Thursday, 14 December 2017

Inspirations - Evil of the Daleks

So, Terry Nation is removing the Daleks from Doctor Who so that he can launch them in a TV series of their own. We've talked about this before, as it seems to have been planned since the time of The Daleks' Master Plan - as it was the Space Security Service who would become the new protagonists.
Well, now it is actually happening - the removal, not the spin-off series. The BBC had a deadline after which they could no longer feature the Daleks. Evil of the Daleks is that final appearance before Nation withdraws his permission. Once again he is too busy to write something himself, so David Whitaker is called upon. He wrote their last outing, which had been deemed a success, and he knew the Daleks from their very beginnings.
Behind the scenes, Gerry Davis is standing down as Script Editor. He goes half way through this story, to be replaced by Peter Bryant, who is going to be with the show until Jon Pertwee's arrival. Bryant had been an actor, appearing in the UK's first ever soap - The Grove Family. It was written by Jon's dad and older brother, and if you want an idea of what it was like then they have been showing its cinema outing It's A Great Day on the Talking Pictures channel recently. Bryant gave up working in front of the camera to go behind the scenes, and was working in radio drama prior to moving onto Doctor Who. Producer Innes Lloyd was making ready to leave the series, and he saw Bryant as a potential replacement. He will try him out on the next story after this.

A word about lead-ins to stories. For much of the Hartnell era, each story - or rather the final episode of each set of related scripts as it was seen as an on-going serial - had the TARDIS crew already commencing on their next adventure. This might have been everyone being knocked to the ground by an explosion as soon as they left Skaro, or the Doctor being rendered invisible. In some cases, the link is more subtle, with the companions seen to be wearing the costume from the previous story. In other cases it is more vague. The Doctor claims he can't see anything on the scanner at the end of Planet of Giants. Next, he's moaning about the scanner not telling him anything as he can only see water. The same event, or two quite separate adventures?
Patrick Troughton's earliest stories are often linked with a lead-in at the conclusion - e.g. the appearance of the giant crab claw as they leave the Moon, or the ship going out of control on leaving Atlantis before reaching Earth's satellite.
Here we have another lead-in, as the last story ended with the Doctor informing Jamie that the TARDIS has been stolen. The first episode and a half of Evil of the Daleks involves us finding out who has taken it, and we see the Doctor and Jamie follow a set of clues to try and recover it.
The Faceless Ones might have been set in the present day, but the airport setting was as alien as another planet. For the first time we see the pair really interact with modern day London. They visit lock-up garages and a trendy coffee bar. It, and Waterfield's antiques shop, suggest Chelsea to us - the swinging-est part of Swinging London.
Coffee bars had come into vogue in the 1950's - popular with that new phenomenon, the Teenager. Nigel Kneale parodies their popularity and ubiquity in the second Quatermass serial, where we see the Professor meet his civil servant friend and the PR man from Winterton Flats in one, and the woman behind the counter complains that everyone is going to tea bars nowadays.

It's a Dalek story, so the titular creatures have made their entrance in the first episode cliffhanger. The Doctor only finds out he's in a Dalek story towards the end of part two, by which time he and Jamie have been whisked back to the Victorian era.
It has taken us a long time to get to the Doctor in the Victorian period. This is the end of the fourth season, after all. For some reason, Doctor Who always had a Victorian feel since its early days - possibly due to the Doctor's attitude and mode of dressing, or simply because we are reminded of Victorian writers as inspirations for the series. It was almost the Edwardian era when H G Wells started to write, but he is closely associated with the Victorian era through the settings for his writings, and their subsequent adaptations. Jules Verne wrote his most famous works between the 1860's and 70's.
Who are the greatest fictional characters ever invented - the ones who have had countless film and stage adaptations? Sherlock Holmes, Count Dracula, and Tarzan - all Victorian characters. Once the Doctor became a national institution, it was alongside these he was placed, so he felt Victorian - even when he wasn't.

