Monday, 27 April 2015

Wee pause...

Or, what West Highland Terriers have at the end of their legs - wee paws... No? Forget it then...
Tardismusings will be off the air for the next week as I am setting off beyond the Wall. Everyone knows it's supposed to be Scotland - right? A frozen wilderness populated by fierce men with even fiercer beards etc? The internet up there is barely distinguishable from magic, and I have no intention of being burnt at the stake (not after last year) so I will be taking a short break. I shan't be totally out of touch. On the third day, at dawn, look to the Facebook. Normal service will resume next Sunday with a Cyber-bonus - a handy guide to Cyberships...
For the history buffs amongst you, do take a look at my other blog - which was updated tonight with a wonderful little part of Greenwich.

Sunday, 26 April 2015

Know Your Cybermen No.6

Revenge of the Cybermen (1975).
The first appearance of the Cybermen in colour (save for a brief cameo in Carnival of Monsters). Some differences in design once more. The helmets are the same as those seen in their previous story, but the tubes are thicker, and ridged. The neck of the headpiece sits outside the costume, which is no longer based on a wetsuit. The piping around the body is also ticker and ridged, with quite chunky connections. Elbows and knees have reinforced bands around them. They have four fingers and a thumb on each hand (they only had two fingers and thumb per hand last time). Being the 1970's, they appear to have slightly flared legs.
We have the first appearance of the Cyber-Leader - denoted by having black markings on the helmet. This is the first time that the actors within the costumes have provided the voices. The leader often sounds quite emotional for a creature of cold logic. He is often to be seen posturing with his hands on his hips.
The Cybermen have guns built into their foreheads.
It is around the year 3000, and the Cybermen have lost a war. They now exist as a group of scavengers, without any home planet. They have an allergy to gold, and this metal was employed against them in the war when humans developed the Glitter Gun. Gold plates their breathing systems.
The planet of Voga had high concentrations of gold, and this was where the humans and their allies got their supplies from. The Cybermen destroyed the planet - but a large section, still inhabited, escaped. This has now entered the Solar System near Jupiter, and this group of Cybermen have come to destroy that. Whilst the story title mentions "revenge" - a human emotion - it is logical for the Cybermen to act in this way - to prevent Voga's gold being used against them again.
The Cybermen make use of a human agent to capture the navigation beacon in orbit around Voga, from which they will launch their attack. An artificial plague has been spread by Cybermats to wipe out most of the beacon's crew, but a small number of them will be spared. They will be forced to carry powerful bombs to the planet's core. These have sabotaged straps, to prevent their removal.
This plan fails when the relay device which boosts the bomb detonation signal is destroyed.
A back up plan involves loading the beacon with bombs, then crashing it into Voga.
This also fails when the Doctor diverts the beacon away from the planet, and a Vogan missile destroys the fleeing Cybership.

Story Notes:

  • Producer Barry Letts had intended to bring the Cybermen back in Season 10. They would have featured in Frontier In Space, instead of the Ogrons. Terry Nation objected to having the Cybermen anywhere even remotely near his Daleks.
  • Letts confirmed the Cybermen would be back soon in the Radio Times - possibly now for Season 11.
  • With Tom Baker about to take over from Jon Pertwee, a story was finally commissioned from Gerry Davis to help establish the new Doctor, along with other returning foes such as the Sontarans and Daleks.
  • Davis' initial idea was for the story to be set in a space casino, which is where the role of gold probably comes from.
  • Script editor Robert Holmes rewrote the story heavily. He was never happy with it. Nor was producer Philip Hinchcliffe.
  • The latter was also unhappy with the Vogan masks, which he thought lacked enough movement and expression.
  • Several strange things occurred at the supposedly haunted caves in Wookey Hole where the location filming took place - after lighting crew had "mocked" a rock formation known as The Witch.
  • This is the last appearance by the Cybermats in the classic series.
  • This was the first story to be released on VHS, in a very expensive, edited form.

Wednesday, 22 April 2015

TARDIS Travels No.22

Season 22 is Colin Baker's first full year in the role. At his unveiling to the press, his producer JNT hinted that the TARDIS might not be staying in the form of a Police Box for very much longer...

Journey 342: Jaconda, 2200, to London, 1985.
As mentioned before, there is an unseen journey after the previous story, when the Doctor takes the Terrible Twins home. The ship materialises in a familiar location - the junkyard at 76 Totters Lane, Shoreditch, London, which is where we first encountered it back in 1963. The Doctor has been trying to fix the Chameleon Circuit. The ship materialises in the form of a wooden cabinet, ornately decorated with painted flowers. The entrance is at the rear.

Journey 343: Totters Lane to garage, elsewhere in London, 1985.
Trying to trace what he thinks is a stranded alien, the Doctor follows its signals to a garage / workshop. This time the ship materialises as a playable organ. Again, the door is at the back.

