Chrisno1's Retrospective of Classic Doctor Who



  • chrisno1chrisno1 LondonPosts: 3,131MI6 Agent
    edited July 2021

    The First Doctor - William Hartnell

    Season Two


    This is a half-lost adventure and I watched episodes 2 & 4 using Loose Cannon’s stills & soundtrack edits. There’s a Bond connection to this story as For Your Eyes Only’s Julian Glover portrays Richard the Lionheart. In fact the cast is rather chipper for this one. Glover overplays his hand a couple of times, but he spars well with Jean Marsh – who plays Richard’s spiky sister Joanna – although it’s disappointing he doesn’t get to confront any of the Saracens, spending most of the story in a castle stronghold surrounded by the political intrigue of the court and the feisty machinations of jester-come-philosopher the Doctor. Bernard Kay (returning swiftly from playing a resistance fighter in Dalek invaded London) brings some gravitas and deviousness to Saladin, but Walter Randall disappoints as the scarred and bitter villain Akir. His accent keeps slipping.

    The Crusades should be a brisk tale. It conforms to the routine capture-escape-chase for which the historical adventures were noted. It looks good. Production values are fairly high; Daphne Dare’s costumes in particular shine. But the script and the story isn’t up to much. There’s some nice intrigue among the warring councillors of both the Saracens and the Crusaders, and writer David Whitaker stresses the pointlessness of war, the guile of all the characters – our heroes included, who steal and deceive as much as the locals – and the mores of history, especially the role of women as commodities and soldiers as political expedients. Every male of importance misuses his power or breaks a promise. One of the smartest observations is from the thief, Ibrahim, who complains: “Akir is a bad man. He’s made all the rich people poor and there’s no one left worth stealing from.”

    Like the previous adventure, the script writer also authored the novelisation. It was rather good and Whitaker, like Strutton before him, expanded far past the basic action displayed on television. Interestingly, Doctor Who and the Crusaders (1966) was the last adaptation until Target Books began publishing spin-offs in earnest in 1973. The early books were far superior in aim and execution than many of the later, rapidly composed rip-offs. [Terrance D!cks, RIP, I’m talking about you.] The main problem with Whitaker’s effort on screen is the lack of humour. It is roundly witless. There’s very little to amuse and despite being only four episodes long, it feels like six.

    A warm, but joyless:

    3 from 5.   

  • chrisno1chrisno1 LondonPosts: 3,131MI6 Agent

    The First Doctor - William Hartnell

    Season Two


    The TARDIS malfunctions again.

    The Doctor believes his ship has jumped forward in time and the travellers are taking part in their own history. He calls this ‘Time Friction.’ What the frick, indeed! The ‘ghost’ crew find themselves on the planet Xeros, where a peculiar Space Museum contains their mummified bodies from the recent past. They must solve the time puzzle or risk becoming their actual selves as an exhibit in the museum. Complicating things is a dissatisfied underclass who want to overthrow the ruling regime.

    Interesting ideas abound, touching on death and prescience, all spoilt by the hopelessly inept revolution plot and the very low standard of acting. The production design is very ordinary too. The same corridors are used over and over for different sections of the museum. This becomes very obvious the more we see them. It is certainly a money saving serial as it looks as if it was made on the cheap and on the hop.

    The Space Museum failed to make any sort of impression on me. As always in the Hartnell era the debut episode holds all the intrigue and excitement and the writers allow the story to tail off until, by the climax – I use the word loosely – everyone’s fallen into a stupor.

    A few nice tricks, some light playing and a bit of philosophical thinking can’t save this one:

    2 from 5.

  • Shady TreeShady Tree London, UKPosts: 2,962MI6 Agent

    Thank you for the reviews! The Zarbi were posited as something of a phenemonen at the time, making the front covers of the TV Times and a Dr Who Annual and giving rise, as you say, to the Bill Strùtton novelisation, which was first published, long before the Target imprint, in the 60s. The Zarbi later merited a pictorial spread in Target's 'The Doctor Who Monster Book', which in itself had the effect of sustaining a notion that those pesky ants belonged among the upper eschelons of classic Who monsters - whatever the shortcomings of the serial itself. For me, they were part of the show's mythology. It wasn't until I saw the serial for the first time, on VHS in the 90s, that the myth seemed somewhat punctured.

    Critics and material I don't need. I haven't changed my act in 53 years.
  • chrisno1chrisno1 LondonPosts: 3,131MI6 Agent

    The First Doctor - William Hartnell

    Season Two


    During episode six of Terry Nation’s third Dalek opus, The Chase, the travellers are trapped on the planet Mechanus and meet the spaceship-wrecked pilot Steven Taylor, who would become the Doctor’s fifth companion. Actor Peter Purves – who had already donned an American accent to play a New York sightseer in episode three – brings some much needed flare and spontaneity to proceedings. He plays the role very natural. The slightly mannered air of the schoolroom which Jacqueline Hill and William Russell employed to give their characters solidity is completely absent. Purves’ brand of acting is refreshing and youthful. To that end he matches Maureen O’Brien’s giddy enthusiasm. Even William Hartnell seems to pick up the scent and he’s back to his ill-tempered and fidgety best.

    A pity that can’t be said of this very unusual adventure, which resembles Nation’s other Dr Who epic The Keys of Marinus for the travellers visit several different locations during the course of the story. The tale is bookended with two strong ideas, neither of which is developed to its potential. The first couplet sees the Doctor arrive on the desert planet Aridius, having become aware the TARDIS is being pursued through time and space by Daleks who have perfected their own version of a space-time ship. The amphibious-looking Aridians have been waging a long war against the squid-like Mire Beasts, and, not wishing to also fight the Daleks, they elect to betray the Doctor to his enemies.

    As is often the case, the opening episode is particularly fine. The Doctor is struggling to repair a random visualiser, which allows the viewer to see events from the past by tapping into the light memory of neutrons. There follows a lot of tomfoolery and good natured sparring among the four main leads. Maureen O’Brien’s Vicki is chirpy and comes into her own during this feature. Essentially though, the opening scenes are just an excuse to showcase the Beatles singing Ticket to Ride and that’s about as good as The Chase gets.

    We know things are going bad for the Doctor when a Dalek emerges after being buried by sand. Interestingly, in a neat observation, it splutters and gasps exactly as a human might, reminding us of the animate being within. There’s some wandering about in the desert, a sandstorm, capture and escape, marauding Daleks and vicious Mire Beasts. A young Hywel Bennet pops up as one of the Aridians, who are a better designed alien than anything we saw in The Web Planet, despite less than skin-tight suits. It’s never made clear how the Daleks invented their dimension-busting time machine. We accept it because we must. The more challenging story is about the greenhouse warming effect brought on by Aridius’ twin suns. This environmental battle for survival is aching to be told. It isn’t.

    The last couple of episodes sees the Doctor land on Mechanus, defeat his Dalek-made robot double, encounter the weird-looking Mechanoids – lumbering octagonal shaped automatons – and save the day with a bomb he had time to hastily construct in between escapes from his antagonists. At a distance the Mechanoid city looks like something out of a Dali painting. Up close it’s nothing of the sort, all straight lines and convenience. Exactly what you’d expect a race of servo-robots to create. Again, an interesting notion of incarceration for protection is hinted at but not developed. The two battling Doctors provide a moment of tension, spoilt by the obvious fact the robot double doesn’t look anything like William Hartnell. This was pre-CGI and blue screens, but you do wish director Richard Martin had shown more creativity with his camera angles. The last ten minutes is taken up saying farewell to Ian and Barbara, who insist the Doctor helps them use the Dalek time capsule to return them to London and their own time zone. The Doctor reverts to type, becoming crotchety, stubborn and childishly petulant all at once. It is only Vicky’s words, which neatly echo his own to his granddaughter a few stories back, that placate him. It’s nice to see the schoolteachers disembark on home territory. These two set a high standard for other companions to follow. The fact their relationship with the Doctor was so often bitter added an extra layer of intensity and interest which was seldom repeated. Their departure is nicely played.  

    However, the middle two episodes of The Chase, subtitled Flight Through Eternity and Journey into Terror, must rank as possibly the most bizarre fifty minutes of Dr Who ever written. The travellers are pursued to the top of the Empire State Building, onto the Mary Celeste and into Frankenstein’s House of Terrors, a theme ride at an amusement park. The Daleks don’t seem to know what to make of it all. Nor do I. These all-conquering mutants have suddenly become figures of fun, mocked by an American tourist and dismantled by a Boris Karloff lookalike. It’s suddenly very difficult to take them seriously. When a Dalek plunger accidentally sexually assaults Peter Purves’ American bumpkin, an early nadir is set. The Daleks never quite regain their authority, if they ever had any, so paltry are their efforts to eliminate the Doctor. Indeed for these two episodes it’s very difficult to take Dr Who seriously at all.

    I wasn’t entirely sure what to make of this adventure. It has very little genuine suspense, although there are moments of action as well as humour. The cast clearly enjoy themselves, but the entire pursuit isn’t even necessary to the storyline. Like the aforementioned Zarbi story, The Chase feels as if the production team bit off more than they could chew. As if to knock the final nail in the coffin, when a bounding Steven Taylor introduced himself to the Doctor, I suddenly realised I’d watched the serial before; yet I hadn’t remembered a single thing about it until then.