It became a bit of a cliche, but the BBC was always said to be world class when it came to producing period drama - mostly Victorian again (e.g. Dickens adaptations). Throughout the history of the so-called "classic" period of Doctor Who, it is the historical-based stories which have the sets and props which no-one could slag off. The BBC simply knew how to do these well, even if they were appearing in a tea-time science fiction / fantasy series.
In January 1967, the BBC began transmitting The Forsyte Saga. This was produced by Donald Wilson - one of Doctor Who's godfathers. The series was derived from the novel cycle of John Galsworthy, published between 1906 and 1921. It was first shown on BBC 2, at a time when not everyone had that channel, but a repeat showing the following year on BBC 1 saw ratings reach 18 million. There is a Giles cartoon of the period which shows a British man and woman climbing over the Berlin Wall into the East, as the wife had missed the last episode and an East German TV station had just bought the series.
Placing the Doctor into a setting reminiscent of dramas such The Forsyte Saga seemed the natural thing to do in 1967.
Unfortunately, these are the bits that, some of the time, are the least rewarding. Ask most fans and they will tell you that Evil is the great lost masterwork of Doctor Who. More than the aforementioned Master Plan, or that final episode of The Tenth Planet. I will only go along with this opinion if I am allowed to jettison four characters from the production. I have always found the sub-plot surrounding Ruth, Toby, Molly and Arthur Terrall tedious in the extreme. I just don't see the point of them. For some bizarre reason Terrall is magnetic, but he just lurks around the background. Toby abducts Jamie, on Terrall's orders, even though the Daleks need Jamie for their experiment.

The bit of the story set in the Victorian period that is of interest is that experiment. The Daleks want to isolate the "Human Factor" - those qualities which have defeated them so many times in the past. Add this factor to Daleks, and they will be invincible. What we get is the latest form of the Quest scenario in the programme. Jamie is set a task - to locate and rescue Waterfield's daughter Victoria, who is being held somewhere in the mansion. To challenge him, and make things more interesting for us, there are a number of lethal booby-traps to avoid, and Maxtible's Turkish servant Kemel has been told to try to stop him. More could have been made of this latter aspect, as Kemel and Jamie end up best pals a little too quickly, after Jamie saves the servant's life.
The draft scripts played out much differently for this section. The Daleks were to have got the Doctor to abduct a Neanderthal (to be named Og) for Jamie to challenge. As it is, we have a hint of Darwin, and survival of the fittest, but more would have been made of this if a prehistoric man had been included in the mix - one from a branch of humanity which became extinct.

The Dalek plan is far from an unqualified success. When the Human Factor is introduced into a trio of dormant Daleks, they develop a playfulness instead of ruthless cunning. They also ask questions, which is a strict no-no for a Dalek. The Daleks all get recalled to Skaro, taking Maxtible, Victoria and Kemel with them. Everyone else is left in the house with a big bomb. It will transpire that the Dalek Emperor needs the Doctor, so this seems to be a funny way of going about things. The Doctor, Jamie and Waterfield have to quickly reassemble the Dalek time machine they used to nip back and forth to the 20th Century, which luckily transports them to Skaro as well. This is the first time, apart from Earth, that the series has seen a visit to the same planet twice. If it was going to be any alien planet, it would have to be the homeworld of the Daleks.
On Skaro, we get to meet the Emperor - a huge Dalek which is immobile - plumbed into the city which surrounds it. This was one aspect of the story which Terry Nation objected to. He did not like the Emperor - just as he had disliked the gold-domed one in the comic strips (also created by Whitaker). Not just the look of them - the whole concept.

The Emperor reveals that the experiment with the Human Factor has just been a sideline to the real plan - the isolation of the Dalek Factor. The Emperor intends to use this to turn people into mental Daleks, and the Doctor is to use the TARDIS to spread this factor throughout Earth's history.
Maxtible has been going along with the Daleks since the beginning, as they have promised him the secret of how to turn base metal into gold. He's an alchemist, and some have seen an interest in this subject throughout much of David Whitaker's writing (chiefly Philip Sandifer, of the Tardis Eruditorum blog / books - who points out the use of mercury in many of his scripts as a for instance).
The Daleks try to convert the Doctor - seemingly unaware of his extra-terrestrial origins. They think he's human, just made special by his travelling in time. This is one very good reason for believing that the civil war - pardon me if I jump ahead - does not take place at the very end of the Dalek time-line, as we will later see Daleks who know he is a Time Lord.
So, the scene is set for the "final end" of the Daleks. The Doctor reverses the machine which is supposed to instill the Dalek Factor so that it instead gives Daleks the Human factor. Those processed start to question orders, and soon the Daleks are fighting amongst themselves.
Innes Lloyd wasn't too unhappy to see the Daleks seemingly wipe themselves out, as he had a new recurring foe in the shape of the Cybermen, who came free, and without Roger Hancock as an agent.
There is a little hint at the end that it isn't the last we are going to see of the Daleks. It was decided that the shattered casing of the Emperor would have a small light continuing to pulse within.
Maxtible is not seen to perish - leading to one particular theory that he becomes the religio-maniac Emperor of The Parting of the Ways. Victorian values, after all.
Waterfield does bite the dust, so Victoria becomes an orphan and leaves Skaro with the Doctor and Jamie, becoming the new regular companion.
And so Season 4 ends, in fairly epic fashion.
Next time: those new Big Bads are back, and we get to go to their home planet and meet their leader...

