Monday, 23 October 2017

Another overcrowded TARDIS?

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

Sunday, 22 October 2017

C is for... Clerics

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

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

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

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

C is for... Clent

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

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

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

C is for... Cleaves

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

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

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

C is for... Cleaners

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

Appearances: Paradise Towers (1987).

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

C is for... Clanton Family

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

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

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

Thursday, 19 October 2017

Inspirations - The Smugglers

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

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

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

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

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

Tuesday, 17 October 2017

They Keep Killing Suzie - Torchwood 1.8

In which the Torchwood team are called to a crime scene by Detective Kathy Swanson. A young couple have been murdered in their home - and the killer has written "TORCHWOOD" on the wall in their blood. When the victims' blood is tested, it is found to be full of Compound B67 - the Retcon drug Torchwood uses to wipe people's memories. Only someone connected to the team could have carried out these killings. There have been other killings prior to this one. Gwen suggests that they use the Resurrection Glove on the victims to learn more about the killer. Jack is initially reluctant, as it was her obsession with the gauntlet that had led Suzie Costello to commit murder before ultimately killing herself. The glove is used, and one of the dead men identifies the killer as a man named Max, who is part of something called "Pilgrim", and that Max is known to Suzie. Searching through her belongings in storage, the team learn that Pilgrim is a support group - and Suzie had been a member.

Jack decides that they must use the glove on Suzie, whose body has been in cold storage in the Hub since her suicide. At first Gwen finds the glove does not work - mainly because Suzie had threatened to kill her all those months ago. They decide to use the knife which Suzie had used in her murders. On being stabbed by Gwen in the chest, Suzie immediately awakes. However, she is not just alive again for a minute or two - she is back for good. Jack questions her about the killings, and Suzie admits she gave Max an overdose of Retcon every week over a long period of time. She would use the group to talk about her experiences with Torchwood, then make everyone forget what she had said. This overdosing has induced a psychotic state in Max. She tells Jack that there is still one more member of the support group still alive, Lucie, and Max is sure to go after her. Whilst Jack and the rest of the team rush to the bar where Lucie works, Suzie and Gwen talk. Suzie reveals that her father is dying, and she had wanted to use the glove on him. Max is captured and locked up in the Hub vaults.

Owen makes a shocking discovery. Suzie is stealing Gwen's life-force in order to remain alive. Eventually, Gwen will die and Suzie will be restored to complete heath. When they go to warn Gwen, they discover that she and Suzie have gone. Gwen has decided to take Suzie to see her father in hospital. In the vaults, Max starts to recite a poem by Emily Dickinson, and the Hub suffers a total power loss. Suzie had set up this verbal command before she died to over-ride the systems. Jack must call upon Detective Swanson for help in finding the code words that will restore power, whilst Suzie and Gwen travel to the hospital. Gwen is starting to weaken, a bullet hole slowly forming in her head, as Suzie's heals. Gwen is shocked when Suzie, instead of curing her father, kills him, as she always really hated him. Jack and the others are released when they work out the code to disable the power loss, and give chase. Suzie tries to flee on a ferry but is shot down. She doesn't die however. Jack then orders Tosh to destroy the glove, as it still connects the two women. As soon as it is destroyed, Suzie dies - first warning that something is coming out of the dark, and Ianto points out to Jack that gloves usually come in pairs...

They Keep Killing Suzie was written by Paul Tomalin and Dan McCulloch, and was first broadcast on 3rd December, 2006. Tomalin is best known for contributing to Shameless, whilst McCulloch has exec-produced Inspector Morse sequel series Endeavour, and the Jenna Coleman vehicle Victoria. This is their only Doctor Who-related work.
Whilst Cyberwoman had been a sequel of sorts to a Doctor Who story, this episode marks the rare occasion when a Torchwood episode gets a sequel - namely the opening episode Everything Changes. In that, Suzie had become obsessed with investigating how the Resurrection Glove worked, to the point that she would create new victims for her to test it upon. Once unmasked, she knew that she could never escape from Torchwood, and so killed herself with a gunshot to the head. She, and the glove, make a come-back here. She seems to have foreseen what was going to happen to her, setting up Max over a couple of years and preparing the voice activated power loss.
It had always been a surprise when Suzie had died at the end of the first episode, as Indira Varma was  - after John Barrowman - the biggest name in the cast for the new series, and she featured prominently in the pre-publicity.

As well as its links to a previous episode, this story also attempts to get a story arc going. Suzie's dying words talk of something coming out of the dark, and Ianto flags up that there could well be a second glove somewhere. These hints won't come to fruition until the second series, though some thought that the former was a reference to Abaddon from the first series finale.
Indira Varma is obviously the main guest for this episode, but playing Detective Swanson is Yasmin Bannerman, who had been Jabe in The End of the World.
Overall, a strong episode, which finally shows the series starting to build a mythology of its own (it has been incredibly piecemeal up to this point).
Things you might like to know:

  • The code to stop the power outage in the Hub proves to be the ISBN of the Collected Works of Emily Dickinson - whose poem "The Chariot" has started it. However, the ISBN Jack actually quotes is from another work entirely - The Oxford Dictionary of Quotations.
  • This episode was originally written as an extra commission, in case another story fell through. Russell T Davies liked it so much he promoted it to form part of the series. It was he who asked for the suggestion of a second glove to be added - so that it could be called upon later if needed.
  • The episode title is usually taken as a reference to South Park, in which they keep killing Kenny. There is also an episode of The Avengers called "They Keep Killing Steed". The title was initially just "They Keep Killing" prior to the start of the series, as they did not want to give away Suzie's death in the opening episode.
  • The second glove will turn up in Dead Man Walking - the third of the Martha Jones trilogy of episodes in Series 2, as will the thing in the darkness. This is Duroc, an embodiment of Death.
  • It had been planned that Suzie would make further reappearances in the programme, but Varma was pregnant during the making of the second series, and the character did not fit with the third and fourth series - even though the latter (Miracle Day) is all about people being unable to die.

