Thursday 29 February 2024

M is for... Movellans

When the TARDIS brought the Doctor and Romana to the Dalek homeworld of Skaro they encountered another group of visitors. These were the beautiful Movellans. Their spacecraft, shaped like an inverted top, was able to bury itself in the ground as a means of defence.
In charge was Commander Sharrel, and the Doctor became intrigued by how secretive he was. When one of their number was killed by a dalek, they forbade him looking on the body, claiming it was taboo.
On becoming trapped under a concrete pillar, he was surprised at how easily a trio of the beings were able to lift it off him. 
The Doctor then discovered that the Movellans had specifically come to Skaro to discover why the Daleks were burying into the rubble of their long-abandoned city, many years after they had left it. 
It transpired that they were after the same goal as the Daleks - their creator Davros. They and the Daleks had been waging a war against each other for many years, and both thought that the Kaled scientist might gain them an advantage. When the dead Movellan reappeared unscathed, the Doctor and Romana realised that they were fully autonomous androids.
Both races had programmed their tactical computers to a point of stalemate, and an illogical, creative humanoid mind was needed to break this. Unable to capture Davros, Sharrell decided to use the Doctor instead.
They had a weapon called the Nova Device, which could ignite a planet's entire atmosphere, and primed this to detonate once they left. 
Movellans had a weakness however - an external power pack / brain attached to their belts. Two of their number - Lan and Agella - were reprogrammed to help a group of freed Dalek slaves breach their ship and deactivate them all. Sharrel was destroyed.
The ship was then used to take the slaves home - taking a captive Davros with them.
The Movellans later gained their sought-after advantage when they developed a virus which attacked Dalek systems. The Daleks once again looked to Davros to help them overcome this.

In attempting to evade a sentient water creature which was pursuing Bill Potts, the Doctor took her in the TARDIS into the heart of the Dalek-Movellan conflict, hoping that it wouldn't dare follow. The attempt failed.

Played by: Peter Straker (Sharrel), Suzanne Danielle (Agella), Tony Osoba (Lan), Cassandra (Movellan Guard). Appearances: Destiny of the Daleks (1979), The Pilot (2017).
  • For the - ironically - highly illogical aspects of the Movellans, do check out my recent "What's Wrong With..." post on Destiny of the Daleks.
  • The Daleks we see in The Pilot are of the Time War variety, which implies that this may not necessarily be the original Dalek-Movellan war.
  • Lalla Ward was rather annoyed that Danielle was getting so much press attention when this was her first story as the new companion. She starred in the final Carry On... film of the classic run (Carry On Emmanuelle) and also featured opposite Christopher Lee in Arabian Adventure. After a lengthy relationship with actor Patrick Mower, she married golfer Sam Torrance.
  • Jamaican performer Straker is better known as a singer. Most of his acting has been in stage musicals in the West End.
  • Osoba - best known as a regular in BBC sitcom Porridge - went on to make two further appearances in Doctor Who - Dragonfire and Kill The Moon.
  • The new version of June Hudson's Movellan costume at the Doctor Who Experience in 2017:

M is for... Mouri

Enigmatic beings who dwelt in the Temple of Atropos on the planet Time, their role was to keep the chaotic forces of Time in check. In appearance, they were female golden-skinned humanoids in white robes, with archaic writing on their faces.
All of time passed through them, and they controlled the flow. They were served by automated Priest Triangles.
Other humanoids could temporarily replace them - as happened to the Doctor's companion Yaz and friend Vinder. The Mouri had been attacked by the entities Swarm and Azure, servants of Time, who had destroyed two of their number. This was despite a protective device of them only becoming visible when someone stood on their plinths in the Temple.
To save the Doctor and her friends, the Mouri were able to conceal them from Swarm and Azure within their own timelines.

Played by: Chloe Williams, Antonia Shanice, Annette Sandles, Maty Carpenter. Appearances: Flux (2021)
  • The Mouri were named after the Moirai of Greek myth, better known as the Fates.
  • They appear in the episodes War of the Sontarans and Once, Upon Time.

M is for... Mother

A mysterious woman who was known as the Mother, matriarch of the Three Families. This cabal were responsible for "Miracle Day", when people stopped dying. Their motive was purely financial, as they controlled global pharmaceutical companies which would exploit the now permanently sick.
The Three Families owed their origins to the Italian-American community where Captain Jack Harkness had turned up in the 1930's. They had discovered his immortality and were exploiting samples of his blood. The PR agent Jilly Kitzinger was invited by the Mother to Shanghai to observe the natural phenomenon which lay behind the event - the Blessing. She wanted Kitzinger to rewrite history once her cabal had taken over.
She planned to bury the two ends of the Blessing to prevent anyone interfering with it, and had rigged the area with explosives. The criminal Oswald Danes, who had been exploited by the Three Families, held the Mother hostage, armed with explosives of his own. After Jack had reversed the "Miracle", Danes sacrificed himself by detonating his bomb. The Mother perished, and the Blessing was sealed off.

Played by: Frances Fisher. Appearances: TW Miracle Day (2011).
  • The Mother appears in the final two episodes of Torchwood's fourth series - The Gathering and The Blood Line.
  • Genre appearances for Fisher include the Watchmen TV series and The Expanse. She also featured in James Cameron's Titanic.

M is for... Morris, Emily

 A young woman encountered by Sarah Jane Smith when she was transported back in time to the Ealing of 1889. Emily had recently lost her parents in a fire, and she was now investigating a haunted house when she met Sarah, who had been sent back to locate an item made from the time-sensitive metal Chronosteel. The house in Victorian times had become entangled with the same property in 2010. Emily and Sarah observed a tragedy developing as a pair of children in 2010 were being neglected by their baby-sitter. Locked in their room, they had found and were playing with a box of matches. The key to the room turned out to be the item Sarah sought. After averting the tragedy, Sarah was about to return to her present when Emily attempted to stop her - wanting her to remain with her.
Sarah returned to 2010 empty-handed, but then got a visit from a woman with a package for her. Emily had recalled the exact date Sarah had entered the building and had arranged for her granddaughter to deliver the key to her on that day.

Played by: Gwyneth Keyworth. Appearances: SJA 4.5 Lost in Time (2010).

Tuesday 27 February 2024

Story 285: It Takes You Away

In which the Doctor and her companions find themselves in the Norwegian countryside, overlooking a remote fjord. They spot a cabin in the distance and, despite it being winter, there is no smoke rising from the chimney - suggesting it is deserted.
Approaching they find it boarded up with the door heavily locked, but Ryan spots movement at one of the windows. They gain access and search the building - seeing signs of recent activity such as food on a table.
They eventually come across a girl hiding in a wardrobe. Her name is Hanne. Despite her assured movements, the Doctor realises that she is blind.
An alarm sounds and Hanne explains that a monster comes out of the forest and hunts at this time every day. The Doctor is shocked that the girl has been left alone like this but she claims that her father Erik will be coming back for her. They then hear a fierce roaring coming from the woods.
However, on investigating it is found that the sounds have come from a set of speakers hung in the trees, linked to a recording.
Fearing that Erik may be dead, the Doctor explores the house further and discovers something strange about a mirror in an upstairs room. Graham had noticed that it did not reflect properly.
It transpires that behind the mirror is a portal to another dimension.
Ryan will stay with Hanne whilst the Doctor leads the others through it, hoping to locate Erik.
They find themselves in a dark cave system, lit by red glowing globes, then encounter a humanoid being who introduces himself as Ribbons. He offers to guide them to Erik if they give him the sonic screwdriver as payment.

