Friday, 30 August 2013

New Figurine Collection

Today I bought Issue 1 of the new Doctor Who figurine collection. The first figure is the 11th Doctor, giving his Stonehenge speech from The Pandorica Opens. The accompanying magazine has a large feature on that episode, as well as a piece on the TARDIS, one on Matt Smith's original costume, and a look at what was going on in Doctor Who and the wider world in 1963.
The figure is very well done. A guide issued along with the magazine lets us know of future releases - and they cover the whole 50 years of the programme.
All 11 Doctors will be released, but no sign of companions.
From the Hartnell era we are going to get an original Dalek and The Tenth Planet Cyberman.
From the Toughton period an Ice Warrior and a Tomb Cyberman.
There will be Omega, a Silurian, Draconian, Axon Monster and Dalek from Day of the Daleks representing Jon Pertwee's tenure in the TARDIS.
From the Tom Baker years, a Zygon, a Voc Robot, an Osiran Mummy, a Wirrn, and the decayed Master.
Into Davison's era and we get Sharaz Jek, an Earthshock Cyberman, a Warriors Sea Devil and a Terrileptil.
Only a Vervoid makes it from Colin Baker's time. Please note there is no Eric Roberts Master...
There's the Ancient Haemovore and Special Weapons Dalek from McCoy's period.
From 2005 there is the new RTD Dalek and Cassandra.
Davros, a Judoon, Sycorax, Cyberman and Cyber-Controller, a Sontaran and the Red / Gold Dalek Supreme represent the Tennant era.
Bringing things up to date are Strax, a masked Siluran, new Paradigm Dalek, the new Ice Warrior, a Weeping Angel and a Silent.
This is what is featured but may not represent the whole list to be released. The magazine implies there will be 50 issues - so they will be able to include the 12th Doctor if releases are fortnightly.

The first issue is £2.99 and all future issues will be £6.99. The second issue has the Julian Bleach Davros, the third a Tennant era Cyberman, and the fourth an Angel.
Should you decide to subscribe, you get a few free gifts - an Emperor Dalek (RTD version), a binder for the magazines, and a stand that can accommodate 10 figures. You can also get an on-line version of the mag.
It's probably best to subscribe, as shops only ever carry the first few issues of any part-work. Do be wary about the small print however. If you don't tick some boxes you end up buying more folders (£6.99 each) and display stands (£14.99 each) which you might not want.
For an extra £1 per issue you can upgrade and get some exclusive Daleks - Dalek Sec, the cobwebbed Emperor Guard Dalek from Asylum, the Masterplan Black Dalek, the RTD Emperor Guard, a movie one, the chained "Oswin" Dalek, and the Saucer Commander from Invasion. Please note they don't all get sent at once.
I think I will certainly subscribe (and go for the extra Daleks). An average of £4 per week for a good quality 1:21 scale miniature and a publication seems quite good value to me.

Story 81 - Planet of Evil

In which the Doctor and Sarah are returning to UNIT HQ when the TARDIS picks up a faint distress signal. This takes them to the densely-jungled planet of Zeta Minor, on the outermost fringe of the known universe.
A scientific expedition from the planet Morestra is here. Some powerful and invisible force has attacked the team members - draining their bodies of all energy. Only one man survives - the leader, Professor Sorenson.
The expedition's distress signal has also been intercepted by a military spaceship from their homeworld, which was on its way to check on them. In command is Salamar. Second in command is the more experienced Vishinsky.
The Morestran ship lands and the crew find the TARDIS. It is transmatted onto their craft with Sarah on board, and she is captured when she emerges.
The Doctor is caught soon after in the expedition's quarters. He and Sarah are accused of being responsible for the deaths. Things are not helped when one of the Morestran soldiers is killed shortly after they escape.

Sorenson had come to this primitive world in search of a new energy source. Morestra's sun is dying. Energy crystals have been found here, located near a mysterious black pool which does not reflect light. The Doctor examines a sample of the crystals and discovers that they are rich in anti-matter energy. This planet sits on the edge of the universe of matter, and the pool forms a gateway to the neighbouring universe of anti-matter. It is home to a creature capable of straddling the two universes. It is this which has been killing the Morestrans. The crystals are only stable on this world, and to take them to Morestra would be disastrous. The whole universe could be at risk. The crystals have also infected Sorenson. He suffers blackouts, during which he transforms into a savage being. In this form, he is also capable of killing in the same way as the creature from the pool.

To stop the attacks by the creature, the Doctor goes to the pool to communicate with it. He assures the creature that none of the crystals will be removed from the planet. When the Morestran ship takes off, however, the anti-matter energy within Sorenson is enough to cause the ship to be dragged back to the surface. The professor had been using a chemical to try to stabilise his condition, but this no longer works and he goes on the rampage through the ship. Salamar shoots him with a radiation weapon but instead of killing him, multiple energy copies are created - all just as deadly. Salamar is killed. Vishinsky and Sarah are trapped in the flight deck as the ship heads for destruction. The Doctor lures Sorenson into the TARDIS and takes him to the black pool. Sorenson falls in. He is released unharmed, the contagion gone, and with little memory of recent events. The Doctor steers him towards looking at kinetic energy to solve the Morestran sun problem.

This four part adventure was written by Louis Marks, and broadcast between 27th September and 18th October, 1975.
This was Marks' third contribution to the programme, following 1964's Planet of Giants and 1971's Day of the Daleks. Two clear influences can be discerned in this story. One is Robert Louis Stevenson's The Strange Case of Dr Jekyll and Mr Hyde - in the transformations of Professor Sorenson and his chemical attempts to control them. The other - in terms of general design and the mostly invisible monster - is the classic 1956 film Forbidden Planet, which was in turn inspired by Shakespeare's The Tempest. The Anti-Matter Monster is very much based on that film's Monster from the Id. There are parallels between Sorenson's attitudes towards science and experimentation, and those of Dr. Morbius.
There is a great cast list - and all Doctor Who veterans - but perhaps the biggest star of the programme is Roger Murray-Leach's astonishing jungle set, filmed at Ealing. One of the best pieces of design work ever to feature in the show.

