Wednesday, 29 March 2017

Inspirations - The Sensorites

The writer is Peter R Newman, about whom not a great deal is known. Check out the DVD extra in which Toby Hadoke goes in search of him, and you'll see what he looked like - and sounded like, as he once made a recording of himself reciting Shakespeare. Prior to getting this Doctor Who script, he had written a TV play called Yesterday's Enemy, set in Burma during WWII. This was subsequently made into a film by Hammer, directed by Val Guest. Newman then suffered severe writer's block, so has no further credits to his name. He died after a fall down a flight of stairs in 1975. He had been working at the Tate Gallery as a porter.
This story sheds some light on the Doctor's travels prior to us joining them in Totter's Lane. We know that there have been some earlier adventures for Susan and he - visits to the planets Esto and Quinnis for instance - and the Doctor will mention one of several stays in the Tower of London during the course of this story. (There will be at least three incarcerations, in the reigns of Henry VIII, James VI and I, and Charles II). He could not have travelled for long, judging by events to come, as he is puzzled as the story opens.  The TARDIS has stopped, but it is still in motion. It is Ian and Barbara who point out that they might be on top of a moving vehicle, or inside one. The TARDIS has clearly never landed on a spaceship before.
The scanner is no help, as it is covered in static. A magnetic field is suggested as the cause, and Ian offers the culprit to be an unsuppressed motor. Viewers in 1964 would have known all about the latter, as car engines caused TV reception problems.
The only way to find out where they are is to go outside, and so we get our first spaceship of the series. It's from Earth's future - the 28th Century. Captain Maitland tells the travellers that the whole of southern England is one big metropolis, and Big Ben either no longer exists, or it just isn't famous anymore.

Recall back to the origins of the programme if you will. The survey into science fiction concepts that might work on TV included time travel, and telepaths. This story addresses the latter, and gives Susan a more prominent role as she has telepathic abilities which even the Doctor isn't aware of. The titular aliens use her as a conduit to communicate with the people on the spaceship. Carole Ann Ford claimed that this was the sort of thing she was promised when she took on the role, and the production team's failure to deliver would lead to her being the first TARDIS crew member to jump ship.
The notion that some people have genuine telepathic abilities is one that seems to have been taken very seriously, as the military of both East and West spent a lot of money conducting experiments into it, as well as other psychic abilities. Research continues, and in 2014 a signal was sent from one person's brain to another. Very basic - one person seeing a key word caused the other person to twitch - and we are no way close to sending anything as complex as a single word let alone emotions or instructions on how to navigate aqueducts on alien planets.
Susan's abilities do contribute to the resolution of the adventure, though we hear that this is due to artificial means - wavelengths broadcast across the planet of the Sensorites, and even Barbara is able to join in.

For the inspiration for the Sensorites themselves we can look in a couple of places. First of all, get out your copy of Plato's Republic. In this, his old mentor Socrates debates the ideal society with a number of people, and one of his ideals is a society which is very compartmentalised. There should be leaders - in Socrates' case Guardians, in The Sensorites the Elders - a warrior class to protect the society, and then the majority of ordinary citizens who work and live peaceably. Sound familiar? The First Elder describes his society in these terms - Elders, Warriors, and the ordinary folks. Of course, in classical Athens, there was another section of society - slaves - but they didn't count. For those of you who don't know, Plato, Socrates and many of their ilk hated the concept of Democracy. Odd, when everyone thinks it started in ancient Greece. It did, they just hated it. The philosophers disliked it because they equated it with rule by the mob - who couldn't be trusted. The ideal society had to have strong leaders. Socrates, and therefore Plato, sees his Guardians as studying physical pursuits and seeing military service for a couple of years, then studying mathematics for a whopping 30 years, with a final couple of years of dialectics, before they are fit to lead around the age of 50.
The other place to look for inspiration is obviously the insect world, especially ants and bees which have rigid social structures. Newman would also have been aware of caste systems such as that still practiced in India.
The meeting of the Earth people and the Sensorites also harkens back to that earlier work by Newman. It has been said that all alien civilisations in Sci-Fi are just the Imperial Japanese, with the Brits or Americans as the Earthlings. Look at the ST:TNG Klingons or the Draconians in Doctor Who for starters. We have the issue of "they all look the same to me" here - sadly a commonplace view in 1964 but rightly regarded as racist today. However we have current experience of institutionalised racism to contend with, with speaking Arabic and having a beard enough to get you put off a plane or banned from entering the United States. The Statue of Liberty really has become a Weeping Angel.

The human survivors hiding in the aqueducts who are waging a non-existent war also owe something to the war in the Pacific, as we heard in the post-war decades of lone Japanese soldiers being found on remote islands who thought that the war was still going on.
The latter section of the story sees the notion of xenophobia rear its ugly head once more. It's back with a vengeance in 2017 as mentioned above. It's not just the POTUS' attitudes towards Muslims - just look at the increase in racist attacks on Eastern Europeans in the UK since Brexit, and the general resurgence of right wing politics across Europe. The dislike for the unlike already underpinned the Daleks, and even the Doctor himself could have been described as xenophobic when it came to his treatment of the school teachers in the earliest episodes.
On to less controversial stuff. Sydney Newman has had a word with Verity Lambert and David Whitaker about having more real science in the programme. We've already had the theories about why the scanner isn't working, but we then get a section of the script dealing with why astronaut John was driven mad. (It should be noted that the story's handling of John's mental health issues is quite sensitively handled). John has discovered a rare element, and it is one designed to test William Hartnell's pronunciation skills. When was the last time you used "Molybdenum" in a sentence - not counting discussion of this story of course. Spectrographic analysis is also discussed - different chemical signatures can be identified by their location on the light spectrum, basically. Ian is clearly set to give Susan the full lecture, with graphs and a slide-show, and he looks quite crestfallen when she does a "Yeah, yeah, know about that" shrug and walks away.
Everything ends happily. John is cured, and gets the girl. The spaceship crew will take the humans who have been poisoning the Sensorites back to Earth. Hopefully the First Elder will have a good think about dress codes.
For the first time we actually see a spaceship on screen. There's a lot more of that to come.
Just when we thought that the Doctor was reconciled to having the teachers on board, however, he suddenly has a hissy fit, and threatens to throw them off at the next stop!
Next time, back into Earth history - the Doctor's favourite period, apparently - plus one of my favourite Woody Allen jokes...

Monday, 27 March 2017

Story 178 - The Runaway Bride

In which the Doctor, having just said farewell to Rose Tyler, is confronted by a woman in a wedding dress standing in the middle of his TARDIS. Her name is Donna Noble, a secretarial temp from Chiswick, West London. She had just been walking down the aisle, about to get married to fiance Lance on Christmas Eve, when she was suddenly transported here. The Doctor runs a number of tests but can find no explanation for how she came to get inside his ship. She is naturally furious, believing she has been abducted, and she orders the Doctor to take her to the wedding. The ship lands several miles away, so they decide to get a taxi. As the Doctor secures some money, he sees a group of Santa Claus-costumed musicians, and recognises them as the "Pilot Fish" he had encountered the previous Christmas. Whilst he creates a diversion, Donna gets into a cab and drives off alone - but the Doctor spots that her driver is one of the Santa figures. He gives chase in the TARDIS whilst the driver fails to take Donna where she wants to go. The ship sweeps down to fly alongside the cab and the Doctor deactivates the driver - which turns out to be a robot. Donna is forced to leap from the speeding cab into the TARDIS.

