Wednesday 31 January 2024

Story 283: Kerblam!

In which the Doctor receives a home delivery...
A robotic figure materialises in the TARDIS - one of the famed Kerb!am Men. This company is the biggest home shopping business in the galaxy. Their warehouse and distribution centre covers an entire moon of the planet Kandoka. Whilst successful commercially, the firm is suffering staffing issues. The company is almost fully automated, with the robot Kerb!am Men teleporting across space to make deliveries. Other robots - known as TeamMates - crew the facility. Only a small number of humans are employed - which has caused problems with the people of Kandoka, who are suffering high unemployment.
The Doctor's package contains a new fez, which she had forgotten she had ordered. Within the packaging, she discovers a note calling for help.
They decide to go to the moon and investigate. On arrival, they meet head of HR Judy Maddox and manage to get taken on as staff - allowing them to look around under cover.

Staff are given electronic ankle tags, which monitor their movements and prevent them entering areas they are not permitted to go into, based on their role.
The Doctor swaps anklets with Graham in order to get into the packing area, as that is the best place to start looking for their mysterious message sender. Graham is dismayed to find that he is now assigned to being a janitor and handed a mop and bucket by a TeamMate.
Ryan is also in the packing area, and meets a young woman named Kira. He is surprised at her reaction to receiving a gift - but she explains that she has never been given anything before.
Yaz is in the warehouse and meets co-worker Dan, who explains that he hardly ever gets to see his family on Kandoka. The pair swap a task, and Dan is killed a short time later by a TeamMate in a secluded part of the building.

The Doctor meets the warehouse executive, Jarva Slade, and takes an instant disliking to him as she observes him bullying Kira.
Graham meanwhile meets co-worker Charlie, a young man who is secretly in love with Kira - not realising that she shares his feelings.
Odd power losses keep occurring, and an emergency break is called. Everyone gathers in a garden area where the TARDIS crew can compare notes. Yaz tells the Doctor about Dan's sudden disappearance, and this is not the only one according to Charlie, so she decides to confront Slade. They will go to his office to lodge a formal complaint about Dan and the others.
In his office, the Doctor admonishes Judy about the lack of concern for the workers.
They decide to wait until Slade leaves then break back in to search his files. They find it odd that he still uses a pen and paper. His files reveal that he has been keeping notes about the vanishing staff. Judy discovers them, thanks to their anklets, and they tell her of their suspicions about her boss.

The Doctor comes to realise that the automated systems of the company are working against the human employees - which is why Slade uses old-fashioned tools. They assume he is responsible. In the company's  foyer is one of the original Kerb!am delivery robots, and the Doctor realises that it will not be connected to the current systems. She steals it and reactivates it.
They discover that Kira has been called down to the lower levels, which are no longer in use. She has been lured there with a Kerb!am delivery. They rush to the area and spot her in a sealed room, just as she opens her parcel. Charlie shouts a warning but she cannot hear. As she bursts the bubble-wrap, she is disintegrated. Ryan realises that Charlie knew exactly what was going to happen.
It transpires that Slade is not the villain they thought he was. He has been monitoring the situation but is not responsible. He couldn't tell anyone of his fears as he distrusted the automated systems, and wasn't sure if Judy was involved.

The person behind the sabotage and the disappearances is actually Charlie. Kira's death had been a tragic accident. He has been testing weaponised packaging - explosive bubble-wrap which activates when popped. He intends that millions of potentially lethal packages will be despatched across the galaxy. His motivation is the company's disregard for human workers' rights. Kerb!am, by concentrating on automation and robots, is responsible for mass unemployment and misery on Kandoka, and Charlie wishes to punish the company by destroying their reputation.
A whole army of Kerb!am Men has been assembled, ready to be sent out to customers.
Charlie is a genius, pretending to be otherwise to secure a menial role where he would not be noticed. The company systems have recognised his tampering and taken action to stop him. It was the company computer which sent the message to the TARDIS.
The Doctor programmes the prototype delivery robot to send a message to the robots to deliver their packages here. She urges Charlie to get out of the way but he refuses. Their packages explode - destroying them and killing the young man.
Judy and Slade agree to improve working conditions for the  staff, and to recruit more people over machines.

Kerblam! was written by Pete McTighe, and was first broadcast on Sunday 18th November 2018.
This was McTighe's first work on the series, and he has since gone on to produce the trailers for The Collection Blu-ray box sets, many of which have become sequels to classic stories of the respective seasons.
The title may roll off the tongue, but the story, unfortunately, leaves a bad taste in the mouth.
Despite the sudden saintly behaviour of the boss and his Head of HR at the end, the story appears to be siding with the big corporation against the workers.
Imagine if the Doctor joined forces with the Musks, Bransons and Bezoses of this world to defend them against their staff, struggling to establish a nascent trade union.
Yes, Charlie is a terrorist, who has killed a number of workers as part of his scheme, but like all extremists he believes whole-heartedly in his cause and thinks that what he is doing is the right thing. Ends justify means. But he is not out for power, or wealth, or anything for himself. He's fighting a system on behalf of ordinary working people, who want to work, but there's a massive corporation limiting its workforce to just 10%, concentrating on cheap automation.
The people who are fortunate to work for Kerb!am are treated like slaves - not even getting time enough off to see their children.
It's a story we see today - sweatshops, slave labour gangs and employees forced to work in unsafe conditions - underpaid and overworked. 
Having a nice smiley people-person in head office doesn't make things any better.

That people-person, Judy, is played by Julie Hesmondhalgh. Employed of late by RTD in his Cucumber / Banana series, she had also starred in the third season of Chibnall's Broadchurch. It was as transexual Hayley in Coronation Street that she first came to fame. She has also just featured in Mr Bates vs The Post Office, which has had a huge political impact in the UK in recent weeks.
Playing Jarva is Callum Dixon.
There's a cameo appearance for "comedian" Lee Mack as the unfortunate Dan. He has his own sitcom and fronts a prime time Saturday night quiz show, but I'm afraid I fail to find him either funny or entertaining - so I'm glad he  gets little screentime.
Charlie is played by Leo Flanagan, best known for Waterloo Road, whilst Kira is Claudia Jessie - a regular on period drama Bridgerton.