    It is sad to report the Dalek phenomenon has already sunk to a distressingly unmemorable:

    2 from 5.  

  • chrisno1chrisno1 LondonPosts: 3,131MI6 Agent

    Thanks for that, Shady.

    It's difficult to appreciate how poor these monsters are without watching the show...

  • caractacus pottscaractacus potts Orbital communicator, level 10Posts: 3,886MI6 Agent

    chrisn01 said:

    The last ten minutes is taken up saying farewell to Ian and Barbara, who insist the Doctor helps them use the Dalek time capsule to return them to London and their own time zone. The Doctor reverts to type, becoming crotchety, stubborn and childishly petulant all at once. It is only Vicky’s words, which neatly echo his own to his granddaughter a few stories back, that placate him. It’s nice to see the schoolteachers disembark on home territory. These two set a high standard for other companions to follow. The fact their relationship with the Doctor was so often bitter added an extra layer of intensity and interest which was seldom repeated. Their departure is nicely played.

    I've never seen Ian and Barbara's outro. So you're saying they ended up using Dalek time travel tech to return home rather than the unpredictable TARDIS? That is an interesting twist.

  • caractacus pottscaractacus potts Orbital communicator, level 10Posts: 3,886MI6 Agent
    edited July 2021

    those images up above almost look like something out of H R Puffenstuff! wudda they think this is, a children's show?

  • chrisno1chrisno1 LondonPosts: 3,131MI6 Agent
    edited July 2021

    Yes, that's exactly what happens @caractacus potts and if you think about it, as the Dalek time machine can chase the Doctor around the universe, it must have a better sense of direction !

  • chrisno1chrisno1 LondonPosts: 3,131MI6 Agent

    The First Doctor - William Hartnell

    Season Two


    I watched this story on a fairly risible transmission. I don’t think watching on a better copy would help it any. The Time Meddler is a pedestrian adventure. Even the fight scenes are ponderous.

    The Doctor, Vicki and Steven arrive on Earth. Northumbria, in fact, 1066. They think the TARDIS has malfunctioned again as they find a wrist watch on the beach. It turns out a rogue member of the Doctor’s race is attempting to tamper with history by presenting King Harold and the Saxons with twentieth century military equipment. This man is unnamed, but he disguises himself as a Friar, hence the moniker of the Meddling Monk. Peter Butterworth – later of the Carry On movies – does good work as a shifty, slightly bumbling villain.

    Butterworth’s creation resembles in manner the slightly impatient, childish glee of Patrick Troughton’s Second Doctor [more of that to come], but marries it to a sinister edgy alter-ego. It’s interesting to note how soon the producers have elected to introduce another member of the Doctor’s race into the program. At this point the audience, and dare I say the writers also, still had no idea who the Doctor’s race are, where they live, how they came to existence, etc. Butterworth’s performance allows us to see a different aspect to the Doctor through the interaction between and the differences of the two protagonists.

    In The Sensorites the aliens argue bitterly about how to solve a problem like the humans, here writer Dennis Spooner is at pains to demonstrate the differences and similarities which can exist between two other-world beings. Butterworth’s scenes with William Hartnell are particularly good: fine comic interplay mixed with enough sincerity to stop us treating the whole episode as a joke which it’s very hard not to. It is obvious these two characters already know each other – we even get to see inside another TARDIS.

    [Points of Order 1, 2, 3: Is the Monk an early incarnation of the Master, the future grand nemesis for our time travelling hero? Did the Monk offer the science of trans-dimensional time travel to the Daleks, explaining their own futuristic ship? The Doctor always claimed to have built his TARDIS, but here we learn there are different model numbers – so is he fibbing or boasting?]

    The story unfolds without undue fuss. I wasn’t excited by it, nor was I bored. The Doctor’s solution to defeat his enemy – to remove the dimensional stabiliser from the Monk’s TARDIS – was quite nifty and well realised. The rest of the show was fairly unspectacular. Although this isn’t technically a historical story as it features sci-fi elements, The Time Meddler benefits from having an easily told and understood background on which the fantasy elements are imposed. Later pseudo-historical stories would pursue much more malicious and unlikely happenings [they are a favourite standby of the revamped series], but here the story still follows the template of the historical ones: capture-escape etc. The production design isn’t the best. The acting, main players apart, isn’t up to much. There’s a lot of facial hair on show.

    Steven Taylor is the first companion to stowaway on the TARDIS, which became a regular feature of acquiring new crew. The Doctor isn’t half so annoyed at this man’s sudden appearance as he was by Ian and Barbara’s. Luckily Steven and Vicki spark off well together. The writers expend a lot of effort re-explaining time travel, the TARDIS and the non-interference factor, which makes sense as this tale is about genuine time meddling – the Monk has already constructed Stonehenge and discussed powered flight with Leonardo di Vinci !

    At the end of episode four, the companions faces are superimposed over a nightscape of stars, their journeys starting all over again. Cue:

    2 from 5




  • caractacus pottscaractacus potts Orbital communicator, level 10Posts: 3,886MI6 Agent

    I'm sad you didn't like this one! my understanding is it is a key episode for two reasons: the first time we see another Timelord, and the first Historical to have a sci-fi plot. But I'm more impressed by continuity geekery and First Appearances and such, whereas you look for a higher standard of writing and acting.

    I'm actually surprised it took this long to meet another of The Doctor's kind. But we're still not told he's a Timelord from Gallifrey. I don't think we meet any more Timelords until the very end of Troughton's run, and we never see Gallifrey until the Deadly Assassin.

    chrisno1 said:

    [Points of Order 1, 2, 3:

    Is the Monk an early incarnation of the Master, the future grand nemesis for our time travelling hero?

    Did the Monk offer the science of trans-dimensional time travel to the Daleks, explaining their own futuristic ship?

    The Doctor always claimed to have built his TARDIS, but here we learn there are different model numbers – so is he fibbing or boasting?]

    now these are my kind of questions!

    1 - I'm sure there's more than one Evil Timelord, and all grades of morally debatable TimeLords. There's also the Rani in the Sixth Doctor episodes, wasn't she an Evil Timelord? But conceptually you're right, the Time Meddler is like a prototype of The Master.

    2 - that could be a very good fanfic type explanation. Is it ever explained elsewhere how the Daleks got their timetech?

    3 - I thought the Doctor stole the TARDIS? but I don't remember where I got that idea. If he built it, why cant he control it?

  • chrisno1chrisno1 LondonPosts: 3,131MI6 Agent
    edited July 2021

    Re point of order 3

    It's odd because even as I posted that review of The Time Meddler, I was thinking "When did the Doctor say this?"

    As you point out, Caractacus, I'm not the kind of reviewer who spends ages chronicling things - what you lovingly call "geekery" - so I often end up confused and not very clear - that's just in my head - goodness knows what sense or nonsense my reviews are like - even my memory of Bond is open to big questions ! So, I will have a think on it and get back to you.

  • CoolHandBondCoolHandBond Mactan IslandPosts: 5,983MI6 Agent

    This is another that I remembered seeing first time round and I don’t think I really understood everything at the time and was slightly bored of it.

    Seeing it again, a few months ago, I enjoyed it immensely, more than you did, chrisno1, I thought it was a clever story and Butterworth’s performance is excellent.

    Once again, thanks for these reviews, I am enjoying them very much.

    Yeah, well, sometimes nothin' can be a real cool hand.
  • caractacus pottscaractacus potts Orbital communicator, level 10Posts: 3,886MI6 Agent
    edited July 2021

    I did a google search on the phrase "did the doctor steal the TARDIS" and got all manner of contradictory answers. wikipedia says "The Doctor chose to steal a faulty Type 40 Tardis in order to explore the universe." but then follows with three citations to 21st century episodes. I suspect maybe the claim he stole it was a retcon, maybe just decided in the 21st century episodes (to make the character more "edgy"?). I know in some episodes its claimed Rassilon, founder of TimeLord culture, invented the TARDIS. Definitely by the point we meet more TimeLords they all seem to have them, and time travel by definition is part of their culture.

    RetCons aside, a volunteer probably has to rewatch the first episode because Susan tells us most of what was originally known about the TARDIS. Whatever she said in that episode would have been the explanation until later writers decided to change it.

    The question is confused by the two feature films with Peter Cushing. In that version the Doctor is a human and did invent the TARDIS. So those contradict what is established in the teevee series just by making the Doctor human, and are not in continuity. I think the American made film with Paul McGann also introduces contradictory explanations, but that one is in continuity despite contradictions.

    chris youre probably smarter to ignore continuity type details and just enjoy the storytelling, Expecting all episodes of a 60 year old teevee series to make consistent sense is enough to make your head explode!

  • chrisno1chrisno1 LondonPosts: 3,131MI6 Agent

    @caractacus potts thanks for that brief info on the TARDIS. Not utilising hearsay, I have considered:

    1. In An Unearthly Child and several other Hartnell serials, he clearly refers to the TARDIS as "my ship." Now, that's a phrase open to interpretation, the same way a navy captain calls his dreadnought cruiser "my ship." I may well have assumed this meant he physically made it, rather than piloted it.
    2. Susan has named the TARDIS simply as TARDIS, rather how you would a pet. "The TARDIS" didn't come into being until episode two. Again, this suggests the machine is more than simply a mode of transport; something has been invested in the machine to make it so personable it requires a name. Susan must be a very precocious Time Lord to have the name of TARDIS catch on so quick - maybe her fifteen years of age are calculated like dog years or something...
    3. The Doctor keeps a notebook of the TARDIS systems and controls and a diary of where he's travelled. Although we don't see this after the first serial. Again, this feels like something you might do with a machine you have spent time slaving over rather than something you've stolen. Fancy a thief documenting where they took a car?
    4. The fact the Doctor is constantly repairing the TARDIS and often doesn't understand what how things work suggests entirely the opposite of the top three points: that it is someone else's machine.

