The Tenth Planet

Written by Kit Pedler and Gerry Davis

Directed by Derek Martinus

Spring is a time of rebirth and renewal. The ancient Celts here in Britain noticed this, and celebrated it in various festivals of new life and fertility, such as Beltaine. Eggs were used to symbolize new life, while the fuck-happy rabbit was seen as representing promiscuity and fertility. Further south, in England, children were made to dance round a huge wooden penis which spurted forth white life giving ribbons. When the early christians arrived to convert the pagans they, in a clever move, decided to  place their own festival of rebirth to coincide with the spring equinox festival, and thus easter as we know it was born. It always makes me smile to see churches, organizations known for their various hang-ups about sex, adorning themselves with Easter Bunnies, creatures which are actively representing promiscuity and fertility, at this time of year. The fact that kids are still made to dance round the maypole just creeps me out though*.

It is serendipitous, therefore, that I ended up writing about The Tenth Planet on Easter Sunday.

The Tenth Planet is a story that will always be remembered for two important facts: firstly, it was the first appearance of the Doctor’s silver nemesis, the most iconic villains since the Daleks, and the only other First Doctor villain that any other Doctor would face, the Cybermen. Secondly: it introduced the notion of regeneration, and as such, was the last First Doctor story**.

These two facts are both undeniably important, and I will get to them shortly, but what about the story in its own rights, judged by its own merits? The idea of a group of scientists stranded at a remote research facility being attacked by a small preliminary attack force  would turn out to be the plot for just about every other story that Kit Pedler came up with: The Moon Base and  Wheel in Space to name just a couple, and one that other writers would fall back on from time to time too, like both Seeds of Death and Seeds of Doom***. Its easy to see why: it gives the Doctor a defeatable opponent, while simultaneously putting the whole earth at risk. This was the first time it appeared though, at least as a Doctor Who story. Compared to some of the others that share the plot it may not be as slick, and the characters may not be quite so well rounded, but it does gain points for originality.

With Hartnell somewhat sidelined, particularly in parts two and three, the bulk of the heroics is left to Ben and Polly, who manage to do a pretty good job at leading the story, but the real protagonists here are the Cybermen.

In some ways the Cybermen are quite similar to the other First Doctor villain still around today, the Daleks: they’re both once human-like creatures who have dramatically changed themselves over time with the heavy use of technology into something much more resembling a machine. But while the Daleks are highly emotional creatures fueled by anger and hatred, the Cybermen are utterly emotionless, driven only by their only surviving instinct: survival. The result is a completely different type of villain, horrifying due to their total lack of concern or even interest in anything other than their goals. Their coldness gives them a chilling efficiency: they’re not going to get distracted by the enjoyment of killing the way a Dalek might. Much as I’m not their biggest fan myself, its easy to see why they’ve endured for so long.

But of course the hero is, as always, the Doctor. Hartnell had, for some time, been slowly getting more and more ill, and his memory was suffering as a result. Being a fantastic actor, this didn’t always matter, and he usually managed to bluff his way through scenes perfectly well, but it by no means clear how long he was going to be able to continue. I personally would find it impossible to name my favorite Doctor, but William Hartnell would sure as hell be somewhere near the top of my list, and whether or not he was my favorite, in many ways he will forever be THE Doctor. No other actor has managed to balance the warmth with the irascibility in a way that seemed both real and totally alien. Many people site the Daleks as the reason for Who’s success, but no matter how hard he tried, Terry Nation could never get them to work without the Doctor, while the Doctor himself has survived long periods without hide nor hair of anything resembling a condiment container. No, the Daleks were only good for one thing: getting defeated by the Doctor. And William Hartnell WAS the Doctor, through and through. Many other actors have given spectacular performances as the Time Lord and made the role their own, but it was Hartnell that created him in the first place.

When he left the role, Hartnell apparently suggested an actor to replace him . He was known mostly for playing the first television version of Robin Hood, a character whose vaguely socialist ideals had many parallels with the Doctor’s. Patrick Troughton would go on to define who the Doctor is almost as much as William Hartnell, because as the Second Doctor he was able to choose what he could change about the character, and what it was that had to stay, or in other  what it was that was core, that made him the Doctor. So, what choices would he make in that regard? find out next time in The Power of the Daleks.

*having said that, I had to do it and it didn’t seem to scar me. I didn’t realize at the time that the pole was supposed to be a huge cock though, or that the ribbon I was holding was meant to be spunk.

