Wednesday, 17 January 2018

Figurines Update

I didn't do a figurines post in December, because I didn't receive any figurines in December. Today a larger box turned up with four figures, as you can see above.
This will actually be the last of the regular updates on these, as I have decided to cancel my subscription. I still intend to collect - only from now on I am going to purchase only those figurines I want, concentrating mainly on the pre-2005 ones. Of the set I got today, only two were ones I actually wanted - so I could have saved half the money.
The two I could have done without were those I should have got in late December - the red New Paradigm Dalek Drone with the shinier finish, as it appeared in Asylum of the Daleks, and the Santa Roboform (the version which appeared in The Runaway Bride).
Of the more recent creatures to feature in the series, the Ice Warrior Empress Iraxxa was a wonderful design, so I'm pleased to have her. The only Classic Era figurine is the original crude Auton from Spearhead From Space, with its blue boiler suit.

Tuesday, 16 January 2018

Story 189 - Voyage of the Damned

In which the TARDIS collides with a ship, which appears to be the Titanic. The Doctor operates some controls which repair the damage and he goes outside to find himself in a storage closet on board the ship. This proves not to be the famous vessel which sank on its maiden voyage in 1912 after striking an iceberg, but a replica spaceship in orbit above the Earth. Down on the planet, it is Christmas Eve 2008 in the UK. The Doctor changes into his tuxedo and mingles with the guests, who are waited upon by golden robots dressed as angels. They are known as the Heavenly Host. He learns that this ship is part of the cruise line operated by Max Capricorn. In the main lounge he befriends a waitress named Astrid Peth, who explains that she comes from the planet Sto, as do all of those present. She got this job as she wanted to travel the universe and visit alien worlds. The Doctor also makes the acquaintance of a couple - Morvin and Foon Van Hoff, who have been ridiculed by other guests. They are wearing cowboy outfits, as someone convinced them it was a fancy dress event. The ship's historian, Mr Copper, who professes to be an expert on Earth, organises a trip down to the planet.

The Doctor uses his psychic paper to get himself and Astrid onto the landing party. One of their number is a diminutive alien with red skin, named Bannakaffalatta, and the Doctor warns that he will be noticed on Earth, but when they teleport down they find the streets deserted. The Doctor speaks with a newspaper vendor named Wilf, who explains that owing to the alien incursions of the last two Christmases, everyone has abandoned the city - save for the Queen. The party is recalled back up to the spaceship. On the vessel, a number of the Host robots have been malfunctioning. One of them kills the robotics technician. On the bridge, Captain Hardaker dismisses his officers, but an eager young Midshipman named Frame insists on staying on, following the rules. He spots a trio of meteoroids close by, but the Captain insists they pose no risk. Hardaker turns off the ship's defences. The Doctor also notes the meteoroids and checks the ship's computer to see that the shields are inactive. He tries to warn everyone but is ignored. The Captain shoots Frame then steers the ship into the path of the meteoroids, which strike the hull. Most of the crew and passengers are sucked out into space. The Captain has been killed, leaving the injured Midshipman alone on the bridge. He discovers that the Host robots are going through the ship, killing the survivors.

He manages to make contact with the Doctor, and explains that the engines are failing. The vessel will fall onto the Earth, causing massive devastation. The Doctor takes charge of a group of survivors, comprising Astrid, Mr Copper, Bannakaffalatta, the Van Hoffs and a businessman named Rickston Slade. They must make their way through the damaged vessel, always at risk from attack by the Host. Their journey takes them to a vast chasm, reaching down into the engines. The only way to cross is via a narrow girder. Morvin falls to his death when a railing gives way. As the others cross the chasm, the Host launch an attack, hovering in the air and throwing their halos which have razor sharp edges. Foon sacrifices herself to lasso one of them and drag it down with her. Bannakaffalatta reveals that he is a cyborg, and he has an electro-magnetic pulse device built into his torso. This is used to destroy the Host. However, the effort drains the device, and the little alien dies. Mr Copper takes the EMP device as it can be recharged and used again. From Midshipman Frame, the Doctor learns of a sealed compartment on the ship, which has power being directed into it. He suspects that the person behind this disaster may be hiding there. Claiming to be a stowaway and not on the passenger list, and therefore not a survivor, the Doctor tricks the Host into taking him to the compartment.