The TARDIS materialises on a rooftop in the City, where the Doctor and Donna get a chance to discuss what might be going on. It is obvious that some alien power is trying to kidnap Donna. The Doctor gives her a ring, which acts as a bio-damper. This should prevent her being traced. She has missed her wedding, and so the Doctor takes her to the hotel where the reception is taking place. She is livid that they have gone ahead and started the party without her. To avoid awkward questions, she feigns distress. The Doctor borrows someone's mobile phone and uses it to look up the firm H C Clements, where Donna has been working. He discovers that it is a security company, which is a front for a Torchwood operation. He notices a guest filming the festivities, and asks to see footage from the point when Donna was taken from the church. He sees her surrounded by a bright yellow glow, which he recognises as Huon Particles. These are ancient in origin and the bio-damper will not shield against them. The function is attacked by the Santa robots, using explosive Christmas Tree baubles, but the Doctor destroys them with amplified sound. He uses their control device to locate a craft in space above the Earth.

The Doctor and Donna go to H C Clements with Lance. Donna explains how she first met her fiance, when he made her a cup of coffee, which he then did every day. She claims that Lance pursued her, whilst his recollection was the other way round. They discover that there is a hidden level beneath the building. Here they find that Torchwood have been drilling a shaft down to the centre of the planet. In a lab, Huon Particles are being created. They are confronted by the Roboforms, and then a massive scarlet spider creature materialises. She is the Queen of the Racnoss. The Doctor believed these ancient creatures to be extinct, having been wiped out by the Time Lords and the other races from the beginning of the Universe. It transpires that Lance is in league with her - charged with dosing Donna with Huon Particles in her daily coffees. The excitement of her wedding day activated these and drew her to the only other source of Huons in the vicinity - the TARDIS. The Doctor and Donna escape in the TARDIS and travel back to the creation of the Earth in order to discover what the Racnoss might want at the centre of the planet. They see one of their Webstar spacecraft become the gravitational focal point for the matter to form around and so create the planet. The Racnoss Queen intends to use the Huon Particles to resurrect her millions of children hibernating in the ship.

On returning to the drill shaft chamber, Donna is captured. Thinking Donna had been lost to her, the Queen has dosed Lance with Huons and she uses him instead. He plunges down the hole, and the Racnoss children are awoken. The Doctor sneaks back disguised as one of the Roboforms, but is spotted by the Queen. He gives her an ultimatum to leave the Earth or face the consequences. She refuses to obey, so he employs some of the explosive baubles to begin destroying the chamber. They are beneath the Thames, and the river breaks through. Flood waters pour down the shaft, drowning the Racnoss children. The Queen teleports to her Webstar and brings it down to the skies above London. It begins to attack the city. The army arrive, with orders from a Mr Saxon to destroy the vessel. Combined firepower blows it up. The Doctor takes Donna to the street outside her home. He offers her the chance to travel with him, but she declines. Knowing that he recently lost someone who travelled with him, she recommends that he find somebody else, as when he is on his own there is no-one to keep him in check.

The Runaway Bride is the second Christmas Special to be written by Russell T Davies, and it was first broadcast on 25th December, 2006. Under no circumstances should it be mistaken for the 1999 rom-com starring Richard Gere and Julia Roberts - though that sort of screwball comedy was precisely the feel that Davies was trying to get with this episode. Hollywood has a long history of movies about odd couples being thrown together by adverse situations, antagonistic towards each other at first but who end up good friends, if not romantically involved.
It introduces the character of Donna Noble, who is played by comic actor Catherine Tate. The Santa Claus Roboforms return from the previous special, but with a different mask design - more plastic than metal, and this time we get to see what lies beneath.
The plot was originally developed to be an episode for the second series, but Davies saw how the bride character could be enhanced to provide a good role for a special guest artist once he found out that there would be a second Christmas Special. It was never envisaged at this point that Donna would return as a companion, as a journalist character named Penny was developed to eventually replace Martha Jones.
This episode, had it been in Series 2, would have been second - so was replaced with Tooth And Claw.
Davies had populated his first  Christmas Special with a lot of festive icons, so this time he brought back the killer Santas, and had them employ the exploding tree baubles. The Racnoss spaceship was designed to look like a star.
Unfortunately, the filming in the summer of 2006 is apparent on screen, and it never convinces the viewer that events are taking place at Christmas time. We see great swathes of greenery in a number of early scenes.
As with last year, the TARDIS gets to do a bit of stunt work, and the motorway chase is certainly one of the highlights of the episode.

Joining Tate we have Sarah Parish playing the Racnoss Queen. Her costume is purely physical, the main body operated mechanically. Parish had starred alongside David Tennant in a BBC drama about a family man recuperating from head trauma (Recovery) as well as the excellent Blackpool. Donna's parents are Jacqueline King, as her mother Sylvia, and Howard Attfield as dad Geoff. Lance is Don Gilet. Donna's arch enemy, Nerys, is played by Krystal Archer. Some of these characters we will be meeting again in a year or two.

Story Arcs:
The tank commander announces that Mr Saxon has given orders to fire on the Webstar.
This episode picks up directly from the closing moments of Doomsday. One of Rose's tops is still in the console room. The Doctor reminisces about her as he watches the guests enjoy themselves at the reception.

Overall, not quite as good as the previous year's special, but it has a lot of good points. The DWM 50th Anniversary poll had it at number 153, out of 241 - 5 places ahead of the Kylie Minogue Christmas episode that follows it. Much depends on your opinions about Catherine Tate's Donna. She's certainly extremely abrasive when we first meet her, but her experience with the Doctor changes her, and she is a much more likeable character by the conclusion.
Things you might like to know:

  • The central character in Russell T Davies' recent drama series Cucumber worked at a company called H C Clements.
  • There's a sign for a Manchester Suite at the reception hotel. There was a Manchester Suite on Platform One in End of the World.
  • It is revealed that the Doctor still has Margaret Slitheen's tribophyscial waveform macro-kinetic extrapolator on the ship, and it gets used here to escape from the Roboforms.
  • When the Doctor looks through the mobile phone for information about H C Clements you can see glimpses of the BBC "fake" websites set up for previous episodes. This sequence was achieved on screen by Tennant playing a video of the websites on the phone.
  • Catherine Tate could not attend the read-through, so her place was taken by Tennant's then girlfriend Sophia Myles, who had recently played Mme De Pompadour.
  • Bella Emberg returned to reprise the role of Mrs Croot, from Love & Monsters, but the scene was cut. There was to be a whole light-hearted sequence showing the Doctor, Donna and Lance travelling from the wedding reception to the company HQ - using a very small, slow car, and then taking a bus, in which Mrs Croot would have been a passenger. The car section would have shown members of David Tennant's family in the background - including his parents.
  • The fake bank notes which the ATM spews out as the Santas attack featured an image of either David Tennant or producer Phil Collinson instead of the usual historical personage. Tennant was on the Tenner, appropriately enough, and Collinson on the Score (£20). The £10 notes had 10th Doctor sayings printed on them, whilst the £20 had a Fourth Doctor quote. There were a couple of stories later claiming that these had been used to defraud people - taxi drivers being particularly gullible. As a piece of TV memorabilia, they now trade around the £50 mark.
  • The TARDIS motorway sequence was chosen to accompany a piece of music from the story at the 2006 Children In Need Doctor Who concert in Cardiff. It cut out just as Donna was about to make the jump from the taxi. Highlights from the concert were broadcast as a Doctor Who Confidential special - Music and Monsters - shortly before Christmas. The full concert appears as an extra on the solo DVD release for this episode.
  • Some of Lance's criticisms of Donna include her getting excited by a new flavour of Pringles, an obsession with Brad Pitt and Angelina Jolie, and not being able to point out Germany on a map.
  • Donna missed the Battle of Canary Wharf as she was scuba-diving. She claims that her honeymoon will be in Morocco. These seem strange, as they don't fit the character of someone who doesn't seem to be interested (or should I say bovvered?) in expanding her personal horizons. Her missing the Sycorax invasion attempt due to a hangover seems much more in character.
  • The opening scenes were reshot, as you will notice by the lack of the heavy green lighting seen at the end of Doomsday. This was due to there being a different cinematographer for the Special.
  • The attack of the Webstar sequence hadn't been properly advertised in the location where it was filmed - causing local hotel guests to be alarmed at the sounds of gunfire and explosions in the middle of the night.
  • As with the 2005 Christmas Special there is a new song featured. This one is called "Love Don't Roam" and it is sung by The Divine Comedy's Neil Hannon. It is used for the reception scenes where the Doctor has flashbacks of Rose.
  • The Doctor mentions Gallifrey for the first time in the revived series.
  • This story obviously has an important part to play in future continuity. In Turn Left, Donna never meets the Doctor and he dies in the Racnoss lair - so a whole alternative timeline is created. The Doctor will meet someone who turns out to be Donna's grandfather next Christmas Day, before being reunited with her and inviting her once more to join him in his travels. Granddad Wilf will be instrumental in the demise of the Tenth Doctor, when he knocks four times - but that's for another time...