Passing through the caverns they see a dead body and a number of large moths. Ribbons explains that these are flesh-eating insects. This place is the Anti-Zone - a buffer between dimensions and there are many hazards, chief of which are the moths.
He takes Graham hostage, demanding greater payment or he will devour him. Graham escapes and Ribbons trips as he chases him. He is overcome by a swarm of moths and killed.
Hanne tricks Ryan and escapes into the Anti-Zone, forcing him to follow.
The others emerge from the caves into a landscape  almost identical to the one they left, but it is warm and sunny. In a cabin they find Erik along with his wife Trine. 
However, Hanne had earlier revealed that her mother was dead. Outside, Graham is shocked to find Grace.
The Doctor has seen that this is a mirror version of the Norway they have left. She discovers that this is a pocket universe, inhabited by a single entity - the Solitract. 
When the universe was created, one particular force of chaos was deemed impossible to co-exist with the rest of the cosmos. This incompatibility saw it confined to its own personal universe.
The Solitract has simply grown lonely, and now lures people to it by presenting them with the thing they crave most. Erik is reunited with his dead wife, and is so overcome by this that he has abandoned his daughter - locking her in their cabin and faking monsters to keep her from wandering off. It is a misguided attempt to keep her safe whilst he visits Trine.

Grace is another personification of the Solitract, determined to keep Graham here with it.
The Doctor is able to talk both Graham and Erik into going back home, this world merely an illusion. She agrees to remain behind with the Solitract if it lets everyone else go.
The entity manifests itself as a frog - a favourite animal of Grace's. However, the Doctor shows how this dimension is beginning to reject her. Nothing can ever be compatible with the Solitract.
Accepting this, the entity allows her to leave, resigned to its solitary existence, though it will use its dreams to create imaginary new friends.
Back in the normal universe Erik agrees to return to city life in Oslo with Hanne, as he must come to terms with Trine's death and look after his daughter.
As they return to the TARDIS Graham is pleased to hear Ryan refer to him as "granddad", as they have struggled to bond since Grace's death.

It Takes You Away was written by Ed Hime, and was first broadcast on Sunday 2nd December 2018.
Hime's background is primarily in radio drama, though he was also nominated for a BAFTA for work on teen drama Skins.
Not a great deal to say about this story. It's all about grief, and how people cope with it - or don't.
Erik is so obsessed with being reunited with his lost one that he actually becomes an abusive parent - something which the episode fails to deal with head on. Someone really ought to be reporting him to the Norwegian Social Services. Imagine the newspaper stories if someone had left their disabled child alone for days on end. Not content with neglect, he then adds psychological abuse to the situation.
The Solitract might be manipulating his own emotions, but what he does is clearly well planned and executed by him - rigging speakers up trees and using monster recordings. You can't blame the frog for all of this.
It's never properly addressed why he simply hasn't taken Hanne with him, or at least told her about what's going on.
The ending is far too trite, with the Doctor delivering one her patronising little speeches and sending everyone happily on their way. The Twelfth Doctor would have punched Erik in the face.

The guest cast is led by Eleanor Wallwork as Hanne. The series has cast deaf actors in the past, but she is the first blind person to be cast. Unfortunately, she's the only one to date. Perhaps RTD2 should spend less time deciding what's best for people with disabilities and more time giving them work.
Erik is Norse actor Christian Rubeck, who has appeared in Succession, and you may have also seen him in the biopic Amundsen, in which he played the explorer's brother.
Comic actor Kevin Eldon plays Ribbons. Recent straight roles for him have included the movie Napoleon and the TV series Sanditon. He has also played Corporal Jones - the Clive Dunn character - in the remakes of lost Dad's Army episodes.
Trine is Lisa Stokke, and we also have a return for Sharon D Clarke as Grace.
The only story arc point worth mentioning is Ryan calling Graham "Granddad", as he's been trying to bond with him since the opening episode.

Overall, it's a slight affair which clearly hasn't been well thought out, with significant matters left unaddressed. Once again, it's Graham who redeems the episode. His production of a cheese and pickle sandwich from his pocket - kept for emergencies - is almost laugh-out-loud funny.
For many, a CGI frog on a chair was the final straw and they gave up on Series 11.
It's certainly been a rather lacklustre series so far. At least the next instalment is the season finale. That's got to be something to look forward to, hasn't it...?
Things you might like to know:
  • The story is supposed to be set in the Norwegian winter, and the script even makes a plot point of this. A shame no-one seems to have told the director, script editor or executive producers...
  • At one point Yaz mentions reversing the polarity... - a nod to the Third Doctor's famous phrase.
  • Kevin Eldon had a previous involvement with Doctor Who, when he played the Seventh Doctor's companion in web serial Death Comes To Time.
  • Many aspects of the Solitract appear to have been borrowed from the Virgin New Adventures novel Christmas on a Rational Planet by Lawrence Miles - entity from the dawn of time incompatible with the rest of the universe and so banished into one of its own.
  • The Anti-Zone was supposed to contain one other creature - a very tall being known as "Spindle Man" (below). Played by Paul Sturgess, his scenes were filmed but then cut for timing reasons.

Sunday 25 February 2024

Episode 106: Bell of Doom

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.