Overall, it could have been a good old-fashioned style of story - a satire on globalisation and the way corporations abuse the people who bring them their wealth, but its sympathies lie in the wrong direction for me. Fans of the Voc Robots and their Heavenly Host cousins will be happy, whilst others might see the TeamMates as pale imitators.
Things you might like to know:
  • First TV story to have an exclamation mark in its title, though they've appeared in spin-off media titles.
  • Two past Doctors are referenced. The fez is synonymous with the Eleventh, and the Doctor uses Venusian Aikido - the martial art form favoured by the Third.
  • "Robophobia" is also mentioned, and as mentioned above, the robots do strike one as similar to the killer Vocs of Robots of Death.
  • There are scenes in the packing area where the TARDIS crew have to descend to the lower levels, avoiding the automated systems. This is heavily influenced by the Geonosis foundry sequence in Star Wars Episode II: Attack of the Clones.
  • Chris Chibnall attended his farewell party in a Kerb!am Man costume.
  • The Kerb!am Man at the Worlds of Wonder Exhibition in Edinburgh in 2023:

Monday 29 January 2024

DWM 600

The 600th issue of Doctor Who Magazine arrives on Thursday. Mainly looking at recent episodes, it will also have a tribute to Richard Franklin, as well as Planet of the Daleks in the Fact of Fiction.
PS: the recent DWM Yearbook let slip that the next Chronicles special edition might be covering 1971.

Whilst I'm here, we now know that the DVD of The Church on Ruby Road is released on 12th February, and The Daleks in Colour follows two weeks later.
The US Amazon claims the animated The Celestial Toymaker is due 26th March - which if true means the UK gets it before then.
Lastly, Feb 4th sees the screening of Horror of Fang Rock at the BFI in London. These screenings always herald the imminent releases of the Collection box sets, so shouldn't be very long to wait for the Season 15 set.

Inspirations: The Impossible Astronaut / Day of the Moon

The location came first.
Steven Moffat was looking for something big to launch his second series in charge and thought that a story filmed overseas - the US in particular - would make an impact. He had in mind a story set in the USA during the 1960's, which would use a number of iconic landmarks, including New York City.
For the story itself, an incident would occur which would run through the entire season - more than just a word or phrase as a story arc.
The Big Bang had left plot threads dangling, so these would be picked up in this series.
The location was a deliberate move to please American fans, but Moffat wasn't aiming the story at that market. As he said at the time, US fans liked the Britishness of Doctor Who, and the programme was already doing well in the territory anyway.
With Cape Kennedy being a key location in the scripts, locations in Florida were considered (hence the setting for the children's home), and Mount Rushmore was also a possibility, but in the end Utah and Arizona were selected as affording some iconic landscapes which could not be replicated in South Wales.

The Silence came next. Moffat wanted a creature that could become as iconic as the Weeping Angels. He hit on the idea of something which, when you looked away from it, you forgot you'd seen it - feeling that this was suitably creepy and alarming.
"Silence will fall" had been a running phrase throughout Series 5, its relevance unexplained so far.
This led to the notion that an invasion had taken place a very long time ago, but the human race were unaware as they kept forgetting.
For the look of the creatures, he looked to Edvard Munch's The Scream (Skrik, 1893). This in turn led to the popular image of extra-terrestrials, known as "Greys", reported by UFO witnesses since the 1950's.
Putting them in conventional black suits tied in with the "Men in Black", also associated with UFO's and ET's.
Area 51 - the "non-existent" section of the USAF base at Groom Lake, Nevada - became another obvious location, seen in the second episode.
The fashion also fitted with the late 1960's setting.

Once America in the 1960's was decided upon, the obvious setting was the Moon landing in 1969. On checking who the POTUS was, he found it was the controversial Richard Milhous Nixon. He was to fall during the Watergate scandal a couple of years later - so Moffat included this in his script. The Doctor advises the President to record all of his conversations in the Oval Office because of the calls from the mysterious child.
A fan of The West Wing, Moffat wanted the Doctor to first meet Nixon in the Oval Office of the White House.

It was also decided that River Song would feature once again, and she would be integral to the full series arc - though it wouldn't be obvious just yet.
As a big shock factor, Moffat then decided to open the series with a death - and this time it would be the Doctor himself who was to be killed.
The audience were told that this was not a trick. He really would be shot dead, with no chance of a quick regeneration.
The image of an astronaut, face obscured, emerging from a lake in the middle of a desert, during a picnic, was just too surreal not to use.
Amy's pregnancy was also introduced - again with no clue for viewers as to the importance of this to the arc.

Working titles were "Year of the Moon" and "Look Behind You".
It was one of Moffat's sons who helped come up with the final titles as he thought these "too cheesy", and his dad could do better.
The custodian of the Gothic children's home was named Renfrew, as a nod to psychiatric inmate Renfield in Bram Stoker's Dracula.
Moffat had trouble describing the tally marks in his scripts, and ended up having to download a new font for his word processor to cope with them.
The Silents' spaceship - an unused TARDIS design concept - was reused from The Lodger.
The opening section saw the Doctor in a variety of settings including appearing in a Laurel & Hardy movie (The Flying Deuces, 1939); encounter with King Charles II; and as a POW in a WWII German camp. He escapes from the Tower of London - from whence he and Susan had earlier fled in the reign of Henry VIII.
At one point the Doctor exclaims "Space - 1969!" - a reference to Gerry Anderson's series Space:1999.
Next time: Shiver me timbers and heave-ho, me hearties! It's a prequel to a late William Hartnell story (sort of...).

Sunday 28 January 2024

Episode 102: Destruction of Time

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.

Chen forces Steven and Sara to enter the Dalek underground bunker at gunpoint...
They try to reason with the Guardian of the Solar System, attempting to convince him that the Daleks no longer regard him as an ally, but his mind has snapped. He actually believes that the Doctor is out to usurp his strong position with the Daleks.
He escorts them to the subterranean control room, where the Supreme informs him that their alliance is over. His mind refusing to accept the reality of the situation, Chen actually begins issuing orders to the Daleks. When they refuse to move, he fires upon the Supreme.
His weapon is useless against it, and it orders his extermination. Chen dashes from the room.
Forgotten in the confusion, Steven and Sara see the Doctor emerge from the shadows. He gives Steven the TARDIS key.
The Daleks catch up with Chen. He dies with a look of sheer disbelief on his face.
The Doctor activates the Time Destructor on low power, then urges his companions to return to the TARDIS. The Daleks cannot fire upon the him for fear of damaging their weapon.
He leaves the room, shielded by a Dalek, then uses his cloak to jam the door behind him.
The Destructor's power is increasing, and a powerful wind begins to blast through the jungles of Kembel. Steven has gone to the TARDIS, but Sara has held back, determined to stay and help despite the Doctor's warnings. The weapon is beginning to affect the environment, and they will not be immune.
The Daleks have unjammed the door and are now in pursuit.
Soon the jungles have withered away and only a blasted desert remains. The Doctor's strength is draining away, but for Sara the effects are terminal. She is rapidly ageing to death.
Steven spots them approaching the ship. He sees the pair collapse, and decides to risk going outside to help.
It is too late to save Sara, but the Doctor is still alive. Attempting to switch the Destructor off, he accidentally puts it into reverse. The Doctor's strength begins to return and Steven helps him into the TARDIS.
They observe the pursuing Daleks being overpowered by the Destructor, their casings disintegrating.
The core of the Time Destructor soon burns itself out, leaving the surroundings totally changed.
The Doctor and Steven emerge and see that all that remains of the Daleks are primitive embryos.
Back in the TARDIS, they reflect upon all the lives that have been lost in their efforts to thwart the Daleks' Master Plan - especially Sara, Bret and the tragic Katarina - before moving on to their next destination...
Next episode: War of God

