Thursday, 17 August 2017

C is for... Castrovalvans

According to the TARDIS databanks, on the planet of Castrovalva existed Dwellings of Simplicty. Here, the Doctor would be isolated from all technology, and so free to heal after his fourth regeneration. Castrovalva appeared to be a hilltop citadel, and its people were a friendly, peace-loving humanoid race. They engaged in ritualised hunting parties, wearing furred, masked costumes that had belonged to their ancestors. Librarian Shardovan refused to participate in these hunts. Their leader was a wise old man - the Portreeve. The Doctor was placed under the care of physician Mergrave, and soon recovered. He decided to read the history of Castrovalva, which chronicled the city from the coming together of various tribes up to the present day. He discovered that, though supposedly old, this had been written by Shardovan. He soon became aware that Castrovalva was not what it appeared. It was subject to dimensional instability. Mergrave became confused about its geography when asked to draw a map showing his apothecary. Shardovan had created the history because he had come to realise that his people had none. They were all a creation of the Master, harnessing Adric's mathematical skills to create block transfer computations. He had been the Portreeve in disguise.
When the Doctor freed Adric, the city began to collapse in on itself. The Castrovalvans turned on their creator - ensnaring him in his own trap.

Appearances: Castrovalva (1982).

  • "Castrovalva" is the name of a work by the artist M C Escher, famous for his strange optical illusions. A print had hung behind the desk of producer John Nathan Turner's boss, and it had always annoyed him.

C is for... Castellan

The Doctor had encountered two other holders of this post on Gallifrey before he met this unnamed individual. The Castellan was a senior Time Lord, responsible for internal security. He commanded the Chancellery Guards. This Castellan held a seat on the High Council, and was one of its key members. At the same time that he was investigating the apparently accidental death of a Time Lord technician, the Time Lords became aware that an entity from the universe of Anti-Matter was attempting to break into this universe by bonding itself physically to the Doctor. The Castellan had the TARDIS recalled to Gallifrey, materialising it in a security area. A humourless and obsessive man, he failed to heed warnings by a friend of the Doctor's - Damon - that might point towards a traitor at work. He pursued the Doctor ruthlessly. When the Doctor was captured and sentenced to vapourisation the Castellan harboured doubts, and ordered Captain Maxil of the Chancellery Guards to investigate the execution. A fellow member of the High Council - Hedin - was the traitor, seeking to bring Omega back from his long exile. Hedin manufactured evidence that made President Borusa look like he was in league with the Doctor. The Castellan was prepared to shoot down the Doctor when he went to arrest Borusa, but Hedin intervened and was killed, as he knew Omega needed the Doctor alive.

Later, when the Doctor was taken out of time in all of his regenerations and deposited in the Death Zone on Gallifrey, the Castellan was once again part of the inner circle of the Council. This was the work of Borusa. Knowing of the animosity felt by the Castellan towards the Doctor, he made the perfect scapegoat to throw attention away from himself. He arranged for the forbidden Black Scrolls of Rassilon to be found amongst the Castellan's effects and ordered his arrest - authorising use of the Mind Probe to interrogate him. He then engineered his murder, employing a Chancellery Guard Captain to shoot him down in a faked escape bid.

Played by: Paul Jerricho. Appearances: Arc of Infinity and The Five Doctors (1983).

  • A Castellan is the governor of a castle.