Monday, 16 October 2017

C is for... Clancey, Milo

An argonite miner, president of his own company based on the planet Lobos. He had once been a partner to Dom Issigri, working on the planet Ta, but the two had fallen out. Issigri had gone missing, presumed dead, and his daughter Madeleine always assumed that Clancey was somehow responsible. She took over operations on Ta, and despite the planet supposedly being mined out, made it a profitable venture. In reality, she was in league with pirates who were stealing argonite from other miners like Clancey, as well as breaking up government-owned navigation beacons made from the substance.
Clancey was one of the old-timers who had first explored the outer reaches of space, at a time when there was no law and order. As such he liked to do things his own way, and objected to having to conform to new procedures which the authorities tried to impose on him.
His ship was the LIZ 79, an antiquated craft in much need of repair.
General Hermack of the Space Corps suspected Clancey of being the leader of the pirates when he found the LIZ in the region of space where a beacon had just been destroyed. Clancey had been trying to track down the people who had stolen a shipment of argonite ore from him. He discovered a piece of beacon adrift, and on locking onto it found the Doctor and his companions aboard.
When it became clear that Hermack wanted to arrest him, he fled with the time travellers to hide on Ta, where he learned about Madeleine's involvement with the pirates, who were led by the sadistic Caven. He discovered that Dom was still alive, a captive of Caven.
The pirate tried to kill the pair by stranding them on a sabotaged LIZ, but the Doctor was able to talk Clancey through repairs over the ship's radio. Clancey and Dom were reconciled.

Played by: Gordon Gostelow. Appearances: The Space Pirates (1969).

  • Gostelow was born in New Zealand in 1925, dying in London in 2007, aged 82. One of his signature roles on stage and TV was that of Bardolph - Falstaff's fiery-faced friend in Henry IV Parts 1 & 2, and who is executed for theft from a church in Henry V. He also played Perks in a 1968 BBC version of The Railway Children. The BBC filmed this four times, and this is the only version that wasn't wiped.

Sunday, 15 October 2017

C is for... Churchill, Winston

Prime Minister of Great Britain during the Second World War. He was an old acquaintance of the Doctor's, and when his chief scientist Prof. Edwin Bracewell came up with a new weapon that would help win the conflict - armoured war machines called Ironsides - Churchill contacted the Doctor to seek his advice. He had the telephone number for the TARDIS, and the call was answered by Amy Pond. However, the ship landed in London some weeks after the call had been made, and Bracewell had pressed ahead with his Ironsides programme. The Doctor discovered that the Ironsides were actually Daleks, which had been given khaki livery. Churchill refused to heed the Doctor's warnings about the Daleks, as he was determined to defeat the Nazis at any cost. What he really wanted from the Doctor was control over the TARDIS, going so far as to try to pocket the ship's key.
He later discovered that Bracewell was really an android, created by the Daleks, but he kept him on as his chief scientist.
Later, Bracewell brought him a painting that had been found in France - a Vincent Van Gogh which depicted an exploding TARDIS. Churchill again rang the Doctor, but the call was diverted by the ship to River Song at the Stormcage prison facility.

When River failed to assassinate the Doctor - breaking a fixed point in time - history began to collapse. The Doctor found himself a prisoner of Churchill who was now Holy Roman Emperor, presiding over a senate based at Buckingham Palace. He was tended by a Silurian doctor, and had a coach pulled by mammoths. He knew the Doctor only as a soothsayer, who told stories of how the universe was supposed to be. He and the Doctor came under attack from Silents, but were rescued by Amy.

Played by: Ian McNeice. Appearances: Victory of the Daleks, The Pandorica Opens (2010), The Wedding of River Song (2011).

  • McNeice first came to prominence in the BBC thriller serial Edge of Darkness. He has been a regular on the popular ITV show Doc Martin for a number of years. He was offered a role in Game of Thrones (as Illyrio in the first season), but the part was then recast with Roger Allam.
  • He has played Churchill a number of times on stage, and has recently reprised the Doctor Who version for Big Finish.

C is for... Chumblies

Squat robot servants to the Rills. They had domed, segmented bodies which could collapse on top of each other for protection. A small antenna protruded from the top when they wanted to transmit signals. They were armed with rod-like weapons that spat flames. The Rills do not appear to have given these robots a name, but "Chumblies" was coined by the Doctor's companion Vicki from the way they moved. The Rills had no vocal chords and so could not speak, but could communicate by analysing Vicki's speech and transmitting their thoughts verbally through the robots.
The Doctor and his companions encountered them on a planet that was about to explode. Also present were the female Drahvins. The Rills wanted to help them escape the planet, but their leader Maaga suspected they wanted to kill them, and refused to allow her soldiers to listen to what the Chumblies were transmitting. The robots were impervious to Drahvin weapons, but could be disabled by a magnetic steel mesh when it was thrown over them. One was destroyed when it was struck with a metal bar. The Doctor helped the Rills escape the planet before its destruction - one of the robots being left behind to help the Doctor and his companions reach the safety of the TARDIS.

Played by: Jimmy Kaye, William Shearer, Angelo Muscat, Pepi Poupee, Tommy Reynolds. Appearances: Galaxy Four (1965).

  • Angelo Muscat was best known for playing the mute butler in 14 episodes of The Prisoner.