Written by: Dennis Spooner
Recorded: Friday 14th January 1966 - Television Centre Studio TC3
First broadcast: 5:50pm, Saturday 29th January 1966
Ratings: 8.6 million / AI 57
Designer: Barry Newbery
Director: Douglas Camfield
Additional cast: Mary Ward (aged Sara)

And so the Dalek epic finally reaches its conclusion. It had seen several fall by the wayside over its twelve weeks - both on screen and off. 
Three companion figures had been killed - Katarina, Bret and Sara - whilst behind the scenes John Wiles and Donald Tosh had handed in their notices. Douglas Camfield promised himself that he would not be directing another Doctor Who story anytime soon, and Ray Cusick had also had enough. He wouldn't design for the show again, though his Dalek design continues to thrive into the 21st Century.
Little did he know it, but the seeds of William Hartnell's departure had also been sown during these three eventful months.

Also taking a break was Terry Nation, who would not write again for the series again until 1973.
In the meantime he pursued his attempts to have the Daleks launched in their own series, in an hour-long filmed format similar to the work he was doing with ITC and its ilk. A pilot was prepared, known as "The Destroyers", which would have continued the Space Security Service's efforts to combat the Dalek threat. A number of stories appeared in the Dalek books of the period. Despite having killed her off, these featured Sara Kingdom along with her brother and a humanoid android named Mark Seven.
So confident was he that Nation even bought the Dalek props from the Curse of the Daleks stage play, which had run for four weeks over the Christmas period. This was written by David Whitaker, who would pen the next two Dalek TV stories, and was a sequel of sorts to the very first Dalek story, as well as containing plot elements he would later reuse in The Power of the Daleks.

                                              Above, a colourised image, by Clayton Hickman, from the stage play.

Right from the initial story outline, it was always envisaged that the Daleks would finally be defeated when their Time Destructor device was turned against them.
Story editor Donald Tosh was working under the assumption that this would be the last ever Dalek story, and they would be defeated forever.
The Doctor deduced that the Daleks would not open fire in their control room when he saw that they did not kill Chen there - working out that they didn't want to damage their weapon.
He argued with Steven that he alone could withstand the effects of the Time Destructor, specifically pointing out that he was not human and that ageing a few hundred years would be of little matter to him.
When put into reverse, the device caused time to roll back hundreds, rather than millions of years.
The working title of the episode in these earlier stages was "A Switch In Time".

Filming on this episode began on Thursday 30th September 1965. Scenes completed that day included the Doctor carrying the Time Destructor through the jungle with Sara, and shots of Jean Marsh in aged make-up. The Destructor prop was comprised mainly of Woolworths plastic tumblers, made to be lightweight so that Hartnell could carry it comfortably.
Filming continued the following week, with Mary Ward joining the cast to play the elderly version of Sara. Camfield claimed that he was inspired by H Rider Haggard's She for these scenes. (Hammer had released a version of this, with movie Dr Who Peter Cushing, in April 1965).
Further finale sequences were filmed the next day, involving Hartnell and Ward in special make-up. Two Dalek props were rigged to explode and collapse in on themselves, and a starfish-like embryo was manipulated from beneath by a design assistant (see below).
For her death, an image of Ward prone on the ground was mixed to a skeleton dressed in Sara's SSS uniform, which in turn mixed to a powdered outline which blew away in the wind.
Unhappy with the amount of material he had to work with, Camfield returned to Ealing on 27th December to record additional shots. Hartnell was initially booked for this day but wasn't required in the end. The day concentrated on the Daleks - four of which were used.

Owing to the changes in the previous week's script to remove Hartnell from the episode, further changes were necessary to the opening sections of this instalment, now that the Doctor was no longer present until later in the action.
Chen would have taunted the Doctor with Sara's loyalty to him and of how she had been proud to be chosen as the agent to kill him. On being escorted into the control room, the Doctor had pretended not to notice the Time Destructor, but had slowly moved over to it as the Daleks were distracted by Chen's increasingly crazed behaviour.
The opening credits were shown over a shot of the Daleks in their control room.
In studio, Kembel was represented by two sets - one jungled and the other as it appeared after the Time Destructor had done its work.
The last of the six planned recording breaks was to move the TARDIS prop between these sets. 
Others were to move the Daleks, as with recent weeks, but one saw some set rearrangement, and another was used to add aged make-up to Marsh. The majority of the final scenes had been filmed at Ealing.
The destruction of the Daleks was seen on the TARDIS scanner, whilst the closing credits were shown over the dematerialising TARDIS.
The roller-caption jammed - causing a three minute overrun on the night.

The Daleks' Master Plan was offered to only one other territory - Australia. This was minus the seventh instalment, The Feast of Steven. A comprehensive list was prepared of material that would need to be cut in order for it to be passed by the Australian censors, who were notoriously strict. Scenes from almost every episode were included - to the point that it was realised that it would be impractical to proceed any further with the sale.
The videotapes of all episodes were junked between 1967 - 69.
A 16mm film copy of Devil's Planet still existed in October 1971, as a clip from it featured on Blue Peter.
That for The Traitors was loaned to Blue Peter in November 1973 for their Doctor Who 10th Anniversary feature. It was never returned to the BBC library, and its disappearance remains one of the series' great mysteries.
As previously mentioned, two episodes turned up at a Mormon church in South London in 1983, with a third being returned by a BBC engineer in 2004.
The story overall remains one of the most sought after missing adventures. I'm sure I'm not the only person who would dearly love to have seen the scenes of Chen's descent into madness - especially the look on his face when he finally realised that the Daleks had indeed turned against him.
From the audio, the finale certainly sounds exciting, overlaid with the Time Destructor's relentless clockwork-like sound effect and the roaring of the wind.

