Tuesday, 11 March 2014
First of all, apologies for the lack of posts over the last week. I have actually been celebrating my own half century, and so have been in various states of inebriation.
The week before, I was at a bit of a loose end as far as what to watch one evening. There was nothing on telly, and nothing in my relatively extensive DVD collection really grabbed my interest. Usually, under these circumstances, my default position is to stick a Doctor Who on. But which one? A B&W? Classic seventies? A Tennant?
As I perused the collection, I started to think about the extras - or Value Added Material as some folk term them these days ("Extras I calls 'em..."). Some of them I have only ever watched once, when the DVD was first bought. I realised that there were a lot of documentaries and features that I would really like to see again - the "Tomorrow's Times" features, the "Stripped For Action" ones, the big "Era Overview" docs, individual Making Of's, the wonderful tributes to Delgado, Courtney, Letts...
Again, which one to watch? One of the very best documentaries ever is "Genesis Of A Classic" - on Genesis of the Daleks. Tom Baker answering his mobile - a call from his first wife - whilst being filmed. Lis Sladen saying "arse" (you have to watch it until after the end credits...).
Bottom line (no pun intended) I decided to watch all of them - in order. It's the ultimate "Making of Doctor Who" documentary - especially now that there is only one final DVD release in the pipeline that we know about for certain.
Should you wish to follow me, start with the 55 minute "Origins" documentary on The Edge of Destruction. There are a couple of drawbacks. The missing stories are only fleetingly touched upon. Some stories don't have a "Making of" at all. You start to see where the same interview footage has been reused. Terrance Dicks tells the same stories. There is utter garbage such as the "Doctor's Strange Love" pieces.
On the whole, it is a very rewarding experience. Some of it has been quite moving - seeing the great and the good who are sadly no longer with us. When John Levene, on the "UNIT Family Part 2" doc, starts to lose it remembering Roger Delgado, I was losing it with him. We just lost the lovely Christopher Barry a couple of weeks ago. His love and pride for his work on the programme shines through in all the pieces he features on.
One of my favourite pieces (so far, having reached the earlier Tom Baker era) has little to do with Doctor Who at all. It is the interview with Philip Hinchliffe (the interview conducted by his daughter) discussing his remarkable career since he left the programme (on The Android Invasion DVD).
Personally, I have just been watching the extras on their own - leaving the actual adventures themselves to a future re-viewing.
It's an experience I am thoroughly enjoying - and would whole-heartedly recommend.
Sunday, 2 March 2014
In which the Doctor makes a mysterious rendezvous with a massive spacecraft. He leaves Leela in the TARDIS with K9, and disables the scanner to prevent her from seeing what he is up to. On his return, he refuses to tell her what he is up to, and sets the co-ordinates for Gallifrey. Arriving in the Panopticon, he announces his intention to take up the Presidency of the High Council of Time Lords. The post has lain vacant since his last visit. On that occasion, he had put himself forward as a candidate. His only opponent - Chancellor Goth - was revealed to be a traitor and was killed. Thus, the Doctor is now the President. Gallifrey has been governed by Cardinal Borusa, now Chancellor. He is vehemently opposed to the Doctor assuming power. The Doctor finds an ally in the new Castellan, Kelner - though both distrust each other. The Doctor orders Borusa to prepare his new quarters, specifying a specific industrial theme... At the induction ceremony, the Matrix appears to momentarily reject the Doctor. Borusa blames Leela for the attack. The Doctor orders that she be expelled from the Capitol. She goes on the run. The Doctor then instructs K9 to disable the protective Transduction Barriers. In a space traffic control station, Leela meets a technician named Rodan. She sees a spaceship enter Gallifreyan space and sounds the alarm. In the Panopticon, the Doctor invites the assembled Time Lords to meet their new masters. Shimmering beings appear. Gallifrey has been invaded.