As for the human stars, we have a reunion from 1966's The Savages - with Frederick Jaeger, who had played Jano, appearing as Sorenson, and Ewan Solon, who had been Chal, as Vishinsky.
Three prominent crew members are played by actors who have been in the programme before. De Haan is played by Graham Weston. He had appeared in The War Games. Ponti is Louis Mahoney, who had played a newsreader in Frontier in Space and who will return to the series as the old Billy Shipton in Blink.
Michael Wisher plays Morelli. Salamar is played by Prentis Hancock, who had appeared twice during the Pertwee years and would make one further appearance with Tom Baker.
Episode endings are:

  1. The glowing red outline of some massive creature can be seen as it bears down on the Doctor and Sarah...
  2. Tracked by the oculoid device, Sarah and the Morestrans see the Doctor arrive at the cave of the black pool. As the Anti-Matter creature emerges, the Doctor tumbles into the pool...
  3. Sarah and the unconscious Doctor are trapped in pallets which are about to eject them into space. Vishinsky refuses to operate the equipment, but Salamar forces him to eject them...
  4. Sorenson returns to Morestra with Vishinsky, whilst the TARDIS carries the Doctor and Sarah to their rendezvous with the Brigadier at UNIT HQ...

Overall, quite a tight suspenseful four parter. With Harry no longer around, we really get to see why the Tom and Lis partnership is regarded so highly. Some very scary material for younger viewers - with the red outline monsters and Sorenson's hirsute, savage alter-ego. The dessicated skeletal corpses are quite horrific for a tea-time audience. Great cast. Great design. It doesn't hide its literary and cinematic references.
Things you might like to know:

  • As well as playing Morelli, Michael Wisher can also be heard playing an unseen crew member - with a rather dreadful Indian accent. This will be his final appearance in the programme. Had Resurrection of the Daleks not been put back a season due to industrial action, he would have reprised his role of Davros.
  • The Morestrans have transmat capabilities and yet land their ship on Zeta Minor. You would expect them to beam down a party instead. Unless it doesn't work on people, and Sarah was only protected by being in the TARDIS.
  • We see the TARDIS control room for the first time since part one of Death to the Daleks. The new set was used first for Pyramids of Mars, as that story was filmed before this one. You'll note that the scanner is missing.

Tuesday, 27 August 2013

Landmarks No.27

JNT had the chance to put Doctor Who onto the cover of the Radio Times with this story - its first cover since the Pertwee days. However, the normally publicity hungry producer decided not to spoil the return of the Cybermen. And aren't we, who were there at the time, glad that he made that decision.
At the conclusion of part one, we were running round the living room screaming with joy. At least I was.
After a brilliantly tense opening episode, there were the Cybermen - back after one of their long absences, and with a wonderful new design.
In part two we got to see clips from The Tenth Planet, The Wheel In Space and Revenge of the Cybermen. (The VHS releases hadn't started yet, and there was no such thing as You Tube then).
Then, to top it all off, a companion gets killed at the conclusion of part four.
Poor old Adric. He started off with so much promise... Either the writers simply didn't know what to do with him, or JNT had asked them to turn him into an untrustworthy, stupid, unlikable character - so we wouldn't be too distraught at his demise.
Just think what the impact would have been on those watching had he been more loved.
The final episode has the end credits running without the music - the only occasion this has happened.
To be honest, it is a bit cringe-worthy. Adric was certainly no Martha Longhurst.

Sunday, 25 August 2013

That Was The Week That Was 25.8.13

The latest issue of DWM hit the shops this week. Not a lot in it this month to be honest. I certainly didn't feel any urge to read the "making of" article on the 12th Doctor announcement show. The Neil Cross interview was a bit dull.
I gave up reading the Time Team feature years ago - so completely phony having professional fans faking reactions and pretending they're watching stories for the first time.
Naturally, all of the 12th Doctor items contained in the issue say a lot but tell you nothing.
The one thing I did learn from this issue was a point in the "Fact of Fiction" piece on Remembrance of the Daleks - that the gates with I.M. Foreman's name misspelled had actually been repainted at JNT's insistence for another reason earlier in the day. (I've since read that they had put L.M instead of I.M).
Regarding Capaldi and Series 8, Steven Moffat has been a lot more vocal in a couple of interviews - particularly at the Edinburgh Festival. Like DWM, he says a lot but doesn't necessarily tell you much.
It's almost certain Capaldi will use his natural Scottish accent.
Forget about any returning Time Lord characters.
Peter Jackson may well be directing a future episode.

On a personal note, I visited the small Radio Times exhibit at the Museum of London on Tuesday, before enjoying a pleasant walk through the City - passing a few Doctor Who locations on route. I am thinking of starting an occasional series of London-based "Then & Now" location pieces in this blog.

The Region 2 DVD cover has been revealed for The Tenth Planet. I am a little surprised to note that The Moonbase does not feature at all on Amazon UK, even though it was supposed to be released before this story (on 21st October). It is to be found on the US Amazon site - but without any proposed release date. Possibly, it is getting pushed back to 2014 - or is going to be swapped with the Hartnell Cyberman story?

As to the week ahead, remember that the Doctor Who Prom is on BBC 1 at 4pm tomorrow. The Ice Warriors DVD is released the same day. Sadly, Amazon have not managed to get my copy to me in advance of the Bank Holiday, so I'll have to wait until Tuesday to watch it.

