Wednesday 17 July 2024

N is for... Nimrod


A member of the Neanderthal race which became extinct around 40,000 years ago when superseded by Homo Sapiens. Nimrod had been captured by an alien entity known as Light, who visited the Earth in prehistoric times as part of an expedition to catalogue all of its lifeforms.
Held in suspended animation as the last example of his kind, he was later woken up by Josiah Samuel Smith in the early 1880's and employed by him as butler. Smith was a member of Light's crew, who had rapidly evolved into a Victorian gentleman. He had taken over the expedition, intent on reaching the ultimate evolutionary goal of becoming head of the British Empire.
Light was left to oversleep within their spacecraft. Nimrod continued to worship the entity. The Doctor befriended him by offering him the gift of a fang from a cave bear, which was a totem for his tribe.
After Smith's scheme had been thwarted, and the awakened Light destroyed, Nimrod elected to travel across the universe in the space ship, accompanied by Victorian explorer Redvers Fenn-Cooper and Control, another of the original crew. 

Played by: Carl Forgione. Appearances: Ghost Light (1989).
  • Forgione (1944 - 1998) had previously appeared in the series as Land, one of Lupton's circle in Planet of the Spiders.
  • Neanderthals were named after the discovery of remains in the Neander Valley, in what is now Germany, in 1856.
  • Smith has named his butler after the biblical figure Nimrod, a great grandson of Noah who was famed as a mighty hunter and King of Shinar.

N is for... Nimons


A race of huge bull-headed bipedal creatures, the Nimons were intergalactic parasites. One of their number would insinuate themselves with a victim planet by offering its people whatever they most wanted - wealth or domination over others. Tributes would be called for as payment - energy crystals composed of radioactive hymetusite and a number of young people upon whom the Nimons fed, draining them of their life-force. 
The crystals would be used to power a transportation system that would be used to allow the rest of their race to invade in force. Artificial black holes would be created which their egg-shaped travel pods could pass through.
Once a planet had been drained of all life and resources the process would begin again as one of their kind would travel on to the next target world. They described this as "The Great Circle Of Life".
The planet Skonnos sought to regain its old military might and its leader Soldeed entered into a bargain with the lone Nimon. Tributes were sought from the planet Aneth, an old enemy of Skonnos which they had previously conquered. The final batch of young people were forced into the Nimon's lair, accompanied by Romana, taking the hymetusite with them. She used one of their travel pods to visit Crinoth - the ravaged planet which the aliens were about to abandon.
More of the Nimons arrived on Skonnos, and Soldeed realised too late that he had been tricked. He triggered a chain reactor in the lair's nuclear reactor as he died. The Doctor was able to trap the main force of Nimons on the dying Crinoth, whilst the creatures already on Skonnos perished as their base exploded.

Played by: Robin Sherringham, Bob Appleby, Trevor St.John Harker. Voiced by: Clifford Norgate. Appearances: The Horns of Nimon (1979/80).
  • The Nimons - and the story as a whole - were inspired by the Greek myth of Theseus and the Minotaur.
  • Dancers were cast, but found their movements severely limited due to the heavy headpieces and tall platform shoes (mimicking hooves) which they had to wear.
  • It was originally intended that the heads were actually helmets, with their real head within. This was cut for budget reasons.
  • The Minotaur in The God Complex was said to be a cousin of the Nimons.
  • Clifford Norgate also provided vocals on The Leisure Hive.
  • The plural is Nimons, as is evident from dialogue. Many fans think it to be simply Nimon, but this is due to there only being a single individual for much of the story - "the Nimon" / "Lord Nimon".

N is for... Nilson


A senior crewmember of Sea Base 4 which, in the year 2084, provided defence for one of the two great power blocs which were in conflict at the time. However, Nilson was actually an agent for the opposing bloc, as was Dr Solow whose responsibilities included the mental conditioning of the base's Synch-Operator. This individual had an electronic implant in their skull, which allowed them to interface directly with the computerised missile launch systems. This was an inexperienced young crewman named Maddox.
Nilson and Solow reprocessed him to sabotage the computers, and kill anyone who tried to stop him. They would then steal the processing software and pass to their own people.
Their actions coincided with an assault on the base by a combined Silurian and Sea Devil force. They planned to use its missiles to trigger a conflict in which both blocs would destroy themselves - allowing them to retake the planet.
Nilson attempted to flee the base, taking Tegan Jovanka with him as hostage. The Doctor used an ultra-violet light emitter to blind him, and he stumbled into the path of a Sea Devil warrior who shot him dead.

Played by: Ian McCulloch. Appearances: Warriors of the Deep (1984).
  • McCulloch played Greg Preston, one of the regulars on Terry Nation's series Survivors.
  • He is also well known for several appearances in Italian horror films, such as Lucio Fulci's Zombie Flesh Eaters (aka Zombi 2) and Zombie Holocaust.
  • He had previously been considered for one of the Concorde crew in Time-Flight.
  • He is the brother of Andrew McCulloch, who co-wrote Meglos.

N is for... Nightmare Man


A sadistic alien entity which manifested itself as a sinister clown-like, white-faced man. He was really a member of the Vishklar race, who originated in an alternate dimension. He began attacking Sarah Jane Smith's adopted son Luke, who normally did not dream. Through him he intended to escape into this dimension to attack others through their dreams, provoking nightmares.
Luke found himself trapped in a long dark corridor lined with countless doors, within each of which was another nightmare. Clyde and Rani were also attacked. He found himself working in a run-down burger bar, one of whose customers was a bag lady - Sarah. Would-be journalist Rani found herself presenting the TV news, and struggling to do so in front of millions. 
Sarah attempted to trick him into adding her to his nightmares, so that she could help Luke. The Nightmare Man disabled K-9 and Mr Smith to prevent them helping her.
He was defeated when Luke, Clyde and Rani stood up to him, no longer afraid of him. This left him powerless, and he ended up trapped inside a nightmare of his own - being told by Sarah how wonderful Luke was, over and over.

Played by: Julian Bleach. Appearances: SJA 4.1 The Nightmare Man (2010).
  • The third of Bleach's Whoniverse roles, after Davros and The Ghostmaker.
  • The character has similarities in appearance to Bleach's Shockheaded Peter theatrical performance.
  • Deleted dialogue from this story, which was reinstated for the novelisation, revealed that Luke was gay.
  • People becoming trapped within nightmares is an old horror trope - the best known example being the Nightmare on Elm Street franchise. Doctor Who itself will revisit this idea in Can You Hear Me?