The new arrivals are Vardans. They want the Doctor to completely dismantle the Transduction Barriers to allow their entire fleet to arrive. Kelner quickly allies himself with the aliens. The Doctor arranges to meet Borusa in his new quarters. The room is completely lined with reinforced lead. He informs his old tutor of recent events. The Vardans are able to travel via any form of wavelength - including thought. As such they can read his mind - though not in this room. The Doctor has a plan to identify the Vardan homeworld and send them back to it - trapping them there. Anyone hostile to the Vardans is expelled into the wastelands. Leela and Rodan go there and meet a group who have turned their backs on Time Lord society and now lead a simpler life. Leela informs them of the invasion, and they plan an attack. In the Capitol, the captain of the Chancellery Guard, Andred, enters into a plot to stop the invaders - by assassinating the Doctor. K9 links itself to the TARDIS to plot the Vardan homeworld. The Doctor manages to convince Andred of his innocence - giving him a lead-lined helmet to stop the Vardans reading his thoughts. The Vardans materialise fully - appearing as uniformed humanoid soldiers. As Leela and the outlers attack, the Doctor has K9 link to the Matrix. The Vardans are expelled from Gallifrey and their planet locked into a timeloop. Everyone celebrates in the Panopticon, but the jubilation is short-lived as a group of Sontarans appear...
The duplicitous Kelner joins forces with the new invaders. Borusa helps the Doctor and his allies escape and all take refuge in the TARDIS. The Doctor has the controls to the Transduction Barriers rerouted through his ship - to prevent the Sontaran forces landing en masse. Commander Stor has Kelner give him access to the ship. The Sontarans pursue the Doctor and his friends through the many rooms within the TARDIS, including the swimming pool, workshops, an infirmary and storerooms. The Doctor devises a plan - to build the powerful D-Mat weapon. He forces Borusa to hand over the Great Key - which powers the gun. When Stor's efforts fail, he decides to destroy the Capitol instead. The Doctor uses the D-Mat gun to obliterate him. He wakes up with no knowledge of having built the weapon. Gallifrey has been saved. The Doctor is about to depart when Leela announces that she plans on staying behind - having fallen in love with Andred. K9 will remain with her. The Doctor bids her farewell and travels on alone. He has a new project to keep him busy - K9 Mark II...
This six part adventure marked the end of Season 15. It is credited to David Agnew, and was broadcast between 4th February and 11th March, 1978. The writers were actually Scrip Editor Anthony Read, and Producer Graham Williams.
The story which was to have filled this slot fell through late in the day. Written by David Weir, it would have involved a race of cat people. Williams and Read had to hurriedly come up with a replacement. Read followed Holmes' advice of splitting six parters into a connected four and a two parter. To give the finale an epic feel, it was decided to have Gallifrey itself threatened. A popular existing monster was brought back, in the Sontarans. Sets and costumes from The Deadly Assassin could be reused. Much of the latter part of the story would be set within the TARDIS. Unfortunately, industrial action at BBC TV Centre caused much of this to be filmed on location at an abandoned hospital - and it shows. At no point do you ever feel that you are seeing parts of the ship.
Some very good special effects on show with a number of impressive spaceship shots. The shimmering tin-foil Vardans fail to impress, however. They're even worse when finally seen - boring uniformed humanoids.
Principle guest artists include John Arnatt, who takes over the role of Borusa. Angus Mackay had been invited back but had proven unavailable. Kelner is played by the wonderful Milton Johns, making his third appearance in the programme. Andred is Christopher Tranchell - also making his third appearance. Gold Usher is Charles Morgan, who had played Songsten in The Abominable Snowmen. Feisty old Lord Gomer, who wants to stay and fight, is also played by a series veteran - Dennis Edwards having played the Centurion in The Romans. Regular series stunt performer Max Faulkner gets his biggest role in the series as Nesbin, leader of the outler group. The Sontaran commander, Stor, is played by Derek Deadman, who was best known for comedy roles as well as criminals of varying types. The mask and vocalisation are not very good.
Episode endings are:
- As the Coronet of Rassilon descends onto the Doctor's head, he collapses in agony...
- The Doctor orders the assembled Council members to welcome their new masters, as three shimmering figures materialise...
- Andred enters the TARDIS and points his gun at the Doctor - threatening to execute him as a traitor to Gallifrey...
- The Doctor wonders why his friends have stopped celebrating. He turns to look at what they are staring at - and sees a group of Sontarans on the Panopticon steps...
- Thanks to Kelner's sabotage, the TARDIS is about to be thrown into a black star...
- The Doctor pulls out a large box - with "K9 Mark II" written on the side...
Overall, an ambitious serial that suffers from some poor production values. It's a pity the Sontarans couldn't have turned up earlier, as the Vardans are rubbish. The Part Four cliffhanger is one of the best of the classic series. A very poor (and unrealistic) departure for Leela.
Things you might like to know:
- The further adventures of Leela and K9 Mark 1 can be heard on the long-running Big Finish series "Gallifrey".
- It's supposed to be K9 Mark 1 that appears in the recent Australian K-9 TV series.