    However, without reviewing every early episode again, I can't tell you specifically if the Doctor ever claims to have constructed the TARDIS. So, basically, take your pick.

    You are correct about the movie Dr Who and the Daleks. Peter Cushing's time machine is quite definitely home made.

  • caractacus pottscaractacus potts Orbital communicator, level 10Posts: 3,886MI6 Agent

    Please don't watch every episode again looking for such details! Its amazing enough you watched so many (including the audio only ones) and made the notes you did!

    I think you have recalled the important thing from that first episode: Susan says she gave it the name TARDIS. At that point it is implied The Doctor built it, barring any other info. I'm not sure the origin of the TARDIS (named or otherwise) was thought about any further until The Time Meddler when we meet another of the Doctor's kind who somehow also has one.

    I didn't find much with a quick search, but Doctor Who being the show it is, I'm sure someone out there has already systematically sifted through all the show's history documenting how the "mythology" of the TARDIS (and Gallifrey, the TimeLords, the regenerations etc) evolved over 60 years. We shouldn't need to redo that work. If anybody else knows of a website covering such info maybe let us know?

    I'm also sure the shows creators made up new details as years went by, as required for new stories, that sometimes contradicted what little was established before. Big example: they didn't know there were such things as regenerations until they needed to cast a new actor.

    I do wonder with this specific episode however: if Ian and Barbara left the episode before, this was the first episode with the Doctor himself as the only remaining original cast member. I wonder if they felt this was an opportunity to tell a story more focused on the Doctor's origins, which had been vague up til this point?

  • chrisno1chrisno1 LondonPosts: 3,131MI6 Agent

    I do wonder with this specific episode however: if Ian and Barbara left the episode before, this was the first episode with the Doctor himself as the only remaining original cast member. I wonder if they felt this was an opportunity to tell a story more focused on the Doctor's origins, which had been vague up til this point?

    I'm not saying it isn't possible, but my understanding is The Time Meddler was an attempt to "upgrade" the historical story and give it more of a sci-fi spin, which I guess it does to an extent. It's certainly the first occasion someone openly tampers with actual history. The Doctor's race isn't identified as non-human at this point, only that he originates from another planet. Susan in particular displayed some telepathic powers which suggested an alien nature. Despite the non-clarity, I think, fairly obvious he isn't human.

  • chrisno1chrisno1 LondonPosts: 3,131MI6 Agent

    The First Doctor - William Hartnell

    Season Two


    Season Two is something of a disappointment. While the debut season featured excellent writing and creative designs, these foundation stones were generally lacking here. It’s interesting to note the historically based adventures (The Romans, The Crusades, The Time Meddler) come across much better than the future set serials. The period look of this history trio is good; meat and drink to a BBC designer, I suspect. However, when needing to create something imaginatively novel, the series has challenged itself and perhaps been over-ambitious. Three stories feature multiple monsters, most of them poorly realised; The Web Planet in particular suffers from this over-ambition. Another [Planet of Giants] has everything blown up to enormous proportions and just about passes muster. The acting of the regular cast saves this season opener from being a complete disaster. They at least appear to be enjoying themselves. Indeed it’s fair to comment that were it not for the Doctor and his companions, most of the season's stories would be almost unpalatable. The supporting acts, to say nothing of the often woeful production values, are frequently so poor, the main players are constantly having to entertain us, either by design [most notably The Romans] or by luck [The Time Meddler and Planet of Giants, for instance]. The fact the show’s most successful monster so far – the Daleks – are already set up for playful mocking suggests the show’s head has focussed too quickly on mirth.

    Overall this second nonet of stories are not as immediate as the first. I agree there are some memorable images – particularly from The Dalek Invasion of Earth – but the quality of the sci-fi was only passable and this usually stemmed from a dearth of clarity in writing and / or design. Sadly no director stands out [with the exception of the wonderful The Romans], which suggests a paucity of commitment. The result is a season of wooden stories saved by the rumbustious playing of the ensemble cast. The loss of Carole Anne Ford was keenly felt [here] but Maureen O’Brien has been a good replacement, drawing confident performances from her peers. She sparkles well with Hartnell and the relationship with Peter Purvis already seems strong. There is hope for the future then, let’s trust the storylines improve and the backroom boys start utilising their imaginations a bit more. 


  • caractacus pottscaractacus potts Orbital communicator, level 10Posts: 3,886MI6 Agent

    aha! I found something, of course there is a Doctor Who wiki, with a huge page just on The Doctor's TARDIS. And it does list the differing origins of his TARDIS, complete with citations.

    Both the First and Third Doctors implied he had built his TARDIS himself, (TV: The Chase, COMIC: Backtime) which the Twelfth Doctor mentally described, in hindsight, as an empty boast trying to impress "the apes" whom the Doctor still looked down upon. (PROSE: Twice Upon a Time) ... Although many accounts instead depicted TARDISes as a class of vehicle common on the Doctor's homeworld, (TV: The Time Meddler, The Name of the Doctor, etc.) one of the Doctor's fellow Time Lords, the War Chief, still knew the Doctor as an expert in TARDIS engineering, who might be able, if he could be convinced to do so, to help him improve the flawed SIDRATs that the War Chief had given the War Lords. (TV: The War Games) ... However, the Doctor and others also stated that he had actually stolen the TARDIS, (TV: The War Games, Frontier in Space, Logopolis, Planet of the Dead, The Big Bang, The Time of the Doctor, Death in Heaven, COMIC: The World Shapers, AUDIO: The Beginning, Trial of the Valeyard, The Great War) a theft that the TARDIS, once she gained the ability to speak on a humanoid level, described as "mutual": wanting to see the universe, she had herself stolen a pilot to run away with. (TV: The Doctor's Wife)

    so presuming those citations are complete (and they look pretty exhaustive, what with comics and audio), the idea he stole the TARDIS first appears in The War Games, Troughton's final serial (in which we finally learn a lot more about his own origins). The Chase stated he himself built it, so that was the origin that was canonical at this point in the saga. I've never seen The Chase, that's why I don't remember that. but The Time Meddler was the very next story, in which we see another of The Doctor's kind who can also travel through time, already confusing the claim just made one serial before. But the explanation he stole it was a retcon, introduced several seasons later.

    Chris I apologise for digressing about such geekery, and shall shut up about such matters (at least til we get to that first Regeneration). Back to the important matters: whether these stories are actually any good!

    one less geekish question: why did these cast changes happen mid-season instead of between seasons?

  • chrisno1chrisno1 LondonPosts: 3,131MI6 Agent

    @caractacus potts

    Thanks. That's fascinating stuff. Where do you find the time? Obviously, I have seen The Chase and if I'd noted when the Doctor made this claim, I may have saved you the time and bother ! It must have been fresh in my memory when I wrote the review for The Time Meddler, as I watched both serials in the same week of January, which is maybe why I mentioned it. Makes perfect cognitive sense really.

    To follow up precisely your excellent research, I'd need to view it again - easy as I have a copy on DVD - when Blockbusters online closed, they told members to keep any discs they had and that was one of mine - but to be honest, I don't really want to - twice is more than enough right now !

    It might be a line in the very first episode when the Doctor is fiddling with the Time Visualiser. Later on he talks about a Time Path Indicator, but I can't recall which episode that was in.

    I like the idea that he was just boasting. That seems to sit well with his know-it-all attitude. In Pertwee's era, it's clear that the Master is also very well versed in TARDIS technology. As your article says, Troughton's Doctor does hint very heavily that the TARDIS was stolen - ah, let's say "borrowed" !

  • chrisno1chrisno1 LondonPosts: 3,131MI6 Agent

    RE: cast changes.

    I considered this also. If you look at the transmission dates of the episodes (The Discontinuity Guide has them, or just look up the Wiki entries) you'll notice the companions leave at regular intervals BY DATE.

    Susan November 1963 - December 1964 approx 12 months Ian & Barbara November 1963 - May 1965 approx 18months

    Vicki January 1965 - October 1965 approx 10months Steven June 1965 - June 1966 approx 12months

    Dodo March 1966 - July 1966 approx 5months Ben & Polly July 1966 - May 1967 approx 11months

    I can't be certain, as I don't have detailed biographical information, or the actual recording schedule, but I reckon the actors were tied into recording contracts of 6 or 12 months. It's important to remember the cameras would be rolling all year round at this stage of Dr Who's history. That's why characters disappear for an episode every now and then: the actor has gone on holiday. Sometimes, a contract was severed early, which happened with Adrienne Hill's Katrina and quite possibly Jackie Lane too [Dodo Chaplet]. When the producer changed they often jettisoned characters. Innes Lloyd inherited Dodo and got rid of her in almost the same way John Wiles disposed of Katrina. Luckily Wiles was prevented from disposing of William Hartnell [more on that later].