  • The ratings take a tumble for the concluding instalment - falling by more than one million viewers. The audience never knew how long a storyline was going to last, and it may be that they simply got bored with this story - not realising that it would be the finale this week. The previous instalment had been low in incident, which may not have helped.
  • Once again, though, it's a case of fewer people watching - but those who did liked what they saw. The appreciation figure jumps by 8 points, to the highest score for this serial.
  • This is the second shortest episode of the story, at 23' 31" (the briefest instalment being The Nightmare Begins). Camfield explained that this was due to the final two scenes of Sara's demise being cut as too gruesome.
  • Jean Marsh would return to the series on one further occasion - playing Morgaine in Battlefield. In this she featured opposite her one-time screen brother Nicholas Courtney, by then famous as the Brigadier.
  • Kevin Stoney was ready to return to the series when Camfield came back during the Troughton era. He had one further magnificent villain to play in Tobias Vaughn, in the 8-part The Invasion. A final role would see him opposite the Cybermen once again, as Tyrum in Revenge of the Cybermen.
  • Hartnell's absence from the previous episode was noted by the TV critics this week - many of whom were now expressing an increasing boredom with the Daleks. The writer for the Daily Worker thought that even the kids were getting fed up.
  • The Supreme and one of its underlings appeared on Blue Peter on Thursday 3rd February, helping Valerie Singleton concoct a Dalek-themed tea party. This can be viewed on the DVD of The Dalek Invasion of Earth.
  • On the same day Terrence Woodfield appeared in full costume and make-up as Celation on Junior Points of View, which featured viewer feedback on the serial. This was in response to one viewer asking for more information about "the polka-dot thing that keeps going "ssss" all the time".
  • Woodfield read out the programme's address at the end of the episode, then - bizarrely - finished with: "Eee, I could do wi' a luverly plate o' whelks". Now that's a clip we'd all love to see recovered some day.
  • Other viewers bemoaned the death of Sara, whom they felt had been the strongest character the programme had seen in a long time; comments about the Doctor's frequent "Hmmm"s; and a general wish that the Daleks might be rested for a while as they were everywhere these days.
  • Below, a colourised behind-the-scenes shot of the climax. A design assistant, in newspaper hat, prepares to manipulate the Dalek embryo on the devastated Kembel set at Ealing:
  • An image of Jean Marsh as Sara Kingdom was used to help illustrate the BBC's 1967 Annual Report:

Friday 26 January 2024

What's Wrong With... Destiny of the Daleks

It should have been an epic. The sequel to Genesis of the Daleks... The return of Davros... The first Dalek story for half a decade...
So what went wrong?
Quite a few things, of course.

David Gooderson is a fine actor, but he simply cannot vocalise like Michael Wisher. This Davros just isn't subtly malevolent enough. The original Davros believed wholeheartedly that what what he was doing was right - even in his hypothetical discussion with the Doctor about the virus. Arrogant and sociopathic, but honest and consistent in his world view.
The Gooderson Davros is more of a ranting megalomaniac - a more conventional villain.
He isn't helped by the deterioration of the mask - rotting away at one of the permanent Exhibitions. he also seems to have lacked the rehearsal time Wisher had with the wheelchair. He glided, whilst we can hardly keep a straight face when we see this Kaled scientist pedalling furiously along a corridor, rocking from side to side.

The story was made during a period of rocketing inflation, and there simply wasn't enough money to renovate the Dalek props. Bits are broken off, whilst others are stuck on with Sellotape*.
The paint scheme varies from prop to prop, with some grey and others more blue. There's a mismatch of tops and bottoms. When one blows up, the pieces of the skirt fall to the floor and clatter like they are made of wood. They are, of course, but they're not supposed to be.
The vacuum-formed plastic ones are visibly crudely made. On location, they can be seen to be lifted off the ground and carried, wobbling as they move. One of them has its top half misaligned with the base.
When the group blow up at the end, you can see the dowling rod supports left standing.

Horrible disco-outfits. Just because it's the late 1970's, it ought not to look like it. 
How could they possibly match the Daleks when all you have to do to incapacitate them is remove an easily detached device from their belts?
Their arms drop off rather too easily as well.
It looks like they can be reprogrammed with a conventional screwdriver set.
Why would coldly logical robots care if the Doctor knew that they were artificial? Why go to all the bother of deception, when one of them is going to turn up, after being thought dead, a short time later anyway?
Isn't it a bit risky testing a planet-destroying weapon when you're standing on that planet? What if something had gone wrong?
How did they know that the Doctor was going to walk past that area where Romana was held in the Nova Device cylinder, just as the countdown would melodramatically reach 000? Did they know a cliffhanger was due?

A Sequel?
Nation doesn't appear to have rewatched his previous Dalek story, or read through the script.
He suddenly thinks that the Daleks are purely robotic now - only having had an organic occupant in the past. 
At no point in the past have they ever been creatures of pure logic. They're always emotional - manically so.
The geography of the city doesn't match Genesis at all. 
Davros was "killed" in his bunker - not in the city anyway.
Has he been wheeled into a side room at some point in the interim? Why leave his corpse hanging around in the first place? What made the Daleks think he was still alive to resurrect?
Another issue of the city layout: the Daleks are mining for ages, yet Davros appears (on screen at least) to be on a level with a window onto the surface. They've got detailed maps of each level of their own city, which they ought to know inside out, yet have forgotten about the shortcut to the level they're after - one which the Doctor remembers, even though we never saw any evidence of it in Genesis.

Other stuff:
Where's the Dalek spaceship whilst all this is going on? We're led to believe there's a ship in orbit, but no reinforcements show up.
It's a bit odd that the Doctor and Romana recognise the galaxy of origin of the Movellan spaceship - but don't know anything about the Movellans themselves.
It's one thing to be relieved that you've just been saved from extermination, but having a laugh whilst you pick up the corpses of your comrades is going a wee bit too far.
Extermination is supposed to be excruciating, yet we see some people just gently lower themselves to the ground.
And the biggest question of all: why does the Movellan spaceship have upholstered seats...?

*Other adhesive tapes are available.

Wednesday 24 January 2024

DWM Yearbook 2024

The latest Special Edition of DWM is the annual Yearbook, which is published this week (25th Jan). Naturally the trio of anniversary episodes plus the Christmas instalment dominate, but it will cover the Series across all media over the last 12 months. 
The colourised The Daleks, Tales from the TARDIS and other 60th offerings will feature.
One feature I always look forward to, not wishing to sound morbid, is the In Memoriam section, remembering everyone front of camera and behind the scenes who have passed.

M is for... Morgan

Sadistic second-in-command on the Interplanetary Mining Corporation mission to the planet Uxarieus. This was led by Captain Dent, who was prepared to go to any lengths to secure mineral rights on the planets they visited. Morgan was happy to kill anyone who got in their way. On finding the planet claimed by farmer-colonists, Morgan planted an agent in the group - tasked with sabotage or even murder.
He and Dent also faked monster attacks using a mining robot equipped with false claws.
An attempt to dispose of the Doctor using the robot was foiled when his remote control was wrecked.
Morgan was later killed in an ambush by the colonists.

Played by: Tony Caunter. Appearances: Colony in Space (1971).
  • Second of three appearances by Caunter. The first was as Thatcher in The Crusade, and the last was as Jackson in Enlightenment.
  • The part was originally intended for a female actor, and Susan Jameson was cast. However, Barry Letts' boss thought a jack-booted lady villain too kinky and vetoed the casting. Caunter stepped in to replace her late in the day. Jameson does appear - as the photo of Ashe's wife on his desk. This was a little joke by director Michael E Briant, who was annoyed at the interference from on high.