N is for... Nightingale, Larry


Larry was the brother of Kathy Nightingale, who was a close friend of Sally Sparrow. She first met him when he stayed overnight with his sister - going to the toilet in the middle of the night whilst naked.
Larry worked at Banto's video store. He had become obsessed with a number of very strange DVD easter eggs, found on a number of seemingly random discs. These featured a man in a brown suit speaking - but only half of the conversation was recorded. Without the other half, it seemed impossible to work out what was being discussed. Larry was part of an internet group which was dedicated to these extras.
Kathy vanished after a visit to an abandoned house called Wester Drumlins, and Sally discovered that she had been sent back in time to 1920. Investigating, she was able to tell Larry that the 17 discs which contained the mysterious man - the Doctor - were those already owned by her. An encounter with a police officer, who was also sent back through time, revealed that he had arranged for them to be placed on the discs.
It transpired that the missing half of the conversation was actually Sally's responses to the easter eggs, which she and Larry conducted one night at Wester Drumlins. Weeping Angels fed on potential temporal energy by sending their victims back through time. They had captured the TARDIS, leaving the Doctor and Martha stranded in 1969 where they met the police officer. They arranged for Sally in the present day to reunite the Doctor with the TARDIS and defeat the Angels - setting up the whole chain of events.
Larry took over the DVD shop, working alongside Sally.

Played by: Finlay Robertson. Appearances: Blink (2007).

Monday 15 July 2024

What's Wrong With... Four To Doomsday


If you go back and read the letters pages of Doctor Who Monthly, as it was at the time, then you'll know that problems began with this story's title. Several people wrote in to ask what it referred to. 
Of course, it can be seen in two different ways simultaneously - it's four days until Monarch's ship arrives at Earth, and he plans to wipe out all organic life there; and it can also refer to the fact that there are four occupants in the TARDIS, and they are also headed towards potential doom should Monarch succeed.
Behind the scenes, this was Peter Davison's first production as Doctor - and you can tell he hasn't quite got to grips with how he intends to play the part.

As for the story...
The timescale for Monarch's visits to Earth don't tie up. It's stated that each visit sees his vessel doubling its speed, but the human civilisations represented don't mirror this fact. The key dates - derived from Bigon's dialogue - would be 35500 BC, 15500 BC, 5500 BC, and 500 BC approx. The Aboriginals might fit with the first date, and the Athenians with the last, but the Mayans and Chinese don't fit with either of the middle dates.
One of the reasons for the length of journey is supposed to be down to the Urbankans not yet mastering faster-than-light travel. And yet the series is filled with less technologically advanced races who appear to have such propulsion.
The Doctor claims that the TARDIS has only missed Earth by a short margin, but if Monarch's ship is travelling as fast as claimed then four days out would place it still a very long distance from the planet.

Why does he keep going backwards and forwards anyway? He has no interest in the human race - he's going to wipe it out - and only wants the natural resources. Why not simply take these on an earlier visit when there isn't going to be the technology (weaponry in particular) which might pose a threat to him?
Indeed, the Moon would hold most of what he is after on Earth. He is primarily after silicon, which he should have been able to get elsewhere a lot quicker and easier.

The androids go crazy when they indulge in any sort of organised activity. So how can they dance?
Monarch has no interest in the cultures of Earth, so why have the recreationals in the first place? What is the point of providing entertainment to robots?
(And on screen, these recreationals are boring and repetitive. A nice idea, which then gets used as padding).
Why does the Chinese dragon suit - product of an ancient Imperial era - have the name of a London kung-fu club printed inside it?
How can Tegan possibly know an Aboriginal language that's tens of thousands of years old? It can't be the TARDIS translation system in action - otherwise everyone would be able to understand them.
(So why can't it translate?).

If everyone on board is an android, where did all the food come from? We later discover that Monarch is still partially organic, but surely he doesn't need as much food as this.
Also, why do his ministers and the intelligent android leaders not twig that he can't be fully robotic (there's oxygen as well as food laid on the ship) and so see through his hypocrisy?
And why have these ethnic leaders on board in the first place? All Monarch needs are robotic drones to do the work.
The script has Adric claiming to know things about the Doctor that we haven't ever witnessed - the writer seeming to think they have travelled together a lot more than they actually had. If this really was the case - with various unseen adventures - then surely the boy would have known that the Doctor would oppose Monarch, and that it is wrong to side with him. 
The idiotic, unlikeable Adric really starts here.

Why does Tegan try to pilot the TARDIS? She knows that she will be safe enough inside with the doors locked, and she knows that it rarely goes where it's supposed to go. She's only been in the ship for a matter of hours at this stage, and can't know anything about how it actually works - so what is she doing dematerialising? She must know that she is actually abandoning her friends.
Why does the TARDIS come to a halt in the vicinity of the spaceship, instead of, say, Skaro or in Medieval France? If this is the work of the TARDIS itself, why did it even allow Tegan to operate it in the first place?

Going back to Doctor Who Monthly's letters pages, there was much debate about the space-walk which the Doctor undertakes to retrieve the TARDIS. Most letters pointed out how stupid this was, quoting the science, whilst others took to its defence.
There's an effort to get round the lack of oxygen in space, but nothing is mentioned about the sub-zero temperatures. Even if the Doctor had some hitherto unmentioned ability to generate internal heat, this wouldn't extend to his cricket ball. This would have shattered against the side of the TARDIS, rather than bounce off it.

Sunday 14 July 2024

Episode 125: The War Machines (3)


