Saturday, 17 February 2018

Inspirations - The Dominators

The first story of Doctor Who's sixth season sees the final contribution from Mervyn Haisman and Henry Lincoln. A third Yeti story was in the pipeline - possibly designed to write out Jamie - but ill feeling resulting from this story put a stop to that.
The story opens with a direct link to the set of repeats that were shown over the summer break between seasons - a reshowing of The Evil of the Daleks - as the Doctor states he needs a holiday after generating the mental images which we saw him introduce at the conclusion of The Wheel In Space.
Haisman and Lincoln's principal inspiration in writing The Dominators is the Daleks. They had seen how much money Terry Nation had made from his creations, and thought they could come up with something similar. Basically, they hoped to make some cash from merchandising their new robotic enemies - the Quarks. They were particularly upset when the Quarks did indeed later appear in spin-off material - namely the Polystyle comic adventures of the Second Doctor. The writers claimed a share of copyright, but the BBC insisted they didn't qualify. Haisman insisted that the design of the Quark was their's, but this was also challenged, and the BBC showed that the design as seen on screen was not like the sketch produced by the writers.

The name "Quark" probably derives from the elementary particles which go to make up neutrons and protons. No-one has ever observed these, and they are only known through how the hadrons which they combine to make behave. There are different types - or flavours - of quark, with very odd names. The "up-type" include Up, Charm, and Top, whilst the "down-type" include Down, Strange and Bottom. Their existence was disputed until experiments in 1968, and the top flavour wasn't discovered until 1995.
The word "quark" is much older - pertaining to a type of soft cheese popular in northern Europe. The Roman writer Tacitus mentions it, as lac concretus, and the actual name became attached to the product in the Middle Ages, coming from the Slavic twarog.

Regarding the actual story itself, the inspiration appears to derive from an ill-disguised contempt for the ideals of pacifism. We've seen a pacifist society before in the programme - way back near the start with the Thals. They had turned their back on violence as they had seen how war had destroyed their planet. However, the Doctor's companion Ian demonstrates to them how they will still fight if they have to, as he provokes the new leader Alydon into defending his betrothed. In The Dominators, the aptly named Dulcians are pacifist by nature. They have never suffered a war. They were horrified by the results of atomic testing some 70 years ago, and this seems to have been enough to put them off ever waging war. When presented by an invasion by the equally aptly named Dominators, their leader Senex offers to co-operate and to acquiesce. If the aliens want their mineral wealth then they can just take it. Tensa, the chairman of the emergency committee, gives the ruling council some options. The council refuse to accept either willing enslavement or fighting back. Unlike the Thals, the Dulcians won't stand up and fight for their survival. The writers present this as a mistake. Pacifism is something that just does not work in the real world. There will always be threats, and people should stand up to these. It should be remembered that only one generation before, the British Government had chosen Appeasement when confronted by Adolf Hitler's territorial expansion plans. Appeasement had been supported by pacifists and by fascist supporters within the Establishment. Prime Minister Neville Chamberlain was soon forced to step aside when it was clear that Hitler was going to simply invade the rest of Europe anyway. We went to war, and Chamberlain was replaced by Winston Churchill.

One of the Dulcians does think it right to fight. He's Cully, the rebellious son of Senex. We also meet a number of Dulcian students, who get caught up in the Dominator invasion of the atomic test island. Rebellious students were newsworthy in 1968, as student movements around the globe demonstrated and fought with police and army. In the US, the demonstrations were primarily directed against the Vietnam War, whilst in Brazil and Mexico they were aimed at their respective fascistic governments. Closest to home were the demonstrations in Paris, where students were also opposed to the Vietnam War but were further seeking wider politico-social changes, as they allied with trade unions and other groups. Other student demonstrations in Eastern Europe were directed against Soviet empire building.
These political upheavals marked the death knell of the more idealistic Hippie movements of the previous few years. It is no secret that Haisman and Lincoln were disdainful of the Hippie movement.

We've already commented on the aptness of the alien races' names in this story. Did the Dominators always set out to dominate, and were the Dulcians always committed to peace and quiet from their very origins? The parents of the council leader clearly expected their son to live to a grand old age by calling him Senex. It is Latin for a man of old age, and where we get our word "senile" from. Tensa also comes from Latin - meaning a chariot which carried images of the gods. In the Chamicuro language of South America it means "milk". It is also a town in the Indian state of Odisha.
Cully means "friend". The elderly tutor to the students - Balan - has a name which is far from apt, as in India it means "boy" or "youth".
It should be mentioned now that Haisman and Lincoln only actually wrote the first four episodes. The script editor, Derrick Sherwin, was not happy with the scripts and advised the writers to stop after the fourth episode. There were supposed to be six parts, but Sherwin didn't think the story stretched that far. He stepped in and wrote the fifth episode in order to wrap up the story. This would have a knock-on effect for the subsequent four part story. Haisman and Lincoln refused to write for the programme ever again - so Jamie never got to get back to Scotland to help defeat the Yeti and the Great Intelligence for a third time, and to become the Laird of McCrimmon.
In the comic strips, the Quarks were independent enemies, with no mention of their Dominator masters, and they embarked on a series of bizarre adventures with the Doctor and Jamie - including a scheme involving the growing of giant killer wasps.
Next time: a story which technically never happened, as we try to sort Fact from Fiction...

Thursday, 15 February 2018

Sleeper - Torchwood 2.2

In which the Torchwood team are called to the scene of a burglary gone wrong. One of the thieves is dead, the other critically injured. Of the couple who live in the house, the husband is also wounded, and his wife, Beth, claims she can remember nothing of what happened. Just before dying, the injured burglar states that it was Beth who was responsible for the carnage. Beth is taken to the Hub for questioning. A strange power surge occurs when she is given a body scan. Owen attempts to take blood, but the needles keep breaking. The same thing happens when he tries to use a scalpel on her arm. Jack is convinced that she is an alien. When confronted by a Weevil in the cells, the creature cowers in front of her. Beth is adamant that she is just an ordinary woman. Jack orders that a mind probe be used, and Beth agrees - convinced it will show nothing unusual. As the probe digs deeper into her mind, Beth suddenly becomes rigid, and her arm begins to change. It refashions itself into an organic weapon - a huge blade, glowing with strange lights. Beth repeats the same few alien words over and over again. Jack deduces that these are her name, rank and serial number.

