Monday, 23 October 2017

Another overcrowded TARDIS?

After months of rumours that Bradley Walsh was gong to be a new companion, today comes confirmation. He's not the only one, however, as also joining Jodie Whitaker will be Mandip Gill, and Tosin Cole.
Now, the term "companion" can be a loose one. There have in recent years been characters who are best described as "recurring". The mothers of Rose, Martha and Donna cold never be described as companions, and Wilf Mott only really got that status in his final episodes. Danny Pink only ever really featured in the scenes back on Earth at Coal Hill School.
Therefore, I think it would be wrong to call all of these three "companions" until we see exactly what their roles are going to be.

Sunday, 22 October 2017

C is for... Clerics

By the 51st Century, the Catholic Church had a military branch known as the Clerics. Their badge was an inverted Greek letter Omega, and they came under the command of the Papal Mainframe.
The Doctor first encountered them on the planet Alfava Metraxis, when they were brought in by River Song. She had been released from the Stormcage prison facility so that she could recruit the Doctor to help capture a Weeping Angel. In command was Father Octavian. The Angel was on a spaceship called the Byzantium which crashed on the planet. The Clerics joined the Doctor, River and Amy in penetrating a Maze of the Dead, housing the remains of the native Aplan people who had died out centuries ago. However, it transpired that the statues covering the Maze were really other Angels, in a decrepit state but being re-energised by the radiation from the crashed ship. One of the Clerics - Bob - was killed and his vocal chords were used by the Angels to communicate with the Doctor. Once in the ship's artificial oxygen-producing forest, other Clerics tasked with guarding Amy were lured away by the appearance of the mysterious crack in time which had first been seen in Amy's bedroom. They were removed from time, as though they had never existed. Father Octavian was later killed by an Angel. Once the mission was over, the Clerics returned River to Stormcage.

A breakaway group from the Church, under the leadership of Madam Kovarian, abducted the pregnant Amy and held her captive on the asteroid Demons Run, which had been hollowed out to form a military base. The Clerics were commanded by Colonel Manton. They were working with the Headless Monks, and some of the Clerics were recruited to the join the Monks. They trained themselves to be resistant to Psychic Paper. The Doctor and Rory formed a band of friends to come and rescue Amy. The Doctor sowed dissent between the Clerics and the Monks so that they started to fight amongst themselves, allowing him and his friends to start their attack. Manton was discredited, and the Clerics were captured by Silurian and Judoon forces and thrown off the asteroid. One of them - a young woman named Lorna Bucket - joined forces with the Doctor and his friends, but was killed when the Monks sprang a counter-attack.

The Doctor visited the planet of Trenzalore for the second time, after a signal started to be beamed from there across the entire universe. This attracted the attention of numerous alien races and soon a massive collection of spaceships was in orbit. One of these housed the Papal Mainframe. The Doctor and Clara visited it and met its leader - Tasha Lem. On board was an army of Clerics. Appearing uniformed, they were actually naked - as everyone had to be on the craft - though they did employ holographic clothing. The Church placed a forcefield around the planet to prevent any of the aliens getting down to the town of Christmas where the Doctor had based himself, and from where the signal originated. The Daleks finally defeated all the other races and invaded the Mainframe, turning everyone into their drones.

Played by: Iain Glen (Octavian), Danny Sapani (Manton), Christina Chong (Lorna), David Atkins (Bob), Mark Springer, Troy Glasgow, Darren Morfitt, Charlie Baker, Dan Johnston, Joshua Hayes, Damian Kell. Appearances: Time of the Angels / Flesh and Stone (2010), A Good Man Goes to War (2011), The Time of the Doctor (2103).