C is for... Christie, Agatha

The celebrated crime novelist, whom the Doctor and Donna encountered at a house party hosted by Lady Eddison, in December 1926. This was near the beginning of her literary career, and she had so far created the character of Belgian sleuth Hercule Poirot. She had just learned that her husband was having an affair. The Doctor noted the date, as this was the weekend when Christie had famously gone missing - turning up at a hotel in Harrogate a week later. A number of killings began at the house, all of which seemed like something out of one of her novels. Agatha and the Doctor began to investigate the murders. It transpired that Lady Eddison, when a young woman living in India, had met a man who was really an alien Vespiform - a wasp-like creature capable of altering its appearance - and had become pregnant by him. The child - a boy - had been sent to an orphanage. Lady Eddison had a memento of this liaison - a jewel known as the Firestone. The Doctor discovered that this had picked up Lady Eddison's thoughts whilst reading one of Agatha's books and transmitted these to her son - who was present at the gathering in the form of the local vicar, Mr Golightly. Whenever he became agitated, he transformed into a wasp form and killed those who stood between him and his mother. Feeling responsible for the killings, Agatha took the Firestone and drove off into the night, to lure the Vespiform away from the house. By the Silent Pool lake, Donna threw the jewel into the water, knowing that wasps can be drowned. However, it was still mentally linked to Agatha and she collapsed. As it died, the alien released her.
The Doctor and Donna took her to the hotel in Harrogate, her memory of these recent events blotted out. However, back in the TARDIS, the Doctor showed Donna one of her books, which featured a large wasp on the cover - suggesting that some trace of memory had remained.

Played by: Fenella Woolgar. Appearances: The Unicorn and the Wasp (2008).

  • Christie (1890 - 1976) went missing around the 3rd December 1926 after a row with her husband over his affair. She was found on 14th December at the hotel, having used the surname of her husband's lover on the hotel register. The disappearance was front page news. Many assumed it all to be a publicity gimmick, or even that she trying to get her husband arrested on suspicion for her murder. The incident wasn't referred to in her autobiography.
  • Donna inadvertently gives her the idea for Murder on the Orient Express, and for the spinster sleuth Miss Marple, not realising that she hasn't written these yet.
  • Being a Gareth Roberts script, the dialogue is packed full of references to her story titles.

C is for... Chorley, Harold

A journalist who was selected to represent the British press at the Goodge Street fortress during the Yeti attack on London. Arrogant and obsequious, he was disliked by the soldiers based there, and by Professor Travers and his daughter, Anne. Keen to get a story and make a name for himself, he was unwilling to do anything hazardous, however. He was suspicious of the Doctor and his companions when they turned up, having learned that they were present when Travers had encountered the Yeti years before. Knowing that the Great Intelligence used a human host, the others were equally suspicious of him - especially when he ran off to find the TARDIS. He hid in the Underground tunnels for some time before encountering Staff Sergeant Arnold, who took him to Piccadilly Circus station where the Intelligence had its base. He discovered that it was Arnold who had been taken over. Once the Intelligence had been expelled back into deep space, Chorley tried to find out about the TARDIS from Anne Travers.

Played by: Jon Rollason. Appearances: The Web of Fear (1968).

  • Chorley appears to be based on an amalgamation of three real journalists of the period, known from TV appearances. He looks like Robin Day, with the thick spectacle frames and the bow tie, but his obsequious personality is more akin to David Frost or Alan Whicker.
  • Rollason was one of John Steed's original partners in The Avengers, before they settled on the single female companion. He and Doctor Who producer Peter Bryant attempted to launch an adventure series called Special Project Air. Only two episodes were filmed. In the 1970's he both wrote for and appeared in Coronation Street.

C is for... Choristers

Red-robed men, with scarified decoration on their faces, from the Akhaten Ring system who sang to placate an ancient god. The principal singer was a young female, called the Queen of Years. At a ceremony which took place every 1000 years - the Festival of Offerings - the Queen would sing a never-ending song to ensure that the Old God - known as Grandfather - would remain asleep in his pyramid tomb, built on an asteroid in the ring system. To fail to do so would awaken him, and he would devour her. When the Doctor took Clara to see the Festival, having once gone there with Susan, the latest Queen - Merry - made a mistake and Grandfather began to awake. He appeared to be a mummified alien corpse. The principal Chorister attempted to sing Grandfather back to sleep but failed. He teleported away, leaving Merry to her fate. However, the real Old God was actually the system's sun, a parasite which fed on people's experiences.

Played by: Chris Anderson (Lead Chorister), Emilia Jones (Merry). Appearances: The Rings of Akhaten (2013).

Thursday, 12 October 2017

Inspirations - The War Machines

The first time that the same writer has authored two consecutive stories, The War Machines is written by Ian Stuart Black. Producer Innes Lloyd and his story editor Gerry Davis have decided to introduce a pair of very contemporary young companions, and so a present day Earth setting is required - which also allows Dodo to be left back where, and when, she started. It can only be set in Swinging London.
Both Lloyd and Davis want to see some real science in the show, and so Davis has been sounding out some real scientists to provide it. In short, they are after a scientific adviser.
One of the first to be approached is Patrick Moore, the TV astronomer who presents The Sky At Night programme. He turns them down, though he will get a cameo decades later in Matt Smith's debut episode. Eventually Davis speaks with Christopher Magnus Howard Pedler - better known as Kit. He was an ophthalmologist, who had made a few appearances on TV, including Horizon and the popular Tomorrow's World.
He has some ideas, and so decides to take up the role.

As a medical man, Pedler wanted to do something about the dehumanising consequences of spare part surgery, but that would have to wait a little while longer. He and Davis then hit upon the fear that people had about computers taking over people's lives and putting us all out of a job. Of particular concern was the notion of computers making decisions without any human checks and balances. They came up with the preposterous idea that computers might be able to communicate over telephone lines...
Davis started to formulate a story idea called "Dr Who and the Computers", and the first writer it was offered to was Pat Dunlop. He had to drop out due to commitments elsewhere, and that's when Black became involved. He claimed in an interview that he was unaware of Dunlop's involvement, and that he wrote his treatment from scratch.
For a backdrop to the story, tying in with the computer being linked to the phone network, Black chose to set it in the recently opened General Post Office Tower. Built between 1961 - 64, it was officially opened in May 1966. Despite dominating the London skyline, it officially didn't exist until an MP gave its address in Parliament in 1993.
Now, since the opening episode in November 1963, only one Doctor Who story had been set in the present day, and that had seen the time-travelers shrunk to one inch in height and confined to a back garden and its shed. There had been brief visits to contemporary Earth, usually as part of Dalek chase sequences, plus the coda to The Massacre on Wimbledon Common where Dodo came on board the TARDIS.

