Saturday, 22 July 2017

Deborah Watling (1948 - 2017)


Sad news to report today - the death of another companion actor. Debbie Watling, who played Victoria Waterfield during the classic monster era of the Second Doctor, has passed away.
She joined the series in Evil of the Daleks, and accompanied Patrick Troughton and Fraser Hines aboard the TARDIS until Fury of the Deep, when she screamed herself out of the series. In between. she met Cybermen, Ice Warriors and Yeti, as well as a villain who looked just like the Doctor.
One of those Yeti encounters also meant working alongside her dad - actor Jack Watling, playing Prof. Travers.
Sadly, Debbie's period on the show has been one of the hardest hit when it comes to the loss of episodes from the archives, but we did get that 11 episode batch returned in 2013.
I came to the programme just after she had left - my earliest memories are of The Wheel in Space - but many of the stories featuring Victoria were novelised early on when I started to collect the Target books, so I have always had a soft spot for the character.
After leaving the series Debbie mostly worked in theatre, and she returned to play Victoria in the Dimensions In Time CiN special, as well as the video spin-off Downtime.
Fans can enjoy seeing the young Debbie if you tune into the Talking Pictures channel - where they are regularly showing The Invisible Man TV series in which she was a semi-regular.
Next time you play those DVDs of her stories which have survived, stick on the audio commentary and have a listen to what she has to say about her time on the programme. She was only there for a year, but it clearly meant a lot to her ever since.
Rest in Peace Debbie.

Tuesday, 18 July 2017

July's Figurines


Three figurines this month - two regular releases plus the latest of the Dalek specials. All three hail from the Classic era of the series. First up is a Voord, from 1964's The Keys of Marinus. A preview picture of this figure seemed to be blue, but this guy is in jet black gear, the only other colour being a blob of white on the pommel of the dagger he is about to draw. The helmet is very detailed, particularly at the back. There's something quite fetishistic about him.
He's joined by the version of Alpha Centauri whom we first met in The Curse of Peladon. My photo has slightly washed out the colour - its cloak is more yellow in reality. The accompanying magazine has the making of the creature, but does not cover this story, suggesting that Aggedor or Arcturus is in the pipeline.


They are joined by what is termed an "Embryo Technician" Dalek. It's one of the classic silver / blue sphere models from Power of the Daleks, except that it has a longer arm with a basket at the end, containing the Dalek mutant. The accompanying magazine covers the making of the animated version of this story.


August sees the release of another Dalek - the wrecked version of Dalek Caan, as seen in The Stolen Earth / Journey's End. It is accompanied by Professor Yana, the human form of the Master as seen in Utopia. The next larger Special Edition coming soon is the Web of Fear Yeti.

Sunday, 16 July 2017

Inspirations - Galaxy 4


Or "Galaxy Four", as it is often written. It's the sole contribution of William Emms, though he did submit other story ideas later that didn't make it into production. One story - "The Imps" - almost got made early in Patrick Troughton's run, and in the 1980's he wrote a Doctor Who make-your-own-adventure book.
It's the start of Season Three, and this is the first story properly story-edited by Donald Tosh, with John Wiles producing, though Verity Lambert hasn't left yet. They were unhappy that William Hartnell and Maureen O'Brien changed a lot of their dialogue - though Emms thought they improved some of it. Noting how unhappy O'Brien was, they decided to write her out at the next available opportunity, thinking she wanted to leave.
Peter Purves is on record as being dissatisfied with his role, claiming that he was basically given Barbara's role and lines to perform. He'd practically been leading man in his last story, but here he spends much of his time prisoner of the female Drahvins.
The main story inspiration is that you should never judge by appearances. The beautiful humanoids are the villains, and the monstrous-looking aliens are actually quite nice.


Emms' original scripts had the Drahvins all male, led by a man named Gar. It was Verity Lambert who decided that they should become female, and she introduced the notion that the Drahvin warriors should be test-tube clones, with leader Maaga the only true Drahvin. There was much in the news about the implications of mapping DNA and what it might lead to.
With their blonde beehive hairdo's, the visual inspiration appears to have come from pop diva Dusty Springfield.
Although overall story titles were never intended for the public domain at this time, there has been much fan speculation as to Galaxy 4. Presumably the events of the story take place there, though the only mention of the galaxy is that the Drahvins come from there, and it is 400 dawns away from this planet. Calling a story after the place the aliens come from would be like renaming The Moonbase "Telos", or The Dalek Invasion of Earth "Skaro", so I think we can assume this doomed planet is in Galaxy 4. It is stated often that the Drahvin ship is not very advanced, so travelling just over a year might see them still in their own galaxy - and would they really need to go all the way to a neighbouring galaxy just to find a planet suitable for colonisation?