There he finds Max Capricorn. He is also a cyborg - something he has kept hidden from the public as cyborgs are discriminated against on Sto. He lives in a mobile life-support unit. It is revealed that his company has been failing and he was about to be kicked off the board. He therefore engineered this crash so that his successors would be held liable and be sent to jail - especially if the ship crashed onto a populated planet. Hardaker was dying, and agreed to sabotage the ship if his family were paid a lot of money. Capricorn has hidden funds off-world and plans to live a luxurious retirement. The compartment he has been hiding in is designed to survive the impact, and a rescue ship was to have come and taken him away to safety. He is angry that the vessel is still in orbit, and orders the Host to deactivate the engines. Astrid has followed the Doctor and overheard his plans. She uses a forklift truck to push Capricorn down into another chasm, but falls in after him. The Doctor takes command of the Host and has them transport him up to the bridge. Here he manages to steer the stricken vessel back up into orbit, reigniting the engines, after first calling Buckingham Palace to warn the Queen that they might crash on top of her.
The Doctor attempts to resurrect Astrid as she was wearing a teleport bracelet when she died, but this fails, and Mr Copper asks him to let her go. She survives only as a ghost of her consciousness, but is now free to travel the stars.
A rescue ship from Sto is on its way, but Mr Copper had earlier revealed that he had got his job by deception and will face a prison sentence back home. The Doctor takes him down to Earth by teleport, landing by the TARDIS which had drifted off the ship. Mr Copper has a credit card on him that makes him a rich man. He sets off to make a new life for himself, whilst the Doctor travels on alone.

Voyage of the Damned was written by Russell T Davies, and was first broadcast on 25th December 2007. It was Davies' third and most successful Christmas Special, its popularity boosted by the inclusion of pop diva Kylie Minogue as its principal guest star. At the time of writing, it remains the Special with the highest audience figures - over 13 million.
The inspiration for the story came from the disaster movies which were often a feature of Bank Holiday TV - especially The Poseidon Adventure (1972). This features a luxury liner which is hit by a freak tidal wave during New Year celebrations, and ends up upside down in the sea. One of the survivors is played by Shelley Winters, and this character provided the inspiration for the Van Hoffs.
Davies plays with expectations. Rickston Slade (Gray O'Brien) is an obnoxious individual, and you expect him to come to a sticky end, but he proves to be one of the few survivors. The more likable Van Hoffs, and Bannakaffalatta are killed. The biggest surprise is the killing off of the guest star, though her spirit lives on. Other disaster movies such as The Towering Inferno and Earthquake (both 1974) killed off likable characters, sometimes just as they were about to be saved, though the more villainous characters always got their comeuppance.

Minogue's involvement stems from her creative consultant Will Baker, who was a huge Doctor Who fan and who had designed costumes for her stage shows inspired by characters from the programme (such as Raston Warrior Robot and Cyberman backing dancers). Baker approached the production team to see if Kylie could appear. Davies at first thought this would never come off, but dates in her busy schedule were found during the summer. News leaked, the BBC denied everything, and then Minogue was spotted with a diary entry reading "Talk to BBC about Doctor Who". Sadly, David Tennant's mother passed away during filming. He was given time off to be with her when she died, and stayed on in Scotland for the funeral. Scenes not featuring the Doctor went ahead during this time.
Many of the cast had previous form on Doctor Who. Mr Copper was played by Clive Swift, best known for the sitcom Keeping up Appearances. He had played Mr Jobel in Revelation of the Daleks. Captain Hardaker was played by Geoffrey Palmer. His son Charles continues to be a Doctor Who director. In keeping with all of his previous appearances in the show (The Silurians and The Mutants) Palmer doesn't make it to the end. As Bannakaffalatta we have Jimmy Vee, who had played diminutive aliens since the very first day of shooting on the revived series (being chased by Christopher Eccleston dressed as the Space Pig in Aliens of London). Foon is portrayed by Debbie Chazen, whose dad appears in The Moonbase. He's the guy who collapses after drinking the coffee in the existant Episode Two. The newspaper vendor, who was only named Wilf later, is a cameo by Bernard Cribbins, who had featured in the second Peter Cushing Dalek movie. The Queen is voiced by Jessica Martin, who had played Mags in The Greatest Show in the Galaxy.