Two obvious influences on The War Machines are a pair of earlier popular science fiction series from the BBC. The Doctor allies himself with an authority figure and then the army get involved, as we had seen with the Quatermass serials of the 1950's. In his previous story, Black had cut to the chase by having the Elders know all about the Doctor, and he had knowledge about the era they lived in. Here, the Doctor wanders into the GPO Tower and gets to see WOTAN like he was part of London's scientific elite, and then gets put up at Sir Charles' home. Either Black thinks the Doctor is as famous as his TV Comic alter-ego, who appears on TV shows, or he just doesn't want to mess about with lengthy introductions. The War Machines sees the Doctor working alongside the military for the very first time, and we have seen Prof Quatermass forced to rely on them in the first and third of his outings. There are a number of British made Science Fiction movies of this period, all inspired by Quatermass, wherein a scientist is allied with the military - such as Robert Holmes' Invasion, and The Night Caller.
In A for Andromeda and its sequel, aliens transmit the plans for a computer, which a group of scientists have to create. The idea for the Andromeda serials came from another astronomer - Fred Hoyle. No doubt Davis had tried to recruit him as well.
Black named his computer WOTAN - Will Operating Thought ANalogue. This derives from Norse mythology, Wotan (or Odin) being the principal Norse god. The War Machines were at one point to be called Valkyries - also from Norse mythology. The Valkyries determined who was to die in battle, with half of those killed going to Wotan's Valhalla, and the other half to Freyja's Folkvangr. Usually portrayed as warrior women, they were the lovers and servants of the dead warrior heroes.

Computers have a very long history, from the most basic counting stick to the Antikythera mechanism, which dates to around 100 BC, amongst the more distant ancestors. The "father of the computer" was Charles Babbage, who designed and built the Analytic Engine in the first half of the 19th Century. Computer development really forged ahead with the Second World War, and the need to target weapons efficiently and to break German codes. A Post Office engineer named Tommy Flowers worked on systems to improve telephone exchanges in the 1930''s, and he was called in to Bletchley Park to design Colossus - the world's first electronic digital computing programmable machine. Working at Bletchley was Alan Turing, who had theorised what we now know as the modern computer in a paper published in 1936. In the States, there was also ENIAC (Electronic Numerical Integrator And Computer), designed primarily for weapons targeting, and faster than Colossus.
The internet would have to wait until Tim Berners-Lee, and his invention of the World Wide Web in 1989.

As for the contemporary trappings of this story, Covent Garden was host to a number of late night clubs and drinking dens like the Inferno Club. Kitty mentions the Doctor looking like "that DJ" - a reference to Jimmy Saville. The new couple - Ben and Polly - aren't based on anyone in particular, but they are clearly inspired by people like Terence Stamp and Julie Christie - the duo name-checked in The Kinks' Waterloo Sunset. Ben also has a touch of the Michael Caine about him. There are a couple of publicity photos of the pair that look like they could have been taken by David Bailey. Polly is posh and a career girl, who looks like she would be at very much at home on the King's Road, whilst Ben is a Cockney (only a few months after they had trouble with Dodo's regional accent). He's a sailor, so can bring the necessary skill set for a companion to an older Doctor. He's punching someone within seconds of us first meeting him. Lloyd and Davis are so keen to get on with establishing their new companions, poor Dodo gets unceremoniously dumped half way through the story, not even being allowed to turn up for a goodbye scene at the conclusion.
Next time, we're back into History. Shiver me timbers, it's a right Syn-ful mix of smugglers and pirates. Ahrr!

Tuesday, 10 October 2017

Shada (again)

For a story that was never completed and so never broadcast, there's a heck of a lot of Shada about. News comes today that the story will get an official release from the BBC, of the original footage that was completed, combined with new animation, voiced by original cast members.
This isn't totally unexpected news - Daniel Hill (Chris Parsons) tweeted that he had completed voice work some months ago.
There will be a download available from November 24th, with a DVD to follow on 4th December.
The story was cancelled due to one of the annual BBC strikes, with only one of the three studio sessions completed plus - luckily - all of the Cambridge location work. JNT tried to get it remounted when he took over, but was unsuccessful, and later used a couple of clips so that Tom Baker could be included in The Five Doctors.
The story was released on VHS with Tom Baker providing narration for the missing bits. JNT commissioned new SFX shots for this, but unfortunately used 1980's music instead of the Dudley Simpson score it would have had.
Big Finish also came up with an audio version, replacing the Fourth Doctor with the Eighth for some reason. This was also a webcast, with limited animation.
When it came time to release the story on DVD, they went back to the VHS version. This rather infuriated Ian Levine, as he had commissioned his own animated version of the missing sections. I've seen clips and the animation is good in places and dire in others, and he had to get sound-a-likes for some of the cast (including Tom Baker).
We should also mention that the story was finally novelised not long ago, by Gareth Roberts, using Douglas Adams' notes.
Once again, thoughts turn to those other missing or incomplete stories. Hopefully this shows that the BBC still has an interest in releasing more classic Doctor Who.

Greeks Bearing Gifts - Torchwood 1.7

In which the Torchwood team are called in when a corpse is found on a construction site. It bears the same marks as a number of recent murders - with its ribs broken open. However, this body appears to be nearly 200 years old. Beside it is a device whose origins are unknown, but which appears to be of advanced technological design. A young woman named Mary observes the team as they work. Owen has the body transported to the Hub so he can investigate further, along with the strange device.
Tosh, meanwhile, is feeling out of sorts. She is in love with Owen, but he never shows any affection for her. She feels that she is not appreciated by her colleagues, and can be the brunt of their jokes. She takes herself to a bar, where she is approached by Mary. She claims to know all about Torchwood, and says that she is a collector of alien artefacts. She gives Tosh a pendant, and she is shocked to find that it lets her hear other people's thoughts.