Tuesday, 12 December 2017

End of Days - Torchwood 1.13

In which the consequences of Owen opening the Rift begin to be felt. Reports start coming into the Hub of strange appearances across the globe. A fleet of spaceships is seen above the Taj Mahal in India, and figures in historical costume begin to turn up, such as Civil War era soldiers on the streets of London. Tosh runs a computer simulation which shows that Cardiff is at the epicentre of these occurrences, with cracks spreading out across the planet. Jack and Gwen go to the police station after she receives a call for help from her ex-colleague Andy. In the cells he has a Roman soldier. Owen and Tosh meanwhile respond to calls from the hospital. Strange illnesses are being seen. Owen sees a woman who is dressed in medieval fashion, and he realises that the people falling through the cracks in time are bringing sicknesses with them - such as the Black Death. Tosh has a vision of her mother, who tells her that darkness is coming and she must open the Rift to stop all this.
Back at the Hub, Jack blames events on Owen, who is angry as he only opened the Rift to save Jack and Tosh from being trapped in the 1940's.

Gwen briefly sees a vision of Bilis Manger, and later Ianto sees his girlfriend Lisa in the cell area, as she was before she fell into the hands of the Cybermen. She urges him to open the Rift. Jack and Owen argue further, and things come to a head. Jack sacks Owen, who leaves the Hub. He goes to a bar to drown his sorrows, and sees Diane Holmes. She tells him that if he opens the Rift she can come back to him. Jack and Gwen track down Bilis Manger to a shop specialising in antique time pieces. He explains that he can travel through time with ease. He vanishes. Jack leaves, but Bilis returns and shares a vision with Gwen. She sees Rhys dead, covered in blood. She rushes home to find him alright, but insists that he be taken to the Hub for protection. He is knocked out and put in one of the cells. Soon after, the power fails in the Hub. Rhys is confronted by Bilis Manger, who stabs and kills him. Rhys' body is taken to the mortuary area, where Gwen is furious at Jack for failing to save him. Owen returns, and insists that they must open the Rift to correct everything. Jack refuses, and accuses each member of the team of acting against him at one point or another. Tensions mount, and Owen shoots Jack dead. The rest of the team then open the Rift.

History seems to have been reset, with Rhys alive again. Everyone - except for Gwen, who has seen this before - is shocked to see Jack revive. The city is hit by an earth tremor. They all rush outside to see what is happening, and find Bilis, who speaks in awe of the Beast named Abaddon. He has manipulated them all in order to free this creature - a massive, grey-skinned demon which is the son of the Beast encountered by the Doctor and Rose on Krop-Tor. Anyone whom its shadow falls upon drops dead. Jack asks to be taken to a piece of wasteland away from the city. He knows he cannot die, so he will allow the creature to feed on him. As it lives on death, so his immortality destroys it. Jack is left lifeless. He is taken back to the Hub, but fails to revive. Gwen refuses to leave his body, and eventually he returns to life. His colleagues are amazed to see Gwen bring him back upstairs. He pardons them all for acting against him - especially Owen. Some time later, the team hear a strange wheezing, groaning sound. When they go to investigate they discover that Jack has vanished...

End of Days was written by Chris Chibnall, and was first broadcast on 1st January, 2007. BBC 3 elected to show it immediately after Episode 12. It marks the finale of the first series.
As this has a different writer it is not, technically, the second half of a two-part story, though the events here are a result of actions taken in Captain Jack Harkness - namely Owen's opening of the Rift - and we have the return of Bilis Manger.
When Jack berates his team for their failings, he references a number of earlier episodes - e.g. Tosh jumping into bed with any alien who offered her a pendant. After Cyberwoman, this episode features the closest links to its parent programme. UNIT is mentioned. When asked what sort of vision might have tempted Jack to open the Rift, he says "The right kind of Doctor", and his disappearance at the end is foreshadowed by the sound of the TARDIS materialisation, with the Doctor's hand bubbling away in its jar. The ending is obviously a set up for Jack's return to Doctor Who in Utopia, though it would be half a year before we saw how this panned out.

Fans weren't terribly impressed by this story, feeling that the massive CGI demon stomping over Cardiff was a bit overblown. The first series overall had been patchy, to say the least. Clearly this was a series that its makers really didn't know what to do with. The biggest complaints were the unlikeability of the team members, and the throwing out of everything that had made Captain Jack popular in Doctor Who. Being "adult" seems to have been translated as being poe-faced.
At least we get to see more of the wonderful Murray Melvin as Bilis Manger. The series could have done with him being seeded through it from an earlier point. Also rejoining the programme here we have Caroline Chikezie, as Lisa, and Louise Delamere as Diane. Tosh's mother is played by Noriko Aida, who we will see a little more of in the second series episode Fragments.