Synopsis:
Investigating the warehouse at Covent Garden, Ben witnesses the first of the War Machines in operation. He is soon detected, and watches helplessly as it moves towards him...
Ben is surprised to see Polly here - even more so when she locks the doors to prevent him escaping. He notices too late her emotionless expression. 
He is captured by Major Green.
The Doctor argues with Sir Charles about what action should be taken next, the civil servant insisting that C-Day go ahead as planned and anything else should be a matter for the police.
Ben is about to be killed when Polly intervenes, stating that WOTAN has instructed that labour is needed for the completion of the War Machines. Ben is to be put to work.
At the Post Office Tower, Brett and Krimpton finalise WOTAN's plans. The War Machines must be ready to launch a coordinated assault on London at noon the following day. The order for the attack will come from WOTAN itself.
Ben makes an escape attempt whilst everyone is busy. He is spotted by Polly alone, but she is conflicted about what she should do. She fails to stop him, or to alert the others.
He arrives at the home of Sir Charles and tells the Doctor about what he has seen at the warehouse. 
Polly, meanwhile, is questioned by Green, who orders her to report back to WOTAN for punishment.
Sir Charles refuses to believe Ben's story but when the Doctor begins to convince him, he once again decides that the issue should be dealt with by police. He then agrees to telephone his Minister, who elects to call in the army.
The Doctor, Ben and Sir Charles meet an army unit at Covent Garden. They set up a forward base outside the warehouse, and clear the area of civilians. Electronic activity is detected within the building, and Ben warns of a stock of explosives - as well as the War Machine.
Their presence is detected by Green, who puts everyone on alert.
The army move in and attack - only to discover that their weapons are useless. Guns fail to fire, and grenades will not detonate. The Sergeant reports back to his Captain what has happened, and the decision is made to retreat. The War Machine has left the warehouse and moves inexorably towards them.
Everyone dashes for cover - apart from the Doctor.
He stands his ground as the War Machine bears down on him...

Data:
Written by Ian Stuart Black
Recorded: Friday 24th June 1966 - Riverside Studio 1
First broadcast: 5:35pm, Saturday 9th July 1966
Ratings: 5.3 million / AI 44
Designer: Raymond London
Director: Michael Ferguson
Additional cast: John Rolfe (Captain), John Boyd-Brent (Sergeant), Frank Jarvis (Corporal), Robin Dawson (Soldier)


Critique:
Fans always talk about the Quatermass serials when discussing the changes brought in by Derrick Sherwin in the late 1960's. This mainly concerned the contemporary setting, and the Doctor's interactions with the military.
Seen as a new direction for the series, it had actually been pioneered here in the third and fourth episodes of The War Machines.
Nigel Kneale's serials - The Quatermass Experiment (1953), Quatermass II (1955) and Quatermass and the Pit (1958) - saw the scientist hero contest alien threats, joining forces with the army at some point in each. Other British sci-fi movies had seen a similar set-up - even if the threat wasn't necessarily from outer space. These included The Giant Behemoth, X the Unknown, and The Strange World of Planet X
American films of the genre had almost always combined scientist and military in neutralising the enemy. (Generally, in British films there is some conflict between the scientist hero and the military. Quatermass especially butts heads with authority figures. This is less so in US movies).
It was therefore inevitable that Doctor Who would tackle a story in a similar vein - especially as Innes Lloyd and Gerry Davis wanted to modernise the series with contemporary companions and more realistic science.

The original storyline for this episode had a somewhat different ending. Instead of the hero shot of the Doctor standing up to the War Machine, he actually told the army that they were helpless against it and should retreat.
Earlier, Rich - as Ben was then named - was put on trial by WOTAN itself, but saved by the hypnotised Dodo. 
Sir Charles telephoning his Minister was a late addition, and the battle sequence was expanded.

The filming for Episode 3 took place at Ealing through the week commencing 23rd May, covering the main warehouse set, with sunken area, and its exterior. The outdoor scenes featuring the soldiers and the War Machine were filmed on the studio backlot.
Film trims exist of these scenes - overhead shots showing Gerald Taylor and his fellow operator hurriedly exiting the War Machine prop from the rear due to the proximity of fire effects.
Michael Craze and Anneke Wills took time out of rehearsals on Thursday 23rd June to pose for publicity shots around Riverside Studios. They were pictured in costume, and efforts were made to make the height difference between the pair less noticeable (Wills was five inches taller than her co-star).
The previous Sunday had seen the three regulars filming location work on The Smugglers in Cornwall.
A small section of the warehouse set was erected at Riverside, and the War Machine prop featured in the TV studio for the first time. The battle sequence had several film inserts which had to be edited in.
One recording break allowed Craze to move from the warehouse set to Sir Charles' study, and another allowed everyone to move to the warehouse exterior set.
The episode closed with the camera moving in for a close-up on Hartnell, with a spotlight trained on him - as it had done with Craze at the cliff-hanger to the previous instalment.

Having spent some time filming with Hartnell, Craze and Wills had come to realise that the star held political views and social attitudes which were quite incompatible with their own. He was also becoming increasingly dispirited by the frequent changes in companion co-stars, nostalgic for the early days when he had a stable group of fellow performers - as well as a stable production team.
Craze and Wills had hoped to develop their characters through discussion between themselves and with Hartnell, but he was uncomfortable with this style of acting - used to simply going off and learning his part in isolation and sticking rigidly to this. Craze in particular found Hartnell difficult to warm to.
Neither co-star was aware of Hartnell's worsening health issues.

Trivia:
  • After a noticeable dip last week, the ratings bounce back to the same level as the first episode. The appreciation figure fails to mirror this rise, however, and will drop even further next week.
  • This episode had an amended title sequence, with the text flashing up as white on a black background, instead of black on white.
  • John Rolfe made a further two appearances in Doctor Who. In The Moonbase he was crewmember Sam Beckett, and he played Fell in The Green Death. He had acted opposite Hartnell on stage in the 1950's, and featured with Patrick Troughton in a BBC adaptation of The Old Curiosity Shop in 1962.
  • Future light entertainment star Mike Yarwood, whose comedy impressions became a fixture of the BBC's Saturday evening schedules in the 1970's, was due to feature in this episode as a soldier. However, he was taken ill during the morning of studio recording and a taxi had to be booked to get him to hospital.
  • William Hartnell's First Doctor is often depicted wearing his black Astrakhan hat. In reality, he only ever wore this on three occasions, this being one of them. (He wears a white version in The Web Planet due to the visual effects being used). The other two stories to feature this particular headgear just happen to be his very first story, and his last.
  • Oliver Arkinstall-Jones' alternative retro movie-style poster for the story:

Friday 12 July 2024

The Art of... The War Machines

Ian Stuart Black novelised his own story for Target in February 1989. The cover art is courtesy of Alister Pearson and Graham Way. Pearson painted the main images of Doctor, Tower, War Machine and WOTAN, whilst Way added the blue concentric rings which symbolised the computer's hypnotic influence.
Black had WOTAN tap Ian Chesterton's phone line to explain how it came to know so much, by way of explaining some plot holes in the broadcast story. He also stretched the Norse / Wagnerian imagery by having one of the War Machines named as Valk - from Valkyrie, the daughters of Wotan.
In 2016, for convention attendees, Pearson revisited this artwork to add an image of Dodo below Hartnell's head, just to the right of the Tower. The Doctor portrait derives from a publicity image taken during the rehearsals for An Unearthly Child. The artist has excluded the spectacles which Hartnell was wearing in the source photograph. The War Machine comes from the standard publicity shot of the prop on location near the Post Office Tower.