Jack tells his colleagues that he believes Beth to be a member of Cell 114. These aliens infiltrate planets disguised as the native species. They are mentally conditioned to believe totally in the false personalities and memories which have been implanted. They act as a sleeper cell - activated when the aliens intend to invade. They are programmed to then carry out acts of sabotage to help prepare the way. The trauma of the burglary has activated Beth prematurely. She is linked to others in the cell, however, and the fear is that she will transmit to her colleagues. She agrees to be cryogenically frozen, not wanting to hurt anyone else. In stasis, her implant activates and sends out its signal. She wakes and smashes her way out. She goes to the hospital where she is compelled to kill her husband. Elsewhere in the city, a number of people suddenly stop what they are doing and walk out on their loved ones. A man named David kills his family and then goes to the home of a council leader and murders him. Sleeper agents begin to carry out suicidal acts of sabotage, blowing up transport and communications centres.

Torchwood discover that David is heading for an abandoned farm on the outskirts of the city. Jack knows that beneath this is a secret store of nuclear weapons. They pursue him and Gwen uses an electromagnetic pulse to disable David's defences, meaning that he can be killed. He reveals that Cell 114 know of Torchwood and have plans to circumvent them when the invasion begins. When asked when this will come, David reveals that his people are already here, then he blows himself up.
Back at the Hub, Beth has agreed to be put back into cryogenic suspension. However, she suddenly attacks Gwen - forcing the team to kill her. She knew that she would always pose a risk to humans, and could not face this.

Sleeper was written by James Moran, and was first broadcast on 23rd January, 2008. Moran would go on to write The Fires of Pompeii for Doctor Who's fourth season, and co-write Torchwood's third series - Children of Earth - with Russell T Davies.
The inspiration for the story lies in the notion of sleeper agents which were supposed to have been planted in various countries by foreign powers during the Cold War. They would assume new identities and ingratiate themselves into their local communities - making their loyalty unquestionable. This was a long term strategy, the agents expected to maintain their lifestyle for many years if necessary. Should war break out, however, they would be instructed to carry out acts of murder and sabotage to undermine the nation's defences. Such agents feature in the works of writers like John Le Carre, and appear in TV shows such as Danger Man and The Avengers. The reimagined Battlestar Galactica featured a number of key characters not realising they were actually Cylon agents.
The episode also has things to say about the "war on terror", as Beth is interrogated by Torchwood with no regard to legal procedures. Before they realise that she has some kind of protective forcefield, the team are prepared to use torture to get her to admit to her alien nature.
The main guest artist, playing Beth, is Nikki Amuka-Bird. She was seen recently playing the Testimony glass avatar in Twice Upon A Time. David is played by Doug Rollins.

Overall, a fairly action-oriented episode, with a strong performance by Amuka-Bird as a woman struggling to come to terms with who and what she really is.
Things you might like to know:

  • Not a lot to say about this one. One of the sequences to be filmed in Cardiff of a building being blown up was scheduled for the day after the terrorist incident at Glasgow Airport. Rather than postpone the filming, the BBC ensured that the media was well-informed of what was going on.
  • This episode clearly calls out for some kind of sequel, as we are left with the knowledge that there are more sleepers out there, and the invasion is imminent. However, the story is never picked up. Had the third or fourth season comprised stand alone episodes then this might have been revisited, but as it was they both went for single story arcs.

Monday, 12 February 2018

D is for... Daleks (Part 1)

The Daleks were created on the planet Skaro by the scientist Davros. His people - the Kaleds - had been engaged in a centuries long war with their rivals, the Thals. The conflict had begun with advanced weaponry, but had descended into a war of attrition. Both races became entrenched in their protective domed cities, facing each other over a wasteland in which Mutoes roamed - the scarred victims from both sides, cast out by their own people. Davros headed a special scientific elite unit, with its own troops, based in a bunker close to the Kaled dome. Here he experimented to achieve what he believed would become the ultimate genetic form for the Kaled race. This was little more than a tentacled brain. To survive and move around, he devised a mobile life support unit for it, based on his own wheelchair. The Mark III travel machine would totally enclose the Kaled mutant. It would have a single eye-stalk on its dome, and at the front of its casing it would have a sucker-tipped utility arm and a powerful energy weapon. Davros called this fusion of mutant and machine a Dalek - an anagram of their race name. Davros' ambitions for his new creatures went beyond mere survival for his people. They would - and should - become the ultimate creations in the universe, able to conquer all others. He began further experiments on the mutants, conditioning the creatures to pursue the goals he had set for them without any emotional inhibition such as pity or compassion.

On learning that his own government was going to put a stop to his work, Davros betrayed the Kaleds by giving the Thals a means to destroy their city. He blamed this treachery on one of his scientists - a man named Ronson. He was the first person to be exterminated by a Dalek - the first of millions. Davros then sent the Daleks into the Thal city to kill its inhabitants, who had let their guard down in their celebrations. The Doctor had been sent to Skaro at this time by the Time Lords. They had foreseen a time when the Daleks would dominate the universe, and they wanted him to stop their creation, or at the very least make the creatures less belligerent. Davros had underestimated his own creations, however. They activated the Dalek production lines without his approval, and turned on his own supporters. He had conditioned the creatures to be hostile to all other lifeforms, and never to act in obeisance to any other creature - and that included him. Davros attempted to stop the production lines, but he was exterminated before he could do so. The Doctor, with the help of a group of Thal survivors and Mutoes, had the bunker sealed. He realised that he had merely delayed the emergence of the Daleks.

The Doctor's first encounter with the Daleks had been during his first incarnation, not long after he had forced schoolteachers Ian Chesterton and Barbara Wright to accompany he and his grand-daughter Susan on their travels. The TARDIS had landed on Skaro, in the middle of a petrified forest. Exploring, they had discovered a vast metal city which appeared to be deserted. However, it was occupied by the Daleks, who dwelt beneath it. Ian was incapacitated when shot in the legs by one of their weapons. Locked in a cell, the travellers discovered that they were suffering from radiation sickness as the atmosphere of Skaro was heavily irradiated, fallout from the ancient war between the Daleks' forebears and the Thals. The Daleks were closely monitoring the radiation levels, as they wanted to escape from their city and reclaim the planet. These Daleks could only move on metal, drawing static electricity up through the floor to power their casings. When they learned that some of the Thals still existed, they wanted to use their anti-radiation drugs to free themselves from their casings. The drugs did not work, and they realised that they were now dependent on radiation to survive. They therefore decided to further irradiate the atmosphere, which would kill the Thals.

