Monday, 27 June 2016

Story 158 - The End of the World

In which the Doctor gives Rose the choice of where they want to go on their first journey together. She initially opts to go one hundred years into the future, but the Doctor decides to take her much further. The TARDIS materialises in a viewing suite on Platform One, which is in orbit around the Earth in the year 5 Billion. It is 5.5/apple/26 to be precise - and today is the day that the Earth ends. The Sun is already expanding, and the planet is being maintained by gravity shields, but these are about to be switched off. The Doctor explains that the human race has long deserted the planet to travel out amongst the stars. He has a piece of psychic paper - which makes the reader see what the Doctor wants them to see. This is their pass to attend. Many rich and famous guests are assembling on the Platform to witness this historic event. They include the host - the Face of Boe (a huge head in a tank); the Moxx of Balhoon; the Adherents of the Repeated Meme; Jabe and her compatriots from the Forest of Cheem (bipedal tree people); and the last known pure human - the Lady Cassandra. She is obsessed with plastic surgery, and exists only as a piece of skin stretched on a frame, with her brain held in a jar at the base.

The Adherents distribute gifts of small metal spheres. The assembly of aliens proves too much for Rose and she runs off. She meets a plumbing engineer, one of the blue-skinned Crespallion service staff on the Platform - Raffalo. A short time later, Raffalo comes across metal spider-like robots in the ducts, and they kill her. The Doctor finds Rose and explains to her that the TARDIS has a telepathic field that allows her to understand the various alien creatures. He boosts her mobile phone so that she can speak to her mother back in the 21st Century. The spheres given out as gifts contain the robot spiders, and these have been programmed to sabotage the Platform. One kills the Steward overseeing the proceedings by lowering the sun filter in his office. Jabe knows what the Doctor is, and is surprised that he even exists. She decides to join him in his investigations as the Platform begins to suffer catastrophic systems failures. The Adherents knock out Rose and trap her in the viewing suite, whose sun filter is about to lower. The Doctor discovers the spiders, but realises that the Adherents are not their true masters. They are simply drones, controlled by the real villain.

This proves to be Cassandra. She has financial interests in all the assembled guests ans was hoping to engineer a hostage situation to raise money for her next surgical procedures. She teleports off the Platform. The Doctor and Jabe go to the engine room to restart the power as the shields begin to fail. Some of the guests are killed. Jabe sacrifices herself to help the Doctor. Enraged, he rescues Rose and returns to the main guest suite. He is able to locate Cassandra's teleport device and uses it to bring her back aboard. She quickly dries out in the hot atmosphere and splits apart. Rose is saddened as the Earth was destroyed when everyone was too busy to notice it. The Doctor takes her back to present day London, to show that Time is relative. The Earth will one day cease to exist, but it still survives throughout its history. He reveals to her that his people were all destroyed in a war. He is the last of the Time Lords.

This story was written by Russell T Davies, and was broadcast on 2nd April, 2005. Between the broadcast of the season opener and this second adventure, Christopher Eccleston had already announced that he would not be remaining in the role of the Doctor for a second year, should there be one.
RTD had decided that the first three episodes of the new series would showcase the range of the programme. The first story had been set on present day Earth, and the third would go back into history, whilst the second story would go into the future. This was a pattern he would use for all four of his series.
The End of the World was a chance to show off what CGI could do, as well as Neil Gorton's prosthetics team. We have a collection of alien beings, most of whom are merely window dressing. Some characters stand out. The Face of Boe will be brought back to form a story arc. Cassandra will get a return visit. Confined to this story are Jabe, and her colleagues from the Forest of Cheem, and the little blue Moxx of Balhoon. The Moxx and Jabe will be used heavily in the publicity for the show's return.

Some notable firsts. The Moxx is played by Jimmy Vee, who will return to the show as a number of other diminutive alien beings. His smoking habit will allow the tabloids and fans to get sneak peaks of some of these creatures over the coming years. Paul Kasey and Alan Ruscoe cement their status as monster performers by returning for a second week - having been Autons in Rose. They are Jabe's friends in this. The Doctor's companion gets Universal Roaming on their mobile thanks to the sonic screwdriver. The time-saving Psychic Paper gets introduced. It is firmly established that it is the TARDIS telepathic circuit that allows the companion to understand the aliens. Silas Carson provides his first alien voices - in this case the Adherents.
And Cardiff's Temple of Peace makes the first of many, many appearances - not just in Doctor Who but in the spin-off series as well.
RTD claimed that the inspiration for Cassandra came from watching the Oscars ceremony - seeing so many beautiful women ruining their looks through excessive plastic surgery and dieting. Cassandra is realised through CGI for the face, plus the vocal talents of Zoe Wanamaker. A dummy skin was also employed for long shots, and for the cast to act against in rehearsal. You will notice that when Rose and Cassandra speak together, Cassandra's lips move when seen from the front, but not when viewed from the rear - even though Cassandra is still talking. Due to the heavy CGI needs in this story, Cassandra only appears for 4 out of 42 minutes screen time.
Story Arc Hints:

  • The Doctor tells Rose about the destruction of the Time Lords in a war, after Jabe has told him she is surprised he still exists. He reveals that he is the "Last of the Time Lords".
  • The Face of Boe first appears.
  • The Moxx of Balhoon mentions a "Bad Wolf scenario"...