- Nesbin's people have often been called Sheboogans. These unseen characters from The Deadly Assassin are obviously little more than vandals, so this cannot be the case.
- It seems odd that a new Time Lady companion was created for The Ribos Operation, when the Doctor could just have taken Rodan with him on his travels. Up to the last minute, they were trying to talk Louise Jameson into staying, mind you.
- Louise Jameson was approached about returning to the series to help bridge the Tom Baker / Peter Davison transition. She has subsequently stated that she felt turning it down was a mistake.
- The shock appearance of the Sontarans at the end of Part Four was a great surprise in these per-internet days. Or it would have been, if the continuity announcement at the conclusion of Underworld hadn't featured a photograph of Sontarans in the Panopticon...
- Both Clara Oswald and the Great Intelligence pass fleetingly through Gallifrey at this time, though unseen by the Fourth Doctor.
Tuesday, 25 February 2014
Received the latest two figurines today - plus the Emperor Dalek (Bad Wolf / Parting of the Ways version) at long last. And what a magnificent beast the latter is. Well worth the wait. Weighs a ton. Comes in two sections - the circular base with side panels forming one part, and the dome & mutant part has to be slotted into it. Metal ties fix this in place. Most impressive.
The newest version of the Cybermen and the original Omega are pictured, to give you the scale. Omega marks the first of the regular releases to come from the Classic Series.
The collection is building nicely!
Monday, 24 February 2014
News today of a new recurring character for Series 8. It was rumoured a while ago that there might be a new male companion - that teacher we saw in Day of the Doctor. It's not him, but another Coal Hill School employee by the name of Danny Pink. He's played by Samuel Anderson (The History Boys, Emmerdale etc). Quite what the nature of his role is, we shall have to wait and see.
Saturday, 22 February 2014
In which the TARDIS materialises in a storage area on a spacecraft, in a remote region of space. The crew hear the ship's materialisation - and recognise it. It is the sound of their gods... The Doctor and Leela discover that they are on a Minyan ship - the R1C from Minyos II. The Time Lords had tried to assist the development of the original Minyan society, causing them to be seen as deities. Their help went wrong, and the Minyans ended up destroying themselves in a dreadful civil war. By way of recompense, the Time Lords gave the survivors the ability to rejuvenate themselves and extend their lifespans. The crew of this craft has been travelling for centuries. It was after their interference on Minyos that the Time Lords adopted their law of non-intervention in the affairs of other races.
Captain Jackson and his crew are on a quest to locate a lost Minyan vessel - the P7E. It holds the genetic race banks which are essential for his people to rebuild their civilisation. Their search has brought them to this region of space, where a Black Hole is helping to create new planets out of the debris of others. The R1C almost becomes smothered in rocks, but K9 provides a power boost to break them free. The Doctor realises that the P7E now forms the core of a new planet nearby. The R1C lands there, but sinks into the ground - coming to rest in a labyrinth of caverns. The P7E crew have enslaved their own people - forcing them to mine the tunnels. This has been the situation for generations, and the superstitious slaves know of no other life. The crew, in turn, have come to see their computer - Oracle - as a god.
The Doctor must help to free the tunnel-dwellers and to assist Jackson and his crew with their quest to retrieve the gene banks. These are held by Oracle, which proves to have become quite mad. It is tended by two crewmen known as the Seers. They are now partly robotic. After a tense struggle, the Oracle appears to relent and offer up the race banks - small metal cylinders. This proves to be a ruse, as it has substituted them for powerful bombs. The Doctor spots the trick and swaps them back again. He leads all the slaves into Jackson's ship. K9 oversees a power boost from the TARDIS so that the R1C can break free from the planet. The Oracle and its Seers realise the deception too late and the P7E and its new planet are destroyed. Jackson and his crew can finally go home - their quest at an end.
This four part adventure was written by Bob Baker and Dave Martin, and was broadcast between 7th and 28th January, 1978. Anthony Read is credited as Script Editor for the first time, despite having worked on the last couple of stories. Whilst Robert Holmes had often looked to the cinema for inspiration, Read preferred to look to classic literature and to ancient legends. The impact of Star Wars - with its harder Sci-Fi and space opera - was still being felt.
Underworld's chief influence is the legend of Jason and the Argonauts. In order to win back his kingdom from a usurper, Jason embarked on a long quest to find the Golden Fleece - hanging on a tree at the end of the world and guarded by the Hydra (a sort of multi-headed dragon).