C is for... Clent

Leader Clent was in command of the Brittanicus Base, which housed an ioniser designed to help stem the flow of the glaciers during an Ice Age of the year 5000 AD. Ionisers had been set up on every continent, and most were reporting success whilst Clent's team were slipping behind. This was partly due to his having fallen out with his chief scientist Penley, who had stormed out. Penley felt that Clent was over-reliant on the base's computer and lacked the courage to take risks or act on his own initiative. Clent was primarily a bureaucrat, who panicked when faced with conflict.
His assistant, Miss Garrett, idolised him, but he did not seem to notice this.
The Doctor arrived just as the ioniser was about to explode. When he resolved the problem, Clent offered him the role Penley had abandoned.
When another scientist named Arden found what appeared to be a prehistoric man frozen in the ice, Clent permitted him to dig it out and bring it back to the base, even though this would delay the project. The figure proved to be an alien - an Ice Warrior who had crashed into the glacier in ancient times.
Clent was faced with a problem. If the alien's ship was still intact in the glacier, the ioniser might cause its engines to explode. He sent Arden and Jamie after the Ice Warrior, Varga, after he had returned to life and abducted Victoria. Clent later found his base invaded by Ice Warriors. Penley decided to rejoin the base, insisting that Clent use the ioniser at full power to halt the advance of the ice. Clent turned to the computer, but it could give no answer as its programming did not allow it to sanction something which might destroy it. Penley pressed ahead, and the ioniser not only stopped the ice but blew up the Ice Warrior spaceship without causing a nuclear explosion.
Clent welcomed his scientist back onto the team and set about writing his report. He was very proud that he wrote all his own reports.

Played by: Peter Barkworth. Appearances: The Ice Warriors (1967).

  • Barkworth was famous at the time for appearing in The Power Game. He claimed to have taken the role of Clent to please his children who were big Doctor Who fans.
  • He went off to film Where Eagles Dare soon after, and sent the Doctor Who production team a postcard from Austria pointing out that he was now working in real snow.

C is for... Cleaves

Miranda Cleaves was the team leader of an acid mining operation on 22nd Century Earth. The team were employed by the Morpeth Jetsan company, and were based in an old monastery building on an island. Owing to the hazardous nature of their work, Cleaves and her colleagues used avatars of themselves composed of a material known as the Flesh. These copies were known as Gangers, and they held the same memories and personal characteristics as their human originals. Shortly after the Doctor, Amy and Rory arrived on the island, a solar storm caused the Gangers to break their link to their originals, becoming independent beings. Horrified at the prospect of another version of herself existing, Cleaves wanted the Gangers destroyed. They were only copies after all. The Doctor tried to argue that they deserved existence of their own. The Doctor tried to bring the two groups together but Cleaves killed the Ganger version of colleague Buzzer with an electric shock.
The two groups went to war against each other, the Gangers spurred on by Jennifer, who wanted to start a Flesh revolution. Cleaves was hampered in her efforts to get her people off the island as her Ganger knew exactly how she would think and act. She eventually decided to heed what the Doctor had been saying, as the other Gangers deserted Jennifer. Cleaves was secretly harbouring an illness, an incurable blood clot to the brain.
The Ganger Cleaves sacrificed herself, alongside the Flesh version of the Doctor, to destroy Jennifer and to allow her human counterpart to escape in the TARDIS. The Doctor provided her with a cure for her condition, then dropped her off at the headquarters of Morpeth Jetsan to argue for Ganger rights.

Played by: Raquel Cassidy. Appearances: The Rebel Flesh / The Almost People (2011).

  • Cassidy had previously worked alongside Matt Smith in the drama series Party Animals. She has featured a number of times in Big Finish productions, including a recurring role in the Jago & Litefoot series.