The Doctor and his companions escaped from their cell by pushing their Dalek guard onto a Thal cloak which acted as an insulator - cutting off the power. The mutant was removed from its casing so that Ian could get inside and pretend to be escorting the others. The Daleks used Susan to lure the Thals into a trap, offering food and other supplies as bait. Ian was able to warn most of them, though their leader was killed. Once back in the forest, the Doctor learned something of the history of the Daleks and the Thals. It transpired that an essential component of the TARDIS had been left behind in the city, and so the now pacifist Thals had to be encouraged to help the travellers fight against the Daleks. The Doctor argued that the Daleks would find a way of emerging from their city to destroy them, so they would be acting in self-defence. The Daleks were governed by a ruling council, and they were about to vent highly irradiated gases into the air. The Doctor and Susan were recaptured and tried to reason with the creatures - but to no avail. Ian and Barbara joined an attack on the city, during which a vital piece of machinery was damaged, causing the Daleks' power to drain away.
In hindsight, these Daleks were probably the descendants of the ones trapped in Davros' bunker - which the city may have been built over. Cut off for centuries, their technology may have regressed - leading to them only being able to move around on the metal floors, whilst their ancestors had been able to travel outside. The Doctor and his companions believed that they had seen the end of the race, but this proved not to be the case. The Daleks had either only become inactive, or there were others elsewhere on the planet. Alternatively, before they degenerated, some Daleks had already left the planet and established themselves elsewhere.

When the TARDIS materialised beside the Thames in London, the Doctor and his companions found that they were 200 years in Ian and Barbara's future. The planet had been invaded by the Daleks. The Doctor mistakenly thought that these Daleks hailed from an earlier era, whereas these ones were more advanced in design, able to travel across space and conquer other worlds. To move around, they now had power collection discs mounted on the back of their casings. The invasion had begun with a bombardment of meteorites which carried a plague infection. Once resistance had been crushed, the Daleks moved in in force to subjugate the survivors. The Daleks were commanded by a Supreme, with a black casing. They operated on a number of captured human beings, mentally conditioning them to become their servants, called Robomen. They were needed as there was only a small force of Daleks on the planet. The Dalek scheme was to mine a shaft in the heart of England to remove the planet's magnetic core, using a bomb to blast through the final section. They would replace this with a motive unit so that they could pilot the entire Earth like a giant spaceship. The Doctor and his companions joined forces with the resistance movement and infiltrated the mining operations in Bedfordshire. Ian was able to deflect the Dalek bomb down a side shaft, whilst the Doctor and Barbara used the Daleks' voice command system to order the Robomen to turn on them. The bomb detonated, creating a volcanic eruption. The blast struck the hovering Daleks saucers, destroying them.

At some point the Daleks encountered the equally warlike Morok race, as the Doctor and his companions discovered one as an exhibit in the Morok space museum on the planet Xeros. Vicki told the others that she had read about the invasion which the Doctor, Ian and Barbara had experienced, though she did not know what the Daleks looked like. The Doctor made use of the exhibit when he hid inside it to evade capture. When the TARDIS left Xeros, its progress was being monitored by the Daleks.

These were of a much more advanced design. In place of the collection dish they now had a series of vertical slats positioned round their mid-section. The Daleks had also developed a space-time machine of their own, bigger on the inside just like the TARDIS. The black Dalek Supreme sent an execution squad to track down the Doctor and his friends to exterminate them. The Doctor was forewarned after the Space-Time Visualiser he had picked up on Xeros showed their departure from Skaro. The ship was on the planet Aridius when the Daleks arrived. They were armed with a seismic detector which could locate the TARDIS. The Daleks captured a number of the native Aridians and forced them to dig the ship out after it had become buried in a sandstorm. They then ordered the Aridian leaders to hand over the Doctor and his companions, or be killed themselves. One of the execution squad was destroyed after it was lured into a trap, falling down a hole to be attacked by a Mire Beast. The Doctor and his companions fled, with the Daleks in close pursuit. After a brief visit to the top of the Empire State Building in New York, the chase took them to a sailing ship in the mid-Atlantic. The appearance of the Daleks caused the superstitious crew to leap overboard. One Dalek fell overboard trying to capture them. The vessel was the Mary Celeste...

The TARDIS next materialised in what appeared to be a haunted house. The Doctor thought they would be safe here, as he thought they had arrived in part of the human imagination, but it proved to be a terrestrial fun fair exhibit. The Daleks were attacked by an automaton of the Frankenstein Monster and forced to flee. Vicki had become separated from the others, who left without her, so she stowed away in the Dalek craft. Here she witnessed them creating a robot copy of the Doctor, designed to infiltrate their party and kill. The pursuit came to a conclusion on the planet Mechanus. The robot Doctor was discovered when it called Vicki 'Susan'. The Doctor attempted to impersonate it to make the Daleks think it had succeeded, but they saw through the deception. The Doctor and his friends were then captured by the Mechonoids, who lived in a vast city above the planet's jungles. The Daleks knew of these robots, and launched an attack to seize their prisoners. They battled with the giant spherical robots. The Doctor had built an anti-Dalek bomb. This was detonated and the ensuing fire destroyed the city. Ian and Barbara then used the Dalek space-time machine to get back home, self-destructing it when they got to London.

In the year 3999, the Daleks assembled an alliance of alien races from the outer galaxies on the inhospitable planet of Kembel. The meeting was to plan for the invasion of the central star systems - beginning with the Solar System. A Dalek spaceship had been spotted in the area, and so a Space Security agent, Marc Cory, had been despatched to investigate. The Daleks had seeded the jungles with Varga Plants, genetically modified vegetable creatures which could move around and infect people - making them homicidal before turning them into Varga Plants. These plant forms were bred on Skaro. Cory discovered the Dalek plan, but was exterminated before he could warn the Earth authorities.