Jackson is a play on Jason. The Doctor actually misnames him as such at one point - just to reinforce to us the reference. His crew include Herrick (Heracles), Orfe (Orpheus. He uses a soothing sound to calm people down as Orpheus could charm with his music), and Tala (Atalanta). The P7E is a play on Persephone. The troglodytes believe the entry to the P7E to be guarded by a dragon, and the map of the labyrinth shows it to be in the form of a great tree.
The guest cast includes James Maxwell as Jackson, Alan Lake as Herrick, Jonathon Newth as Orfe and Imogen Beckford-Smith as Tala. Much of the pre-publicity centred on her, with images of her in aged make-up in all the newspapers. Of the others, only Norman Tipton as Idas - one of the Trogs - stands out. The P7E crowd are a bit rubbish. One of the Seers is voiced by Richard Shaw - who had played Governor Lobos in The Space Museum.
Director Norman Stewart was given the thankless task of making this story with very little money - which sadly shows on screen. He was able to reuse the R1C set for the P7E one - being ships from the same planet. There was no design money left to realise the cavern systems, which feature prominently throughout episodes 2 - 4, so the decision was made to realise these using model sets and a liberal dose of CSO. A brave attempt in the circumstances, but one that just didn't work.
Episode endings are:
- The R1C starts to become smothered in debris...
- The Doctor struggles to reverse the vents as the cavern fills with a fumigating gas...
- The Doctor and Leela are hiding in a hopper when the Trog pushing it trips - threatening to cast them into the rock crusher...
- The Doctor tells Leela the story of Jason and the Argonauts, and ponders if such tales might not all have some basis in fact.
Overall, a so-so story. Performances nothing to write home about. The ambition just can't be served by the budget. One very significant aspect of Time Lord mythology does get a mention - namely the reason why they don't like to interfere.
Things you might like to know:
- The TARDIS materialisation sound is said to be caused by the relative dimensional stabiliser. So not the brakes then.
- The Quest is the Quest! Once again, Baker and Martin feature a running catchphrase through their story. This will be the last, however.
- Knowing Louise Jameson was on the point of leaving the programme, Beckford-Smith's agent was happy to perpetuate a story that she was to become the next companion - hence all that publicity material relating to her.
- This was the first Doctor Who story broadcast after UK fans had had their first chance to see Star Wars, which opened a few days before Part One. British Sci-Fi fans would also have already had their first taste of the BBC's new offering - Blake's 7. This debuted just before Underworld Part One.
- At one point it was thought that this story might be cut altogether, and its budget reallocated to The Invasion of Time. Producer Graham Williams was determined to deliver a full season in his first year and so the notion was quashed.
- The Minyans are able to regenerate, using technological help. As they seem to retain the same appearance, memories and personality, it does seem to be more of a rejuvination process. It may have been this technology that the Kastrons stole and misused (Mawdryn Undead).
Friday, 14 February 2014
Interesting Who-related story on the web today. A couple of film & TV fans from Cardiff (Tila Ohman and Satu Walden) have been going round the country visiting the locations from various movies and TV shows. They capture the scene on their i-pads - juxtaposing the fictional scene with the real one. Some impressive research going on, to find the exact matches. Not just the locations themselves, but the correct angles and everything. As you can see below, they cover things other than Who. Being Wales-based, most pictures come from that part of the world - so we also have Torchwood and Sherlock.
There's a piece about them here:
In which the TARDIS materialises on the roof of Megropolis One, on the planet Pluto. Earth has been abandoned and humanity lives in these vast cities, where they work for an institution known simply as the Company. Several artificial suns are maintained by them. Every aspect of life - and death - is heavily taxed. A low grade worker named Cordo has discovered that his savings won't cover the cost of his father's funeral, and he cannot work the additional hours to meet the shortfall. He elects to go to the roof to throw himself off. He is stopped by the Doctor and Leela. The roof is forbidden to workers and as guards approach, Cordo leads the Doctor and Leela into the city. They must shelter in the lowermost levels. Gatherer Hade and his assistant Marn go to the roof and find the TARDIS. They suspect the Doctor and Leela to be Ajacks - a disruptive group who have appeared in other Megropolises. In the undercity, the Doctor and his companions are captured by a criminal gang led by Mandrel. To prove his loyalty, the Doctor must use a fake bank card to steal funds for the gang. He is captured by guards, however.
