Thursday, 31 July 2014

Story 108 - The Horns of Nimon

In which the Doctor decides to carry out some repairs to the TARDIS. He parks the ship in what he thinks is a quiet region of space and dismantles most of the key components - including the defences. There is another craft nearby, however, and it is exerting a massive gravitational force. The TARDIS is drawn towards it. The Doctor, Romana and K9 cross over to the vessel, which is damaged and drifting. On board, they discover a group of young people from the planet Aneth, as well as a cargo of Hymetusite crystals. It is these which have caused the gravitational effect. On the bridge there is only the Co-Pilot alive. In order to reach their homeworld of Skonnos earlier than scheduled he has encouraged his Pilot to push the antiquated ship's engines too far - wrecking them and killing the Pilot in the process. He explains that the young people and the crystals are being taken to Skonnos as a form of tribute owed by Aneth. The Doctor and K9 return to the TARDIS to fetch equipment, as they have worked out how the crystals can be used to reactivate the ship. Romana is left on board to carry out the work. As soon as power is restored to the engines, the treacherous Co-Pilot gets under way, with Romana still aboard. The Doctor and K9 see the ship depart, then discover a giant asteroid heading directly towards them - drawn here by the gravitational force. The Doctor cannot dematerialise, and there are no defences.

He spins the ship, knocking the asteroid away into space. He must then carry out temporary repairs to get the ship moving again, in order to pursue Romana. She has arrived on Skonnos and meets the ruler - a scientist named Soldeed. He realises that the Co-Pilot is lying when he claims to have used the crystal to re-power the ship. He simply doesn't have the intelligence. His actions have jeopardised Soldeed's great plan to re-establish the Skonnon Empire. Romana finds that she and the young Anethans are to enter the Power Complex with the crystals - and she realises this is some form of sacrifice. The Co-Pilot is forced to join them. They come upon a room full of dessicated corpses - the remains of previous tributes. They are then confronted by a huge bull-like alien - the Nimon. It destroys the Co-Pilot. It transpires that Skonnos once had a great empire which has long since declined. The Nimon arrived and promised to restore the planet to its' former glory. The Skonnons are obliged to supply a number of young people and the Hymetusite crystals - both of which they coerce from neighbouring Aneth.

The Doctor finally arrives and follows Romana into the Power Complex. K9 is captured by Soldeed. Romana has managed to escape capture by the Nimon, along with two of the Anethans - Seth and Teka. Teka sees Seth as a hero who will free Aneth from Skonnon tyranny, but he is really just an ordinary teenager who has made some rash claims. Soldeed enters the Complex in pursuit of the Doctor. He is horrified to see that there are actually several Nimon present. He believed there to be only one lord. The Nimon are a parasitical race who establish an emissary on a victim planet, who promises great wealth / power. Young people and Hymetusite are asked for in return. The life-force of the youngsters is fed upon, whilst the crystals fuel equipment which creates an artificial Black Hole. This is a link to the planet previously conquered by the Nimon. As it dies, they travel to the new world in egg-shaped pods - starting the whole process over. Romana is accidentally transported to Crinoth - the planet currently inhabited by the Nimon. It is on the brink of destruction. She meets Sezom who, like Soldeed, had been fooled into allowing the Nimon to gain a foothold on his planet. He sacrifices himself to get Romana back to Skonnos - giving her a crystal which can destroy the Nimon. Soldeed is killed by Seth, but he activates a power overload as he dies. The Power Complex explodes - leaving the Nimon trapped on the dying Crinoth. Seth and Teka return to Skonnos with the freed tributes.