M is for... Morgaine

Battle Queen of the S'rax, Morgaine originated in an alternative dimension. In this, our Arthurian legends were real. He had been her lover, but later they became bitter enemies.
She defeated the king's magician Merlin - sealing him in an ice cavern - but Arthur fled their final battle. She despatched her son Mordred to Earth to seek him out, and he established a portal for her to follow. She brought with her The Destroyer - a powerful demon-like creature. It taunted her to release it from its silver bonds, but she wanted to keep it as a last resort. She secretly feared it could turn on her if freed.
As well as seeking revenge against Arthur she sought his sword, Excalibur, as it had strange powers, as well as operating the spacecraft which had brought him to Earth in ancient times.
Morgaine admired the Brigadier and his troops as fellow warriors, and respected the war dead of the local area. She paid for her boorish sons' drunken behaviour at an inn by curing the landlady's blindness. However, she could equally kill a UNIT soldier simply to extract information from her mind.
When Mordred was captured, she was prepared to let him be killed by the Brigadier.
On learning that Arthur was long-dead, and she could never have her revenge, she was going to trigger a nuclear war - but the Doctor convinced her that this was never an honourable mode of warfare.
She and Mordred were taken into UNIT custody.

Played by Jean Marsh. Appearances: Battlefield (1989).
  • Marsh's Doctor Who connections go back to her short-lived marriage to Jon Pertwee.
  • She played Princess Joanna in The Crusade (in which Nicholas Courtney came close to playing her brother King Richard - first choice if Julian Glover proved unavailable).
  • With Glover's then wife, Eileen Atkins, she created period drama Upstairs, Downstairs - the Downton Abbey of its day.
  • She finally got to play Courtney's brother in The Daleks' Master Plan, when she played Sara Kingdom to his Bret Vyon. They only have a single scene together - when she shoots him dead.
  • Around the time the pair worked together on this story, Marsh was cornering the market in witch-like characters, having played one in Return to Oz and in Willow.

M is for... Morestrans

Humanoids from the planet Morestra, which controlled a huge militaristic empire on the edge of the galaxy around the year 37166.
On learning that their sun was dying they despatched one of their foremost scientists, Professor Sorenson, to seek out alternative energy sources. He found what he was looking for on the primordial world of Zeta Minor, which lay on the very edge of space.
The expedition quickly ran into trouble as its members were picked off one by one by a hostile force on the planet - a creature from the universe of anti-matter. A distress signal was sent out and a rescue mission was launched from the home world. This was led by the weak and arrogant Salamar, who was often at loggerheads with the older, more experienced Vishinsky who acted as his second-in-command. 
On arriving on Zeta Minor, they initially suspected the Doctor and Sarah Jane Smith of being responsible for the deaths of the scientists - until it could be proven that the creature was responsible, as well as an infected Sorenson.
Salamar was killed by the mutated Sorenson, leaving Vishinsky to pilot the ship back home. Sorenson was cured of the anti-matter infection, and the Doctor convinced him that the key to their future was to harness the kinetic energies of planetary motion.

Played by: Prentis Hancock (Salamar), Ewen Solon (Vishinsky), Frederick Jaeger (Sorenson), Michael Wisher, Graham Weston, Louis Mahoney, Tony McEwan.
Appearances: Planet of Evil (1975).
  • A Morestran was amongst the slave workers on Skaro, seen in Destiny of the Daleks.
  • Every one of the above credited actors has featured in another Doctor Who story. Weston and McEwan are both in The War Games, whilst Mahoney appears in Frontier in Space and Blink. Prentis Hancock can be seen in Spearhead From Space, Planet of the Daleks and The Ribos Operation. Jaeger and Solon were on opposite sides in The Savages, and the former was also K-9's creator in The Invisible Enemy (and the dodgy scientist in The Mutants was named after him, as the writers hoped he would be cast).
  • Michael Wisher's credits are too many to mention here. As well as playing navigator Ponti, he also voices another crewman off screen, with a dreadful Peter Sellers Indian accent.

M is for... Mordred

Son of Morgaine - a witch-like queen from an alternative dimension. After she had defeated Merlin, he crossed over to our world in search of King Arthur. He possessed a powerful sword - brother of Arthur's Excalibur. On seeing the Seventh Doctor, he recognised him as Merlin. His great rival was Arthur's knight Ancelyn, who had also crossed dimensions. All gathered by Lake Vortigern in the heart of England. Beneath its waters, the dead Arthur rested in his spaceship, having escaped here in ancient times.
Mordred established a base at the ruined Carbury Castle and opened a portal for his mother to join him.
Significantly, Morgaine did not allow her son to lead her armies. This role fell to a Knight-Commander. Irked by his lack of courtesy to their enemies, she paid for his ale drinking.
Later, when he had been threatened by the Brigadier, she was willing to sacrifice him to achieve her own ends.
He and his mother were captured by UNIT.

Played by: Christopher Bowen. Appearances: Battlefield (1989).
  • Bowen auditioned for the role of the Doctor for the 1996 TV Movie.
  • In Arthurian legend, Mordred is the son of Morgana Le Fey (spellings vary, as do the legends). If you've seen John Boorman's Excalibur, you'll have seen how he is also the son of Arthur - he having been tricked into committing incest with her due to her magic. Other versions simply have him Arthur's nephew. Mordred fatally wounds Arthur, but is killed at the dying king's hands.

Monday 22 January 2024

Story 282: Demons of the Punjab

In which Yaz asks for the Doctor's help. Her grandmother, Umbreen celebrates her birthday by giving gifts to her grand-daughters. To Sonya she gives a photograph of herself and their late grandfather, and to Yaz she gives a watch. It doesn't work, but Umbreen tells her never to repair it.
Intrigued by its inscription Yaz wants to know more about her family history from the time of Umbreen's wedding - which coincided with the Partition of India in August 1947.
The Doctor agrees to travel back to that period, and they connect the watch to the TARDIS telepathic circuits to take them directly to Umbreen's home.
This is in a small village, in the Punjab region.
After spotting some mysterious black figures they come to a road where they meet a young man named Prem. He agrees to take them to Umbreen's home, which lies right on the new border between India and Pakistan. They claim to be family friends of the young woman - whilst he is her groom-to-be.

They see the figures again and the Doctor is able to identify them as Thijarians. These beings are infamous assassins. They are stalking a elderly Hindu holy man named Bhakti. he is found dead in the woods. 
Prem reveals that he has seen a Thijarian before. This was during the last war, when he saw a similar figure standing over the body of his dead brother.
The aliens force them to flee, and follow them to Umbreen's  farm where the Doctor is able to keep them at bay.
Yaz is still confused about the forthcoming wedding of Prem to Umbreen, as Prem was not her grandfather.
Opposed to the marriage is Prem's brother Manish, who is a devout Muslim.
With Bhakti dead, the wedding can't go ahead with no-one to officiate - but the Doctor reveals that she is qualified to do so.