Saturday, 25 March 2017

B is for... Black Guardian

Some time after the departure of Leela and K9 Mark I, the Doctor and K9 Mark II found themselves drawn off course by an incredibly powerful force. This was the work of the White Guardian, who sent them, with new companion Romana, on a mission to collect the six segments of the Key to Time. This had to be reassembled in order to restore balance in the universe between the forces of light and darkness. The White Guardian warned that he had an equal but opposite peer who represented the forces of chaos - the Black Guardian. Should the Key fall into his hands, the cosmos would be plunged into eternal strife.
Of the various foes encountered by the Doctor and Romana on their quest, it is not known how many were knowing agents of the Black Guardian. It seems that he simply waited until it was time to collect the final segment and complete the Key. The sixth segment was a living being - the Princess Astra of the planet Atrios. The Black Guardian had an agent here - the Shadow - working to foment and prolong a war between Atrios and its twin world of Zeos. This would lead to the destruction of a computer which the Shadow had commissioned from the captured Time Lord Drax - Mentalis. The machine's destruction would trigger a cataclysmic explosion that would spread out far from the warring worlds.

The Doctor defeated the Shadow and completed the Key, and the White Guardian appeared on the TARDIS scanner to request that it be handed over to him. His apparent disregard for the loss of Astra prompted the Doctor to smell a rat, and he quickly activated all of the ship's defences. The Guardian on the screen was really the Black Guardian, hoping to trick him. The Doctor scattered the Key back through Time and Space, reconstituting Astra. The Black Guardian vowed to have his revenge on the Doctor, so he fitted the TARDIS with a Randomiser on its navigational circuits to make it harder for him to be tracked.

In his next incarnation, the Doctor met a schoolboy named Turlough, at a school where the Brigadier now worked following his retirement from UNIT. Turlough was really an alien, who had been exiled to Earth. Following a car crash, the Black Guardian contacted the boy and offered him his freedom if he killed the Doctor. He explained that he could not directly involve himself - as Guardians can only act through agents. Turlough agreed, albeit reluctantly, but his efforts to kill the Doctor failed. Turlough had been given a crystalline device through which the Guardian could contact him, but it could also be made to inflict punishment. At one point the Guardian took on the appearance of the school headmaster to learn Turlough's true thoughts and feelings.
The Guardian's first plan was for the Doctor to be forced to relinquish all of his remaining regenerations. When this did not work, thanks to the timely intervention of two Brigadiers from different time zones, the Guardian then set Turlough to work sabotaging the TARDIS. The defences would break down, but the ship locked onto another vessel which was bound for the Terminus space station, which lay at the very centre of the universe. Turlough's further sabotage should have triggered a second Big Bang that would have destroyed everything.

The Guardian's final gambit with Turlough was to have the Doctor encounter the Eternals, who were about to embark on a race to gain Enlightenment - the knowledge to do anything they desired. Turlough finally rejected the Guardian when he threatened to leave him stranded on the Eternals' sailing ship for ever. He threw himself overboard, only to be picked up by pirate Captain Wrack, who proved to be another agent. The Guardian had given her the power to destroy her competitors, knowing that were she to win she would relish seeing the cosmos in chaos. The Doctor and Turlough were able to win the race, and they found themselves facing both the Black Guardian and the White. Turlough was offered a share of Enlightenment, if he handed over the Doctor to his foe. He rejected it, as he had come to admire and respect the Doctor. The Black Guardian disappeared, consumed in flames.
The White Guardian warned the Doctor that his opposite number would try to destroy him again, and that he should always remain vigilant. Whilst he existed, so too did the Black Guardian.

Played by: Valentine Dyall. Appearances: The Armageddon Factor (1978), Mawdryn Undead, Terminus, Enlightenment (1983).

  • The idea of the Key to Time / Guardians was one of the first which new producer Graham Williams had when he took over the series from Phillip Hinchcliffe. Story development on the next season was too far advanced, so he had to wait until the following year to realise it. In hindsight, he thought it a mistake as it did not allow for any flexibility in moving around the story order. His successor, who was working on this season, took note - and so only ever allowed limited story arcs - such as the three part Black Guardian arc for Season 20 outlined above.
  • The exact nature of the Guardians has never been explained. Williams envisaged a pyramidal structure to the Universe, with the Time Lords high up, but the Guardians above them. 
  • It is never specified, but the implication is that the Black and White Guardians are actually different aspects to the same being.
  • Fan fiction has come up with a whole rainbow of other Guardians, however, and predictably Big Finish have had a third encounter for the Doctor with the Black Guardian.
  • Turlough the killer? A bit rubbish. You would have thought that the Black Guardian could have picked a more reliable assassin from all of Time and Space.
  • Dyall - best known for villainous roles thanks to that voice - had one more connection with Doctor Who, in the radio adventure Slipback. He died shortly after it was recorded. His appearance in the horror movie City of the Dead (US title Horror Hotel), alongside Christopher Lee, is about to get a Blu-Ray release. He was Dr Noah in the 1967 Bond spoof Casino Royale. He didn't just play evil characters, though. In 1960, he co-hosted a musical variety show on the BBC with Dusty Springfield, now sadly wiped from the archives.

Friday, 24 March 2017

B is for... Black, Dr.

An English art historian who gave guided tours of the Musee D'Orsay in Paris. He had a particular love for the works of Vincent Van Gogh. The Doctor and Amy met him when they visited the museum shortly after Rory had been apparently killed and removed from time by the crack that was spreading through all of Space and Time. Spotting an anomaly in one of Van Gogh's paintings, Black gave the Doctor the date and location it was painted so they could travel back and investigate. The Doctor was particularly drawn to Dr Black as he wore a bow-tie.
Later, the Doctor and Amy brought Vincent to the museum so that he would come to know that his life and work had not been in vain. Dr Black not only thought him one of the world's greatest artists, but an incredible human being. Little did he know that he was being thanked for his words by his artistic hero.

Played by Bill Nighy. Appearances: Vincent and the Doctor (2010).

  • Nighy's name has been flagged up as a potential Doctor ever since it was announced that the series was to be revived in 2005, one UK newspaper even announcing his winning of the role just as it was revealed that Christopher Eccleston was to be the new Doctor. He is a long-time collaborator of the writer of this story - Richard Curtis. Series 5 is lacking the emotional punch of the RTD era - until we get to Dr Black's summation of the life and works of Van Gogh.

B is for... Bishop

In the run-up to the coronation of Queen Elizabeth II in June, 1953, Detective Inspector Bishop was tasked with suppressing knowledge of strange events taking place in the area around Florizel Street in Muswell Hill, North London. People were being found in a zombified state, and who had no faces. Bishop and his men rounded them up and kept them hidden in an abandoned warehouse. Many were informed on by a local man named Eddie Connolly - including his wife's mother. Bishop was at a loss to explain the cause of the affliction, or to stop it spreading. Even Torchwood were unable to help.
The Doctor broke into the warehouse and was arrested by Bishop. When another victim was brought in, the Doctor recognised her as Rose Tyler. He quickly manipulated the policeman into following his guidance, and they went with Eddie Connolly's son Tommy to the electrical goods shop of Mr Magpie, where the Doctor suspected that the answers lay. They were attacked by the Wire, and Bishop had his face removed. He would have been restored once the Doctor trapped the Wire on a video tape, to be recorded over later.