Saturday, 24 August 2013

Story 80 - Terror of the Zygons

In which the Doctor and his companions return to Earth at the behest of the Brigadier - the TARDIS materialising in the Highlands of Scotland. They are given a lift by the Duke of Forgill - the local laird - to the nearby village of Tullock, where UNIT have set up a temporary HQ in the hotel. The Brigadier informs them that a number of North Sea oil rigs have recently been destroyed - suddenly and completely. The Doctor is at first indignant that he has been brought back to Earth because of Mankind's over-reliance on fossil fuels, but soon becomes intrigued. One piece of wreckage has what appears to be the indentation of a massive tooth. He notes Tullock's proximity to Loch Ness. Harry finds a survivor of the most recent tragedy washed up on a nearby beach. The man is shot dead by a sniper, and Harry wounded. He is later abducted from the oil company's sick-bay.

At the bottom of the Loch lies a Zygon spaceship. It crash-landed here centuries ago. The Zygons released a Skarasen into the loch - a huge cyborg reptile - and its rare appearances on the surface have given rise to the stories of "Nessie", the Loch Ness Monster. The creature provides lactic fluid upon which the aliens thrive. The Doctor finds a partly organic homing device attached to another piece of wreckage, and deduces that it is placed there to attract the Skarasen. The rigs are in the creature's path to its North Sea feeding grounds. Zygons are able to disguise themselves as humans, provided they have the original person to provide a body-print. A duplicate of Harry is sent to retrieve the homing device. Sarah recognises that it is not him due to the lack of emotions. The creature is killed and the body disintegrates. The homing device sticks to the Doctor's hand, and he is almost killed by the Skarasen as it passes the village - the inhabitants having been gassed and temporarily put to sleep.

A tunnel is discovered between Forgill Castle and the alien spaceship. Sarah enters it and rescues Harry. The Doctor is captured. He learns from Broton, the Zygon leader, that their homeworld has been destroyed. They have sent a message to their fleet to come to Earth. Broton plans to have conquered the planet and terra-formed it to make it more suitable for his people. The fleet will take hundreds of years to arrive. The ship takes off when the Brigadier tries to depth-charge it. It heads south and, soon after, a large underwater object is spotted travelling down the North Sea. The ship lands outside London and Broton - in the guise of the Duke - departs for the city. The Doctor escapes and uses the radio system to broadcast their location to UNIT. He frees the real Duke, along with his ghillie and the oil company nurse, then sets the self-destruct system. The craft is destroyed. The Duke is head of the Scottish Energy Commission and is due to take part in an important conference at a Thames-side building. They realise Broton plans to destroy it using the Skarasen. He is killed by the Brigadier, and the Doctor throws the homing device to the Skarasen as it emerges from the river. It swims back to its home in the loch. Harry elects to remain behind, but Sarah accepts one more lift in the TARDIS.

This four part story was written by Robert Banks Stewart, and was broadcast between 30th August and 20th September, 1975. It marks the beginning of Season 13, but brings to an end a sequence of interconnected stories begun with the conclusion to Robot the year before. The story had originally been intended to close the previous season, which does seem to be where it should naturally fit.
This season sees Hinchcliffe and Holmes really get into their stride, no longer saddled with stories commissioned by the previous production team.
Whilst Robert Holmes wanted to retain Harry, in order to provide more sub-plot opportunities, Hinchcliffe felt he was surplus to requirements - and wanted the relationship between Tom and Lis built up - so had him written out. Ian Marter would make one further appearance in the programme - in a story directed by his creator (The Android Invasion).
The story would also prove to be Nicholas Courtney's last regular appearance as the Brigadier, as UNIT was being phased out.
Doctor Who had occasionally taken existing legends and given them a Sci-Fi spin - the Yeti being an obvious example. The idea of a Doctor Who explanation for the Loch Ness Monster seemed too good to pass up. The Skarasen works in the sequences where it pursues the Doctor across the moors, but the glove-puppet version at the story's climax is the only real failing of this production.

The Zygons make for one of the best Doctor Who monsters ever seen in the programme. Not only a brilliantly grotesque design (James Acheson), but  they have a fully realised culture and a number of attributes which makes it so surprising they were never used again. John Woodnutt (previously Hibbert in Spearhead From Space and the Draconian Emperor in Frontier In Space) plays the double role of Broton and the Duke of Forgill. It is a remarkable performance. Other guest performances worth noting are Lillias Walker as Nurse Lamont - and her Zygon duplicate - and Angus Lennie (The Ice Warriors) as the hotel landlord who has second-sight - but doesn't see his own fate.
Though filmed in the Home Counties, the story certainly feels like it could have been shot in Scotland, helped immeasurably by the  talents of director Douglas Camfield and by Geoffrey Burgon's wonderful incidental score. It is one of the series' best.
Episode endings are:

  1. Sarah is talking on the phone to the Doctor from the oil company sick bay. She turns round and is confronted by a Zygon.
  2. Broton has sent the Skarasen to destroy the Doctor, who cannot get rid of the homing device. The Doctor runs across the moor and falls, as the creature towers over him...
  3. The depth charge attack fails as the spider-like Zygon spaceship emerges from the loch and disappears into the sky...
  4. Sarah is going to return to UNIT HQ in the TARDIS, but Harry will be travelling by more conventional means.