Overall, a bit of a disappointment. At least Jack gets to tell his team what he thinks of them, which clears the air a little for the second series, which will be much better.
Things you might like to know:

  • This episode started of as End of Days, but was then renamed "Apocalypse", before reverting back to End of Days.
  • The ending doesn't exactly match up with what we see at the start of Utopia. Here, the implication seems to be that the TARDIS has materialised in the Hub itself. Jack hears the sound, as do the rest of the team who then find paperwork blown all round the room. In the Doctor Who story, however, the TARDIS has landed up in the plaza, so it's unknown how its arrival managed to create the wind in the Hub. Jack might have enhanced hearing, but it's unlikely all the others would have heard it.
  • The Beast from The Satan Pit was also referred to as Abaddon, though here it is claimed that it is that creature's offspring.
  • The spaceships which are seen hovering over the Taj Mahal appear to be Jathaa Sungliders, one of which was seen in Torchwood One's warehouse in Army of Ghosts. The clip of the Indian monument is also taken from that story, where it was seen first with "ghosts" then with Cybermen in front of it.
  • We get a quick history lesson from Gwen when she and Jack find that PC Andy has a Roman soldier in his cells. She mentions Caerleon - the Roman fort which is situated just outside Newport. Romans did not speak the Latin that some of us might have learned at school, but a version known as Vulgar Latin.

Sunday, 10 December 2017

C is for... Creet

A young boy who helped out at the rocket silo on the planet Malcassairo. He was amongst the last members of the human race at the end of the universe, hoping to find continued survival in the place known as "Utopia". When the Doctor, Martha and Jack came into the compound with a man named Padra, Creet helped the latter find the rest of his family who were sheltering there. Later, Creet told Martha of his hopes for Utopia, claiming that his mother had told him that the skies were made of diamonds. Creet left the planet when the Doctor helped to launch the rocket.
Later, the Master arranged for the Toclafane to travel back through time to attack the Earth. Martha disabled one of the creatures and opened up its casing - discovering that it contained a cyborg human head. The creature mentioned Utopia's skies being made of diamonds - and she realised that the Toclafane were what those last humans on Malcassairo had become. They had a shared mind, which included that of Creet.

Played by: John Bell. Appearances: Utopia (2007).

  • Bell was nine years old when he won the part of Creet in a competition organised by Blue Peter.
  • He has gone on to great things - playing Bain in the second and third of The Hobbit movies, Perseus' son Helias in Wrath of the Titans, and the younger version of Ewen Bremner's character, Spud, in the Trainspotting sequel. He has recently joined the cast of Outlander.

C is for... Crayford, Guy

Guy Crayford was the chief astronaut with the British Space Defence Agency, which was based outside the village of Devesham. Sarah Jane Smith had reported on his disappearance, when contact with his ship had been lost near Jupiter. It was assumed it had been struck by an asteroid and destroyed. Crayford had actually been abducted by the alien Kraals. They brainwashed him into believing that they had saved his life, rebuilding his body save for one of his eyes, and repairing his vessel. Chief scientist Styggron then used his brain patterns to recreate Devesham, the Space Defence complex and its environs on their home planet of Oseidon. These were populated with android facsimiles of the real base personnel and villagers, including members of UNIT such as W.O. Benton and Harry Sullivan. Styggron claimed that the Kraals needed to evacuate their planet due to rising radiation levels, and they wanted to live peaceably with humans on the Earth, so Crayford co-operated fully. He did not know that the Kraals really meant to use the androids to deploy a lethal virus that would wipe out Earth's population within a few weeks.
The Doctor and Sarah met Crayford when the TARDIS materialised outside the fake village. Crayford knew of the Doctor, though they had never met, and took their belief that they were on Earth to prove the replica was a great success. Military chief Chedaki was concerned that the androids could prove dangerous to the Kraals, and so Styggron had Crayford's mind scanned once again - to create a hostile android. It could then be demonstrated that the androids were not immune to Kraal weapons.
Crayford had established contact with the Agency, claiming he had been adrift in space for the last two years, keeping alive by recycling his food and water. The androids would infiltrate the Earth when his ship returned home. The Doctor was able to convince Crayford that the Kraals had been lying to him - his eye was never lost - and that the aliens intended to wipe out the human race. Crayford turned on Styggron, but the Kraal scientist shot him dead.

Played by: Milton Johns. Appearances: The Android Invasion (1975).