After a visit to the Thijarian spacecraft, the Doctor discovers that they have now renounced their old killing ways. What they do now is bear witness to the dying. They have come here at this time as Prem is to die today.
Partition has just been implemented - a political upheaval which will see countless deaths, many unmourned.
Following the wedding, Prem attempts to reconcile with his brother. He drops his watch which breaks - allowing Yaz to begin to see the relevance of its meaning for Umbreen.
It transpires that it was Manish who killed Bhakti. He and a group of armed men appear, attempting to force Prem to decide between his new bride and his faith.
When he refuses to renounce Umbreen, one of the men shoots him dead. Umbreen and her mother will leave this country - contemplating a move to England. 
A random choice points them towards Sheffield.

Demons of the Punjab was written by Vinay Patel, and was first broadcast on Sunday 11th November 2018.
It is the second story of the series to have a 20th Century historical setting, after Rosa, and like Rosa it has similarities - including the dame limitations. 
The earlier story dealt with racial intolerance, and this one deals with religious intolerance - that between Hindus, Sikhs and Muslims at the time of Partition, when the United Kingdom withdrew its direct control from India. This was part of a widespread dismantling of Empire following the Second World War. 
Events play out as they have to play out, and once again the Doctor has nothing to do but observe. It's a very good drama but - like Rosa - very poor Doctor Who. The historical stories of the Hartnell era still managed to integrate the Doctor and companions fully into the adventure, but with this episode they may as well never have featured. Patel has written a solid romance, set against a time of political and social upheaval - a doomed love affair along the lines of Romeo and Juliet, with religion taking the place of family loyalties. It should have been a stand-alone prime-time drama. As a Doctor Who story, however, it leaves a lot to be desired.

It doesn't help that the episode is initiated by a silly idea. Yaz finds out that her gran was betrothed to a man who was not her grandfather. This is hardly a mystery worth investigating. People change their minds all the time. Relationships fall apart, or accidents befall people before events can take place.
A genuine mystery is how Umbreen can't recall that a woman identical to her grand-daughter, even in dress, attended her wedding.
This story at least gives Yaz something to do. She is the least effective companion of this TARDIS line-up. However, instead of dominating the episode and playing a pivotal role she is pretty much relegated to observing like everyone else.
The treatment of the Doctor gets even worse here. She's been presented as patronising up to now, awarding companions points like a pat on the head, but now she's advanced to giving them gold stars.
The Thijarians are a nice design - but totally wasted as they hardly feature and prove to be a red herring anyway.
The guest cast comprises Leena Dhingra as the older Umbreen, with Amita Suman as her younger self.
Prem is Shane Zaza, and Manish is Hamza Jeetooa. 
Zaza is predominantly a stage actor, but prior to this had featured in BBC dramas Happy Valley and Waterloo Road. Coincidentally, he and Jeetooa have both appeared in zombie-themed comedy movies.
Genre appearances by Suman include recurring roles in The Outpost and Shadows and Bones.

Overall - a nice enough romantic drama, but not a great fit for Doctor Who. As with Rosa, the best thing we can say about it is that it would have got people looking up the subject matter and learning more about those events. An apt broadcast for 11th November though, this being Remembrance Sunday and remembrance being a theme.
Things you might like to know:
  • This is the first episode of the series not to have a writing credit by Chris Chibnall. He has either written or co-written everything up to this point - which might just be one of the problems with this season.
  • Another similarity to Rosa is the lack of the usual theme music at the end. Instead we get an arrangement done in an Indian musical style.
  • The basic premise behind the Thijarians is identical to that of Testimony, seen in Twice Upon A Time. In both cases the Doctor thinks they are a threat but it turns out that they are merely observers who appear when someone dies.
  • The Thijarians are portrayed by female actors, with other actresses providing the voices.
  • They are named Kisar and Almak.
  • The filming took place in Granada, Spain.
  • Future Master Sacha Dhawan was offered a role in this episode but had to turn it down due to a clash with other work commitments. I'm guessing Prem.

Sunday 21 January 2024

Episode 101: The Abandoned Planet

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

Despite the risk that the Monk's directional unit might be incompatible and wreck his own TARDIS, the Doctor operates the controls. There is a blinding flash...
The Dalek time machine arrives on Kembel, where Mavic Chen arrogantly plays up the fact that he has succeeded where the Supreme had failed. A final meeting of the Galactic Council has been called, and Chen announces that he will lead it. After he has gone, the Supreme is asked by an underling when Chen is to be destroyed. The Supreme responds that it may yet have some usefulness for him.
No-one in the TARDIS has been hurt, but the Doctor grimly announces that the ploy has not worked. However, when they look at the scanner to see where they have landed, it reveals the familiar jungle environment of their hoped-for destination. The Doctor claims the credit, then goes outside to identify their precise location.
In the conference chamber Celation leads the criticisms over Chen's elevated status with the Daleks, as Trantis had once done. 
Chen arrives with the Supreme and is allowed to take charge of the proceedings, which further angers Celation. He leads the others in a call for the arrest of Chen, who simply ignores their behaviour.
When delegate Gearon goes to physically assault him, Chen pulls out a gun and coolly shoots him dead.
Chen is now in charge of the Council.
Steven and Sara leave the TARDIS and go in search of the Dalek city, where they expect to find the Doctor. He has a compass-like device to home in on the complex. They are surprised to note an absence of Varga Plants.
Chen finds his leadership of the Council to be short-lived, as the Supreme abruptly curtails their meeting and orders them all to follow it.
They are shocked to find themselves locked in a cell.
After tracing their steps back to the TARDIS and finding the Doctor still missing, Steven and Sara decide to go back to the city.
There they see the delegates' spaceships at the landing area, but are curious to know where the Daleks' own fleet is.
As they approach closer, they discover that there are no Daleks on guard - and a search of the complex reveals it to be completely deserted. They worry that their enemy has moved to another, unknown, location from which to launch their attack on the Solar System.
However, they then hear a voice coming over a loudspeaker - that of Chen. He tells them that they are locked up and asks for help.
In the detention area, Celation suspects a trick by Chen as Sara is one of his security agents. He in turn is delusional - thinking she has come to rescue him personally out of loyalty.
Steven and Sara agree to free the delegates on one condition - that they go back to their respective star systems and prepare to fight the Daleks. After what the Supreme has done to them, they readily agree.
Soon all the delegate ships lift off, but Chen's is slow to do so. When it does, it explodes.
Steven and Sara then spot a lone Dalek and follow it. It approaches a nearby mountain and glides down a ramp into its interior. They realise that the Daleks have set up their main invasion force here.
Suddenly, Chen appears and aims his gun at them. He had set his ship to take off remotely then blow up.
He orders Steven and Sarah to precede him into the Dalek base.
They descend the ramp and are swallowed up by the darkness...
Next episode: Destruction of Time