** Not including multiple Doctor stories.

*** oddly, in most ways, quite different stories.

The Smugglers

Written by Brian Hayles

Directed by Julia Smith

Today was a pretty awesome day for Doctor Who. The new series (the second half of season 7) with the new companion, Clara, started fantastically well, with some classic Steven Moffat writing and the most 11 Doctor performance ever from Matt Smith. Meanwhile, it was announced that fantastic actor David Tennant will be making a return as the 10th Doctor for the 50th anniversary special, along with the also great Billie Piper, as Ace-a-like, Rose. You can tell their different characters because Rose doesn’t blow stuff up. The past multiple Doctor episodes have tended to be if daft affairs lacking in any real depth or story, but fun nonetheless. for the most part: the 30th anniversary Eastenders crossover was a bewildering mess. If anyone can make it work, though, I suspect it’ll be Moffat.

Enough about things that lie in the future though. As far as we’re concerned it’s 1966 and the first story of the original 4th season, not 2013 and half way through the new 7th season, some 47 years later.

I have to admit to forgetting about The Smugglers. In many ways its a historical Who story by numbers. Arrive. Split up. Capture. Escape. Loop loop loop. Back to the TARDIS. Leave. To write it off as completely forgettable, however, would be a mistake. The intricate backstabbing of the duplicitous characters and twisting of the plot, backed up by some great performances, make this story far more interesting than one might expect. It may not have the great dialogue of, say, The Crusades, but the way that you’re never quite sure where you stand with any of the characters leads to an entertaining story.

Ben and Polly, here on their first propper adventure, are as likeable as they were in The War Machines, particularly since you’re not constantly made angry about how fucking good-looking they both are since the story only exists as audio*.

So the Doctor’s faced robots and pirates. Next up come the ninjas. Or maybe just more robots. Although, to call these guys ‘only’ robots would be understating it a bit. Next up, the Doctor meets one of his more deadly enemies in The Tenth Planet.

*That might just be me.

The War Machines

Written by Ian Stuart Black with  Kit Pedler

Directed by Michael Ferguson

A long time ago in a faraway land called Edinburgh, I once studied the art of artificial intelligence. Every so so often I would tell someone what I did, and they would get a slightly worried look and ask if it were possible that one day some sort of Skynet would rise up and take over the planet. my usual response to this was to say that I not only hoped so, but harbourview the ambition to design and build such a mechanical conquistador myself and thus be responsible for the downfall of mankind. There was no truth to this, I just said ti for the look on their faces. I don’t do much with A.I. anymore, but I do have a degree in the subject, and so can say with some reasonable amount of authority that if such a thing were going to happen it would not be for some time yet, and we’ll have plenty of time kill each other all off long before then.

People didn’t really know as much about A.I. back in 1966, not even if they were the chief scientific advisor* to Doctor Who, as co-writer Kit Pedler was at the time, so the notion of a contemporary computer gaining sentience and then deciding that humanity was not fit to run its own affairs was probably quite plausible, particularly since computers were to most people mysterious and distant objects, owned only by a few research institutes and large companies. Joe public probably didn’t realise that they had trouble counting above 2.

This story is remarkable for being the first story set on contemporary Earth since the very first episode of Who, other than Planet of Giants, where the crew were all 1 inch tall. The Doctor spent half of the 70s kicking around the home counties, and nowadays he’s somewhere in England every other week, so that it took three almost years for the Doctor to return really demonstrates the change in direction that the show has taken since the ‘60s.

At least the London setting meant that Dodo could be left somewhere other than an active war zone. somehow, the way the Doctor pretty much just forgets her about halfway through the story is even more insulting to her. One minute she’s there, the next she’s gone, and you won’t see her again. Much as Jackie Lane did her best though, she’s not much of a loss.

What about her replacements though? I have to admit to really liking Ben and Polly, despite their slight dullness. Michael Craze is even more fucking handsome than Peter Purvis, but for some reason that doesn’t bother me the way it did with Steven. He’s so fucking handsome that even Anneke Wills merely looks pretty next to him. Bastard.

And so the third year of Who came to a close. Although Hartnell’s acting was top notch, him facing down a half programmed war machine has to stand out as an all time great cliffhanger, his memory was beginning to suffer, and it was becoming increasingly obvious that he had trouble remembering his lines.