Suspected of the Abbot's death, Steven flees back to Preslin's shop to hide out, where he finds Anne Chaplet waiting for him.
He tells her of the events of the night before, and of the death of his friend the Doctor. In order to escape from 16th Century Paris he must find the TARDIS key. Assuming that the Doctor used this shop to change his outfit, he instructs Anne to help him search the building thoroughly.
At the Louvre, last night's events are also being discussed by Marshal Tavannes and Simon Duvall. The King has ordered an investigation into the attempt on Admiral de Coligny's life, but they hope that the death of the Abbot will help divert attention onto the actions of the Huguenots.
Tavannes orders Duvall to find Steven before nightfall. Tomorrow is the Feast of St Bartholomew and the city will be packed with revellers, under cover of which the young Englishman might escape.
The Queen Mother then summons the Marshal.
In de Coligny's house, meanwhile, Gaston and Nicholas are concerned about the protection in place for the wounded Admiral, which they discuss with Councillor Teligny. It is the King who has placed guards over the Admiral - which means that Catholics, commanded by a Catholic, are protecting their leader.
They worry that Henri of Navarre may also be in danger. 
After Gaston leaves, Teligny expresses his concern that de Coligny has such a hot-headed young man in his employ.
Steven gives up hope of ever gaining access to the TARDIS, just as the Doctor appears at the shop.
Overjoyed at seeing him again, he tells him of the Abbot and his fears he had been killed.
The evening curfew sounds, and Anne mentions how easy it will be for them to slip out of Paris during tomorrow's feast day. On hearing this, the Doctor urges her to tell him the year.
On learning that it is 1572, on the eve of St Bartholomew's Day, he is horrified. He and Steven must get back to the TARDIS immediately.
He instructs Anne to go and stay with family members and keep off the streets for the next few days.
In the Louvre, the Queen Mother hands Tavannes the order - signed by her son - to massacre the Huguenot leadership of Paris. 
Whilst in favour of action against them, he is concerned that the innocent may suffer along with the guilty, but they both realise that the mob will be uncontrollable. He stresses that Henri of Navarre must be spared. The deaths of ordinary citizens - no matter how many - will have little impact abroad, but the death of a prince could spark a wider conflict.
The Queen Mother reluctantly agrees then withdraws. Tavannes informs Duvall that he will be tasked with escorting Henri out of the city before dawn.
The Doctor and Steven find their way to the TARDIS blocked by the guards outside de Coligny's house. They then see soldiers appear and order the guards to withdraw, before entering the house...
The Doctor and Steven leave Paris as the slaughter of the Huguenots commences.
In the TARDIS the Doctor explains why he left the city so hurriedly, describing the events of the Massacre. Steven is furious that they did not do more to help Anne, fearing that she will almost certainly have perished as the Catholics were already hunting for her even before the events began to unfold.
The ship materialises on Wimbledon Common in 1966, and Steven storms out - despite the Doctor trying to justify his actions.
Left alone in the ship for the first time in many years, he is reminded of his recent companions, especially his granddaughter Susan. He contemplates going back to his home, then realises that this is not possible...
Nearby, a young woman named Dorothea "Dodo" Chaplet has witnessed a road accident. Spotting the Police Box she runs towards it. Steven has seen a couple of policemen also making their way towards the TARDIS and, having cooled down, goes back to warn the Doctor.
Dodo seems unfazed by the huge futuristic room in which she finds herself. The Doctor points out to Steven that she shares a surname with Anne - suggesting that she had survived the Massacre. Dodo confirms a French grandparent.
As she reminds him a great deal of Susan, and she claims to have no-one at home who will miss her, Dodo joins the Doctor and Steven on their travels...
Next episode: The Steel Sky

Written by: John Lucarotti and Donald Tosh
Recorded: Friday 11th February 1966 - Riverside Studio 1
First broadcast: 5:15pm, Saturday 26th February, 1966
Ratings: 5.8 million / AI 53
Designer: Michael Young
Director: Paddy Russell

It was originally intended that Anne Chaplet was to become the new companion but, after the concerns which arose with Katarina, it was decided that a character from history might not work terribly well. They would need even the most simple scientific developments - like the electric light - explained to them. It was also felt that to remove someone from their own time went against the programme's philosophy of the Doctor never interfering with history.
Donald Tosh was already heavily reworking John Lucarotti's scripts, and as he would no longer be story editor in February, it was agreed that he could get a co-writer credit on the latest serial's final episode.
This was due to him solely writing the end sequence which would introduce the new companion - now a modern day character.
It is often stated that Tosh left Doctor Who in a show of solidarity with his producer, John Wiles. This is true to an extent, but there were other factors involved. The first was that their superior was now the writer Gerald Savory, and Tosh and he did not get on since working together at Granada TV. 
Tosh also learned that Wiles was to be replaced by Innes Lloyd, and realised that his plans for the series did not match with his own. The third factor was a request for extended leave on health grounds which was turned down - leading to him deciding to quit the BBC altogether to go freelance.
With Tosh writing, Bell of Doom marks the first time his replacement Gerry Davis gets a Story Editor credit on the series. He had begun working on the series just after New Year.

Chosen to play the new companion - Dorothea "Dodo" Chaplet - was Mancunian actress Jacqueline Joyce Lane. Shortly after moving to London in 1963 she had been interviewed by Verity Lambert and Waris Hussein for the role of Susan, but she decided not to proceed with an audition as it was a long-term part and she did not want to be pinned down so early in her career.
She had previously worked with Paddy Russell, and John Wiles recalled her from a stage production of one of his plays - Never Had It So Good - in which she had played a Cockney character.
The intention was that Dodo would be a working class Mancunian girl, but senior management at the BBC favoured "BBC English" - Received Pronunciation or RP - over regional dialects at this time.
Ironically, she would be replaced only a few months later by two new characters - one of whom spoke with a broad Cockney accent.

A contemporary image of the Massacre by the Huguenot artist Francois Dubois, who fled Paris just after the Massacre.

"We are to unleash the wolves of Paris. None are to be spared" (Tavannes to Simon Duvall)

After three weeks of build-up (with the drama covering three days), this episode finally sees events rush towards their fateful conclusion with the massacre of the Huguenot population of Paris, which began on the night of 23 / 24 August 1572. It was this event which actually led to the word "massacre" being coined for a mass slaughter.
As we've seen, the background was complex and has had to be simplified for a Doctor Who story. The Catholic Royal Family has ordered the deaths in order to preserve their control over the country and prevent the Protestants from gaining power.
The signal for the massacre to begin was the tolling of the bell of the church of Saint-Germain l'Auxerrois, situated a few hundred yards from the Louvre. This gave the episode its title.
Admiral de Coligny was recovering from his wounds when he was set upon and murdered in his sick-bed by a group led by the Duke de Guise - his naked corpse thrown from the chamber window onto the street below. 
Councillor Teligny was one of the first victims - refusing to convert, he was killed in corridors of the Louvre itself.
The killings went on for several days, and spread to other cities in which Catholic mobs murdered Huguenot neighbours.
The actual death toll is not known. It has varied from 2000 to 10,000 in Paris alone, with perhaps 30,000 across the whole of France. The only concrete figure in the records is the 1100 bodies that were fished from the Seine, for which payment details to the boatmen exist.

The official justification for the events, given to the parliament on 26th August, was that a Protestant plot had been uncovered, intended to assassinate King Charles IX and senior Catholics, and it had been necessary to seize the initiative and make a pre-emptive strike. The mob had simply taken over and increased the bloodshed.
The young King lived only another year or so, dying of TB in 1574. The events in Paris had seriously affected his mental health. He was succeeded by his brother who became Henri III, but he in turn died without an heir.
Ironically, it was the Protestant Henri of Navarre who then succeeded to the throne of France as Henri IV. However, he converted in order to do so, supposedly claiming "Paris is worth a mass".
Catherine de Medici almost outlived her sons, all of whom became king, dying in 1589 a few months before Henri III was assassinated.
Marshal Tavannes died less than a year after the Massacre, in July 1573.

Production on Bell of Doom had got underway on Wednesday 5th January when brief insert shots of Leonard Sachs (de Coligny), Michael Bilton (Teligny) and David Weston (Nicholas Muss) were filmed, to be cut into the final massacre montage. 
Then, on Friday 7th, filming took place with Jackie Lane on Windmill Road at Wimbledon Common in SW London.
Only two panels of the TARDIS prop were set up on location, as the remainder was needed in studio on that day.

During rehearsals, William Hartnell expressed concern about two lengthy speeches he had to deliver in this episode. Written by Tosh, he was keen to see them retained and delivered as he felt they summarised his own viewpoint regarding the philosophy of the series:

"My dear Steven, history sometimes gives us a terrible shock, and that is because we don't quite fully understand. Why should we? After all, we're too small to realise its final pattern. Therefore, don't try to judge it from where you stand. I was right to do what I did. Yes, that I firmly believe..."
[Steven leaves the TARDIS].
"Steven... Even after all this time, he cannot understand. I dare not change the course of history. Well, at least I taught him to take some precautions; he did remember to look at the scanner before opening the doors. And now they've all gone. All gone. None of them could understand. Not even my little Susan. Or Vicki. And as for Barbera and Chatterton - Chesterton - they were all too impatient to get back to their own time. And now, Steven. 
Perhaps I should go home. Back to my own planet. But I can't... I can't...".