A year later, the TARDIS arrived on Kembel. The Doctor encountered another Space Security agent named Bret Vyon, who had come looking for Cory. The dead man's recording of the Dalek plan was discovered and played back. The Doctor managed to get into one of the alien alliance conferences and learned that the Daleks had created a new weapon - the Time Destructor. This was powered by a core containing taranium, supplied by Mavic Chen. He was the Master of the Solar System and Vyon's superior. He craved even greater power and so had allied himself with the Daleks. Discovering that there were enemies in the jungles nearby, the Daleks used flame gun attachments to burn down the foliage and flush the Doctor and his friends out. The Doctor stole the taranium core and fled the planet in Chen's spaceship with Bret and his companions Steven and Katarina. They planned to go to Earth and warn the authorities, but the Daleks were able to divert the ship using a magnetising ray, causing it to crash-land on the prison planet of Desperus. The Dalek ship sent after them also crashed - leading the Supreme to order the destruction of its crew for their failure. Katarina died when she sacrificed herself to eject an escaped convict out of the airlock where he was holding her hostage.

Bret was later killed once they had reached Earth - shot down by his own sister, fellow agent Sara Kingdom. She and the Doctor and Steven were accidentally transported to the planet Mira in a matter-transmission experiment. Chen claimed to have arranged this deliberately, as Mira was close to Kembel. Daleks were sent to capture the Doctor and his companions, but the invisible Visian creatures attacked the Daleks pursuers, allowing the Doctor, Sara and Steven to escape. Steven's experiments to create a fake core caused him to develop a temporary force-field. This allowed the Doctor to regain the TARDIS after the Daleks forced them to land back on Kembel. Once they realised they had been given the fake core, the Supreme sent another space-time machine after the TARDIS with Chen on board. The Daleks captured the time meddling Monk in ancient Egypt, as he was in pursuit of the Doctor himself - seeking revenge for having been stranded in 1066 England. The Monk was ordered to assist in helping retrieve the core.

The Doctor was forced to give the core to Chen in order to free his companions, just as Egyptian warriors attacked the Daleks. The Doctor was able to get the TARDIS to Kembel using the stolen directional unit from the Monk's ship. Steven and Sara found that the Daleks had abandoned their base, but then found that they had relocated to a more secure position deep beneath a nearby mountain. The Daleks had turned against their allies, locking them up. Steven and Sara freed them, so they could return to their respective worlds and warn them of the Daleks' treachery. Chen, his sanity gone, attempted to take command of the Daleks, only for them to exterminate him. The Doctor stole the Time Destructor and activated it on Kembel. Time began to run forwards, killing Sara. Steven was able to reverse the device and the Daleks were regressed to an embryonic state before the machine burned itself out.

The Doctor did not meet the Daleks again until just after his first regeneration. The TARDIS arrived on the planet Vulcan, which had an Earth colony established on it. A crashed space capsule had been found in the mercury swamps and this had been taken into the colony by the scientist Lesterson for study. He had opened it and found a number of inanimate Daleks, which he believed to be robots. He succeeded in reactivating one, and it pretended to be benevolent - claiming that it would help the colonists. To do this, it required power and materials. A revolt was brewing in the colony, and its leader - head of security Bragen - saw in the Daleks the perfect weapon for their struggle. Although he had only just regenerated, the Doctor found that the Daleks recognised him - implying that they knew him from his own personal future. The Doctor found that no-one would heed his warnings about the Daleks, as Lesterson proceeded to give them everything they asked for. Too late, he discovered that they had set up a production line to create a huge army of new Daleks. They took advantage of the unrest, exterminating any colonist they encountered irrespective of which side they were on. The Doctor sabotaged their power supply, creating an overload which destroyed them.

The Daleks then set a trap for the Doctor. They had been drawn to Victorian England by the time experiments of the scientist Theodore Maxtible and his friend Edward Waterfield. Waterfield was forced to travel forward to the 20th Century to arrange for the TARDIS to be stolen - bringing the Doctor to his antiques shop where a time travel machine was located. The Doctor and Jamie were then brought back in time to Maxtible's home in 1866. The Daleks wished to understand the Human Factor - those values, skills and attributes which had so often led to their defeat. In order to isolate this, the Daleks forced the Doctor to conduct an experiment on Jamie - monitoring his actions and reactions as he was tasked with rescuing Waterfield's daughter Victoria. The Daleks claimed that the Factor was to be introduced into the Daleks, and a trio of inactive units were used to test it. Instead of cunning and guile, they exhibited a playful friendliness. The Daleks were then recalled to Skaro, and departed leaving a powerful bomb behind. The Doctor used one of their time machines to follow them, along with Jamie and Waterfield.

On Skaro, in the heart of the Dalek city, the Doctor met their Emperor for the first time. This was a huge immobile Dalek, linked by cables into the Dalek control systems. It was protected by its own special guards, which had black domes. The Emperor revealed that they were not interested in the Human Factor at all. Rather, it would help them identify the Dalek Factor. This was to be used to turn human beings into mental Daleks, and the Doctor's TARDIS would be employed to spread it throughout Earth's history. An attempt to turn the Doctor into a Dalek failed, as he was not human. These Daleks did not know that he was an alien Time Lord. The Doctor reversed the process, so that more Daleks became humanised and began to question their orders. A civil war broke out amongst the Daleks. The Emperor was attacked, and soon their city was in flames. Watching from a nearby hillside, the Doctor believed that he was witnessing the final end of the Dalek race...

When the Doctor was later captured by his own people and put on trial for his interference in the affairs of other races, the Daleks were one of the foes which he used to illustrate why he felt compelled to act in the way he did.

Appearances (Part 1): The Daleks AKA The Mutants (1963/4), The Dalek Invasion of Earth (1964), The Chase (1965), Mission to the Unknown (1965), The Daleks' Master Plan (1965/6), The Power of the Daleks (1966), The Evil of the Daleks (1967).
Cameos: The Space Museum (1965), The War Games (1969).