My memory is also a bit shit sometimes. Remember how I said that the Gunfighters was Hartnell’s last historical story? I was talking gobshite, as you will soon find out in The Smugglers. Is it as forgettable as my brain seems to think? Find out next time.

*that may not have been his official job title, but its one that I insist on using.

The Savages

Written by Ian Stuart Black

Directed by Christopher Barry

Yeah, so the production team at this point gave up naming every episode seperately, so i’m giving up counting them. I’ve probably gotten it wrong so far anyway.

Anyway, it looks like long running Doctor Who producer John Nathan-Turner has been retconned into the upper echelons of society and has been accused of inappropriate fiddling like some common priest or politician*. Or rather he hasn’t, the Mirror have just reported it that way because they like having a go at the BBC because they give away news for free, like some sort of communists. In the very article with the attention grabbing headline the man making the claims is quoted as saying “What you had was a promiscuous gay bloke who had the opportunity to meet a lot of people and liked getting off with young guys. I don’t think he was predatory, particularly. I don’t think he forced himself on the unwilling.” “Gay Bloke Tried to Get Laid in the 80s” doesn’t have the same impact for a front page somehow though. Who knows though, maybe he was a monster, I guess we might find out when Marson’s book comes out.

As far as we’re concerned, however, Nathan-Turner is not particularly relevant because as of yet he hasn’t even arrived as a runner, or whatever it was he first did, for the second incarnation of the Doctor. We’re concerned with a much earlier Who period, and specifically The Savages.

For a long time Europe, and Britain in particular, took the view that because they were christian, lived in houses made of stone and wore elaborate clothes, that they were somehow better and more advanced than civilizations that did not. Over several centuries these european countries, and the places that europeans settled in, set up a system whereby they exploited the ‘lesser’ peoples in order to gain great wealth. This exploitation naturally lead to the countries being exploited becoming poorer by comparison, and to the myth of some sort of fundamental difference between peoples  persisted, and was perhaps even exaggerated. Although there are no longer slaves in America or British owned countries in Africa, this system is, to a large extent, still around today. Doctor Who has a habit of commenting on this, and pointing out the injustice of it. The recent story, Planet of the Ood, for example, is largely an allegory about just that. I literally yelped with delight** when the Doctor responded to Donna taking issue with his suggestion that she had slaves with “Who d’you think made your clothes?”. The most obvious attack on this sort of attitude, however, has got to be The Savages.

The Doctor, as you would well expect by this point, does not take kindly to the Elders, the ruling civilization who exploit the weaker ‘savages’ in order to perpetuate their otherwise idyllic lifestyle. It is a rare thing for him to overthrow a human government, let alone be the cause of an entire revolution ending in the collapse of a civilisation, but he does so here. The apparent ease with which he does so perhaps gives us a glimpse into why he does not regularly, in his view anyway, meddle in time. Someone with his capabilities and intelligence set loose on the universe could have devastating consequences.

What comes next is perhaps not such a good thing. Steven, the Doctor’s sometimes likeable, sometimes punchable, always too fucking handsome companion, played by Pre-***Peter Peter Purves, is left in charge of a planet he hardly knows. Without any form of free or fair elections. There was some sort of general consensus on both sides that he would make a good leader, but as Kropotkin pointed out, any hierarchical power structure is inherently corrupt. Purves has stated on a DVD commentary**** that he thought a great story would be for the Doctor to go back to that planet and discover that Steven was a tyrannical despot. I for one agree, I think it could be a fantastic story.

Even with the perhaps ropey ending The Savages remains one of my all time favorite Doctor Who stories. political message aside, it has one of the most interesting plots of the era. The whole cast are on form as well, with Frederick Jaeger perhaps giving the standout turn as Jano, the foolish Elder who tries to absorb energy taken from the Doctor and ends up completely taken over by the time lord’s powerful personality.

So the Doctor’s left one of his friends behind on a war torn planet far out of the time which they were originally from. Again. In fact, so far only Ian and Barbara have been sent back home to their own time anyone else traveling with the Doctor has just been dumped on some desolate battleground. Will Dodo get returned to her unloving Aunt, or will the Doctor find some equally appealing locale to strand her on? Find out next time, as we take on The War Machines.

*Obviously other people are capable of inappropriate behaviour, its just that their the examples that have come up in this blog before.