Written by: Dennis Spooner
Recorded: Friday 7th January 1966 - Television Centre Studio TC3
First broadcast: 5:50pm, Saturday 22nd January 1966
Ratings: 9.8 million / AI 49
Designer: Raymond P Cusick
Director: Douglas Camfield
Additional cast: Bryan Mosley (Malpha), Jack Pitt (Gearon)

As mentioned last time, the main events of this episode were originally scheduled to take place in the tenth instalment.
Episode 11 was originally titled "Return to Varga". After freeing the delegates from a cellar, the Doctor organised search parties to look for the Daleks. He then sent them all back home to prepare a new anti-Dalek alliance. He and his companions were about to leave when they spotted a lone Dalek enter a lift-shaft - which led them to discover the Dalek fleet.
The instalment never varied significantly from its draft outline to the finished episode - apart from one very noticeable thing...
After his brief appearance in the TARDIS at the beginning, the Doctor vanishes from the story.
The reasons for William Hartnell's absence are unrecorded. The Doctor was supposed to have accompanied Steven and Sara throughout. His lines were mostly given to Peter Purves, who in turn had to relinquish some of Steven's to Jean Marsh.
Luckily not a great deal happens in this episode so the team get away with it. Having the lead vanish in the crucial build-up to a finale - especially one this long in coming - could have been a disaster.
The episode sees the usually unperturbable Mavic Chen begin to lose it, psychologically. He has been calm and urbane for much of the story, with only the odd manic lapse (such as with Karlton in Counter Plot) but now his sanity begins to crumble - his delusions of grandeur really coming to the forefront.

Model work was due to take place on Friday 1st October, of the Dalek landing area and assorted spaceships. However, a number of the models - supplied by Shawcraft Models of Uxbridge - failed to operate properly. Work for the early episodes was completed, but shots for The Abandoned Planet had to be deferred to Monday 4th October.
On the Thursday of rehearsals, Hartnell and Purves were released to carry out some filming at Ealing for The Massacre.
The day before, Douglas Camfield requested that his Production Assistant Viktors Ritelis be given an on-screen credit to acknowledge the huge amount of help he had given the show over the last few months. This would be granted for inclusion on the closing credits for the final episode. It was standard practice that certain members of the production of a programme would only be credited on the final instalment of a serial, despite having contributed throughout.
The episode opened with a shot of the TARDIS crew lying stunned on the floor.
To show the abandoned complex, images of Cusick's empty sets from earlier episodes were shown.
Most of the recording breaks were to move the Daleks from set to set.
The last shot, of Steven and Sara disappearing into the darkness, was recorded twice - the second time on film, to be used as the reprise for next week's episode.
Two small cuts were made in editing - some dialogue between Sara and Steven as they hunt for the Doctor, and the Supreme informing Skaro that they are ready to commence their invasion.

There is some confusion as to who designed this episode. Some sources - including BBC paperwork - claim that Ray Cusick was asked to return to work on the final episode in order that Barry Newbery could have more time to prep The Ark, so The Abandoned Planet was Newbery's last work on this story. The Television Companion claims Cusick designed this and the final instalment. The Complete History partwork, from the makers of DWM, has Cusick being asked to do the final episode only on one page, but then has him designing this one a couple of pages later, with Newbery back for Ep.12.
As the episode reuses some of Cusick's designs from earlier episodes, I'm inclined to believe that he is the person responsible here.

The day after recording, Hartnell celebrated his 58th birthday. Infuriated with himself over his inability to master lines the way he used to, he took his anger out on others. Another ploy was to act sicker and older than he really was. At this time he did not know that it was his arteriosclerosis that was affecting his memory. He was aware that he was ill, but had yet to be diagnosed.
After telling the Manchester Evening News that he planned to quit the role in 1966 - without informing his agent (his own son-in-law) - John Wiles and Donald Tosh had taken his comments to heart. Whilst he meant his announcement to force the production team to bow to his demands to keep him on the show, they saw it instead as an excuse to plan his departure. A forthcoming story by Brian Hayles, which was undergoing a lot of problems, would entail major rewriting from Tosh - and it was decided that this would be Hartnell's last. His wasn't the only planned departure, however.

Having contemplated his situation over the festive period, in January 1966 John Wiles decided that his fights with Hartnell and his dissatisfaction with the limitations being imposed on such a complex show were all too much, and he submitted his own resignation. He had never been comfortable in the role of producer, much preferring directing and writing. Mainly out of loyalty, Donald Tosh elected to resign with his boss. Both men had been frustrated in realising their vision for the programme, with Tosh wanting to collaborate with a number of other writers.

  • The ratings continue to remain stable, with viewing figures rising to joint third highest for the story, though the appreciation figure dips to under 50 for the first time since the festive episodes. Only one more Hartnell episode will achieve a figure of over 9 million.
  • The impulse compass is introduced in this story - a device which homes in on the Dalek city, so presumably detects technological emissions. The Doctor previously had a similar device which homed in on the TARDIS specifically, lending it to Ian on Aridius in The Chase.
  • The episode sees the death of Gearon. He is taken to be the uniformed alien with a cloth mask obscuring his face and who wears a dome-like helmet. He wears a pale outfit in Mission to the Unknown, but a black one in Day of Armageddon.
  • In the novelisation, it is Beaus who is shot and killed by Chen.
  • A transcript of the conference and cell scenes mentions another speaking delegate - identified only as "Delegate" - who calls for Chen's arrest. As it is a speaking role, and only those with lines got a credit, this was almost certainly Malpha.
  • Brian Mosley had previously played a props man in the Hollywood section of The Feast of Steven, under his alias of Buddy Windrush. He used this for stunt and extras work. Mosley would go on to be a regular in Coronation Street for almost 40 years, playing grocer and local politician Alf Roberts.
  • A scheduling change by ATV London led to Doctor Who now overlapping the beginning of Thunderbirds in that region - prompting the Daily Sketch to publish a cartoon of a man sawing his TV in half to satisfy his family.

Saturday 20 January 2024

Happy Birthday Tom

Wishing Fourth Doctor Tom Baker a very happy 90th Birthday today.

Friday 19 January 2024

Inspirations: A Christmas Carol

Thank you very much for making this an easy one, Mr Moffat.
This is basically Doctor Who's version of Charles Dickens' 1843 short novel of the same name. The famous festive ghost story had previously acted as one of the inspirations for the whole Trial of a Time Lord season.
Notorious miser Ebeneezer Scrooge is visited on Christmas Eve by four spirits beginning with that of his old business partner Jacob Marley, who died 7 years ago to the day. Marley warns Scrooge that a terrible fate awaits him on his demise if he doesn't change his ways - and to inspire him he's visited by the Ghosts of Christmases Past, Present and Future.