  • chrisno1chrisno1 LondonPosts: 3,131MI6 Agent


    I am currently on a Dr Who break, having made it to the end of Season Nine. As a special treat:


    I tried, I suppose, to be generous and look at this through a child’s eye. But I’m not a child and I don’t believe in dumbing-down to children.

    Dr Who and the Daleks is a very elementary retelling of the second story of the BBC’s ground breaking science fiction show Dr Who, which introduced the famous monsters the Daleks. On a basic level it works. I think two factors need to be taken into consideration when assessing the film. Firstly, it was not meant to be an introduction to Doctor Who, the mysterious galaxy travelling character familiar to audiences and played by William Hartnell in the television show. Secondly, television ownership and viewing was not as widespread as we might expect in 1965. I know for a fact one set of my grandparents didn’t acquire a TV until 1970; it wasn’t seen as an essential piece of home entertainment equipment and many households simply didn’t have them, giving children no access to television’s Dr Who. Hence, this film adaptation would have been the first look at Doctor Who for many children and the background to the television character, his granddaughter, the teachers Ian and Barbara, the titular Daleks and their arch-enemies the Thals, would not have been so well acknowledged.

    Writer Milton Subotsky reimagines the Doctor as a dotty, British scientific genius who lives in a neat terraced cottage with his two granddaughters Barbara and Susan. Into this cosy world of science books drops Barbara’s new boyfriend, Ian Chesterton, who marvels at the Doctor’s invention, a police-box looking time machine called Tardis, which is bigger inside than out. Within minutes of entering the ship, Ian has activated the dimensional travel lever and so the adventure begins. And so becomes a very fast telling of Terry Nation’s original story, including all the important aspects of the narrative, squeezed and squashed into an 85-minute run time. This condensing removes all tension. The excellent moments of despair, futility and fear as the travellers suffer radiation poisoning, or Susan returns terrified to Tardis, or we witness the climatic danger-ridden trek through the forest to attack the Dalek city, become little more than vignettes among a colourful tableau. Ultimately, the movie is about the Daleks and not Doctor Who, which skews the movie away from the human narrative to the monster one. This isn’t such a good thing.

    Additionally, because it lacks the overarching saga of the Doctor, a man lost in space and time, exiled from his home world, in a space ship he can’t control, beset by strangers and troubles and alien monsters, the film loses the central impetus possessed by the TV show. This version feels more like a reworking of The Time Machine. It looks a little like it too, with all the shadowy forests, the caves and the gleaming city. Additionally, when we first see the Tardis control room, it could easily be a reworking of Frankenstein’s – or anybody’s – laboratory. The fact neither of these very adult orientated comparisons is used to any great effect, only suggests the film was being pitched at the wrong audience.

    Hammer veteran Peter Cushing was given the task of recreating the Doctor. He’s referred to specifically as Doctor Who. Cushing’s interpretation is feeble. His hunched, whispery version lacks authority. Unlike Hartnell’s Doctor, who was belligerent and scheming, Cushing emphasises the inquisitive childish glee of the batty scientist. It doesn’t help that there’s no conflict between the characters. When he admits to only pretending the mercury fuel link is broken, his selfish behaviour isn’t chastised. When Ian activates Tardis, it’s treated as a happy accident. Arriving on a strange world doesn’t faze anybody. Even Ian, a jovial Roy Castle, acclimatises quickly. It may as well be a jolly picnic in Hyde Park. Jennie Linden is Barbara, sedately pretty, and trying to lend some adult smartness to proceedings, but she’s side lined in favour of Roberta Tovey, who plays a primary school-aged Susan. An obvious attempt to steer away from the television show’s more adult orientated content, Tovey’s role is woeful. I don’t blame her, in a cute way she’s rather convincing, but the role is badly written and there’s no suggestion of a child’s fear of the unknown, of experiencing the adult world of danger, difficult decisions and death. In fact for much of the early segments of the film, she’s the one making all the sensible choices and this gives Susan a worldly quality she could barely gain as a ten year old, despite reading Physics for the Inquiring Mind. Her abilities sit badly next to Ian’s relative incompetence. He’s portrayed as accident prone, socially inept and slightly cowardly. You wonder what Barbara sees in him.

    Thankfully the Daleks are very impressive. Technicolour really helps them. They are not painted a uniform grey but bright gleaming blues, golds, blacks and reds. They are also taller, broader and have more impressive arms – some have suckers, others metal pincers – and deeper, antagonistic voices. Their city lair is also a designer’s dream, with glimmering walls and bright metal sheeted doors. Strangely shaped light fittings pepper the corridors. The control centre is a massive high-ceilinged affair with a rotating main console. Sadly the money didn’t stretch to laser effects and the Dalek guns spout only dry ice.

    The budget didn’t stretch too far for the Thal costumes either, which are mustard coloured, open chested and skimpy. The Thals are interpreted far worse here than on the TV show. The movie format doesn’t allow for the relationship between Susan and Alydon to develop. It also doesn’t help she’s a child. The original allowed a slight frisson of sensual attraction between the handsome alien and the teenaged traveller, here that has to be non-existent and we, as well as Susan, take an awful lot on trust. When the Thals change from pacifists to rebels, this inclination doesn’t evolve so much as hit them in the face, or hit Ian, as it were. The suddenness of the change, coupled with the appalling acting, is frankly unbelievable. The fact the Doctor explains his plan to Ian by winking at him only adds to the feeling Cushing’s Doctor Who is a child wrapped up in man’s clothing.

    The scenes of the climatic trek to the Dalek city don’t come across as vividly as they did on TV either, which is odd given it’s on a big screen and in colour. You’d expect this to be much more dynamic. The swamp and cave sets are disappointing especially as the petrified forest is such a haunting, macabre, primeval landscape. I was impressed with the interior of Tardis, which is a hotch-potch of wires and dials and screens. It’s certainly got impact: when Ian first ventures inside the messy interior, with its flickering lights, strange sounds and weirdly positioned optics, it’s intensely alien – odd, given this Doctor Who is quite obviously human. It resembles, I suppose, the internal mental workings of the scatter-brained Doctor himself, which is a fun idea and one I believe the rebooted series pinched when designing the control room c.2006.   

    Gordon Flemyng directs adequately. The colour photography is good. The music score not so much. The script passes muster, just, recycling gallantly the original, but it is severely shortened and I think that hurts the telling. I understand why, as the producers wanted a cinema friendly runtime – less minutes equals more showings per day and more revenue – but it does mean the story lacks exposition and character development. The Daleks themselves are curiously less psychopathic than their television counterparts. They discuss their genocidal plans in a bland objective manner and this makes them too rational. Curiously they never scream: “Exterminate!” However, it was fun to see a Dalek lassoed and dumped own an elevator shaft!

    It’s difficult to assess whether the film is a success as it isn’t aimed at the current Dr Who market or even one which existed in contemporary times. It feels as if it was specifically targeted for junior generations and hasn’t the flexibility to include in its drama any adult themes. The television show did this much better because of its length and the strength of the written teleplay. Subotsky’s screenplay excised too much of the original and it becomes an incident fuelled adventure lacking any background and therefore any substantial tension. We simply don’t care enough about the protagonists.

    Dr Who and the Daleks has a shaky record with critics. Contemporary reviews were not great, recognising it for the cash-in spin-off it was. Over time, it has been disregarded by fans of the TV series and dismissed by science fiction enthusiasts. This is slightly unfair. You can’t really approach the film without some context. It is important to understand the aim of the producers wasn’t to provide a cinematic remake of the television show, but a solid reinterpretation of an exceptional adventure story. They perhaps didn’t hit that mark, but in terms of what they wanted to achieve, you can certainly see the ambition on the screen. Although it failed miserably globally, where the Daleks and Doctor Who were not household names, the film was the twentieth biggest box office success of the year in the U.K., recouped its costs comfortably and led to a sequel, so things can’t have been that bad.

    In many respects Dr Who and the Daleks is a formulaic science fiction movie from the 1950s and hence feels dated and maybe felt so in 1965. I don’t think anyone disagreed with the contemporary critical assertions, but it didn’t stop them taking their kids to see it. I first watched the film as a youngster, via one of its numerous appearances on television. I thought it was brilliant at the time, which rather sums up my belief it was aimed primarily at a much younger audience than we might expect. It would have been nice to have been treated with a little more intelligence however and for all Roberta Tovey’s pluck, I rather wish the producers had stuck with adult characters and emphasised the strong themes of genocide, war and societal camaraderie.    

  • CoolHandBondCoolHandBond Mactan IslandPosts: 5,983MI6 Agent

    I can give a child’s perspective from 1965 - it was brilliant!! Wow, the daleks in colour! I was 9 when I saw this at the local cinema, and apart from being initially confused that it wasn’t the same Doctor Who as on TV, that was soon forgotten and it was a magical experience. Not sure my dad and grandad enjoyed it so much as me though, they liked the other film on the double bill, The Brigand Of Kandahar with Oliver Reed. That confirms that the movie was specifically for kids rather than adults. In those days you got two films for your money and depending on which cinema chain you were in, there was either Pathe News or Look At Life along with trailers in the break between movies ( and if we were lucky, a Kia-Ora drink or a rock hard tub of ice cream), those were the days!

    Just another point from your review, everyone I knew had a television set, it was more a personal choice to not have one, rather than not being able to afford one, as rental sets were ten a penny in those days. Either that or us Londoners had better access to them.