The Chumblies become the series' first creatures who get their name from someone else. It certainly isn't what their creators, the Rills, call them. Vicki names them, from the way they move. Emms made up the name from "Chum" and "Friendly", and employed a number of made up words in his script to describe their sound and movement - like "chamble", "chutter" and "jink". They are clearly an attempt to come up something to rival the Daleks in their appearance, but they would never return to the series.
There is something about Propaganda running through the story. Maaga refuses to let her warriors listen to the messages that the Chumblies transmit - claiming they are lies designed to lure them into a trap. She frightens her troops with talk about what the Rills will do to them if they capture them - akin to how newspapers described the Germans in World War One. or the Communist threat during the Cold War. If anyone is a metaphor for communism it is the Drahvins, not the Rills. Maaga is clearly part of an elite, with the best food and weapons which are denied to her drone-like subordinates.
As mentioned above, Steven spends much of the story prisoner of the Drahvins. At one point he finds himself trapped in an airlock, as Maaga removes the oxygen. This old trick will be used by other aliens in the future - though not as often as you might think. Steven faces a dilemma - return to captivity with the Dusty Springfields, or go outside and be nabbed by the Chumblies.


The Doctor and Vicki, meanwhile, get to meet the Rills. They are a cross between a walrus and a warthog in appearance. They live on ammonia, and so have to remain in a special compartment in their ship. The Doctor is about to kill them, until Vicki learns they are not the monsters Maaga described. They agree to help the Doctor, and he them. The TARDIS is linked to their spaceship, allowing it to take off, whilst the Drahvins are left to perish as the planet disintegrates. Sadly no photos or footage exists of the climactic moments, but as the TARDIS has already left we can assume it wasn't very spectacular on screen. Probably some shaky camera work then a white-out.
The throw forward to next week's episode is interesting. Vicki notes a planet on the TARDIS scanner and wonders what might be happening there...
Next time: The name's Cory. Marc Cory. Licenced to Kill...

The 13th Doctor


Interesting to see the reactions about Jodie Whittaker taking over from Peter Capaldi as the Doctor. Nice to see that most are positive. Four years or so ago, I was very much against a female Doctor, at the time when Capaldi was chosen. Well, I've mellowed to the idea since then, and would have been more surprised if they hadn't gone for a woman this time.
Making the Master female worked wonderfully. I never had a problem with Missy.
I haven't waded in with any comments in the run up to the announcement this time, as I realised it would, personally, be pointless. I'm a Doctor Who fan. Always have been. Always will be. I realised that whoever took on the role, I would be tuning in to Series 11 anyway, and writing about it on this Blog.
Jodie Whittaker is a damned fine actor. So long as Chibnall can deliver on the script side, I think the future for the programme looks good. Those fans unhappy with the choice need to give Whittaker the benefit of the doubt. The Doctor stands for many things - including tolerance and open-mindedness. Take a leaf out of his - or her - book.

Thursday, 13 July 2017

C is for... Capricorn, Max


Max Capricorn was the founder and CEO of the cruise-line which bore his name, and which operated out of the planet Sto. He was forced to prolong his life by becoming a cyborg, shielding this from his board and the public by turning recluse and only ever communicating via holograms. Cyborgs were discriminated against on Sto.
His trademark was a gold tooth which flashed when he grinned in his holographic videos. When the Doctor later met him in person, he was surprised to learn that the tooth flashed in real life as well.
When his business began to fail, and he realised that he was going to be ousted from his role, he hatched a plan to destroy the people who were out to replace him. He hid himself in a reinforced vault on one of his ships - a replica of the RMS Titanic - and set about reprogramming the robot Hosts who were supposed to look after the passengers so that they would kill. The ship's captain - Hardaker - was terminally ill, so Capricorn arranged to pay his family if he sabotaged the vessel - allowing it to be struck by meteroids whilst in orbit above the planet Earth.
The ship would then crash onto the planet, with the potential to wipe out the population.
Safe in his vault, Max would be picked up by a rescue ship and taken to the leisure planet of Penhaxico Two where he had secreted plenty of money. The board of the cruise-liner company would face massive litigation and probable imprisonment for corporate manslaughter.
The Doctor managed to get Max to leave his vault early - the ship was still holding orbit. His entire body was encased in a life-support unit, with only his head still human. Waitress Astrid Peth used a fork-lift truck to topple him down a shaft into the engines - losing her own life in the process.