Journey 344: London, Earth, 1985, to Telos, date unknown.
The Cybermen take control of the TARDIS and force the Doctor to take them to their planet, Telos. It materialises in the ice tombs in the form of an ornate gateway. We are sometime in the far future, after the events of Tomb of the Cybermen. They have limited time travel capabilities at this point - making use of stolen technology.

Journey 345: Telos - Ice tombs to Cyber Control, date unknown.
In order to find the mercenary Lytton, the Doctor takes the TARDIS to the Cyber Control centre. It reverts to its familiar Police Box shape, fortunately.

Journey 346: Telos, date unknown, to region of space between Cetes and Scalpor, c.2300.
The TARDIS breaks down in space - the transitional elements no longer generating orbital energy, according to the Doctor, who is quite prepared to simply sit out the remainder of his lifetimes. Peri takes the initiative and fetches the ship's manual, and they realise they have enough residual power to get them to a planet where they can find the mineral Zeiton-7.

Journey 347: Region of space between Cetes and Scalpor, to Varos, c.2300.
The TARDIS materialises in the Punishment Dome on Varos, which was once a penal world. The ship is later transported to the control room of the complex. Once Sil's plans have been thwarted, the Doctor gets all the Zeiton-7 he needs.

Journey 348: Varos, c.2300, to Killingworth, England, c.1820.
The TARDIS is headed for Kew Gardens when it is drawn off course due to the presence of two other TARDISes in the same area of Northumbria. These belong to the Master and to the Rani. The Master has the miners who have been rendered violent by the Rani's experiments pick up the TARDIS and throw it down a mineshaft.
Journey 349: Killingworth, c.1820, mine tunnels to pit office.
The Doctor moves the TARDIS out of the mine tunnels.

Journey 350: Killingworth, England, c.1820, to unknown planet, date unknown.
The Doctor and Peri travel to an unidentified planet where he indulges in a spot of fishing.

Journey 350(b): Unknown place / time, to Space Station Chimera, 1985.
Things get a bit complicated here, as we also get to see the Second Doctor and Jamie arrive on the space research station where Dastari works. We'll call this 350(b) as this journey may lie in what has become known as Season 6b. It must be 1985, as the whole point of the Sontaran plan is to gain time travel. The Doctor is able to use a Stattenheim Remote Control device to send the ship off the station, to prevent its capture.

Journey 351: Unidentified planet, date unknown, to Space Station Chimera, 1985.
Experiencing the attack on his former incarnation, the Doctor takes the TARDIS to the research station in the Third Zone to discover what has happened to him.

Journey 352: Space Station Chimera, to Seville region, Spain, 1985.
By making mental contact with his earlier self, the Doctor traces him to the countryside outside the Spanish city of Seville.

Journey 352(b): Space Station Chimera (near orbit?), to Seville Region, Spain, 1985.
Wherever the Second Doctor parked his TARDIS, it now travels by remote control to the hacienda in Spain.

Journey 353: Seville, Spain, 1985, to Karfel, date unknown.
The TARDIS gets caught up in the time tunnel created by the Borad on the planet Karfel, which the Doctor and Jo had visited during his third incarnation. The TARDIS follows the time corridor to its source - the Timelash. Before materialising, the Doctor and Peri see the image of a young woman pass briefly through the console room - someone caught in the tunnel.

Journey 354: Karfel, date unknown, to Highlands of Scotland, 1885.
The Doctor agrees to travel along the track of the Timelash to rescue Vena, and the valuable power key she was carrying. The ship lands by a cottage in which the young HG Wells is holidaying, not far from Loch Ness.

Journey 355: Scotland, 1885, to Karfel, date unknown.
Mission accomplished, the Doctor takes Vena back to Karfel - and young Herbert George has stowed away on board.

Journey 356 & 357: Karfel back to Karfel, via near orbit.
The Doctor takes the TARDIS into space near Karfel in order to destroy the approaching Bandril missile. The Doctor basically has the TARDIS ram the weapon. There is an unseen journey when the Doctor and Peri take Herbert back to Scotland in 1885.

Journey 358: Karfel, date unknown, to Necros, date unknown.
The Doctor has heard that an old friend named Arthur Stengos has died, and so he goes to the Tranquil Repose funerary complex on Necros to pay his last respects. The ship materialises quite a distance from their target destination - deliberately, as the Doctor is suspicious. He's right to be - Davros and the Daleks are here.

Journey 359 should have been Necros, date unknown, to Blackpool, Lancashire, 1986 - but things did not quite go to plan - as you will see when we return for TARDIS Travels No.23...