Friday, 9 February 2018

Inspirations - The Wheel In Space

The Wheel in Space is written by David Whitaker, based on an idea by Kit Pedler. Before this, Pedler had always collaborated with Gerry Davis. The "idea", one has to presume, is the same one that he has had for two of the previous Cyberman stories - namely that they besiege a base which houses an international pool of team members, and which has a boss who is totally unsuited to the role. First we had the Snowcap base at the South Pole, then we had the Moonbase, and now we have a space station. As with The Moonbase, the Cybermen don't just march up and smash their way in through the front door. They first have to infiltrate, so the humans are unaware of their presence until the second half of the story.
The way they go about this is convoluted, to put it mildly. We'll look at the plan in a moment, but first a quick word about the titular Wheel. Spaceships in Science Fiction were always presented as streamlined, aerodynamic affairs, but the default for space stations - constructed outside Earth's atmosphere and therefore not needing to pass through it - seems to have been the toroidal, or doughnut, shape. The most famous of these is probably the one from 2001: A Space Odyssey, but it has filmic forebears in Conquest of Space (1955), Battle in Outer Space (1959) and other movies. Station W3 here, is not quite toroidal, but it is circular in shape. Then again, we never get a really good look at it beyond the side view.

So - onto the Cyberman plan. There is one aspect of the Cyberman scheme that remains hard to fathom - namely the showers of meteoroids that threaten the Wheel. The script seems to be implying that these were caused by the Cybermen blowing up stars. New companion-to-be Zoe mentions the Messier Cluster (M13), which is around 25,000 light years from Earth. For anything originating in that area of space to reach us, it would have to set off a very, very long time ago. The Cybermen could not possibly have been detonating stars that long ago just so they could have an excuse for having a couple of crates shifted, surely? For this to make any sense at all, the meteoroids must originate from the direction of M13, rather than from within it, and the Cybermen must have simply nudged them in our direction.
Anyways. The Cybermen basically want to use the Wheel as a staging post in their latest invasion of the Earth. Seems they cannot even find the planet without it. They set about redirecting meteoroids, as we have mentioned, in order that the station which they really, really need, gets threatened with destruction. That's because the Wheel has one particular method of defence - an X-ray laser gun - and this relies on power rods composed of the mineral bernalium. The Cybermen hijack a service rocket called the "Silver Carrier", which they refuel, and reprogramme its servo-robot to pilot towards the station. A couple of Cybermen are hidden aboard, in big egg-like pods. They need to be smuggled over to the Wheel, so the servo-robot sends Cybermats across from the rocket to burrow their way through the hull of the station. These Cybermats must then hunt down the bernalium supplies and corrode them. There is no attempt at subterfuge here, as the little critters seem happy to make their presence known. The Wheel crew then decide to send a couple of men over to the rocket to get its supply of bernalium - which is exactly what the Cybermen want them to do. The men are put under their mental control and ordered to carry the big crate of bernalium over to the Wheel, with the Cybermen hidden inside it. In other words, all of the above has just been to get two Cybermen onto the space station.

The thing is, the first reaction of the station's commander, Jarvis Bennett, is to blow up the rocket when it drifts too close to the Wheel. It is only down to Jamie sabotaging the laser, because the TARDIS is still on the vessel, that prevents this happening. The Cybermen could not possibly have foreseen the Doctor and Jamie's arrival, so it is pure fluke that the two Cybermen did not get blown apart before their plan could get underway.
Once they do get onto the Wheel, the Cybermen kill some people, and mentally subjugate some of the others. They intend to wipe out all of the humans, by poisoning the atmosphere with ozone. This part of their plan is foiled because the medic Dr Corwin overhears it and warns the Doctor. He in turn orders the command crew to switch to what definitely sounds like the "sexual" air supply. This might have made these episodes somewhat more entertaining, but presumably the word is supposed to be "sectional". The Cybermen are quickly destroyed, and another batch of them who attempt to force their way in after space-walking are sent spinning off into space by a force-field. The time-vector generator from the TARDIS is used to boost the power of the laser weapon, and it blows up the approaching Cybership.
There is one school of thought which claims that David Whitaker came up with this bizarre plot as a deliberate act of contempt for the formulaic base-under-siege format. Remember, he has just written two of the best Dalek stories ever, and then the one story of this season which doesn't follow the formula (The Enemy of the World). He is also the man who helped shape the programme in its earliest phase, and this version of the show might just not be how he intended it to go. He may have been really frustrated at having to adhere to Pedler's "idea", and he's kicking against it.

The counter-view is that this is simply his best attempt at a base-under-siege story, and he hasn't quite grasped how simple this format can be. You'll remember that he once wrote a story in which another spaceship couldn't find a planet, even when it was aiming right at it and was very, very close (The Rescue), so his science was never brilliant. Certain parts of the script are obviously Whitaker's work - such as the TARDIS sending obscure visual warnings to the crew when it is experiencing a technical fault (as in Edge of Destruction), the mercury fluid links, and a scene on the rocket involving a food machine (both The Daleks, which he script edited).
A couple of firsts for this story are the introduction of Zoe, and the Doctor gaining his alias of John Smith. Zoe is a hot-house child, educationally enhanced to be super smart at an early age. Back when this story was written, this sort of educational system was believed to be the thing of the future. Zoe is supposed to be an astrophysicist and astrometrist, yet she works in a parapsychology lab. That's the study of paranormal and psychic phenomena - usually covering things like telepathy, psychokinesis and clairvoyance. The two things don't quite match up. Perhaps she is some form of junior Dana Scully, tasked with debunking such phenomena. Then again, everyone from Philip K Dick to Babylon 5 seems to think that there will be telepaths all over the place in the future.
Zoe doesn't appear until the second episode. In the first part, we get a reprise of the closing seconds of the previous story - Fury From The Deep - which features a glimpse of Victoria Waterfield. This leads to Debbie Watling getting a credit. This derives from a contractual issue.
As for "John Smith", it is Jamie who gives the Doctor this alias, as he is obliged to give Dr Corwin a name for her comatose patient. He takes it from the manufacturers of a piece of medical equipment. The Doctor won't actually adopt it for himself until he needs a name for the Brigadier's files, once he has been exiled to Earth.