** In a manly way, of course

*** Blue

**** probably for The Time Meddler, but maybe for The Ark, I can’t remember

Episodes 112, 113, 114, 115, 116, 117 ,118 & 119: The Celestial Toyroom, The Hall of Dolls, The Dancing Floor, The Final Test, A Holiday for the Doctor, Don’t Shoot the Pianist, Johnny Ringo, The OK Corral

The Celestial Toymaker written by Brian Hayles with Donald Tosh

The Gunfighters written by Donald Cotton

The Celestial Toymaker directed by Bill Sellars

The Gunfighters directed by Rex Tucker

The tower of Hanoi is a puzzle consisting of three rods and a number of disks, each disk of a different size. The starting state is all of the disks, stacked largest to smallest, on the first rod. The goal is to move all of the disks to the third rod. the disks may only be placed on one of the rods, only one disk can be moved at a time, and a larger disk may not be placed on top of a smaller disk. The solution to the puzzle gets exponentially* longer each time a disk is added: a three disk version can be done in a few seconds, whereas 20 disks would take far more time than a sane person would be willing to spend. Legend has it that if the monks at the temple in Brahma finish their 64 disk version of the puzzle, the world will end**. I have no idea if Brian Hayles or Donald Tosh were aware of this when they gave the Doctor a tower of hanoi puzzle to complete, and used it as the deadline for the doctor’s companions finding the TARDIS, but either way it means I can look smart by knowing about it.

Given the number of times I’d seen stories in which a bunch of space wonderin’ scientists stumble across a bored super-all powerful being intent of using them as entertainment for all time (every other next gen episode for a start) I wasn’t sure if the Celestial Toymaker would be one of the early who stories I enjoyed. The last remaining episode, included, The Final Test, made me pretty sure it wouldn’t be. I was, sadly, right. Not that its a total mess or anything, but the combination of a slightly silly story done better elsewhere with one of the poorer TARDIS crews, and the lack of William Hartnell, who spends a lot of it invisible, mute, or both all conspire to sap the entertainment value from the story.

Poor Dodo, up until the end of the Celestial Toymaker she really was the most annoying this on the screen. Luckily for her, the gunfighters came along and Steven took over role of most punchable thing due to his horrific insistence on putting on an awful american accent for the whole damn story. The Doctor himself sums up the story pretty fucking well at the end of the last episode: “Oh, my dear Dodo, my dear Dodo. You know you’re fast becoming a prey to every cliché-ridden convention in the American West.” Except its not just Dodo. Its everyone. Even the cowboys. As a story its pretty damn similar to the other historical tales: land, separated, mistaken identity, lots of bellowing yada yada blah fucking blah. Which is fair enough, I guess, since, as it turned out, it was Hartnell’s last historical romp.

Since Verity Lambert left the show at the end of Mission to the Unknown I’m not sure that Who recovered. But it would. Happily, after much buggering about, Who would finally pick up again, in The Savages. *Specifically 2^n -1 moves, where n is the number of disks. ** if the monks were able to move one disk a second, it would take them around 584,942,417,355, or five hundred and eighty four billion, nine hundred and forty two million, four hundred and seventeen thousand, three hundred and fifty five years, which is probably quite a lot longer than even the most optimistic estimates for the lifetime of or sun.

Episodes 108, 109, 110 & 111: The Steel Sky, The Plague, The Return & The Bomb

Written by Paul Erickson and  Lesley Scott

Directed by Michael Imison

I didn’t spend a lot of time in the 80s. I only turned up for the last three years or so. Even so, I was vaguely aware that half the world was run by borderline psychopaths with a shit load of world burning nuclear ‘deterrent’ at their fingertips. I got the feeling that a fair proportion of the country woke up every morning with a mild sense of surprise that we hadn’t actually blown ourselves up yet. By that time, of course, everyone was pretty used to the threat of imminent destruction by way of thermonuclear detonation. The pretty scary bombs that were used against Japan had been around since the 40s, and the really scary ones, that have thankfully not been used to date, had been around almost as long, first appearing in the early 50s. There was, therefore, a whole generation of young adults who had grown up with the threat hanging over them their whole lives. In 1966 though, the story was quite different. Nuclear war was, quite rightly, still really fucking terrifying. This comes across in early Doctor Who in a number of subtle ways, and in The Ark, is a number of very unsubtle ways.

