Sunday, 2 June 2013

Story 71 - Invasion of the Dinosaurs

In which the Doctor and Sarah return to the present day and find London apparently deserted. They encounter a jewel thief, who is found dead a few minutes later - the car he was driving wrecked. In a warehouse, they disturb a group of criminals and are attacked by a Pterosaur. When they take the thieves' vehicle, they are stopped by the army and arrested as looters. Their photographs are sent to UNIT's temporary HQ where they are spotted by Sgt. Benton. The Doctor and Sarah escape and witness an attack by another dinosaur - a Tyrannosaurus Rex. In a garage, they encounter a man from the reign of King John. He vanishes, and the Doctor witnesses a temporal disturbance. The Brigadier arrives and takes them to the HQ, set up in an inner city school. Here the Doctor learns what has been happening whilst they were away.
Dinosaurs have been appearing across the city, vanishing again shortly afterwards. After seeing the medieval man, the Doctor realises that someone is bringing the creatures through time to the 20th Century. He decides to capture one and use monitoring equipment to trace the culprits. Sarah decides to do some investigating of her own - realising that whoever is behind this scheme must have a base somewhere in the city, and a power source.

Unfortunately for the Doctor, there is a traitor at work at the heart of UNIT. After he had been brainwashed by the BOSS computer and forced to try and kill his friends, Captain Mike Yates was given special leave. He encountered an ecological group - Golden Age - which has several influential members. Sir Charles Grover, the government minister responsible for overseeing the military operations, and General Finch - the Brigadier's immediate superior - are both involved. They are working with a scientist named Whitaker, who has created a device which can bring objects forward through time. Yates sabotages the Doctor's attempts to capture and monitor one of the dinosaurs.
Sarah goes to see Grover, unaware of his involvement. She discovers that their enemy's base is actually a government bunker built beneath Grover's building. She is captured and rendered unconscious - waking to find herself trapped aboard a spaceship. A young man named Mark informs her that they and hundreds of others are travelling to a new home on an Earth-like planet in a neighbouring galaxy. Sarah is suspicious. If she has been on this ship for weeks, why is a head wound she received earlier still not healed? She escapes from the ship - finding that it is a mock up built next to the government bunker. Unfortunately, it is General Finch she informs of her discovery and is recaptured.

Sarah breaks back into the mock spaceship to try to convince everyone that they are being duped. The Doctor is discredited in order to stop him interfering - blamed for being responsible for the dinosaur apparitions, but the Brigadier rebels against his superior to help him. The Doctor learns of the location of the bunker. Yates' treachery is discovered. Grover reveals that he intends for Whitaker to reverse time for everyone and everything outside the bunker. The people on the mock spaceship think they are going to a new world, free of pollution, but it will actually be a prehistoric Earth that they will be setting foot on.
The Brigadier arrives with UNIT troops to stop the scheme, as Sarah leads the horrified spaceship people into the bunker. Whitaker tries to operate his machine, but the Doctor is able to switch it off. He makes some adjustments to make it safe. Grover tries to turn it back on again and Whitaker struggles with him - realising what the Doctor has done. Both men, and the machine, vanish as they are thrown back into pre-history.
Mike Yates is quietly retired from UNIT.

This six part adventure was written by Malcolm Hulke - his last contribution to the series - and was broadcast between 12th January and 16th February, 1974.
The story was script-edited (uncredited) by Robert Holmes, who would soon take on the role full time.
It is chiefly remembered for its rather dire dinosaur puppets, but if you can get past them there is a very good story here.
The success of the Drashigs in The Carnival of Monsters the year before had lead Barry Letts to believe that a story featuring dinosaurs was achievable. Sadly, the promised realistic monsters turned out to be be very poor indeed. To be honest, it is only really the Tyrannosaurus Rex that lets the side down. The other creatures aren't too bad. The model settings for the creatures also jar with the location filming.
The first episode had the title of "Invasion" - to keep the inclusion of the dinosaurs a surprise for the audience. Unfortunately, the Radio Times gave the full story title which rather gave the game away. Malcolm Hulke hated the title, preferring "Timescoop".
Some have seen this episode titling as the cause for that first part being junked (it being confused with the Patrick Troughton 1968 Cyberman story). However, as each story has its own production code, and the Troughton story was wiped two years before this was made, this is unlikely to be the explanation.
As such, whilst episodes 2 - 6 can be viewed in colour, only a black and white version of part one exists. For the DVD release, there is a brave attempt at colour recovery - but no CGI monsters alas.

