I remember seeing this first time round and it wasn’t vey good then so expect it to be as bad as you say, chrisno1!
I think the Doctor has a tooth extracted by Doc Holliday which was a nice touc, but the accents were terrible, they made Dick Van Dyke’s cockney accent in Mary Poppins sound perfect 😂
The First Doctor - William Hartnell
Ian Stuart Black’s The Savages sees the TARDIS land on an unnamed planet. The Doctor seems to have prior knowledge of the world and sets off to carry out some rudimentary scientific surveys. He is met by a delegation of Elders, the representatives of the planet’s highly advanced and civilised society, who appear to know who he is. Their leader, Jano, bestows great honours of state upon the Doctor. Once again, the Doctor responds favourably to flattery.
However, it soon becomes clear something is amiss within this city-bound civilisation. Primitive ‘savages’ who live outside the confines are regularly harvested for their life-force, which is subsequently transferred into the Elders, prolonging their lives and increasing their intellect and strength. The ‘savages’ meanwhile become gaunt and eventually die. During one of a number of brilliant, rousing debates, the Doctor accuses Jano of genocide: “This, sir, is protracted murder!” Now considered a threat, the Doctor is forced to undergo a transference, but when Jano takes on his life-force, he also takes on part of the Doctor’s nature, attitudes and conscience. Meanwhile, Steven and Dodo, in trying to rescue their friend, must battle both the guards and the primitives, who are all set to try and destroy each other.
The Savages can easily be viewed as a cliched revolution story, but it does feature several aspects which rise it above some of the other early examples of the fare (The Space Museum, The Ark). Firstly, despite only watching via Loose Cannon stills & audio reproduction, I found this adventure more exciting than much of what surrounds it. There is genuine tension. The cliff hanger endings are uniformly excellent: a strange figure lurches down a corridor menacing Dodo; the Doctor endures the transference procedure; a passage fills with debilitating smoke choking the travellers. Other moments of suspense: Steven and Dodo pursued into an underground tunnel by the Guards; Nanina, a female savage, is captured by a Guard after a chase in a quarry; Steven evades the Guards in the jungle; the Doctor seems not to recover from his transfer experience; there is a strong, visual, destructive climax. All these, coupled with the exemplary playing [from aural impressions only] push The Savages up a notch or two from the mundane.
The adventure benefits from solid production values. Stuart Walker’s city stages are uniformly excellent, all angles, lights and corridors, open spaces with slick shiny surfaces, glass and neon. Some camera shots have that haunting, shadowy Universal Horror look to them. The jungle sets may well have been reused from The Ark, but they are convincing. It’s fair to say the costume design is once more a little uninspired. The Elders are wearing another set of Roman togas, the Guards are saddled with silly helmets and daft-looking light-guns. The Savages meanwhile are done up in animal skins and Clare Jenkins’ Nanina looks like she’s escaped from the set of One Million Years B.C. so skimpy is her prehistoric outfit. It’s worth noting Sonia Markham’s make-up, which ages some of the primitives far more than others, suggesting they have endured more transfer treatments.
Christopher Barry is used to directing in cities – he helmed The Daleks – and he does solid work here, giving full range to the tensions in the story. There is conflict everywhere. The Guards have little respect for the Elders and seek to undermine them if they can. They are not adverse to delivering summary justice on members of the population they deem as being at fault. This high-handedness eventually leads to an attempted coup. The scientists argue with the Elder leaders. The primitives have their own internal battles. Characters bicker and squabble. Even Steven and Dodo are at it. There’s a neat reversal of the companions’ expected roles here as this time Dodo becomes the watchful one while Steven is fully taken in by the advanced, supposably civilised society. These conflicts allow for a splendid series of rasping exchanges. William Hartnell is primarily involved and his Doctor has never been more forceful and forthright. He’s in command, even when under arrest, and you can really sense Hartnell getting his teeth into the role like never before.
The supporting cast of characters are all given fine portrayals, but a special mention must go to Frederick Jaeger as Jano. Early on he plays the senior Elder as a conceited model of authority and order. Later, when Jano first assumes some of the Doctor’s characteristics, Jaeger gives a superb impersonation of Hartnell, all bluster and persnicketiness. When he assumes the mantel of leadership again, Jaeger combines both portraits to create a believable, humane statesman. Ewen Solon’s Chal and Patrick Godfrey’s Tor give the Savages some energy and verve. They’re not adverse to shouting at each other to make a point. This both emphasises the Savages lack of hierarchical development and demonstrates how restrictive and modulated the Elders existence is.
A couple of points are worth highlighting. The Elders are clearly a very advanced civilisation. The Doctor considers them to be living in an age of peace and prosperity. The Elder scientists, in addition to perfecting the life-essence transfer machines, have also been able to follow the Doctor’s TARDIS through time and space and are aware of his adventures and his own scientific knowledge. The Doctor is unsurprised by this. It suggests, like the Doctor’s speeches at the end of The Massacre, that he already has an awareness of the situation; he seems to have arrived not to carry out a survey [with his hilariously dubiously named ‘reactive vibrator’ machine] but to pass judgement on the Elders’ achievements. He’s almost anticipating having to do so.
As we shall later see, the Elder city functions in a similar manner to the Time Lord’s Capitol on the Doctor’s home planet of Gallifrey. One wonders if this planet – or island as Chal refers to it – was once a Time Lord colony. Of course, the similarities may be coincidental. However, looking at the story in retrospect, it would explain why the Doctor is so anxious to discover how this particular future world is functioning.
Lastly, we say goodbye to Steven Taylor. Peter Purves has proved more than capable in the role of the male companion. He’s done the rough stuff well and brought a fresh, vigorous approach to the TARDIS crew. This hasn’t excluded him from questioning the Doctor’s – or anyone’s motives – and Purves has often been allowed to give full vent to Steven’s frustrations. It’s a pity he’s leaving, as an audience identify far better with a companion who is visceral in his actions and words, rather than the more studious and passive Ian Chesterton, who even when fighting seemed never too far away from the classroom. Steven leaves to become the democratic leader of the planet’s new society. I like the manner in which the Doctor bids farewell. As with Susan and Vicki, he’s setting his young charge on a new course, leaving him a better person in a better place. This was quite unique to the First Doctor’s reign. Soon companions would simply get dropped back in their own time zone or arbitrarily fall in love. The fatherly, educational instruction handed by the first Doctor to his companions is justified by their choices to move on from the TARDIS. Steven though, unlike the girl companions, seems optimistic about his future away from time travel.
All in all The Savages is a fine story, with strong ideas presented in a vivid and enterprising manner. Even without the benefit of movie footage, I’m offering a much improved and very civilised:
4 from 5.
The First Doctor - William hartnell
THE WAR MACHINES
The War Machines is the second modern day story to grace the series. From the off, we know something is different because each episode opens with the titles resembling a computer punch card. Early bird’s eye views of London, some location footage shot around Covent Garden and a trip to “the hottest nightspot in town” lend an air of contemporary modernity to proceedings. This is much more of an obvious 1960s adventure than Planet of Giants.
Boffins from an unnamed government department have created a super-computer W.O.T.A.N. – the Will-Operating Thought Analogue Network computer. Installed in the newly constructed Post Office Tower, W.O.T.A.N. will be able to communicate with all other computers worldwide. It isn’t entirely clear why this should be desired, but there you have it. The Doctor is immediately sceptical. He suffers from a prickling sensation which seems to warn him of impending peril; he even senses evil inside the P.O. Tower. This is a new facet of the Doctor’s character. Like his granddaughter Susan’s telepathic qualities [see The Sensorites], there appears to be something other-worldly about the Doctor’s physiological make-up, something more than his superior intellect which marks him as different from other humans. It doesn’t stop him being able to ingratiate himself quickly into society. Immediately after the TARDIS materialises, the Doctor and Dodo are being offered a guided tour of the computer facility atop the P.O. Tower. It’s almost as if he’s known to the authorities. Later on several people, including the now vocal super-computer, refer to him as “Doctor Who” – which I always considered was purely a quote from Ian Chesterton [see An Unearthly Child].