Tuesday, 21 April 2015

Story 125 - Mawdryn Undead

In which the TARDIS almost collides with a massive spaceship in orbit above 20th Century Earth. The Doctor makes an emergency landing on the vessel. It is luxuriously decorated, but appears to be empty. Something on board is jamming the TARDIS systems, and the Doctor traces this to a transmat capsule. Meanwhile, on the planet below, it is 1983. At Brendon School the rebellious pupil Turlough decides to go joyriding in the vintage car belonging to his mathematics tutor. The vehicle crashes, and Turlough suddenly finds himself in a strange void - looking down at his own prostrate body. He is not alone, as the Black Guardian of Time is here. He is seeking revenge upon the Doctor and enlists the boy's help in achieving this. The Guardian knows that Turlough is really an alien, stranded on Earth, and he offers to take him away from here if he kills the Doctor. The young man accepts, and is returned to the scene of the accident where he lies unconscious. The car belongs to Brigadier Alistair Gordon Lethbridge-Stewart - now retired from UNIT and teaching here. The Doctor decides to travel down by transmat alone to cancel out the signal that is holding the TARDIS on the spaceship. Tegan and Nyssa will be able to follow him in the ship once this has been done. The Doctor arrives in the grounds of the school in 1983, but something goes wrong and the TARDIS materialises at the same location - but in 1977. Tegan discovers this when she goes looking for the Doctor and finds preparations under way to celebrate the Queen's Silver Jubilee.

She meets an earlier version of the Brigadier, when he had first joined the school. The Doctor has met the current version - and is alarmed to find that he does not know him. Some terrible trauma must have afflicted him for him to have closed off these memories. He also meets Turlough, and is intrigued by the boy's casual acceptance of sophisticated alien technology. Turlough tries to kill the Doctor, but fails. In 1977, a horribly disfigured man enters the TARDIS. He claims to be the Doctor, suffering from a regeneration crisis brought on by travelling in the transmat capsule. He insists that Tegan and Nyssa take him to the spaceship where he should find a means of restoring himself. Tegan is unsure, but Nyssa decides they must help in case it really is the Doctor. The 1977 Brigadier insists on joining them. They arrive back on the vessel, in 1983. The Doctor is able to help the 1983 Brigadier regain his memories of his UNIT days. He recalls meeting Tegan 6 years previously, and he has the TARDIS locator device which she left behind. The Doctor can use this, linked to the transmat capsule, to get back to his ship. The Brigadier and Turlough accompany him - the Brigadier positive that he didn't go with Tegan and Nyssa back in 1977. For the two Brigadiers to encounter themselves in the same time zone would be catastrophic.

The spaceship proves not to be empty after all. In stasis aboard are a group of Kastron scientists, who reawaken. The disfigured man who claimed to be the Doctor is one of them - Mawdryn. These men stole Time Lord technology and used it to become immortal, but they were cast out by their society and now long for death. Every 50 years the ship comes to a planet where help might be found, and one of them travels down to seek it out. Mawdryn claims that the Doctor, as a Time Lord, can free them of their curse - by sacrificing his remaining regenerations. The Doctor refuses but when he tries to leave in the TARDIS he finds that both Tegan and Nyssa have been infected with their mutation. They will age to death if he travels forward in time, or regress to childhood if he goes back in time. He must do as they wish. On learning that there are two Brigadiers on the ship, he has Turlough waylay the 1977 one to keep him from meeting his later self. The Brigadier gives him the slip. Just as the Doctor is about to link up with the Kastrons and their stolen technology - a Metamorphic Symbiosis Regenerator - the two Brigadiers meet and the temporal differential is cancelled out. This renders the 1977 Brigadier unconscious - and proves to have been the cause of his memory loss. It also causes the Kastrons to become mortal once more and begin to die. The Doctor must take the two Brigadiers back to their respective time streams, whilst the spaceship is destroyed along with its occupants. Tegan and Nyssa are cured of the mutation, and the 1983 Brigadier now knows what happened to him 6 years ago. Turlough is found in the TARDIS, and the Doctor agrees to let him travel with them. He is still under the control of the Black Guardian, who had hoped to see the Doctor lose his future regenerations to the Kastrons. Turlough must still complete his contract to kill the Doctor...

This four part adventure was written by Peter Grinwade, and was broadcast between 1st and 9th February, 1983. The story marks the first appearance of new companion Turlough - played by Mark Strickson - and the return to the programme of Nicholas Courtney, as the Brigadier, and of Valentine Dyall, playing the Black Guardian once more.
Mawdryn Undead opens what has become known as the Black Guardian Trilogy. Turlough is set up as a potential enemy rather than a friend - someone out to kill the Doctor and who is secretly working for the Guardian. Of course, as has been pointed out by Strickson, Peter Davison, and scrip editor Eric Saward, this aspect of the character just cannot go anywhere. He can't kill the Doctor (obviously) so it just means that he has to keep failing to destroy him. In the next story they will get round this by parking him in an air duct for half the running time.
Whilst it is nice to see the Brigadier back again - his first appearance since the final episode of Terror of the Zygons - the school setting gives a clue as to who the real guest star was supposed to be. This is the 20th Anniversary Season, after all. yes, William Russell was intended to reprise his role of Ian Chesterton to link things back to the very beginning. Russell proved unavailable, so Nicholas Courtney was asked to return as the Brigadier instead. It was argued that an ex-soldier could realistically become a teacher. Just look at Danny Pink to see how this is still not a problem. What doesn't quite sit right is that the Brigadier teaches mathematics. Surely History would have been a better fit?