Overall, visually stunning and fast paced. Some of the guest aliens are a bit Star Trek, but the featured ones are good. It's a story that does what it set out to do - show a 21st Century audience what the programme is now capable of doing.
Things you might like to know:
  • It is not clear how much forward planning RTD made in the first year or so. That the Face of Boe would be significant was certainly not planned, as his inclusion in New Earth came late in the day.
  • "Bad Wolf" hadn't been established yet as a story arc, so the Moxx's reference to it was added later in post-production.
  • There are more CGI shots in this story than the whole of Series 1 put together.
  • Rose's phone call to her mum takes place before she has even met the Doctor in Jackie's time frame, as she mentions the lottery money to her.
  • According to Julie Gardner, exec-producer, it was the scene with the Doctor and Rose back on contemporary Earth, talking about chips, that made her finally get what RTD's vision of the programme was about.
  • The main chamber where the guests assemble is called the Manchester Suite - in honour of RTD's adoptive home city. This was filmed in the Temple of Peace, which we will be seeing a lot more of over the years. 
  • When the episode was found to be under-running, the scenes with Raffalo were added.
  • The design of the spider-robots was based on a juicer.
  • The Steward is played by Simon Day. This caused a lot of people to assume it would be the Fast Show performer who would be guesting. This particular Simon Day has since added the middle name Paisley, and was recently seen in Face The Raven.
  • Contemporary music is featured, as Cassandra plays a couple of discs on her i-pod (really a 1950's style jukebox. These include Tainted Love by Soft Cell, and Toxic, by Britney Spears. The Doctor has a little dance to the former. He'll be doing a lot more dancing before this series is over.
  • The story opens with a recap from Rose, before introducing the pre-credits sequence which has now become standard for most episodes. After this, recaps will only be used when the series is referencing something from much further back - like the clips from Day of the Doctor that began the recent Zygon two-parter.
  • It was director Euros Lyn's idea that the story should begin immediately after the events of Rose, so RTD added the opening TARDIS sequence.
  • In the last episode, the Doctor had helped to save a family from travelling on the Titanic, but in this he suggests he did not heed his own advice and ended up clinging to the iceberg.
  • The Moxx of Balhoon was originally going to be a bowl of blue jelly, with eyeballs floating in it. His buggy was supposed to be remote controlled, but in the end Jimmy Vee either moved it along with his feet or it was puled by wires.
  • The BBC dreadfully mismanaged Eccleston's resignation after it was leaked. The Press Office said it was because he was afraid of typecasting. His agent got them to withdraw that. The full reasons have never been fully stated. Workload was certainly part of it. The series went way behind schedule in the initial weeks. Eccleston has since talked about certain working practices which he disliked - basically bullying by senior member(s) of the production team.
  • Who would replace him? All the names that had been trumpeted before his casting was announced were trawled out - like Bill Nighy and Alan Davies. Meanwhile, on BBC3, a young Scottish actor and life-long fan of the show was narrating Doctor Who Confidential...

Friday, 24 June 2016

June's Figurines

A week late, but the figurines for June finally arrived today - and what an eclectic mix. Two standard releases, plus the latest of the special editions. Can you guess which is the latter? Actually, the Mire is not that much bigger than the scale of the regular releases. Much smaller than the K1 Robot figurine, which was of comparable height.
From Series 1 we get the "Empty Child". Not much you can do wrong with this - being a schoolboy in a gas mask. It has taken me 10 years to realise that he doesn't wear a gas mask holder, which he should have done. Then we have the Gellguard - or Gel-Guard - or Gell-Guard (depending on what you read) - from The Three Doctors. They're often ridiculed, but I have always had a bit of a soft spot for these critters. This is a lovely addition to the collection. Not sure why they put it on a base. Like the Dalek releases, they could have left that off.
Haven't read the accompanying magazines yet, but leafing through the Mire one I did spot that Brian Blessed was due to play Odin, until health reasons forced him to pull out late in the day.
Next regular release will be the Second Doctor. The photo looks promising.
Check back at the weekend for a couple more A-Z items, plus a look at the second story of the 2005 series.