One final thing to mention about this story is the concluding couple of minutes. Zoe has realised that she is simply a machine, able to reel off facts but lacking the true understanding that underpins them. She decides to stow away on the TARDIS to see what real life is like. She is quickly discovered, hiding in the magic chest which has featured in previous Troughton stories - the one that just happens to contain whatever the Doctor and his companions need for that particular story. The Doctor decides to reveal a hitherto unseen function of his ship - a thought channel that can show mental images on the scanner. The Doctor elects to show Zoe his last adventure against the Daleks, though he oddly decides to begin with the end of Episode Two, and a sequence he wasn't present at. Luckily the following week he will go back to the beginning, and will include theme music, production titles and cliffhangers - making it look like a Doctor Who story. Of course all this is just to connect the end of Season Five with a repeat broadcast of Evil of the Daleks which will plug the gap between seasons.
This was the only full story repeat broadcast in the 1960's. The debut episode An Unearthly Child had been repeated a week later back in 1963, owing to the immediate aftermath of JFK's assassination.
Next time: Dominators dominate, and Quarks are both strange and charming...

Wednesday, 7 February 2018

Revenge of the Slitheen - SJA 1.1

In which Luke Smith attends school for the first time. He has one person there who knows him - Maria Jackson - and he makes a new friend in Clyde Langer, who finds Sarah Jane Smith's mothering of her son amusing. Luke is incredibly intelligent, but everyday social interactions are a mystery to him. At the school assembly the headmaster, Mr Blakeman, informs the students that they will be visiting their new science block for a look around later that day. There is a strange smell about the new block, and at dinner time everyone notices that their food has gone off. The science teacher, Mr Jeffrey, confiscates Clyde's chip sandwiches. He is starting a new science club, and Luke agrees to join. Another pupil, Carl, also joins - and Mr Jeffrey encourages a rivalry between them. That night, the local area is hit by a power cut. Strangely, even candles go out. The computer Mr Smith identifies the school as the locus for the power loss.

Sarah decides to investigate the new block after hearing of events at the school. She is helped by Maria's dad Alan, as he had done some work on another school and has plans which show an area which is sealed off. She visits this other school and learns that they were also plagued by a strange smell, and by food going off. Sarah notices that the science blocks are identical to a number of other schools in a ring all around London. At the school, it transpires that Blakeman and Jeffrey are really Slitheen - cousins of those who had infiltrated Downing Street and attempted to provoke World War Three. They are out for revenge for their lost kin, and plan to destroy the Earth by draining the sun's energy. Their machine for doing so does not work, and Mr Jeffrey intends that Luke should unwittingly provide the answers they need to make it operational.

Sarah visits Coldfire - the construction firm behind the new buildings - and discovers that it is run by Slitheen. Clyde finds out about Sarah's attic, and learns of her alien encounters, and that Maria and Luke know about these. He gives Sarah a clue as to how to combat the Slitheen. Jeffrey had confiscated his sandwiches as the chips were soaked in vinegar. At the school, Carl is unmasked as another Slitheen, the child of the one impersonating Jeffrey. Luke has given the aliens the means to complete their energy draining machine, when it was set as a problem in the science club. There are other Slitheen bases around the world, and as they start to come on-line, everyone sees the sun darken. Spray bottles filled with vinegar destroy the Blakeman-Slitheen, but Sarah, Luke, Maria and Clyde are all then captured in the science block. Luke sabotages the machine, halting the energy drain on the sun. The machine is about to explode, but Sarah is able to allow Carl-Slitheen to escape before the science block blows up.
Clyde is now part of the gang, and agrees to help Luke develop his people skills.

Revenge of the Slitheen was written by Gareth Roberts, and was first broadcast on 24th September and 1st October 2007. It marks the opening story of the first season of Doctor Who's second spin-off series, following the launch of the adult-orientated Torchwood. The series was executive produced by the same team as the parent programme - Russell T Davies, Phil Collinson and Julie Gardner.
It followed the successful pilot episode - Invasion of the Bane - which had been broadcast the previous New Year's Day, which was in turn inspired by the return of Sarah Jane Smith in the 2006 Doctor Who episode School Reunion.
Davies had been asked to devise a spin-off series that would be aimed very much at younger viewers, to air on the CBBC digital channel. He had originally been asked to come up with a "Young Doctor" series, but did not like the idea, and was instead keen to build on Elisabeth Sladen's popularity and eagerness to revisit her famous role.
Each story of the series comprises 2x 25 minute episodes, providing the cliffhangers which were now only occasional for Doctor Who. For this opening adventure, Part One was broadcast on BBC 1, with the second part following on CBBC the next week.

The story sees the return of the Slitheen clan, making it a sequel to the Series One episodes Aliens of London / World War Three, and they would make a number of return visits to the show. In many ways, The Sarah Jane Adventures provide a more natural home for them than the parent series. The headmaster, played by Martyn Ellis, certainly plays things for laughs.
The character of Kelsey, who had featured in the pilot, has been dumped, mercifully, and her place is taken by Daniel Anthony, playing Clyde. It certainly makes sense to introduce a male peer for Luke, as his unworldliness will be a recurring theme throughout the series, and Clyde is there to help him navigate everyday human interactions. Anthony is one of those actors who can play younger roles. He turned 20 just after the second episode of this story was broadcast.
Other cast members include Ian Midlane as Mr Jeffrey, Anton Thompson McCormick as Carl, and Imogen Bain as Janine, the Slitheen who works at Coldfire. A further link to the parent show is the inclusion of Lachele Carl as newscaster Trinity Wells - who reports on all the alien disasters in Doctor Who. All the adult Slitheen are played by Paul Kasey, whilst Jimmy Vee is inside the Carl-Slitheen costume.

Overall, it is a cracking start to the new series. Clyde makes for an inspired new addition to the team. In many ways The Sarah Jane Adventures are closer to old-school Doctor Who than the parent show.
Things you might like to know:

  • A number of references to classic series Doctor Who feature: 
  • Sarah calls upon UNIT to do the clearing up after the defeat of the Slitheen, and is heard to send her love to "the Brig". 
  • At one point she is attempting to repair a dynacron star drive. The Zygons had dynacron technology. 
  • One of the Slitheen says "For the love of Clom..." - a reference to the twin planet of Raxacoricofallapatorius and home to the Abzorbaloff. 
  • The Slitheen remark that they bought something from the Wallarians - a reference to Carnival of Monsters.
  • Earth is described as a Level Five world - which is how it was described by Romana in City of Death. Roberts is a known fan of the Fourth Doctor / Second Romana pairing
  • Sarah comments that it would be ridiculous to be investigating alien activity at a school - reminding us of how she was re-introduced in School Reunion when another race of aliens impersonated school teachers.
  • She recognises the name "Slitheen" as Rose had mentioned encountering them in Downing Street.