    Yeah, well, sometimes nothin' can be a real cool hand.
  • chrisno1chrisno1 LondonPosts: 3,131MI6 Agent

    The First Doctor - William Hartnell

    Season Three


    The opening four-part adventure of Season 3 takes place on an unnamed desert-like dying planet. Two spaceships have crash-landed and their alien crews have been at loggerheads ever since. One, the hideously ugly Rill, are intelligent, curious, benign creatures, unable to leave the confines of their ammonia swamped control room because oxygen is fatal to them. The second species are the Drahvins, a female, militaristic race, whose warrior class have subjugated men and employ ill-educated clones as soldiers. Initially the Doctor trusts their persuasive leader, Maaga, and attempts to destroy the Rill, but he comes to learn it is the Drahvins who precipitated the petty little war. They now wish to steal the Rill space ship and escape before the imminent collapse of the planet.

    Director Derek Martinus had this story thrust upon him at short notice and he does his best with a fairly uninspired plot and dreadful designs. Richard Hunt’s sets look half finished. The Drahvins’ crashed space vessel appears to be a wooden shack, while the Rill’s ship resembles nothing more than scaffolding and see-through tarpaulins. The drone robots – nicknamed Chumblies by Vicki – carry no threat, being a waist-high reinterpretation of a Dalek. The script and dialogue spends too long struggling and failing to be profound. The action scenes are stupefyingly slow.

    Usually Dr Who starts a story well, but Galaxy Four has none of the prerequisite intrigue and danger. Half of the first episode survives – as well as all of episode three and a few choice excerpts from the finale – but none of what I saw filled me with any enthusiasm. There are few treats. The representation of a woman as evil is a welcome challenge to our expectations; Stephanie Bidmead is solid as the Drahvins’ soulless, belligerent leader. Overall though, the adventure is a disappointment.

    Debut writer William Emms, along with out-going producer Verity Lambert, concocted some interesting ideas, but they and / or the team can’t seem to develop them into a coherent and worthwhile story. Galaxy Four is a very flat galaxy indeed:

    1 from 5

  • chrisno1chrisno1 LondonPosts: 3,131MI6 Agent

    The First Doctor - William Hartnell

    Season Three


    Five weeks before the opening episode of a marathon Dalek story, a one-episode prologue titled Mission to the Unknown was transmitted. It is unique among the Classic Series of Dr Who for being the only [official] stand-alone episode and for being the only story not to feature the Doctor, any companions or the TARDIS. T.V. myth says this was written because there was a scheduling error. There wasn’t. During the 1960s the show was filmed and transmitted almost all year round and the decision was taken by producer Verity Lambert to allow the regular cast an extra week off work. Mission to the Unknown was deliberately written to fill that gap.

    The story takes place on Kembel, the most hostile planet in the universe. We meet a trio of astronauts from U.N. Deep Space Group I [identified as British by the Union Jack on the ship’s fuselage – nice to know the United Kingdom still exists so far in the future…?] The astronauts are attempting to repair their transport. One of the men, Garvey, has been driven mad by the toxic chemicals of a Varga thorn and another, Marc Cory, does not hesitate to kill him, raising the ire of the third crewman, Lowery. Cory reveals he is a member of the Space Security Service. This organisation is referred to as the S.S.S. and its agents are given a Licence to Kill, which all sounds very familiar to those of us who are OO7 fans.

    Cory is played with rigour and drive by Edward de Souza [the future Sheikh Hosein from The Spy Who Loved Me, getting his Licence to Kill in early]. He explains that a thousand years after the Dalek’s failed invasion of Earth, a tense stand-off has evolved on the edge of the galaxy. The Daleks have taken over solar system after solar system, but all their conquests are outside the Earth colonies. The S.S.S. have become suspicious of activity on Kembel. Dalek space ships have been observed close by; also the Varga plant is not indigenous to the planet: it is only found on Skaro, the Dalek’s home world. Cory’s suspicions are correct. The Daleks have set up a base on Kembel. They plan to form an alliance of the Seven Outer Galaxies and invade Earth space. Cory attempts to launch a distress beacon with his message, but the Daleks are in hot pursuit.

    Given its short time span, Mission to the Unknown packs in a tremendous amount of detail, both in storyline and in design. The dialogue is terse and full of interest. The audience learns aspects of future Earth history and of Dalek history. Terry Nation rightly includes other alien races in this Space-Axis of Evil, giving the story a wider scope than simply ‘Dr Who Versus The Daleks.’ The stakes have now been raised. The fate of all Eight Galaxies appears to be in the balance.

    Compared to other adventures in this season, Mission to the Unknown features exemplary design work. The sets are excellent. The Dalek control centre harks back to the architecture of the Dalek city. The astronaut’s ship has a realistic-looking interior, the walls covered in dials and lights and scanners. The jungle sets are superb [I wonder if these have been and are reused every time a jungle set comes up? See The Crusades, The Ark, The Savages.] The landscape is augmented by audible authentic jungle noises, making the audience feel as uncomfortable as the fearful astronauts. The makeup and costumes are superior examples too, including horrifically diseased arms, shiny snappy space suits and a new crag-like humanoid enemy monster, the Malpha.

    Bare seconds of moving footage exist of Mission to the Unknown, but the high quality soundtrack and production stills suggest director Derek Martinus and the team created a minor gem. The taut, claustrophobic, sweaty, terrifying atmosphere, grows more and more intense as the time runs out for Marc Cory and the Daleks swoop into action.

    After their lacklustre appearance in The Chase, it’s great to see these malevolent beasts revert back to something like their menacing best. Hence, there is no humour on this mission. It is dramatic and exciting. Every fibre of tension is stretched. It is very, very good. If the producers could have squeezed even a couple of small linking scenes from the TARDIS, Mission to the Unknown could easily have bookended the beginning of the enormous epic adventure The Dalek Masterplan. As it is, I’ll still give it:

    4 from 5.

  • chrisno1chrisno1 LondonPosts: 3,131MI6 Agent

    The First Doctor - William Hartnell

    Season Three


    The Myth Makers is set during the Trojan Wars, a period of history shrouded in legend and mostly familiar from Homer’s poetic work of fiction, The Iliad. The Doctor is mistaken for Zeus. He’s on dodgy ground impersonating a deity. It flatters him too much. He seems confused, as he believed the rivalries at the court of Agamemnon, the wiles of Achilles and the fall of Troy were hearsay. Similarly, when Vicki emerges from the TARDIS into King Priam’s Trojan palace, she is mistaken for a prophetess and renamed Cressida. She falls swiftly in love with Troilus. Their romance was elaborated on most famously by Shakespeare. The question the audience asks is the same one the Doctor is pondering. The warring sides have been at a ten year stalemate. The Doctor knows the legends, but is uncertain if he should precipitate the end of the siege; is he interfering in actual history or only in a legend which will permeate through the centuries and inspire great works of art?

    This is an unusual conundrum as previously the Doctor has stressed the importance of non-interference. Eventually, to stay alive, he provides the Greeks with the Wooden Horse solution. Does this matter? we ask ourselves. Is he interfering in the real past? Did these people really exist? The city of Troy possibly did, but there is little evidence to support the lives of Odysseus, Paris, Hector, et al. Certainly Achilles, a son of a god, could never have existed, unless you believe in the Greek Pantheon. So there’s a strange unreality hanging over the episode, which is not helped by being unable to view the actors at work. Associating with the cast on a physical level can contribute to the success or failure of a story. For example, the excellent performances in The Romans or The Aztecs make those stories fascinating and suspenseful, while the sheer tedium of the one-dimensional playing in The Space Museum can’t sustain our interest in the rebels or the overlords. The situation is exacerbated with The Myth Makers because there is virtually no film footage available.

    A few badly copied 8mm movie clips, the BBC production stills and home recorded audio have been cobbled together by privateers Loose Cannon, but they offer little more than a glimpse of the adventure’s possibilities. Like most of the series’ historical adventures, this one appears to be well-designed and costumed – full marks to John Wood and Daphne Dare respectively – and the cast give the playing all the gusto they can muster. However, unlike Marco Polo – a story which was clearly a cut above the norm, even in a truncated form – The Myth Makers struggles to entertain. Partly this might be the archaic phrasing of writer Donald Cotton’s dialogue, which doesn’t so much provide a suitable ‘epic’ vernacular as swamp the telling in ancient atmospheres. Speeches are delivered in an earnest Shakespearian fashion. The humour when it comes is leaden. There are several noisy sword fights and battles. Humphrey Searle’s incidental music is overpowering. So too is Ivor Salter’s Odysseus, a piratical, unhinged and obsessive figure. He certainly better reflects Homer’s imagined cursed, bloodthirsty warrior, rather than the one popularised by centuries of misinformation, but Salter’s voice dominates and bullies proceedings. Most of the other characterisations are weak, including the time travellers. The familiar incarcerations, mistaken identities and, yes, another unlikely love story, give us a sense of acute déjà vu.

    At the end of the adventure, Vicki assumes the identity of Cressida and stays among the ruins of Troy to start a life with Troilus. Like Susan before her, she seems reluctant to leave the TARDIS. The Doctor virtually locks her out. This seems to be a reference to his earlier thoughts, that to create a myth there must be some reality. He realises Vicki – as Cressida – must remain to allow the legends to grow. He and his companions have influenced history, but without them, there would not be a past or a myth of the past. They have therefore become the myth makers of the title.

