Thursday, 19 October 2017

Inspirations - The Smugglers

The Smugglers is the penultimate historical story of the 1960's phase of the programme - and the penultimate story for William Hartnell as the Doctor. It is the opening adventure of the fourth season, though filmed at the end of the previous production block. The writer is Brian Hayles.
A word now about the early seasons. It needs to be remembered that Doctor Who ran for almost the whole year, with only a short summer break. These days we have story arcs, and expect crowd pleasers for opening stories to grab new viewers (often introducing a new companion), and for the finale there has to be a big, spectacular conclusion that pays off elements from throughout the season.
The season openers so far have been An Unearthly Child, then Planet of Giants, then Galaxy 4. The last stories of each season have been The Reign of Terror, The Time Meddler, and The War Machines. So, companions have been introduced at the end of a season, rather than at the start, and the Daleks are nowhere to be seen. Setting aside the first story, for obvious reasons, only The Time Meddler has been in any way a game-changer, introducing another time-traveller with a TARDIS.

The Smugglers sees us back in historical times, but this is genre-history. There are no famous personages, or historical events. The year isn't even specified, but we can work it out from the dialogue - there is a king on the throne - and from the references to the pirate Avery. Henry Avery - also known as Every, and also sometimes called John - died some time between 1696 and 1699.
Script editor Gerry Davis is looking to historical fiction for his sources when commissioning stories. Brian Hayles really wanted to write something called "Doctor Who and the Nazis", but it was felt that the Second World War was still too fresh in people's minds to be sent-up in any way. Note the resistance Croft and Perry faced when trying to get Dad's Army off the ground.
Hayles and Davis have gone instead to the works of writers such as Robert Louis Stevenson, Sir Walter Scott, and Daniel Defoe. In their works, historical figures sometimes make the odd cameo, but generally they simply use a historical era as a backdrop for a good adventure yarn.
Often, the hero of these is a boy, often taken under the wing of a brave older male figure. Here Ben and Polly are the innocents, forced to cope with being taken out of time, with the Doctor as the wiser, more mature character.

As far as the titular smugglers themselves are concerned, there are two clear sources. One is Moonfleet, the 1898 novel by J. Meade Falkner, and the other is the series of Dr. Syn books by Russell Thorndike. The former deals with a pirate's treasure hidden in the crypt of the local church, as Avery's gold is here. Moonfleet also features Excisemen prominently.
Thorndike wrote seven Dr Syn novels. There have been three cinema interpretations. The best known is the 1962 Hammer film with Peter Cushing as Captain Clegg - its UK title. In the US it was The Night Creatures, though it has been shown as the latter recently on British TV, on the Talking Pictures channel. Disney produced a version the following year, with Patrick McGoohan as Syn.
In these books / films, Clegg is a feared pirate who has faked his own death and settled down in a Kent village posing as the local vicar - Dr Syn. Not content with the quiet life of a country parson, he heads a notorious smuggling ring. He is known as "the Scarecrow", and disguises himself as a scarecrow to keep watch over the area. The smugglers employ tricks to keep the locals from observing their activities - such as disguising themselves and their horses as skeletons when they ride across the marshes at night.
The smugglers we get in the Doctor Who story are nowhere near as inventive. They're a rather wet bunch actually, their leader being the local squire, who even comes to repent his wicked ways by the conclusion. If anything, this story should really be called "The Pirates", as they are the real villains, and the more interesting characters.

Captain Pike has a spike where his left hand used to be. The obvious reference here is to Captain Hook from Peter Pan. Hook first appeared in 1904. As with Captain Pike, Hook was once first mate to a famous pirate - in this case Blackbeard - before getting a command of his own. J M Barrie admitted that Hook's obsession with finding the crocodile that took his hand was based on Captain Ahab and Moby Dick. Barrie also threw in a reference to that other great fictional pirate, Long John Silver, in his play.
Whilst Pike is all surface charm, seeking to be recognised as a gentleman, his henchman Cherub is pure murderous brute. There's nothing cherubic about him at all. The pirates are in the area for a reason - seeking Avery's gold as we've mentioned. Why here in particular is because one of their ex-shipmates is now living the life of a church warden in the village where the Doctor and his companions have pitched up. Joe Longfoot has found god, but he is also part of the smuggling ring. Somehow knowing that he is not long for this world, he gives the Doctor a cryptic message - really the names on epitaphs in the crypt which point to the treasure's hiding place. Famously, Terence de Marney fluffs the message, whilst Hartnell gets it right.