It is used on the photomontage cover for the VHS release, which arrived in June 1997. In the later stages of the VHS releases, the covers had settled on this design of cover.
The Hartnell portrait comes from The Celestial Toymaker, whilst Ben and Polly feature from one of their introductory publicity shots. It and the War Machine photograph feature on the back cover as well.
Unusually, this video came with bonus material. It begins with the June 1966 Blue Peter item, in which Christopher Trace examined War Machine No.9 in studio, and after the final episode we had credits for the restoration of the story, also covered in notes on a fold-out section of the VHS sleeve. We also got to see material trimmed from the film footage - showing the operators hastily vacate the Machine after the battle with the soldiers at Covent Garden, as fire threatens the prop.


The DVD cover was the work of Clayton Hickman, former editor of DWM and who does a lot of photo restoration / colourising these days. Once again we have the standard War Machine publicity image, whilst the Hartnell shot comes once again from An Unearthly Child. Hartnell only wore the black Astrakhan hat in three stories, and that was the only one where close-up publicity shots were taken of him wearing it. 
The other War Machine image derives from press shots taken on the streets of West London, where the prop interacted with children, police officers and dog walkers.
The DVD was released in August 2008 in the UK, with the US version following that November.


Despite the story existing in its entirety in the archives, The War Machines was also released as a soundtrack by BBC Audiobooks. We have the usual garish photomontage cover, with that War Machine photograph employed multiple times. The images of the Doctor, Ben and Polly actually come from a single publicity image taken for Episode One of The Smugglers, of the trio in the TARDIS.
The Post Office Tower is shown at a very odd close-up angle, so you'd hardly register it as the Tower at first glance. And, just in case you didn't know this story's location, we have silhouettes of Big Ben and the dome of St Paul's.
Anneke Wills narrates and provides a bonus interview. It was released in August 2007.


The novelisation was adapted for audiobook treatment, using the Pearson / Way artwork, in March 2019. It's one of those releases where the reader has nothing to do with the actual episodes - in this case Michael Cochrane, who played Lord Cranleigh in Black Orchid, and Redvers Fenn-Cooper in Ghost Light.


Doctor Who Magazine only rarely ever gave a cover over to a single story, unless it was a photographic one. A handful of stories got rather nice artwork covers when the publication got round to covering them in the Archives section. Issue 185 in April 1992 featured The War Machines on its cover.
This was the work of Alister Pearson once again. The Hartnell portrait comes from a publicity shot from The Savages.


If you were paying close attention to the interviews in the recent finale instalment of Doctor Who: Unleashed, you might have seen the above image hanging on the wall of one of the interviewees. It comes from company Hero Collector and can be purchased as an art print. It's done in a distressed pulp-paperback style.


And finally, 2013 saw the release of Sounds From The Inferno on vinyl. This was produced by Hysterion on 7" vinyl for Record Store Day and purports to feature music by John Smith and the Common Men. It is actually music by Johnny Hawksworth, who was responsible for the library tracks used in the Inferno Club scenes in The War Machines. It was limited to only 1000 copies.

Wednesday 10 July 2024

Story 295: Ascension of the Cybermen / The Timeless Children


In which the Doctor must face the consequences of her actions - and learns a terrible truth about herself and her people in the process...
She and her companions arrive on an alien planet in the far future, in the last days of a new Cyber-war in which the cybernetic creatures have almost entirely wiped out the human race. They have been led to victory by the partly converted Ashad, who now possesses the Cyberium artificial intelligence. He has used his remaining human aspects, combined with Cyberman logic and efficiency, to either destroy or convert the majority of the human race. Only a small group of survivors remain on this world.
Meanwhile, in Ireland of the 1940's, a young farmer named Patrick finds an abandoned baby boy. He brings it home to his wife Meg. A year later, the parents have not been identified and so Patrick and Meg adopt the child, who has been named Brendan. He will be brought up to take over the farm.
On the refugee planet, the Doctor and companions meet the human survivors - leaders Feekat and Ravio and the teenage Ethan, as well as Yedlarmi and his mute younger brother Fuskle, and a girl named Bescot.
The Doctor's attempts to defend the group fail as they come under attack by Ashad and a party of Cybermen, who are armed with Cyberdrones.


Fuskle is killed and the group is separated. Graham and Yaz make it to a spacecraft which Yedlarmi has been repairing. They are joined by Ravio and Bescot and manage to take off. Feekat is killed by Ashad, who allows Ethan to live so that he can tell the others of what happened here. The young man and Ryan accompany the Doctor to the Cybership which they manage to steal.
Yedlarmi informs Graham and Yaz of a planet named Ko Sharmus which they were making for. There is a phenomenon known as the Boundary situated there - a portal which leads to another part of the cosmos which is free of Cybermen. They decide to make for the planet, knowing that the Doctor will also go there.
She has been told about the Boundary by Ravio and has indeed decided to head there.
In 20th Century Ireland, Brendan has decided to join the local police force - the Garda - instead of taking up a career in farming.
Ashad pursues the two spacecraft.
That containing Yaz and Graham enters a debris field - result of a huge battle. They are running out of power and supplies, but spot a massive abandoned Cybership which has a docking bay open. They use the last of their power to move inside.


In Ireland, Brendan confronts an armed robber on a remote clifftop. The man shoots him and he falls to his death. However, he revives moments later. His father and commanding officer are amazed by this.
The stolen Cybership arrives on Ko Sharmus, and the Doctor discovers that this is not the planet's name at all. Ko Sharmus is actually a person - an old man who lives here alone.
On the abandoned craft, Graham, Yaz and the others discover it to have been a troop carrier and it is full of deactivated Cyber-Warriors. Ashad tracks them down and soon arrives. Bescot is killed as he begins reactivating some of the Warriors. The others seal themselves in the control room.
In Ireland, an elderly Brendan is retiring from the Garda. His father and commanding officer look exactly the same, whilst he has aged. He is taken to a back office and linked up to a machine which delivers an electric shock, removing his memories.
Ko Sharmus takes the Doctor to the Boundary, and explains that it does not always lead to the same location. He has stayed behind to assist as many refugees as possible to escape from the Cybermen. The Doctor warns him that they will be following her.
As they watch, an image of Gallifrey appears beyond the portal.
The Master suddenly emerges...