W.O.T.A.N. turns out to be your archetypical crazy computer. It learns to speak and uses electronic sound waves to hypnotise the department staff. W.O.T.A.N. has studied the history of Earth and decreed the human race to be a violent liability. It wants technology to assert control and will eliminate all those who show resistance. All across London, robotic War Machines are being built. Although it appears the action happens over a four day period, I rather fancy W.O.T.A.N. was already conscripting a mesmerised workforce down the telephone line for weeks so swiftly are the titular War Machines produced. It’s enough to explain that the Doctor saves the day. First he recognises that a War Machine will not attack if its prey displays no inclination to fight or flee. Secondly, having disabled one machine, he realises he can short circuit W.O.T.A.N.’s network by reprogramming it. These solutions are staple fare to any sci-fi ‘mad computer’ plot; you basically turn the pesky thing off. Stanley Kubrick recognised this, but turned the notion into a high point of tension in 2001. There’s nothing so watchable here. In fact, it’s rather anomalous that W.O.T.A.N. is powerful enough to learn speech, but not powerful enough to reprogram itself.
The War Machines is workmanlike television. It’s aims, beside entertaining an audience, are three-fold: present a modern-day threat, introduce two new companions, remove the current companion. It achieves these, after a fashion.
The modern day angle is fairly clear. The introduction of politicians, scientists and the army calls to mind the antics of Nigel Kneale’s Professor Quatermass. Later on, of course, the Doctor would have many dealings with political and military authority, but this is the very first. There’s a neat little parallel to James Bond c.2015 where Spectre’s aim is to infiltrate the world’s security systems by dialling into a new multi-national worldwide security network. As yet, OO7 hasn’t fought a super-computer though. Maybe we have that joy to come.
Two new companions are thrust on the Doctor: Polly, a secretary, and Ben, a de-mobbed sailor. They meet in the Inferno nightclub, a real jiving joint, stuffed full of a clientele so posh it has to be in Kensington! Ben, with his sailor suit and cockney accent, sticks out like a sore thumb. He’s impetuous, loud and has none of the gravitas of Ian or Steven. He’s like a keen little puppy, obeying the Doctor’s orders without quibble and making doe-eyes at Polly, “the Duchess.” Well, Polly’s eyes are conspicuously large. Her black mascara and long blonde hair calls to mind Dusty Springfield. I wonder if the idea of the rough and the smooth was a nod to the Modesty Blaise comic strip, popular at the time and made into a film the same year, with its refined heroine and gutter level sidekick. Neither newcomer makes a particularly grand impression, but it’s early days. Polly at least looks like a mature woman, which makes a change, although the Doctor still refers to her as “my child.”
Dodo makes an inauspicious exit. Hypnotised by W.O.T.A.N., she tries to enlist the Doctor to the computer’s cause. As he isn’t a human – although this isn’t exactly stated at the time – the Doctor doesn’t succumb to W.O.T.A.N.’s mind control and instead helps Dodo to partial recovery: midway in episode two the poor girl gets shipped to a country house to recover and isn’t seen again. It’s the worst departure ever, not helped by the fact it’s obvious her role isn’t even necessary to the plot. Jackie Lane never made much impact as Dodo. Her role was a continuation of Susan’s and, as such, it again calls to question why the producers wrote the Doctor’s granddaughter out in the first place. She could easily have lasted as far as this adventure, or perhaps left with Steven in The Savages. Speculation, of course.
So, after a fashion, all aims are achieved. Unfortunately, the adventure itself is rather flat, quite wordy and has too many plot holes. Episode three is particularly dull and ends with a tedious ten minute battle between the army and one of the War Machines. These lumbering contraptions are as bad a robot as we’ve seen so far on Dr Who. The Daleks looked great scouring London back in Season Two, yet Raymond London’s creations are indescribably ordinary, little more than a box with metal arms and wheels and a couple of lights. The gun barrel and the gripping hands are both virtual Dalek clones. Cheap and not even nasty.
It is good to see the production team attempting a new take on Dr Who. This type of story would become very familiar to the show’s fans as the years trickled by, but it isn’t executed very well here. You can only blame the writer [Ian Stuart Black, continuing less creditably from The Savages] and director [Michael Ferguson] who fail to inject any sense of tension. They’re let down by the poor standard of acting. Jackie Lane seems positively vibrant compared to most of the cast, and I haven’t often thought that. Most of the players are unfeasibly calm and rather pompous. Looking to the future, Anneke Wills as Polly certainly seems a hit, but I’ll reserve judgement on Michael Craze’s slightly crazed Ben Jackson.
Perhaps best of all is William Hartnell. As the show has progressed he’s come on stronger and stronger. The writers have toned down some of the Doctor’s abrasive edges, while still retaining his authoritative, condescending and impatient manner. They’ve made him less challenging to the audience’s perception of a hero. More human, I suppose. They’ve also played to Hartnell’s strength as a comic, although the best lines in this adventure aren’t even his: visiting the Inferno nightclub, the Doctor stands out in his velvet cape and cap; “I dig your fab gear,” compliments the sexy barmaid, stroking his arm seductively, “It’s not often we get the over-twenties in here.”
A partial success:
2 from 5.
Polly at least looks like a mature woman, which makes a change, although the Doctor still refers to her as “my child.”
I was just watching Anneke Wills in an episode of the Avengers ("Dressed to Kill" s3e14 December 28 1963), and though tiny she is definitely no child. She is a guest at a costume party flirting with Steed, in a skimpy cat costume, and the camera repeatedly zooms in on her costume's tail, also emphasising the highcut edge of her leotard, as Steed and other party guests comment on the PussyCat's tail (and Honor Blackman turns to the camera and winks, because she knows who the real Pussy is). So, pleased to see Wills is not playing yet another childlike Susan substitute in Doctor Who.
As I said upthread, I cant tell these early young lady companions apart, mostly because I've never seen their intro episodes that explain their character before they settle into formulaic plot function in their remaining stories. Amongst other things I've finally learned from this series of detailed reviews is which is which! and I'm surprised there were so many of them in seasons 2 and 3, I never realised the producers sometimes cast new companions at the beginning of a storyline and wrote them out in the same storyline having decided they weren't working. At least the actresses got a few weeks pay.
(EDIT: I know its offtopic but cannot resist the temptation: here is a shot of Blackman literally turning to the camera as Steed flirts with a character named PussyCat. Do you think she knew she'd already got the part in Goldfinger?)
Thanks for that little bit of cheekiness, caractacus !
Anneke Wills, rather tasty in that slender hipped sixties fashion.
The stories of the third season have proved generally inconsistent. This must be seen as a result of the change of producer and script editor. Verity Lambert produced the first nineteen stories and used two script editors. There was a constancy across each season marked by first David Whitaker’s and then Dennis Spooner’s astuteness. Subsequently to Galaxy Four, one team (John Wiles and Donald Tosh) arrived to be quickly replaced by another (Innes Lloyd and Gerry Davis). It’s fair to surmise that the unevenness of the stories can be part-way explained by the lack of consistency in the back room operations. Despite this, the season does contain challenging themes which the generally straight-forward structure of the first and second seasons did not.
We have the idea of history as myth – or myth as history, if you wish – and how interfering with history is not always such a terrible notion; there’s the suggestion of predestination, one the Doctor seems to believe in; a race of Amazonian women; beauty can be evil and ugliness can be virtuous; intransigence and prejudice persists through the eons; perhaps most prescient, the rise of computer networks and artificial intelligence is anticipated. It also pays not to take holidays in Tombstone, Arizona, 1881. The problem with these core themes isn’t that they are not relevant, but that they are implemented without much care and attention. Too often the result of the Doctor’s interference and investigation leads to some kind of slaughter. The half-hearted philosophising doesn’t marry easily with the need to keep the audience entertained. Too often the driving narrative force isn’t the theme itself, but the impact of the theme on the travellers, who invariably end up getting incarcerated, separated, rescued and reunited. Events seem to occur around them rather than because of them. This is particularly true of Galaxy Four, The Massacre and The Gunfighters; even The Myth Makers and The Ark leave the impression the travellers are not so much influencing the outcome as being present at its inevitable inception.