The Doctor wakes to find himself in the Correction Centre with a fellow captive named Bisham. He knows about the Company's use of an anxiety-inducing gas called PCM, which is pumped through the city to keep the population subservient. Hade has the Doctor released so that he can lead them to other Ajacks and uncover their plans. Unaware of his release, Leela and Cordo go to the Correction Centre to rescue him - along with K9. They free Bisham, but Leela is herself captured as they flee. The Collector, the Company's representative and therefore ruler of the planet, decides to have Leela executed. She will be steamed to death, live on public TV.
The Doctor succeeds in rescuing her and encourages Mandrel to lead a proper revolution. First of all, the PCM gas pumping station is captured. When Hade discovers rebellious workers on the roof, his objections are ignored and he is thrown off. Marn wisely elects to join the rebels. The Doctor sabotages the Collector's computers. They are reprogrammed to show unsustainable losses. The Collector - really a disguised member of the Usurian race - cannot cope with these and reverts to his natural form - that of a small green blob, which can safely be bottled up. The citizens are free. The Doctor recommends that they try to resettle the Earth.
This four part story was written by Robert Holmes, and also marks his swansong as Story Editor. As with the previous adventure, incoming Story Editor Anthony Read also helped script edit uncredited. It was broadcast between 26th November and 17th December, 1977.
Louise Jameson has always cited it as her favourite story. She loved the darkly humorous writing, and enjoyed being reunited with director Pennant Roberts.
Apparently, Holmes' principal influence in writing this script was a heavy income tax demand. The Doctor is at his most anti-establishment / anti-capitalist in this. He engineers a revolution in a day (or so) - paraphrasing Marx and Engels at one point. The villains are greedy and enslave primarily through taxation. Lots of financial references peppering the script. The Collector proves to be a Usurian - a play on "usurers" (lenders of money who charge interest). His costume is based on a pin-stripe suit (once de rigueur for finance types). Hade's costume also has pin-stripe elements, coupled with the look of an eastern potentate. There is a corridor P45 (a tax document you get when you leave a job in the UK). The fake bank card given to the Doctor appears to be closely modelled on a well-known Credit Card design. The Collector's personal guards are known as the Internal Retinue.
Other story influences include Orwell's 1984, and other dystopian future visions such as THX-1138 and Brave New World.
A wonderful guest cast is on show. Richard Leech gets a lot of the best lines as Gatherer Hade. His scenes with Henry Woolf's Collector are a joy. Hade may be amoral, but he is not the worst villain we have ever encountered - so his rather brutal summary execution comes as quite a shock. I would have preferred to have seen him humbled - and impoverished - like his boss.
Mandrel is William Simons, who went on to appear for many years in the rural police drama Heartbeat. Amongst his gang is a character named Goudry, played by Michael Keating. He would shortly find fame as the cowardly thief Vila in Blake's 7.
Episode endings are:
- The Doctor is attempting to use the fake bank card in a cash machine. The booth suddenly locks and floods with gas...
- Leela, K9, Bisham and Cordo find themselves trapped by guards...
- Leela is strapped helpless to a trolley inside the steam chamber...
- Leaving Pluto in the TARDIS, K9 is about to resume their game of chess when the Doctor deliberately jolts the ship - preventing K9 from beating him...
Overall, a great little story - one of Holmes' best. Lots of humour. Hade and the Collector are brilliant characters. Praise the Company!!!
Things you might like to know:
- Marn, and a gang member named Veet, were originally written to be male characters. Director Roberts changed them to female roles to provide more of a balance.
- Henry Woolf was most well known at the time for his role in a children's educational series called Words And Pictures. He was also a close collaborator of playwright Harold Pinter, as well as a renowned performer of the works of Samuel Beckett. He now lives in Canada.
- This is the last time we will see Leela's original, darker, costume.
- Usurians seem to know all about the Doctor (a history of economic subversion) and Gallifrey (of little commercial interest). The latter seems strange, the ability to travel in time being a fool-proof way of making money. Just look at the Meddling Monk's compound interest scam...
- Poor old Pluto. Now relegated to the status of a dwarf planet in the Kuiper Belt.
- There were two main filming locations. The undercity is Camden Town tube station - sections not open to the public. The Megropolis roof and those very long featureless corridors were recorded at the Wills tobacco factory in Bristol. In those pre-CGI days, an expansive roof-scape was needed that would not allow any other buildings, hills etc. to be seen in the background. Unfortunately, at one point you do see a car park sign.
- At one point during scripting, this was going to be Leela's final story - the character actually being killed off in the scene where she enters the Collector's safe.