C is for... Cleaners

Robots which patrolled the walkways of the Paradise Towers residential complex. Their official designation was Robotic Self-Activating Megapodic Mark 7Z Cleaners. To make them more pleasing to the human eye, they were given stylised faces.
Their function was to work alongside the Caretaker staff in keeping the Towers clean and tidy. However, they were really under the control of the Great Architect, Kroagnon, whose disembodied intelligence was stored in the basement. Determined to create a new body for himself, he programmed the Cleaners to start killing the residents, bringing their corpses to him. Once Kroagnon had obtained a new body - that of the Chief Caretaker - he used the Cleaners to kill everyone, as he did not want humans spoiling his great work. As well as the robots, he utilised the automated waste disposal system to kill residents. Mel also discovered that the famous swimming pool at the top of the Towers had its own sub-aquatic cleaner - a yellow crab-like machine which tried to drown her. She destroyed it with Pex's gun. Some of the Cleaners were destroyed by the Kangs, shot by crossbow bolts.

Appearances: Paradise Towers (1987).

  • The Cleaners were added to Stephen Wyatt's scripts by producer JNT as he wanted the story to have a monster.

C is for... Clanton Family

A family of criminals who tried to take control of the town of Tombstone, Arizona. When the notorious gunfighter Doc Holliday set up a new dentist practice in the town, the Clanton brothers - Ike, Phineas and Billy - decided to get revenge on him, as he had shot dead their brother Reuben. They enlisted the help of another gunfighter - Seth "Snake-eyes" Harper. Whilst hanging out at the Last Chance Saloon, the Clantons saw Steven and Dodo arrive and book rooms for themselves and the Doctor, and they assumed this referred to Holliday. Holliday and his friend Marshal Wyatt Earp decided to allow the Clantons to believe that the Doctor was their target. The Doctor was taken into protective custody. When the Clantons tried to lynch Steven to force Earp to hand over their prisoner, Phineas was captured. Held in jail by Earp's brother Warren, the other brothers forced their way in - killing Warren and freeing Phineas. The Clanton's father backed his sons, but was horrified to learn that they were going to face Wyatt, his other brother Virgil, and Holliday in a gunfight at the town's OK Corral, as they didn't know Holliday had returned to Tombstone. All three brothers, as well as their partner Johnny Ringo, were shot dead.

Played by: William Hurndall (Ike), Maurice Good (Phineas), David Cole (Billy) and Reed de Rouen (Pa Clanton). Appearances: The Gunfighters (1966).

  • Reed de Rouen, who wrote a number of science fiction novels, co-wrote a Doctor Who story with Jon Pertwee - "The Spare-Part People". It wasn't commissioned.
  • Maurice Good introduced Phineas' stammer in rehearsals.
  • For the historical Clanton gang, I refer you to my recent "Inspirations" post for this story.

Thursday, 19 October 2017

Inspirations - The Smugglers

The Smugglers is the penultimate historical story of the 1960's phase of the programme - and the penultimate story for William Hartnell as the Doctor. It is the opening adventure of the fourth season, though filmed at the end of the previous production block. The writer is Brian Hayles.
A word now about the early seasons. It needs to be remembered that Doctor Who ran for almost the whole year, with only a short summer break. These days we have story arcs, and expect crowd pleasers for opening stories to grab new viewers (often introducing a new companion), and for the finale there has to be a big, spectacular conclusion that pays off elements from throughout the season.
The season openers so far have been An Unearthly Child, then Planet of Giants, then Galaxy 4. The last stories of each season have been The Reign of Terror, The Time Meddler, and The War Machines. So, companions have been introduced at the end of a season, rather than at the start, and the Daleks are nowhere to be seen. Setting aside the first story, for obvious reasons, only The Time Meddler has been in any way a game-changer, introducing another time-traveller with a TARDIS.