    Adrienne Hill plays the handmaiden Katrina. She joins the TARDIS crew partly because, upon entering the enormous interior, she believes she has died and refuses leave. “This is the journey through the beyond,” she says. And in a way she’s right. As the show continued, it started to look forward much more and the purely historical stories became a subject of its own past.

    It’s almost impossible to judge The Myth Makers in a positive light without strong visual footage. For all the interesting insights, the adventure stumbles from start to finish, lacking direction, despite obvious ambition. New producer John Wiles and his team appear to have bitten off an awful lot more than they can chew. A very disappointing:

    1 from 5.  

  • chrisno1chrisno1 LondonPosts: 3,131MI6 Agent

    The First Doctor - William Hartnell

    Season Three


    (including THE FEAST OF STEPHEN)

    Episode Seven of the 12-part saga The Dalek Masterplan is entitled THE FEAST OF STEPHEN and was transmitted on Christmas Day 1965. It is the first instance of a Dr Who ‘special.’ These would become a staple ingredient of the rebooted series. This bizarre twenty-five minute romp, however, bears no relation to the huge story which surrounds it.

    Escaping Dalek created chaos, the TARDIS lands in Liverpool outside a police station. The Doctor and Steven get up to some good-natured mischief with the local constabulary. Next, the TARDIS materialises on a Hollywood movie studio. Cue the Doctor, Steven and Sara Kingdom running, Keystone Cops style, around the various sound stages. At the end of the episode the Doctor produces a bottle of champagne and three flutes. “Haven’t you forgotten,” he says, “it’s Christmas Day!” He turns to the camera and raises a glass, breaking the fourth wall by declaring: “And a happy Christmas to you all at home!”

    Bloody dreadful. Worse even that The Gunfighters, which I’ll discuss later on. It isn’t even funny, which I think it was supposed to be; I had a hard time telling because the whole sorry circus is so heavy-handed. There is not a single scrap of film footage to gauge the episode by, which I think is just as well. Even though The Feast of Stephen is included in the episode listings for The Daleks’ Masterplan, I will tactfully dismiss it from my assessment of that adventure. I have given it:

    No rating.


    Terry Nation’s THE DALEKS’ MASTERPLAN is the longest Dr Who adventure ever written. Twelve episodes is too much even for me to take in at one swoop, so I divided my viewing in half.

    Episodes 1 to 6 are a phenomenal achievement for Dr Who. Terry Nation (who also wrote the prelude episode Mission to the Unknown) is the chief scribe. He penned parts 1 to 5, while Dennis Spooner penned part 6. The action is taut and intriguing. There is violence, tragedy, intrigue, secrets and betrayal, and some top-notch dodgy sci-fi. Best of all, the Daleks are back to something like their most wicked, displaying all the arrogant, logical, clear thinking, shoot-first policy we expect. They are surrounded too by a cast of colourful characters who, rather than mocking the universe’s greatest evil, live in fear of them, try to manipulate them and end up writhing in death agonies. This is a very bloodthirsty adventure.

    We start back on Kembel, six months after the events of Mission to the Unknown. It is the year 4000AD. We know this because the Solar System’s Non-Aggression Pact of 3975 is mentioned. Space Security Service Agent Bret Vyon, played with some verve by Nicholas Courtney [his first appearance of many in the show] is searching for the late Marc Cory. Instead he discovers the Daleks! So too does the Doctor, who has made an unscheduled landing on Kembel in search of medicine for a wounded Steven. The Doctor and Vyon form an uneasy alliance. The Doctor infiltrates the Dalek city, impersonates the alien creature Zephon and manages to steal a Taranium Core, a rare conductive metal component mined in miniscule quantities on Uranus and vital to the function of the Daleks’ ultimate weapon, the Time Destructor. There follows a tense multi-episode chase across the universe as the Doctor and his friends try to outrun and outwit the Daleks and their conspirators.

    The first half of the adventure [Terry Nation’s half] is much better than the latter [Spooner’s] which seems less concerned with maintaining the tight atmosphere and more with extending the running time by four unnecessary chapters. To achieve this the odd Christmas edition The Feast of Stephen was inserted and then the TARDIS takes a diversion to ancient Egypt. These last three episodes feature Peter Butterworth reprising Dennis Spooner’s character, the Meddling Monk. The Monk wasn’t much of a villain the first time around and isn’t much of one here either, this time siding uneasily with the travellers, but becoming more a hindrance than a help. The Doctor treats him with wry amusement. This is by far the weakest segment of the serial and demonstrates the ill-thought notion that Dr Who should rely on comedy for its thrills. It is made worse by the eventual realisation the detour wasn’t necessary, as the tenth episode finishes on a replica cliff hanger from the sixth, with the travellers reluctantly handing over the Taranium device to the Daleks.

    Despite this mid-adventure slip, The Daleks’ Masterplan has to be considered a success.  Three things stand out: the characters are vivid, all driven, ambitious, merciless personalities; there’s barely a pause for breath among the fast paced action; the style and look of the adventure is first class. Luckily three episodes exist for appraisal – I watched the remainder using Loose Cannon’s fan reproductions – so I had a good opportunity to gauge the story’s true effectiveness.

    Top of the high points is Kevin Stoney as the traitorous Earth Guardian Mavic Chen. The world’s absolute ruling President in all but name, Chen is a politician who revels in manipulating others to his will, displaying stagecraft, cunning and authority. He’s a great villain, turning the aliens of the six galaxies against one another, while confronting the soulless, single minded Daleks with a display of vital purpose. That he succumbs to his own vanity seems entirely fitting. Stoney is always watchable, even if his Asian-look make-up dates the show horribly. There’s an early scene where Chen debates the virtues of the Seven Galaxies alliance with Zephon which is particularly fine, revealing the twisted politics of the fourth millennium. He’s also provided with an ambitious sidekick in Maurice Browning’s Karlton, a nasty little underling who has power designs of his own.

    Equally accomplished is Courtney’s Bret Vyon, an agent in merciless pursuit of his operational aim. He will sacrifice anyone for his mission. This includes his fellow agent, Kert, [played by future TV presenter Brian Cant] and an S.S.S. stooge, Daxter. Vyon is fittingly executed by another S.S.S. agent, Sara Kingdom, who reluctantly accompanies the Doctor for a few episodes. Kingdom herself is a heartless, single-minded individual, revealing in a rare moment of weakness that Vyon was her brother. The revelation seems a pointless insert, as if the writers wanted to soften Jean Marsh’s role. It doesn’t work because the girl hasn’t any time to grieve. Thrown straight into battle with the Daleks, Sara soon comes around to the Doctor’s side. Between them, writers Nation and Spooner don’t seem to know what to do with this independent, tough secret agent. Over the course of her brief sojourn in the TARDIS a strange oxymoron occurs as the previously resilient Steven Taylor becomes the feminine companion, exhibiting the fright and flight mentality, while Sara takes on the masculine exploits of being practical, decisive, impulsive, argumentative. She also lacks a sense of humour. The 1960s target audience probably wasn’t quite ready for Sara Kingdom. Neither was I, and I find her the most disagreeable ‘companion’ yet to jump into the TARDIS.

    I use the word ‘companion’ reluctantly as I don’t consider Sara as a bona fide member of the TARDIS crew. She barely features – eight episodes is her limit – and never seems to gel with the Doctor and Stephen. Mind you, she gets more screen time than the disappointing Trojan maiden Katrina. Adrienne Hill’s brief moments are stilted by the need for her to redefine everything she witnesses in terms she can identify. Her dialogue is disastrously overformal, mannered and archaic, stuffed full of questions, confusions and fears. The poor girl spends her whole TARDIS experience believing she’s in the After Life, although this blood soaked journey is nobody’s idea of perfection.

    Short-term producer John Wiles was so disappointed in Katrina he killed her off and Adrienne Hill’s short stint accompanying the Doctor reaches a tragic end at the beginning of episode 4, sucked into space from an airlock. It isn’t clear if she was trying to save her friends [she was struggling with the maniac criminal Kirksen, an escapee from the prison planet Desperus] or activated the door mechanism deliberately. Whichever it is, her death is a moment of taut, visceral drama: as she screams in pain and fear, the Doctor, Bret and especially Steven yell at each other in panic, helpless to retrieve her during an emergency take-off. Katrina wasn’t much of a companion, but her sacrifice is keenly felt. William Hartnell is offered another soliloquy of great pathos, an obituary of some merit, trusting the young Trojan girl has “reached her place of perfection.”

    While Katrina seemed doomed from the outset, Sara Kingdom’s demise at the end of the adventure – succumbing to the aging effects of the Time Destructor – is appropriate. It’s a pity Jean Marsh wasn’t able to instil Sara with any sympathetic characteristics. Her sacrifice  fails to have impact as we’ve already witnessed Katrina’s. The Doctor and Steven share a moment of quiet disbelief and strongly played agony as her ashes are scattered by the winds of the now desolate environment on Kembel. Indeed death plays a huge part in the serial’s proceedings. As early as the opening episode we see Kert being assassinated by the Daleks; director Derek Martinus out-does himself here, shooting from below Kert’s kneeling position, making the Daleks appear huge and menacing.