The next day, Tosh wears it to work and learns about the relationship between Owen and Gwen, as well as the distress which Ianto still feels over the death of Lisa. Returning home, she finds Mary waiting outside her flat, and invites her in. She discovers that Mary has sexual feelings for her. The two kiss, and sleep together. Tosh finds that she can confide things in Mary that she can't with her colleagues. She asks Mary who she really is, and Mary says that she is "Philoctetes".
Back at the Hub, Owen's claims that the skeleton was of a woman who died by a gunshot have been disproved. The victim was male - like the recent murder victims - and the hole in the chest was where the heart was torn out. Later, Tosh uses the pendant in the street and learns that a man is going to kill his family. She follows him and stops him in time.

Mary wants Tosh to find out if Jack knows about the device that was recovered. Tosh finds that she cannot read his mind. He has heard of how she saved the family, and distrusts her version of events. She asks him who Philoctetes was, and he explains that this was a character from Greek mythology who was exiled on the island of Lemnos for 10 years.
Mary later reveals the truth about herself, when she transforms into an ethereal alien being. She wants Tosh's help getting the device back, as it will take her home. She fears that the others will lock her up. Tosh smuggles her into the Hub, only to be confronted by Jack who is holding the device. He knows that it is a transporter for two people - a prisoner and escort. Mary takes Tosh hostage. She reveals that she came to Earth in 1812 and took over the body of Mary, a young prostitute. She has been living on human hearts over the decades. Jack gives her the device and she activates it, ready to leave. However, Jack has reprogrammed it, and it takes her into the heart of the sun.
The others are furious at Tosh for listening to their innermost thoughts - especially Gwen and Owen. Gwen tells her that she seemed happy with Mary, and should find herself someone. Jack refuses to say why she could not read his mind. Tosh smashes the pendant.

Greeks Bearing Gifts was written by Toby Whithouse, and was first broadcast on 26th November, 2006. At the time, he had one Doctor Who story under his belt - School Reunion - and was known for creating the series Being Human.
The title derives from the story of the Trojan Horse, the phrase coming to mean anything which appears to be beneficial at first, but then proves not to be. In this instance, it refers to the pendant. It allows Tosh to hear other what people are thinking, but she may not like what she hears. Mary uses an alias from Greek mythology - the archer Philoctetes. He was exiled by his own side whilst on route to the Trojan war, remaining on Lemnos for a decade until a prophesy claimed the Greeks would only defeat Troy if his bow and arrow, which had been left to him by Heracles, were used. He was rescued from exile and fought in the final battle for the city.
This episode obviously focuses on Tosh, but also moves the story of Gwen and Owen on a little. Gwen admits to Tosh that she knows her relationship with the MD is wrong, but she cannot stop herself. We also learn that Ianto still grieves for Lisa.

There's only one real guest star here - Daniela Denby-Ashe, as Mary. She first came to prominence in Eastenders, and then spent over a decade on the BBC sitcom My Family.
Overall, it is a much better episode than the previous week's offering. Still very adult, with a same-sex relationship and Mary's heart ripping.
Things you might like to know:

  • Seven episodes in, and everyone in the team has now had a same-sex kiss.
  • A couple of Cyberman references. Owen has an X-Ray of a Cyberman in his morgue, and he mentions someone who keeps seeing Cybermen outside his house ever since the battle of Canary Wharf. And of course, Ianto is thinking about Lisa, who became the Cyberwoman.
  • UNIT gets a mention, as Tosh is supposed to be preparing a list for them.
  • Mary's true form is reused by the Mill for the pilot episode of The Sarah Jane Adventures - Invasion of the Bane. There it is recognised as a benign Arcateenian, a star poet. See my A-Z post for more on them.
  • Tosh claims she wanted to know who Philoctetes was as it was a question in a pub quiz. The name of the pub she gives as The Prince of Tides - which was a 1991 romantic drama starring Nick Nolte and Barbra Streisand. Have googled this and there are definitely no pubs or bars in the UK with that name. There is a beach shack restaurant in Goa, however. (5 stars on tripadvisor, if you're ever that way).

Sunday, 8 October 2017

C is for... Cho-Je

Cho-Je was a Tibetan monk who helped to run a meditation centre in the English countryside. Its master was the elderly K'anpo Rimpoche. Mike Yates went to stay at the centre after he had resigned from UNIT following the Operation Golden Age affair, in order to sort himself out. He invited Sarah Jane Smith down as he was suspicious of a man named Lupton and his followers, who were conducting secret ceremonies in the cellar. Mike thought it worthy of investigation by UNIT, but felt he couldn't contact them direct. Lupton had established contact with a race of giant spiders on Metebelis 3, and their ruler - the Great One - wanted a crystal which the Doctor had taken from the planet.
Cho-Je tried to warn Lupton but he and Mike were blasted by one of the spiders.
When the Doctor met K'anpo, he recognised him as a fellow Time Lord - his old mentor who had taught him as a child. He had lived the life of a hermit, away from Time Lord society, and had left Gallifrey by mentally transporting himself away, rather than use a TARDIS. The spiders killed K'anpo, but Sarah saw him regenerate into Cho-Je. It transpired that the younger monk had been a projection of the old Time Lord all along - a shadow of his future self.
When the Doctor returned to UNIT HQ after confronting the Great One in her lair, he was dying from radiation. Cho-Je / K'anpo materialised in the UNIT lab and assisted the Doctor in regenerating for the third time.

Played by: Kevin Lindsay. Appearances: Planet of the Spiders (1974).

  • Lindsay had appeared earlier in Season 11 as Linx, the Sontaran warrior, and would return for the final time the following year as another Sontaran - Styre.
  • The Doctor would get a future projection of himself at the time of his next regeneration - the Watcher - though this would be an intermediate stage between the Fourth and Fifth incarnations.
  • Choje Akong Rinpoche (1940 - 2013) was the first Tibetan Buddhist Lama to establish a Tibetan monastery in the West (in southern Scotland in 1967).