Very little survives from the third season’s 1965-66 transmissions; what does is certainly worth a look, but three complete stories and a few snippets plus all that audio can’t adequately convey how poor or successful the stories are.
I am currently on another Dr Who break having made it to the end of Season 11. Just to keep you all amused:
DALEKS’ INVASION EARTH 2150 A.D. (1966)
Forgetting for a moment about the mouthful of a title, this cinematic return of Doctor Who, impersonated once again by Peter Cushing, passes the time ably and competently enough. It follows roughly the same outline as the original serial The Dalek Invasion of Earth, so holds no surprises. Once again, a film was produced to be released during the summer, when Dr Who took a holiday from television and when most kids would be free to go to watch their hero at the cinema.
This time out, there’s no Jenny Linden or Roy Castle. Linden’s fetching Barbara morphs into Jill Curzon’s glamour-puss Louise, the Doctor’s niece, kitted out in Chelsea fashions. To replace Ian a new character, Tom Campbell, is introduced. He’s played by Bernard Cribbins, who had recently been involved in the Carry On series. Hence laboured comedy is often pushed to the forefront for his character. At least he’s better able to deal with both a comic scenario and being an unwelcome hero; Castle was lethargic at best.
Neither of these changes offer anything significantly different to the first movie. The action is diluted and congested into a short ninety-minute scenario. The best bits, much like the original, are the establishing sequences in an invasion torn London. Here, director Gordon Flemyng introduces one or two moments of suspense and a couple of genuine shocks to keep the kids gawping. The Daleks don’t have any iconic moments like they do in the T.V. show, but they certainly look menacing rolling around the rubble of a decaying Thameside dockyard. Unfortunately a few also seem to be falling apart. The Robo-Men are much better realised than on the telly. They move fast, they speak properly and they carry sonic ray guns. The underground resistance is the same motley crew as before. Andrew Kier has the largest role as Wyler, but Godfrey Quigley’s Dortmun is pretty good, probably better than Alan Judd. A few of the character names get shovelled around.
The absence of children – which I never noticed in the original – becomes rather obvious now Roberta Tovey’s twelve-year-old Susan is part of the action. She’s not given much to do this time around, but manages to wear her anorak through the whole story. Peter Cushing isn’t taxed much either. The companions are split up, which makes for three story arcs instead of one, and everything feels rushed because of it. Once or twice the silliness penetrates our consciousness. The huge chalk-written message which goes unseen was a highlight – or low-light, as it were – and the extended mime of Cribbins trying to collect and eat a Robo-Man dinner was plain awkward. There are however some neat little moments which come across quite well, for instance the two desperate widows who betray fugitives to the Daleks and a spiv-style informer named Brockley are reimagining’s which work admirably. The latter is played by Philip Madoc, who would grace Dr Who screens several times in the sixties and seventies, often as a villain.
The production design is as good as it was last time out. The team is virtually the same as before, so they know what they are doing and how to achieve it. I prefer the look of the cinematic telling to the original. The climax and the battle scenes seem more animated and furious than those before.
Overall, while Invasion Earth is a bit ham-fisted, I enjoyed it more than Dr Who and the Daleks. The story doesn’t hang about. It doesn’t need to. The undeniable daftness aids the telling. There’s nothing profound about this film; it’s a kid’s adventure, swift on explanation, action-packed and with a curious lop-sided charm. An awful lot has to be demonstrated and explained in one sentence, one minute, one moment. This makes it quite breathless. The Daleks, the Robo-Men and even characters such as the widows and Brockley are menacing and / or intriguing. The special effects are aren’t as naff as you expect; at least the alien space ship isn’t laughable, despite the presence of one supporting wire. For the beady-eyed it’s a bit remiss of the designers to feature a tatty underground billboard advertising James Mayo’s Hammerhead, introducing secret agent Charles Hood – or perhaps the Dalek invasion started in 1964 when that book was published…
The film’s no-where near as bad as some critics make out, but at the same time, it isn’t overly inventive. Interestingly, Invasion Earth does grab my attention, unlike the stately original. The movie’s run time is about the length of a four-episode Dr Who serial, so I wonder if my preference for this film over the original is because that was a slightly too long-winded six-part adventure...
A gentle smiley then. 🙂
This was great viewing for a 10 year old in 1966, once again seeing the action on the big screen in colour was a fabulous bonus. This is definitely an upgrade on the first movie and on retrospective viewings I’ve enjoyed the conciseness of the plot and the action is plentiful and energetic. Nice review, as always, chrisno1.
A few quick updates, to finish off William Hartnell's era:
Season Four - Part One
This story is, to all intents and purposes, lost.
The Smugglers begins as Ben and Polly charge unannounced into the TARDIS at precisely the moment the Doctor starts the dematerialisation process. There comes another discussion about the bewildering internal dimensions of the ship and its ability to travel through time and space. While annoyed the two companions have entered unannounced, the Doctor finds their incomprehension of the situation amusing. He tries to explain several times that he can’t control his ship [that’s new – he never admitted it before!] and has no clue where or when it will land. Hence when the travellers disembark on a Cornish beach, Ben wants to catch the next train to London and the Doctor muses that there may not be any trains at all.
It’s an irritating beginning, not because it reruns conversations we’ve heard with Ian and Barbara, Steven, then Dodo, but because the two newcomers don’t seem troubled enough by their circumstances. They both accept the situation at face value and rather than argue and fight, as Ian did in An Unearthly Child, they seem to blindly accept the Doctor’s eccentricities while not actually listening to what he’s telling them. This trusting nature – trusting of the Doctor or anybody – gets them into all sorts of trouble in The Smugglers.
The adventure pitches the Doctor into late 17th Century history, a time when pirates and rogues and smugglers roamed the coastal waters of England. Captain Pike and an unnamed local Squire are in competition for a cache of treasure and a horde of contraband goods. Michael Godfrey interprets the vicious pirate as a man who considers himself a seafaring gentleman, while Paul Whitsun Jones’ Squire is all bluster as a gentleman who believes he can be a smuggler. They are betrayed at turns by the uncouth, obsessive Cherub (George Cooper) and the slimy Kewper (David Kelly Blake). Everyone meets suitably bloodthirsty ends. The very few seconds of footage which remain are censored cuts of the murders, scenes considered unsuitable for an Australian TV audience and excised appropriately down under. They are some remarkably nasty killings.
The familiar plot lines of mistaken identity, incarceration and escape, investigate and reveal, fight and flight, are played out along the windswept coast, an inn, an abandoned church, its crypt and a pirate ship. It’s fun and occasionally frenzied. The acting is a bit melodramatic. Accents are all over the place. The portrayal of a West Indian shipman wouldn’t be written with such condescension today; full marks to Elroy Joseph for trying to give his character some dignity. Of the companions, Polly comes off best, vivacious and practical. Ben is wisecracking and impetuous. He provides several moments of humour when the locals fail to grasp his cockney slang. It does defy belief however that the very womanly Polly manages to go the entire adventure disguised as a boy.
If I’m honest, I enjoyed The Smugglers, even with only an audio track and photos. The tale rattles along at a fair lick. Chapter 4 is particularly action packed. Richard Hunt’s designs are on point. Brian Hayles’ writing is assured. I can’t comment adequately on Julia Smith’s direction, but the brief glimpses suggest a story told with vigour and energy. Listening to it now, it’s hard to understand why the serial received the lowest combined average ratings for the show until 1986.
The Smugglers was one of the very last purely historical stories. This format was deemed by producer Innes Lloyd to be of a lesser value than the futuristic sci-fi style serials. Now, the decision to stop making them seems rather short-sighted. An audience has a vague knowledge of the past and setting adventures in a historical context [e.g. The Reign of Terror, The Massacre] but not necessarily alluding to a recorded historical moment [e.g. The Aztecs, The Smugglers] can often create empathy for characters and location which cannot exist in the future based stories. It is also noticeable, especially in these early seasons, how much better the production values are for these adventures.