He takes the Doctor through the Boundary, whilst Ryan and Ko Sharmus must prepare for the arrival of the Cybermen. On the carrier, Yaz and Graham avoid capture by disguising themselves as Cybermen.
They witness Ashad apparently attacking one of his own kind. The craft is then guided towards the planet.
The Doctor is taken by the Master to the ruins of the Capitol where he claims he will tell her why he destroyed Gallifrey. She is trapped by a forcefield as he begins his story.
It transpires that he was able to access a hidden history of their people. The Doctor originally came from another universe. She was found as an abandoned child on a remote planet by a Gallifreyan woman named Tecteun, who witnessed her coming back to life after what should have been a fatal accident. Tecteun experimented on her and discovered that she had the ability to regenerate unlimited times.
These experiments eventually led Tecteun to isolate a genetic code that would allow her and her people to regenerate as well, albeit for a limited number of times. Thus, the Time Lords were born.


Ashad guides the carrier to the planet and Cybermen beam down to attack Ko Sharmus' camp. The old man was actually a commander in the human resistance during the last Cyber-war, and has ensured that the camp has its own defences. It was he who sent the Cyberium back through time to prevent Ashad from obtaining it.
The Cyberman invaders are held back whilst the everyone manages to escape the ship. They all flee through the Boundary to locate the Doctor. The Master, meanwhile, has contacted Ashad and offered him Gallifrey if he follows them.
The Doctor continues to learn about her own history. She was recruited to the organisation known as The Division, which sent her on various missions - which explains the version of herself who had been disguised as Ruth. After each mission, her memories had been wiped. She has lived a multitude of lives prior to what she has always thought to be her First incarnation, but these were all hidden from her.
The Master meets with Ashad after the carrier comes to rest above the Capitol ruins. He learns that Ashad intends to purge the Cybermen of the last vestiges of their previous organic existence, making them purely robotic. He has already converted some of the Cyber-Warriors on the carrier. He possesses within his body a powerful weapon - the Death Particle - capable of destroying all organic life within a wide area.


The Master kills him using his tissue compression eliminator, which leaves the Particle intact. The Cyberium is forced to abandon Ashad - and the Master takes it into himself. 
Realising how much more powerful she really is - thanks to the Master - the Doctor is able to escape from the forcefield. He appears in the Panopticon with a new army of Cybermen, created from the corpses of dead Time Lords. These are Cybermen who have the power to regenerate - CyberMasters. 
He reveals that he destroyed Gallifrey due to the fact that the Time Lords had lied about their origins, and that everything they were was due to the Doctor. That he owed his existence to her is something he cannot stand.
Learning of the Death Particle, the Doctor realises that she will have to detonate it in order to stop the Master and his CyberMasters from conquering all. This will mean her own death. The Master is almost psychotically suicidal now, urging her to do this. She has sent her companions to a TARDIS for safety. They travel to present day England, where the ship takes on the form of a suburban house.
At the last moment, Ko Sharmus elects to take the Doctor's place. She makes it to another TARDIS in time as the particle destroys the Capitol and the carrier hovering above it.
She travels to collect her own TARDIS, intent on locating the others. 
However, the ship is suddenly invaded by Judoon who arrest her - transporting her to a prison in deep space...


Ascension of the Cybermen / The Timeless Children were written by Chris Chibnall, and first broadcast on 23rd February and 1st March, 2020.
The story brings the 12th Series to a conclusion, and is arguably the most controversial story to date in the history of the show. 
Whilst stories such as The War Games and The Deadly Assassin moved the Doctor's story on, with more background about his / her people, they only introduced new concepts and did not contradict previous facts in any significant way. Each story could be accommodated in the on-going narrative of the series. What Chibnall does is add new background - but at the cost of completely undermining previously established fact.
The seeds of this damage had already been planted with the appearance of the "Fugitive Doctor" earlier in the season, though reference to the "Timeless Child" went right back to The Ghost Monument.
It's always clear that Chibnall made things up as he went along, and lacked any long-term planning (seen most obviously in the way that Yaz will be handled over the course of his remaining episodes). The idea that the rubbishy Remnants - a relatively weak weapon created by a fairly pathetic race - knew about the Doctor's past when no-one else did makes no sense whatsoever. 
How could multiple Presidents of the High Council of Time Lords not know any of this?
When Moffat introduced the War Doctor, he could be slotted into the established continuity of the Doctor - basically an incarnation he was ashamed of and sought to suppress from his memories.
Chibnall throws everything out by having the Doctor not even a Time Lord at all, and there were multiple versions prior to the old man we first met in Totter's Lane.
Whilst he could have attempted a ret-con, RTD2 has elected to go with this, so it's something we are now stuck with...


As for the story itself, we see the return of Ashad from the previous episode - making this actually the concluding chapters of a trilogy. The Master returns - how he escaped the Kasaavin dimension unspecified. We learn why he destroyed Gallifrey - but not how. This is quite frustrating as we've seen the planet come under threat before, so it would have been nice to have learned how he finally managed it. As I've mentioned Chibnall has an annoying habit of failing to show us key things.
There's a new Cyberman design, which brings back the classic earmuff design to the helmet. These are Cyber-Warriors - but aren't all Cybermen warriors?
Some of these are converted into CyberMasters, who don't look that great. Why would they retain decorated headgear and wear robes?
The Time Lords also get a subtle makeover - keeping the basic shape of their ceremonial costume but simplifying the look. Another new element, first introduced in Fugitive of the Judoon, is the Division. Again, you have to wonder where they've been throughout the whole of the series history since The War Games. If the Doctor is such a key figure in Time Lord history, why did they let him wander off, repeatedly?
It's all very clumsily tacked on, and fails to integrate in any way with what we have seen before.
Standing out like a sore thumb in the first half is the Irish interlude. It appears that this is some sort of metaphor for the Doctor's time with the Division - or so I thought. However, we then see the scenes again and they are now part of the Matrix flashback sequences, so presumably planted false memories. To be honest, they get in the way of the narrative of the first episode.