This story is also significant for throwing a spanner into the Continuity works with regards dating of the UNIT stories - popularly felt to have taken place in the future. By having the Brigadier unequivocally retiring in 1977, Mawdryn Undead places them firmly around their dates of transmission.
Two guest artists of note. David Collings, who had played Vorus in Revenge of the Cybermen as well as Poul in Robots of Death, portrays Mawdryn. This is his last appearance in the programme to date. Playing the headmaster of the school is Angus MacKay, who had been the original Borusa in The Deadly Assassin.
Episode endings are:
  1. As the Doctor struggles to open an alien device, Turlough creeps up behind him with a large stone - ready to bash his head in...
  2. Tegan, Nyssa and the Brigadier enter the TARDIS to find that the man they thought was the Doctor is now obviously an alien imposter. They see him in his natural form - with brain exposed...
  3. The Kastrons surround the Doctor and his companions, and he tells them that to do what they want will mean the end of him as a Time Lord...
  4. The Brigadiers are back in their own time zones, and Turlough has joined them on their travels. On the TARDIS scanner, they see the alien ship explode.

Overall, a story that is quite low in incident, actually. Much of the plot revolves around characters trying to work out the two different time periods, which can be a little confusing on initial viewing. Turlough is at least a different kind of companion, and it is nice to see the two returning characters / actors.
Things you might like to know:
  • It is stated that Benton left UNIT to sell second hand cars - something else that doesn't feel quite right. Harry Sullivan is at Porton Down, possibly creating biological weapons? The production team actually toyed with bringing Harry back for this story, before settling on the Brigadier - so Courtney was really third choice.
  • The school doctor - Runciman - is played by someone who has also appeared in the programme before. Roger Hammond had played Francis Bacon on the Space-Time Visualiser way back in The Chase.
  • A nice selection of vintage clips as the Brigadier's memory clears - of the first four Doctors plus Yeti, Cybermen, Zygons, K1 robot, Axons and a Dalek. Remember, there were no VHS releases at this time, so this stuff was like gold dust.
  • The Doctor contemplates reversing the polarity of the neutron flow. It is an anniversary story after all, though the full line is heard more during Davison's tenure than it was in Pertwee's.
  • Talking of Pertwee, the Blinovitch Limitation Theory gets a mention.
  • And Mawdryn wears Tom Baker's burgundy coat from Season 18.
  • I've used the name "Kastrons" in the synopsis above. This is in the script - but on screen they are simply referred to as "mutants".
  • The character of Turlough appears to be based somewhat on Steerpike, from Mervyn Peake's Titus Groan and Gormenghast novels. He was originally going to be introduced in Pat Mills' abandoned story Song of the Space Whale.
  • Mark Strickson had to dye his blond hair a reddish tint, as JNT wanted to differentiate him visually from Peter Davison.
  • The two girls who play the younger Tegan and Nyssa don't get a credit on screen, despite having a line each. Lucy Benjamin (mini-Nyssa) went on to fame in Eastenders, whilst mini-Tegan, Sian Pattinson, went on to become a fashion journalist.
  • You can visit the location for this story - Trent Park near Cockfosters, in North London. You and a friend can recreate the rock / head bashing climax to Episode One by the foot of the obelisk.
  • Ex-producer Graham Williams created the Guardians. He had no idea they had been brought back until someone asked him about the Trilogy at a convention.

Figurines for April 2015

This month's figurines arrived quite early - Saturday to be exact, though I wasn't in so did not collect them from the sorting office until yesterday. First up is the original Cyberman design from The Tenth Planet. The obvious thing to mention here is the colour - it is white, where you would have expected it to be grey or silvered. The Character Options figure was silver. The recreated costume for An Adventure In Space And Time had it grey, and in interviews with the costume designer, Sandra Reid, she definitely mentions using grey jersey material. Perfectly good model otherwise - though the hands are rather large.
The other figurine comes from Series 8's Robot of Sherwood - a Robot Knight. The helmet is depicted open, showing the face mask. I had to carefully straighten the sword on mine.
Next month we will be getting a Cassandra figurine, from End of the World.