As expected, Hartnell attempted to get the lines reduced but Tosh showered him with praise for the way he had delivered the dialogue at the readthrough, playing on the actor's ego to make him insist on keeping the speeches.

The action cuts away from Paris at the crucial moment of the guards arriving to ensure the death of de Coligny. The actual massacre itself is illustrated with sound effects and contemporary prints and woodcuts, such as that by Francois Dubois above. From the filming schedule, we know that images of certain cast members was intercut with these.
Only a single recording break was scheduled, to allow Hartnell and Purves to change into their regular costumes and appear on the TARDIS set for the closing section, where they are joined by Lane for the first time.
The attempts to justify Dodo's arrival are odd, to say the least. It is implied that, because she shares a surname and has a French forebear, she provides proof that Anne survived the events of Paris in August 1572. However, surnames are traditionally passed down the male line - so Anne must have married someone of the exact same name as herself for this to have worked. Unfortunately, Dodo's presence is likely to be merely coincidental, and Anne did indeed perish in the Massacre. Perhaps if Lane had played both roles this might have worked better.
The other oddities about the scene are Dodo's apparent nonchalance of seeing the TARDIS interior inside a police box - she actually asks where the phone is - and Steven's concern about the policemen approaching. He ought to know that the ship cannot be opened by anyone other than the Doctor, so why is he rushing back to warn him?
Likewise, the Doctor dematerialises in a hurry when he knows that there's no risk, and he hasn't given Dodo much chance to explain herself.

John Lucarotti's original version of the story involved the Doctor much more - though this would have destroyed the mystery which Tosh created around the true nature of the Abbot. Lucarotti's version would have shown that the two couldn't possibly be the same person.
Tosh tells his story through Steven and temporary companion character Anne. Interestingly, he adopts a pyramid of characters on both sides of the religious divide. 
On the Huguenot side we have their leader Admiral de Coligny, an older man in a position of authority who is based on a real historical figure. Below him are Nicholas Muss and Gaston Lerans - one a firebrand and the other a more reasonable individual.
Opposing them we have Marshal Tavannes - the mature, historical, authority figure - who has beneath him Simon Duvall and Roger Colbert. Again, each of the young men represents a different level of extremism for their particular religious cause. Colbert is the firebrand to Duvall's more moderate character.
It's a useful means of showing two sides of a situation, and the differing opinions within each side - the intention being that the audience will see that this as a complex scenario, with shades of grey.

Donald Tosh, who passed a way in December 2019, did not work on the series again, though he did submit a story idea for Patrick Troughton's Doctor - "The Rosicrucians / Rose Mariners" - which was not taken up. The background came from his keen interest in history, and he would eventually work for the National Trust as custodian - or castellan - of St Mawes castle in Cornwall. 
He made a cameo appearance in 2013's An Adventure in Space And Time, alongside Jean Marsh and Anneke Wills, as a guest at Verity Lambert's leaving party.

  • The ratings remain low, but don't fall any further. The appreciation figure actually bounces back to over 50.
  • It was originally hoped that William Russell and Jaqueline Hill might provide cameos in this episode as Ian and Barbara. They would have been seen walking across the Common when they heard the TARDIS, arriving just too late to see it. The sequence was dropped as the actors were unavailable on the planned filming dates.
  • Two future directors make an appearance behind the scenes on this story - Gerry Mill (Production Assistant) and Fiona Cumming (Assistant Floor Manager). He will direct The Faceless Ones for the following season, and she will be responsible for four Peter Davison stories.
  • The Doctor's soliloquy from this episode was recreated by David Bradley in An Adventure In Space And Time. However, here they use it to illustrate Hartnell's inability to recall lines. He is in a bad mood having a dislike to a male director or production assistant who doesn't know how to manipulate the TARDIS controls. In reality it was one of Hartnell's finest moments on the series - not one of his worst.
  • Surprisingly, even contemporary woodcuts were deemed too disturbing for some members of the audience, according to the TV critic of The Listener magazine.
  • The videotapes of all four episodes of The Massacre were destroyed in August 1967, with film copies sold to Australia, New Zealand, Barbados, Zambia, Sierra Leone and Singapore. The Australian recording was known to have been destroyed in 1976.

Friday 23 February 2024

Pamela Salem (1944 - 2024)

It has been reported that the actor Pamela Salem has died, just a few weeks after her 80th birthday.
She featured prominently in two highly regarded Doctor Who stories, as well as providing vocals for a third.
The latter was as the female voice of the crazed computer Xoanon in The Face of Evil. A week or two later we saw her as Toos in The Robots of Death.
Lis Sladen having only just left the series, Salem's agent actually publicised his client as the new Doctor Who companion, which made the tabloid press.
Salem returned to the series in 1988 to play Professor Rachel Jensen in Remembrance of the Daleks.

Beyond the series, her best known role was a regular run on EastEnders, back when it was actually quite good.
She had a brush with the world of 007, but in the non-Eon reimagining of Thunderball, Never Say Never Again. She played Miss Moneypenny opposite Sean Connery. She had previously worked with him on The First Great Train Robbery.

Thursday 22 February 2024

Inspirations: The Doctor's Wife

Back in the 1980's, producer JNT became annoyed at the number of spoilers which were finding their way into the fanzine domain. He was keen to engage with fandom, at least until it turned against him, and was happy to grant interviews - but some announcements he really wanted to manage himself, especially if they were newsworthy. He realised that many fans worked within the BBC - he even cast one in his first year, and commissioned another for a story - so decided to add the title "The Doctor's Wife" to his office planner - just to see where it might lead.
When Steven Moffat took over as showrunner, he approached a number of writers for story contributions. One of these was Neil Gaiman - one of the best known fantasy writers in the world.

He first came to fame - for my generation at least - with the BBC adaptation of his novel Neverwhere, which featured Peter Capaldi amongst its cast.
Globally, he now has a number of films, TV series and stage plays to his name, including collaborations with the late Terry Pratchett (e.g. Good Omens).
It was originally intended that Gaiman would write for Moffat's first series in charge, and it was decided early on that his story would revolve around the TARDIS. The Eccleston / Tennant TARDIS set was ordered retained especially for this.
In the end, the deadline got pushed back and the Gaiman story was to be produced for Series 6.

Doctors may come and go, and we've had dozens of companions, but the TARDIS is the one true constant throughout the entire history of Doctor Who.
It has enjoyed comparatively few changes of appearance in 60 years, both inside and out. The console rooms alter design - referenced in this episode as its "desktop theme". To the casual viewer, the Police Public Call Box shell has never changed, though we fans can spot varying shades of blue or changes in dimensions.
When DWM produced a special looking at the companions, for the 50th Anniversary, once it had covered Susan to Clara, it ended with a look at the TARDIS - arguing rightly that it has always been as much a companion to the Doctor over the centuries as any schoolteacher, UNIT soldier or Time Lady.
It has been a character in its own right ever since The Edge of Destruction - though you could argue it was exhibiting very odd behaviours since it decided to wait and warn the Doctor about the radiation dangers of Skaro only after everyone had already been infected - and then it chose to do so silently.
In the following two-part story, it elected to warn everyone of the peril they faced when one of its components became stuck - but it did so in the most cryptic manner possible.
You'd think it didn't like any of them.
Over the years we've learned a lot more about it, in terms of its "personality". It is definitely much more than a machine. It has telepathic circuits and some form of psychic bond with its operator.
The Doctor certainly speaks to it, and of it, like a person - specifically a 'she'.