Sunday, 19 June 2016

Story 157 - Rose

In which we meet Rose Tyler, a young woman from South London, who works at Henrik's department store in the heart of the city. She lives with her widowed mother, Jackie, and has a boyfriend named Mickey Smith. One day, as Rose is about to go home, she is sent down to the basement with the lottery syndicate monies, to give to the electrician Mr Wilson. He isn't in his office. She hears a noise from the stockroom and goes to see if he is there. A number of display mannequins stir to life and advance on her. She is saved by a man with close-cropped hair, wearing a battered old leather jacket. He leads her towards the lift as the display dummies follow. He pulls an arm off one of them as the lift door closes. Rose discovers that it is made of solid plastic. She had thought that it might have been someone disguised - students perhaps. The man introduces himself as the Doctor. He has a bomb which he is going to use to blow up a transmitter on the store's roof. This is controlling the mannequins - really Autons. Rose exits the building then sees the upper floors of the store explode a few minutes later. She still has the Auton arm with her as she wanders off, not noticing a blue Police Call Box sitting in a nearby alleyway.

That evening, Jackie welcomes her daughter home, having seen the destruction of the store on the TV news. Mickey arrives, insisting she comes for a drink. Rose suspects he just wants to see the football on a big screen. Jackie thinks she should claim compensation for her ordeal. Rose asks Mickey to dispose of the plastic arm as he leaves. The following morning Rose hears something scuttling around the flat. She thinks that a cat has got in. She is surprised to find the Doctor on her doorstep. He has been tracing an Auton signal, and has traced it here. The plastic arm has entered the flat through the cat-flap. It attacks the Doctor and then Rose. He uses his sonic screwdriver to deactivate it. The Doctor warns her not to say anything about this to anyone, as it will put her and her family at risk. She goes to Mickey's flat to use his computer to search the internet. This leads her to a man named Clive, who runs a website about the Doctor. Mickey takes her to see him. Whilst she is inside, Mickey sees a wheelie-bin move by itself. Investigating, he finds his fingers stuck to it, and it then swallows him up. Clive has his theories about the Doctor, and is convinced that he is an alien. He has found evidence of the same man at events throughout history - like the eruption of Krakatoa, the sinking of the Titanic, and the assassination of JFK. When Rose returns to the car, she fails to notice that Mickey has been replaced with an Auton replica.

The Auton Mickey tries to get information about the Doctor when they go for a meal later. The Doctor arrives and exposes him as a fake. Rose escapes from the restaurant into the yard where she sees the Doctor letting himself into the TARDIS. She follows him in. The Doctor has managed to pull the head off the fake Mickey, and links it to the console to trace its animating signal. Rose is surprised to find that they have travelled to the Thames Embankment in a matter of seconds. The Doctor realises that the Nestene Consciousness plans to use the London Eye as a transmitter to activate its Autons all over the city. He and Rose enter a chamber beneath it, where they find the Nestene housed in a vast vat of liquid plastic. It has captured the TARDIS, and Mickey is also here. The Doctor tries to negotiate with the Nestene, but he has a phial of anti-plastic in reserve should he need to use it. The Nestene sees the Doctor as a threat and so decides to activate the Autons. Jackie Tyler is doing some late night shopping when shop window dummies begin to burst out of store windows, killing all they encounter. Clive is nearby with his wife and son, and he becomes one of their victims. She finds herself threatened by a trio of Autons in bridal dress. Rose saves the Doctor, by swinging on a rope to knock his Auton captor into the vat of plastic. The phial of anti-plastic falls into the Nestene and destroys it. All the Autons collapse. The chamber begins to explode, and the Doctor takes Rose and Mickey away in the TARDIS. he offers her the chance to travel with him. She declines at first, but then changes her mind when he tells her that he can travel in Time as well as Space...

Rose was broadcast on Saturday 26th March, 2005. It was written by the new showrunner and executive producer Russell T. Davies.
It sees the return of the programme to the BBC after a nine year break. Christopher Eccleston is the Ninth Doctor - though we will find out much later that he is actually the Tenth. The Autons (never named on screen) and the Nestene Consciousness return for the first time in 34 years. They last appeared in Terror of the Autons.
Russell T. Davies was a well-known Doctor Who fan. He had included references to the programme in his Queer As Folk series. He had gone on to write The Second Coming (which starred Eccleston), Bob & Rose, Mine All Mine, and Casanova (starring David Tennant). The BBC were keen to get him to work with them, and they were also looking at a way to bring back Doctor Who. The two things came together.
Since 1996, a Doctor Who skit had been the highlight of one of the Comic Relief nights - The Curse of Fatal Death, by Steven Moffat. A theme night had featured Mark Gatiss as an alternative version of the Doctor, again in a comic sketch. The programme had also won a major TV award, voted for by the public. Mark Gatiss and Gareth Roberts, who had written Virgin New Adventures novels, pitched to bring the show back in the early Noughties. It looked as if the show would return as an animated series, with a new Doctor voiced by Richard E. Grant (with Derek Jacobi as the Master). The Scream of the Shalka aired on-line just as the BBC announced that the series would be returning to television.
It would be produced by BBC Wales. Russell would executive produce, and write the bulk of the scripts. he would work alongside Julie Gardner and Mal Young. The overall producer would be Phil Collinson.