I can’t say I’m a big fan of The Ark. It’s been the only story so far that’s been a struggle to get through, mostly because its so fucking dull, but there are problems that go deeper than just uninterestingness. The monoids, for example, start of as a group of aliens who live in relative peace with humanity. It is mentioned later on that they are a subservient race, but there is no real hint of that in the way that other characters interact with them: they are treated with respect equal to any human character. Cut to 700 years later, and they have thrown off the non-shackles that they never really had and enslaved what’s left of humanity and plan of making them all go BOOMSPLAT with a great big destructo-bomb. Who has done great stories about humanity oppressing alien races and getting justifiably put back in their place (see Planet of the Ood or The Mutants) but this is not handled well at all. With the Monoids, Erickson and Scott fell into the ol’ bug eyed monster as the unysmpathetic villain routine in a most un-Who like fashion. Boo! Plus, they look like some sort of furry tree dildo things. They are, literally, one-eyed monsters. And it would not be going too far to say that they get a spanking. Actually, I lied: it would be going too far, but I don’t like this story, so I’m going to reduce my write up to smutty innuendo.

monoids

The Doctor’s most fearsome of foes, the One Eyed Monsters

A further issue is Dodo being a bit shit. I’m pretty sure that this is not the fault of Jackie Lane , who does actually bring some warmth and likeability to an inherently irritating totally fucking radical character. Come on, she spends the first half of the story wearing a medieval costume that she found on the TARDIS because its so fucking ‘hip’. The producers clearly wanted to relate to a young audience, but apparently hadn’t spoken to anyone in that age range in about 20 million years. Get a grip, guys.

And the good points? Guess. Yup, as always, Hartnell comes through with a wonderful performance full of warmth and understanding. The Refusians are interesting too, and much more the sort of thing that would soon appear regularly on a similarly peace oriented sci fi show across the pond a few months when Star Trek boldly appeared on our screens, so its nice to see brush up against the Doctor.

Another thing Star Trek had a lot of was seemingly infinitely powerful aliens who would play with the crew for fun. Thankfully, Who didn’t dick around with that sort of thing too often, but what would happen if it did? Find out next time, in The Celestial Toymaker.

Episodes 104, 105, 106 & 107: War of God, The Sea Beggar, Priest of Death, Bell of Doom

Written by John Lucarotti & Donald Tosh
Directed by Paddy Russell

The Catholic church have been having a bit of a rough time of it lately, particularly here in Scotland. First, their Pontifex Maximus declared himself unfit for office*, and then the aforementioned priest fondling charges leveled against Cardinal Keith O’Brien turned out to be rather on the true side. Oh dear. At least the church has not been cast as a Doctor Who villain in quite some time.

In many of the historical stories, particularly the ones in which the Doctor stumbles into an existing conflict, one group of people are seen to be the villains and one group are seen to be more on the good guy side of things. In The Massacre of St Bartholomew’s Eve, the villains are very much the royalists, and their anti Huguenot witch hunts, culminating in the all too real St. Bartholomew’s Day massacre.To be fair, the individuals responsable for these events, ending in the death of anything up to 30,000 human beings, really were quite henius indivduals. Catherine de’ Medici, the mother of the King in particular, has quite a bad reputation as being a bit of a cunt. The show is not completely one sided either, with a good number of the Huguenots behaving like idiots. In fact, in many ways it is better to view the villains of the piece those who are religiously intolerant, which is pretty appropriate for Doctor Who.

This story may well be my favorite of all the historical stories. The highly complex and intricate historical plot is accurately (to the best of my knowledge: I wasn’t actually there) explained, not a megure feat in the 90 minute running time. It also lacks the constant loops dominating the other historical Whos, instead concentrating on the dense plot and intricate structure. I’m also a big fan of the bleak ending. Its not often that the Doctor leaves somewhere in the full knowledge that such a terrible event is going to take place, and does nothing about it. Sadly, as the events, some of the more shameful in european history, are pretty much established fact, and so the Doctor was powerless to do anything about them.

There are only two flies in the ointment. One of them is the lack of the Doctor, who disappears towards the beginning of the story, only returning towards the climax. Hartnell is still around but playing a double role as the villain, the Abbot of Amboise, so all is not lost, but it would have been nice to see a bit more of the Doctor.

The other one is Dodo. She’s only in it for a few minutes right at the very end, but even in that she’s a bit shit. It’s painfully clear right from the start when she’s shoehorned into the TARDIS that the producers really wanted a hip and cool companion for the Doctor, but as is always the case when that type of character is introduced to an existing narrative, the result is a fuckign mess.