Lastly, a note on William Hartnell. Although The Smugglers was the opening story of Season 4, it was recorded in the production cycle for Season 3. After the story’s completion, Innes Lloyd took the difficult decision to replace Hartnell as the Doctor. The reason given is that he had difficulty learning his lines. This may have been true and was due to undiagnosed arteriosclerosis, not alcohol abuse or dementia, as is often claimed. If Hartnell was struggling, it certainly isn’t noticeable on screen. His performances across Season 3 and in The Smugglers far outstrip his work in Seasons 1 & 2. He grew steadily into the role. The early moments of character confusion have been replaced by a clarity and knowingness which can only develop over time as a personality takes shape both in the actor’s and the writer’s minds. He still occasionally displays irritability, a certain bolshiness, especially towards male authority which plays at odds to his kind and jovial manner with women and youngsters. Sometimes he really is like a befuddled old grandad and at others he’s a statesman, a scientist, a scholar. Always curious, never quite certain, yet ultimately always wise and smart enough to get one step ahead of his rivals in time to save the day, William Hartnell, while perhaps not quite being the very best Doctor, certainly set a high standard of achievement which would be hard for his immediate successors to emulate.
Back to The Smugglers: a rattlingly good:
3 from 5.
Season Four - Part One
THE TENTH PLANET
The Tenth Planet is rightly famous for being William Hartnell’s final regular appearance as the Doctor, although he did guest star in the tenth anniversary story The Three Doctors. It also introduces us to another of his most menacing adversaries: the Cybermen. What is often forgotten is what a splendid slice of entertainment Hartnell’s swansong is.
Unusually, the episode opens not inside the TARDIS but inside Snow Cap, an Antarctic space centre, manned by a multinational crew who are battling to save a stricken space probe. We know we are in the future because the title card is cleverly presented on a background of interchanging letters and numbers, designed to resemble computer tape. The travellers land on the frozen wildernesses outside the base and accidentally walk into a whole gamut of troubles. A powerful force is destabilising the Zeus IV probe and the Doctor correctly anticipates the appearance of the solar system’s lost tenth planet, Mondas, as well as the arrival of the robot-like Cybermen.
[This, like incidents in The Massacre, again suggests the Doctor has foreknowledge of the events he steps into; after all, he is an expert on space and time travel, why wouldn’t he know of earth’s future history? And is he aware of the influence he will have before the moment arrives?]
Together, the travellers and the beleaguered technicians fight off the Cybermen’s advance party, prevent the launching of a catastrophic Z-Bomb and, taking the Doctor’s advice, hold off the main Cyber force long enough for terminally unstable Mondas to destroy itself. The planet had been primed by the Cybermen to absorb energy from Earth; the robotic Mondans, now unable to reproduce, were seeking humans to turn into more Cybermen.
Writer Kit Pedlar was a physician by trade and his screenplay dips into two contemporary public fascinations, the space race and the birth of artificial transplants. The scenes inside the space centre, its technicians eager and perspiring, galvanised into action, are a small-time replica of the energy and focus witnessed on television screens as NASA sent rocket after rocket into space in an effort to reach the moon. The adventure is set in 1986 – which seems horribly twee now, but the writers weren’t to know the show would still be transmitting fifty years hence – and, befitting an expected upward shift in technology, the monitoring centre is small and compact. Snow Cap itself is much more extensive than Peter Kindred’s interior sets suggest, containing a medical centre, barracks, a missile silo and housing several squadrons of soldiers. I was impressed that when the Z-Bomb missile is prepared for firing the silo is clearly positioned at a different location to the base entrance. This attention to detail is welcome. Another neat example of progress – this time civil – has Snow Cap, Zeus IV and the International Space Command H.Q. in Geneva all manned by personnel from around the globe, suggesting a much more tolerant and cooperative society. The probe’s pilot, Williams, is played by Thunderball’s Earl Cameron, the first instance on television of an African American playing a commanding astronaut. Occasionally, however, the script and direction don’t compare so well. For instance, it’s disappointing there’s no place for women in this modern world [1986! Ha!]. Polly at one point is reduced to making coffee, although she does volunteer for the duty, so it’s hardly society’s fault.
As the story progresses and Mondas begins to drain the Earth’s energy sources, the sense of a genuine international crisis takes shape. Kit Pedlar [or script editor Gerry Davis] inserts newsroom footage, scenes at the I.S.C., communication with the U.N. military and has 230 Cyber-ships land around the world. One character refers to the invasion as “the first interplanetary war.” This heightens the stakes and increases an already tense atmosphere. I’m not sure I’ve watched an early Dr Who adventure where I felt so involved in the machinations of the narrative: will the Zeus IV probe be saved, who are the cybermen, will Cutler succeed in launching the Z-Bomb, will Mondas disintegrate, etc. etc.? The questions, puzzles and resolutions come thick and fast and full of fury and menace. Several times director Derek Martinus uses close-ups to excellent effect, increasing the sense of claustrophobia, of heat or cold, of terror. There’s brilliant sound effects from Brian Hodgson, turning the viewing experience into more than a visual one.
Congratulations too must be extended on Peter Kindred and uncredited costumer Alexandra Tynan for ensuring the Cybermen did not turn out like another version of a Dalek or an oversized slug. Taking the Cyber Leader’s recited history of Mondas as a starting point, they manufactured a robot-like, yet humanoid looking creature; they almost have facial features, they still have real human (Mondan?) hands, they can walk and move and fight realistically, if sluggishly. Even with their oversized ray guns, skull-mounted flash lights and weird confusion of battery chest packs, the Cybermen are phenomenally convincing. As the show progressed, the costume designs would be appropriately, sleekly, refined, becoming by far the most effective of the Doctor’s great enemies. It is perhaps their very other-human-ness which lends the Cybermen such a powerful presence. In this debut appearance we learn the Mondans have removed so many unnecessary limbs and organs they have become unemotional androids. Kit Pedlar’s fascination with how medical technology could soon be able to replicate, transplant and substitute human body parts led him to speculate on whether that might lead to a dehumanisation of our species. The Cybermen are the logical conclusion of that thesis. It is notable that the Cyber Leaders, whose mouth’s open and close but do not form words, use sing-song, pitched speech, as if they still, somewhere have a semblance of a former life trapped inside the brutal, unemotional exterior. Later writers would cut out the colloquialisms as these silvery men became more and more like giant robots.
The human dynamic has not been forgotten either. The British boffins Barclay and Dyson are given ample time to display both fortitude and doubt. If Michael Craze’s Ben is still too hyper active, at least his non-volubility suits the situation, all panic and sudden decision. Polly isn’t given a whole lot to do other than make coffee, but she’s a decorative, persuasive presence. Because Polly, at turns, appears genuinely scared, confused or elated, we believe in her character far more than the adolescent cheerfulness of Vicky and Dodo or the boisterousness of Ben. Anneke Wills also offers probably the shrillest, most chilling scream from a companion yet. The stand-out performance is by Robert Beatty as the bristling, obsessive General Cutler. He displays arrogance and incomprehension when faced with the Mondas crisis, only understanding the power of might. Once the life of his son is threatened, Cutler becomes as merciless as the Cybermen, suggesting not all the Mondans’ cruelty is due to their lack of human emotion.
There’s a couple of nods to James Bond movies past and present: two astronauts are in peril in space, Ben crawls through a ventilator shaft, radioactive reactor rods are used to kill the villains. But the biggest influence on the adventure is probably the repetitive plots of 1950s sci-fi movies, where isolated communities of assorted characters have to fight off an alien menace. The Thing, Day of the Triffids, It Came from Outer Space, The Creature from the Black Lagoon and Invaders from Mars all share the same basic premise. The Oscar winning When World’s Collide features a storyline very similar to the Earth-Mondas plot.
