the sawmill and TARDIS sets.
During the TARDIS scene between the police station and film studio locations, the Doctor, Steven and Sara discuss the taranium core and the Daleks, just to remind the audience that this is still the same story they've been watching for the last six weeks.
For the Hollywood sequences, a number of captions in the style of silent movie intertitles appeared on screen. These were: 
"And so the hunt was on...",,
"Meanwhile in the Sheikh's tent...",
"Meanwhile in the Wardrobe Department...",
"Meanwhile back in the Sheikh's tent...",
"But what has happened to Steven?",
"Meanwhile all was not well at the old barn",
"The chase was on",
"Meanwhile back in the TARDIS",
"And so they all lived happily ever after".
The dialogue ranges from the sublime to the ridiculous. From Hartnell we get silliness like "This is a madhouse. It's all full of Arabs!", but earlier he delivers one of his defining lines:
"Well I suppose you might say that I am a citizen of the universe, and a gentleman to boot".

The instalment ended with William Hartnell breaking the 'fourth wall' to directly address the audience at home with "Incidentally, a happy Christmas to all of you at home!", raising his glass to the camera.
In subsequent interviews, both John Wiles and Donald Tosh claimed that this was an unscripted ad-lib by Hartnell, and Wiles especially was furious with him.
They are talking nonsense, or simply have selective memories. The scene was a late addition - replacing the custard-pie fight - but it was properly scripted by Tosh, and Camfield had planned his camera moves for it. Tosh hated the scene, but he had gone along with it.

  • The ratings are a bit of a disaster. People may have had other things to do than watch TV on Christmas night, but the appreciation figure - the indicator of how much people enjoyed a programme - is well below the average for the series. Anything below 50 is poor.
  • Opposition in ITV regions included Thunderbirds and Lost in Space.
  • The Feast of Steven was still the 10th most watched programme of the day. 
  • The resemblance to Z-Cars did not go unnoticed by critics.
  • Ironically, one critic suggested that the Hollywood scenes might have been enlivened by the inclusion of a custard-pie fight...
  • Terry Nation produced a script of only 21 pages for this episode - when the average was around 45.
  • On the day of recording, the Manchester Evening News reported that Hartnell would be quitting the show. The actor had mentioned this possibility when particularly unhappy with Wiles.
  • A deleted scene from the police station section saw the Inspector thinking the Doctor to be the "dusty brush man", someone who sold housewives poor quality goods on the doorstep, and later - when the Doctor mentioned being a traveller in time and space - the Inspector quipped that he might soon be doing time in a very small space if he didn't start answering his questions...
  • The first known instance of a cinematic custard-pie fight goes back to 1913.
  • James Ellis and Brian Blessed would eventually feature in the series during the 1980's - in Battlefield and Mindwarp respectively. Blessed had also been considered as a potential Doctor.
  • Malcolm Rogers had previously been seen as Count Dracula in The Chase.
  • Robert Jewell was a regular Dalek operator.
  • Sheila Dunn would return as Petra Williams in Inferno.
  • Reg Pritchard had featured as cloth merchant Ben Daheer in The Crusade - hence the in-joke of the Doctor thinking he recognised him from the market at Jaffa.
  • Royston Tickner played the man who ferries the Doctor and Jo to the island at the start of The Sea Devils.
  • Buddy Windrush was the alias of actor Brian Mosley, used when he did stunt and extras work. He is best known for his long-running role as Alf Roberts in Coronation Street - but would also be back to portray delegate Malpha later in this story. 
  • Radio Times printed an article on Thursday 2nd December in which parents defended the series, following an earlier piece attacking the violence in The Traitors.
  • The episode's Audience Research Report, comprising the opinions of 177 respondents, ranged between those liking it for its "festive spirit", to one person's claim that it was "one of the worst programmes I have ever seen".

Friday 22 December 2023

The Art of... The Daleks' Master Plan

The Daleks' Master Plan finally arrived in book form in the Autumn of 1989, written by John Peel. Split into two halves, the first was issued in September, with the second following in October.
Peel was well known in fandom and after moving to the US he had become involved in the scene there - becoming a good friend to Terry Nation. When it came to adapting his work, Nation allowed Peel to take it on - happy to know that it would be faithful to his original vision.
With Mission to the Unknown forming a single episode story, which acted as a prequel to the twelve-part epic, it was only natural that it would be absorbed into the bigger adventure when it came time to consider commercial releases.
Peel opted to use Mission to the Unknown as title for the first volume, with the closing section named as The Mutation of Time.
Mission to the Unknown, with a cover by Alister Pearson, has artwork very much derived from the episode of that name. From The Daleks' Master Plan we get images of Mavic Chen and his Spar 7-40 space yacht, but the various alien delegates are all the versions we saw in the prequel.
The Mutation of Time features the Red Dalek prominently on its cover - a creation of Peel's which had featured in his novelisation of The Chase. Its role is to command the Daleks' time machines. Pearson is once again the artist.

In the same way that Mission to the Unknown was incorporated into the novelisation of The Daleks' Master Plan, so it was included as the first disc of the story when it was released as a soundtrack CD in 2001. Again, the alien delegates who feature are taken from the prequel, and the Chen portrait is the same as that used on the first volume of the book. 
Mission was issued on its own as a single disc, using this cover, as a freebie with The Sun in 2013.
An MP3-CD version of the full story arrived in April 2003.

The novel was released in audiobook form in May and June 2010, read by Peter Purves and Jean Marsh, with Nick Briggs providing Dalek vocals. 
Re-releases came as part of a Dalek box-set, and also with the two stories combined into a single set.

Additionally, both instalments of the audiobook were re-released along with that for The Chase in a set known as Dalek Menace! in 2012, using imagery from all three books.

The soundtrack was released on 7 discs, in blue vinyl, in March 2019 - the cover featuring the Daleks with their pyroflame guns in the jungles of Kembel.

Finally, as a missing story never released on VHS or DVD, The Daleks' Master Plan was illustrated with a colourful photomontage image on the movie database (moviedb) website.
Orphan episodes 2, 5 and 10 were released on the Lost in Time DVD set in 2004.