Overall, a near perfect story. A few stories just miss perfection because of the inclusion of one element - the rat in Talons, the Magma Beast in Caves, anything with Colin Baker's costume - and sadly the Skarasen's final appearance lets this down right at the end. Apart from that, one of the best stories ever. I'm really looking forward to the Zygons' imminent return. Long overdue.
Things you might like to know:

  • We know that the Zygons will feature prominently in the 50th Anniversary story - hopefully heralding a story of their own in Series 8 or 9. Steven Moffat has signposted their potential return a couple of times. They're mentioned - but not seen - as part of the Pandorica Alliance; and the Doctor's anniversary gift to Amy and Rory of a stay at the Savoy Hotel is marred by the fact that the hotel has been infiltrated by Zygon duplicates (The Power of Three).
  • A Zygon was supposed to have appeared amongst the prisoners in Shada.
  • Famously, this story prefigures Britain's first female Prime Minister. Nicholas Courtney ad-libbed that he was talking to a woman PM. Of course, it wasn't intended to be Mrs T. The PM in The Green Death had been Jeremy (possibly Liberal leader Jeremy Thorpe) and the female PM in this was probably intended to be Shirley Williams.
  • The second release for the VHS (the episodic one) featured an alternative prequel. The Doctor is at the cinema when he gets the message from the Brigadier (Tom Baker having presented the popular Disney Time just before this story was broadcast) instead of the message coming through at the end of Revenge of the Cybermen.
  • A deleted scene is to be included in the forthcoming DVD release - featuring the TARDIS' arrival.
  • It is implied that the Zygons are a very long-lived race. The earliest instance of the Loch Ness Monster being sighted is in a story regarding Saint Columba in 565 AD. He chased off a "water serpent" in the River Ness.
  • Some people don't believe in the Loch Ness Monster. Probably the same people that think Elvis is dead.
  • Never underestimate the power of organic crystalography.

Friday, 23 August 2013


Laughed my head off when I saw this. Utterly naff. The latest DWM was supposed to feature a major free advertising feature - sorry, article - on this, but the announcement of the 12th Doctor intervened. The free advertising feature - sorry, article - has now been pushed back to the next DWM in September. Just shows DWM hadn't been told about the Capaldi announcement when the previous issue went to the printers.

Thursday, 22 August 2013

Landmarks No.26

The end of an era, as Tom Baker finally bows out after 7 years in the role of the Doctor.
It's the first story to properly feature the new Master - played by Anthony Ainley.
Nyssa becomes a companion - not just a guest character.
Tegan makes her first appearance.
Yes, the era of the over-crowded TARDIS begins here.
The TARDIS cloister room and its bell are introduced.
JNT gives us the first of the flashback sequences - allowing fans to see brief archive clips from the series within the narrative of the story.
Tom had played the Doctor for so long that it was hard to think of the programme going on without him. He is still synonymous with the role - his "look" being global shorthand for the Doctor to this day.
Ainley impresses from the first. He's not overused in this story - being an invisible presence for the first half. You can believe he is a new incarnation of the Master and not just being cast as a lookalike.
Nyssa also only features in the second half - brought to Logopolis by the mysterious Watcher.
Tegan is negative and argumentative from the outset - so we don't know if we are going to like her or not.
Knowing fans were starved of archive Doctor Who, JNT has the Doctor experience flashbacks of some of his recent enemies - and all of the Fourth's companions - as he prepares to meet his doom. Similar sequences will be included in Earthshock (previous Cyber encounters) and Mawdryn Undead (Brigadier adventures). All the companions bar Leela will feature in Resurrection of the Daleks.
There is a doom-laden feel to this adventure from the start. The Watcher is the second - and last to date - occasion where we see an intermediate stage in a regeneration (the first being Cho-Je / K'anpo). Barry Letts was involved with both.
After this story, Letts will not be associated with the TV programme again.

Wednesday, 21 August 2013

12th Doctor Figure - in May?

Have been reading about the plans for the 12th Doctor action figure. The company (Bif Bang Pow!) claim that it should be available to purchase in May 2014. So, it's a regeneration figure - with Peter Capaldi's head stuck on Matt Smith's body then? Otherwise I don't see how this could possibly be out in May next year - unless there's something we don't know about the Christmas Special...

Tuesday, 20 August 2013

Auton wins joke contest...

That's comedian Rob Auton. The best joke from this year's Edinburgh Fringe was won by Mr Auton.
The gag was: "I've heard a rumour that Cadbury is bringing out an oriental chocolate bar. Might be a Chinese Wispa...". Yes, quite.
This wasn't the only Who related item in the top ten. Number 6 (by Phil Wang) goes: "The Pope is a lot like Doctor Who. He never dies, just keeps being replaced by white men". Ouch.
And at number 10 was Chris Coltrane's: "The good thing about lending someone your time machine is that you basically get it back immediately".

Radio Times @ Museum of London

I finally got round to visiting the Museum of London this afternoon, and saw the small Radio Times Cover Story exhibit. As well as the RTD Dalek posing in front of the award-winning "Vote Dalek" cover, there are a few pieces of artwork - including work by Frank Bellamy. There is some vintage Who on video to view, and you can peruse Ray Cusick's Dalek designs.

The main focus of the exhibit is, as the name implies, a selection of RT covers over the decades, and there are five Doctor Who ones represented - covering Hartnell to Tennant.

The RT exhibit is to be found at the end of the museum - though you can slip downstairs from the main entrance / shop area if you want to go straight to it. Personally, I'd save it until the end of the full museum experience. If you've never been to the Museum of London before - be you a tourist or a Londoner - then I would strongly recommend it. It's really nicely laid out in chronological order (I hate museums and galleries that jump about all over the place), and there are plenty of activities for the kids to get involved with.

Monday, 19 August 2013

Story 79 - Revenge of the Cybermen

In which the Doctor, Sarah and Harry finally return to the Ark. The Time Ring has brought them to the space station at a much earlier time - thousands of years before the solar flares, when the craft was a navigation beacon called "Nerva". The Doctor explains that the Time Lords will soon spot the mistake and send the TARDIS back through time to meet them. They leave the control room and enter the outer transept - and find dozens of corpses. Nerva Beacon is a navigational craft, set up to monitor a rogue planetoid called "Nova Phobos", which has drifted into the Solar System. A terrible plague has broken out, and now only four crew members are left alive - Commander Stevenson; his lieutenant, Lester; radio operator Warner; and a civilian scientist named Kellman. Kellman has set up a transmat station on the planetoid. The Doctor and his companions arrive at the forward control centre just after Warner has received a radio message from Voga - which is, according to Kellman, a supposedly dead world. Kellman uses a remote control device to send a Cybermat to kill the radio operator. However, the Doctor recognises the alien venom used - and the name "Voga", which Kellman has given to the planetoid.