    Overall Martinus does marvellous, pounding work. He rarely lets the tension slip, especially in the first half, and maintains a heated atmosphere across the majority of the piece. The designers and costumers do sterling work too. The sets are brilliant, whether futuristic or historical. The editing (when I could see it) is crisp. The special effects are good. The climax, even in photos, looks fittingly gruesome. There is a brilliant reimagination of Star Trek’s ‘transporter’ in episode 6 as the Doctor, Steven and Sara are trapped in a molecular dissemination chamber and transported to Mira, a distant, alien planet. The sextet of alliance aliens could have done with more conceptual work, and they don’t play as prominent a role as one might hope, but it was worth expanding the threat to universal peace even if the Daleks, as befitting the superior race of the galaxies, ultimately have plans to double-cross them all.  

    The Daleks themselves are back to their ruthless best, annihilating with impunity. They display streaks of cunning unseen since their debut. Sometimes Nation or Spooner has them saying nothing while their enemies or allies fight amongst themselves. This brooding presence holds more menace than a thousand “Exterminates!” Mavic Chen isn’t disposed to servitude and has several contretemps with his paymasters. It’s fitting his delusions of grandeur lead to megalomania. When the Daleks decide Chen’s usefulness has expired, their silence speaks volumes of their contempt. The counterplotting between the politicians, scientists and the S.S.S. agents on Earth Control was a welcome distraction too. It’s a pity this dynamic, with its incisive rhetoric, can’t be maintained for longer. Terry Nation is credited with the whole concept of The Daleks’ Masterplan, but the high quality of his penmanship isn’t quite matched by the later scripts of Dennis Spooner, who prefers to muddle along with his Time Meddler and used droll verbal jousting as opposed to Nation’s flamboyant and gripping violence.

    While my jury returns a guilty as charged verdict on the inappropriateness of The Feast of Stephen, and would still be in recess over the Egypt interlude, there is no doubt over the success of the high-level sci-fi action which encompasses The Daleks’ Masterplan. A great story, with a fine credible cast, high production values and bucket loads of tension and excitement. Even after viewing only three complete episodes, I’m confident in returning a verdict of:

    4 from 5

  • chrisno1chrisno1 LondonPosts: 3,131MI6 Agent

    The First Doctor - William Hartnell

    Season Three


    Historian John Lucarotti, who did such fine work on Season 1 with Marco Polo and The Aztecs, returned to pen this medieval epic set in Paris before the massacre of the Protestant Huguenots in 1572. Lucarotti’s work is particularly badly served by the BBC’s ‘wiping’ policy as, like Marco Polo, not a single snippet of recorded footage remains of The Massacre. Luckily we have production stills and a full home recorded audio track. Apparently Lucarotti was deeply unhappy with the re-writes made by script editor Donald Tosh and the finished result was far more Tosh’s accomplishment than the credited author’s. This mainly effects the middle two episodes of the story.

    The Doctor and Steven arrive in an ugly, decrepit Paris of crumbling alleys, dirty streets and open festering sewers. Michael Young’s exterior sets deserve particular praise. The less said about the clean, Regency-looking interiors the better. The costumes were probably borrowed from the props department, all ruffled necklines and tight trousers. It’s nice to see the travellers change into an appropriate wardrobe in an effort to blend in with the local population. Sadly the dodgy London accents used by most of the cast don’t reflect the detail of what surrounds them.

    Leaving Steven in a local tavern, the Doctor visits the famous apothecary, Charles Preslin, and manages to persuade the scientist to continue his work on bacteria. This is another act of the Doctor influencing, but not altering, history. As in The Myth Makers and The Romans, he isn’t changing what we know, but it’s fair to say without him the past would not necessarily have proceeded as we expect. It’s interesting to reflect on whether the Doctor is aware of this. The Doctor expresses surprise Preslin wants to abandon his work; he knows the scientist studied and published founding work on the behaviour of germs. There’s a very deliberate pause before the Doctor mentions the development of the microscope, as if he knows how important this news will be for Preslin. I like the idea of prescience, but it’s a very difficult card to play in the time travel game; how many incidents of history could have emerged differently had the Doctor not been present? Similarly, why is interference not an issue when the Doctor travels into the future, after all it will still become someone else’s past. 

    The climax of episode one shows us the face of the hated Abbot of Amboise, a man Preslin accuses of persecuting apothecaries: he is the spitting image of the Doctor! This is where the Lucarotti and Tosh screenplays diverge. Lucarotti’s version featured scenes with both the Abbot and the Doctor; Tosh’s does not. While I can’t say I prefer the latter – it’s the only one available to me unless I want to read Lucarotti’s novelisation, which follows his original scripts – I do enjoy the mystery of never knowing if the Doctor has impersonated the Abbot. Steven struggles with the same dilemma and this holds our attention for the middle section as he becomes mixed in the intrigues of Huguenot / Catholic tension. Peter Purves carries the show brilliantly. He’s really good (audibly at least) interpreting confusion, anger, fear and resolve. The change was in part forced on the production because William Hartnell was sick. And in part, it works. The only problem occurs in episode four, when the Doctor suddenly reappears in time to aid an abrupt escape from Paris on St Bartholomew’s Eve and, despite Steven’s urgent questions, offers no explanation of where he’s been. Much earlier Preslin is seen paying a street urchin who, it is assumed from the scientists’ conversation, has taken the Doctor to the Abbot’s residency. This is never confirmed. Of course, this might not have mattered when seven days elapsed between transmissions, but it is a very obvious oversight when watching [listening] to back-to-back episodes.  

    William Hartnell, illness or not, is outstanding in The Massacre, despite barely featuring. Even without film footage, I can tell he’s giving one of his finest performances as the Doctor, revelling in the character’s fascination with science and his obstinate refusal to alter a permanent past. He’s helped immeasurably in my opinion by only having to interact with one companion. Hartnell also gives full vent to the dual role of the Abbot whose tough, belligerent countenance only enhances the latent maliciousness of this devious, intolerant clergyman. Full marks to first-time director Paddy Russell for extracting such a top notch display.

    Among the cast Leonard Sachs, he of The Good Old Days, sounds admirably grand as the Huguenot’s leader, Admiral de Coligny. Joan Young kicks up a brutal storm as the scheming Catherine de Medici, the Queen Mother, who is clearly the power behind the French throne and dominates the passive king and his pompous court. This aspect of the story has far more bite than Steven’s purposeful running between houses, with all its prerequisite plotting and whispering and to-and-froing. Thankfully there’s some fetching support for him via Annette Robinson’s serving wench, Anne Chaplet, although her West Country accent is distinctly out of place; did no one notice that during rehearsals? The two strike up a close relationship and Anne is clearly besotted with the space pilot. Apparently, she was lined up to be the next TARDIS companion, but after the failed experiment with Katrina, it was considered prudent to wait before making another attempt to blend the historical and futuristic worlds. Rather than jumping into the time ship, Anne is bundled, frightened and sorrowful, back to her family. The Doctor assures her she will be safe, even though he knows the purge of Paris’ Huguenots is due the very next morning.

    This immediately provokes friction between the Doctor and Steven. At the story’s end there is a fine moment of high drama as, enraged by the Doctor’s abandonment of Anne to the fury of the Catholics, Steven argues they could and should have rescued her. “If your ‘research’ has so little regard for human life, I want no part of it!” he cries. This is a real ding-dong of a row. Impassioned and harsh. The Doctor is at a loss for words, unable to explain his feelings other than repeating the mantra of non-interference: “History sometimes gives us a terrible shock and that is because we don't quite fully understand. Why should we? After all, we're too small to realise its final pattern. Therefore don't try and judge it from where you stand. I was right to do as I did."

    The TARDIS lands somewhere in London – Wimbledon Common, apparently – and, disgusted, Steven exits the ship. Left alone, Hartnell’s Doctor has another brilliant soliloquy: “Even after all this time, he cannot understand. I dare not change the course of history… Now, they're all gone. All gone. None of them could understand. Not even my little Susan. Or Vicki. And as for Barbara and Chesterton they were all too impatient to get back to their own time. And now, Steven. Perhaps I should go home. Back to my own planet. But I can’t... I can’t..."

    After this moment of pathos, where perhaps for the first time we witness the Doctor’s vulnerability, his need for companionship, his own wearisome existence, there is a rushed conclusion. A young woman enters the TARDIS. Unfazed by its huge interior [I wonder if she’s meant to be high?] she strikes up a conversation with the strange old man she finds inside, who immediately explains to her what this particular police box really is. Outside, two policemen are running towards the TARDIS; there’s a car accident they need to report. Steven beats them to it and, perhaps regretting his decision to leave, assists the Doctor in an emergency dematerialisation. He is stunned to discover the new stowaway’s name is Dodo Chaplet. Could she be a descendant of Anne, he wonders. This seems unlikely, but it allows the episode to conclude on a note of cautious reconciliation.

    The ending is a bit of a muddle, like most of the adventure. There’s the slightest suggestion the Doctor is aware Anne Chaplet survives the pogrom: he insists she will be safe at her aunt’s house and he’s not in the least surprised by Dodo’s appearance. He was almost expecting it and compares her immediately, favourably, to his granddaughter. The idea of the Doctor as a clairvoyant and the complications it causes is interesting, but this facet of his character would not be touched on again by the production team for several seasons.