Played by: Sam Cox. Appearances: The Idiot's Lantern (2006).

B is for... Binro

On the planet Ribos, when conman Unstoffe went on the run from the Graff Vynda-K and the local militia, he sought refuge in the city concourse. He was sheltered by an impoverished old man named Binro. Binro revealed that he had once been a well-known and respected figure in the city - a scientist and a philosopher - but he had fallen foul of the authorities due to some of his theories. These included his opinions about the lengthy seasons on Ribos, and the true nature of the lights seen in the night sky. Religious orthodoxy claimed that the seasons were caused by the struggle between the Sun and Ice gods, and the lights were ice crystals. Binro believed the lights to be other suns, that might have other worlds circling them. He was persecuted and branded a heretic, and ended up homeless and destitute.
Unstoffe was able to prove to him that his theories were true. Binro accompanied the young man into the catacombs beneath the city when the Graff and his men began to close in. The old man sacrificed himself to save his new friend, dying in the knowledge that his beliefs had been vindicated.

Played by: Timothy Bateson. Appearances: The Ribos Operation (1978).

  • Binro is based on the Italian philosopher-monk Giordano Bruno, a Dominican friar whose cosmological theories offended the Catholic Church in the latter years of the 16th Century. Imprisoned by the Roman Inquisition in 1593, he was eventually sentenced to death and was burnt at the stake in the Campo de' Fiori on the 17th of February, 1600. The square continues to host a vibrant food and flower market, at the centre of which stands an imposing cowled statue of Bruno, erected in 1889.

B is for... Billy

A young man who worked as a handyman at the "Shangri-La" holiday camp in South Wales in the summer of 1959. He was also the lead singer of the band which entertained the campers, and had a great love of motorcycles. When a Navarino tour bus - really a disguised spaceship - crash landed outside the camp, Billy became infatuated with one of the passengers. She was Delta, Queen of the Chimeron race, who was on the run from the genocidal Bannermen.
Billy discovered Delta's true nature, and took it in his stride. He quickly accepted the baby Chimeron that had hatched from an egg Delta was carrying - a Chimeron princess. Billy took Delta and the rapidly growing child on a picnic, but they were tracked down by his friend Ray and the Doctor, come to warn them that the Bannermen had landed nearby. Ray carried a torch for Billy, but his heart obviously now belonged to Delta. Learning about the special food which Delta gave to the child, Billy took some for himself. After helping the Doctor capture the Bannermen, using his technical skills to boost the loudspeaker system to stun them, Billy transformed into a partial Chimeron. He gave Ray his treasured motorbike, but kept his guitar, and left Earth with Delta and the princess.

Played by: David Kinder. Appearances: Delta and the Bannermen (1987).

B is for... Bigon

An Athenian citizen whom the Doctor and his companions encountered on an alien spaceship which was rapidly approaching present day Earth. Bigon was apparently over 2000 years old. The spaceship belonged to Monarch, leader of the Urbankan race, and he had been visiting the Earth for millennia, collecting Bigon on his last trip. His great longevity was revealed to be due to him having an artificial body, with his memories, personality and intelligence saved on micro circuits.
Bigon quickly joined forces with the TARDIS crew, leading Monarch to temporarily de-circuit him due to his act of rebellion. The Doctor talked fellow android Lin Futu into reactivating Bigon, once Monarch's plan had been revealed. Bigon and the other androids set off to find a new home once Monarch had been defeated.

Played by: Phillip Locke. Appearances: Four To Doomsday (1982).

  • Some of Locke's more villainous roles include the henchman Vargas in the Bond movie Thunderball, and a mad optician in the Avengers episode that featured Jon Pertwee as a Brigadier - From Venus With Love. He also played Prof. Moriarty in a Sherlock Holmes Broadway stage production in the mid 1970's.

Wednesday, 22 March 2017

March Figurines

Two figurines this month - both from the John Nathan Turner era of the show. From his first season comes a rather fine Marshman, from Full Circle. They've certainly gone for a realistic modeling, as the skin looks like a costume with its noticeable wrinkles.
Joining the Marshman is the Silver Nemesis Cyber-Leader, from JNT's penultimate season.
Next month's release will include The Veil from Heaven Sent, and the Destroyer from Battlefield. May will see the release of the Cyber-Controller from Attack of the Cybermen.

Sunday, 19 March 2017

Inspirations - The Aztecs

Another story that has always tended to be known by just the one title. In fact, the "naming controversy" is only really confined to the first two stories.
The writer is once again John Lucarotti. He lived for some time in Mexico, so would have become interested in the Aztecs and their culture during that time.
The last historical story had featured real people - Marco Polo and Kublai Khan. Lucarotti could have gone down the same route and featured historical characters - Pizarro and Montezuma II - and shown the actual events surrounding the meeting of the Conquistadors and the Aztecs. The clash of cultures and resulting conflict would seem to have been a more obvious starting point.
Peter Shaffer had used this for his play about the meeting of the Spanish and the Incas - The Royal Hunt of the Sun - which opened in London after The Aztecs was commissioned, but before it was broadcast. The publicity for the play would have helped the Doctor Who story, even though they deal with the Spanish clashing with entirely different indigenous cultures.
Lucarotti instead decides to show us the Aztecs at their peak, before the coming of the Spanish. The arrival of the Europeans is talked about, as something that will happen soon and sweep all of this away.
The two aspects of Aztec culture we know best about - their knowledge and their use of human sacrifice - are embodied in the two main characters whom the time travellers meet. Autloc, High Priest of Knowledge, is presented as a good, kind man, who is open minded. Tlotoxl - High Priest of Sacrifice - is presented as an evil person, an old fashioned villain who is unwilling to countenance that his religion is wrong in any way. For inspiration in his performance, John Ringham looks to Richard III - specifically as portrayed by Laurence Olivier in the 1955 film of Shakespeare's play.

Unusually, Tlotoxl does not get his comeuppance at the conclusion. Autloc wanders off into the wilderness to become a hermit, and Tlotoxl ends up stronger, with his own candidate for High Priest of Knowledge ready to take over.
Setting aside the performance, is Tlotoxl bad? One of the points which the Doctor strives to make in his debates with Barbara is that she cannot judge the Aztec culture by her 20th Century English viewpoint. He points out that in this city, it is Autloc who is the odd man out. Human sacrifice has a role in this society and is accepted. It honours the gods and benefits the society, making the crops grow and the rains fall. Tlotoxl believes this to be true, and so when he suspects that Barbara is a false god he seeks to undermine her by any means possible - including poisoning her. She poses a threat to their established order, so is he wrong for trying to do this? Of course not. We, the viewers, are also looking at the Aztecs filtered through those 20th Century western values.
Barbara wants to cherry pick the good things, as she sees them, of Aztec culture and eliminate the nasty ones - hoping that when Cortes gets here the civilisation will have an easier time. Naive thinking for someone who claims to have specialist knowledge of this period, as European illnesses alone will kill millions, and the Catholic Church will not tolerate any heathen religion, human sacrifice or not. At this point the Church is burning fellow Christians for even the slightest taint of unorthodoxy. The Conquistadors have come for gold and for souls, and that's it.
It should also be noted that the Aztecs weren't just defeated by the Spanish alone. Cortes was aided by thousands of other Mexican troops from neighbouring kingdoms, who wanted to smash Aztec dominance for their own reasons.