This four part adventure was written by one-time script editor Anthony Read, and was broadcast between 22nd December 1979 and 12th January 1980. As well as marking the (premature) end of Season 17, this generally unloved story is significant for a number of reasons.
It is the last story to be produced by Graham Williams; the last story to script edited by Douglas Adams; the last story to be scored by Dudley Simpson. It sees the last outing for the classic time tunnel opening titles and the Delia Derbyshire theme arrangement.
David Brierley voices K9 for the final time. And Tom baker says goodbye to his iconic multi-coloured scarf.
Of course, all these momentous events were never supposed to coincide with this story. There was supposed to be Shada...
When he was script editing, Read had helped steer the programme away from the Gothic horror tastes of Hinchcliffe and Holmes - especially the Universal and Hammer movie version of Gothic. Read and Williams looked to literature for inspiration. Underworld had been based on the Jason and the Argonauts myth, and in this story Read adapts the legend of Theseus and the Minotaur.
The Nimon is, naturally, the Minotaur. Soldeed is Daedalus - architect of the Labyrinth (the Power Complex). Seth is Theseus who would become king of Athens (Aneth). Teka's name derives from Attica. Skonnos is Knossos. Crinoth is Corinth.

As with the preceding story, there is a good tale trying to be told. Most of the problems with The Horns of Nimon are superficial. The design of the monsters is laughable. The crew at the time believed that the bull heads were going to be helmets - but proved to be the final version of the creatures. There are some dreadful performances - especially Graham Crowden's OTT Soldeed. Future Blue Peter presenter Janet Ellis (Teka) is no actor. The humour is embarrassing at times (the sound effects when the TARDIS goes wrong a prime example). Then there is the Co-Pilot's infamous split trousers (see image above).
The Co-Pilot is played by the normally reliable Malcolm Terris. Best performance comes from John Bailey (The Sensorites and Evil of the Daleks). He plays Sezom. There is a good performance from Simon Gipps-Kent as Seth.
Episode endings are:
  1. The defenceless TARDIS is in the path of an approaching asteroid...
  2. The Co-Pilot is killed by the Nimon, who then turns its attention to Romana and the Anethans...
  3. Soldeed destroys the controls which the Doctor was about to operate. Wherever she is, he cannot bring Romana back...
  4. The Doctor tells Romana about he time he helped Theseus on Crete, then resumes the TARDIS repairs.

Overall, don't blame Anthony Read too much for this. It's the production values and guest performances that let this down so badly. Its broadcast over the Christmas period have always brought the word "pantomime" to mind. In the recent DWM 50th Anniversary poll, this did not rest at the bottom of the Tom Baker stories, but it was third least popular at number 223 out of 241. You hate Meglos and that other Greek myth inspired story Underworld even more.
Things you might like to know:
  • Janet Ellis has another connection to Doctor Who - in that her dad (Mike Ellis) worked on the visual effects for the show. She interviewed him for Blue Peter - the clip is an extra on the DVD of Trial of a Time Lord 1 - 4. 
  • Sadly, the gifted Simon Gipps-Kent died at the tragically young age of 28, from drug misuse. He was rarely off British TV screens in the 1970's - mainly in children's drama (including The Tomorrow People). One of his most popular roles is as the orphan Stephen in the seriously scary 1973 BBC adaptation of MR James' Lost Hearts.
  • Douglas Adams had originally tried to recruit all-new writing talent for this season (including stories from ex-producer Philip Hinchcliffe, and director Pennant Roberts), but his plans came to nothing. Read's script was the only workable one available as the clock ticked down. Graham Williams deliberately kept the story to be made and shown in the fifth story slot as he quickly realised it was weak, and he hoped that it would be rapidly forgotten once viewers had seen Shada. Oh, the irony...
  • The spaceship which Seth and Teka use to fly home was actually painted white - in keeping with the Theseus myth - but the lighting is such that it doesn't look much different from the spaceship as seen in the opening episodes. (Theseus had agreed with his father to hoist a white sail to show if he had succeeded. He forgot to do this, and his dad killed himself - thinking his son dead).
  • Officially, the plural of Nimon is Nimons. Check the net and this is generally ignored. Personally, I also favour Nimon as both the singular and plural name for the race.
  • Whilst the Nimon have mercifully never returned to the programme, the Minotaur in The God Complex is said to be a close relative.