The Smugglers sees us back in historical times, but this is genre-history. There are no famous personages, or historical events. The year isn't even specified, but we can work it out from the dialogue - there is a king on the throne - and from the references to the pirate Avery. Henry Avery - also known as Every, and also sometimes called John - died some time between 1696 and 1699.
Script editor Gerry Davis is looking to historical fiction for his sources when commissioning stories. Brian Hayles really wanted to write something called "Doctor Who and the Nazis", but it was felt that the Second World War was still too fresh in people's minds to be sent-up in any way. Note the resistance Croft and Perry faced when trying to get Dad's Army off the ground.
Hayles and Davis have gone instead to the works of writers such as Robert Louis Stevenson, Sir Walter Scott, and Daniel Defoe. In their works, historical figures sometimes make the odd cameo, but generally they simply use a historical era as a backdrop for a good adventure yarn.
Often, the hero of these is a boy, often taken under the wing of a brave older male figure. Here Ben and Polly are the innocents, forced to cope with being taken out of time, with the Doctor as the wiser, more mature character.

As far as the titular smugglers themselves are concerned, there are two clear sources. One is Moonfleet, the 1898 novel by J. Meade Falkner, and the other is the series of Dr. Syn books by Russell Thorndike. The former deals with a pirate's treasure hidden in the crypt of the local church, as Avery's gold is here. Moonfleet also features Excisemen prominently.
Thorndike wrote seven Dr Syn novels. There have been three cinema interpretations. The best known is the 1962 Hammer film with Peter Cushing as Captain Clegg - its UK title. In the US it was The Night Creatures, though it has been shown as the latter recently on British TV, on the Talking Pictures channel. Disney produced a version the following year, with Patrick McGoohan as Syn.
In these books / films, Clegg is a feared pirate who has faked his own death and settled down in a Kent village posing as the local vicar - Dr Syn. Not content with the quiet life of a country parson, he heads a notorious smuggling ring. He is known as "the Scarecrow", and disguises himself as a scarecrow to keep watch over the area. The smugglers employ tricks to keep the locals from observing their activities - such as disguising themselves and their horses as skeletons when they ride across the marshes at night.
The smugglers we get in the Doctor Who story are nowhere near as inventive. They're a rather wet bunch actually, their leader being the local squire, who even comes to repent his wicked ways by the conclusion. If anything, this story should really be called "The Pirates", as they are the real villains, and the more interesting characters.

Captain Pike has a spike where his left hand used to be. The obvious reference here is to Captain Hook from Peter Pan. Hook first appeared in 1904. As with Captain Pike, Hook was once first mate to a famous pirate - in this case Blackbeard - before getting a command of his own. J M Barrie admitted that Hook's obsession with finding the crocodile that took his hand was based on Captain Ahab and Moby Dick. Barrie also threw in a reference to that other great fictional pirate, Long John Silver, in his play.
Whilst Pike is all surface charm, seeking to be recognised as a gentleman, his henchman Cherub is pure murderous brute. There's nothing cherubic about him at all. The pirates are in the area for a reason - seeking Avery's gold as we've mentioned. Why here in particular is because one of their ex-shipmates is now living the life of a church warden in the village where the Doctor and his companions have pitched up. Joe Longfoot has found god, but he is also part of the smuggling ring. Somehow knowing that he is not long for this world, he gives the Doctor a cryptic message - really the names on epitaphs in the crypt which point to the treasure's hiding place. Famously, Terence de Marney fluffs the message, whilst Hartnell gets it right.

Instead of abducting Longfoot, and reducing this to a two-parter, Cherub murders him and so has to go after the Doctor instead. One of the companions goes topless, and the other cross-dresses, whilst the Doctor tricks one of the pirates with some Tarot cards. He's from the Caribbean, so has to be called "Jamaica". Pike spikes him.
Ben meets a man named Josiah Blake, and he turns out to be the leader of the Excisemen. The pirates double-cross the smugglers - prompting Squire Edwards' conversion to the side of light. Blake and his men turn up like the 7th Cavalry, and the pirates are defeated.
As we've said, boys' own adventure stuff.
The final historical story, later this season, will touch on some of the same source materials - including as it does another piratical captain who has taken control of his boss' ship.
Next time: Hartnell guest stars in his own series. The Doctor's old body starts to wear a bit thin, and a bunch of aliens turn up who want to give him a new one. He declines, but gets a new one anyway...