C is for... Cassandra (2)

Lady Cassandra O'Brien dot Delta 17 claimed to be the last pure bred human, and so was a guest on Platform One in the year 5 Billion to witness the final destruction of the Earth. Born a boy in Texas, she had grown up in England. After transitioning to a woman, she became obsessed with her appearance and embarked on hundreds of surgical procedures to improve her looks - resulting in her becoming a piece of skin stretched on a frame, with eyes and mouth, and with her brain held in a jar. She married several times, outliving all of her wealthy husbands.
She arrived on the Platform with attendant nurses, whose main job was to keep her permanently moisturised. She brought gifts of an ostrich egg (which she believed to have been a beast like a dragon), and a Wurlitzer juke-box, which she thought was an i-pod.
Desperate for funds to finance her next cosmetic operation, she hatched a plan to engineer a hostage situation on the Platform. She employed the Adherents of the Repeated Meme to distribute metal spheres to her fellow guests, inside each of which was a robot spider programmed to commit acts of sabotage. When it appeared that the Platform would be destroyed, she opted for a back-up plan, having invested heavily in the competitor firms of those aboard. She transmatted off the Platform, but the Doctor reversed this and brought her back. Without her attendants, the heat in the station caused her to dry out and she burst apart.

A faithful servant named Chip, who was a short-lived clone, salvaged her brain and eyes, and connected them up to a new body made from another piece of her skin. He hid her in the basement of the hospital on New Earth. She spent her time reminiscing about her earlier life, and plotting to discover the secrets of the cat-like Sisters of Plenitude who ran the hospital. Her robot spiders alerted her to the fact that Rose and the Doctor had arrived on the planet and were coming to the hospital. She tricked Rose into going to the basement and employed a psycho-graft to transfer her mind into Rose's body. Her own body and brain died. She pretended to be Rose and helped the Doctor discover what the Sisters were up to - growing cloned humans to use as laboratory guinea-pigs. They carried many virulent diseases, and Cassandra released them. At one point she transferred herself into the Doctor. On another occasion she entered one of the clones, and was shocked by the loneliness she felt there. When forced to vacate Rose's body and accept her inevitable demise, Chip stepped in and became a willing host for her. His life had been almost over, however. The Doctor took her to visit her earlier self, when she still had a humanoid body. She had based Chip on the last person ever to tell her she looked beautiful - which proved to be her future self.

Played by: Zoe Wanamaker. Appearances: The End of the World (2005) and New Earth (2006).

  • According to a BBC reference book (Monsters and Villains), Cassandra was born Brian Edward Cobbs.
  • Wanamaker was making a number of appearances in the Poirot TV series at the time these episodes were filmed, so only had limited time to record her dialogue, and to have motion capture done on her facial features in order that the Mill could animate her.

C is for... Cassandra (1)

Daughter of Priam, King of Troy. She feared that the city would fall after it accepted a gift from the Greeks, and at first thought that this might be the TARDIS, which brother Paris had found. She insisted it be burnt - prompting Vicki to leave the ship. Cassandra could foresee the future, though she was cursed that no-one would believe her prophesies. When it became clear that Vicki knew Steven, who was posing as a Greek warrior, Cassandra had her thrown into prison. When the city fell, Cassandra was taken captive and given to Agamemnon. Her handmaiden, Katarina, joined the TARDIS crew.

Played by: Frances White. Appearances: The Myth Makers (1965).

  • There is a popular myth that White asked the Radio Times not to credit her. She has denied this and states that it was a mistake by the publication.
  • In Greek mythology it was Apollo who gave Cassandra the gift of prophesy, and added the curse of never being believed when she spurned him. She was raped by Ajax in the temple dedicated to Athena, who wrecked the Greek fleet in revenge. Cassandra was killed along with Agamemnon shortly after they reached Mycenae.

Monday, 14 August 2017

Small Worlds - Torchwood 1.5

In which Jack wakes from a vivid nightmare - a memory of something which happened to him decades ago. As an officer in the British army he was traveling through India in the boxcar of a train when it passed through a tunnel. Within seconds, all of his men were dead - suffocated with rose petals. Jack finds a lone petal beside his bed. The next day he takes Gwen to see a lecture about local folklore, given by an old friend of his named Estelle Cole. She has taken some photographs which she claims show Faeries, taken in a local woodland.
At Estelle's home, Gwen sees a photo of her as a young woman, with a man who looks exactly like Jack. He claims that this was his father, who courted Estelle for a time. Jack warns Estelle that Faeries are not the benign creatures she believes them to be, but she refuses to accept this. Outside, he tells Gwen that they are beings from outwith Time itself and are totally amoral. Back at the Hub, Jack asks Toshiko to monitor for any unusual weather events, as these can indicate Faery activity.