Wednesday, 30 July 2014

Symphonic Spectacular

Do you know what you'll be doing on 23rd May next year? I do...
Last year I didn't have much luck obtaining tickets for the anniversary events. I was on holiday and away from a computer when the November convention tickets went on sale. By the time I tried to get any, they were sold out.
The day the Prom tickets went on sale, the computer crashed.
If you look at most websites which have announced the Symphonic Spectacular tour, which visits several UK cities in late May next year, you'll have read that tickets go on sale as of Friday morning (1st August). However, if you first read the news on the doctorwhonews website, you'll have noted that See Tickets are selling them from today - so this afternoon I bought mine.
3pm on 23rd May 2015 will see me sat in row T of the Wembley Arena. Come and say hello if you're there that day.

Monday, 21 July 2014

Know Your Daleks - No.8

The Smith Years.
The last instalment of this handy guide to the Daleks ended with the entire race being wiped out - again... How would they be brought back for Series 5? Very badly, it turns out.
Things start out well with the introduction of the Ironsides. Basically bronze Daleks in khaki camouflage, and with webbing pouches and a little Union flag where the name tag is usually to be seen. I like the little blackout covers for their dome lights. The Daleks have invented a robot copy of Prof Bracewell and programmed him to believe that he invented them. At least I think it is a copy of a real person. Would Churchill employ someone with no history so close to his war cabinet - no matter how good his ideas?
Actually, it isn't clear where the Ironside Daleks have come from. Are they survivors of the Emperor's fleet (from Parting of the Ways), or are they survivors from the destruction of the Crucible? The Progenitor does not recognise them as Daleks - they need the Doctor's oral testimony that they are who they claim to be. This might be explained if they were Emperor survivors - as they had human DNA traces. However, the Crucible Daleks came directly from Davros - a Kaled - so surely recognisably Dalek?
Depends on what you think of Davros. In Destiny, the Movellans described him as a "Kaled Mutant" - so perhaps not pure Kaled.

Once the Doctor has (quite clumsily) shouted out that the Daleks are indeed Daleks, the Progenitor activates. Apparently there used to be lots of these little pepper-pot things, but now this is the last one. The Progenitor creates a whole new bunch of Daleks - the New Paradigm - and this is where things start to go awry.
The Dalek is a design classic. The New Paradigm take that wonderful design and trash it. Instead of war-ready, bolted, bronze bodies, they now look like they are made of plastic. The profile is all wrong - they've now gone hatchback. There are 5 new Daleks - each of a different colour. The Supreme is white, the drone red. The others (Plastics, Tins and Mixed Paper & Cardboard) are yellow, orange and blue.
Reaction to the new design was not mixed. It was fairly heavily anti. It is to be noted that they have been shoved into the background of late, with the RTD bronze Daleks dominating the last few stories they have featured in.

The Paradigm make a brief return as part of the Pandorica Alliance.

The white Supreme casing then appears in The Big Bang now transformed into a stone Dalek. Earlier petrified by the unravelling of the Universe, the light from the Pandorica animates this museum exhibit.

Series 6 only features a cameo from one of the New Paradigm, at the beginning of The Wedding of River Song.

And so we come to Asylum of the Daleks. More Daleks than you can shake a Perigosto Stick at. Just a shame we don't really get to see the classic series models. The Asylum is populated mostly with bronze Daleks. There's the odd New Paradigm. Classic models such as the Special Weapons and RTD's personal copy of a 1970's version just don't get any screen time. Biggest disappointment is the Intensive Care Unit - where we are specifically told that these are the Daleks which have encountered the Doctor. Despite having versions of the real thing to put on show, they're all bronze ones. The "Oswin Dalek" is yet another bronze model - with a big chain draped over it.

Bronze Daleks make up the bulk of the Parliament. The New Paradigm Daleks have had a respray - the paintwork is now metallic so they look less like they are made out of plastic.