There was much media speculation about who the new Doctor might be. A number of light entertainment figures were proposed. Two front runners soon emerged - Alan Davies, who was best known for Jonathon Creek, and who was the male lead in Bob & Rose, and Bill Nighy. It was another actor who had worked with RTD who would be given the role. Eccelston had asked for his name to be considered when he heard that RTD was to write the series. He was keen to extend his acting range, having a reputation for only doing serious, adult, often political roles.
The new companion would be female, and an ordinary working class girl from contemporary Earth. RTD was keen to ground the entire series on Earth, feeling that the viewing public wouldn't relate to weird looking aliens from the planet Zog. Billie Piper was best known for a successful pop music career, and for being married to radio and TV presenter Chris Evans. She had started to act, and proved herself more than capable. She landed the role of Rose.

It was decided to give her a family, who we would visit throughout the series. Her widowed mum, Jackie, would be played by Camille Coduri, and her hapless boyfriend Mickey would be played by actor-writer-director Noel Clarke.
RTD wanted to show the impact on the family and friends left behind, when someone runs off to join the Doctor on his travels.
The BBC's Jane Tranter had commissioned the new series, and she had wanted the Daleks to feature in the first story. RTD insisted they be held back for a few weeks - to give the series a mid-season ratings boost. Rather than create a new alien menace, he decided to bring back the Autons, which he remembered from his youth. They would be an easily understandable foe for new viewers, as well as a treat for the old guard of fans.

There were certain things that RTD wanted to retain from the original series. The TARDIS would have a whole new design internally, but it would have a six sided console and remain a Police Box on the outside. The music would be the original Ron Grainer composition, but rearranged by Murray Gold, who had provided the theme for QAF.
The main guest artist is Mark Benton as Clive. He had played the Devil to Eccleston's God in The Second Coming.
Story Arc Watch: The Doctor mentions a war that destroyed the Nestene food planets. He claims that he took part in this conflict, and was unable to save them.
He also mentions the Shadow Proclamation.

Overall, a cracking start to the new series. The return of a popular old monster, a fast pace, and great performances from the new cast of regulars.
Things you might like to know:

  • The Doctor sees himself in a mirror, and speaks as if his face is relatively new to him. It appears he has only recently regenerated.
  • This scene references other regeneration stories when the Doctor sees himself in a mirror and comments on his new looks - such as Robot and Spearhead from Space.
  • Years before we found out about the War Doctor, the DWM comic strip had the chance to regenerate the McGann Doctor into the Eccleston one, but elected not to take it.
  • Clive has a drawing of the Ninth Doctor that was found after the eruption of Krakatoa. The Third Doctor mentioned having been present at this event in Inferno (1970). He also has a photo of him with a family who he talked into not travelling on the Titanic, and another that shows him present at the killing of US President Kennedy in November 1963. Clive is unsure if it is the same person, or generations of people who use the name "Doctor".
  • There is a dig at the perceived notion that Doctor Who fans tend to be male, when Clive's wife is surprised to learn that a woman is interested in finding out about the Doctor.
  • Clive has the surname Finch, though this isn't used on screen.
  • Rose was made in the first recording block along with Aliens of London / World War Three. Eccelston's first filming was for this later story.
  • According to The Sun "newspaper", this story would see a cameo from footballer and celebrity clothes-horse David Beckham, playing an Auton replica of himself from Madam Tussauds leading an attack on Downing Street.
  • The Doctor speed reads a book - in this case The Lovely Bones. He had been seen to use this skill back in City of Death
  • The unseen Mr Wilson is a reference to Donald Wilson, one of the programme's founding personnel back in 1963.
  • The Autons have helped launch more new Doctors and companions than any other enemy. Spearhead from Space saw the first appearance of the Third Doctor and Liz Shaw, and Terror of the Autons saw the introduction of Jo Grant and Mike Yates, as well as the original incarnation of the Master. Rose introduces the Ninth Doctor, Rose and soon-to-be companion Mickey Smith. The Daleks have only ever helped launch one Doctor - the Second.
  • One of the Ninth Doctor's defining moments, when he describes how he feels the rotation of the planet, was written as an extra scene, when the story was found to be under-running.
  • On first broadcast, sound from another programme was heard by British viewers in the scene where Rose first encounters the Autons - Graham Norton in a break from Strictly Dance Fever. This won't be the last time that Norton will intrude into the series...
  • A week or two before Rose was broadcast, an employee at the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation leaked the episode onto the internet.
  • One minor continuity error - the plastic arm which Rose takes home goes from being a right one, to a left, and back to a right one.
  • One of the BBC Books Ninth Doctor adventures has him having a whole adventure on his own when the TARDIS first briefly leaves at the end.
  • The realisation of the Nestene is very disappointing - an unintended homage to Terror of the Autons?. It is voiced by Nicholas Briggs, who will go on to voice Daleks, Cybermen and others. Only the words "Time Lord" can actually be distinguished.