The Aztecs is the first story to look at the consequences of time travel. More recently, we have been introduced to the notion of Fixed Points in Time, but this wasn't the case back in 1964. Right from the earliest days of the series, viewers began questioning why it was okay to meddle in the affairs of Skaro, but not of Earth. Shouldn't the Doctor be an observer, who doesn't do anything to upset the order of things wherever he landed? Why was it okay to help the Thals and wipe out the Daleks, but not to save the Aztecs from near genocide?
Story Editor David Whitaker, responding to a letter from a viewer, claimed that History was like a road running across an undulating landscape. At times, the road dipped out of view, so anything could happen, but it had to resume its course after a while. He described History like Justice - not only being done but seen to be done. What we know to have happened always needs to be seen to happen just as the History books tell it. In the next season, Whitaker's successor will have his own ideas about History, and one story will have the time travellers actively trying to prevent something that is seen to have already happened - and they will succeed.
The Doctor has always had a special relationship with the Earth, and we know that one day the Universe will be populated by what look and sound like British people. Maybe this is why Earth history is protected so much - because humans will have such an impact on the cosmos further down the line. The Doctor may always have seen the Fixed Points in Time, just never mentioned them, and so knows that his actions on Skaro, or Vortis, or Peladon, were simply the right thing to do.

A few final points. Lucarotti has done his homework, obviously, so Barbara gets to talk about their gods, and Susan is tutored in some of their ways. The Doctor has to fashion a wheel and pulley system, as the Aztecs did not exploit the wheel.
The Aztecs never used that name to describe themselves - they were the Mexica. It was the Spanish who called them Aztecs.
Cocoa beans were used for barter and as a form of currency. Vassal kingdoms were expected to provide cocoa beans by way of annual tribute. The oily layer which formed on chocolate beverages was also used as a form of sun block. Preparing a cocoa drink wasn't especially used as a form of marriage proposal, but it did form part of the marriage ceremony itself, so Cameca might be jumping the gun a bit here.
The programme came in for some criticism about the authenticity of the costumes. They were all properly researched. The location of this city is never specified, and might lie at a high altitude, and Mexico does have its seasons like everywhere else - so Tlotoxl and company might not necessarily be over-dressed.
The Aztecs inherited a great deal of astronomical knowledge from earlier Mesoamerican cultures, and so would have been able to predict a solar eclipse. Their cities were laid out on astronomical alignments.
Of the character names, Ixta could derive from the Mexican coastal town of Ixtapa, but it is also another name for Iztaccihuatl - the country's third highest mountain. Iztapalapa is a suburb of Mexico City, its most densely inhabited.
Next time, we head off into Space, in the 28th Century, and it looks like the TARDIS has never landed on a spaceship before...

Thursday, 16 March 2017

Reviews - a word about future developments

Just a quick word about my on-going reviews of Doctor Who stories. Naturally, each week I will be letting you know my thoughts on the new stories that are going to be making up Series 10. These will probably be on the Saturday night, but might not see light until the day after. I often like to watch an episode twice before commenting on it, with a pause between.
As far as the on-going series reviews go - the ones that commence with "In which..." and conclude with "Things you might like to know...", I will be cutting back on these for the 12 weeks that the new series runs. As I have now reached Army of Ghosts / Doomsday, I will also be phasing in reviews of Torchwood and Sarah Jane Adventures stories - trying to ensure that they gel together and interrelate. My look at Series 3, for instance, will be interspersed with reviews of TW Series 1, as End of Days has to fit in with the start of Utopia; Rani can't have joined Sarah, Luke and Clyde until after Journeys End, and The Last Sontaran has to come after The Poison Sky - but before Journeys End, and so forth.
Confused? I hope you won't be.
The A-Z entries will carry on weekly, as I like the randomness of them, and the Inspirations ones will also carry on regardless, as I love revisiting the earlier stories - and they offer me a chance to delve into all sorts of weird and wonderful tangents.

Story 177 - Army of Ghosts / Doomsday

In which the Doctor and Rose return to the Powell Estate to visit Jackie. She tells Rose that her maternal grandfather is due to visit shortly - but he has been dead for some years. However, just as Jackie predicted, a shadowy figure materialises in the kitchen. The Doctor discovers that these apparitions are appearing a couple of times a day all over the planet, and are all over the media. People are presuming they are the ghosts of dead loved ones, but the Doctor suspects that something is trying to break through into this world from some other dimension. Returning to the TARDIS, with Jackie in tow, he sets up a device to monitor a ghost when it next materialises so he can trace the source. His actions are noticed by Torchwood, the organisation behind the "ghost shifts". They use CCTV to spot the TARDIS, and boss Yvonne Hartman realises that the Doctor will be on his way to them. A couple of her employees - Adeola and Gareth - sneak off for a romantic tryst in a section of their building which is closed for refurbishment. They are attacked, and return to their posts seemingly devoid of emotion. Adeola lures another colleague - Matt - to the same location, and he too returns changed.

The Doctor allows himself to be captured by Torchwood troops, along with Jackie, who has been brought along by accident. The Doctor pretends that she is Rose, prematurely aged. He sees that Torchwood have a lot of captured alien technology, which Yvonne claims is to be exploited in order to make Britain great again. She explains how the organisation detected a strange anomaly in the sky above East London, and so built a skyscraper around it so that it could be examined. Jackie identifies their location as the tower of Canary Wharf. Something came through the anomaly - a large bronze sphere which is impossible to analyse as it gives no readings whatsoever. Investigating it is Dr Rajesh Singh. At the same time, the ghosts began to appear. Torchwood are manipulating these, making them appear when they open the anomaly. They believe that it will act as a power source. The Doctor identifies the sphere as a Void Ship - designed to exist in the gap between universes. Rose emerges from the TARDIS and dons a lab coat to look around. Spotting a familiar figure, she follows him to the Sphere chamber where Dr Singh captures her. The person she was following is Mickey Smith, who is posing as one of Singh's assistants.

The Doctor convinces Yvonne to cancel the next "ghost shift" as every time the anomaly is opened it is destroying the fabric of this dimension. It is through the cracks forming that the ghosts have arrived. Adeola, Matt and Gareth carry on with the shift, however, under the control of someone else. The Doctor discovers that they have been converted, with alien implants in their skulls. The anomaly opens, and the ghosts start to become corporeal. They are Cybermen. At the same time, the Void Ship suddenly becomes active. Rose and Mickey see it begin to open. Mickey believes that it contains some sort of Cyberman leader, escaped from the parallel Earth he had settled on. However, it actually houses a quartet of Daleks, who have a Dalek-shaped machine with them. These Daleks, one of which has black livery, have names - Sec, Caan, Jast and Thay. They refer to the machine as the Genesis Ark. They demand information, and Singh volunteers to give this. The Daleks drain his mind, killing him in the process.

Meanwhile, the Cybermen have invaded the entire Earth. The Doctor learns of the Daleks' arrival when a pair of Cybermen are despatched to investigate the Sphere chamber. They try to offer an alliance, but the Daleks refuse. Yvonne and Jackie are taken away to be converted. Two figures suddenly materialise in the control room - one of whom is Jake Simmonds. He destroys the Cyber-Leader and its troops, freeing the Doctor. He then uses a transportation device to take the Doctor back to the parallel Earth - arriving in their version of Torchwood. The Doctor is reunited with Pete Tyler. He learns that the Lumic Cybermen were defeated but not destroyed. One day they vanished, and it was realised that they had crossed over to the other universe. The parallel Torchwood had invented devices that could transport people across the dimensions. The Doctor insists that Pete and Jake return with him to help defeat the Cybermen. Pete is resistant, until the Doctor mentions Jackie is there. She, meanwhile, had been able to escape when the Cyber-Leader was destroyed - as her guard was upgraded automatically to become the new Leader. Yvonne was not so lucky, and has been converted.

The Doctor offers to help the Cybermen deal with the Daleks. He goes alone to the Sphere chamber and is reunited with Rose and Mickey. The Daleks are identified as the Cult of Skaro - a clique created by the Emperor during the Time War to think beyond normal Dalek logic and so defeat the Time Lords. They reveal that the Genesis Ark is not of their making. It is captured Time Lord technology, and needs a time traveller to activate it. The Cybermen attack, and in the confusion Mickey touches the machine - bringing it to life. The Daleks take it to the main storage room, whose roof opens. The Genesis Ark floats up into the sky. The Doctor and his friends rush upstairs to see what happens, and on the way Jackie gets to meet Pete when he saves her from some Cybermen. The Cybermen follow, but one of their number rebels and stops them - the converted Yvonne Hartman.