Sunday, 19 April 2015

History Without a TARDIS updated

Fans of The Sarah Jane Adventures might be interested in taking a look at the latest post on my new history blog:

It tells the story of the Nine Day Queen - Lady Jane Grey - who featured in the SJA story Lost In Time. The Sarah Jane Adventures is one of the few places where her story has been featured on TV, as I mention in my post. As I have stated before, Doctor Who (and its off-shoots) have often covered periods of history that mainstream media generally overlooks, in favour of the more populist stuff. The recent Wolf Hall on the BBC was very good, with an exceptional performance by Mark Rylance as Thomas Cromwell, but it did simply regurgitate the oft-filmed story of Anne Boleyn.

Saturday, 18 April 2015

Know Your Cybermen No.5

The Invasion (1968).
Despite a redesign only a few months before, the Cybermen change appearance once again. This time, the main differences are with the helmet. The "ear-muffs" are added to the side of the helmet. The "tear-drops" are still at the edges of the eyes but the mouth no longer has one below the lip. The chest unit is smaller and more compact. Stiff metal rods replace the piping along the limbs. They have built-in weapons in the chest unit - the circle at the top centre. However, these Cybermen also carry flame-thrower guns. These Cybermen don't say a great deal, and the voices are so heavily treated that it is sometimes difficult to make out what they are saying when they do speak.
The Cybermen are invading the Earth in 1968, making use of a human businessman named Tobias Vaughn. He has been arranging for Cybermen to be dropped off at his factory outside London, then shipped to the city where they are kept hidden in the sewer system. Vaughn communicates with the Cybermen via the Cyber-Director. This appears to have been built by Vaughn, and it contains organic components.
Cybermen can be destroyed by explosives such as bazooka shells and hand grenades. They can also be driven insane by emotional impulses generated by the Cerebretron Mentor - intended as a teaching machine but turned into a weapon by Vaughn.
The Cybermen are finally defeated when Vaughn turns against them and the Doctor protects UNIT troops from falling under the paralysing Cyber-signal. Their main invasion force is destroyed in space by a missile.
The date of 1968 shows that these Cybermen are certainly not Mondasian ones. They mention knowing the Doctor from Planet 14 - which might be Telos, but is more likely to refer to some unseen adventure on one of their other colony worlds. As I have argued before, the coldly logical Cybermen are unlikely to give planets names. Both Mondas and Telos were already named before the Cybermen were born / invaded. Planet 14 would simply be the 14th planet they colonised.

Story Notes:

  • This time the story is written by producer / script editor (depending which week it is) Derrick Sherwin, from a story idea by Kit Pedler.
  • Whilst it sees the return of Lethbridge-Stewart, now a Brigadier, this wasn't always the intention. Originally, it was Professor Travers and / or his daughter Anne who was to return from The Web of Fear.
  • The story also marks the first appearance of UNIT soldier Benton - here still a Corporal.
  • As well as the aesthetic reasons for redesigning the helmets, the added ear-muffs also gave the actors more ventilation. The ear muffs are regarded as iconical - yet only appear in two stories (plus a couple of cameos).
  • Those cameos are in Carnival of MonstersDeath In Heaven, and The War Games. In the former, you can clearly see the back of the helmet flapping open, whilst in the latter the helmet sits over the collar of the costume, rather than tucked inside.
  • The Cyber-head seen in Van Statten's museum purports to come from this story, according to its label. However, it is of a design from the next Cyberman story.
  • UNIT's Kate Stewart produces a damaged Cyber-head of the correct design in Death In Heaven to prove to the Cybermen that they can be defeated.
  • The metal rods had a habit of popping out of their sockets, and had to be continually put back into place.
  • Sherwin thought that an Earth-based adventure would save money - especially spread over 8 weeks. However, The Invasion went over budget.
  • Nicholas Courtney claimed that the two missing episodes were still around for Ian Marter to be loaned them by an unnamed fan when he was preparing the novelisation of this story - although they did not have sound. 

Thursday, 16 April 2015

Forget learning Klingon - here's a proper course!

Yes, you can now enrol at a college in Stockport, Greater Manchester, to learn all about the history of Doctor Who. Or, you could just keep reading tardismusings... You'll learn just as much - nay, more - but I have a lot more jokes. And I'm cheaper.

Wednesday, 15 April 2015

TARDIS Travels No.21

Before we get into Season 21 proper, which sees Peter Davison bow out, and Colin Baker barge in, we still have the stand-alone 20th Anniversary story to deal with.

Journey 224: Fitzwilliam Castle, England, 1215, to the Eye of Orion, date unknown.
No sign of Kamelion, strangely. The much mentioned Eye of Orion looks just like Earth (North Wales in particular). The Doctor comes under attack as his earlier selves are removed from their time-streams.

Journey 225: Eye of Orion, date unknown, to Gallifrey, date unknown.
The Doctor sends the TARDIS to where he can find out what is happening to him, and so it materialises on Gallifrey once more. This time it doesn't land in the Capitol. Instead, it arrives in the middle of the Death Zone - which looks very like the Eye of Orion. Or, indeed, North Wales.