Saturday, 11 June 2016

A is for... Anat

A guerrilla fighter from an alternative timeline on Earth, Anat hailed from a version of the 22nd Century where the planet had been totally subjugated by the Daleks, aided by their Ogron servants. She lead a three strong team to travel back to 20th Century Earth to assassinate the British diplomat Sir Reginald Styles, who had gone down in history as the man responsible for the Dalek invasion's success. He had gone mad and blown up a peace conference he was chairing at his home, Auderly House. The Doctor and Jo Grant had decided to spend the night at the house, following an earlier failed attempt by the guerrillas to kill Styles. Anat proved to be the more reasonable of the trio, less trigger happy than her comrades Shura and Boaz. After Jo had been accidentally transported to the 22nd Century, the Doctor insisted on accompanying Anat and Boaz there to find her. It was Anat who convinced her leader, Monia, that the Doctor was worth rescuing from the Daleks, and she took part in the attack on the European Controller's HQ. When the Doctor worked out that it was the injured Shura, left back in the 20th Century, who blew up the conference, Anat helped the Doctor get back to his own time to prevent this. The version of Anat met by the Doctor and Jo would not have existed in the "real" timeline, though she may have experienced the Dalek invasion thwarted by the First Doctor, had she ever been born.

Played by: Anna Barry. Appearances: Day of the Daleks (1972).

A is for... Amyand

Leader of a faction on the planet Sarn who did not follow the superstitious ways of the elderly ruling council. He was constantly at loggerheads with Timanov, the spiritual guide for the young leader Malkon. Timanov was a firm believer in the god Logar, who dwelt in a nearby volcanic mountain. Amyand believed in science and reason, and so found an ally in the Doctor and Turlough when they arrived on the planet. Amyand and the Doctor were almost sacrificed to Logar, but Turlough was able to save them. He recognised the technology on Sarn as having come from his homeworld of Trion. When Sarn was threatened with destruction, resulting from the Master's attempts to heal his shrunken body, Turlough called upon his people to come and help. Amyand put on a silver heat resistant suit, to show the people that the image of Logar had originated from sightings of ancient Trion visitors to the volcano. Only Timanov failed to heed his call to evacuate the planet and be relocated to Trion.

Played by: James Bate. Appearances: Planet of Fire (1984).

A is for... Ambrose

Wife of Mo Northover, who worked alongside her father, Tony Mack, at the drilling project in Cwmtaff, Wales, in 2020. She helped to deliver Meals on Wheels in the local area. She contacted the police when it was discovered that a body had gone missing from its grave in the village churchyard. She and her son Elliot mistook Rory Williams for a policeman when he, Amy and the Doctor arrived in Cwmtaff by accident. Unbeknownst to Tony and his team, the drilling had awoken a Silurian community in a shelter deep below the village. Feeling threatened by it, Silurian soldiers abducted Mo and then placed a forcefield around the village. Elliot was also abducted, and Tony was infected by Silurian venom. Ambrose helped the Doctor capture one of the Silurians - Alaya. With all three of her family under threat, Ambrose snapped. She used a taser to try to get Alaya to talk, but this killed her. The Doctor had just negotiated a peaceful settlement that required the safe return of Alaya. Her sister, Restac, was leader of the Silurian armed forces. Ambrose's rash actions almost triggered a war. The Doctor finally managed to avert this, but at the cost of Rory's life.

Played by: Nia Roberts. Appearances: The Hungry Earth / Cold Blood (2010).

A is for... Ambril

The Director of Historical Research on the planet Manussa, Ambril was responsible for curating its antiquities. He was particularly keen on the ancient Sumaran era artefacts. Ambril was a pedantic, rather unimaginative individual. He couldn't see how the wearer's face made the sixth component of the Six Faces of Delusion mask, for instance, until the Doctor pointed it out to him. Ambril was especially scathing of the old legends about the Mara, and his refusal to take the threat seriously almost led to the destruction of his people. As Director, he had some power and influence - able to arrest and imprison people, and to play host to visiting dignitaries. One of his guests - Lon, son of the Federator - became possessed by the Mara through Tegan Jovanka. Ambril was coerced into allowing the real Great Mind's Eye crystal to be used in a forthcoming ceremony. He was bribed with Sumaran pottery. The Doctor joined forces with Ambril's more open-minded predecessor, Dojjen, to stop the return of the Mara.

Played by: John Carson. Appearances: Snakedance (1983).