Kazran Sardick is the Scrooge figure - a rich, mean-spirited individual who is reluctant to help anyone, be they an individual, group or his society as a whole.
Christmas Past is the Doctor, who goes back in time to start manipulating Kazran as a boy - in the hope he will grow up to be less sociopathic.
Christmas Present is Amy - appearing to him as a hologram. She and Rory are on their honeymoon (having got wed in The Big Bang), but their spaceship is about to crash unless Kazran does something to help.
Christmas Future is Kazran himself - as the Doctor allows his young self to witness the cruel behaviour of the man he is going to become.
This is all handled in a terribly timey-wimey way.

The planet where the action takes place has a society seemingly based on Victorian England - again tying in with Dickens. However, this is very much a steampunk version of Victoriana. Note costume choices such as the top hats worn with goggles, or the machine-like buildings.
Presumably this was an Earth colony and the city grew up around the spaceship which brought the pioneers here.

The Doctor attends a Hollywood-style party in the 1950's at which Marilyn Monroe, Frank Sinatra and Santa Claus are present.
Monroe (1926 - 1962) was the hugely famous blonde film star and pin-up who died tragically young, immortalised by Andy Warhol in screen-print and Elton John in song. Some aspects of her death are popular in conspiracy theory circles.
Francis Albert Sinatra (1915 - 1998) remains one of the most famous popular singers of all time. Leader of the Rat Pack, who mixed with Presidents and Mafioso, he's best known for his many farewell tours, and for doing things his way.
According to the Doctor, Santa's real name is Geoff. He previously encountered him at the North Pole when millions of children wanted TARDISes for Christmas - according to TV Comic at least.

I've no idea why this story features sharks - unless it is a reference to the movie Jaws (1975) which is a blockbuster - and big movies always used to premier on TV in Britain at Christmas back in the day. Terribly tenuous if that's the case.
Music plays a big part in the plot. But then we have classical singer Katherine Jenkins in a significant supporting role. You don't cast a singer then fail to give them a song or two - though saying that, Sinatra made quite a few movies in which he never warbled once.
Kazran's cloud-influencing machine looks like an organ and the controls are said to be isomorphic - just as those of the TARDIS were supposed to be (as first mentioned in Pyramids of Mars).
Next time: it's the Doctor's turn to be killed, but first he inspires the Watergate scandal. Astronauts crop up in the oddest locations, though we finally do get to see a famous one on the Moon. The rest is Silence...

Wednesday 17 January 2024

What's Wrong With... The Armageddon Factor

Above, Tom starts counting the number of things wrong with the Season 16 finale...
One of the biggest issues with The Armageddon Factor is its role as the finale to a storyline that has lasted an entire season - the Key to Time. In many ways, it is this aspect of it which attracts the most criticism, rather than the plot set out by Bob Baker and Dave Martin.
As a concluding chapter, it is frustrating and unsatisfying. By simply sending all the Key segments back to where they came from, without properly explaining what the Doctor did with them, is anti-climactic.
You wonder what the point of the entire quest was.
Throughout the season, we have seen nothing of the Black Guardian or his agents. Each of the villains of the individual stories is clearly acting towards their own personal ambition - the Graff wanting to regain his throne; the Captain plotting to free himself from Xanxia, who seeks eternal life; Grendel wanting the throne of Tara; and Thawn a genocidal racist, obsessed with one small primitive (in his view) settlement.

Only Cesair might possibly be an agent - a popular fan theory - as she exploits the Key segment in her possession. For me, this doesn't really stand up to scrutiny.
If she was an agent, then why did the Black Guardian leave her with the segment for the thousand or more years she has been trapped on Earth. Why remain stuck on Earth in the first place? Would the Black Guardian really leave his agent languishing on prehistoric Earth, waiting for sausage sandwiches to be invented?
Why has the Black Guardian done nothing to get the segments for himself, or at least prevent the Doctor getting them?
The only thing that makes sense is that other fan theory: that it was the Black Guardian who sent the Doctor on his mission in the first place, disguising himself as his White counterpart.
Where was the White Guardian at the end, if it had been him who sent the Doctor?
If this is the case, however, why set up the Shadow to hinder him right at the point of success?
And if a piece of electronic equipment can identify segments of the most powerful artefact in the Universe, why not the agent of the Black Guardian? He has Astra under his nose the whole time.
If the White Guardian can stop a TARDIS in flight and divert it, why can't the equally powerful Black Guardian? Is Time Lord technology (the ship's defences) really capable of thwarting an omnipotent being?

An oddity about the latter is that the Shadow does not know what the Key segment is, since he captures the Princess and interrogates her about it.
Later, however, he suddenly knows that she is the segment.
As agents of the Supreme Evil One, he's a bit rubbish. He has various people under his power throughout - the Doctor, Romana and Astra - but never exploits the situation.
A simple light stops him getting into the TARDIS to take the Doctor's five segments. The console room is notoriously over-lit at times, but hardly floodlight strength. Why select a henchman who can't walk into a lighted room?
At the climax of the story, he stands there laughing like a lunatic for half a minute - giving everyone time to organise themselves to beat him.
If his Planet of Evil - which looks like a space-station (almost as if the designer didn't read the script) - is half way between Atrios and Zeos, why did the Atrian battle fleet not spot it, and won't it get blown up when Mentalis detonates?
If the Marshal is the military commander, why does he not know how many warships he has, or how to read a computerised battle display?

Performances vary. John Woodvine as the Marshal of Atrios is the best thing here, but he's totally side-lined in the second half, stuck in a spaceship on a video-loop. Shapps is either delightfully camp, or an annoying ham. Merak is just wet. Similarly Astra. From this performance you have to wonder what made Williams and Read think she was Companion material. 
Whilst Drax's accent is explained, you expect something more serious from a Time Lord. Why make him a Time Lord in the first place? Why not just an abducted Atrian engineer, or a Zeon allowed to live until his usefulness is over.
(And why keep him alive in the first place? As the creator of Mentalis, who knows how to deactivate it, he's a liability to the Shadow's plans).
Why leave Drax with so many tools which he could use to escape? And why has he never used any of them?
Talking of liabilities, having the Marshal say out loud his schemes in front of a mirror ain't a very clever idea.
The mind controlling devices are hardly subtle.

The Doctor and Romana discover that there's someone trapped behind the door to K-Block, yet don't mention anything to the Marshal or Shapp - even when they hear that it's potentially fatal to be in K-Block, and there's a Princess missing.
You can see the TARDIS when it's supposed to have gone missing.
Romana is surprised to learn that it wasn't the President of the High Council who sent her - despite the Doctor having already told her this.
The Doctor is surprised to see K-9 spin round, claiming he's never seen him to this before. Yet he did it in The Pirate Planet only four stories ago.
Lastly, if Astra was reconstituted, were all the other segments returned in the same way? The folks on Zanak will get a terrible shock if Callufrax were to pop back into being...