But perhaps I’m judging too early. she only appeared in the last scene of this story, maybe she’ll turn out alright. Lets find out next, in The Ark.

*an action that gave me an iota of a modicum of respect for a man I’d barely had an opinion about until recently.

Episodes 92, 93, 94, 95, 96, 97, 98, 99, 100, 101, 102 & 103: The Nightmare Begins, Day of Armageddon, Devil’s Planet, The Traitors, Counter Plot, Coronas of the Sun, The Feast of Steven, Volcano, Golden Death, Escape Switch, The Abandoned Planet & Destruction of Time

Written by Terry Nation & Dennis Spooner
Directed by Douglas Camfield

Badass decay is sad to behold, but undeniably common. Once former superb villains doddering about like half senile goat charmers is a situation that arises all too often in television by the time the series gets onto its third or fourth year. Every so often, I’ll grant you, you get a Spike or an Al Swearengen or a Spike who functions just as well as an anti-hero, but they are rather rare.

After their wonderfully chilling appearances in The Daleks and The Dalek Invasion of Earth, the Nazibot pepper pots suffred some serious badass decay in season 2’s The Chase. Here, in the epic Dalek’s Master Plan, totaling in at thirteen episodes including Mission to the Unknown, they do manage to regain some of their former menace, but not anything like all of it. Despite the title, they almost seem to be playing second fiddle to leader of the solar system, Mavic Chen, a man who’s most heinous crime is blacking up*. At least they don’t get their asses handed to them by some carnies this time.

As for companions, the Doctor seems to be pretty careless with them in this story. Its extremely rare for any of the Doctor’s companion’s to die. Ever. In the show’s fifty year run its only happened a handful of times, but the Doctor loses three of them in total during this story. Only one of them is actually killed by the Daleks though, and even her death wasn’t directly their fault: no blasting with their exterminating sticks.It is a credit to the writers Terry Nation and Dennis Spooner that each of their deaths is actually quite sad, despite the fact that none of them had been on the show for any great length of time. Katarina’s death is shrouded in the ambiguity over whether she killed herself deliberately to save the others, or accidentally in panic. Bret’s** demise leaves us upset, not only for him, but also for his murderer, Sarah, his sister, following orders unthinkingly, and Sarah’s own death is all the more effective after her transformation into a rational human being. As well as that, the simple action of killing off the companions, often in quite sudden or gruesome ways, lent a real edge of danger to the rest of the series. Well, at least the next few stories, until it became clear that none of the rest of them were getting killed off, anyway.

The Doctor is, as always while he was being played by Hartnell, wonderful in this story. His acceptance of both Brett and Sarah, both of whom started out as antagonists, into his little party, shows us just how accepting he can be, and his willingness to give second chances. This story also contains one of my favorite Doctor moments ever: when he is telling Katarina that he is not a god. His tone here implies that he is more trying to reassure himself of this fact than to convince her of anything.

Another welcome return here is Peter Butterworth as the Monk**, though he too sufferers from badass decay. ALthough never an out and out villain, here he is, for the most part, reduced to comic relief. Which is in some ways fair enough, because he’s Peter-Fucking-Carry-On-Butterworth, the man was a comic legend. Having said that, he does get to show the odd moment of brilliant cunning. In many ways he is reminiscent of the Doctor when he first appeared back in An Unearthly Child: a cunning manipulative time traveler who’s side you’re never sure of. When he’s not all wrapped up in bog roll.

So the Doctor’s defeated the Daleks. Again. Never would have guessed Any chance of the Doctor getting some down time now? Of course not. Join us next time, as he and Steven get sucked into some intrigue in a religiously divided France.

*Which, I grant you, is not really acceptable, but pales in comparison with the Dalek’s behaviour in previous stories.
**Brett, of course, played by Nicholas Courtney, making him the only actor who played 2 completely different Doctor Who companions, though a) there are people out there who would claim that neither of the Who characters he played were really companions. They’re wrong though. and B) There have been plenty instances of alternate dimension companions, robot versions of companions, whatever the fuck is going on with Jenna Louise Coleman etc, but they don’t count because they’re all related to the original version in some in story way.
***Though why he is still dressed as a monk is never explained.