There's a large guest cast over these two episodes - but they're mostly wasted. Only Ian McElhinney, as Ko Sharmus, is given anything significant to do. Indeed, he resolves the threat at the conclusion of the story. Let's face it, the Thirteenth Doctor rarely ever actually does anything herself in any of her stories.
The actor is best known for Game of Thrones, and another genre role was the Superman prequel series Krypton.
What might have been a potential love interest for Graham is Julie Graham's Ravio. She previously played the villainous Ruby White in The Sarah Jane Adventures. Ravio is built up in the first half, only to be pretty much ignored in the second part. Indeed, the following Christmas Special will entirely neglect what happened to the refugees who made it to contemporary Earth.
Steve Toussaint's Feekat is killed off fairly quickly. He can be seen in House of the Dragon. Yedlarmi is played by Alex Austin, and Ethan by Matt Carver, who also features in the Game of Thrones prequel series. Again, little is made of their characters once introduced.
Tecteun is Seylan Baxter.
Patrick O'Kane returns as Ashad. He's also rather poorly treated in the second half as the character is very quickly and all too easily bumped off by the Master.
The Irish contingent continues with the characters who only appear in the side-step parts of the first instalment. Brendan is played by Evan McCabe (Berlin Station), and his adoptive father Patrick is Branwell Donaghey (Peaky Blinders, Alien: Prometheus). Caolan Byrne plays the Garda officer.
And Paul Kasey turns up at the end as the Judoon commander.


Overall, like most two-part series finales it kicks off well, despite the initially confusing "Irish interlude", but derails massively in the second half. The Timeless Children is a great episode for Sacha Dhawan, but Whittaker does very little. The Doctor simply spends the episode being told everything by the Master who does all the legwork. As mentioned, the Doctor doesn't even get to resolve the threat.
As for Chibnall's big revelations? If it ain't broke, don't fix it.
Things you might like to know:
  • Ascension of the Cybermen is the seventh penultimate episode of a series to feature Cybermen. And it's the third to have the Master / Missy and Cybermen together.
  • In the original draft, it was Yaz who accompanied the Doctor on the stolen Cybership, and Ryan remained with Graham of the ship with Ravio et al.
  • The draft also had Ashad originally being the scientist who created the Death Particle - as a form of collective suicide for the last humans should the Cybermen win the war. Once converted, the Cyberium learned of it and sought it as a weapon.
  • Apparently the trio of Time Lords we see in the Matrix flashback are supposed to represent Omega and Rassilon, along with a male incarnation of Tecteun. This comes from the 2nd assistant director, who played the Omega figure.
  • And Shobogans were the original inhabitants of Gallifrey, before some became Time Lords.
  • We see a large number of clips from old episodes - the Hartnell / Troughton ones being colourised. The mental duel with Morbius from The Brain of Morbius obviously plays a big part as it is confirmed on screen that these were previous Doctors.
  • Classic stories we see clips from include: An Unearthly Child, The War Machines, The Moonbase, Tomb of the Cybermen, The War Games, Terror of the Autons, Day of the DaleksThe Sea DevilsCarnival of Monsters, Planet of the Spiders, Terror of the ZygonsPyramids of Mars, The Deadly AssassinRobots of Death, City of Death, LogopolisTime-Flight, Arc of Infinity, The Caves of Androzani, Vengeance on Varos, Trial of a Time Lord, Time and the Rani, The Greatest Show in the Galaxy and The Curse of Fenric.
  • Dhawan was credited on the official website as "Barack Stemis" to conceal his involvement - an anagram of "Master is Back". The character "Stemis" was playing was called "Fakout".
  • The man who shoots Brendan is named Michael (played by Andrew Macklin). This was going to be the name of the Garda sergeant, but was then given to the criminal.
  • Look closely and you can spot the actor's head when the CyberMaster that regenerates after being shot gets up again.

Monday 8 July 2024

Inspirations: Asylum of the Daleks


"Die Hard on the planet of the Daleks", is how Steven Moffat sold this story to his fellow producers.
The Daleks had been rested following the controversial introduction of the New Paradigm design. After Victory of the Daleks in Series 5, they had only made a few cameo appearances in the programme.
The seventh series of the revived programme was going to be split in a similar fashion to the sixth but, instead of a relatively short summer break, the first batch of episodes would be broadcast in Spring 2012, with the remainder not screening until the Spring of the following year.
The season would also see the departure of Amy and Rory in the first half, with new companion Clara taking over for the second.
Their relationship would be developed prior to their departure, made more interesting by having them actually split up - seen in the last of the short Pond Life mini-episodes.
The new episodes would show that once you left the TARDIS, the Doctor didn't necessarily abandon his companions. He would still have an impact on their lives.

Moffat decided that each of the first batch of episodes should be cinematic in scope, and gave them movie-style posters.
He actually considered double episode stories, until told that these weren't necessarily cheaper to produce.
Bringing the Daleks back for their first full appearance for a while, and in keeping with his big scale plans, Moffat decided that viewers would see more Daleks than ever before - and the story would include some classic designs from the original series. The episode would also see the biggest ever set to date.
The other thing to remember is that up until now, Moffat had never written a Dalek story. He had been forced to drop out of the 1930's Manhattan story, and Mark Gatiss had written the Series 5 story.
Unfortunately, the way the episode was directed and edited, the inclusion of classic models of Dalek barely came across on screen. The bronze Time War Daleks are front and centre for much of the time - even in the "Intensive Care Unit" sequence which was supposed to actually feature the survivors of those earlier stories.

As it is, the classic Daleks - which include a grey 1970's replica owned by Russell T Davies - are stuck in the background. The only distinctive classic model, purely due to its unique shape, is the Special Weapons Dalek from Remembrance of the Daleks.
Specific stories mentioned for the ICU occupants, via their locations, are The Chase (Aridius), The Daleks' Master Plan (Kembel), Power of the Daleks (Vulcan), Planet of the Daleks (Spiridon) and Death to the Daleks (Exxilon).
A black-domed Imperial Dalek from Evil of the Daleks was photographed, with Smith and Gillan, but not properly seen on screen.
Of course, the odd thing about the ICU sequence is that there were no Dalek survivors in most of their stories - so how could they come to be here?

The Doctor briefly visits Skaro, which also features in the episode's mini-episode prologue, and the design of the Dalek city was based loosely on that seen in The Daleks and in the "City of the Daleks" computer game.
The Daleks have frequently used other beings as soldiers / slaves - such as Ogrons, Pig Slaves, human collaborators and Lytton's mercenaries. 
This led to them having disguised human servants here - with Dalek eye-stalks hidden in their foreheads and weapons in their hands.
As well as introducing the concept of the asylum, Moffat gave them a parliament, headed by a Prime Minister. This included some of the New Paradigm models, given new metallic red and blue paint-jobs. The white Supreme was also shown.