Instead of abducting Longfoot, and reducing this to a two-parter, Cherub murders him and so has to go after the Doctor instead. One of the companions goes topless, and the other cross-dresses, whilst the Doctor tricks one of the pirates with some Tarot cards. He's from the Caribbean, so has to be called "Jamaica". Pike spikes him.
Ben meets a man named Josiah Blake, and he turns out to be the leader of the Excisemen. The pirates double-cross the smugglers - prompting Squire Edwards' conversion to the side of light. Blake and his men turn up like the 7th Cavalry, and the pirates are defeated.
As we've said, boys' own adventure stuff.
The final historical story, later this season, will touch on some of the same source materials - including as it does another piratical captain who has taken control of his boss' ship.
Next time: Hartnell guest stars in his own series. The Doctor's old body starts to wear a bit thin, and a bunch of aliens turn up who want to give him a new one. He declines, but gets a new one anyway...

Tuesday, 17 October 2017

They Keep Killing Suzie - Torchwood 1.8

In which the Torchwood team are called to a crime scene by Detective Kathy Swanson. A young couple have been murdered in their home - and the killer has written "TORCHWOOD" on the wall in their blood. When the victims' blood is tested, it is found to be full of Compound B67 - the Retcon drug Torchwood uses to wipe people's memories. Only someone connected to the team could have carried out these killings. There have been other killings prior to this one. Gwen suggests that they use the Resurrection Glove on the victims to learn more about the killer. Jack is initially reluctant, as it was her obsession with the gauntlet that had led Suzie Costello to commit murder before ultimately killing herself. The glove is used, and one of the dead men identifies the killer as a man named Max, who is part of something called "Pilgrim", and that Max is known to Suzie. Searching through her belongings in storage, the team learn that Pilgrim is a support group - and Suzie had been a member.

Jack decides that they must use the glove on Suzie, whose body has been in cold storage in the Hub since her suicide. At first Gwen finds the glove does not work - mainly because Suzie had threatened to kill her all those months ago. They decide to use the knife which Suzie had used in her murders. On being stabbed by Gwen in the chest, Suzie immediately awakes. However, she is not just alive again for a minute or two - she is back for good. Jack questions her about the killings, and Suzie admits she gave Max an overdose of Retcon every week over a long period of time. She would use the group to talk about her experiences with Torchwood, then make everyone forget what she had said. This overdosing has induced a psychotic state in Max. She tells Jack that there is still one more member of the support group still alive, Lucie, and Max is sure to go after her. Whilst Jack and the rest of the team rush to the bar where Lucie works, Suzie and Gwen talk. Suzie reveals that her father is dying, and she had wanted to use the glove on him. Max is captured and locked up in the Hub vaults.

Owen makes a shocking discovery. Suzie is stealing Gwen's life-force in order to remain alive. Eventually, Gwen will die and Suzie will be restored to complete heath. When they go to warn Gwen, they discover that she and Suzie have gone. Gwen has decided to take Suzie to see her father in hospital. In the vaults, Max starts to recite a poem by Emily Dickinson, and the Hub suffers a total power loss. Suzie had set up this verbal command before she died to over-ride the systems. Jack must call upon Detective Swanson for help in finding the code words that will restore power, whilst Suzie and Gwen travel to the hospital. Gwen is starting to weaken, a bullet hole slowly forming in her head, as Suzie's heals. Gwen is shocked when Suzie, instead of curing her father, kills him, as she always really hated him. Jack and the others are released when they work out the code to disable the power loss, and give chase. Suzie tries to flee on a ferry but is shot down. She doesn't die however. Jack then orders Tosh to destroy the glove, as it still connects the two women. As soon as it is destroyed, Suzie dies - first warning that something is coming out of the dark, and Ianto points out to Jack that gloves usually come in pairs...