C is for... Chip

A servant of the self-styled last human, Lady Cassandra. After she had apparently perished on Platform One, he salvaged her frame, brain and eyes and prepared a new flesh form using skin from her back. He secreted her in the basement of the hospital which served New New York on the planet of New Earth.
Chip, who had distinctive henna tattoos covering his body, was a force-bred clone, which meant that he had only a short life span. He was based on the person who had last told Cassandra that she was beautiful. Chip helped Cassandra to abduct Rose Tyler, in order that she could transfer her mind into her body. They then set about discovering the secrets of the Sisters of Plenitude who ran the hospital. Chip found himself fleeing when Cassandra released all of the infected new humans. Once they had been cured, the Doctor forced Cassandra to leave Rose's body. The devoted Chip allowed her to enter his body. The body then started to die, so the Doctor took Cassandra to see her earlier human self - that occasion when she had been told she was beautiful, thus inspiring her to later create Chip.

Played by: Sean Gallagher. Appearances: New Earth (2006).

C is for... Chinn

A bumbling, petty-minded bureaucrat who was tasked with carrying out a security audit at UNIT HQ. He was a civil servant with the Ministry of Defence. He was annoyed that the Brigadier did not have any documentation regarding the Doctor. His inquiry coincided with the arrival of Axos. Chinn insisted on taking charge of the situation and ordered a missile strike, but the Axon ship time-jumped and landed safely next to the Nuton Power Complex. Chinn accompanied UNIT to the landing site and entered the ship with the Doctor, the Brigadier and two of the complex's personnel - its director, Sir George Hardiman, and its chief scientist, Winser.
When the Axons demonstrated the substance Axonite to them, Chinn was determined to secure this for Britain's exclusive use. He contacted his Minister and was granted special powers - bringing in the regular army to wrest control from UNIT.
The deal Chinn had set up was not what Axos wanted. It needed Axonite to be distributed across the entire planet. It had been brought to Earth by the Master, who was being held prisoner on board. He was released in order to ensure the spread of Axonite, by leaking information about it to the United Nations. Chinn was ordered to arrange for world-wide distribution, or else face being forced to resign. When Axos revealed its true plans, Chinn entirely missed what was going on and was shocked to find Sir George and Winser dead, and the complex under alien attack. He survived this, but it is unlikely he would have held onto his position after the complex was destroyed.

Played by: Peter Bathurst. Appearances: The Claws of Axos (1971).

  • Bathurst had previously played Governor Hensell in The Power of the Daleks.
  • He was one of the astronauts in the original Quatermass serial and had a recurring role in Barry Letts' and Terrance Dicks' ill-fated Moonbase 3.
  • Chinn isn't given a first name on screen, but the novelisation gives it as Horatio.

C is for... Chin Lee

Chin Lee was a captain in the Chinese People's Liberation Army, who was a senior member of the Chinese delegation to a world peace conference being held in London. Some time prior to this she had attended a demonstration of the Keller Process at a prison in Switzerland. Professor Emil Keller had developed a machine that could rehabilitate prisoners by removing hostile emotions from their minds. He was really the Master, and he brought Chin Lee under his mental domination. She accompanied him when he installed his machine at Stangmoor Prison in England. This was 12 months before the peace conference. The Master fitted her with a small electronic device, hidden behind the ear, which linked her to the machine - which was really the receptacle for an alien mind parasite. Chin Lee was forced to assassinate the Chinese delegate - harnessing the machine to frighten him to death - and to sow discord by stealing important documents. When Sergeant Benton tried to follow her, she used the machine to disable him. The Brigadier became suspicious when Chin Lee's story about finding the delegate's body did not add up. On hearing that a Chinese woman was causing problems at the conference, and that one was seen with Keller when he set up his machine at Stangmoor, the Doctor deduced that it must be the same person. An attempt to kill the American delegate was foiled when the Doctor and Brigadier arrived in time to stop her. She had appeared to Senator Alcott in the form of a Chinese dragon. The Doctor broke the Master's hypnotic hold over her and removed the electronic device.

Played by: Pik-Sen Lim. Appearances: The Mind of Evil (1971).

  • Looking for an actress to play the Captain, it was pointed out to the director, Tim Coombe, that the story's writer - Don Houghton - had a Chinese wife, who was also an actor. She assisted Jon Pertwee with some of the dialogue he had to use in scenes with the new Chinese delegate.

C is for... Chimeron

The Chimeron people were being hunted to extinction by the mercenary Bannermen. Chimeron males were green-skinned, reptilian beings whilst their females looked like humans. A Chimeron Queen named Delta escaped with one of their eggs - that of a princess. She arrived at a Toll Port and joined a party of Navarino who were on their way to 1950's Earth as part of a musical nostalgia tour. Delta found herself siting next to Mel Bush, as she and the Doctor had won a trip with the tour. He chose to follow on in the TARDIS. Following a collision with a satellite, the tour ship crashlanded in Wales, outside the Shangri-La holiday camp. The Bannermen, led by Gavrok, gave chase. Mel saw the egg hatch. The baby was reptilian initially, but grew rapidly, transforming itself to look more humanoid.
The Chimeron life-cycle was similar to that of the bee, and they had a matriarchal society.
Delta informed the Doctor that she was going to take their case to an unspecified authority which could stop their persecution. She formed an attachment for a young man who worked at the camp - Billy. He saw that she fed the child with a nutrient-rich substance, and so stole some for himself - hoping that it would turn him into a Chimeron. When the Bannermen attacked, it was found that Chimeron children could emit a piercing cry which disabled their enemies. The Doctor used the princess' cries, amplified, to defeat the Bannermen, and Gavrok was killed when he fell into his own trap.

Billy did indeed begin to turn into a Chimeron. He and Delta left Earth with the princess, along with a number of Bannermen captives, to seek justice and to begin a new Chimeron race.

Played by: Belinda Mayne (Delta), Jessica McGough and Amy Osborn (Baby Princess), Laura Collins and Carley Joseph (older Chimeron Princess). Appearances: Delta and the Bannermen (1987).