The Ark opens, and thousands of Daleks emerge. It was a Time Lord prison capsule, bigger on the inside. The Daleks and Cybermen begin fighting each other, massacring the humans who get in their way. The Doctor has been observing events using 3D spectacles, and finally has his friends ask him why. He has noticed that everyone who has passed through the Void has been soaked in a form of radiation. If he opens the anomaly fully, everything tainted will be sucked in - but that will include all of them. Everyone must retreat to Pete's World - including Rose. She refuses to leave the Doctor.
Once everyone has left - including Jackie - the Doctor and Rose open the Void. Daleks and Cybermen are all sucked in, along with the Ark. The Cult of Skaro escape by triggering an emergency temporal shift, transporting themselves through time. Rose loses her handhold and is pulled towards the breach, but at the last moment Pete appears and transports her to his world. The Void closes forever - trapping Rose on the parallel Earth.
Some weeks later, she starts to get dreams which call her to a beach in Norway. She travels there with her father, mother and Mickey. The Doctor appears - sending an image of himself through the last hole in the breach before it closes. It transpires that the location is known as Bad Wolf Bay. The Doctor is about to tell Rose how he feels about her when the connection is broken. He has little time to grieve, however, as a woman in a wedding dress has suddenly appeared in his TARDIS...

The two part finale to Series 2 was written by Russell T Davies, and was broadcast on the evenings of 1st and 8th July, 2006.
The Torchwood story arc finally plays out - though we already knew very early on that it was an organisation devoted to using alien technology in defence of Britain, and was antithetical to the Doctor. It is a direct sequel to the earlier two part Cyberman origins story, reintroducing the parallel Pete and Jake Simmonds. Graeme Harper directed all four episodes as one big recording block - so the finale was in the can long before earlier episodes.
Davies had to find a way of separating Rose from the Doctor without killing her, and so trapping her forever in a parallel universe seemed like a good option. Killing her off was out of the question, as too many young viewers identified with her and travelling in the TARDIS had to remain a positive experience. Davies makes sure that her mother is with her, and both her parents are reunited in a sense. The nice, down to earth Jackie gets to have a rich, successful Pete, and Rose has potential boyfriend material in Mickey.
This time round, the Cybermen have a Cyber-Leader - with black markings on the handle bars. We discover that when one is destroyed, leadership downloads into another unit. The Cybermen now have guns built into their forearms. When it comes to fighting against Daleks, they come off second best.
Terry nation had always fought against any kind of Dalek- Cyberman team up. It had been suggested back in 1968, but got vetoed, and we got The Wheel In Space instead. It came close in 1973, when the Cybermen were to have had the Ogron role in Frontier in Space.

As all of the Daleks had been wiped out in the previous series finale, we are introduced to the Cult of Skaro. They escaped destruction in the Time War by hiding in the Void Ship. Dalek Sec is the black one. Davies makes sure he doesn't paint himself into the corner this time round by having them transport themselves away through time - so available for a rematch.
As well as linking to previous stories, these two episodes set up a lot of what is going happen over the next two series.
Davies also elects to link the closing seconds into the forthcoming Christmas Special - rather than dwell on the grieving Doctor and Rose. This was intentional - to show that the adventure always continues.
A relatively small guest cast for a big two part finale, as most of the characters are returnees. Dr Singh is played by Raji James, and Yvonne Hartman is Tracy-Ann Oberman - best known for an Eastenders role, which gets referenced in Army of Ghosts.
Of note amongst the junior cast is Freema Agyeman as Adeole, since we are going to see a lot more of her soon. Matt is Oliver Mellor, who was in Coronation Street for a number of years, and Gareth is Hadley Fraser. There is another rare, at this stage, appearance by an actor who had appeared in the Classic Series. The chief of police is David Warwick, who had been Kimus in The Pirate Planet.
We have a number of "celebrity" cameos - I use the term loosely - in the sequence where the Doctor channel hops to learn more about the ghosts. There's Barbara Windsor banning the spectre of Den Watts from the Queen Vic pub, and medium Derek Acorah claims they are putting him out of business. The "Ghostwatch" programme is hosted by real TV presenter Alistair Appleton. We also have Trisha, with someone on her talk show claiming to be in love with a ghost. Note the explosion at the Burberry factory in her audience. Chav-tastic.
And introducing Catherine Tate as the bride...

Episode endings:
  1. The ghosts start to move into formation and are revealed to be Cybermen, whilst Rose and Mickey watch as the Sphere opens and a group of Daleks emerge and float down towards them...
  2. The breach has been closed. The Doctor stands alone in the TARDIS, tears in his eyes. As he prepares to move on, he suddenly sees a figure standing in the ship, wearing a wedding dress. Cue "What?", "What?" "WHAT!?"
  1. A newspaper reporter tries to sell his editor a story about an organisation named Torchwood. The editor asks him to bring in some evidence . He does so some time later - such as Queen Victoria's involvement and the destruction of the Sycorax spaceship. The reporter is dragged away by a pair of mysterious men, and the story spiked. We then see the reporter in a strait-jacket, shouting that Torchwood exists, and that he knows about the ghosts...
  2. A news reader announces a state of emergency. Footage is shown of troops battling Cybermen. The newsreader then calls on people to flee for their lives, including her own family if they are watching. The studio comes under attack by Daleks...

Overall... It's a Russell T Davies series finale, so there's lots to love as well as a great big Deus ex Machina to sort things out at the end. Personally I think it is one of the better series finales. A fantastic cliffhanger to episode one, and pieces fit together as Rose and her family are sent off into a new life, with resolutions for Jackie and Pete - and potentially Rose and Mickey. It rates in the top 50 of the DWM 50th Anniversary poll, and the ending to Rose and the Doctor was judged the most emotional romantic farewell ever in a Channel 4 programme. Such a pity RTD went and spoiled the ending - though plans for Rose's return in Series 4 were already underway when this was first broadcast.
Things you might like to know:

  • Episode titles were initially considered as "Torchwood Rises", and "Torchwood Falls". 
  • The "Tardisodes" get discontinued after this, which is a shame. We will later get the odd prequel once Steven Moffat takes over.
  • We will see some of the aftermath of the Battle of Canary Wharf in Torchwood Series 1, when it is revealed that Ianto Jones was present and tried to save his partially converted girlfriend Lisa.
  • Harriet Jones is the President of the UK in Pete's World. She clearly doesn't get a chance to usher in a golden age in our universe, so perhaps the Doctor has experienced more of Pete's World than we have seen.
  • Producer Phil Collinson wanted it to be Mickey who saved Rose from being sucked into the Void at the conclusion - showing that he still loved her even if she no longer loved him. Exec-Producer Julie Gardner argued for it to be Pete, to show that he had accepted her as his daughter.
  • As mentioned, Tracy-Ann Oberman was well known for Eastenders. She had played the wife of "Dirty Den" Watts, and had been responsible for murdering him - hence the in-joke of his appearance in the Queen Vic as a ghost. What the Cyberman would have thought about being confronted by Barbara Windsor, lord only knows.
  • And yes, dialogue had already shown that Eastenders was a TV programme in the Doctor Who universe, but this puts the top hat on it. Dimensions In Time can definitely be written off from the canon. Hooray!
  • A few BBC spoilers before this was broadcast. The Radio Times had featured an article about Neil Gorton's team several weeks before - and in the background to a photo of him was a Cyberman head with black Cyber-Leader handle-bars - though none had appeared in the Rise of the Cybermen two-parter. A trailer for the second half of the season had also shown a clip of a Cyberman bursting through plastic sheeting - again absent from the earlier story. These let us know that the ghosts were going to be Cybermen, and not the Gelth as some fans had speculated.
  • The BAFTA ceremony that Spring had also featured an appearance by a Dalek on the red carpet - and it was a black one. The same trailer that had shown us the Cybermen were coming back also showed people being killed with the Dalek extermination effect.
  • It was widely believed that the Genesis Ark was going to contain Davros - partly because of its design but also due to that name.
  • Broadcast coincided with the World Cup latter stages, so the Radio Times had two cover variants to collect - a Cyber one and a Dalek one, with the monsters holding footballs.
  • The Ghostbusters bit is quite naff - but that was a thing you already knew.
  • The Eternals, from Enlightenment, get a mention. They have a name for the Void - the Howling.
  • The Doctor informs us of his liking for "Allons-y" for the first time. It will become a crucial plot point in a later story, and he will also get to meet an Alonso to say it to soon.
  • Watch out for the guy who gets on the bus behind Rose in the opening medley. The camera set up inside sees him sit immediately behind her, but the next shot from out on the street shows him seated further back.
  • And the alien planet with the manta rays was filmed on Bad Wolf Bay - that rock formation is going to become incredibly familiar - using stock CGI elements already created by The Mill.
  • The Egyptian sarcophagus at Torchwood is indeed supposed to be a reference to Pyramids of Mars
  • The spaceship found at the base of Mount Snowden will get another mention in David Tennant's final story, as it was from this that the Immortality Gate was salvaged. In the SJA story featuring Matt Smith's Doctor, UNIT have a base at the foot of the mountain.
  • The Fall of Arcadia is mentioned. We will later get to see that this is actually the second city of the Time Lords on Gallifrey, and we will get to witness it as well.
  • As mentioned above, this finale was filmed along with the other Cyberman story, so the last story filmed for Series 2 was the Impossible Planet two-parter. David Tennant had to be sneaked out of the wrap party to film the concluding sequence with Catherine Tate, who had been smuggled to the studio in Cardiff.