They Keep Killing Suzie was written by Paul Tomalin and Dan McCulloch, and was first broadcast on 3rd December, 2006. Tomalin is best known for contributing to Shameless, whilst McCulloch has exec-produced Inspector Morse sequel series Endeavour, and the Jenna Coleman vehicle Victoria. This is their only Doctor Who-related work.
Whilst Cyberwoman had been a sequel of sorts to a Doctor Who story, this episode marks the rare occasion when a Torchwood episode gets a sequel - namely the opening episode Everything Changes. In that, Suzie had become obsessed with investigating how the Resurrection Glove worked, to the point that she would create new victims for her to test it upon. Once unmasked, she knew that she could never escape from Torchwood, and so killed herself with a gunshot to the head. She, and the glove, make a come-back here. She seems to have foreseen what was going to happen to her, setting up Max over a couple of years and preparing the voice activated power loss.
It had always been a surprise when Suzie had died at the end of the first episode, as Indira Varma was  - after John Barrowman - the biggest name in the cast for the new series, and she featured prominently in the pre-publicity.

As well as its links to a previous episode, this story also attempts to get a story arc going. Suzie's dying words talk of something coming out of the dark, and Ianto flags up that there could well be a second glove somewhere. These hints won't come to fruition until the second series, though some thought that the former was a reference to Abaddon from the first series finale.
Indira Varma is obviously the main guest for this episode, but playing Detective Swanson is Yasmin Bannerman, who had been Jabe in The End of the World.
Overall, a strong episode, which finally shows the series starting to build a mythology of its own (it has been incredibly piecemeal up to this point).
Things you might like to know:

  • The code to stop the power outage in the Hub proves to be the ISBN of the Collected Works of Emily Dickinson - whose poem "The Chariot" has started it. However, the ISBN Jack actually quotes is from another work entirely - The Oxford Dictionary of Quotations.
  • This episode was originally written as an extra commission, in case another story fell through. Russell T Davies liked it so much he promoted it to form part of the series. It was he who asked for the suggestion of a second glove to be added - so that it could be called upon later if needed.
  • The episode title is usually taken as a reference to South Park, in which they keep killing Kenny. There is also an episode of The Avengers called "They Keep Killing Steed". The title was initially just "They Keep Killing" prior to the start of the series, as they did not want to give away Suzie's death in the opening episode.
  • The second glove will turn up in Dead Man Walking - the third of the Martha Jones trilogy of episodes in Series 2, as will the thing in the darkness. This is Duroc, an embodiment of Death.
  • It had been planned that Suzie would make further reappearances in the programme, but Varma was pregnant during the making of the second series, and the character did not fit with the third and fourth series - even though the latter (Miracle Day) is all about people being unable to die.

Monday, 16 October 2017

C is for... Clancey, Milo

An argonite miner, president of his own company based on the planet Lobos. He had once been a partner to Dom Issigri, working on the planet Ta, but the two had fallen out. Issigri had gone missing, presumed dead, and his daughter Madeleine always assumed that Clancey was somehow responsible. She took over operations on Ta, and despite the planet supposedly being mined out, made it a profitable venture. In reality, she was in league with pirates who were stealing argonite from other miners like Clancey, as well as breaking up government-owned navigation beacons made from the substance.
Clancey was one of the old-timers who had first explored the outer reaches of space, at a time when there was no law and order. As such he liked to do things his own way, and objected to having to conform to new procedures which the authorities tried to impose on him.
His ship was the LIZ 79, an antiquated craft in much need of repair.
General Hermack of the Space Corps suspected Clancey of being the leader of the pirates when he found the LIZ in the region of space where a beacon had just been destroyed. Clancey had been trying to track down the people who had stolen a shipment of argonite ore from him. He discovered a piece of beacon adrift, and on locking onto it found the Doctor and his companions aboard.
When it became clear that Hermack wanted to arrest him, he fled with the time travellers to hide on Ta, where he learned about Madeleine's involvement with the pirates, who were led by the sadistic Caven. He discovered that Dom was still alive, a captive of Caven.
The pirate tried to kill the pair by stranding them on a sabotaged LIZ, but the Doctor was able to talk Clancey through repairs over the ship's radio. Clancey and Dom were reconciled.