This was the background against which Gaiman crafted his story - initially known as "Bigger on the Inside". (Other working titles were "The TARDIS Trap" and "The House of Nothing").
What would happen if the Doctor could actually "meet" the TARDIS and interact with it? What would they have to say to each other?
One of his inspirations was the novel The Most Dangerous Game (1924). It's best known for the 1932 film version starring Fay Wray, Leslie Banks and Joel McCrea - a companion piece to King Kong in production terms. 
In this a sadistic big game hunter stalks human prey after they become marooned on his private island. (The crazed villain of the piece is called Zaroff...).
Gaiman liked the idea of the companion being hunted through the endless corridors and rooms of the TARDIS. (Not the Doctor, however, as he would know the ship too well).
The being doing the hunting would be the TARDIS itself, which led to the idea of it becoming possessed by a hostile alien entity - which in turn led to the idea of its own "personality" being transplanted somewhere else.
The notion of a sentient TARDIS had been covered in spin-off media, but never properly explored on screen.

Having the House planet look like a gigantic junkyard was a deliberate nod to the series' origins in Totters Lane - since Gaiman wanted the episode to be a love letter to the series and to long-term fans.
Originally there were lots of little references, such as mention of the mercury fluid-links, but these were cut. A Dalek sucker was to have been found by Amy.
The white Time Lord message cube was first seen in The War Games.
An opening scene was supposed to show Amy and Rory in the TARDIS swimming pool, but this was cut as the budget was tightened - though Gaiman was told it was because Karen Gillan couldn't swim. The pool - described as a bathroom - had been seen in The Invasion of Time, only to be said to have been jettisoned by the time of Paradise Towers.
It was back, but unseen, in the new series - getting a mention in The Eleventh Hour when it had spilled into the library. It was intact for River to plunge into at the beginning of this series.

The "desktop theme" description had first been used by Moffat in Time Crash for Children in Need.
House was a disembodied entity as Gaiman loved creatures like the Great Intelligence (he is a big Troughton era fan). In the original version, House had come into our universe through the Crack.
This was reversed to have it exist in a bubble universe - similar to E-Space from Season 18 - and want to leave for our universe to feed. 
Burning up rooms to create thrust had been seen in Logopolis and Castrovalva.
Nephew was going to be a big new creature - a huge hulking brute who was part-hyena - but cost-cutting also saw that thrown out in favour of reusing an existing Ood costume.
The junkyard TARDIS was the latest collaboration with Blue Peter - the result of a competition for young fans to design a console made from discarded items.
This competition was run prior to Series 5 where the story was supposed to be placed.
It was Gaiman rather than the showrunner who added the mention that the Corsair had once been female, indicating for the first time that Time Lords could change gender.
Next time: Shiny (Un)Happy People...

Tuesday 20 February 2024

The Daleks in Colour: Revisited

The arrival of "The Daleks in Colour" on DVD and Blu-ray has afforded me the opportunity to take another look at it. I have only watched it once, on broadcast, and wrote my review on first impressions.
Last night, I watched it again, to see if my opinion had changed in any way...

First things first, the cover: 
There are websites which highlight terrible examples of Photoshop, and this could comfortably be added. It's poor. We simply have a couple of Daleks superimposed onto an image of the Doctor and companions surrounding the TARDIS console. The Daleks have their backs to us, and there seems to be a half-hearted attempt at perspective which doesn't work. 
No artistic merit whatsoever.

The colourisation:
Much has already been mentioned about Barbara's acid pink blouse. At no point do you ever lose sight of the fact that this wasn't made in colour, but has been artificially colourised.
At times I think they've gone overboard and used too much colour - especially with the Dalek city. This has led to an obvious lapse of logic. They've added a couple of POV shots (using the blue-tinted, calibrated Dalek-eye view of the new series). If the Daleks can't see colour, why on Skaro would their city be full of purples and golds? Colour for the sake of colour, with little or no subtilty.
There are colour photos from 1963/4 available, taken by Ray Cusick. He was making a programme to be broadcast in B&W, and had a much better colour-sense.
Other than this, the colour is fine. I love the forest and the views of the city.

Which brings me to the CGI effects, which are mercifully few. I've no idea why they used a computerised city when it looks just like the excellent Shawcraft model. The TARDIS shots are poor. The dematerialisation at the end stands out badly, as we see that there are supposed to be Thals standing right next to it.

The edit:
A real contentious issue for many. Seven episodes condensed down to 75 minutes. Even the Peter Cushing movie lasted longer. This edit was designed to make the story fast paced and exciting, as the plan was to attract viewers who might not normally watch archive monochrome material - so we need to keep this in mind.
Sadly, this means that the new viewers are losing lots of lovely character moments, such as the TARDIS food machine sequence. It is irrelevant to the plot, so you can see why it went, but I feel sorry for the intended audience. You are missing so much.
A particular irritation is the need to repeat action every time someone refers back to it. 
When the captured time-travellers talk about the drugs they found outside the ship, we are shown this scene again. Likewise, when the death of Temmosus is talked about, we see it again. And when mention is made of Ian being shot, we see it again...
The implication is that the viewer has the attention span of a goldfish and can't remember what they saw 15 minutes ago. It's treating the viewer like an idiot.
Some of the intercutting is clumsy.
As originally broadcast, the Daleks could manage only a couple of still images of the Thal camp, which they can't even interpret very well, thinking an injured Thal might be Ian until they see him in the next picture. Here, the Daleks can see right into the Thal camp and get sound and moving pictures.
Which begs the question: if they can see and hear what's going on, why don't they know all about the plan of attack against them? The re-edit has created another logic lapse.
The new voices stand out, and not in a good way. David Graham's voice sounds its venerable age, and Briggs is far too recognisable.

The music:
My big bugbear. I've hear it again, and I still loath it. As I said in my original review, for someone who is supposed to be the guardian of the programme's audio legacy, Ayres has a cheek to even consider overwriting the work of Tristram Cary and Brian Hodgson. Style and tone are all over the place, dialogue is drowned out, and the music simply doesn't match the action a lot of the time.
The music accompanying the escape to the lift is stand-out excruciatingly awful. He's certainly no Murray Gold, that's for sure.
I've looked him up on-line, and he has no significant credits outside of Doctor Who projects. No films, no dramas, no sitcoms, no documentaries. I think we know why, and I'll leave it at that.

Value(less) Added Material:
There's a "Making of..." for the colourised version. To be honest, I can't be bothered seeing how they did what they did, so gave this a miss. It was covered in DWM anyway.
The second disc contains the original seven part story - and this actually makes me really rather angry.
I knew from the initial announcement that the original version was not going to be upscaled for Blu-ray, but I didn't think they'd simply use the old DVD version. And it is the old DVD version. It even has the old logo, branding and menu - including the "The Beginning" box-set intro. 
They've quite literally just taken the DVD and slapped a new picture on the disc.
A wee bit of a clean-up and new menu / branding - even just the "Whoniverse" - would have been nice. 
It's not as if we're likely to see The Collection - Season One box-set any time soon.