Journey 226: Death Zone (exterior), to the Dark Tower, Gallifrey - date unknown.
Turlough and Susan are trapped in the ship as the Cybermen are about to blow it up. The force-field emanating from the Tower - Rassilon's tomb - is deactivated, and the TARDIS travels there.
Once Borusa has been defeated, if it is the Special Edition you are watching on DVD, all the earlier Doctors leave Gallifrey via the Time Scoop. As broadcast they all traipse into the TARDIS, which then splits into alternative versions to depart.

Journey 227: Gallifrey, date unknown, to Earth orbit, 2084.
The TARDIS develops a fault and is stationary in orbit above the Earth. It is attacked by an automated defence probe.

Journey 228: Earth orbit to Seabase 4, 2084.
The Doctor makes an emergency landing, the ship materialising in a storeroom in Seabase 4. Two power blocs are poised to go to war in this period, but we aren't sure who they are. The obvious would be the West (USA and allies) and the East (Russia and allies). If so, judging by the names of the base personnel, this belongs to the Eastern forces. One other theory is that the blocs represent the Northern and Southern hemispheres. In keeping with his open door policy the Doctor - leaves the TARDIS door open... Yet again, someone seeing the ship's interior renders the Doctor completely innocent of any possible wrong-doing.

Journey 229: Seabase 4, 2084, to Little Hodcombe, England, 1984.
Tegan wants to visit yet another of her incident-prone relatives - this time her grandfather. The TARDIS materialises in the crypt of the local church, which now stands derelict. This is probably due to there being a huge evil alien underneath it. Dry rot they could have coped with... The Malus is able to breach the ship's defences and begin to materialise in the control room.

Journey 330: Little Hodcombe - church crypt to elsewhere in the village, 1984.
Another packed TARDIS. The Doctor moves the ship out of the crypt before the Malus destroys it and itself.
There is an unseen journey when the Doctor takes Will back to the 17th Century. This may have been after Tegan spent some time with her relative, or the Doctor may have left her there, and come back to collect her after taking Will home.

Journey 331: Little Hodcombe, 1984 (or 1643), to Frontios, far distant future.
So far in the future that the ship warns it has exceeded temporal limits. Presumably some limit built in by the Time Lords, as the TARDIS goes well beyond this point once they are no longer around. The Gravis is able to pull the ship apart and drag the pieces into the ground - without unleashing any destructive forces from its heart. The console room hat-stand gets a pivotal role to play, and is left behind on Frontios as a souvenir once the Gravis has been tricked into reassembling the ship.
Two unseen journeys here, as the Doctor takes the Gravis to Kolkoron and then returns to Frontios.

Journey 332: Frontios, far future, to London, 1984.
On leaving Frontios, the TARDIS gets trapped in a time corridor which pulls it towards Earth. The ship breaks free but shadows the corridor so the Doctor can find out who is responsible. Clue: they come from Skaro. Yes, the Daleks are behind this - with a convoluted plan worthy of the Cybermen at their height. The ship materialises at Shad Thames, in the Pool of London. The Daleks move the TARDIS to their spaceship in the future (sometime post 4000AD).

Journey 333: Dalek spaceship, future, to London, 1984.
The TARDIS materialises in the warehouse where the rival Dalek factions are fighting, and the Doctor releases the Movellan virus. Tegan elects to leave the ship at this point.

Journey 334: London, 1984, to Lanzarote, 1984.
At last Kamelion finally comes out of hiding - just in time to fall under the thrall of the Master once more. Turlough is acting all suspicious, before rescuing Perpugiliam Brown from drowning.

Journey 335: Lanzarote, 1984, to Lanzarote, date unknown. Well, it's Sarn actually.
Not that you'd know as Sarn just happens to look like Lanzarote. They should have made it look like, oh, North Wales - just to differentiate it a bit. This is Kamelion's doing - under the Master's influence - as he is trapped here, in somewhat reduced circumstances. The TARDIS lands in the town square.

Journey 336: Sarn - town square to volcano control centre.
The TARDIS travels to the control room at the heart of the volcano, where the Doctor destroys Kamelion and - apparently - the Master.

Journey 337: Sarn - volcano control centre back to town square.
Half the population take shelter in the TARDIS this time. Turlough calls on his own people to come and mount a rescue mission, and he decides to go home with them.

Journey 338: Sarn, date unknown, to Androzani Minor, date unknown.
If Androzani Major is another Earth colony, then we are somewhere beyond 5000AD. Considering how much we have seen of the TARDIS interior during his tenure (along with half the guest artistes), it is a TARDIS-lite conclusion to the Fifth Doctor's time. It is only seen during the finale / regeneration. Yes, time for Colin Baker's Sixth Doctor...