Stevenson allows the Doctor to investigate. Sarah is attacked by a Cybermat and infected. Realising she might be cured by use of the transmat - the alien molecules being filtered out by the process - the Doctor sends Sarah, with Harry to look after her, down to Voga. Sarah is cured, as the Doctor had deduced. Harry discovers that the planetoid is rich in gold. They are captured by Vogan troops. The Doctor tells Stevenson and Lester that the planet Voga was destroyed many years ago by the Cybermen, after it supplied large quantities of gold in the last Cyberwar. Humans used this to develop a weapon called the Glitter Gun which destroyed Cybermen - the metal being toxic to them. Nova Phobos is all that now remains of the planet of gold. Sarah and Harry are prisoners of Vorus - leader of the Guardians. This group guard the upper levels. Vorus is a political enemy of President Tyrum, who has control over the city militia at the heart of the planetoid. Tyrum does not trust Vorus, who wants their people to resume life on the surface. The old president still fears the Cybermen and insists they stay hidden. Vorus has actually made a deal with Kellman to lure the Cybermen to Nerva Beacon. He has a rocket - the Skystriker - poised to destroy the space station. Kellman is a double agent - appearing to be working for the Cybermen but in the pay of Vorus.

The Cybermen dock with the station and take everyone prisoner. Kellman invents an excuse to travel down to Voga, in order to report to Vorus. Sarah and Harry have escaped and found themselves in the custody of Tyrum. They tell him of events on the station - including the presence of a Cybermat. Tyrum challenges Vorus about this, and open hostilities break out between the Guardians and the Militia. The Cybermen plan to send the Doctor, Stevenson and Lester down to Voga with powerful bombs strapped to their backs. Any attempt to remove these before they reach the core of Voga will result in death as they are booby-trapped. Two Cybermen travel down with them, carrying a signal booster. Kellman is captured by Tyrum's men and reveals the whole plan. Harry forces him to help him intercept the bomb party. Kellman is killed in a rockfall. Whilst Stevenson travels on towards the core, the Doctor, Harry and Lester double back to the transmat area armed with gold to attack the two Cybermen. Lester sacrifices himself to blow up the aliens.

Unaware that it is now overrun by Cybermen, Sarah has travelled up to Nerva. The Doctor goes to rescue her. Both are captured, as the Cyberleader reveals a contingency plan. The beacon will be loaded with bombs and crashed into Voga - with the Doctor and Sarah onboard. Seeing the beacon begin to move from its orbit, Vorus tries to launch the Skystriker - but is shot by Tyrum. The rocket launches as he falls dead onto the controls. The Doctor and Sarah free themselves and are able to return the beacon back to its orbit, whilst Stevenson sends the Skystriker after the Cyberman spaceship - destroying it. Harry rejoins the Doctor and Sarah on the beacon as the TARDIS materialises. The Doctor discovers an urgent message from the Brigadier, recalling them to Earth.

This four part adventure was written by Gerry Davis, and broadcast between 19th April and 10th May, 1975. It is the final story of Season 12. As a cost-saving exercise, it utilised the same sets as The Ark in Space, which it immediately preceded it in production order.
The story was commissioned by Barry Letts and Terrance Dicks, who felt it was time the Cybermen were brought back. They had been absent for the entire Pertwee run, save for a couple of fleeting cameos. Davis, of course, had helped create them, and had not written for the programme since the mid-1960's. He and Kit Pedler had enjoyed success with the Doomwatch series, but both had left it after artistic differences with producer Terrence Dudley.
Davis' initial story idea revolved around a space casino - which would also have allowed for the inclusion of the Cybermen's latest weakness: gold.
There has been much criticism of the title for this story - "revenge" being an emotive response - as well as the far from emotionless performance by Christopher Robbie as the hands-on-hips Cyberleader. His only other foray into Doctor Who had been to play the Germanic Karkus in The Mind Robber. It does seem to have been a mistake to dispense with the electronically treated voices which had been the standard throughout the whole Troughton era. And Robbie should have kept his hands well away from those hips.
The Cyberleader - with distinctive black markings on the helmet - is introduced in this story. The Cybermats are brought back - with a new serpentine shape.

The new aliens on show - the Vogans - don't impress at all, mainly due to the inflexibility of the masks. Only David Collings (Vorus) and Michael Wisher (Vorus' consumptive side-kick, Magrik) seem to have decent prosthetics. Poor Kevin Stoney - who has given us two of the greatest villains of the series to date in Mavic Chen and Tobias Vaughn - has no chance of facial expression. As Tyrum, he does manage to impress with his vocal work. The masks for the extras appear to have been modelled on Private Godfrey from Dad's Army.
Three of the human crew of Nerva Beacon have featured in the series before. Commander Stevenson is played by Ronald Leigh-Hunt (Radnor in The Seeds of Death) and Lester is William Marlowe (Harry Mailer in The Mind of Evil, and husband to Roger Delgado's widow Kismet). Alec Wallis seems to be director Michael E. Briant's radio operator of choice - having fulfilled a similar role in The Sea Devils. Kellman is Jeremy Wilkin, who makes a fine villain. He has massacred more than 40 men on the beacon with the fake virus, and is acting purely out of greed for Vogan gold, but is helping the Vogans fight the Cybermen and free themselves from self-imposed imprisonment on their planetoid.
Episode endings are:
  1. A Cybermat attacks Sarah - leaping up to bite her throat.
  2. The Cybermen have invaded the beacon. The Doctor tries to slip away but is shot down...
  3. As the Doctor lies unconscious, Harry starts to unbuckle his bomb harness - unaware that it is booby-trapped...
  4. The Doctor emerges from the TARDIS and announces that they have received an urgent message from the Brigadier and must return to Earth.