Other performances of note are George Costigan as Max Capricorn, and Russell Tovey (Being Human's werewolf George) as Midshipman Frame, whom RTD considered a potential future Doctor. Morvin is played by Clive Rowe, whilst the Host were voiced by Colin McFarlane, who would feature in Torchwood: Children of Earth, and later appear as Moran in Under The Lake / Before the Flood.
As it was first broadcast a month or so after her death, the episode was dedicated to the memory of the series' first producer, Verity Lambert.
Overall, it is a good story with a weak conclusion. Max Capricorn makes for a fairly underwhelming villain, with a mundane motive. The Host are clearly inspired by the Sandminer Robots from Robots of Death. The impressive cast and production values have meant that it is well remembered - it's the one with Kylie.
Things you might like to know:

  • For the third year running, composer Murray Gold writes a special song for the Christmas Special. This time it is "The Stowaway". Gold and his arranger Ben Foster cameo as members of the ship's band.
  • One UK "newspaper" claimed that Kylie was going to play a Cyberwoman. The same paper also claimed that Woody Allen was going to appear as Albert Einstein.
  • The name Astrid being an anagram of TARDIS caused much fan speculation. Rumours abounded that she would appear again in Series 4.
  • Frame's first name is Alonso, which delights the Doctor as he had always wanted to say "Allons-y-Alonso".
  • Wilf was originally going to be called Stan, but when Cribbins was called upon to become Donna Noble's grandfather for Series 4 this was changed to make him Wilf Mott.
  • The working title for the story was "Starship Titanic", although this had already been used by Douglas Adams for a computer game and a novel.
  • Changes which were made included Astrid originally surviving, and Buckingham Palace being destroyed, with the Queen cursing the Doctor rather than thanking him..
  • The last survivor of the real Titanic disaster, Millvena Dean, was reported to have been unhappy with the story, feeling that it disrespected the 1912 event.
  • The Catholic Church was also none too impressed - especially by the scene where the Doctor ascends arm in arm with the angelic Host. This is the second episode in a row in which the Doctor appears to have god-like powers.
  • For the first time since the series returned, the Doctor states quite categorically how old he is and where he comes from.
  • It had been hoped that Dennis Hopper would have played Mr Copper, or Max Capricorn.
  • It was also hoped that Prince Charles would have cameo'd.
  • Viewers in Canada had to wait until 2010 to see this episode. CBC just happened to stop co-funding the show at this time. They have never shown it, and it was Space who first broadcast it in Canada. A truncated version was shown in the US, cutting large sequences to fit a one hour slot including ad breaks. Scenes cut included the trip down to Earth, the Doctor trying to save Astrid from the teleport buffer, and the coda with Mr Copper. BBC America later showed the complete story.

Monday, 15 January 2018

C is for... Cybermen (Mondasian)

At some point in the distant past, the Earth had a twin called Mondas. It was identical to Earth in every way, including the evolution of a dominant humanoid race. Mondas had an erratic orbit, however, which caused it to be thrown out into deep space. The inhabitants had more advanced technology that that of their Earth cousins. Forced to endure the bleak conditions of their peripatetic existence, they realised that their race would soon die out. They therefore resorted to surgical techniques to survive. They replaced their limbs and organs of flesh, blood and bone with those of metal and plastic. To cope with their new life, the Mondasians also decided to carry out brain surgery - removing the emotions of pain and fear. Soon all other emotions were deemed weaknesses and were removed, making them creatures of pure logic. The Cybermen were born.
In appearance, they were all tall, with heart and lung functions built into a large chest unit. Their faces were covered by a surgical stocking material, in which the eyes and mouth were set - giving them a skull-like appearance. Their limbs had hydraulic attachments for greater strength. As Mondas was travelling far from any sun, they had a powerful lamp on the top of the headpiece, attached to the skull with thick handles. Their hands still looked human, though they had greater power. They carried an energy weapon beneath the chest unit.