"The Daleks in Colour" has its pros and cons. As someone used to the Aaru movie, I have no issue with an alternative take on the story. It's "as well as" and not "instead of" the original B&W version, and that's the way to look at it. 
From comments I read back in November, parents reported their children really enjoying it - kids who might just want to view some more (just a pity it's a one-off - at least for now - so there's nothing else to show them to capitalise on this interest). If it helps create a next generation, all well and good.
My favourite part of the release? The colourised clips of other Hartnell episodes at the end - accompanied by decent music...

Sunday 18 February 2024

Episode 105: Priest of Death

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

The next morning Steven finds some clothing at Preslin's shop and changes, so that he can get close to the Abbot's house. He remains convinced that the Doctor is impersonating the cleric for some reason. Anne insists on accompanying him.
At the Louvre, a council meeting is underway. Present are King Charles IX and the Queen Mother, accompanied by Marshal Tavannes, Admiral de Coligny and Councillor Teligny. 
A decision on war with Spain is deferred, but the Admiral complains about the current persecution of Huguenots in Paris. When the King seems hesitant to address this, de Coligny accuses him of being too much under the control of his mother. Angered, she storms out. This amuses the King as he likes how de Coligny speaks his mind, and resents his mother's influence.
The meeting ends with the next session due to take place in two day's time - the Feast of Saint Bartholomew. 
At the Abbot's house, Steven meets the man he thinks is the Doctor and entrusts Anne's safety to him because of this.
Tavannes arrives from the council meeting and confers with the Abbot in private. Steven discovers that the "sea beggar" refers to the Admiral. He then overhears talk of the imminent assassination of the Admiral on one of the streets between his house and the Louvre. Roger Colbert spots Steven and warns the Marshal that the Englishman who has been seen with the Huguenots has been eavesdropping.
The Marshal is furious that a potential threat to their plans was allowed into the Abbot's house. Should the assassination fail, the Abbot will be blamed.
Steven and Anne are too late to warn their friends. The Admiral is shot as he walks along the Rue des Poulies, but is not killed. Badly wounded, he is carried to his house.
On hearing of this, Tavannes orders the death of the Abbot.
Teligny reports the incident to the King and his mother, and the young monarch instructs the Marshal to put protection in place for the Admiral. He is highly critical of Tavannes.
Later, the Queen Mother tells her son that the Marshal was simply doing his job of protecting the Catholics of Paris, now that a Huguenot prince is part of the royal family.
The Huguenots may soon want to rid themselves of the Catholic monarchy...
It is soon reported that revenge attacks have taken place, with Huguenot mobs said to be murdering Catholics.
When Teligny tells Steven that the Abbot is one of those killed, he rushes to his house.
An angry crowd has gathered, and Colbert sees Steven. He loudly accuses him of being responsible for the Abbot's murder. Steven is forced to flee for his life, whilst the body of the man he believes to be his friend lies forgotten in the gutter...
Next episode: Bell of Doom

Written by John Lucarotti
Recorded: Friday 4th February 1966 - Riverside Studio 1
First broadcast: 5:15pm, Saturday 19th February 1966
Ratings: 5.9 million / AI 49
Designer: Michael Young
Director: Paddy Russell
Additional cast: Joan Young (Catherine de Medici), Barry Justice (King Charles IX), Michael Bilton (Teligny)

The first two episodes had been very much about build-up, setting the scene for viewers unfamiliar with these historical events. The mystery of the Doctor / Abbot is also put in place. Like Steven, the viewers are supposed to be wondering if this is the Doctor impersonating the Abbot - and if so, why?
This aspect of the story really doesn't work, however, as we've been given no motivation for him doing this. Apart from Steven's suspicions, there's been no intimation that the Doctor is indulging in disguise.
All this tends to undermine the "shock" death of the Abbot at the conclusion of this week's episode.
It's interesting to note Hartnell's performance as the Abbot. He pitches his voice a little higher than usual, but there are none of the vocal mannerisms he uses as the Doctor - showing that what we normally get is very much a performance and not Hartnell simply being himself.
It has been claimed that several of his alleged fluffs by the actor were actually deliberate and rehearsed.
Paddy Russell advised Hartnell whenever she thought any of the Doctor's verbal tics were showing in his performance as the Abbot.

This week events move forward and we actually have some action - the historical assassination of Admiral de Coligny and the fictional murder of the Abbot.
There are three prime suspects in the assassination attempt on the Admiral of France - the Guise family, the Duke of Alba, and Catherine de Medici. 
The former were suspected as de Coligny was believed to have been responsible for the death of the Duke of Guise in 1563, whilst Alba governed the Netherlands and did not want to see the country drawn into war with Spain.
With neither of these factions present in Lucarotti's scripts (or Tosh's redrafts) we are left with the Queen Mother. Her main motive is presented as one of "kill them before they kill you". In the same way that Guise's death had sparked wider conflict, the death of the Admiral would provoke reprisals against the Catholics. If this was inevitable, then best to strike at them first.
Her other motivations are keeping France from going to war with another Catholic power, and the purely personal one of the growing influence de Coligny had over her son. Charles was only 22 at the time of these events, and a weak-willed individual whom she had easily manipulated up to now. 
de Coligny was saved by bending down to tie his shoe which had come loose. The assassin shot him from an upper window of a house on the Rue des Poulies which was on the route from the Louvre to his house. The bullet hit his left arm and lost him one of his fingers. The assassin, Maurevert, escaped.

The assassination of Admiral de Coligny told in a composite image of the time. On the left, we see him shot by the assassin, whilst on the right he is attacked in his sick-bed and his corpse is thrown from the window - an event from two day's later. The body of Teligny can also be seen being thrown from a window.

Hartnell returned from his week's holiday. He and Peter Purves were then absent from rehearsals on the afternoon of Thursday 3rd February to carry out pre-filming on The Ark. This was their first work with new co-star Jackie Lane, who had been cast as Dodo Chaplet.
The star would only be seen playing the Abbot again this week.
Designers liked to make their sets more interesting by introducing different levels. This was usually achieved though the use of rostra, creating raised areas. Notable examples include the Dalek saucer and the alleyway entrance to the Plague Cemetery in The Dalek Invasion of Earth, and the lab sink in Planet of Giants.
For the Ealing filming of his Paris street scenes, Michael Young elected to build down rather than upwards. He used the studio's famous water tank in which to build sections of the set, so that steps could be seen leading down onto the narrow streets and alleyways.
Joining the cast this week were Michael Bilton (1919 - 1993) as Charles de Teligny, one of the King's Councillors and another leading Huguenot.
Joan Young (1903 - 1984) portraying Catherine de Medici, was a renowned radio artist who had also featured in a number of British films, including Ealing comedies.
Barry Justice (1940 - 1980) playing the King, featured in the BBC adaptation of David Copperfield the same year as his Doctor Who appearance. This version had Ian McKellen in the title role.
A photograph session was booked for the afternoon of recording, to get images of Morell, Sachs, Young and Justice on the Louvre set.
Rather than create a complex piece of set for the assassination scene, the director elected to simply have a camera on a crane with a gun barrel placed underneath - giving a POV shot instead of having to build a complicated upper storey chamber.