Three episodes remain of The Tenth Planet. It is disappointing the missing chapter is the finale. I watched Planet 55’s animated reconstruction, which gives a decent idea of how the action may have looked. The audio track is a bit bumpy. The defeat of the Cybermen takes up the bulk of the chapter, but the Doctor is hardly involved. He’s offered the solution as early as episode two and it’s been down to Ben, Polly and Professor Barclay – a well-judged performance from David Dodmead – to save the day. Instead the Doctor has been looking increasingly tired and distracted. He staggers back to the TARDIS and William Hartnell has the last of his great prophetic speeches:
“It’s all over, that’s what you said? No, it isn’t all over. It’s far from being all over. I must get back to the TARDIS immediately. I must go now!... No, I can’t go through with it. I can’t. I will not give in!”
The TARDIS begins to malfunction, the dials and levers whirr, unsynchronised, frenzied, as if the ship recognises the cosmic change about to take place. The Doctor collapses. The sound of the ship dematerialising accompanies a close up of the Doctor’s grimacing face. Gradually William Hartnell fades into a haze of bright light and a younger face emerges from the glow, smiling.
The first regeneration is startling and sudden. Whatever the reason for Hartnell’s departure – and it isn’t clear over fifty years on – the solution found by script editor Gerry Davis had two important effects: it prolonged the show by providing a method to constantly reinvent itself and it finally confirmed to the audience that, while he appeared to be human, the Doctor was in fact an alien lifeform. These are tremendous revelations, for our and the writers’ future interpretation of the character and for the show’s longevity. It’s also worth noting how painful the regeneration is for the First Doctor. He doesn’t welcome it. He doesn’t want it. He resists it. William Hartnell played the Doctor as a much older man than any of his successors and it is hinted here that he has clung on to his body too long.
[The rebooted series would approach this subject in some depth.]
William Hartnell may well have been stepping out the exit door, but his farewell is a fantastic slice of science fiction. It is occasionally rocky, but all the early adventures were. He shares a couple of grandstand scenes with the Cybermen and General Cutler, giving vent to the Doctor’s righteous fury. In others he retains the doddery, playful nature of the old man. As the regeneration approaches, Hartnell turns introspective, wearisome, befuddled. For once, he seems at a loss, his faculties blunted; the assurance he previously displayed has entirely vanished. It’s a fine, veiled performance and an unsentimental one. William Hartnell’s Doctor exited the show exactly as he entered it, fighting off the unwanted intruder with all his petulant belligerent brilliance. I think I’ll miss him.
The Tenth Planet, despite some minor faults, is for me an undoubted classic:
5 from 5.
I remember the regeneration scene, it was a much anticipated event. It’s unbelievable how short sighted the BBC were in wiping videotapes.
@CoolHandBond did you know in advance the Doctor was going to somehow to change to a different actor? how did you think they were going to explain that before you saw the actual episode? Did you know the new actor was going to be Troughton and were you familiar with the actor?
Looks like a few seconds of the actual regeneration sequence survived, if not the entire episode.. I wonder how this bit escaped destruction? recycled in a documentary perhaps?
@chrisno1 now you've completed your reviews of all the Hartnells, including all those audio-only episodes, I gotta say this series of detailed reviews forms a valuable encyclopedic reference I'm sure folks will be consulting for years to come! for this thread alone I nominate you as candidate for Agent of the Year award!
@caractacus potts very kind words there, Mr Potts.
Just to prove even good agent's have off days, I should have mentioned I have, of course watched the regeneration scene. It survives because, before the BBC wiped the serial, this clip was shown on the children's television magazine show Blue Peter. Many excerpts from Dr Who only survive courtesy of the excised clips not being trashed along with the bulk.
@caratacus Potts yes, the event had been well publicised in the press and probably Radio Times so we knew why was coming. I was not familiar with Patrick Troughton, I was only 10 when this was broadcast and he was someone I had not knowingly seen before. I remember there being a lot of playground chat about it, Doctor Who was very popular amongst us kids.
I would like to echo your thanks to chrisno1 for this thread, it is bringing back lots of memories and I am presently clawing my way through the backlog of episodes on BritBox, although I am only on The Time Meddler currently.
The First Doctor - William Hartnell
Summary – Part One
William Hartnell’s departure marks the end of the first era of Dr Who. These early adventures featured an untidy mixture of creative fantasy, drama and science, which did not always hang together well. What Season One demonstrates was how innovative the production team had been in moulding the Doctor, his companions and the various worlds and times he visits. They were almost always surprising and intriguing. Going forward, Hartnell’s stories relaxed, discovered more humour and outrageous adventure. This did not always sit well beside the prerequisite excitement. Season Two suffered from over ambition and some episodes ended up looking rather silly; others were mundane and would have benefited from a spit and polish to the design, the script or the performances – perhaps, sometimes, all three! During the Third Season some difficult themes were broached and the audience was challenged to interpret or reinterpret their expectations. This should be applauded, especially as the producers still had to entertain. Unfortunately the attention to detail which upheld Season One and, in the main, Season Two was missing. Several stories looked seriously underfunded and the constant reinterpretation of the Daleks whenever a robot was required becomes laughable. It is with some relief these two tasters for the Fourth Season suggest better times and more realistic monsters are on the way.
I'd like to say, 55 years after his departure, thank you to William Hartnell for creating the earliest embodiment of the character of the Doctor and providing a solid and memorable portrait of a hero generations of children and adult fans have grown to love. A magnificent and impressive portrayal.
And for their contributions as companions, the two actors I found most engaging:
Carole Ann Ford as Susan
and Peter Purves as Stephen Taylor
An additional footnote about the Daleks
THE CURSE OF THE DALEKS (1965)
As originator of the Daleks, Terry Nation was given the creative rights to his monsters. This allowed him to approach Milton Subotsky with the aim to produce a trilogy of Dalek movies. It also allowed him to authorise official merchandise. Hence the shops became flooded with board games, wallpaper, jigsaws, soap and little tin Dalek models, to name but a few items. None of these really had anything to do with Dr Who, the television show. Even the movies only used the Doctor as a named character, his background was deliberately altered so as not to resemble William Hartnell’s Doctor. This didn’t matter to Terry Nation, whose coffers must have been overflowing with Dalek revenue. The third film was to be based on The Chase, but as the box office for Invasion Earth only turned a measly profit the idea was scrapped. Dalek-mania was probably on the wane by 1966 anyway.
Nation had been intent on giving his creations as much exposure as possible. So, along with Dr Who’s former script editor and occasional screenwriter David Whitaker, he penned The Curse of the Daleks, a one-off stage show which premiered at London’s Wyndham’s Theatre in December 1965. It doesn’t feature the Doctor. The story takes place fifty years after the television serial The Daleks. An Earthbound space ship The Starfinder crash lands on Skaro. While carrying out essential repairs, Captain Redway learns that someone among the crew has breached the city and reactivated the depowered Daleks. Professor Vanderlyn and his female assistant Marion Clements hope to use them for their own ends. Together with the Thals, the Earth crew manage to thwart the Daleks again.
The play ran for a month of matinees, suggesting it was aimed at children. Big Finish Productions released an audio realisation of the play in 2008, starring Michael Praed. I have been unable to track down an online copy, but as this is quite some way removed from official Dr Who ‘canon’ I’m not sure I’m missing much.
I mention this stage play mostly as a point of interest regarding the next adventure in Dr Who’s Dalek legacy The Power of the Daleks. David Whitaker also wrote that serial and he reuses the plot devise of depowered and reanimated Daleks, as well having misguided humans believe they can control the most evil race in the universe. The audio version is available to purchase, you can track it down on Amazon fairly easily, if you really want to. It may be remiss of me, but I really didn’t want to.
It's time to concentrate on Bond for a brief moment...
My retrospective will continue in October with a whistle stop 21 day tour of the Patrick Troughton era.
I have been absent from this thread for some while. The excitement of No Time To Die had withered somewhat and I've started my course at Open, so my time's been all over the shop. Bond interfered far more than I expected. I really had to think hard about that movie.
Anyway, I am now back on the case, and will be concentrating my efforts this month and next on a constant day-by-day posting of Patrick Troughton's and Jon Pertwee's stories and eras.
I saw my first ever Jodie Whittaker episode last weekend. I was not impressed.
Roll on tomorrow for The Power of the Daleks...
And so I at last deliver on broken promises...