Sunday, 4 February 2018

D is for... Dalek Supreme

Sometimes called the Supreme Dalek or simply the Black Dalek, after the dominant colour of its casing, the Supreme is the commander-in-chief of the Dalek race.
When the Doctor first encountered the Daleks in their city on Skaro, they were led by a council, whose members all shared the same silver livery.
When he next met them, during their invasion of the Earth round the year 2164, they were led by the Black Dalek. This appeared to be in command of operations in London - giving orders for the city to be firebombed - as well as overseeing the mine workings in Bedfordshire, upon which the Dalek scheme was centred. This was to remove the planet's magnetic core and allow them to pilot it anywhere in the cosmos. The slave workers described the Black Dalek as the mine's commandant. It used the carnivorous Slyther creature to patrol the mine workings at night, killing anyone who ventured outside. The Black Dalek was destroyed when its saucer was caught in the blast from the explosion of the Daleks' own bomb.

The Dalek Supreme on Skaro ordered that a space-time machine of their own be constructed, and once ready it would be used to send an execution squad after the Doctor and his companions - pursuing the TARDIS through the space-time vortex. Predominantly black in colour, the Supreme had a silver mid-section, and the hemispheres on the skirt were pale blue.

The Supreme then began to gather together an alliance of alien races from the outer galaxies, who would unite to launch an attack on the rest of the universe. The Solar System would be the first to be taken over. The Supreme had overseen the creation of a powerful new weapon - the Time Destructor. This could destroy by throwing time in its immediate vicinity either forwards or backwards. The Supreme assembled the alliance forces on the hostile jungle planet of Kembel. One of the principal members of this group was the ruler of the Solar System, Mavic Chen, who was going to betray his own people to gain greater power. Chen supplied the vital power core for the Destructor. The Supreme quickly came to see that Chen harboured ever grander ambitions. After the core had been stolen by the Doctor, the Supreme sent Dalek forces to capture him. It ordered that those Daleks who failed in their mission should be destroyed. Chen was then tasked with retrieving the core. The Supreme had to contend with a growing power struggle between Chen and fellow alliance member Trantis. It decided to use Trantis in a demonstration of the machine's effects, exterminating him when it was found that the core had been substituted with a fake. Once the genuine core had been brought back, Chen's insanity led him to believe he could take over from the Supreme - who had him exterminated. The Supreme was destroyed along with the rest of the Dalek forces when the Doctor operated the Destructor, reverting the Daleks to an embryonic state.
It is not known if the role of Dalek Supreme existed under the rule of the Emperor. No Supreme was in evidence when the Doctor was taken to Skaro to meet the Emperor, but the role might have been one held by the commander of Dalek military forces, able to go out into the field whereas the Emperor was confined to their city on Skaro. The Emperor did have its own personal guards - an inner retinue identifiable by their black domes.

The black and gold Dalek which visited the planet Spiridon was identified by the Thals as being a member of the Supreme Council. As well as its striking colour scheme, this Supreme was much taller than its subordinates, with a modified neck section. The dome lights were tubular and larger, and it had a different design of eye-stalk. This Dalek did not tolerate failure and had the authority to exterminate any subordinates who had under-performed. It was left stranded on Spiridon after the Dalek army assembled there had been incapacitated, and the Thals had stolen its command ship to escape - forcing it to call on Skaro for help.

The Daleks went to war against the robotic Movellan race. Both sides had programmed their battle computers so that a stalemate ensued, and the Supreme sent a Dalek task-force back to their now abandoned home planet to locate the body of their creator, Davros. He was reanimated, and was scathing that such a  thing as a Supreme Dalek existed. Only he could fulfill this role. The mission failed, but later the Supreme employed the alien mercenary Lytton to launch an attack on the space station where Davros was being held prisoner by Earth forces. This Supreme had black livery once again, but with pale grey hemispheres on the skirt, which descended at the same angle at the rear as at the front of the casing. As well as freeing Davros to help them win their war against the Movellans, who had developed a virus which attacked their systems, the Supreme had a further scheme in operation. Duplicates of the Doctor and his companions would be created which would be sent to Gallifrey with orders to assassinate the High Council of the Time Lords. Other duplicates had already been deployed on Earth to undermine its governments. The Supreme was destroyed when the ship it was on was blown up by the space station's self-destruct mechanisms. The Doctor informed his companions that the duplicates were unstable and would soon be identified.

The new Dalek Supreme had Davros traced to the planet Necros, and it sent a task-force to capture him. He was brought back to Skaro to stand trial for his treachery towards his own creations, but somehow he managed to turn the tables and stage a coup. He set himself up as the new Emperor, with a new Dalek army loyal only to him, and the Supreme was forced to go on the run in command of rebel forces. Both factions were drawn towards Earth in the year 1963, as this was where the Doctor had hidden a powerful Gallifreyan artefact. This was the stellar manipulator known as the Hand of Omega, whose use had directly led to the Time Lords gaining mastery of time travel. The Supreme - similar to previous versions but with silver hemispheres on the skirt - utilised a schoolgirl to operate its battle computer, providing the necessary imagination and creativity which machine logic lacked. The girl was psychically connected to the Supreme, and she could fire electrical discharges from her hands. Davros' Imperial forces won the battle for the Hand, and the Supreme was left sole survivor of the rebels. Once Skaro had been destroyed by the Hand, the Doctor tracked the Supreme down and pointed out its total failure to it. The Supreme self-destructed - breaking the link to the girl, who had been on the point of killing the Doctor's companion Ace.