  • Never mentioned on screen, the Chimeron planet is called Chumeria in the novelisation.

C is for... Chief Officer

The planet Varos had once been a penal colony. The guards became its elite, whilst the general populace were descended from the prisoners. What had once been the Head Warden role became the planet's Chief Officer. He was second-in-command to the Governor, but whilst that position was open to public voting, the Chief's role was one for life, and he was exempt from being voted into the Governorship - which could be a death sentence. As such, he was really the most powerful person in the government. The Chief Officer encountered by the Doctor and Peri was in the pay of the Galatron Mining Corporation, working behind the scenes to keep the price of Zeiton 7 ore below its market value for a healthy gratuity. Should the Governor challenge him, he could provoke a vote against him. One of his jobs was to oversee the activities in the Punishment Dome, and he was in command of the guards. The Doctor and Peri freed a young rebel named Jondar, and escaped into the Dome. The Doctor later began to get through to the Governor that life on Varos could be improved and that they could get far more for their ore than what Galatron was paying. Escaping back into the Dome with Jondar, the Doctor laid a trap for the Chief Officer and scientist Quillam - head of research. They tied up bunches of toxic vines and cut them loose as the pair approached - killing them both.

Played by: Forbes Collins. Appearances: Vengeance on Varos (1985).

Thursday, 5 October 2017

Inspirations - The Savages

The first adventure to have an on-screen title with episode numbering, so no more arguments about what these stories are called. The writer is Ian Stuart Black. He had gone in to visit the BBC to discuss another set of scripts when he noticed the Doctor Who office next door, so popped in and asked if he could contribute something. He knew that this would make him popular with his children. (He's one of a handful who have said that their kids didn't accept they were real writers until they had done a Who).
This story is represented by very few photographs in the archives, and no clips exist save for some rough Super-8 footage. What it looked like is important in telling us where it came from, as you'll see below.
The Savages is basically a role reversal story. There had been an attempt very early on to have a story about a planet identical to Earth except on the other side of the Sun, where things were reversed. Barbara would have turned out to be the double of the planet's ruler. 'The Hidden Planet', possibly also titled 'Beyond the Sun', was submitted by Malcolm Hulke. (That second title has been attributed to more than one story of the first season). Hulke clearly meant that a world run buy a woman was a big thing. In other words, the notion of a woman being in charge is a mad science-fiction idea in 1963 / 4, worthy of a Doctor Who story.

For the role reversal gimmick of this story, we need to look at what its' original title was, and examine the telesnaps. The story was due to be called 'The White Savages'. The implication being that savages are usually black. No other way of looking at it as far as I can see. I have had a good look at the telesnaps, and if you can get decent quality versions you will see that Jano and the rest of the Elders are wearing dark make-up. It's really quite noticeable in some images. The writer and, by implication, the story editor appear to be saying that white people are by default the more advanced race, but on this planet it is dark-skinned people who are the ones with the science and technology, whilst white people are primitive cave dwellers. In other words, the notion of dark-skinned people being superior to white people is a mad science-fiction idea in 1966, worthy of a Doctor Who story.
We can't ask Black or Davis about their motivations for writing or script-editing this, and it does not necessarily follow that they intended this to be in any way explicitly about ethnicity. The word "White" was dropped from the title, and the make-up and casting decisions lay with the producer and director. It should be pointed out that the story was first developed under the producership of John Wiles, who had quit his native South Africa due to his hatred of Apartheid.
What Ian Stuart Black would have been much more interested in was telling a story about class inequality, and what the story looks like may have skewed our ideas about it. In some ways this story benefits from having been lost, available only as a soundtrack.

The Savages begins with the TARDIS arriving in what the Doctor claims to be a period of great peace and prosperity. How he deduces this from his controls we never learn, but compare with The End of the World and what the Doctor tells Rose he expects to see if he opens the doors as they travel forward in time, or what Satellite 5 ought to be like. Setting off on his own, the Doctor encounters some guards who take him to their city, and here he learns that the unnamed people of this unnamed planet know all about him, as they've been following his adventures. (We tend to call them all Elders, though this name should only really refer to Jano and his council).
They've been watching Doctor Who, basically, but only episodes prior to when the BBC started making them, as they don't expect him to have any companions. They must have had poor sound and picture quality, as they don't seem to realise that the Doctor will find fault with the manner in which their perfect society is maintained and want to stop them. To keep themselves smart and healthy, they have been capturing the cavemen who live nearby, in order to extract and bottle their life-force. Not enough to kill them - just to leave them weakened. Steven and Dodo get taken on a tour of the city, by a pair of empty-headed young people named Avon and Flower, who don't need to do anything all day except relax and play.
So we have a spoilt, decadent elite exploiting an underclass. They're not just taking advantage of their labour, if you are going to start looking at socialism and communism as inspirations. This being science-fiction, the Elders are exploiting the Savages' very essence.
Political economy is far too big a subject to go into here. If at all interested, start with Adam Smith's The Wealth of Nations (first published in 1776) and go from there, taking in Marx and Engels' The Communist Manifesto of 1848 as you head towards John Maynard Keynes. Balance things with a bit of Milton Friedman if you must.

A quick word about political bias. The BBC is always being accused of left-wing bias, and this has been the case for many, many years. The fact is that most of the writers, producers and story editors on Doctor Who have held left-wing views, and this has bled into the programme, and into the character of the Doctor. As far as Ian Stuart Black is concerned, political elites are parasites that leech off of others, and the Doctor is the sort of person who automatically finds this abhorrent and sees it as his role to stop them. Black isn't alone in this view, and this certainly won't be the last time he brings down an oppressive regime within a few hours of arriving on a new planet.
Back to the story... Jano decides to extract the Doctor's life-force, and rather than share it out he will have it all for himself. His greed proves to be his people's undoing, for he takes on the Doctor's ethics and moral standards along with the odd vocal characteristic. He now sees that exploiting the Savages is wrong, and so sets out to make an end of it. He allies himself with the recovering Doctor, Steven and Dodo, as well as the Savages themselves. The laboratory and the equipment which is used for the transferences is smashed.