And what of the story itself? It is quite a good political thriller, with corruption in high places and within the ranks of the Doctor's own colleagues. There is a lengthy car chase in part 5, and a diversion to a spaceship for Sarah - although it is quickly pointed out that this is a fake ship. The time-frame of the scenes around her waking up on the ship mean that you never really believe that she has gone into space.
There is an excellent guest cast. Whitaker is played by Peter Miles, who had played Dr Lawrence in The Silurians and who will soon be back in his most famous role as Nyder in Genesis of the Daleks. His assistant, Butler, is played by Martin Jarvis, who had appeared in The Web Planet as Menoptra officer Hilio. He will return as the Governor in Vengeance on Varos. Grover is played by Noel Johnson, another actor who had appeared in the programme before (King Thous in The Underwater Menace). General Finch is played by John Bennett (who will go on to play Li H'sen Chang in The Talons of Weng Chiang).
The UNIT regulars are all well served - John Levene getting some wondeful material in parts 5 & 6. Mike Yates' story isn't quite over - as he will get a chance to redeem himself a little at the end of this series.
Making Sarah a journalist proves to have been a wise decision, as it means that she can get involved with the story in an entirely natural way on her own.
Episode endings for this story are:
  1. The Doctor and Sarah are being transported in an army landrover when it comes under attack - from a Tyrannosaurus Rex.
  2. The Doctor's stun gun has failed to work. The herbivorous Brontosaurus vanishes - to be replaced by a T Rex.
  3. Sarah wakes to find she is no longer in the bunker. Mark tells her she is on a spaceship heading for "New Earth".
  4. Lured back to the hangar by Whitaker, the Doctor finds he has walked into a trap. Finch accuses him of being responsible for the monster appearances and orders the Brigadier to arrest him.
  5. Making his way to the bunker, the Doctor finds himself confronted by a T Rex.
  6. Sarah is reluctant to get back into the TARDIS, but the Doctor talks her into another trip with a promise of the beautiful planet Florana.

Overall, a very good story let down by its special effects (a not uncommon occurrence in the classic series). Watching it recently, I realised that there were very few occasions in which the dinosaurs interact with principal actors - so they could be replaced with CGI. Perhaps someday we will get a Special Edition. Were that to be the case, you would have one of the best of the Pertwee adventures.
Things you might like to know:
  • The Doctor's new vehicle makes its first appearance. Pertwee had commissioned this himself and asked Letts if it could be used on the show. It is commonly referred to as the Whomobile, but also goes under the name of Alien. It is never actually named on screen. The vehicle was not quite complete at the time of filming, as you will note from the temporary wind shield.
  • Barry Letts would get extremely angry when the programme was criticised for having wobbly sets. Unfortunately, when the metal shutters close in the bunker, the walls shake noticeably.
  • Another slip up to look out for is the appearance of the disabling disc on the Doctor's stun gun appearing before Mike Yates has put it there.
  • And the T Rex has too many fingers... At the time, some school children wrote to the BBC to say that this might actually be an Allosaurus.
  • Apparently Brontosaurus is now a redundant name - replaced by Apatosaurus. Don't say this blog is never educational.
  • When broadcast on PBS in the States, either episodically or as an omnibus, the B&W opening episode was omitted -  meaning you jumped in with part two and the Doctor and Sarah already being menaced by a dinosaur.
  • This is the first story to be directed by a woman since The Massacre - actually the same woman, Paddy Russell.
  • The bunker must be very big indeed, to have an entrance on Whitehall and another at Moorgate.

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