Played by: George Costigan. Appearances: Voyage of the Damned (2007).

C is for... Capel, Taren


A brilliant robotics engineer, Capel had been brought up in the company of robots, with very little human contact or companionship. He related only to robot kind and came to see them as his kin. His sociopathy led to him becoming mentally unstable. He planned to start a robot revolution, freeing his brothers from enslavement by humans. Under the name of Dask, he managed to get himself a job as Chief Engineer on a Storm Mine vessel, which would spend months in the wilderness seeking out valuable ores. This would provide a base for him to create an army. He started to employ Laserson Probes to adjust the programming of the robot contingent on the Mine, overriding their prime directive not to harm humans. As the crew began to be killed off, the Doctor and Leela had to try to discover Capel's alias and stop him from destroying this robot-reliant society. The authorities were aware that he was on board, and had placed two agents amongst the crew to seek him out. They were Poul, and a disguised Super-Voc robot designated D84.
Once his identity had been discovered, Capel dressed himself as a robot and ordered the deaths of all the human survivors. The reprogrammed robots were conditioned to obey his voice.
The Doctor discovered the whereabouts of the workshop he had set up to alter the robots. Leela hid behind a panel and opened a cannister of helium gas. This altered Capel's voice so that the robots no longer recognised him. Ordered to kill all humans, SV7 strangled him.

Played by: David Bailie. Appearances: Robots of Death (1977).

  • Bailie is internationally known for his recurring role as Cotton in the Pirates of the Caribbean film franchise. He's the mute one, with the parrot.
  • He has reprised the role of Taren Capel on audio, in the Kaldor City spin-off range, and was the Celestial Toymaker for the Big Finish range.
  • Capel's name derives from the Czech playwright Karel Capek. In 1920 he wrote a play called R.U.R. - Rossum's Universal Robots - which told of a robot revolution. From this "robot" entered the English language.

C is for... Cane Family


Passengers on the Crusader 50 shuttle tour of the planet Midnight, encountered by the Tenth Doctor. They were husband and wife Biff and Val, and their son Jethro. The planet's surface was bathed in X-tonic radiation, and no life could survive there. At first everyone got on well - after the Doctor had sabotaged the annoying in-flight entertainments system. Biff and Val told the Doctor of a visit to what they thought was a swimming pool but turned out to be merely a concept. Jethro was a somewhat moody teenager, who dressed in emo fashion, and who acted as though he did not want to be on this holiday.
Once the vehicle had broken down, and seemed to be coming under attack from something outside, tensions mounted. The unseen entity appeared to have got inside and taken over a fellow passenger - Sky Sylvestry. Biff and Val became unnerved when she started to repeat what everyone was saying. Fear and paranoia increased as Sky then spoke at exactly the same time as the others, and then began to preempt them. Jethro attempted to keep calm and act reasonably, but Val became more hysterical, triggering Biff's aggression. This affected everyone else, and the Doctor had to stop them acting like a lynch-mob as they planned to throw Sky out of the craft. The entity then moved into the Doctor himself. He would have been thrown outside if it hadn't been for the Hostess realising what had happened, and sacrificing herself to drag Sky and the entity out of the craft.
Val feebly attempted to defend their actions, and Jethro was clearly upset to see how his parents had behaved.

Played by: Lyndsey Coulson (Val), Daniel Ryan (Biff), and Colin Morgan (Jethro). Appearances: Midnight (2008).

  • Coulson is best known for playing Carol Jackson in Eastenders, notching up 913 episodes between 1993 and 2015.
  • Shortly after appearing in Midnight, Morgan was seen on BBC 1 in the title role of Merlin, which ran for 5 seasons.