Journey 339: Androzani Minor, date unknown, to Titan III, 2200.
August to be exact. The new Doctor decides to become a hermit on this knobby crag. His words, not mine. Peri will be his acolyte, whether she likes it or not. The ship's wardrobe has suffered a catastrophic Taste failure.

Journey 340: Titan III, to Jaconda, still 2200.
Look - he's waving his arms about. Again! He'll be like this for the next couple of years, I'm afraid. The TARDIS materialises on the ravaged surface of the once verdant planet, visited at least once before by the Fourth Doctor (unseen).

Journey 341: Jaconda (surface) to Jaconda (tunnels), 2200.
To infiltrate the palace, the Doctor moves the ship to the tunnels beneath the surface. As a tribute to the late Fifth Doctor, the twins and the Jacondan chancellor, as well as Hugo Land, all get to see inside.
Another unseen journey when the Doctor  takes the Sylvest twins home - assuming he did not ditch them on Kolkoron instead.
More of the Loud Doctor's TARDIS travels next time.

Tuesday, 14 April 2015

History - without a TARDIS

For those of you who have an interest in history, I have decided to set up a second blog, which I hope you will find to be of some interest. It is called "History Without A TARDIS". (All the best titles with the word 'musings' were taken, sadly). A link will go up on this blog shortly.
As my opening post mentions, this is another excuse for me to set down in writing a lot of the arcane knowledge that normally clutters up my head - this time of the non-Doctor Who variety. I suspect that my love of history is in no small measure due to my love of Doctor Who. Apart from academics, Doctor Who fans probably know more about the St. Bartholomew's Massacre than anyone else, for instance. Obviously, where my two favourite subjects intersect, this will receive special mention.
Unless archive material, photos (such as the above) will be my own.
Don't worry - tardismusings will not be neglected. Posts on will tend to be shorter ones. At present I am still endeavouring to give you each week a story review, a TARDIS travel, plus the evolution of the Cybermen.
The first post proper on the new blog is up, and it manages to cover the Great Fire of 1666, grave-robbers, ladies of the night, and a ghost. All from one street corner in London.
I hope you will enjoy it as much as this blog.

Monday, 13 April 2015

Story 124 - Snakedance

In which Tegan is having nightmares about the time she was possessed by the Mara. The Doctor is perturbed to discover that the co-ordinates have been changed - causing them to go to the planet Manussa. The TARDIS materialises in a quiet corner of the local bazaar. Exploring, the Doctor learns that this world was once part of the Sumaran Empire - the home of the Mara. He realises that Tegan was never totally dispossessed, and the evil entity has lain dormant within her mind. He gives her a device which helps to deaden the senses, which should keep the malign influence at bay. Unable to hear, and bewildered by her surroundings, Tegan wanders into one of the fair booths - that of a fortune teller. The woman who runs the booth removes the Doctor's device - and the Mara takes full control over Tegan. Elsewhere in the city, Director Ambril is playing host to Lon - son of the Federator - and his mother, Tanha. The Federator rules the Manussan Federation, which supplanted the Sumaran Empire. His ancestor is reputed to have destroyed the Mara centuries ago. Lon is a bored teenager, with no interest in his heritage. A festival celebrating the expulsion of the Mara is due to take place, but this fails to arouse his interest. Ambril's young assistant, Chela, is one of the few who believes in the old legends. He meets the Doctor and Nyssa, and tells them of Ambril's predecessor - Dojjen - who became a Snakedancer and left the city to become a hermit in the wilderness nearby. The Snakedancers believe the Mara still exists and will one day return. The Doctor agrees with this, and tries to warn Ambril.

Tegan has taken shelter in another fair booth - that of a Hall of Mirrors, run by a man named Dugdale. He falls under her evil influence, and is sent to the palace to fetch Lon. Lon goes to the Hall of Mirrors and he too falls under the Mara's spell - a snake tattoo appearing on his arm. Tegan instructs him to ensure that Ambril is brought to a nearby cave system. This is where the forthcoming ceremony which marks the height of the festival is to take place. Wall carvings there tell of the legend of the Federator, and there is a slot in the wall where a great crystal is supposed to be set. In the ceremony, a fake crystal is always used, but Tegan wants the real one to be used this time - and this rests in the care of the Director. Tegan knows of a secret chamber full of early Sumaran antiquities - which should excite the interest and greed of the history-loving Ambril. In exchange for them, Ambril must agree to let the real great crystal be used. The Doctor's continual efforts to get Ambril to listen to him and to halt the ceremony land him instead in jail. Chela visits him there and gives him Dojjen's notebook. From this, the Doctor starts to comprehend how the Mara came into being - and how he can stop them.