Played by: Gordon Gostelow. Appearances: The Space Pirates (1969).

  • Gostelow was born in New Zealand in 1925, dying in London in 2007, aged 82. One of his signature roles on stage and TV was that of Bardolph - Falstaff's fiery-faced friend in Henry IV Parts 1 & 2, and who is executed for theft from a church in Henry V. He also played Perks in a 1968 BBC version of The Railway Children. The BBC filmed this four times, and this is the only version that wasn't wiped.

Sunday, 15 October 2017

C is for... Churchill, Winston

Prime Minister of Great Britain during the Second World War. He was an old acquaintance of the Doctor's, and when his chief scientist Prof. Edwin Bracewell came up with a new weapon that would help win the conflict - armoured war machines called Ironsides - Churchill contacted the Doctor to seek his advice. He had the telephone number for the TARDIS, and the call was answered by Amy Pond. However, the ship landed in London some weeks after the call had been made, and Bracewell had pressed ahead with his Ironsides programme. The Doctor discovered that the Ironsides were actually Daleks, which had been given khaki livery. Churchill refused to heed the Doctor's warnings about the Daleks, as he was determined to defeat the Nazis at any cost. What he really wanted from the Doctor was control over the TARDIS, going so far as to try to pocket the ship's key.
He later discovered that Bracewell was really an android, created by the Daleks, but he kept him on as his chief scientist.
Later, Bracewell brought him a painting that had been found in France - a Vincent Van Gogh which depicted an exploding TARDIS. Churchill again rang the Doctor, but the call was diverted by the ship to River Song at the Stormcage prison facility.

When River failed to assassinate the Doctor - breaking a fixed point in time - history began to collapse. The Doctor found himself a prisoner of Churchill who was now Holy Roman Emperor, presiding over a senate based at Buckingham Palace. He was tended by a Silurian doctor, and had a coach pulled by mammoths. He knew the Doctor only as a soothsayer, who told stories of how the universe was supposed to be. He and the Doctor came under attack from Silents, but were rescued by Amy.

Played by: Ian McNeice. Appearances: Victory of the Daleks, The Pandorica Opens (2010), The Wedding of River Song (2011).

  • McNeice first came to prominence in the BBC thriller serial Edge of Darkness. He has been a regular on the popular ITV show Doc Martin for a number of years. He was offered a role in Game of Thrones (as Illyrio in the first season), but the part was then recast with Roger Allam.
  • He has played Churchill a number of times on stage, and has recently reprised the Doctor Who version for Big Finish.

C is for... Chumblies

Squat robot servants to the Rills. They had domed, segmented bodies which could collapse on top of each other for protection. A small antenna protruded from the top when they wanted to transmit signals. They were armed with rod-like weapons that spat flames. The Rills do not appear to have given these robots a name, but "Chumblies" was coined by the Doctor's companion Vicki from the way they moved. The Rills had no vocal chords and so could not speak, but could communicate by analysing Vicki's speech and transmitting their thoughts verbally through the robots.
The Doctor and his companions encountered them on a planet that was about to explode. Also present were the female Drahvins. The Rills wanted to help them escape the planet, but their leader Maaga suspected they wanted to kill them, and refused to allow her soldiers to listen to what the Chumblies were transmitting. The robots were impervious to Drahvin weapons, but could be disabled by a magnetic steel mesh when it was thrown over them. One was destroyed when it was struck with a metal bar. The Doctor helped the Rills escape the planet before its destruction - one of the robots being left behind to help the Doctor and his companions reach the safety of the TARDIS.