The Second Doctor - Patrick Troughton
Season Four - Part Two
THE POWER OF THE DALEKS
There is as good as no surviving footage of Patrick Troughton’s debut as the Doctor. What few seconds do remain only provide a tantalising glimpse at the unsettling impact his appearance must have made on an audience acclimatised to William Hartnell’s irritable ways. Ben and Polly discover the Doctor unconscious; it becomes clear they haven’t fully witnessed his transformation and are confused as to who he is, although as Polly points out “The Doctor’s the only other person in here.”
Confusion is right. Not only has the Doctor’s face, physique and countenance changed, but so have his clothes. This new man looks, acts and behaves like some deranged oversized munchkin, with his mop of unkempt black hair, chimney pot hat, incessant flute playing, constant muttering and a tendency towards gurning and chucklesome laughter. The connection is made clear to the audience however: when the New Doctor stares at his reflection in a mirror, initially we see the First Doctor and slowly Hartnell’s face is replaced by Troughton’s. As the image changes, so does Troughton’s demeanour, suddenly becoming cheerful and communicative, as if satisfied with the result. He doesn’t fully explain what has happened, only that the TARDIS aided his renewal [note: not a regeneration] and was responsible for his survival.
[Later on, in the adventure Castrovalva, the Fifth Doctor would use a facility called the Zero Room, a section of the TARDIS set aside to assist his regenerations. This does not appear to be used here, although Gerry Davis described a regeneration chamber in his novelisation of The Tenth Planet. Perhaps the TARDIS’ recuperative powers stretch throughout the vessel’s interior...]
Ben refuses to accept this stranger. The New Doctor is scornful of his doubt: “I’d like to see a butterfly fit back into its chrysalis case after it has spread its wings.” This is a great line which tells us of the New Doctor’s confidence, his disdain for his former self, the immediate suggestion he will do things in his way. There is defiance in Troughton’s early moments and the very few seconds of surviving 8mm footage hint at his competency and assurance. He’s very odd, slightly scatty, and has already developed one or two defining character traits. Best of all, he is convincing, at least audibly. When he announces the TARDIS has landed and he’s leaving to investigate, a startled Ben asks if he’s going to check the atmosphere or the scanner. Troughton’s reply is sharp and sudden: he reels off the scanner statistics with barely a pause. He might appear bumbling, but this New Doctor is as fastidious and detailed as his predecessor. He also shares the annoying habit of getting into trouble.
The travellers have arrived on the planet Vulcan. A large but unstable Earth colony exists under the authority of Governor Hensell, a blustering Peter Bathurst. The Doctor discovers the dead body of an Earth Examiner, steals his identity pass and impersonates him, ingratiating himself with nobody in the process. The scientist Lesterson has been experimenting on an excavated space capsule, which he says has been buried for two hundred years. The Doctor reveals to Ben and Polly that the Professor is actually reanimating an inert Dalek.
[The reboot episode Dalek followed a similar storyline but wrapped its narrative up in fifty minutes.]
Not only is Lesterson smitten with using the Dalek ‘robots’ to aid mineral production, but he’s surrounded by a group of self-serving politicians, scientists, soldiers and rebels who all want to use them for their own ends. Robert James brilliantly portrays the Professor’s obsessive nature. Pamela Ann Davy is wickedly unscrupulous as his assistant Janley. Perhaps best of all among the excellent [verbal] performances is Bernard Archand’s steely Security Chief Bragen, an astute depiction of a man fixated on the attainment and retention of power. After he seizes control of the colony, Bragen implements Stalinism, using his Secret Police to purge his supporters as well as wipe out his opponents. Even Bragen’s uniform looks as if it’s been worn by a member of the politburo.
The Daleks have a significant and vastly different role to play thanks to David Whittaker’s astute screen story – although the script was substantially rewritten by Dennis Spooner. The Daleks display cunning, deceit and subterfuge. They are not the blank remorseless killers of Terry Nation’s imagination. Here, one Dalek gains the trust of a scientist, demonstrates its servitude and continues the deception long enough to instigate a whole production line of Daleks just waiting to exterminate humans. No one on Vulcan seems to be aware of the Daleks’ history, so it must be assumed this story takes place prior to the invasion of Earth. There is also a moment when the initial Dalek recognises the Doctor, despite his change of face. This seems unlikely, unless the Daleks can scan DNA.
[Perhaps this story takes place after The Evil of the Daleks, which I will come to later.]
Even when in disguise though, it is hard for these merciless killers not to betray their true nature; at one point a Dalek stops itself from using the phrase “Daleks are better than humans” while at another, a Dalek screams “I am your servant!” over and over, drowning out every one of the Doctor’s objections. By making the Daleks characters in the human narrative, cooperating first with Lesterton, then with Janley, yet always retaining their own agenda, Whittaker [or Spooner] succeeds in turning them into individuals. No longer can they be seen as mere homogenous monsters. It’s noteworthy that everyone trusts them. Having been disarmed, the Daleks use cunning, wit and intellect to succeed. Brute force only comes at the denouement once their army is assembled. This is a brilliant reimagination of conquest by stealth. Lesterson eventually sees the error of his ways after witnessing a conveyor belt of half-constructed Daleks being assembled, including a sight of the embryonic glutinous mass which inhabits the casing. Horrified, he turns insane: “They are the new species,” he wails, “Man has had his day.”
The final chapter is a chaotic gruesome sequence of revolution and extermination. It’s loud and bloody. Polly is so terrified she’s almost reduced to tears. Anneke Wills shines again in her thankless supporting role. Patrick Troughton’s Doctor has also spent most of the story doing very little. Although he’s always present, he’s not as forceful or proactive as Hartnell’s First Doctor. He does an awful lot of investigation, but it’s not clear he knows what he’s doing. He almost expects events to run their course, nicely reinforcing the Code of Non-Interference. His hand in the Daleks’ spectacular destruction is as good as accidental – but he won’t or can’t admit it.
The Power of the Daleks is a fine entry into the annals of Dr Who. Christopher Barry once more directs with verve and vision. Derek Dodd’s sets make minimal use of fantastic design elements, making this future outpost much more homely: apartments have terraces, windows have blinds; there’s a backcloth landscape of a city sweeping into the distance; the mixture of the familiar and the imagined gives the Vulcan colony a lived in quality, hinting that even in the future some comforts will remain the same.
It was a smart move by producer Innes Lloyd to distract from the new, Second Doctor by having his arch enemies take centre stage so much of the time. Fine performances from a great cast also help take the heat off Patrick Troughton. It ends with the most violent and visceral collection of scenes yet filmed for Dr Who.
It’s a pity there isn’t a single episode available to watch as the full impact of The Power of Daleks can’t be judged through stills or the BBC approved animation, of which I checked out a couple of episodes. Nonetheless, a very exciting:
4 from 5.
Two months after it was transmitted, The Highlanders became the first Dr Who serial to be ‘wiped.’ It vanished forever and thank goodness for that. Loose Cannon Productions’ reconstruction probably can’t do the story proper justice. The transfer of both audio and pictorial stock is poor, but what I witnessed was a desperate affair indeed. Like The Smugglers, The Highlanders sets an adventure in a historical context (after the battle of Culloden) but encompasses no specific historical event. Unlike The Smugglers, it isn’t any fun and lacks excitement.
The travellers land in Scotland, meet a group of rebel clansmen protecting their injured Laird and are subsequently involved in a dastardly scheme to sell prisoners as slaves. Hannah Gordon pops up as a Scottish lass, Kirsty. The villains are remorselessly badly played by Dallas Cavell, as the pirate Trask, and David Garth, as a rogue English solicitor named Grey. Like Marco Polo or Robespierre, other true-life characters portrayed in Dr Who, the latter is in fact a real individual, though barely known. Grey’s depicted crimes marry his actual actions. It’s worth noting too that the McCrimmon Clan, represented here by the youthful Jamie, are indeed a family with a long history of military pipers.