Nyssa and the Doctor convince the young man to help them, and Chela steals the key to the Doctor's cell from Ambril's office. Lon witnesses this, and orders the guards to kill them all - claiming they are trying to assassinate him. Tanha, disturbed by her son's recent behaviour, intercedes and they are able to escape. The Doctor decides to go into the wilderness to find Dojjen. The old man appears and the Doctor communes with him. He now knows that the Mara were created by accident, when the Sumarans perfected the great crystal. So perfect was it that they attuned their minds to it, and all of their negative emotion manifested itself as the Mara, and so it took on a life of its own. Should the great crystal be used in the ceremony, the Mara will be able to manifest itself once more and take over all the minds of the inhabitants. The festival begins, with Lon playing the part of the original Federator. At the moment in the cave ceremony when the fake crystal is revealed, he produces the real one - to the horror of the watching citizens. It is inserted into the slot in the wall carving as Tegan appears. The festival-goers all begin to fall under the Mara's sway. The Snakedancers all wear a smaller crystal - representative of the great one - but it is also shares similar properties. The Doctor focuses his mind through it just as Dojjen had instructed him, and so uses it to block the Mara from manifesting itself through Tegan. The great crystal is smashed, and the Mara are expelled, this time forever. Lon and Tegan are freed of its influence.

This four part story was written by Christopher Bailey, and was broadcast between the 18th and the 26th of January, 1983. It is a sequel to the previous Season's Kinda, which producer JNT and story editor Eric Saward had admired. Bailey had experienced a difficult time bringing his first story to the screen, but now he felt a little more in tune with what Saward wanted, and the writing came much easier.
Once again we have Buddhist references, as well as Hindu ones. Many of the names are significant. Dojjen derives from the monk Dogen, Duggan comes from Duggati - a sense of dissatisfaction with the path chosen, Chela means "apprentice", and so forth. There are some noticeable parallels to be found with Planet of the Spiders.
Snakedance is entirely studio based - though the scenes in the wilderness with Dojjen were filmed at Ealing. The designer, Jan Spoczynski, and director Fiona Cumming manage to make Manussa seem like a real place, with a proper culture and history.
One significant improvement since Kinda is the prop for the giant snake which appears in the final episode. This one just about gets away with it.
Even if not everyone watched Snakedance on transmission, or bought the VHS / DVD, just about the entire population of the UK has watched a clip from it - namely the early appearance of the now ubiquitous (on ITV at least) Martin Clunes, playing Lon. Those "before they were famous" clip shows about film and TV personalities always dig out a clip of Clunes with his (very 80's / New Romantic) lipstick and mascara - preferably a clip from the final episode where he also wears the rather fetching smock and headdress combo.
The cast also features the wonderful John Carson as Ambril, Jonathon Morris (famous for Liverpool-based sitcom Bread) as Chela, Collette O'Neil as Tanha, and Lis Sladen's husband Brian Miller as Dugdale.
Episode endings are:
  1. In the fortune teller's booth, Tegan has become totally possessed by the Mara. A snake skull appears in the crystal ball before it shatters, and Tegan laughs as the fortune teller screams...
  2. A terrified Dugdale is ordered to look at Tegan. He sees her eyes glowing red...
  3. As they attempt to flee from the palace, the Doctor, Nyssa and Chela are trapped by guards, and Lon orders they be killed...
  4. On the steps outside the cavern, the Doctor reassures Tegan that this time she is really free of the Mara.

Overall, an enjoyable story which makes for a good sequel to Kinda - giving Janet Fielding a better role than usual. Good cast and visuals, and as mentioned above a real sense of this being an actual place. The plot does leave Peter Davison stuck in a cell for pretty much the whole of episode three, however.
Things you might like to know:
  • Chris Bailey did not write for Doctor Who again, though he did have other ideas that never proceeded to commissioning. He did have an idea for a third Mara story.
  • The Mara were chosen for one of the first Big Finish audios after they finally secured the services of Janet Fielding - but it isn't Bailey's third story idea. They were also name-checked by Captain Jack in the Torchwood episode Small Worlds, but have yet to return to the parent programme. Bizarrely, the Mara turned up at Trenzalore - according to BBC books.
  • Personally, this is my favourite of the two Mara tales, but polls disagree. In the DWM 50th Anniversary poll, Kinda is in 63rd position, whilst Snakedance is 112th.
  • Was the designer a fan of Star Trek? The snake-head shaped cave mouth is reminiscent of the cave mouth seen in the episode "The Apple". Like Kinda, that also features strong Garden of Eden influences - as well as a young David Soul.
  • Tegan and Nyssa appear to be sharing a bedroom, as both of their fancy dress costumes from Black Orchid can be seen hanging in the background in the opening scenes.
  • Dojjen is played by Preston Lockwood (died 1996, aged 84). In 1994 he featured in a fly-on-the-wall documentary about his local golf club (Northwood in Middlesex). This resulted in the club members becoming a bit of a national laughing stock for a while, which Lockwood warned might happen if they let the cameras in.