Overall, a disappointing adventure that has few fans. There is actually not a bad tale trying to be told here, however. Get past the title and it is perfectly logical that the Cybermen should want to destroy what remains a threat to them. The Vogan politics stand up to scrutiny as well - one group wanting to stop running and hiding, the other cautiously apprehensive about rejoining the Universe whilst the threat still remains. Neither side is in the wrong. There is some wonderful location work at Wookey Hole Caves in Somerset. 
Things you might like to know:
  • This story gets referenced in a League of Gentlemen sketch - the one in which Mark Gatiss plays a deadpan cave tour guide.
  • Wookey Hole has a famous stalagmite formation known as "the Witch". An electrician broke his leg after some of the crew "disrespected" it - dressing it up like a fairy tale witch. Lis Sladen then had a near fatal motor launch accident. She also tells, on the DVD commentary for this story, of a strange occurrence. She and Ian Marter were querying a page of script, making notes as they went through it. When they took their notes to the director, the page in question had vanished. No-one else had ever seen this particular page.
  • By filming this season out of sequence, there are some costume continuity issues. The Doctor's brown overcoat is lost in space as time as he arrives on Nerva without it, despite leaving Skaro with it. Director David Maloney had to add the scene with Sarah getting new combat-style gear to Genesis of the Daleks, in order to match this story which had already been recorded.
  • Philip Hinchcliffe hated Carey Blyton's incidental music. (I'm no big fan of the crumhorn either). Peter Howell - who would go on to rearrange the title music from The Leisure Hive - was brought in (uncredited) to make some additions.
  • Look out for the first appearance of the Seal of Rassilon in the Vogan city. Canny designer Roger Murray-Leach reused it for the Time Lords in The Deadly Assassin. Or did the Time Lords have a hand in saving this part of Voga from the initial Cyberman attack...?
  • This story was the first Doctor Who adventure to be released on VHS, way back in October 1983. An early cover design inadvertently used an Earthshock Cyberman.

Saturday, 17 August 2013

Hartnell TV Interview Discovered

Very pleased to read about the discovery of an in-vision interview with William Hartnell which has been unearthed by Richard Bignall (reported on It is going to be included as an extra on The Tenth Planet DVD release.
Bignall produces the excellent Nothing At The End Of The Lane research publication. The last issue of this featured a piece on the ill-fated pantomime tour which Hartnell undertook just after leaving Doctor Who - and this interview comes from that period.
Naturally we all get hot and bothered about old episodes turning up - but this marks the finding of the only interview with Hartnell on camera.
Apparently, it was found quite a while ago - as it was shown to David Bradley to help him prepare for his performance as Hartnell in An Adventure In Space And Time.

Landmarks No.25

The Leisure Hive
Halfway through my 50 landmark Doctor Who stories, and we come to what marks the biggest shake-up of the series since Spearhead From Space.
Despite having worked on the programme since the latter days of the Troughton era, and having previous producer Barry Letts watching over his shoulder, new producer John Nathan-Turner comes in and institutes significant changes. He is aided and abetted by new Script Editor Christopher Hamilton Bidmead.
Letts was unhappy with the direction that the programme had taken since he left - disliking the levels of horror in the Hinchcliffe period, and the more recent descent towards pantomime, and JNT concurred. Bidmead wanted to include more hard science in the programme, and disliked any fantastical elements.
For the viewer at the time, the changes are rung in with a new title sequence and new arrangement of the music (by Peter Howell). One of the reasons for the new graphics was that Tom Baker simply didn't look like his old image any more. The musical changes went beyond the title music, as Dudley Simpson was rather unceremoniously dropped as incidental music composer after years of loyal service.
One of the main impacts of the new regime is the reining in of Tom Baker. Graham Williams had rather over-indulged his star, and JNT and Letts were going to stamp their authority on him. He is put into a new, sombre, wine red costume - and his performance seems to match the muted colours. Things are not helped by the fact that Tom's lifestyle seems to be catching up with him - appearing rather gaunt.
Director Lovett Bickford adds to the sense that things have changed from the very beginning - with an opening shot the likes of which had never been seen in the programme before - a slow panning shot across Brighton beach past various colourful tents, the Doctor's snoring becoming more noticeable as we reach the TARDIS.
K9 is quickly written out of the story - its expensive revamp proving no match for Brighton's shingle beach. And this despite the fact that John Leeson had been talked into returning to voice him.
However, plus ca change, plus c'est le meme chose.  In studio out-takes, we see that Tom can just be as difficult as ever, and we have fairly rubbishy men-in-suits monster costumes that simply don't work.

Thursday, 15 August 2013

TARDIS Set Tour & Experience No.2

Yesterday morning, I stood in the TARDIS control room. The genuine article. Throughout August (until Sunday 25th) visitors to the Doctor Who Experience can upgrade their ticket to include a brief visit to the nearby BBC studios and get a guided tour of the latest control room set.
Each party is split into smaller groups of 4 - 6 at a time to enter the set. Unlike the visit to Upper Boat to see the previous set during last year's Cardiff Convention, this time it is look but don't touch. This is a working set - whilst the old control room was about to be dismantled for removal. You're only inside the spaceship for a few minutes also. It is surprisingly small. The rest of the group, waiting to go in, are kept entertained by the enthusiastic - and knowledgeable - studio guide, in a bit of a Q&A session. I asked when the Christmas Special would start filming and it was confirmed to begin shooting in September. We were also informmed that we had been on the set before the new Doctor - Capaldi not having visited Roath Lock yet. Whilst waiting to head back to the Experience after the visit, I did see Marcus Wilson in the studio.