In the year 1986, Mondas returned to the Solar System - guided there by a massive propulsion unit. Needing energy, the planet began to absorb that of the Earth. The Doctor, along with his companions Ben and Polly, was present at this time, having arrived outside Snowcap base - a space monitoring station at the South Pole. The Doctor recognised the new planet as Mondas, and warned the base personnel that they could expect visitors from it. The Cybermen arrived nearby and took over the complex. The power drain caused the destruction of the spaceship which they were monitoring. The Cybermen, some of whom had names, announced that the people of Earth would be taken to Mondas and be converted to become just as they were. They saw this as a good thing - removing despair and pain. The scout party was destroyed using their own weapons, and another squad met the same fate before they could reach the base. However, the Cybermen then invaded the planet in force. The Doctor realised that Mondas was absorbing too much energy, and would soon destroy itself - so urged patience. However, base commander General Cutler intended to launch the powerful Z-Bomb at the planet - even though it might wipe out much of the Earth as well. Cutler was killed by the Cybermen when they retook the base, but the Doctor's prediction came true. The Cybermen were unable to halt the power drain, and Mondas began to break up. They had not had time to transfer their power source down to Earth, and so the Cybermen perished with their planet.
These Cybermen had a weakness when it came to exposure to radiation.

Many years later, the TARDIS materialised in a massive colony ship which was stranded on the edge of a black hole. Gravitational distortion from the black hole meant that time moved differently at either end of the ship - minutes at the front lasting years at the rear. Crew sent to the rear of the vessel had become generations of people. A whole city was created, which the Master attempted to rule over when his TARDIS arrived there. He was overthrown, and hid in the city hospital in disguise. The colony ship was Mondasian, and evolution took the same path here. The colonists began the same process of replacing limbs and organs, and of removing their emotions. The Doctor's companion Bill Potts had been shot through the heart by one of the crew, and was taken down to the rear of the ship. Here she had an electronic heart installed. She befriended a man named Mr Razor, who turned out to be the disguised Master. He caused her to be converted into a full Cyberman, although her love for the Doctor allowed her some emotional freedom.

The Cybermen were compelled to break out of the rear sections of the ship and work their way forward, in order to convert others. The Doctor decided to make a stand to help those colonists who had established themselves in one of the upper levels. He tried to get Missy and the Master to help him. He refused, whilst she was on the point of joining him when she was killed by her earlier incarnation. The Cybermen evolved as they moved through the ship, so that the Mondasian design of Cyberman was joined in the attack by more advanced models. The Doctor, Nardole and the Bill-Cyberman were able to halt the attack, though it cost the Doctor his life. The Mondasian Cybermen could kill with an electrical discharge, and their head-mounted lamps now also contained an energy weapon - and it was one of these which was used on the Doctor. Nardole remained behind with the colonists to help defend them against future attacks. Bill escaped her Cyber-existence when she was rescued by the alien pilot who had taken on the form of her friend Heather. Bill left her Cyberman shell to travel the cosmos in spirit with Heather.

Appearances: The Tenth Planet (1966), World Enough And Time / The Doctor Falls (2017).

  • The new Mondasian Cybermen were supposed to have appeared briefly at the beginning of Twice Upon A Time, but the scene was deleted prior to broadcast. This Christmas Special does include flashbacks to the original 1966 adventure. Earthshock also features a brief glimpse of the Mondasian Cybermen.
  • Peter Capaldi claimed from the outset that he would like his Doctor to meet the original Cybermen, so it was only right that he got to do so in his last season finale.

C is for... Cybermen (Cybus)

On a parallel version of the Earth, industrialist and entrepreneur John Lumic built a global business empire. He was confined to a wheelchair, suffering from a terminal illness, and his thoughts turned to the preservation of the human brain. In this way he could cheat death. At his factories in South America he began a series of experiments, creating an armoured steel body in which the brain could be housed. When the new cybernetic bodies had been perfected, he returned to the UK, hoping to convince the President to support his work. He suspected that he would be turned down, and so devised a plan to forcibly convert the population of London. He set up a conversion factory at the old Battersea Power Station and sent his lackey Mr Crane out to entrap a number of homeless people - luring them into a lorry belonging to one of his subsidiaries with promises of free food. They were then taken to Battersea where their brains were removed and deposited in the new steel bodies - becoming Cybermen. The suits were laced with an artificial nervous system. Determined to eliminate fear and pain, he included in their chest unit an emotional inhibitor. The circular panel on the chest had a letter C stamped into it - for Cybus, the name of his company.