  • Second of three appearances in the programme for Johns - the first being Benik in Enemy of the World, and the last being Castellan Kelner in The Invasion of Time
  • Crayford removing his eye-patch and finding he still has his left eye is often derided as one of the silliest things in all of Doctor Who. Why, in two years, has he never noticed? The only explanation is that he was mentally conditioned not to notice - to reinforce that the Kraals had saved him and were benign.

C is for... Cranleigh

The Cranleigh Family had comprised eldest son George, who was a noted botanist, his younger brother Charles, and their mother Lady Cranleigh, who was known as Madge to her friends. George embarked on a trek to South America to look for the fabled Black Orchid. He found it, but was captured by the local tribe, who tortured him, physically and mentally. He was rescued by Latoni, chief of a rival tribe. Latoni smuggled George back to England, where he stayed on to look after him in a locked-off wing of the family home. The family ensured that it became known that George had died on his expedition, and Charles inherited the title as Lord Cranleigh. He also took George's fiancee Ann Talbot for his own bride to be.

When the Doctor and his companions visited the area in 1926, it was discovered that Nyssa was the exact double of Ann. As a prank they decided to wear the same costume at a forthcoming masque-ball. George escaped and murdered one of his attendants. The Doctor discovered the corpse after becoming lost in the house's secret passageways. By the time he brought Lady Cranleigh to see the body, Latoni had removed it. George, meanwhile, had donned the Doctor's harlequin costume and gone downstairs, where he attacked Ann and killed the butler. George was recaptured and put back in his room, whilst the Doctor was accused of the attacks. George escaped once more, this time killing Latoni, who manged to put the key to the bedroom door out of reach before he died. George set fire to the door in order to break through it, and this set light to the house. He seized Nyssa, mistaking her for Ann, and they became trapped on the roof. Charles climbed up and convinced George to let Nyssa go. He then panicked and fell to his death. The Doctor and his companions stayed on for his funeral, and the Doctor was gifted a copy of George's book - Black Orchid.

Played by: Michael Cochrane (Charles), Barbara Murray (Lady Cranleigh), and Gareth Milne (George). Appearances: Black Orchid (1982).

  • Milne was one of the series' stunt-men. As the role of George (billed as "The Unknown" for the first episode) was non-speaking and involved some stunt work, he was given the part. 
  • He injured himself during the fall from the roof-top, his lower body missing the crash-mats.
  • Michael Cochrane returns to the show, as explorer Redvers Fenn-Cooper, in Ghost Light, the last story to be recorded before the programme was taken off the air in 1989.
  • The question has to be asked: when exactly did George write his book? It tells of his expedition to find the Black Orchid - the one where he was captured, mutilated and driven insane. Presumably Charles and Latoni ghosted it between themselves.

C is for... Crane, Nurse

Nurse Crane was employed to look after the scientist Professor Judson, who had been confined to a wheelchair for many years. She accompanied him to a military base on England's north east coast in 1943, where Judson was building his Ultima decoding machine. The fiercely independent Judson hated being looked after, but the stern nurse put up with his insults and hectoring ways. When the Ultima Machine decoded the ancient curse created by Fenric and freed him from his imprisonment, it was Judson's body that he first took over for himself. Retaining the professor's memories, he took great relish in setting the vampiric Haemovores on the nurse.

Played by: Anne Reid. Appearances: The Curse of Fenric (1989).

  • The novelisation fleshes out Nurse Crane's character, making her a Soviet agent who is part of the plot to steal the Ultima Machine.
  • Reid returned to the programme in 2007, to play the Plasmavore Florence in Smith and Jones.

C is for... Crane, Mr

Crane worked for industrialist John Lumic on the parallel world where a new race of Cybermen were created. Crane had the job of procuring homeless people around London who could be converted into Cybermen, so that Lumic would have a force that would enable him to launch his full-scale conversion plans. Victims would be lured into the back of an International Electromatics truck with the promise of free food. Crane would then supervise the conversions at the Battersea Power Plant complex, where he would listen to 1980's pop songs to drown out the screams. When Lumic triggered the signal that would bring everyone wearing his ear-pods under his control, Crane rebelled - pretending that his pods had failed. Rather than be converted, he attacked Lumic, wrecking his life support unit. Crane was killed with an electrical charge from a Cyberman.

Played by: Colin Spaull. Appearances: Rise of the Cybermen / The Age of Steel (2006).

  • Director Graeme Harper had used Spaull before, casting him as Lilt in Revelation of the Daleks back in 1985.
  • One of his earliest roles as a child actor had been as Noddy, in the BBC's 1950's adaptation of the Enid Blyton children's stories.