After the set tour, I made my second visit to the Experience. The last time was a weekday in early December, when I was in a party of around half a dozen, all adults. The holidays are in full swing and the place was heaving. It was great to see so many children and observe their reaction.
The adventure part of the Experience is, of course, the same as before. One does have to wonder when it will be upgraded. The TARDIS control room is already out of date and the Doctor mentions Amy rather than Clara. No doubt, it is not worth making any substantial changes until Peter Capaldi has taken over. I suspect he will film new links quite early into the role, otherwise it will be very confusing to the younger visitors.

On the lower floor of the exhibition space, the Hartnell replica TARDIS set has been established (the one created for An Adventure In Space And Time). One criticism I would state is that it is right next to the queue for photographs, and so you have to barge through when it is very busy. It is such a beautiful, simple design which beats hands down all the subsequent models.

I had two criticisms of the upper level section in December - no Zygon, and a lot of empty space. Mr Zygon is still AWOL - no doubt due to reappear after November alongside the new versions - but there is a lot more content now, I'm pleased to report. There is a large display of costumes and props from The Snowmen, and from Series 7b we have a new Cyberman, the new Ice Warrior and Diana Rigg's Mrs Gillyflower costume - with a little Mr Sweet poking out. Both Skaldak and the Cyberman are kept separate from their earlier versions, whereas Daleks and Sontarans of different eras are side by side for comparison. (Of the older Sontarans, only Linx now remains).
It's always a pleasure to see the impressive K1 robot again. It's a great shame that the BBC has chosen to sell off so many of the classic series props and costumes.

All in all, I enjoyed this visit far more than the previous one. This was in part due to the huge number of fellow fans present - especially the next generation. My whole trip to Cardiff was excellent (I didn't partake of the organised locations tour, as it is amazing how many familiar sites you can find just wandering around). I also took in the National Museum one afternoon - itself the location for London's International Museum in both Doctor Who and the Sarah Jane Adventures. One morning I breakfasted in the cafe where the Doctor first spots the newspaper featuring Margaret Slitheen in Boom Town, and had a coffee in the diner which is supposed to be near Lake Silencio in Utah. I, personally, find it impossible to stroll around Cardiff Bay without having Murray Gold's suite of music for Boom Town in my head.
It was also lovely to see that the shrine to the dear departed Ianto Jones is still going strong - most recent dated item from 23rd June this year.
If you've never been to Cardiff, I heartily recommend a visit sometime soon. I'm already looking forward to the next time...

Monday, 12 August 2013

Story 78 - Genesis of the Daleks

In which the Time Lords intercept the Doctor and send him to Skaro. He and his companions had been returning to the Ark by transmat, but now find themselves in a desolate wilderness. A Time Lord emissary informs the Doctor that he has arrived just before the creation of the Daleks. His mission is to prevent their genesis, or at least cause them to be less belligerent creatures. The Time Lords have foreseen a time when they might otherwise dominate the universe. A war of attrition has been fought for hundreds of years between the Thals and the Kaleds. Their domed cities lie on opposite sides of the battlefield. The Doctor and Harry are captured by Kaled soldiers and find themselves in a bunker outside their city. This is home to a special scientific-military elite. In control is Davros, a brilliant scientist confined to a wheelchair after a terrible accident. Concerned about the ultimate evolutionary form for his race, he has been working on the Mark III travel machine - a mobile armoured shell which will house the Kaleds' mutated form. Future generations will know this as a Dalek.

Sarah sees a Dalek being tested in the wastelands, before being attacked by a group of "Mutos" - scarred remnants of both races who are forced to scavenge. She is saved from death by one of them - Sevrin. They are both captured by Thal troops and taken to their city. Here they are put to work, loading a rocket with distronic explosives. The radiation from these shells will ultimately kill them. An escape attempt fails. The Doctor and Harry escape with the help of a scientist named Ronson. They should go to the Kaled city and try to get Davros' experiments halted. Many of the elite are not happy with the nature of his researches. He has been genetically manipulating the mutated embryos to remove any sense of pity or compassion. When Davros  finds his work threatened by his own government, he and his henchman, Nyder, travel secretly to the Thal city. He offers the formula for a chemical which will soften the Kaled dome - and allow their rocket to break through. The Doctor and Harry witness this treachery when they break into the city to rescue Sarah. Soon after, the Kaled city is destroyed. Davros feigns indignation and accuses Ronson of being a traitor. He becomes the first victim of a Dalek. A squad of the creatures are sent by Davros on a "revenge" attack on the Thal dome - massacring everyone they encounter.

With the war over, Davros can concentrate on the creation of his Daleks. The Doctor, Sarah and Harry are captured, and Davros forces the Doctor into revealing his future knowledge of the creatures - recounting their various weaknesses and defeats. An elite officer named Gharman begins to organise opposition to Davros. Sevrin frees the Doctor and his companions from their cell. The Doctor sends him into the wasteland to find a Thal woman named Bettan, who had earlier helped him. Together they must form a resistance against Davros from amongst the Thal and Kaled survivors, as well as Sevrin's people. After destroying the recording of future Dalek events, the Doctor is on the point of blowing up the mutant nurseries when his conscience stops him. To commit genocide would make him no better than the Daleks, and some good will come from people joining together to fight them. He is relieved when it appears that Gharman's group will succeed and force Davros to give his creations a moral conscience. Davros is only playing for time, and his Daleks exterminate Gharman and his people. However, they then turn on Davros' own supporters - including Nyder. They disobey their creator and start the Dalek production lines. When he tries to assert his authority, Davros is ignored and shot. The nurseries are blown up inadvertently by a Dalek patrol. Bettan seals the bunker after the Doctor and his companions escape. As they resume their journey back to the Ark using a Time Ring, given earlier by the Time Lord emissary, the Doctor contemplates that he has only delayed the emergence of the Daleks by a millennia or so...