Overpowering the populace was easy, as everyone wore earpods - manufactured by Cybus Industries - which provided news downloads as well as taking the place of telephones. Lumic used the occasion of Jackie Tyler's birthday party to launch his attack. Her husband worked for him, though he was also secretly communicating what he knew to a rebel group known as the Preachers. The President was at the party - as were the Doctor and Rose Tyler. As soon as he saw Lumic's research on Pete Tyler's computer, the Doctor realised that a parallel race of Cybermen was about to be born on this world.
Some of the Cybermen were destroyed by the energy from one of the TARDIS' power crystals, whilst another was incapacitated by an electro-magnetic bomb.
Lumic was himself converted, to become the Cyber Controller.
The Doctor was able to defeat his plans when he realised that Lumic's entire business empire was built on standardisation. He had Mickey Smith hack the computer records to discover the code which controlled the emotional inhibitors of every Cyberman and broadcast this using Rose's mobile, which was linked to the Cybus telecommunications network. With the inhibitors disabled, the Cybermen saw what they had become and suffered a fatal shock, their heads exploding in some cases. The Controller was destroyed in the burning conversion factory. However, it was realised that there were Cybus factories all around the globe, and Mickey elected to remain on the parallel Earth to stop the Cybermen from emerging elsewhere.

In the Doctor's absence, the people of the parallel world did not know how to deal with the Cybermen. They were confined to the factories, but it was argued that they could not be killed as they were a new form of life. It was then discovered that the Cybermen had vanished. Fractures existed between our Earth and the parallel one, and the Cybermen used these to travel across the Void between universes, mapping themselves onto this world as ghostly images. The experiments of the Torchwood organisation in London opened these fractures enough for the Cybermen to pour through, invading the entire planet. However, something else had come through the Void - a ship containing the last of the Daleks, known as the Cult of Skaro.
The Cyber Leader attempted to forge an alliance with the Daleks, but they declined. The original Cybus Cybermen killed with a powerful electrical charge, but they now also had energy weapons built into their forearms.

They were able to convert many humans before the Cult unleashed an army of Daleks from a captured Time Lord prison capsule. Daleks and Cybermen battled each other across London. The Doctor realised that anyone who had travelled through the Void became tainted with a form of background radiation. Were the fracture to be opened fully, those affected would be sucked back into the Void. The Doctor and Rose used the Torchwood equipment to open the breach, and the Cybermen and the Daleks were all pulled in. Rose Tyler became trapped on the parallel Earth, however, though she had her mother and Mickey with her, as well as the alternative version of her father.

Someone who had been only partially converted was Lisa Hallett, girlfriend of Torchwood operative Ianto Jones. He got a new role with the Cardiff Torchwood team, and smuggled Lisa into their base - the Hub. He employed a Japanese expert to try to undo the conversion, but she killed him and began draining power from the Hub to grow stronger. She attempted to convert Gwen Cooper, but the power was cut before this could begin. Ianto was ordered by Captain Jack Harkness to destroy her, but he couldn't bring himself to do so. Lisa was attacked by the pterodactyl which lived in the Hub, after Jack threw its favourite BBQ sauce over her. The team were able to escape, and Ianto was sent back in alone to kill her. A pizza delivery girl had found her way into the abandoned base, however, and Lisa used the conversion equipment to transplant her brain into the girl's body. She still wanted to convert Ianto, but was killed by the rest of the team.

A small party of Cybermen which had been pulled into the Void were able to escape using stolen Dalek technology. They emerged in Victorian London, setting up a base beneath the Thames. With the help of the governess of a local workhouse, Miss Hartigan, they abducted a number of children to use as slave labour to help construct a Cyber King, making use of whatever resources they could find. Some animals were converted into Cybershades, which could be used to capture or kill. These Cybermen had with them a number of info-stamps - cylindrical data packs which, when inserted into their chest units, could implant information. An overload of this data could destroy them, exploding their heads. A man named Jackson Lake, whose wife had been killed by the Cybermen, and whose son had been abducted, accidentally downloaded information about the Doctor - causing him to believe he was the Time Lord.

As the Cyberman plan neared fruition, a number of other workhouse governors were lured to a funeral and captured, adding their children to the workforce. The Cyber Leader intended for Miss Hartigan to become the controlling element of the Cyber King - a Dreadnought-class spaceship containing a full conversion factory. Her strong willpower meant that she could resist becoming enslaved to the machine, and she decided to use it to conquer the Empire. The Doctor and Jackson rescued the children before the Cyber King emerged from the river to begin attacking the city. The Doctor took to the skies using Jackson's TARDIS -  a hot air balloon - to confront Miss Hartigan. He was able to make her see what she had become, which destroyed her and the Cybermen. The Doctor then used the Dalek technology to send the Cyber King into the Void.