The Prime Minister is simply a Dalek mutant in a glass tank.

As we are back into the Time War, only the bronze Daleks are to be seen in Day of the Doctor. One thing of note, however, is the pilots of the flying gunships. They have black domes - like the Emperor's personal guards of the Eccleston finale.

When the Radio Times put Doctor Who on its cover early in December 2013, the Doctor was pictured standing in the doorway of the TARDIS flanked by New Paradigm Daleks. When we got to see the last Christmas Special, however, it was more bronze versions which predominated. Time of the Doctor also featured a new Dalek weapon - a massive version of their own exterminators.
And that's the story so far. The recently released trailer for Series 8 shows that the Daleks will be back fairly soon. And guess what? It'll be the bronze ones yet again...

Monday, 14 July 2014

Figurine Collection July 2014

Latest figurines arrived this morning - the War Doctor and the Special Weapons Dalek. I haven't been terribly impressed with the capturing of people's faces in the range so far - especially Timothy Dalton's Rassilon. However, I showed the War Doctor figurine to a colleague (not a fan of the programme) and asked if he knew who it was - and he recognised John Hurt. It is a very good likeness.
As for the Special Weapons Dalek, my only criticism is that it is a bit too clean. When seen in Remembrance of the Daleks it was all oil-stained and grubby.
Next confirmed figurine in August will be a Scarecrow from Human Nature / Family of Blood. With it should be the Ninth Doctor, from what I can work out. Either that or the Ironside Dalek. September definitely sees the release of the Morbius Monster figurine.

New Trailer - Key Points

Most of the new trailer features the Doctor / Clara / TARDIS, but there are a few new things to get excited about. The creature above, with eyes on stalks, comes from either episode 4 or 5. It was seen on location -sans spacesuit - when filming took place in a Cardiff Park. I suspect it may be the Steve Thompson story.

This is from the Gareth Roberts story, as this creature was seen alongside another creature played by Jimmy Vee. Lots of people pointing out the similarity to a games character (Garrus from Mass Effect).

I think this might be from Deep Breath, as we know that this story is certainly set in Victorian times. Robots do feature fairly prominently in other stories of Series 8, however.

Daleks - as we knew from the teaser the other day. Believed to be Phil Ford's episode 2. The bronze ones, you'll notice. The New Paradigm have been conspicuous by their absence of late - no sign of them in the closing stories of the Matt Smith era.

Without doubt, the Mark Gatiss Robin Hood story (episode 3).

The opening episode again? If so, this might also be mechanical. Silurians and dinosaurs obviously just go together.

I recall similar scenes in the trailer for Series 5 and getting terribly excited - and the episode turned out to be a great disappointment. Hopefully not so this time - please...

Monday, 7 July 2014

From Script To... Internet

Apparently the BBC are about to launch a new Doctor Who competition. It is open to anyone (of any age in any country). Only condition is that you must have had a script accepted and filmed for Series 9.
Four lucky winners will be selected to have their scripts left in the back of a taxi and published in their entirety on the internet a full two months before broadcast.
A BBC spokesman is purported to have said:
"We're getting so much better at spoilers, we needed to take things up a level. To begin with, it was just photos of Jimmy Vee having a fag in costume on some Cardiff industrial estate. Guest stars and extras then started tweeting important plot points. We slowly began publishing photos and releasing clips that gave away masses of information. We didn't think we could beat having a whole un-broadcast episode released on DVD the week before transmission - but now we will be giving some lucky writers to opportunity to have the entire plots of their stories spoiled. 2015 is, of course, the 10th anniversary of the return of Doctor Who to our screens - so we are also working on a deal allowing the final episode of the series to be released free with every packet of Cornflakes* the week before the series starts. I'm sure you'll agree it is much more exciting than getting Matt Smith back for a multi-Doctor story..."
Of course, we all know who is behind this latest BBC spoiler screw-up, the Machiavelli manipulating Steven Moffat's downfall from within in order to seize power for himself. Marcelo Camarago? An anagram of Mark Gatiss (only with some different letters...).