Episodes 83, 84, 85, 86, 87, 88, 89, 90 & 91: Four Hundred Dawns, Trap of Steel, Air Lock, The Exploding, Planet, Mission to the Unknown, Temple of Secrets, Small Prophet, Quick Return, Death of a Spy, Horse of Destruction

Galaxy 4  written by William Emms
Mission to the Unknown written by Terry Nation
The Mythmakers written by Donald Cotton

Galaxy 4 directed by Derek Martinus & Mervyn Pinfield
Mission to the Unknown directed by Derek Martinus
The Mythmakers directed by Donald Cotton

Don’t you just hate cunts who exaggerate? There are billions of them. so many in fact, that that previous intentional bit of hyperbole is, in fact, probably true, what with there being 7 billion people on earth right now, and I’d be surprised if a third of them did not embellish the truth a little on a semi-regular basis. Bastards.

So far anyone reading this blog would probably think that someone talking about the missing episodes of Doctor Who was overstating the issue to an extent, and therefore guilty of the exaggerating bug. Out of the first two years of the show only one story is completely missing, and only a further four episodes are lost. Out of over 80 episodes, that is really not all that many.

Sadly, in the context of the 60s era of the show as a whole, that would appear to be a run of exceptional good luck. From here on in the vast majority of the next three years of Who is lost in the void somewhere. Happily, Mark Ayres, a man of many talents has, with the aid of many fans of the show who made off air recordings of the show, reconstructed the audio for these episodes, and with the addition of a little linking narration, usually from one of the companion actors, they make perfectly good audiobooks.

One advantage of this is that I can listen to them while working, something difficult to do with a tv show, meaning that in the last two days I’ve sped through three full stories.

The first of these, Galaxy 4 was an interesting artifact. For some reason that I’m not quite sure about I never really fancied it, and so this was actually the first time I’ve heard it. It also marks the first existing episode of Who that I’ve not been able to get video for and so I had to listen to the audio version, though I should be to remedy that in a few weeks when its released as a special feature on the Aztecs special edition DVD. On listening, however, I found that I was quite fond of it. It has far more the feel of one of Patrick Troughton’s stories, although the Doctor is very much his old Hartnell self.

This story revisits a popular theme in Doctor Who canon. The initial apparent  villains, the Rills, a race of beings very alien in appearance, turn out to be benevolent, gentle and selfless, while the human looking Drahvins are greedy, violent, self centered and extraordinarily stupid. Once again, the Doctor shows a complete disinterest in the appearance of any other creature, only concerning himself with their actions. A valuable message in a world in which Martin Luther King had been awarded the Nobel Peace Prize only nine months earlier.

gang-and-chumbleys

Look out guys, mechanical dog turds!

It’s a good thing that the Rills turned out to be good guys, because their robots, the Chumblies, were the least aggressive looking thing you could imagine*. The Daleks may rely on the vocal talent of the actor portraying them to some extent, but no amount of  scary voice could have  rendered the Chumblies anything other than hilarious. The Drahvins are not much of a threat either, since they’re all so fuckign stupid that my cat could outwit them.

I had heard that actor Peter Purvis, playing Steven, was unhappy about this story. The part had originally been written for Barbara and was re-written hastily after her departure. Apparently, Purvis felt that his part in this story was altogether a bit wimpy, and not the character he signed up to play. When I first heard this I reckoned it was probably a legitimate complaint, but I’m now rather inclined to think of him as a whiny wee bitch. The main difference between Steven in this story and his later roles is that in this one he’s less of a prick.

It was not uncommon at this point in Who history for one of the core cast, sometimes even the Doctor himself, to be absent for the duration of an episode. Mission to the unknown, however, is rather unusual in that it has none of the core cast at all. Mission to the unknown is really just an introduction to the epic Dalek story that Terry Nation was working on at the time, letting the audience know that something really big was on the horizon involving their favorite murderous pepper pots. As such, I think I’ll save talking about it until I get to that 12 part spectacular.

So we know the Daleks are causing havoc over on Kembel. Meanwhile, four and a half thousand years earlier, the Doctor and his companions have gotten themselves embroiled in the Trojan war. I’ve not studied Classics in a while, but at some point I really should ask my sister, who reads it at Edinburgh and is a bit of a Whovian herself, about this story. In the meantime, my conjectures about this story may be wildly inaccurate.

It is interesting the way that writer Donald Cotton plays with the commonly held beliefs about the heros of the siege of Troy. Here Achilles, generally thought of as a bastion of strength, is a bit of a wimp, only capable of defeating Hector, Prince of Troy, because Hector was distracted by the Doctor. Odysseus, often seen as a dashing heroic type, is nothing more than an averous pirate.