This was the final episode on which Donald Tosh was credited as Story Editor. His replacement - Gerry Davis - had been shadowing him since Christmas, during which time he had developed his own ideas about historical-set stories. Now free of his contract, Tosh would be able to get a writer's credit on the fourth and final instalment of the story.

  • The ratings manage to remain consistent with the previous week, though now dipping slightly under the 6 million mark. The appreciation figure falls below 50.
  • Michael Bilton would return to the series to play Collins in Pyramids of Mars.

Friday 16 February 2024

The Art of... The Massacre

The novelisation of The Massacre - which uses the simplified version of the title - was written by its nominal author, John Lucarotti. I say nominal, since we know that it was heavily rewritten by Donald Tosh. Lucarotti takes the opportunity to tell the story he originally envisaged.
Against a backdrop of medieval houses, we have the TARDIS appearing to be burnt on a pyre, which is something you certainly never saw in the televised story. Instead of the Doctor we have his doppelganger, the Abbot of Amboise (or is it the Doctor in disguise...?). Again, the Doctor never dons clerical robes in the TV version of the story. There's very little visual evidence for the story, but fans who saw it at the time have stated that the Abbot dressed in white or cream.
Amongst his many changes Lucarotti added a prologue and epilogue to the story, in which the Doctor discusses these events with the Time Lords, and it's implied that he has retired from travelling at this point.
The artist denied visual references is Tony Masero, and it was published in November 1987.

A reprint with a new cover by Alister Pearson followed in October 1992. We have character portraits - Charles IX, Catherine de Medici and Steven - and Notre Dame Cathedral to set the scene. The double portrait of Hartnell hints at the look-alike subplot.

The soundtrack, narrated by Peter Purves, was issued in 1999 - one of the very first from the BBC Radio Collection. Again we have the double Hartnell, though you can see one is wearing dark robes. The Catholic Queen Mother is present again on the photomontage cover, with the narrator. Despite playing more significant roles, de Coligny and Tavannes don't get a look-in. Whilst it says The Massacre on the cover, the discs themselves have the full "The Massacre of Saint Bartholomew's Eve".

This was issued on vinyl courtesy of Demon Records in June 2020. It was supposed to be released to tie in with Record Store Day in April, but was delayed. It's a superbly atmospheric cover, depicting violent events on the nocturnal streets of Paris - which make the story look a lot more exciting than it was. The serial is mainly comprised of lengthy scenes of people plotting in wood-panelled rooms, with the titular Massacre taking place off screen.
(Unfortunately, the Tricolore wasn't adopted as French flag until 1794. At this point in history it should have been a dark blue flag with three golden fleur-de-lis).

An audiobook of Lucarotti's novel was released in June 2015, using Masero's artwork. The wider image allows for more detail of the background buildings, so it's a bit more apparent that the burning of the TARDIS is taking place in a town square.

And finally, as a missing story with no DVD release, the moviedb site used a colourful photomontage image to illustrate this story in the style of a DVD cover. This one adds Anne Chaplet to the mix.
As a fairly obscure, talky historical, I suspect that The Massacre isn't terribly high on the list for any animated  release, which is a pity.

Wednesday 14 February 2024

What's Wrong With... The Creature From The Pit

Maybe quicker to write about what was right about it...
For the sake of completism, let's start with Erato.
Mat Irvine carried the can for the poor realisation of the titular creature, but he - quite rightly - said that the blame really ought to lie with the script editor and producer for having approved the story as it stood in the first place.
This was a time of high inflation, and this story was supposed to be a lower budgeted all-studio serial - so why agree to a gigantic monster under these conditions?
The writer assumed that some sort of model would be used, and indeed there is a model of Erato - but it only features briefly.
We get a huge green balloon (literally - weatherman Michael Fish spotted its weather balloon origins). To make it more interesting, and because the script called for it, at least one appendage was required.
Unfortunately, this made the monster look like massive green male genitalia...

Often a bad VFX can be carried by the performances of the actors interacting with it - but here things aren't helped at all by Tom Baker. Season 17 was when he was at his most out of control, fighting directors and refusing to take things seriously. Graham Williams had given up the ghost with his star by this point, casting longing glances at the Exit, but Baker was being encouraged to go over the top by his co-star and the script editor - one Douglas Adams.
The scene everyone mentions is when Baker appears to fellate the creature (see above).
One of the VFX assistants claimed that they took their stanley-knife to the prop as soon as recording ended, but this can't be true as it featured in the Blackpool Exhibition.

On to the story. 
Just how did they get Erato out of the Pit in the fourth episode?
Why has Erato not realised that it's killing people when trying to communicate with them. It's a bit slow on the uptake.
The society on Chloris is obviously matriarchal, yet the Huntsman ends up in charge at the conclusion. Adrasta is killed and Karela locked up, but what happened to the younger woman? She just vanishes from the story.
Isn't giving the Huntsman the top job a bit like making the guy who walks the White House dogs the President of the USA? What exactly were his qualifications for being placed in charge?
If you are not a fan of under-graduate humour (like JNT, Barry Letts and Chris Bidmead) then the whole "Everest In Easy Stages" section simply isn't funny, and undermines the drama.
The Doctor simply walking through the supposedly unbreakable wall is embarrassing.

I'm no physicist, but I'm told that the whole wrapping of the neutron star in aluminium would never work. Neutron stars are a lot bigger than what we see here, so you couldn't weave a coating that quickly anyway.
(And why couldn't Erato have woven something useful that might have helped it escape from the Pit).
Why did the Tythonians not bother to check and see what happened to their ambassador. Launching a star at Chloris when it's imprisoned there is going to kill it as well as its captors.
The other thing everyone talks about is the unpleasant anti-Semitism of the stereotyped bandits, though this needs to be considered in the context of the period in which the story was made. Various versions of Oliver Twist were available, and productions of The Merchant of Venice being staged, at the time.

Monday 12 February 2024

Story 284 - The Witchfinders

In which the TARDIS brings the Doctor and her companions to Lancashire in the early years of the 17th Century. Graham recognises their surroundings as the Pendle Hill area, having once visited it with Grace. He is aware of its history regarding a notorious witchcraft trial of 1612.
The persecution of witches is very much an on-going concern for Becka Savage, lady of the manor of the village of Bilehurst Cragg. They witness an old woman known as Old Mother Twiston being ducked in a nearby lake, chained to a log, with her granddaughter Willa forced to look on.
The Doctor's psychic paper reveals her to be Witchfinder General, so Becka invites her and her friends back to the manor to discuss the issue.
It is clear that she is obsessed with stamping out witchcraft in the district. She even had her carriage horses shot when she thought them possessed by the Devil. Natural events like the weather are blamed on sorcery, and 35 women have so far been killed.
Yaz is sent back to the village to speak with Willa. 
A masked man, dressed in black, has been observing them since they arrived.