A young girl named Jasmine lives in a house that backs onto the woodland where Estelle saw the creatures. She is a solitary child, with no friends, and who does not get on with her mother's boyfriend, Roy. He fails to pick her up from school and so she walks home. A man named Mark Goodson attempts to lure her into his car. Jasmine does have friends - ones that only she can see. A fierce wind forces Mark to withdraw and he feels that someone is hunting him. In a nearby market he begins to regurgitate rose petals. He finds a police officer and asks to be arrested, admitting that he is a paedophile.  In custody, he dies - suffocated by petals. Jack and Gwen are called in to investigate the death. Jack tells Gwen about the events in India, back in 1909. Some of his men had drunkenly run over and killed a child. This child was a chosen one for the Faeries, and this is why they killed his men in the train.
That night Estelle hears someone prowling outside her home and calls Jack. Going out into the garden to fetch her cat she is caught in a torrential downpour. This freak weather is spotted in the Hub. By the time Jack gets to the house, Estelle has died from drowning. Jack admits to Gwen that the man in the photo was him. Returning home, Gwen finds her flat has been ransacked. A miniature sculpture, like a stone circle, has been left on the floor.

The next day, Jasmine is bullied at school. The playground is buffeted by strong winds, causing everyone to panic - all except Jasmine. Owen has discovered that the piece of woodland where Estelle saw the Faeries - Roundstone Woods - has always been wild and never been built upon, despite redevelopment all around it. It contains an ancient stone circle. When Jack and Gwen investigate the school, Gwen is convinced that something is watching them from the trees. They decide to go and speak to Jasmine. Roy has boarded up the fence to stop Jasmine from going into the woods. A party is being held to celebrate the fifth anniversary since Roy started going out with her mother. It is attacked by winged, green-skinned creatures. One of them kills Roy, suffocating him. Jasmine runs into the woods. Jack realises that the girl has been chosen to join the Faeries, and that nothing will prevent this. To the horror of his colleagues and her mother, Jack allows the creatures to take Jasmine.
Back at the Hub, Gwen is studying images of the Cottingley Fairies, taken in 1917. She zooms in on one of the faces of the dancing figures, and sees that it shows a smiling Jasmine.

Small Worlds was written by P J Hammond, best known for creating Sapphire and Steel. It was first broadcast on 12th November, 2006.
Hammond had been sounded out for a Doctor Who contribution by script editor Eric Saward in the mid 1980's, though nothing had come of the approach.
For a change, there are no alien aspects to the story, though Jack does reference a monster from the classic era of Doctor Who. The Faeries are Earthbound creatures, who have always lived alongside us, though they don't follow linear time. I've read a lot of Scottish folklore, and Faeries feature prominently. The stories rarely show them in a benign light. At best they are amoral. They are often alleged to steal children, or nursing women to feed their own children, replacing them with a piece of wood. Another popular tale is that of the person who joins them in a dance. He thinks he has only been with them a few hours, whereas a year or more has really passed. In one version, a whole century has gone by.
Child abduction features in the Doctor Who series 2 story Fear Her, but at no point is it ever even suggested that this may be due to a paedophile. Small Worlds tackles this subject head on, in the character of Goodson.