A group of Cybus Cybermen, under the command of a Cyber Leader, were brought into the alliance which aimed to trap the Doctor in the Pandorica - to prevent him from destroying the universe. The Pandorica was hidden in a cavern beneath Stonehenge. A Cyberman was left to guard over it, but was attacked and wrecked by local native tribesfolk. Even with its head and an arm broken off, it remained active - as did the components. The gun built into the arm could still fire energy bolts and deliver an electrical charge.

The head could move around on its own, and was capable of firing paralysing darts. The front of the helmet could open up in order to wrap itself around a new host. A full skull was seen within - showing that these Cybermen no longer simply transplanted the brain into the steel suits.
The Cyberguard was despatched by Rory Williams - or rather an Auton replica of him, also part of the Pandorica Alliance.

At some point in the far future, the Cybus Cybermen encountered those from our own universe and joined forces with them. The Cybus versions may have given the other Cybermen the idea to redesign themselves to look similar, dispensing with the redundant C-logo on the chest plate. The Cybermen of the 12th Cyber Legion, for instance, were identical in design to the Cybus Cybermen, even down to the helmet markings denoting the Cyber Leader. When the Doctor and Clara visited Hedgewick's World of Wonders, they saw a couple of empty Cybus Cyberman suits in Mr Webley's waxworks attraction, alongside non-Cybus versions.

Appearances: The Rise of the Cybermen / The Age of Steel (2006), Army of Ghosts / Doomsday (2006), TW 1.4: Cyberwoman (2006), The Next Doctor (2008), The Pandorica Opens (2010), Nightmare in Silver (2013).

C is for... Cybermats

A metallic life-form employed as a weapon by the Cybermen. Their origins are unknown. They may have been manufactured, or they may be converted from some form of animal life. They have segmented bodies, tapering to a tail, and move by gliding across the floor.
The Doctor first encountered them when he joined an archaeological expedition studying the tombs of the Cybermen on the planet Telos. His companion Victoria found a small specimin in the weapons testing room, and placed it in her bag. It appeared to be dormant, but it later came to life and attacked Kaftan, who was holding Victoria captive at the time. Victoria shot and destroyed the creature.
Later, the Cyber Controller ordered a number of Cybermats be sent up a chute to the upper control room where the Doctor and the humans were gathered. They first homed in on the brain waves of the captive Toberman, presumably like a dog being given a scent. These were much larger examples. They had eyes, with a pair of antennae above.
Their method of attack was never specified. The Doctor rigged up a heavy duty power cable, which caused the Cybermats to go out of control and burn out. After the tombs had been sealed, at least one Cybermat remained at large on the surface of the planet.

Cybermats of a similar design were then used to infiltrate the space station known as The Wheel. These had a different eye-design and were without antennae. They travelled through space from the rocket Silver Carrier and burned their way into the station through its hull - their entry being registered as small pressure drops. The holes were then sealed behind them. They were programmed to destroy the station's supply of bernalium rods, needed to power the Wheel's defences. They attacked and killed one of the crewmen using some kind of sonic assault on the victim's brain. One of the creatures was disabled after being coated with a quick drying plastic. A sonic blast destroyed the others.

When the Doctor, Sarah and Harry arrived on Nerva Beacon, in orbit around the remains of the planet Voga, they found that the crew had been struck down by a virulent space plague. The Doctor discovered that this was an artificial virus manufactured by the Cybermen and spread by a Cybermat. This was of a new design, with a much longer serpentine body, and it acted more like a remote control machine. It injected the virus through a bite to the throat. Gold dust incapacitated it, and the Doctor later reprogrammed it to attack the Cybermen, having first filled it with gold dust.

The Cybermats encountered by the Doctor in a department store in Colchester were of another design. Similar in size and shape to the earliest version, these ones were definitely converted from some animal life-form, as they had savage fangs. They were used to harvest electrical energy for the crashed Cybership buried deep beneath the town. The Doctor captured one and reprogrammed it to attack the Cybermen, but it was destroyed when one of the Cybermen crushed it underfoot.

Appearances: Tomb of the Cybermen (1967), The Wheel In Space (1968), Revenge of the Cybermen (1975), Closing Time (2011).