Played by: Jimmy Kaye, William Shearer, Angelo Muscat, Pepi Poupee, Tommy Reynolds. Appearances: Galaxy Four (1965).

  • Angelo Muscat was best known for playing the mute butler in 14 episodes of The Prisoner.

C is for... Christie, Agatha

The celebrated crime novelist, whom the Doctor and Donna encountered at a house party hosted by Lady Eddison, in December 1926. This was near the beginning of her literary career, and she had so far created the character of Belgian sleuth Hercule Poirot. She had just learned that her husband was having an affair. The Doctor noted the date, as this was the weekend when Christie had famously gone missing - turning up at a hotel in Harrogate a week later. A number of killings began at the house, all of which seemed like something out of one of her novels. Agatha and the Doctor began to investigate the murders. It transpired that Lady Eddison, when a young woman living in India, had met a man who was really an alien Vespiform - a wasp-like creature capable of altering its appearance - and had become pregnant by him. The child - a boy - had been sent to an orphanage. Lady Eddison had a memento of this liaison - a jewel known as the Firestone. The Doctor discovered that this had picked up Lady Eddison's thoughts whilst reading one of Agatha's books and transmitted these to her son - who was present at the gathering in the form of the local vicar, Mr Golightly. Whenever he became agitated, he transformed into a wasp form and killed those who stood between him and his mother. Feeling responsible for the killings, Agatha took the Firestone and drove off into the night, to lure the Vespiform away from the house. By the Silent Pool lake, Donna threw the jewel into the water, knowing that wasps can be drowned. However, it was still mentally linked to Agatha and she collapsed. As it died, the alien released her.
The Doctor and Donna took her to the hotel in Harrogate, her memory of these recent events blotted out. However, back in the TARDIS, the Doctor showed Donna one of her books, which featured a large wasp on the cover - suggesting that some trace of memory had remained.

Played by: Fenella Woolgar. Appearances: The Unicorn and the Wasp (2008).

  • Christie (1890 - 1976) went missing around the 3rd December 1926 after a row with her husband over his affair. She was found on 14th December at the hotel, having used the surname of her husband's lover on the hotel register. The disappearance was front page news. Many assumed it all to be a publicity gimmick, or even that she trying to get her husband arrested on suspicion for her murder. The incident wasn't referred to in her autobiography.
  • Donna inadvertently gives her the idea for Murder on the Orient Express, and for the spinster sleuth Miss Marple, not realising that she hasn't written these yet.
  • Being a Gareth Roberts script, the dialogue is packed full of references to her story titles.

C is for... Chorley, Harold

A journalist who was selected to represent the British press at the Goodge Street fortress during the Yeti attack on London. Arrogant and obsequious, he was disliked by the soldiers based there, and by Professor Travers and his daughter, Anne. Keen to get a story and make a name for himself, he was unwilling to do anything hazardous, however. He was suspicious of the Doctor and his companions when they turned up, having learned that they were present when Travers had encountered the Yeti years before. Knowing that the Great Intelligence used a human host, the others were equally suspicious of him - especially when he ran off to find the TARDIS. He hid in the Underground tunnels for some time before encountering Staff Sergeant Arnold, who took him to Piccadilly Circus station where the Intelligence had its base. He discovered that it was Arnold who had been taken over. Once the Intelligence had been expelled back into deep space, Chorley tried to find out about the TARDIS from Anne Travers.

Played by: Jon Rollason. Appearances: The Web of Fear (1968).

  • Chorley appears to be based on an amalgamation of three real journalists of the period, known from TV appearances. He looks like Robin Day, with the thick spectacle frames and the bow tie, but his obsequious personality is more akin to David Frost or Alan Whicker.
  • Rollason was one of John Steed's original partners in The Avengers, before they settled on the single female companion. He and Doctor Who producer Peter Bryant attempted to launch an adventure series called Special Project Air. Only two episodes were filmed. In the 1970's he both wrote for and appeared in Coronation Street.