Jasmine is played by Lara Phillipart. She features in The Idiot's Lantern, watching the Coronation at the Connolly household. Estelle is Eve Pearce. She's a poet as well as an actor.
Overall, one of the highlights of the first season. Hammond is a great writer, and his contribution to the second season will be one of its best.
Things you might like to know:

  • The Doctor Who monster Jack refers to is the Mara - from Kinda and Snakedance. He suggests that the Faeries might be part Mara. At least that's the conclusion fans jump to. Hammond would be referencing the Germanic legends, where the Mara can steal peoples' breath and are the derivation of the word "nightmare", whereas Christopher Bailey was inspired by a Buddhist demon.
  • It has been implied that Jack never sleeps, yet here we see him in bed, waking from a nightmare.
  • The Torchwood website claimed that Jack's role in India, 1909, was when he was acting as a con-man, out to steal diamonds.
  • The Cottingley Fairies were revealed to have been a hoax in the early 1980's, when the two cousins who feature in the pictures admitted they cut the figures from a book and fastened them with hat pins. When first revealed to the public, they caught the attention of Sir Arthur Conan Doyle, who was convinced of their authenticity. The August 2017 edition of Fortean Times has a feature, marking the centenary of the photographs.
  • The episode ends with a quotation from The Stolen Child, by W B Yeats - a devout believer in the supernatural. It runs: "Come away, O human child! To the waters and the wild. With a faery hand in hand. For the world's more full of weeping than you can understand".

Friday, 11 August 2017

August's Figurines

Three figurines again this month - two regular releases plus the latest of the special editions. First of all we have the Professor Yana Master. An extremely good likeness of Derek Jacobi.
With him is Dalek Caan, as he appeared in The Stolen Earth / Journey's End, with the casing broken open. This is one of those figurines that looks odd out of context, being so brightly coloured. On screen it was kept in a harsh spotlight, in a darkened chamber.

The special edition figure is the Yeti, as it appeared in The Web of Fear. It is roughly twice the size of the normal figurines. Unfortunately, mine came with a couple of the talons broken off - that's three months running I've had to get the super-glue out. Either Eaglemoss need to improve their packaging, or my postman has to to go.
Next month we will be treated to Sharaz Jek, from The Caves of Androzani, plus - what it possibly the most pointless release yet - the Space Pig from the Series 1 Slitheen story. October sees an Ogron plus a Cheetah Person, whilst the next special edition will be Aggedor.

Tuesday, 8 August 2017

Inspirations: The Myth Makers

Until relatively recently, it was widely accepted that a man named Homer wrote an epic poem about a legendary war - and of a ten year siege by Achaean (Greek) heroes of a city named Troy.
More recently it has become widely accepted that the Greeks really did besiege and destroy the city of Troy, in the Dardanelles, during the Bronze Age. It's Homer himself who has become the myth.
If he did exist, he certainly wasn't a first hand observer of the conflict - he lived several centuries later.
It appears that the tale was handed down orally over those centuries by story-tellers until someone - possibly Homer - wrote it down. But the germ of the poem came from first hand accounts of a real conflict. There's corroboration in Hittite texts of a Mycenaean Greek High King campaigning in Asia Minor in the area where archaeologist Heinrich Schliemann unearthed the ruins of the city he believed to be Troy, which had clear destruction layers. The Greeks had built a new city on top of this, and the Romans had built another on top of that. Alexander the Great had no problem identifying it as the site of Troy. He was shown the tomb of Achilles - a mound near the site - and is said to have swapped his own shield for that of his hero.
That's as much as we can say about a conflict in the region in the Bronze Age. The details, such as Paris abducting Helen; her husband Menelaus seeking help from his brother - Agamemnon - and other Greek city states to lay siege; the siege lasting ten years; and the subterfuge of the Wooden Horse etc - all this can never be proved. Some of it is certainly artistic licence on the part of the bards who first told the tale.