Monday, 6 June 2016

Story 156 - Doctor Who (The Movie)

In which the Master is captured and put on trial by the Daleks. His last wish is for his old friend the Doctor to return his remains to Gallifrey. These are deposited in an ornate casket in the TARDIS. The Master is not quite dead, however, as a gelatinous snake-like mass oozes from the box and makes its way to the control console - sabotaging the ship. The Doctor is forced to materialise on Earth. It is December 30th, 1999, and the TARDIS has landed in the Chinatown district of San Francisco. When the Doctor emerges, he gets caught up in a local gang dispute and is shot. This is witnessed by young gang member Chang Lee. He calls an ambulance. Dr Grace Holloway is enjoying a night at the opera when she is paged to come into work. Her patient is the Doctor. Unable to comprehend his alien biology, she loses him. The Doctor is taken to the morgue, where he regenerates for the seventh time. Across town, the Master - still in his gelatinous serpentine state - takes over the body of the ambulance driver, a man named Bruce. He compels him to kill his wife, then he sets off to seek out the Doctor. Chang Lee has taken the Doctor's belongings - including the TARDIS key.

Chang Lee goes to the TARDIS the next morning to have a look around, and finds the Master waiting for him. He befriends the boy - claiming that the Doctor is evil and has stolen his body. He wants Chang Lee to help him stop him so that he can get his body back. Grace has resigned from the hospital, and on leaving she comes across the Doctor in the car park. He gets into her car and she takes him to her home. He is claiming to be the man who died, yet looks nothing like him - and she suspects that he is mentally unwell. The Doctor is suffering from post-regeneration amnesia. In the TARDIS, the Master has Chang Lee partially open the Eye of Harmony (it responds to the human eye - and the Master deduces that the Doctor is half-human). The opening of the Eye clears the Doctor's mind, and he remembers who he is - and how he came to be here. He realises that the Master will attempt to use his ship to destroy the Earth. The Doctor needs a component from an atomic clock to repair the TARDIS, and there just happens to be one about to be unveiled at a research facility that night to mark the new millennium. Grace is a patron of the establishment, and agrees to take him there. The Master and Chang Lee also attend, but the Doctor manages to get the component and he and Grace return to the TARDIS.

The Master has managed to infect Grace, and she comes under his power. The Master then sets about stealing the Doctor's body using the Eye of Harmony. This will pull the planet inside-out. His usefulness at an end, the Master kills Chang Lee when the Doctor starts to convince him that it is the Master who is evil. Grace breaks free of his malign influence and frees the Doctor, but the Master kills her also. The two Time Lords fight as the planet teeters on the brink of destruction. The Master falls into the Eye of Harmony and is destroyed. The TARDIS travels back in time - causing Chang Lee and Grace to be resurrected - then the Eye of Harmony closes. The ship materialises as everyone celebrates the New Year. Grace decides not to accompany the Doctor. He travels on alone.

This made-for-TV movie was written by Matthew Jacobs, and had its first UK broadcast on 27th May, 1996. It had its first screening in the US on the 14th of May, on the Fox Network. Viewers in Canada got to see it on the 12th.
Producer Philip Segal had been trying to get his hands on Doctor Who since the late 80's - initially to be a co-production between the BBC and Steven Spielberg's Amblin. Based in the States, he had been brought up in England and knew the show as a child.
Originally, his plan was to mount a reboot - an origins tale. The Doctor would be shown to be the grandson of President Borusa, and would set off on a quest to find his missing father - named Ulysses. Spielberg elected to pass on producing the programme, and Segal moved on from Amblin. With negotiations already advanced with the BBC, Segal was permitted to carry on with the task of bringing the show back. Eventually it was agreed that the new story would go out as a back-door pilot in the TV film-of-the-week strand. If successful, a full series would follow. It was also agreed that it would be a continuation from the series that had ended with Survival in 1989. As such, viewers would get to see Sylvester McCoy return to the role of the Doctor - to quickly regenerate into the Eighth Doctor. The BBC were not at all happy about his inclusion - feeling that it would tie the relaunch to a show that was deemed to have failed.

Both Segal and the BBC insisted that the Doctor should be played by a British actor. The person eventually chosen was Paul McGann. The US network was then permitted to cast an American as the Master - and they opted for Eric Roberts. The two companions cast were Yee Jee Tso, as Chang Lee, and Daphne Ashbrook, as Grace Holloway. The director assigned to the 85 minute movie was Englishman Geoffrey Sax. Production was based in Vancouver, Canada, which had played host to a number of genre series (not least of which were the X-Files and Stargate).
Sax found that the time and money promised to him was cut back as filming proceeded. The movie was screened against an important episode of the popular Rosanne series, and US ratings, whilst good, were not great. It did very well in the UK, broadcast as part of the Bank Holiday entertainment, following a massive publicity drive. The series was also in the news as Jon Pertwee had passed away a few days beforehand.
The decision was made not to proceed with a full series, owing to the US ratings and audience reaction.