In an isolation area next to the ICU is one Dalek which has to be chained down, because it contains an occupant - previously a human from Earth - who they have been unable to mentally condition. She still retains her human memories and personality. This provided a surprise for the audience as the actress playing this role was to become the new companion for the second half of the series - Jenna Louise Coleman, as she was then known, who would be playing Clara. The press were asked not to spoil this appearance, and - for once - went along with it.
It turns out that this isn't the Clara, however, and we'll have to wait until the Christmas Special to find out that there is more to this character than meets the eye.
The Asylum planet is a frozen one, and this came about purely by chance. The series was filming in Spain for the following Western episode, and it was realised that they could make a brief trip to the nearby mountains to film a few shots. To minimise personnel, only Smith and Gillan attended, which is why Rory materialises inside the Asylum instead of on the surface.
Next time: Jurassic Ark...

Sunday 7 July 2024

Episode 124: The War Machines (2)


Synopsis:
Dodo arrives at the Post Office Tower to join Brett, Krimpton and Major Green. WOTAN announces that "Dr Who is required...".
She is sent off to locate the Doctor and ensure that he is recruited to their cause.
Brett informs the others that WOTAN has decided that the human race has been a failure, and it must take control. Some may be permitted to serve the machines, whilst the rest will be eliminated. London will be the first city to come under WOTAN's control, followed by Washington and Moscow. To aid them, War Machines must be constructed. The telephone system will be used to recruit scientists and technicians who can help with this project, to be carried out at secret locations around the city.
Priority, however, must be given to the recruitment of the Doctor.
At the Inferno Club, the Doctor is conferring with Ben and Polly about the missing Dodo. She then walks in, claiming to have gone off to visit some friends in the area.
Outside, two men wait in the shadows as the Doctor and his friends look for a taxi. Dodo tries to lure him towards the men, but Ben spots a cab which then pulls up in front of them. A tramp gets out. 
After the others have left, he tells Ben that he plans to bed down in one of the Covent Garden warehouses.
The men report back to Brett what has happened.
The warehouse which the tramp has selected turns out not to be as deserted as he thought. It has been selected by WOTAN as location for the construction of one of its War Machines.
Professor Brett has already arrived to supervise this.
The tramp witnesses a completed Machine and is detected by WOTAN. The man attempts to flee but is killed.
The following morning, Polly arrives at Sir Charles' home, claiming that the professor sent her to work here instead of at the Post Office Tower. 
The Doctor spots a newspaper item about the death of the tramp, whose body was found near the nightclub. Sir Charles reports to the Doctor that there has been a spate of resignations by a number of computer experts from his department. He has been unable to contact them.
The Doctor then receives a phone call from Brett.
As he answers, the professor switches the call through to WOTAN.
The Doctor comes under a mental attack, but manages to break free.
Dodo, who has been acting coldly since the previous evening, believes that WOTAN has now taken control of the Doctor. Realising that she is under some form of hypnotic influence, he uses his signet ring and his own hypnotic abilities to overcome her conditioning. She passes out and he explains that she will sleep for some time. 
Sir Charles agrees to send her to his house in the country to recuperate, whilst Polly leaves for the Tower. On arrival, she falls under WOTAN's influence.
Major Green is now at the Covent Garden warehouse, where he is testing the War Machine. A mobile armoured computer, it is armed with toxic gas jets and powerful hammers.
Ben arrives at Sir Charles' home, as he had a lunch appointment with Polly. The Doctor shows him the newspaper article about the tramp's death. He agrees to go back to Covent Garden and look around.
There, he overhears activity coming from the warehouse and sneaks in. Hiding behind some crates, he is soon detected. 
He sees the War Machine bearing down on him...

Data:
Written by Ian Stuart Black
Recorded: Friday 17th June 1966 - Riverside Studio 1
First broadcast: 6:55pm, Saturday 2nd July 1966
Ratings: 4.7 million / AI 45
Designer: Raymond London
Director: Michael Ferguson
Additional cast: Roy Godfrey (Tramp)


Critique:
And so we bid farewell to Jackie Lane, in her final episode as Dodo Chaplet.
Of course, viewers would not have realised this at the time - only that this was to be her final story. That she might be quietly written out, off screen, would not have been known. It will be one of the least satisfying companion departures in the history of the programme...
Innes Lloyd had disliked both of the companions he inherited, thinking they lacked dimension and narrative possibility. They did not provide good audience identification figures, and Lane was deemed to be too old for the teenager she was supposed to be playing. The producer decided that he wanted a more mature female companion, at the same time bringing the series more into the present day.

The initial draft script had Dodo fleeing the home of Sir Charles after the failure to hypnotise the Doctor and going to report this to Brett. The tramp was simply an unnamed Australian.
Dodo was not written out in this first version.
The episode sees the debut of the War Machines themselves. As originally scripted, they were supposed to be more humanoid in shape, with mention of a box-like head and it having glowing eyes.
One of their weapons was going to be a machine-gun. The body was composed of computer panels, on a wheeled base.
The actual War Machine would be a large box-like affair, big enough to have two people operating it from within. These were Gerald Taylor, who was also providing the voice of WOTAN, and Ron Oates of the BBC visual effects department.
It was built by Shawcraft Models of Uxbridge. Only a single Machine would be constructed, made to look more numerous on screen by simply having its identifying number replaced. This would lead to continuity problems, however...
Moving parts included computer tape spools and a revolving radar dish on the top, as well as a light behind a lens which acted as an eye, which could be made to swivel.
A fire extinguisher was employed for a gun, and its huge hammer-like arms could be raised and lowered. 
The size of the prop was also determined by the fact that it would only ever be needed in the TV studio very briefly - it being mainly operated at Ealing and on location on the streets of London.

Filming commenced at Ealing on Monday 23rd May. It made use of the studio's large water tank which was only ever filled when needed. This provided the sunken area in which were seen the "Morok freezing machine" prop - first seen in Doctor Who in The Space Museum. This had its glass dome removed. Also visible is the black circular "Rel Counter", seen in Daleks - Invasion Earth: 2150AD.
The only other filming required for this episode took place on Thursday 26th, when Michael Craze was seen walking through Covent Garden. This took place outside the Royal Opera House.
In studio, a big new set was the exterior of the Inferno nightclub and the entrance to the warehouse. This set had to be large enough to allow a London taxi to enter and exit. The vehicle was driven by Michael Rathborne.
Two pieces of stock footage were employed in the episode - a clip of someone welding, taken from a health & safety film about eye protection, and some shots of cargo being handled at an airport. A close-up cutaway shot was introduced to the latter to show boxes with the distinctive "W" logo for WOTAN.
The closing credits were shown over a shot of Craze hiding behind some crates, with a searchlight trained on his face.