We've said a lot about Homer, but nothing so far about the Doctor. The Myth Makers - always known under this title - was written by Donald Cotton. He had written a number of plays for the Third Programme, most inspired by the classical Greek myths. When story editor Donald Tosh invited him to contribute a storyline to Doctor Who, he settled on the legend of the Wooden Horse of Troy. Cotton elected to make the episodes humorous, but with a sudden switch to darkness in the final section when Troy would fall, and most of the characters would be killed.
The action begins with the TARDIS materialising near Troy. The Doctor goes out to confront two men who are fighting - distracting one of them (Hector) long enough for the other (Achilles) to kill him. Achilles takes the Doctor to be Zeus, and he plays along as he's taken to the Greek camp where he meets Agamemnon, the spineless Menelaus - who just wants to go home and isn't that bothered about getting Helen back - and the cynical Odysseus, who wants proof of his divinity. Steven comes looking for the Doctor, gets taken for a Trojan spy, and so the Doctor has to step in to save him. He decides to show Odysseus his "temple" - the TARDIS - but when they get there it has gone. Vicki, nursing a sore ankle, was still inside. She emerges from the ship after it has been carried into Troy.
Vicki needs to be rescued from the city by Steven, whilst the Doctor is challenged to come up with a way of capturing it. She falls in love with King Priam's son Troilus, whilst making an enemy of his sister Cassandra, the prophetess. Steven pretends to be a warrior named Diomedes and allows himself to be captured by Paris - so he can get to Vicki. The Doctor decides that the Wooden Horse must have been made up by Homer, so he won't be messing with history if he suggests it to Odysseus.
The city falls, the Trojans are massacred - except for Cassandra who gets taken captive, Troilus, who runs off with Vicki (who changes her name to Cressida), and Katarina, a handmaiden who looks like she's going to be the new companion as she departs in the TARDIS with the Doctor and Steven.

As well as the general myths of the Trojan War on view, the other big inspiration is the story of Troilus and Cressida. Shakespeare's play is probably the best known version, but earlier than that we have Chaucer's poem - and he is said to have taken the idea from Boccaccio. He in turn took inspiration from 12th Century poet Benoit de Saint-Maure. The two lovers fail to live happily ever after in the literary sources - with Troilus slain in battle and Cressida taking a Greek lover, ironically the person whom Steven is impersonating.
Whilst on the subject, Diomedes was not killed during the Trojan War. He returned to Greece and successfully founded a number of new cities.
Maureen O'Brien only discovered she was being written out of the series on her return from holiday at the end of Season 2. New producer John Wiles had heard her complain about the scripts for Galaxy 4, and thought she wanted to leave, so asked Tosh to arrange it as soon as possible. Of the four companion departures to date, that's two who have fallen in love with someone in the course of a few days, though Susan never got to make the decision to leave the TARDIS for herself.

Homer's Iliad is set in the later stages of the war, but ends before the fall of Troy - so the Wooden Horse doesn't feature. It is briefly mentioned in his other great work - The Odyssey - though that is set after the war has ended, when Odysseus is trying to get home to Ithaca. It is actually to the Roman writer Virgil that we should look for the full story of the Horse - in The Aeneid. Virgil recounts the story of the actual fall of the city, and of how the survivor Aeneas, after much wandering, arrives in Italy and founds Rome.
As far as Donald Cotton was concerned, the Wooden Horse was simply inspired by a Siege Machine. Though not common, they had been used at the time the war was set. An interesting theory is that the Horse was not a real one but a metaphorical one. The horse was one of the symbols of Poseidon. As well as being god of the seas, he was also responsible for earthquakes. Archaeologists working at Troy have found that it is not always possible to confirm if an area of destruction was man-made, or the result of a natural disaster like an earthquake. Troy lies in modern Turkey, which is geologically unstable.
Was the idea of a ten year siege such an unlikely one? It is written as though it was continuous, but warfare up until the formation of standing armies was a seasonal thing. You went off campaigning each year, but went home for important things like the harvest. A campaign lasting ten seasons is perfectly feasible.
Even something as fantastic as Achilles' vulnerable heel might have its derivation in truth. Experts have recreated armour from Bronze Age Asia Minor. It affords a great deal of protection - apart from the back of the lower leg...
Next time, it's back to Kembel for Dalek shenanigans of epic proportions.