This six part story was written by Terry Nation, and was broadcast between 8th March and 12th April, 1975.
Barry Letts and Terrance Dicks had set up the story prior to their departure - to aid both the new Doctor and the new producer into their roles. As recounted on numerous DVD commentaries, Nation originally submitted a fairly average Dalek tale. When asked if they liked it, Dicks told Nation that they did - just like they had when he had offered the same story the previous year. Nation did like to reuse familiar story elements. Tasked with going back to the drawing board, Nation came up with an origins story. The Time Lords send the Doctor back to stop the Daleks being born - or influence their development.
Naturally, we know from the outset that he isn't going to succeed - so the pleasure is in watching him try.
The story allows Nation to be more overt about the Nazi origins of his creations - the Kaleds being given a distinctly S.S. look (Peter Miles' Nyder even sports an Iron Cross in early scenes). Rather than a lab-coated mad scientist, Nation creates Davros as the twisted genius behind the development of the Daleks. By having him crippled, he can mimic his creations by having only one usable arm, a single eye, rasping electronic voice, and a familiar design to the wheelchair.
Michael Wisher had previously been providing Dalek voices. As Davros, he is superb. One of the greatest Doctor Who creations. Famously, he rehearsed with a bag over his head to get used to the restriction of John Friedlander's magnificent mask.

Nation also takes the Thals - usually portrayed as nice, peace-loving people - and shows their darker past. They are presented as vicious thugs and just as capable of war crimes and genocide as the Kaleds. The only truly sympathetic character in the whole of Skaro is Sevrin, and he is an aberration amongst his damaged people. He is portrayed by Stephen Yardley, who will return to the programme in Vengeance on Varos.
Other performances of note are Dennis Chinnery as Gharman, James Garbutt as Ronson, and Harriet Philpin as Bettan. Fans of 'Allo, 'Allo should look out for Hilary Minster as one of the sadistic Thal rocket guards (he had played the much nicer Thal Marat in Planet of the Daleks) and - as the boy general, Ravon - Guy Siner, minus his little tank.
Episode endings for this story are:

  1. Sarah stumbles upon a Dalek testing area, and sees their creator - Davros - for the first time.
  2. Escaping up the gantry of the Thal rocket, Sarah losses her grip and falls...
  3. The Doctor is trying to sabotage the Thal rocket when an injured guard reactivates the defence mechanism. Electricity courses through the Doctor's body...
  4. Davros threatens to torture Sarah and Harry. He becomes ever more insistent that the Doctor tells him what he wants to know.
  5. Sarah and Harry are wondering what is keeping the Doctor. He has gone into the Dalek nursery to plant explosives. He staggers out, with one of the mutants throttling him...
  6. The Doctor and his companions use the Time Ring to travel on to the Ark. The Doctor considers that he has merely delayed the Daleks - not destroyed them...

Overall, a great story. Hard to fault it in any way - though my younger self watching at the time did bemoan a lack of Daleks. A dark, very adult story. Davros is a wonderful creation in performance and execution. The scene between him and the Doctor discussing the hypothetical deadly virus is deservedly one of the series' greatest moments.
Things you might like to know:

  • A couple of reused props to look out for - an Ice Warrior breast-plate is used for one of Davros' failed experiments in the cave, and the Thal guns were once sported by the Drahvins of Galaxy 4.
  • A freeze-frame is used for the cliffhanger to part two - Sarah's fall from the rocket gantry. This technique will become a regular - often controversial - standard throughout the Hinchcliffe- Holmes era.
  • The Doctor discloses some unseen Dalek adventures when forced to reveal their future history to Davros - including invasions of Mars and Venus. One recognisable story is their invasion of Earth - which sounds more like the Peter Cushing version of events than the Hartnell one. This is moved to the year 2000 AD. Unless Davros has an extremely accurate lie detector, the Doctor may just be making all of this up. However, at least some of what he says must be true - hence his need to destroy the tape afterwards.
  • Another one of the six stories not to feature the TARDIS in any way.
  • The first story to feature the actual Dalek extermination ray.
  • Frequently voted the best Tom Baker story, and a regular top ten entry across the whole of the series, this is also David Tennant's favourite adventure.
  • It is widely accepted that this story marks the beginning of the Time War.
  • Does this story contradict prior Dalek history? Not at all - unless you regard the comics as canon. When the Thals and Daleks describe their history in the first story (The Daleks aka The Mutants, 1963-4) they are quoting a corrupted oral history. The egotistical Daleks are naturally going to have written Davros out of their history.

Sunday, 11 August 2013

That Was The Week That Was 11.8.13

Big news of the week has obviously been the reaction to last Sunday night's announcement. The great majority of people are very positive, Capaldi being regarded as a very fine actor who is sure to do wonders with the role. Some younger fans are not happy that we have an older actor in the lead role, and others would have preferred to see a female Doctor, or one from an ethnic minority.
Fact is, the BBC aren't going to change their mind. Peter Capaldi is the Twelfth Doctor. Only time will tell how good a Doctor he might be.
And it is now confirmed that we won't get to see him in action until Autumn 2014 - apart from the obligatory regeneration scene in the Christmas Special.
Seems that hasn't actually started filming yet. Matt Smith was still in LA at the beginning of the week, and Jenna Coleman is filming P.D James' Pride and Prejudice sequel, Death Comes To Pemberley. The TARDIS set is not due for use until after 25th August (when the studio tours end).

The Green Death Special Edition was released on Monday. Very little special about it, but that is the case with most of these Special Editions. The cover art for The Tenth Planet DVD release has been revealed (courtesy of Blogtor).

Apart from a couple of antipodean events - an exhibition and another set of musical performances - the week has been otherwise quiet. I've got a few days off, and so will be paying another visit to Cardiff - to see what's new at the Experience and to take part in one of the aforementioned TARDIS tours.
I'll also be popping along to the Museum of London to see the Radio Times exhibition. Expect my musings through the week.