Reaction from UK fans was decidedly mixed. Whilst McGann's performance was praised, along with the massive new TARDIS set and the higher production values, elements of the plot left fans cold.
Things they didn't like:

  • The kiss between the Doctor and Grace.
  • The "Americanisation" - with the "car chase" particularly noted. It's actually a motorbike / ambulance chase, but hey ho.
  • The reappearance of Skaro when it was destroyed midway through the McCoy run.
  • The lack of Daleks on screen - only their helium-induced voices being heard.
  • The companions being brought back from the dead.
  • The Seventh Doctor's less than heroic death.
  • The idea that the Daleks would grant the Time Lords / Doctor any kind of request.
  • The Eye of Harmony is supposed to be on Gallifrey.
  • The Star Trek-y "cloaking device" instead of the Chameleon Circuit.
  • And - most importantly - the Doctor being outed as half-human.
In general, the story was felt to be just a little bit too low in incident, and it should not have been a regeneration story - as McGann takes too long to get involved. There were too many continuity references thrown in - which would have turned off the casual / new viewer.
As I write this, the movie has just celebrated its 20th anniversary, and it has been re-evaluated in a slightly more positive light. McGann has gone on to become a popular audio Doctor, and in 2013 we got to see his return on screen - albeit for his demise, as he regenerated into the War Doctor.

Things you might like to know:
  • Eric Roberts counted himself a fan of the show, as he had watched it whilst living in London when he was younger.
  • Matthew Jacobs was the son of actor Anthony Jacobs, who had played Doc Holliday in The Gunfighters.
  • The initial voice-over at the start of the movie was to have been spoken by Gordon Tipple, who played the Master pre-extermination. This version was shown to a test audience who did not react favourably. The lines were then given to Paul McGann. This still proved confusing, so new lines were written - as appear in the broadcast version.
  • The video was released before the UK broadcast. It was delayed slightly due to some cuts that were called for. For many years UK audiences saw a sanitised version of the shooting of the Seventh Doctor. In Australia, it was the sound of the Master snapping Bruce's wife's neck that caused offence.
  • The title "The Enemy Within" has sometimes been attached to this movie. This arose when fans asked Philip Segal for a title, as it is simply annoyingly known as Doctor Who. "The Enemy Within" never at any time appeared in any production documents.
  • Russell T Davies was obviously never a fan. When the series returned in 2005, reference to the Eighth Doctor was deliberately avoided until his eventual appearance in John Smith's journal of impossible things, in the third series story Human Nature / Family of Blood.
  • Earlier, in his Queer As Folk, the Doctor Who fan character Vince judged prospective boyfriends on their ability to name all the Doctors in order - and McGann was said not to count.
  • The new series has, of course, brought Skaro back as well. Davros simply states that the Daleks created a new one.
  • The half-human Doctor was intended to explain why the Doctor spends so much time on Earth. This has never been revisited. If the Woman in White from The End of Time is, as RTD implies, the Doctor's mother then this idea has been totally nixed.
  • The snogging of companions has become de rigeur since 2005, though they are never quite what they seem. It is Cassandra within Rose who snogs the Tenth. Martha is actually getting a biological transfer, and Donna kisses him just to shock him and so save his life when he is poisoned. It's only when we get to Amy that the companion is actually wanting to seduce him. The Doctor's initial kiss with Grace is definitely non-sexual in nature. He is just overjoyed at having his memories return. He does, however, follow it up with another kiss that is more out of affection.
  • The Eye of Harmony being on board the TARDIS has now been picked up. It is implied that all TARDISes have one - linked in some way to the main one on Gallifrey.
  • This incarnation of the Doctor shows an ability to not only know peoples' futures - but he then tells them about it as well.
  • The Master was supposed to be shown physically deteriorating throughout the story, but the prosthetics irritated Eric Roberts' skin, so were dropped.
  • For many years there was a rumour that Spielberg lost interest when he found that they would not be remaking old stories - such as the lost classics. This was not the case
  • Segal had wanted Terrance Dicks to work on his pilot, but the US studios insisted on one of their writers.
  • Actors under consideration for the Doctor included Rowan Atkinson, Derek Jacobi, Paul's brother Mark McGann, and a certain Mr Peter Capaldi - who ruled himself out.
  • After the reboot idea had been ditched, one draft was set at Hallowe'en, and had the Master raising the dead to form an army. Before it became a regeneration story, there would have been a trip to a period of Earth's history in the opening section - ideally WWII, or perhaps the American Civil War.
  • The BBC vetoed a return for Sophie Aldred as Ace.
  • As mentioned above, the BBC did not want to use McCoy. When Segal insisted on the continuity link with the old series, the BBC asked for it to be Tom Baker instead - thus wiping out Doctors Five, Six and Seven.
  • At one point McGann says that Time Lords have 12 lives. This mistake was picked up on, and so the number 13 had to dubbed over the filmed dialogue.
  • Trailers for the movie on the Fox Network included footage of the Time Lord space station from Trial of a Time Lord - even though it wasn't going to be seen in the movie.
  • Fox's copyright rules have stopped their version of the Master, Grace and Chang Lee from appearing anywhere else (apart from Grace in some comics). Tso and Ashbrook have appeared in Big Finish dramas - but playing other characters.