Becka cites the new King James Bible as justification for her actions - pointing out the line "suffer not a witch to live". The Doctor tries to steer her more towards the New Testament and "Love thy neighbour", but to no avail. When she states that the King would have something to say to Becka about her interpretation of his authorised Bible, the figure in black appears and unmasks - revealing himself to be King Kames. On hearing of the witchcraft activity in the region, and having a personal obsession with the issue of his own, he had travelled here incognito to observe what was going on for himself.
The psychic paper fails to work properly this time, and the Doctor becomes only the Witchfinder General's assistant, and so Graham has to take on the more senior role.
Becka and the King agree that they will rid the village of the Devil - even if it means killing every single inhabitant.
Yaz comes across Willa in the woods, performing some kind of ceremony to honour her grandmother.
She is shocked to see a root-like tendril emerge from the mud and attempt to seize the girl. Yaz rescues her, hacking off part of the root which appears to be composed of mud.

She returns to the manor and joins the Doctor, Graham and Ryan. In order to keep him out of the way whilst she looks around, the Doctor has the men engage with the King. The mud on the tendril appears to be perfectly harmless.
As he is a Witchfinder General, the King has his servant Alfonso give Graham a large black hat as a mark of his status. However, it with Ryan that the monarch is most interested.
Yaz takes the Doctor to meet Willa. She reveals that Becka is actually a cousin, so was related to the dead Mother Twiston.
The Doctor wishes to know more about what attacked Willa and they go into the woods, close to where the old woman has been buried. The mud in the Doctor's sample suddenly becomes active, and they are horrified to see the old woman crawl from her grave, covered in mud. More dead women appear in a similar state. The King arrives with Alfonso and declares Willa to be a witch - despite the creatures seeming to attack her as much as anyone else. They kill Alfonso.
The Doctor orders her companions to follow the creatures.
After seeing her brandish her sonic screwdriver and due to all the strange things that have happened since she arrived, Becka accuses the Doctor of being a witch. The gullible King accepts this and she finds herself arrested.

The creatures are followed to Becka's home, where they take an axe from one of the rooms. Hearing an alarm from the village, they head back and find the Doctor about to be ducked in the lake.
She is able to escape unharmed, however. The creatures turn up with the axe. Willa reveals that "Bilehurst" means "sacred tree hill". It transpires that Becka took the axe to a tree which grew atop the hill because it spoiled her view. However, this tree acted as a plug, sealing in an alien species called the Morax who had been imprisoned for war crimes here in ancient times. Their bodies have decomposed but they continue to exist in the mud and are using dead bodies buried in the ground as hosts. Becka herself will become host to their Queen, but it is the King they really want, as a body for their still imprisoned monarch.
Fire can be used to keep the creatures at bay, whilst the Doctor reactivates the prison - sucking the Morax out of their host bodies and back into the ground. The Queen refuses to comply, and King James destroys her with a blazing torch, made from the wood of the tree.
Ryan is offered a court position by the King, replacing Alfonso, but he declines. Willa will follow in her grandmother's footsteps as a healer, whilst the King decides to erase all memory of what happened here from the records.
James is left dumbstruck as he sees the TARDIS dematerialise, whilst Willa merely smiles...

The Witchfinders was written by Joy Wilkinson and first broadcast on Sunday 25th November 2018.
It's the second celebrity-historical of the season, featuring as it does King James VI and I.
(For those unfamiliar with the Stuarts, Scotland had already seen five Kings named James before this one - the son of Mary Queen of Scots - came along. On Queen Elizabeth's death in 1603 he was invited to become ruler of both kingdoms - making him the sixth King James of Scotland, but only the first of England).
This is the first story in which the Doctor's new gender plays a crucial part, as the main historical inspiration is the witchcraft persecutions of the 16th and 17th Centuries. These were predominantly aimed at women (though around one third of those accused of witchcraft in Scandinavia were men).
Those who were unmarried - spinsters or widows who had declined to remarry - and those who practised midwifery and medicine were particular targets.
Those who healed could easily be accused of harming.
The Pendle Hill witch trial was a particularly notorious incident in these events. It all began when a traveller claimed that he had been cursed by a member of a local family. He had became lame immediately after having an argument with her. Another woman of the family had been suspected of being a witch for many years, but this incident led to the whole family coming under official scrutiny. Eventually, twelve people - some from a neighbouring family - were arrested and accused of ten deaths attributed to their sorcery.
What made this incident so notorious was that the most damning evidence came from a member of the family - a young girl. Only one of the accused was acquitted. The rest either died in prison at Lancaster or were hung. (Witches in England were invariably hung, despite what certain horror movies usually claim. Burning was a little more common in Scotland and on the continent).

King James is synonymous with Witchcraft following an incident when he was sailing back from Denmark with his new Queen. The ship was almost wrecked in a fierce storm, and it was alleged that a coven of Berwickshire witches had summoned it to attack him. He became obsessed with witchcraft and was responsible for a book - Daemonologie (1597) - which set out the dangers of witches and what should be done to counter the problem.
Culturally, the inspirations are very much the Horror genre - in particular what is known as "Folk-Horror". In particular we have to look to 1971's The Blood on Satan's Claw, aka The Devil's Skin (which featured Wendy Padbury and Anthony Ainley), and Witchfinder General, aka The Conqueror Worm (1968). The Wicker Man is often cited as the third of a Folk-Horror Trilogy. (You'll also see our very own The Daemons referenced when it comes to discussions of Folk-Horror).
The notion of an ancient evil being unleashed by someone tampering with the landscape - Becka cutting down the tree - is reminiscent of the works of M.R. James. 
Hammer Horror is certainly a visual inspiration. The Morax emerging from their graves is reminiscent of scenes from Plague of the Zombies (1966).
1981's The Evil Dead may also be seen as an inspiration - with its deadly tree roots, witchcraft and possessed corpses.
The impressive guest cast is led by Siobhan Finneran as Becka Savage. Despite appearing in a number of soap operas, she's probably best known as the long-suffering Janice Garvey in ITV comedy drama Benidorm.
More internationally known is Alan Cumming, who portrays King James. The Scottish actor was on the radar for a role in the series for some time but was never available, working as he does in film, TV and on stage on both sides of the Atlantic.
Willa is played by Tilly Steele, and Old Mother Twiston by Tricia Kelly.

Overall, one of the better entries of the season. A more conventional Doctor Who pseudo-historical which is darker than other instalments - nicely times for Hallowe'en. It would be nice to see King James make a return - the Gunpowder Plot hasn't been done on TV yet...
Things you might like to know:
  • Graham says that he and Grace did the Pendle Hill Witch Trail. This is a 45 mile route from Lancaster running east to Barrowford, which lies in the shadow of the Hill.
  • "Daemonologie" was a working title for the story.
  • One of the filming locations was the 17th Century living museum at Little Woodham in Hampshire.
  • Some of the location filming took place during the infamous "Beast from the East" weather event of Spring 2018.
  • Transmitting so close to Hallowe'en, the story opens with a discussion about apple-bobbing, which the Doctor is keen to do.
  • A mix-up at Amazon Prime saw this episode uploaded for subscribers to view three days before its intended BBC One debut.
  • It's only the second story ever to have been both written and directed by a woman - the first being Enlightenment.
  • The Doctor uses her respiratory bypass system to survive the ducking - first mentioned in Pyramids of Mars. Meeting Harry Houdini also helped - first mentioned in Planet of the Spiders.
  • Aliens making use of dead bodies to act as hosts has been seen before - in The Unquiet Dead.