Back to the adventure, such as it is. Polly gets separated from the boys, teams up with Kirsty and does a lot of plotting. Ben spends most of the story incarcerated, but escapes a keel hauling using the skills of Harry Houdini. [Who’d have thought that?] The Doctor acts the clown, impersonating a German physician, a washer woman and a redcoat soldier. Patrick Troughton’s array of misjudged accents is quite appalling. His performance is the complete opposite of what it was in The Power of the Daleks. Gone is the authority and inquisitiveness. Instead we get a man intent on cracking jokes and making fools of people. It isn’t unknown for the Doctor to don a disguise or two, but Troughton’s routine contains no restraint. His ‘washer woman’ is particularly ill-conceived. If the script was amusing it might help, but the dialogue is tremendously ordinary and lacks any subtlety.
By the end, the highlanders of the title are freed and Jamie McCrimmon is invited to join the TARDIS crew. The producers must have seen something in Frazer Hines that I couldn’t, for his part here is remarkably small. Having already unceremoniously dumped Katrina [see The Daleks’ Masterplan] and not taken on board Anne Chaplet [see The Massacre] both on the grounds that a character from the past would precipitate too much explanation, it’s a sudden about-turn to give an 18th century Scots laddie a shot at it. Apparently he’s going to teach the Doctor to play the bagpipes. Heaven forbid!
1 from 5.
THE UNDERWATER MENACE
I’d like to say “Let’s get the good stuff out of the way first” – but I’m struggling to find the good stuff in The Underwater Menace. It’s difficult to know where to apportion the blame.
Is it the terrible overacting of the cast? Among a litany of bad performances, Diamonds Are Forever’s Joseph Furst must take top prize. His portrayal of the insane Professor Zaroff is, well, insane. Zaroff is the mad scientist to cap all mad scientists. He’s discovered the lost continent of Atlantis, revitalised its fish-food stocks and plans not to raise the sunken land mass as he claims, but to create a water pressure point so great the earth will be ripped apart. His certain death and that of the world doesn’t concern this wild-eyed eccentric. There have been and will be many bad performances in Dr Who; this is arguably the very worst.
Is it the hackneyed script? Credited to Geoffrey Orme, but rewritten several times, this tensionless adventure rips off old Republic serials like Undersea Kingdom, Jules Verne novels and James Bond. The villain keeps a pet octopus, feeds Siamese fighting fish and likes to blow things up. He welcomes the end of the world. The heroes are fed to sharks. Atlantis is accessed via a deep elevator and has reinforced windows staring onto the underwater world. The story certainly has all the shaky hallmarks of those old Saturday morning flicks: capture, chase, fight, escape, peril, etc, etc.
Is it the production design? Jack Robinson’s blend of modern and ancient doesn’t work. His sets are borderline drab. The theme is reinforced by the costumes with their clash of the contemporary and the ancient: the adventure is set in the mid-1980s and the scientists wear modern garb while the Atlanteans look as if they’ve escaped from some bizarre fairy story, or perhaps from Season One’s The Aztecs.
Is it the hopeless plot? The science is rubbish. The writers attempt to explain it. They really do. Yet the idea of a suboceanic land mass and its people hiding off the coast of the Azores can only be described as the kind of wishful thinking you read in those fantasy adventure novels of Victoriana. Apparently, the Atlanteans survived for centuries in air pockets in the caves – and never found out there’s an island and a volcano above them which keeps shipwrecking sailors, providing a handy source of slave labour. They also turn some unfortunates into fish-people. Oh, yes, the fish-people…
Is it the fish-people, the nominal ‘monsters’ of the story? Badly realised, barely needed and they can’t even talk. These engineered mutations don’t serve any purpose to the story and are not remotely interesting.
Is it the lack of suspense? Probably. It’s fair to say the climax sounded noisy and busy. [Episodes one and four are lost, so words and pictures only]. Otherwise this is very wet in the telling. Dudley Simpson’s incidental music is a catastrophe of weird inappropriate sounds and actually subtracts tension. The endless trawls through mines and caves are a crime to the audience’s patience. Topping the lot is a scene where the scientist Damon tries to operate on Polly and turn her into a fish-person. It’s certainly frightening, but not how you’d think. This should be a moment of suspense to savour as pretty Anneke Wills is dragged whimpering to the operating table, but it’s frightening only by its ineptitude. Director Julia Smith, who I thought probably did excellent work on The Smugglers, is swimming far out of her depth here.
Is it the companions? There doesn’t seem enough action for three. Jamie’s acclimatisation to the TARDIS and time travel is swift beyond belief. There’s little friction between the trio, but it always feels as if one is being side-lined in favour of the others. [They take turns, which is nice.]
Is it the lead actor? In an escapade where the Doctor again appears to have some prior knowledge of the situation, Patrick Troughton is conspicuous by his overplaying, not sharing the fears of his associates. This adventure boils down to one man’s personal vanity. As such, Troughton’s performance conforms to the central theme. He’s developed a scene-stealing, fiddly, Stan Laurel demeanour which distracts from the information he imparts or the action and actors around him. Either he isn’t, or the Doctor isn’t, taking things seriously. There’s even a couple of moments for Troughton to dress up again, first as a priest and then as a camp street hustler complete with shades and a funky cloak. The Doctor looks more likely to pimp Polly to the nearest punter than resolve the plot. This particular scene, set in an Atlantean market place, ends in pantomime farce. I almost expected Catherine Howe’s confused looking Ara to shout: “He’s behind you!”
Two points of minor interest: there’s a nod to traditional feuds as the priesthood conducts a long-running conflict with the scientists and another to the Doctor’s secret identity, for he signs a note “Dr W” which suggests he likes the moniker “Doctor Who” and must have adopted it permanently after The War Machines.
I’ve gone on long enough. The Underwater Menace is an extremely soggy exercise indeed:
½ from 5.
I'd like to be able to see The HighLanders, even if its lousy, because its the the intro of Jaimie. He must be the longest serving of the original companions, and he and the Second doctor develop a good comedy rapport, lots of physical comedy moves. So its a significant Companion intro to be missing.
When do the "Base Under Siege" stories start? If they don't start til later, don't leap ahead, but hopefully when we get there you can point out when that format begins and discuss why.
When do the "Base Under Siege" stories start?
@caractacus potts I call it 'those in peril' - watch this space below.
Kit Pedlar’s The Moonbase reintroduces the Cybermen, who have been re-costumed by Sandra Reid with a more slender suit-and-helmet design featuring handguns attached to their wrists which spray lightning bolts of deadly energy. Their voices have changed too. Sadly, the new metallic groaning isn’t any more convincing than the high pitched sing-song of before, and it’s quite hard to pick some of the words. Also, the actors are still being asked to move with unbearable slowness. Nonetheless, these rejuvenated monsters are a vast improvement on their cumbersome forerunners. Hence the climax of episode 3, where hordes of silver clad warriors march across the barren moonscape becomes probably one of Dr Who’s most stunning and iconic cliff hangers.
Unfortunately, the adventure which surrounds the emotionless Cybermen is an almost scene for scene rerun of The Tenth Planet. It lacks all of the former story’s panache, style and performances. Long-running TV shows tend to return to familiar plot lines, but rarely do they have the audacity to repeat them a mere three months apart. Kit Pedlar also wrote the screenplay unaware there would be a third companion, so Jamie is reduced to lying injured on a sickbed or sharing lines with Ben.
Patrick Troughton’s Doctor also does very little, once again appearing to let matters run their course before jumping in with a last minute solution. He spends the majority of his time bumbling about attempting to find a cure for a mysterious ‘space plague’ that’s infecting the crew of the International Space Command’s Moonbase, an outpost which uses the high velocity Graviton device to control the Earth’s weather systems. When not bumbling, the Doctor simply seems to be standing, pausing, observing proceedings. He even states: “There’s always a weakness. We just have to wait to find out what it is.” One moment of interest occurs when for the first, and I believe only, time the Doctor's thoughts are provided for us via a voice over, Patrick Troughton attempting to unravel the Cybermen's plot. As a device, this doesn't work as it only reveals the Doctor to be as befuddled as he's acting, but I applaud the attempt to do something different with an established format and character.