The Doctor - and his surrogate Jano - bring the Elders' society crashing down. Only a neutral leader can take the community forward, with both races learning from each other. The Doctor proposes Steven for this role.
Since Innes Lloyd took over as producer, he has been itching to clear out the TARDIS and bring in a couple of contemporary bright young things as companions. Moves are still afoot to replace Hartnell in the very near future. This story provided yet another opportunity to do so - in that an actor could have been cast as Jano who, stuck with the Doctor's life-force, became the new version of the Doctor.
Of the companions, Peter Purves is the first to leave. He has since said that it would have been a good idea for a story to have had the Doctor revisit the planet, only to find that he had made a bad job of leadership and become a tyrant. (Only Big Finish have taken the bait). Jackie Lane is due for the chop in the next story, thus clearing the way for Terry and Julie - sorry, Ben and Polly.
Next time: Doc-torr Who iss re-quired. Dodo isn't...

Tuesday, 3 October 2017

Countrycide - Torchwood 1.6

In which the Torchwood team investigate a series of disappearances in the Brecon Beacons district. Jack is worried that the Rift might be spreading. 17 persons have gone missing, and they use the last known mobile phone signal to begin their inquiries. They set up a camp. Owen admits that he and Gwen have kissed recently. She is furious with him for revealing this. The pair go off to gather wood and spot a couple of figures lurking in the forest. They give chase, and come upon a corpse which has been stripped of flesh. As they examine it, they hear their SUV been driven off. They give chase on foot, and soon come to a terrace of buildings in a remote valley. These appear to be deserted. Two further corpses in a similar state are found. On entering one of the buildings Gwen is shot by a terrified young man named Kieran.

She is taken to the pub where Owen patches her up. Kieran explains that he has been hunted by someone in the village. Jack begins to wonder if this is really the work of aliens from the Rift as they initially suspected. The pub comes under attack, and Kieran is abducted. Jack shoots and wounds a man named Martin. Gwen and Owen go looking for Kieran and meet a police officer named Huw. He says that he has come to the village for a community meeting, and indicates a lit-up building in the woods. Tosh and Ianto go in search of the SUV. In one of the houses they find a fridge full of body parts, and a pile of clothes. They are captured by a woman named Helen, who claims they are to take part in the "Harvest" - something which takes place every 10 years. Tosh has guessed that the people of this village are cannibals.

Tosh and Ianto are taken to the building in the woods and meet the village leader, Helen's husband Evan Sherman. Ianto tries to escape as Gwen and Owen arrive with the policeman. Evan seems unconcerned, as it turns out that Huw is his nephew and is one of the cannibals. Ianto is about to have his throat cut when Jack bursts in, driving a tractor. He had learned all about the village after interrogating Martin. Huw and Evan are shot and wounded. The police are summoned and take the entire village into custody. When interrogated, Evan can give no reason for their behaviour - save that it made him happy. Back in Cardiff, Gwen and Owen begin a relationship, as she feels he is the only person she can speak to about what they do.

Countrycide was written by Chris Chibnall, and was first broadcast on 19th November, 2006. The tile is obviously a pun on 'countryside', the suffix -cide implying murder.
It's the first episode that takes place entirely away from Cardiff and the Hub, and for once the Rift has nothing to do with events. These are purely human monsters.
The biggest problem is that this is all so derivative of any number of in-bred-yokels-kill-and-eat-townies movies. The Texas Chainsaw Massacre is just the most obvious example, and we have also had a whole slew of Wrong Turn films. The Torchwood crew are thoroughly Metropolitan, and right from the start they are complaining about the countryside and having to camp out. The villagers are walking stereotypes, with little or no characterisation. Having the policeman revealed as one of the villains is unoriginal as well.
Gwen gets shot at close range with a shotgun, but makes a remarkable recovery. Boyfriend Rhys might be a bit of a boor, but he's likable where Owen isn't, so the pair having an affair actually serves to make you lose sympathy with her. Tosh, meanwhile, lets slip her own infatuation with Owen - so that's two women we can't understand fancying him.
The main guest is Owen Teale, playing Evan. One of his earliest TV roles was as guard Maldak in Vengeance on Varos. Helen is Maxine Evans, Kieran is Calum Callaghan, and Huw is Rhys op Trefor.

Overall, an episode that seems to be designed just to demonstrate that this is post-watershed stuff, and they can push the gore and violence as far as they want. Just a pity they had to resort to stereotypes and ripping off horror movies to do it. One good thing is that it was right to remind viewers that not all monsters come from outer space - even if they're the ones we prefer to see if we tune into a Doctor Who spin-off show...
Things you might like to know:

  • Surprisingly, Eve Myles rates this as one of her favourite episodes. She claims to be a big horror fan, but presumably she is also referring to the fact that the cast got to get out into the countryside to film.
  • I've moaned about how derivative this one is, but the production team knew exactly what they were doing, as The Texas Chainsaw Massacre gets a mention in dialogue.
  • They filmed not far from Cardiff, and the cityscape had to be removed from the background to some scenes in post-production.
  • The village is nameless on screen, but was called Brynblaidd in the paperwork. This is Welsh for "Wolf Hill".
  • There's another F-word in the dialogue. This was bleeped out when the episode aired on BBC America and on the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation. Republic of Ireland censors rated this episode an "18". 
  • Composer Ben Foster provides Captain Jack with his own theme - first heard when he smashes his way into the building in a tractor.
  • It's one thing for people to go missing in a large country, but this is a National Park in Wales for goodness sake. The Harvest has clearly been going on for decades, possibly generations, yet no-one has thought to take a close look at the village in the middle of the area where the people have disappeared. When killings take place x number of years apart in The X-Files or Kolchak, there is a reason given for it - some mutant hibernating in the interim or some such - but we have no idea here why the Harvest happens every 10 years.