* Other breakfast cereals are available.

Know Your Daleks - No.7

The Tennant Years.
Last time out, the sole surviving Daleks in the Universe appeared to have been wiped out of existence by the Bad Wolf Rose. So, how to bring them back for Series 2?
The conclusion to Army of Ghosts introduces us to the Cult of Skaro. These four Daleks escaped the Time War in a Void Ship. They have names, and were encouraged to think differently from their fellows - for the success of the Dalek race. Dalek Sec is black, denoting leadership, whilst Caan, Jast and Thay are ordinary bronze versions of the type introduced in the Eccleston stories.
They have with them the Genesis Ark - which we initially assume to be Dalek tech. It is actually Time Lord in origin, though Dalek-shaped for a reason. It is a prison, containing thousands of bronze Daleks.

The utility sucker arm has a new attribute. These Daleks can absorb knowledge directly from a human mind - seemingly sucking the life-force out with it. Another new attribute is a built-in time travel facility. The Cult escape being sucked into the Void by activating an Emergency Temporal Shift.

In Daleks in Manhattan, we find out where (and when) they got to. They have gone back to the 1930's, to New York, where they have manipulated the construction of the Empire State Building in order to harness an imminent gamma radiation storm. They've been abducting the city's dispossessed, turning some into Pig Slaves, whilst many others have had their minds wiped clean - soon to become a human-Dalek army thanks to that gamma radiation burst.

The new army have weapons which are part Dalek energy weapon and part Thompson sub-machine gun in appearance.
Dalek Sec decides to take this hybridization further - physically merging with human helper Mr Diagoras to become the first Human-Dalek Hybrid. Humanoid in form, Sec retains the single eye and residual tentacles of the original mutant.

To convert the gamma radiation, the other Cult members have had to sacrifice skirt panels. These have to be affixed to the antenna at the top of the building.
Before discovering that it is the Daleks he is up against once more, the Doctor finds organic material in the sewers - discarded remnants of failed experiments. This genetic material is tested and catalogued as being type 467-989, which originates on Skaro.

Dalek Jast replaces his sucker arm at one point with a syringe containing chromatin, which aids Sec's transformation into the hybrid.
Caan, Jast and Thay all rebel against Sec - he has moved too far away from "Dalek" - and overthrow him. The army fails when the Doctor's DNA gets caught up in the mix, so they are all destroyed. Thay, Jast and Sec are all killed. The last (apparently) Dalek in the Universe - Caan - does another Emergency Temporal Shift...

... right back into the middle of the Time War. In The Stolen Earth / Journey's End, we learn that Caan saved Davros but has ended up totally mad, his casing blown wide open. He has also developed the power of prophecy.

There is a whole new Dalek army - created from Davros' genetic material, so Kaled in origin. Davros isn't in charge, though. We meet a new Supreme Dalek. This one is red and gold, with large clamps front, back and sides between the dome and the mid-section. (These are a vestige of earlier designs, including one with a globular top section).
Most of the Daleks "manning" the Crucible have star-shaped metal prongs in place of suckers - which operate their various machines.

Last time we saw Davros, there wasn't very much left of him. This inconsistency has troubled some people. Not I. Personal theory imminent.
In the same way that the Time Lords resurrected the Master, and Rassilon in his prime, so the Daleks enlisted Davros when he was at his peak. His hand is missing - so after the events of Revelation. This is the Davros who went to Skaro a prisoner, and ended up as Emperor. What better version of their creator would they choose to help them in the Time War?
The new mask is modelled on the original Davros - and Julian Bleach seems to look to Michael Wisher in his performance as well.
Davros is about to activate his bonkers Reality Bomb - destroying everything beyond the Medusa Cascade, so we must assume the entire Dalek force is amassed here. Doctor 10.5 and Doctor-Donna destroy them all - so it looks like the entire race is wiped out - again.
How will they get out of that one?