Thursday, 2 June 2016

A is for... Ambassadors

... of Death! An unnamed alien race, from an unspecified world, who sent ambassadors to Earth in the first year of the Doctor's exile to this planet. Though not native to Mars, they had landed there and encountered the crew of the Mars Probe 6 craft. Their bodies were saturated with high levels of radiation, upon which they thrived, and they did not realise that this would be fatal to humans. One of the two man crew of the Probe ship died after exposure to them, and the survivor - Carrington - escaped back to Earth harbouring a fear and hatred for the aliens. This developed into an obsession in him, and he became determined to expose them as killers and to destroy them. The aliens planned to send ambassadors to Earth by abducting the crew of Mars Probe 7 and the pilot of the Recovery 7 mission sent to discover what had happened to the abductees. The three human astronauts would have been returned unharmed once diplomatic moves had been initiated. Carrington arranged for the aliens themselves to be abducted by forces loyal to him, in his guise as the new head of security for the UK space mission programme. They were manipulated into carrying out a series of crimes - thefts and murders. Carrington then planned to unmask them in the middle of a global live news broadcast, inciting the humans to attack the aliens.

The Doctor made a solo space flight to the Recovery 7 craft, and was taken aboard the alien spaceship - a vast glowing structure that appeared organic rather than manufactured. He met the captain - at least on screen - and agreed to retrieve the ambassadors before the aliens retaliated against the Earth. Once Carrington's plan had been foiled, the Doctor left Liz Shaw to help mission controller Ralph Cornish establish diplomatic ties with the aliens. Presumably the creatures decided that the time was not right to make their existence known to the human race - intent to return at another time, as no more is ever heard of this encounter.
Throughout their stay on the Earth, the ambassadors retained the borrowed spacesuits of the humans they had abducted. One is seen briefly without its helmet. They are blue skinned humanoids, but with distorted features.

Played by Ric Felgate, Steve Peters, Neville Simons. Voiced by Peter Halliday. Appearances: The Ambassadors of Death (1970).

  • Peter Halliday had just provided all the voices for the Silurians in the preceding story, and was called upon to voice the alien captain in this. The astronaut versions of the ambassadors only speak towards the very end of the story, when the Doctor perfects a communications device.
  • The actors who play the human astronauts also play their alien counterparts hidden within the spacesuits.
  • Ric Felgate appears in the first three of director Michael Ferguson's Doctor Who stories. He was Ferguson's brother-in-law.
  • This design of spacesuit proves durable, as one of the colonists on Uxarieus some four centuries later is seen to be wearing one.

Wednesday, 1 June 2016

A is for... Amazonia

The true Earth delegate sent to judge the planet Peladon's suitability for membership to the Galactic Federation. She was the chair of the deciding committee. Due to her being delayed, the Doctor was mistaken for the Earth delegate, with Jo Grant acting as a royal observer. Amazonia only arrived once he had helped defeat High Priest Hepesh's plans to undermine the negotiations, and strike a deal with Arcturus. Her late arrival is never explained, but as this was a mission for the Doctor from the Time Lords, no doubt they had a hand in holding her up.
Amazonia may be this formidable lady's actual name - though it may also be that she represents a future power bloc centred on South America.

Played by Wendy Danvers. Appearances: The Curse of Peladon (1972).

A is for... Alzarians

The humanoid Terradonians who inhabited the crashed Starliner and its environs on the planet Alzarius believed they didn't belong there - and all their efforts went into readying the craft to take them back home again. As the Doctor investigated the complex evolutionary processes of the planet, he learned that they were already home. The original Terradon crew and passengers had been wiped out many generations ago. During the time known as "Mistfall", savage reptilian bipeds emerged from the swamps on the planet. Also indigenous were large spider-like creatures, whose venom could kill, or - in Romana's case - transform. The Doctor discovered that the Marsh creatures, the spiders and the Starliner people all had the same DNA. Despite this, the Starliner people decided to travel out into space in search of Terradon anyway - even though they had never come from there.
The society was led by three Deciders. All the people worked for the good of the community - harvesting food like the marsh fruits (which harboured the spiders), or conducting constant repairs to the spacecraft. One group of rebellious youths were the Outlers, led by Varsh. His little brother, Adric, would stow away on board the TARDIS and become the Doctor's companion for a time.

Appearances: Full Circle (1980).