This episode exhibits some plotting issues with the story, mainly to do with timescales.
Brett seems to move very rapidly between the warehouse and the Post Office Tower and back again.
The first of the War Machines is built incredibly quickly. WOTAN only announces their construction as the episode opens on the first evening, and the Machine is already operational by the time the tramp enters the warehouse - which is supposed to be later that same night.
We also have crates of War Machine parts at Heathrow Airport, all clearly marked, only a few hours later.
There is also the issue of the tramp. Not only is his death able to make it to the newspaper within hours of being found, but it is on the front page, and with a photograph! Some sort of celebrity tramp? He has obviously just been released from prison, so may well have been well-known for some crime, but the newspaper simply has him an unknown man.
As mentioned above, having the War Machines identified by a removable number caused a continuity problem in this instalment. When first seen, the Machine at the Warehouse is No.9, but then becomes No.3 when the tramp is killed. It is back to being No.9 when it confronts Ben.
According to the script this was supposed to be No.3 throughout.

On completion of her work on this episode, Jackie Lane's contract as Dodo expired. Lloyd wrote to her to thank her for her work and apologised to her for having been "a victim of circumstance" - a reference to the fact that her creators had left the programme soon after her arrival.
Subject to type-casting, she gave up acting to concentrate on an antiques business. Lane also become an actors' agent, specialising in voice work. She had Tom Baker on her books for a time. and also managed Janet Fielding and Nicholas Courtney.
Later living in France for a number of years, she declined to participate in the growing convention circuit and rarely gave interviews about her time on the programme - mainly because she didn't want to repeat herself, rather than due to any hostility towards the show. It came as a great surprise when she appeared on the Afterparty programme, following the 50th Anniversary Special in 2013.
She died in London in June 2021, aged 79.

Trivia:
  • After a strong start, the ratings take a dip, as does the appreciation figure. This may have been due to the later start time and the fact that we were well into summer and school holidays now. Opposite this episode were Bonanza and the hugely popular Batman.
  • The later broadcast time was due to the BBC's coverage of the Wimbledon tennis tournament.
  • One of the warehouse workers is extra Mike Reid. He will be seen much more clearly later in the story as a soldier. He would later become a stand-up comic, act as the grumpy host of children's game show Runaround, and finally find greater fame as Frank Butcher in EastEnders. He had previously featured as an extra in The Myth Makers.
  • Also evident is background artist Hugh Cecil. The bald-headed performer - the result of alopecia - had featured as one of the Technix in The Daleks' Master Plan, and would go on to become well known as a regular non-speaking member of the Walmington-on-Sea Home Guard platoon in Dad's Army.
  • On Monday 20th June Blue Peter had hosted a feature on the story, with one of the War Machines appearing in studio prior to their first appearance in Doctor Who. A clip from the location filming was also screened. The item was presented by Christopher Trace, joined by co-presenter Valerie Singleton at the conclusion. The item can be seen as an extra on the story's DVD release, and it was also included at the beginning of the VHS version. A week later, the series featured homemade Daleks, presented once again by Trace.
  • Character notes for Polly claimed that she was the daughter of a doctor from Devon and loved activities like skiing and motorsports. She had previously worked as a model and travel courier, and had three brothers. It was deliberately intended that she be more mature than Dodo and other teenagers like Susan and Vicki. Julie Christie and Marianne Faithful were inspirations. None of this background made it to the screen.
  • Ben's notes are mainly about his loyalty and bravery, though they also include his dislike of people using nautical language in a jokey fashion as he doesn't like being made fun of. He also thinks Polly looks down her nose at him due to his Cockney accent, of which he is self-conscious. A little of this comes across in his first encounter with Polly in the first episode.
  • One of two retro-style posters created by Oliver Arkinstall-Jones for this story, retitled as the attention-grabbing "WOTAN":

Friday 5 July 2024

Season 25 Special Editions - New VFX


If you've managed to catch the video trailer for the Season 25 - The Collection release, you'll have seen some of the new VFX which accompany the Special Editions of the stories. All four have been given new effects, but it is those for The Happiness Patrol which appear to be the most extensive.
New VFX are always controversial, and I know that some purists will always ignore them. Personally, I have mostly embraced the changes - and they are optional after all. (Re-editing, as with some recent "re-imaginings" is more of a problem for me).
There are a couple of instances where I choose to give them a miss. The Invisible Enemy has some fantastic model work, courtesy of Ian Scoones. For its DVD release, it was decided that the Titan base sequences ought to reflect what that moon actually looks like, making them more scientifically realistic. This means cloudy orange skies. For me these are inferior to the standard star-scape of the original (and they never got round to doing anything about the studio set windows).
The model sailing ships in Enlightenment are also superior to the CGI ones.
Other stories are greatly enhanced by new effects - such as the Dalek saucers in The Dalek Invasion of Earth and space station Nerva in both The Ark in Space and Revenge of the Cybermen.


For the forthcoming Blu-ray set, some stories will have only a few changes. The Greatest Show in the Galaxy doesn't rely on this type of effect too much, and Remembrance of the Daleks will mainly see only Dalek rays, spacecraft and Hand of Omega enhanced.
Silver Nemesis will see the Cyberships and shuttle replaced.
You might think that the studio-bound The Happiness Patrol would not offer much opportunity for new VFX, but it's that very factor which has led to the changes. The cityscape is being opened up with lots of shots showing the upper levels and backdrops to the city, adding a sense of scale to Terra Alpha.
From the shots we can see in the trailer, it makes it look a little more Blade Runner-ish or Gotham-like, with Helen A residing in a huge fascistic palace.


Many will argue that the studio setting, looking as fake as it does, is as it ought to be. It is a deliberate part of the overall design. This is a false society where the smiles are painted on, after all. It is supposed to look fake and unrealistic, and the sets reflect this.
The director, Chris Clough, was concerned about the sets at the time, and wanted to record the story in B&W, with skewed camera angles. (I've tried watching the story with the colour turned down, and it does make for an interesting viewing experience).
The Happiness Patrol is not a popular story. It's better regarded than the previous season's "off-beat" story - Paradise Towers - but the cheap-looking sets and the controversial monster have tended to drag it down. I suspect that, with its new look and ever relevant political dimension, this story is one that will be re-evaluated in a more positive light.