Thursday, 11 January 2018

Inspirations - The Ice Warriors

This story was written by Brian Hayles, his third contribution to the show. It marks the debut of the Martian Ice Warriors, and he will revisit these aliens in all of his subsequent scripts.
When it comes to inspirations, we should begin with the one that he himself quoted when interviewed about this adventure.
Over the preceding decades, a number of well-preserved mammoths had been found in Siberia, and Hayles speculated about something being found entombed in ice which might still be alive - frozen into suspended animation. In the script for Part One, when the scientists come across Varga's body, Arden mentions that it might be yet another mastodon. Although related and contemporary, mammoths and mastodons are quite separate species. The creatures being uncovered in Siberia were specifically woolly mammoths. In 1951, the Explorers Club annual dinner claimed to have mammoth meat on the menu. Some of the leftovers were saved by a museum, and scientists carried out DNA tests a couple of years ago, which revealed that it was in fact the meat from a green sea turtle.

Science Fiction fans will have spotted a much more obvious inspiration. The same year that the Explorers Club was having a joke with its members, the movie The Thing From Another World was released. Based on the story Who Goes There?, by John W Campbell, the film sees a US military expedition rendezvous with some scientists at a base in the Arctic. The scientists have tracked the fall of a UFO, and they find a spaceship buried under the ice. Its pilot has been thrown free, and lies entombed in the ice nearby. It is taken to the base where it thaws out, and goes on the rampage.
In The Ice Warriors, we see Varga frozen in the ice and taken to Britannicus Base, where power packs being employed to melt the ice cause him to reanimate.
Varga informs Victoria, whom he has abducted, that he hails from the Red Planet - i.e. Mars. Aliens from Mars had long been a Sci-Fi cliche. There are numerous films of the 1950's which show Mars as the homeground for invaders - most famously Invaders From Mars (1953), funnily enough. Of course, H G Wells had made Mars the home for his invaders in The War of the Worlds, published in 1898, and made into a movie also in 1953.
Mars was generally the go-to planet for invaders due to its proximity to Earth, and due to the widely held theory that there were visible signs of occupation - such as an extensive canal network. That visitors from the Red Planet would almost certainly be belligerent probably hails from the fact that Mars was the Roman God of War.

The Ice Warriors are reptilian, and very tall. They are also green. The term "little green men" was another of those Sci-Fi cliches that derived from real UFO reports of the 1950's. In 1955, when journalists reported on the Kelly-Hopkinsville sighting in Kentucky, they used the phrase, and it sort of stuck. The men who reported the sighting actually described them as little metallic-silver men, and not green at all. For the last few decades, grey has become the colour of aliens.
Throughout their time on the show, the race have been called Ice Warriors, which is how the scientist Arden describes the frozen Varga. Hayles had originally intended the aliens to be humanoid and dressed like Vikings, but with electronic implants. It was Martin Baugh, costume designer, who decided to make them look like armoured reptiles. One of his inspirations was the Egyptian Crocodile Warriors seen in the Burton-Taylor film Cleopatra (1963).
In his next Ice Warrior story - at least as it was before Terrance Dicks virtually rewrote it - Hayles gave a name to his creations: Saurians.

The Ioniser base seems to be named after the son of the Emperor Claudius, in whose reign Britain was invaded and conquered by the Romans. (Julius Caesar had Veni'd, Vidi'd, but not Vici'd a few decades before). On Claudius' death in 54 AD, Nero became Emperor, and Britannicus was poisoned a few months later - supposedly in February 55 around the time of his 14th birthday.
The story is set in the middle of an Ice Age - which led to indignant schoolchildren writing to the Radio Times and to the Doctor Who production office. The implication was that there had been one Ice Age thousands of years ago, and this was the second. There have been five recognised Ice Ages - or glacial periods - the most recent being the Quatenary, which ended around 10,000 years ago. We are currently in an interglacial period - known as the Holocene. Ice Ages can be subdivided further as there are localised events, such as the Riss and Wurm.