Saturday, 11 March 2017

B is for... Beyus

Leader of the people of the planet Lakertya. When the Rani arrived with her Tetrap soldiers, Beyus elected to co-operate with her. In this way he hoped to save lives. One young man - Ikona - saw his actions as capitulation and collaboration, and thought him weak. When the newly regenerated Doctor arrived on the planet, he too argued against Beyus' behaviour. Beyus saw his daughter, Sarn, killed by one of the Rani's deadly traps, and began to doubt what he had done, but persevered with his help for the Rani. He wanted her to complete her work then leave them alone. However, he discovered that her experiments would result in the destruction of Lakertya, and so finally made a stand. He sacrificed himself to blow up the Rani's Time Brain and delay the launch of her missile that was due to explode an asteroid composed of incredibly dense Strange Matter.

Played by: Donald Pickering. Appearances: Time and the Rani (1987).

  • This is Pickering's third and final appearance in Doctor Who. He first appeared as Eyesen in episodes 5 and 6 of The Keys of Marinus in 1964, then returned in 1967 as the Chameleon copy of Captain Blade in The Faceless Ones - when one of his co-stars, as in Time and the Rani, was Wanda Ventham.

B is for... Bevan (Nikki & Jonah)

The Rift in time and space which ran through Cardiff often left behind alien beings and artefacts, but occasionally it also took things - and people. A boy named Jonah Bevan went missing one night on his way home. CCTV showed him on the Cardiff Bay barrage, disappearing in a blaze of light. PC Andy Bell introduced Gwen Cooper to a support group for the relatives of missing people, run by Jonah's mother Nikki.
Gwen found that Jack was deliberately frustrating her efforts to investigate Jonah's disappearance. She discovered the existence of a complex hidden beneath one of the islands in the bay. It was a medical facility, set up by Jack to care for those who had been taken by the Rift and later returned. Jonah was here - but he was now a mature man. He had been badly burned, and driven insane. He had looked into the heart of a Dark Star, and would scream for 20 hours a day.

Gwen was determined that Nikki deserved the truth about her son - no matter how difficult that proved to be. She took her to the facility. At first Nikki could not believe that this was her son, but he remembered things from his childhood only Jonah would know. She then experienced his screaming. Later she told Gwen that she would rather have not known the truth, but promised not to tell anyone about the facility.

Played by: Ruth Jones (Nikki), Robert Pugh (adult Jonah), Oliver Ferriman (young Jonah). Appearances: Adrift (TW: 2.11 - 2008).

  • Ruth Jones MBE is best known as co-creator / writer (with James Corden) on Gavin & Stacey, and for the title role in Stella.
  • A little claim to fame here - I took part in a charity quiz once, and Robert Pugh was on an opposing team. We beat them.

B is for... Bettan

A young Thal woman whom the Doctor met in their city. He had just failed to stop the launch of the Thal missile which had destroyed the Kaled city, and the Doctor feared that Sarah and Harry had been killed in the explosion. The Doctor saved her when the Daleks arrived to begin exterminating her people. Escaping to the wilderness of Skaro, the Doctor tasked her with finding as many survivors of either side as she could, along with some of the Mutoes - to form an army against Davros and his creations. Bettan led them to the Kaled bunker, where they set about mining the entry - planning on entombing the Daleks. Sarah and Harry talked her into delaying blowing the charges until after the Doctor had a chance to escape with the Time Ring they needed to be reunited with the TARDIS

Played by: Harriet Philpin. Appearances: Genesis of the Daleks (1975).

B is for... Beth

Torchwood were called in after a house break-in went wrong. Both burglars were brutally killed, and Beth Halloran's husband left hospitalised. She had no recollection of events. Beth was taken to the Hub for questioning, and it was noted that a Weevil in its cell reacted strangely to her - bowing down in her presence. Under a mind probe, alien technology was found to be grafted under the skin of her right arm, which could transform into a sharp bladed weapon. Jack Harkness deduced that she was an alien sleeper agent, oblivious to her true nature until activated. The assault by the burglars had triggered her activation prematurely. Other agents were triggered, acting as suicide bombers to cripple the city. One of them went to a military base in order to detonate a nuclear missile, but was stopped just in time. Beth escaped and went to the hospital, where she was compelled to kill her husband. Back at the Hub, she refused to allow the Torchwood team to deprogramme her. She attacked Gwen Cooper - deliberately forcing the team to shoot and kill her.

Played by: Nikki Amuka-Bird. Appearances: Sleeper (TW: 2.2 - 2008).

B is for... Bert

Landlord of the "Cloven Hoof" pub in the village of Devil's End. He was a servant of the new vicar, Mr Magister - the latest alias of the Master. The Master sought to take over the psionic powers of the long dormant Daemon, Azal. Bert worked against the Doctor and UNIT, at first surreptitiously. He later tried to kill the Doctor by shooting him as he drove back to the village on a motorcycle. Donning a costume made of newspaper strips during the May Day festival, he acted as leader of the villagers when the Morris Dancers captured the Doctor - inciting them to burn him as a witch. The Doctor used Bessie's remote control to overpower him. When Bok emerged from the cavern beneath the village church to hold UNIT at bay, it refused to differentiate between friend and foe and Bert was vapourised.

Played by: Don McKillop. Appearances: The Daemons (1971).

  • McKillop's most famous role is that of the police inspector, who ultimately gets his head ripped off by An American Werewolf in London.

B is for... Berserkers

An ancient race of warriors. One of their pendants found its way to Earth where it affected a schoolboy named Jacob. It left a strange tattoo pattern on his hand, and caused him to change physically, with blue veins standing out on his skin. He found he could make people do whatever he told them. Sarah Jane Smith's young friend Rani got hold of the pendant and took it to her attic. Sarah was away from home at the time, and it fell into the hands of Clyde Langer's estranged father, Paul. He had turned up after years away, and Clyde took him to the attic to prove that he and his friends fought aliens. Intent on winning his son back, Paul made him forget about his friends and even his mother. He forced people to do anything he said - including making Rani's father do continuous press-ups, which almost killed him. He made a salesman hand over a sports car, and father and son ran off to the coast. Paul underwent the physical transformation - turning into a Berserker. He was going to turn Clyde into one of his soldiers. Sarah returned in time to force Paul into realising what he had become, and to remember who he really was. He relinquished the pendant, which was then thrown into the sea.