    At times, The Massacre seems better than average, with two terrific central performances, but it is ultimately a bit of a muddle:

    3 from 5.

  • chrisno1chrisno1 LondonPosts: 3,131MI6 Agent

    The First Doctor - William Hartnell

    Season Three


    The Ark is an ambitious adventure set ten million years in the future. It starts brilliantly, falters in the middle and ends a little shaky.

    Initially, The Ark serves as a proper introduction to young Jackie Lane as Dodo Chaplet. She is a bustling replica of either Susan, Vicki, Katrina or all three: a young bundle of curiosity for the Doctor to pamper, Steven to chide and who can ask a myriad of questions to help the audience understand what the hell’s going on. A lot more than a few hours appear to have elapsed since the end of The Massacre for the Doctor and Stephen treat her with such familiarity. She’s even had time to peruse the TARDIS wardrobe and appears dressed in a pageboy’s outfit. Even for the wacky sixties this is a stylist’s tragedy. Dodo becomes pivotal to The Ark because she has a cold.

    The TARDIS materialises on an enormous space ship. The vessel is carrying the whole population of the earth, in miniaturised, life-suspended form, on a centuries long journey to Refusis II where the human Guardians plan to start a new colony. The Ark, as Dodo christens it, was created because the Earth is dying. Reptilian cyclops-like aliens called Monoids patrol and manage the ship for the Guardians. Dodo’s cold gives these poor creatures a dose of the flu and they begin to perish, having never encountered the virus and not developed any resistant antibodies. When a Guardian also dies, suspicion falls on the travellers until the Doctor creates a vaccine. Before the travellers depart they watch the earth cascade into the sun.

    [Curiously, this last scene was repeated in Christopher Eccleston’s Ninth Doctor story The End of the World, an episode I particularly enjoyed and thought was very ingenious. When I saw the 2005 episode, I completely forgot the Doctor had already witnessed this event.]

    [Also, curiously, Hugo Drax has a space station in Moonraker which James Bond refers to as “Noah’s Ark… The animals went in two by two.” This is exactly Dodo’s description of the space ark. As the narrative progresses, the ugly Monoids will perform a similar role to Jaws.]

    The TARDIS rematerializes on the Ark 700 years later. Does it do this deliberately? Does the TARDIS have a ‘problem to solve’ sensor? It might explain why the Doctor keeps getting into so much trouble! The second episode finishes with a stupendous shot of the enormous statue the Guardians had been slowly fashioning in the likeness of a human, but which now resembles a Monoid. The established order of things has been reversed! Up to this date, the show hasn’t always provided genuine cliff-hanging episode endings, but this is a fantastic scene which perfectly sets up the latter section of the story.

    It is suggested the Doctor’s antidote has provided the Monoids with the strength to overcome their masters. Meanwhile, the invisible people of Refusis II will only share their planet if the Monoids and Humans agree to live in peace. Given human history this seems highly unlikely. However, this time around even a Monoid bomb can’t prevent a conciliatory solution. 

    I’m generally positive about The Ark. I was impressed by the look of the piece. Barry Newbury’s art and set direction provides a genuine sense of scale. The Ark is supposed to be enormous and it looks it. The indoor jungle the travellers first explore is excellent, benefitting from real animals. There are some passable special effects: the miniaturisations, the movements of the invisible Refusians, the space capsules, the Monoids energy guns. The costuming though isn’t quite up to scratch. The Guardians’ Roman toga outfits are another fashion disaster and it’s amazing they don’t alter over seven centuries. The producers did well to show the Guardians as a society of broadmindedness; women are prominent, families and children are allowed into the decision making chambers. Yet, the Monoids – who the Doctor recognises as being of superior intellect – are less successful, being clearly a subjugated class, that of the colonised and enslaved. Sadly, Daphne Dare’s design reinforces that. Looking through modern eyes, I was disconcerted about this representation. The Monoids resemble some horrific leechlike southern Minstrel Show, with their stereotypical black face, single eye and mop top hair. It doesn’t help the Guardians are all white Anglo-Saxons. [Of course it is quite possible to misread this: the Monoids could be dark green or crimson in colour; nonetheless, watching in black and white it’s hard to tell.]

    During a tense courtroom debate, Steven recognises the blinkered intolerance of the society, embodied by the obdurate Zentos, a staunch ally of Galactic Law who wishes to expel the travellers into space for bringing plague to the Ark. Buoyed by his recent experiences in France with Anne and the Huguenots, Steven pleads: “The nature of man, even in this day and age, hasn’t changed at all. You still fear the unknown.”

    There are some interesting themes underlying The Ark. That the story doesn’t quite fulfil its potential is a fault of programming, where the four episode format settled on by the production team can’t do justice to the subjects and characters which are too sketchily drawn to succeed. The first half medical drama is ultimately more interesting than the humdrum revolution story of the second. As in the earlier The Sensorites, the ultimate confrontation is an internal one, but the Monoid costumes are too restrictive to deliver anything more than rudimentary excitement as they blast away with ray guns like crazed bipedal Daleks. The Refusians seem god-like in their ability to pardon misdemeanours and the resolution is awkwardly simple.

    A forward thinking:

    3 from 5.

  • chrisno1chrisno1 LondonPosts: 3,131MI6 Agent


    The major reason for watching what remains of The Celestial Toymaker is Michael Gough, who plays the titular villain with a graceful, sly countenance. The rest of this adventure is thoughtless to the extreme.

    The TARDIS materialises in the realm of the Toymaker, a bored all-powerful being who is able to construct at will a fantasy world full of the childhood recollections of the unfortunate travellers he captures. For his pleasure he forces visitors to play games against his captives. The winner goes free, the loser remains. The Doctor has already met this demi-god once and escaped – just, apparently. The two adversaries share some cryptic banter about this unrecorded occasion. Since he is rarely bested, the Toymaker has much admiration for the Doctor. He wishes the two of them to host puzzle games in perpetuity. Naturally, our hero refuses, so the Toymaker forces the Doctor to play the complicated mathematical jigsaw Trilogic, while Steven and Dodo must outwit the captive players of a series of straightforward, but deadly, games. 

    Brian Hayles, who would write on-and-off for Dr Who until the mid-seventies, has some grand ideas, but other than the principle background of the Toymaker, almost every single one of them fails. The most astonishing aspect of the story is its sheer lack of tension. The games the companions take part in aren’t challenging or devious. Also, it’s nonsense that a being as dominant as the Toymaker chooses to cheat or change rules whenever the tide turns against him. His powers should be fool proof. This spiteful aspect of his personality completely removes any sense of his authority. He’s basically a spoilt brat, squealing when things don’t go his way. Topping this is the terrible home décor of his imaginary ‘world.’

    There’s a general sense of an adventure being made on the cheap. John Wood’s production design is threadbare. It’s difficult to describe how silly the whole thing looks. One of the sets is flanked by an enormous cardboard cut-out doll’s house. Another is an obstacle course of the most elementary kind. A third challenge is basically a more dangerous version of musical chairs. The Toymaker’s goons include a couple of clowns, some playing cards and a school bully. They do not make convincing antagonists. The supporting actors play multiple roles and there’s nothing any of the cast can do to make the story entertaining or exciting. The best word I can use to describe what I listened and watched is ‘tedious.’ William Hartnell had a couple of weeks holiday booked, so he’s made invisible for two episodes and replaced by a dismembered hand. Good for Billy, I say.

    Some commentators consider this a surreal classic. I can only assume they haven’t listened to the audio soundtrack, with its yawning dialogue and noisy, trivial, pantomime incidents. The evidence of the fourth episode – the only one which survives – tends to back my assumption that this story is a an all-round dud. I wouldn’t even call it surreal or absurd, unless we’re talking about Steven and Dodo’s fashion-victim outfits. Apparently, short term producer John Wiles commissioned this story and had planned to write William Hartnell out. When the invisibility curse was lifted, the Doctor was going to be played by a completely different actor. Thankfully, Wiles was removed quickly from his post.

    As with The Ark and The Massacre, nobody has the wherewithal [or the budget?] to realise the potential of The Celestial Toymaker. If it wasn’t for Michael Gough’s villain, who I assume is still stranded in his own time and world within the Dr Who universe, I’d consider this as awful as The Web Planet. Even so, like some other stories of the third season, it is very, very poor:

    1½ from 5.

  • chrisno1chrisno1 LondonPosts: 3,131MI6 Agent

    The First Doctor - William Hartnell

    Season Three


    It’s hard not to criticise The Gunfighters. Regularly voted the worst Dr Who adventure ever, this slice of space-fluff concerns our travellers holidaying near Tombstone, Arizona in October 1881 – just in time to witness the Gunfight at the O.K. Corral.

    It’s as bad as it sounds. Trust me. I’ve seen it.

    Shane Rimmer, US Wayne’s Captain Carter in OO7’s The Spy Who Loved Me, has a supporting role.

    I don’t want to comment on this one, it’s too painful. Suffice to say the Doctor is mistaken for a quack, calls himself Doctor Caligari [that’s a joke, is it? I’m not sure…] and interferes in the run-up to the famous gun battle. Steven sings and acts the twit. Dodo swoons. Bad accents all round. Negligent sets. Absent direction. Certifiably atrocious acting.

    By all accounts the novelisation is much better, written as it is from Doc Holliday’s point of view.

    For keeping straight faces:

    ½ from 5

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