Despite the fact that this story falls into the regular and dull scenario of the party getting separated and captured etc etc common in early Who, particularly the historical episodes, the fact that Vicki and the Doctor have their wits pitted against each other. Poor Vicki, and Troy with her, never stood a chance.

Purvis, I’m guessing, would have been a bit happier with this role, as he gets to run around and hit stuff with pointy metal sticks, and other manly shit. He does get to show a bit of brain as well though, which is nice.

One thing, though. What is it with the Doctor leaving fifteen year old girls behind on war torn planets, in the company of an older man who has every intention of marrying them at the first opportunity? Vicki, at least, he left on her own planet, although a good few millennia prior to her birth.

But enough of this Greek guff. What about the Daleks? Any chance that they’ll be able to redeem themselves after the debacle that was The Chase? I hope so, but lets find out next time, in The Dalek’s Master Plan.

*Less threatening robots would, however, appear some time later. Just you wait.
**I’ve read the Odyssey, or at least parts of it, and I’m with Cotton on this one.

Episodes 79, 80, 81 & 82: The Watcher, The Meddling Monk, A Battle of Wits, Checkmate

Written by Dennis Spooner
Directed by Douglas Camfield

The Normans really were a right bunch of cunts. There are no two ways about it. Echoes of the appalling apartheid totalitarian society they set up in England still exist today in their backwards class system almost a millennium later. Thanks to cunts like Walter Fucking Scott, their malign influence has even seeped over the border to here Scotland.

It is for that reason that I can never really get behind the Doctor in this story. The villain, if he can really be referred to in that way, simply wants to thwart an invading force, the Normans, from taking over England. Stopping an invading force is something that the Doctor does every other week nowadays, and has done since the 70s, the only difference being that this is an invasion by other humans. It is rather hypocritical of a man who meddles quite as much as the Doctor to take umbrage at the Monk’s scheme.

Actually, that may not be entirely fair. The Doctor is not, however many times he might claim to be, a man with a plan. He is the ultimate improviser, probably not even sure what he’s about to do himself until he’s actually done it. His meddling comes about because it seems like a good idea at the time, as opposed to the Monk’s who is going into it with a definitive plan – misusing his knowledge as a time lord to shape the universe as he sees fit. Perhaps it is better that the Doctor stopped him.

This, the  closing episode of Doctor Who’s second season, marks an interesting change in direction of the show. So far, ever historical episode had been reasonably accurate*, with the obvious exception of the TARDIS and crew running about the place. This story is the first of the ‘pseudo-historical’ stories, in which a historical story contains more sci-fi elements than the Doctor and his friends. In this case that extra sci-fi element is also a first – the first time an antagonist is a time lord**. In fact, its the first time we encounter a time lord who is not the Doctor or Susan. Unlike some of the later time lord antagonists, the War Chief, the Master, Omega or the Rani to name a few, the Monk is not overtly evil, just a bit mischievous. He shows us what the Doctor could become if he lacked restraint, or thought himself above other peoples. Also, he’s played by Peter Butterworth. I guess the British acting circle was quite small at the time, but a surprising number of Carry On folks ended up on Who, hell, Hartnell and Pertwee both played the main man, but Butterworth is the most Carry On of the lot of them, although in this, his first appearance, his performance is pretty straight ahead, playing it as a real character, not just comic relief as the character teetered the next time he turned up. Butterworth had not actually appeared in any of the Carry On flicks at this point though I believe, so although he was known for comedy, he was not yet as renown for it as he would become.

This story also marks the first time the Doctor is with an entirely new crew. Peter Purvis does a perfectly good job of playing dashing young space pilot Steven, but sadly can’t fill the shoes of both Ian and Barbara. Which is not to say that the story suffers from it, but I do miss the old companions. This one is too fucking handsome.

One last point about this story: did the makeup department have a Alethea-Charlton-covered-in-dirt fetish? She appeared in a couple of roles in Who, this being the last, and every time they covered her in mud. She wears it well, but still.

So, by the end of its second year the show had proven that it was in it for the long haul, though no one would have guessed at quite how long. Would the Doctor be able to hold onto these companions? Would he ever really learn to use the TARDIS? Would they ever be able to replace the Daleks?

No.

But that doesn’t mean you should stop watching.

*or at least tried to be. Don’t get me started on the cave of skulls, etc again.
**Not that they’ve been called time lords yet.