Played by: Gary Beadle (Paul), Perry Millward (Jacob). Appearances: Mark of the Berserker (SJA 2.7 / 2.8 - 2008).

Wednesday, 8 March 2017

Inspirations - The Keys of Marinus

Another of those early stories that has always gone by just this one title. That's because this is a quest for a set of keys - on Marinus. Not down the back of the sofa these, however. These keys have been scattered across the planet, and the Doctor and his companions have been forced against their will to go and fetch them.
The writer is Terry Nation, fresh from his success with the Daleks. His next Doctor Who story was supposed to have been a historical - popularly referred to as "The Red Fort" and set during the Indian Mutiny. Instead he is given another futuristic story, and he decides on the Quest format.
One of the oldest forms of story-telling, the quest sees an individual, or maybe a group, embark on some hazardous journey in which life lessons are learned. There will be some kind of goal - a prize or treasure - but usually it is the journey itself which is the most important thing. Think of the rite of passage, in which a young person achieves recognition of adulthood.
One of the most famous quest tales is that of Parsifal and the Grail. In more modern times we have had Bilbo and Frodo Baggins' respective journeys through Middle Earth. With the Grail legends, no-one can even agree what the thing they're chasing is. The cup used in the Last Supper, or one used to catch Christ's blood when he was speared through the side whilst crucified? Or is it the Sangue Real, rather than the San Grail - the holy bloodline that has spawned thousands of dreadful conspiracy books.
In every case, there are a series of challenges to be overcome, as the questor(s) traverses alien terrains and meets strange and wonderful people and creatures. Nation had already used the trek through dangerous territory in order to pad out his Dalek story - with lakes full of monsters and deadly cave systems.

With this story, Nation has hit on an idea to make things simpler for himself. He doesn't need to fill six whole episodes with one set of characters in one location. That would be far too much hard work for what is basically an ideas man. Have the TARDIS crew go from place to place to find the keys, and Nation only needs to come up with a fairly slight plot for each - enough for 25 minutes. Six whole episodes of just Vasor, or just deadly plant pots, wouldn't work. He can raid memories of books he has read or movies he has seen. He would certainly have seen the Flash Gordon serials as a child, in which the hero and his friends visit the various realms of the planet Mongo over the course of a number of weeks.
We've already mentioned Shakespeare's The Tempest, in relation to the Doctor and Susan's exile on 20th Century Earth. This story gives us another version of Prospero and Miranda - Arbitan and his Daughter Sabetha on their island, surrounded by its acid sea. He's the scientist / magician, she the innocent young girl.
The first key location is the city of Morphoton. The name derives from Morpheus, the Greek god of dreams. Apt for a section of the story that deals with people being hypnotised whilst sleeping, then waking to believe that their dreams have come true. According to Ovid, in his Metamorphoses, Morpheus was the son of Hypnos.
The Morpho creatures are realised as brains in glass jars - as 1950's pulp Sci-Fi as you can get. There's a 1957 movie called The Brain From Planet Arous, in which the titular alien possesses people.
Another famous literary journey is that of Odysseus. His quest was to find his way home after the Trojan War. He happened upon the Lotus Eaters, who lived on an island and who were reduced to a sleepy, apathetic state due to their narcotic diet. Odysseus' men succumbed, and he had to snap them out of their lethargy otherwise they would have become equally enslaved.

The second key location takes us to a jungle. As this blog series progresses, you'll see that Nation has a thing about jungles. This one, like some future ones, has particularly deadly plants. They want to kill people. They also make a screaming noise - so we might still be travelling with Odysseus, who encountered the Sirens. Did Nation know about the new film that would go into production in May of 1964 at Pinewood? It was being made by the company who were going to make his first Dalek movie, and would star the cinema Doctor, and the cinema Ian Chesterton. Dr Terror's House of Horrors features an episode about a creeping plant vine that kills. A writer named Robert Gould had pitched a couple of ideas for Doctor Who - neither made, though he might have been put out to see both realised on screen after a fashion. One idea was for the Doctor and companions to be shrunk, and the other involved deadly plants. In 1964, Verity Lambert was hoping to get John Wyndham to write for the series, so everyone had to be careful not to tread on his Triffids' tendrils.
The old hermit who has caused the plants to run amok is named Darrius. Nation likes this name - or variations thereof. In one of the Dalek books of the Dalekmania period, a map of Skaro shows a continent called Darren.

From a hot and sultry jungle, we suddenly switch to a freezing, snow-capped mountain range. We go back to Parsifal / Wagnerian territory here, with Teutonic-looking Knights in armour guarding this week's Grail. Interestingly, Vasor - the name of the lusty fur trapper in this episode - happens now to be an acronym for a sex offender risk assessment. Very apt, considering he clearly attempts to molest Barbara. The idea of the lone fur trapper, or Mountain Man, is a very American / Canadian thing. In Europe it was more of a group or tribal way of life.
Hitler and the Nazis purloined the imagery of the Teutonic Knights, even though they had suppressed the real Order, who were a charitable foundation by the early 20th Century. They reformed in 1945.

And so on to the final segment of the story, before the denouement back on the island. We are in the city of Millennius. The name clearly harkens to the future. Nation rarely ever does much in the way of description in his plots - a favourite bugbear of designer Raymond Cusick - so having the three judges at Ian's trial dress like Archbishop Makarios III of Cyprus will have been someone else's inspiration. He had become President of the island in 1960, and was in the news in 1964 as the political situation in Greece deteriorated. There would be a military coup in Athens in 1967, and Cyprus would be divided between Greece and Turkey, as anyone who watches the Eurovision Song Contest will realise when it comes to the voting.
We have the first instance in the programme of the Whodunnit, and of the Courtroom drama. Nation at least flips the first of these, as it is Ian who has dunnit, until he can prove he never dunnit.
The most famous proponent of the guess-the-identity-of-the-murderer (I'm dun with the whodunnit bit) genre is Agatha Christie. There will be a couple of future stories that are inspired by her - including the one that she actually appears in. One of these forms part of a wider courtroom drama  - the trial of the Doctor that takes up all of Season 23.
We are still not that far forward from the Kennedy assassination, so Aydan's shooting in the courtroom before he can finger his accomplices (cue Sid James-style fnaar fnaar...) smacks more than a little of the killing of Lee Harvey Oswald by Jack Ruby. Forget magic bullets and grassy knolls, this one incident tells us that there was a conspiracy.
The Doctor talks of meeting Pyrrho. He's the Greek philosopher credited with founding the Skeptic school. That's where you reserve judgement. You don't simply believe what you're told but insist on proof.
So there you have it - dun and dusted. The Quest was the Quest. The Doctor and his friends have become closer and know and trust each other better. Altos and Sabetha head off together for a new life. There was a prize - the keys - but they get blown up at the end, so it was all about the journey.
Next time, more adventures in History, and you can't change anything - Not One Line...

News Update...

No doubt you have read in the news today of spy agencies being able to eavesdrop on us via android phones and smart TV sets. Seems one of the hack programs developed jointly by the CIA and MI5 has been named a "Weeping Angel". It affects some Samsung TVs. When you think the set is switched off, it isn't really - so it can listen in on your conversations. In other words, it does nothing when you are looking at it - but don't turn away... This has come from a bunch of wikileaked papers. No-one has confirmed, and the hack may have already been overcome in the last year or two, but Samsung say they are taking the claims seriously.

Meanwhile the BBC have released what looks like a very spoilery image for the conclusion to Series 10 - featuring Mondasian Cybermen. I will be extremely surprised if this is the big surprise for the closing episode(s) - it's just far too early for them to be releasing this if it is. Think of it more as a lure to get fans to watch - including those that may have drifted away from the programme of late. Apparently Capaldi loves this version of the Cybermen, so they may be a leaving gift from Mr Moffat.