Musically, one of Dudley Simpson's inspirations appears to be the soundtrack to the 1948 film Scott of the Antarctic. In 1952, Ralph Vaughn Williams used this as the basis for his Sinfonia Antartica.
This is another of those linked stories, which we discussed a couple of posts ago. Much of the first half of the Troughton era sees back to back stories, with no unseen adventures in between. Here, when the TARDIS first arrives, Jamie suspects that the Doctor has simply landed them "further down the mountain" - implying the mountain in Tibet overlooking Detsen Monastery, and the Doctor just happens to be wearing the same heavy fur coat. Victoria also wears the same outfit as the last screened story.
Victoria disappears early in the final episode - sent to wait in the TARDIS by the Doctor. This is because Debbie Watling had requested an early departure on the day of recording, so her scenes were done in the afternoon. When reminded about this in an interview in the 1980's, she could not recall the circumstances.
Next time: It is Patrick Troughton's turn to have an evil double, as we embark on a globe-trotting Spy-Fi adventure. A new name arrives behind the camera - one who will have a significant impact on the future development of the programme...

Tuesday, 9 January 2018

Time Crash - Children In Need Special

In which the Doctor leaves Earth after bidding farewell to Martha Jones, who has elected to stay and support her family after their year-long ordeal with the Master. The ship is not fully repaired following its conversion into a Paradox Engine. Suddenly an alarm sounds and the TARDIS lurches out of control. As the Doctor examines the console he bumps into someone else, who is doing the same. He is shocked to find that it is one of his earlier incarnations - his fifth. He thinks that this is his TARDIS, and believes the Doctor to be an interloper. As the Doctor tries to tell him who he really is, the Fifth Doctor suspects that he is a fan - possibly one of the LiNDA team - as he seems to know so much about him. He is not impressed with the coral design of the console room.

He finally realises that this is one of his future incarnations, and together they realise that their two TARDISes have someone merged. Unless they undo this, there will be a massive explosion which could blow a hole in the universe the size of Belgium. The Fifth Doctor begins to make the necessary adjustments, which the Doctor then finishes - using a supernova to counter the potential Black Hole. The Fifth Doctor realises that he knew how to do this as he had seen his earlier self doing it. The two TARDISes begin to separate back to their own times. Before he leaves, the Doctor has a chance to reminisce about his earlier self's companions and adventures, and to tell him how much he enjoyed being him. The Fifth Doctor fades away, but reminds the Doctor to reset his shields. Before he can do this, another alarm sounds and the prow of a ship smashes through the wall. A life belt identifies it as the Titanic...

Time Crash was written by Steven Moffat, and was broadcast as part of the 2007 Children In Need charity night on November 16th. It is set in between the conclusion to Last of the Time Lords, and that year's Christmas Special - Voyage of the Damned. Technically, it takes place in the middle of the season three finale's closing moments, as there we already saw the Titanic strike the TARDIS.
It is a two-hander, featuring only David Tennant and Fifth Doctor Peter Davison. The director was Graeme Harper.
For the 2005 CiN night, Russell T Davies had written the mini-episode, sometimes called Born Again, which showed the immediate aftermath of the Doctor's regeneration, and set the TARDIS up to crash-land in The Christmas Invasion. For 2006, a fund-raising evening of Murray Gold's music was arranged for the Millennium Centre in Cardiff Bay.
Time Crash is generally accepted as canon, and so marks the only multi-Doctor story until we get to the 50th anniversary episode.

Overall, it is a wonderfully nostalgic little piece - a love letter to the Fifth Doctor. A pity it is only 8 minutes long.
Things you might like to know:

  • The Doctor knowing what to do because he saw himself doing it is a predestination paradox.
  • The Fifth Doctor's older appearance is explained by way of the time differential being shorted out, implying this is is what he would look like had he not regenerated.
  • Davison had to wear the trousers which Colin Baker wore for the opening sequences of The Twin Dilemma, as they had been adjusted to account for his wider girth.
  • The Doctor claims to have got his love of sneakers from his earlier self, and comments on the "brainy" specs, as the Fifth Doctor dons the half-moon spectacles which he wore in a couple of his later stories.
  • Mention is made of the Master's rubbish beard - i.e. Anthony Ainley's. The Doctor tells him that he has just met him again, and of how this time he had a wife.
  • Mention is also made of Nyssa and Tegan, and of the Cybermen and the Mara - suggesting that the Fifth Doctor hails from a time just before he encounters Turlough, but after Adric's demise.
  • Time Crash was recorded as part of Block Four of Series Four, alongside Partners In Crime.
  • Audience and donations peaked during the 15 minute time slot in which the mini-episode aired.