After the Time War, Davros created a whole new race of Daleks using his own body cells. One of these Daleks became the Dalek Supreme. This version was predominantly red, with gold middle sections and hemispheres. The neck appeared to be held in place by large clamps, which housed sockets that allowed the Supreme to plug itself into other systems. Davros had been rescued from the War by Dalek Caan, and the Supreme held both of them in a vault below the command centre of the Crucible space station. The Supreme thought the insane Caan an abomination but wanted to hear its prophesies, whilst Davros was to help them win their war against everything in the universe with the creation of his Reality Bomb. The Doctor and his companions were captured after the Earth had been moved through space to help power Davros' weapon. After the part-Time Lord Donna and the half-human Doctor began to disrupt the Daleks and their control systems, the Supreme descended to Davros' vault, where it was shot and destroyed by Captain Jack Harkness.

The same red / gold design of Dalek Supreme was in command of the new Dalek city on the rebuilt Skaro. Missy tried to form an alliance with the Supreme but this was rejected, and it appeared that it had had her and Clara exterminated. Davros had brought the Doctor here so that he could trick him into giving his creations some of his regeneration energy. This worked, but only to a point, as the Doctor had anticipated what Davros intended. All of the abandoned Dalek mutants in the sewers beneath the city received the same energy. They rose up and attacked and destroyed the Supreme and the rest of the Daleks.

During the Second World War, some survivors of the destruction of the Crucible had gone in search of the Progenitors - small race banks which contained pure Dalek DNA. The located one of the devices, but it did not read them as being pure Daleks. They lured the Doctor into a trap whereby he would confirm who they were. The Progenitor was activated and a new breed of Daleks were created - a new paradigm. These Daleks had colour coded casings designating their function, and the new Supreme was white. The Supreme was present when the Daleks led the alliance to trap the Doctor in the Pandorica, fearing that he and his TARDIS would destroy the universe. The Supreme was also in attendance when the Doctor met the Dalek Prime Minister, before being sent on the mission to help destroy the Dalek asylum planet.

Appearances: The Dalek Invasion of Earth (1964), The Chase (1965), Mission to the Unknown (1965), The Daleks' Master Plan (1965/6), Planet of the Daleks (1973), Resurrection of the Daleks (1984), Remembrance of the Daleks (1988), The Stolen Earth / Journey's End (2008), Victory of the Daleks (2010), The Pandorica Opens (2010), Asylum of the Daleks (2012), The Magician's Apprentice / The Witch's Familiar (2015).
  • If you look at the first three images of this post you will see how different Dalek props were repainted for different functions. The top two pictures clearly show the same prop as the Supreme. Note the small extra piece of wood just under the middle neck ring - a repair or reinforcement which it was thought would never be noticed. If you then look at the third image, you will see that the extra piece of wood had swapped over to the ordinary Dalek in the background. The Supreme only features briefly in the opening episode of The Chase, so that prop was repainted to allow it to be used as an ordinary silver Dalek for the rest of the serial. When it came to providing a new Supreme for Mission and Master Plan, they used a different prop.
  • The Supreme from Planet of the Daleks was loaned to the programme by Terry Nation, and was one of three props he had been given from the Peter Cushing movies.
  • The strange clamps on the red /gold Supreme's neck section are a hangover from a more radical earlier design, where the top section would have been a large globe.
  • As they are never referred to as Supreme Daleks, I have decided to keep the Gold Daleks from the Pertwee era off this list. They are probably members of the Supreme Council, but as it is not specified on screen, I have held them back for their own entry (though you will need to wait until we reach "G is for...").

D is for... Dalek Sec

The designated leader of the Cult of Skaro - the quartet of Daleks charged by the Emperor with finding new ways of winning the Time War. Sec was distinguishable from the others by having a black casing. Rather than simply look at ways of killing and waging war, Sec led the Cult to consider other means by which their race could survive. They took a captured Time Lord prison capsule and left the Time War in a Void Ship, hiding in the space between universes. This ship found its way to Earth after passing through a breach in the Void. It was captured by the Torchwood organisation, who failed to analyse it. When the Cybermen followed the ship through the breach, the Daleks decided to emerge. Sec needed information about where they were, and so had this drained from the mind of Torchwood's Dr Singh's. Sec discovered that he had, by chance, captured two humans who had travelled in space and time. Only a time-traveller could activate the prison capsule and release the thousands of Daleks held within. Sec also refused any form of alliance with the Cybermen, believing a single Dalek could overcome any threat. When the Doctor opened up the breach, causing anything soaked in the Void's background radiation to be sucked back into it, Sec ordered the Cult to perform an emergency temporal shift - escaping into Earth's history.

The Cult found themselves in New York in the year 1930. They established a base in the sewers beneath the city and infiltrated the construction of the Empire State Building. Attempts to create new Dalek mutants failed, so Sec had to find a new way for the Daleks to survive as a race and multiply. He devised a scheme to turn human beings into mental Daleks. Captured humans would have their minds wiped and have their DNA fused with that of the Daleks during a gamma radiation bombardment. The new skyscraper was designed to channel this radiation down to their genetics laboratory. Sec then embarked on the ultimate experiment, with himself as the test subject. He would combine his DNA directly with that of a human - their ruthless agent Mr Diagoras, who had been helping them complete the building on schedule.

Sec eventually emerged from his casing as a Dalek-Human hybrid. He wanted the Daleks to learn from human achievements, especially in waging war and their capacity for survival. The other Cult members were alarmed at this turn of events. Whilst they were sworn to obey their leader, they valued their genetic purity more highly. Sec was no longer fully Dalek, so they no longer needed to follow him. Sec found himself horrified by the sight of the human leader Solomon being exterminated after making a speech which contained many of his own new sentiments. When Sec seemed to be co-operating with the Doctor, with plans to take the Daleks off to start a new life elsewhere, the Cult rebelled. Sec's scheme was taken over, and he was chained up. Cult members Jast and Thay took him with them when they confronted the Doctor and his friends at a nearby theatre. Sec attempted to get through to his one-time colleagues for a final time, before sacrificing himself to save the Doctor, throwing himself in front of the Daleks' weapons as they were about to exterminate him. The Doctor used Sec's death to turn the Human-Dalek army against the Cult.

Played by: Eric Loren (Human-Dalek Hybrid Sec). Appearances: Army of Ghosts / Doomsday (2006), Daleks in Manhattan / Evolution of the Daleks (2007).