The Second Doctor’s inability to be proactive doesn’t sit well with me. Hartnell, I’m sure, wouldn’t allow his central character to be so unburdened. His trio of companions seem to do most of the work and are particularly active in episode 3. Even though Ben and Polly suddenly prove themselves very adept scientists, Anneke Wills character still ends up making coffee. And more than once. This may be an attempt at humour, but like the Doctor’s fumbling, it all falls remarkably flat.
Blame for this lacklustre serial must lie with director Morris Barry, who fails to inject any sense of urgency into proceedings, and script editor Gerry Davis, who hasn’t noticed the very obvious flaws in both the science and the plot. Almost every incident of note fails to make any sense. There are too many inconsistencies and moments of unbelievability. Top of them all is to wonder why the Cybermen, having broken the Moonbase’s exterior shell with a laser, stop firing and inexplicably bring up a second more powerful laser, which the Graviton easily deflects; asking the follow-up question, why didn’t the Earth crew deflect the first laser? The serial contains at least a dozen examples of poor story construction. If the performances and the action sequences had been better, the producers might have got away with it, but across the board this is a very tepid show.
There’s no incidental music for this one. Instead stock sound effects are used, adding a constant, creeping mysterious ‘outer space’ atmosphere to the piece. It was good to see the I.S.C. is still a multinational task force, but the story lacks the epic worldwide sweep provided in The Tenth Planet. The characters are less involved beyond their limited environment and so, therefore, are we. Colin Shaw’s sets are good, but given there are only three of them, the action feels restricted and small. It was fun to see the travellers arriving in a non-oxygen environment and donning spacesuits to explore the moon’s surface.
Many commentators consider The Moonbase to be an out-and-out classic, chiefly because it is the earliest example of the ‘those in peril’ format, where the Doctor and a small band of conspirators are consigned to a small setting and put under siege by marauding aliens. The Moonbase fulfils the criteria, but for some reason, despite the extremely enclosed setting, the threat never becomes pertinent. I put that solely and wholly down to the lack of tension.
Only episodes 2 and 4 survive so, out of curiosity, I viewed these in a colourised print and thoroughly enjoyed the garishly flashy look of the thing. The official black and white animated versions of episodes 1 and 3 were a good representation of what I might have watched instead. Regrettably, not colour nor animation can sway my overall opinion: The Moonbase is a dull and workmanlike:
2 from 5.
THE MACRA TERROR
Any assessment of The Macra Terror is immediately hampered by the adventure being one of the ten Dr Who serials for which no extended footage exists. While this usually doesn’t affect my ability to gauge a missing story’s effectiveness, I was helped immeasurably by five of those serials being historical and two offering the familiarity of the Daleks as opposition. So I didn’t need to make on-the-spot judgements about future technology, futuristic sets and the impact of monsters. Indeed The Savages featured no monsters, while Mission to the Unknown is a prelude to the epic The Daleks’ Masterplan and fits in neatly with that story; it’s also only one episode long. Only The Macra Terror and the later six-part Fury from the Deep concern unknown alien creatures. And it is the less than successful impact of the titular monsters which hinder my thoughts here.
I viewed The Macra Terror from Joint Venture’s reconstruction and also, for comparison, re-watched episodes through the BBC’s official animated version. Director John Davies sensibly kept his lobster-like creatures in shadow for most of the time and I can’t tell from the production photos or the brief clips how impressive or not they are. The monster – the BBC only had one prop – does appear to be unfeasibly large. Nonetheless a scene where Ben and Polly are attacked by a trio of Macra has tension and impact. Unfortunately the drawn out endgames of episodes 3 & 4 don’t suggest these crabby enemies are in anyway terrifying. The laboured telling defuses all tension. Scenes of people grappling with enormous predatory crab claws don’t help either. It just looks silly, even in a still shot. This is disappointing because The Macra Terror, while superficially a sci-fi revolution story, has undercurrent themes of state control and indoctrination, allowing an almost Orwellian atmosphere to pervade much of the action.
The TARDIS lands on an unnamed Earth colony which seems to be a place of perpetual enjoyment. Theme parks, music, dance and health spas abound. The travellers revel in the relaxation. Even the Doctor gets a makeover. Hidden behind the joviality is the sinister, unseen ‘Control,’ who has been manipulated by the Macra, the planet’s huge crustaceous beings, into brainwashing the colonists. Now, humans mine poisonous gases which help the Macra to stay alive. This regurgitates a plot line from the Season 3 stinker Galaxy Four, but here writer Ian Stuart Black doesn’t bother to explain how the two civilisations manage to coexist. He does however present a unique vision of how the colonists are domesticated, indoctrinated and enslaved. The Macra pump gaseous drugs into the human’s sleeping chambers while at the same time transmitting mesmerising subliminal docetic messages. This reminded me of Blofeld’s tactics for his ‘Angels of Death’ in On Her Majesty’s Secret Service. While the humans don’t pedal genocide, they do run their colony – or rather the Macra’s colony – along Stalinist lines.
[Point of order: how did the Macra take over the colony without anyone noticing?]
There are black garbed police patrols, curfews, regular news announcements, the cult of personality, ‘correction’ facilities and a demonstrative belief in “healthy happiness.” The Doctor isn’t taken in for one minute. Neither is Jamie; the repetitive messages keep him awake and his mind stays too alert to be receptive. Ben, bless the lad, is turned and becomes an informer for the security police.
In fact one of the better aspects of the adventure is how well written the companions are. Nobody is wasted, no one has to stay in gaol or be sick, each contributes fully to the story’s narrative drive and in its climax. The boys are more than competent with the action and Anneke Wills once more offers her throaty whimpering and screaming, an exceptional depiction of panic and fear. Patrick Troughton still struggles though; having been allowed by the script to play the jester in episode one, he morphs again into a bumbling, unknowing genius. This is obviously a character trait the producers and, I assume, Troughton himself have decided is best for the Second Doctor. I’m already finding it tiresome. I’d prefer my heroes to show more authority in their antics.
The Macra looked better in the colour animations. As did the set designs. The soundtrack was very good quality, so Peter Jaffrey’s staunch Pilot, John Hodges’ archetypical deluded scientist Officia and Gertan Klauber’s sulky Security Chief Ola come across well, audibly. There’s a snazzy new credit sequence, with Patrick Troughton’s face peering out at us and the title cards flashing over the iconic space howl. Occasionally though, I caught myself losing interest in the story, probably because there are holes in the plot big enough for a Macra to crawl through. Despite a strong underlying theme, good performances and an eventual explosive climax – exactly how did everyone survive this cataclysm? – The Macra Terror is a disappointing:
THE FACELESS ONES
Dr Who’s second sojourn into the modern day is an alien abduction mystery set at Gatwick Airport. David Ellis and Malcolm Hulke’s script steals liberally from the premise of Don Siegel’s classic movie Invasion of the Body Snatchers and Dr Who’s own recent story The Tenth Planet.
Here, the TARDIS lands on the airport runway causing havoc to air traffic control. In the ensuing chase, Polly hides in a warehouse rented to Chameleon Tours and witnesses the murder of a police detective, who appears to have been killed with an electric pulse ray-gun. No one in authority believes her or the Doctor. The holiday company is a complicated front for an alien race called, conveniently, the Chameleons, whose population is suffering from extreme radiation sickness following a nuclear war. They are abducting youthful humans and transferring their victims’ physical features onto the emaciated remains of their humanoid bodies. On screen this is a neat special effect; the writers don’t bother to explain how the process actually works. It would be too extraneous. In fact, the whole story is peppered with plot holes and continuity issues; for instance: how come no one noticed an enormous space craft hovering over the Earth? did no one miss 50,000 people? what happens to a Chameleon if its host body dies? if they are the most intelligent creatures in the universe, why haven’t the Chameleons developed any anti-radiation medicines or perhaps cultured organic skin materials?
The serial starts well, with plenty of intrigue, a little humour and some peril, particularly for Polly who always seems to get the rough end of every bargain. Anneke Wills and Michael Craze had their contracts cut short before filming and their swansong as companions comes to an abrupt end, one which echoes Dodo Chaplet’s departure. They are effectively written out in episode 2 – frozen by the Chameleons to become two of the fifty thousand – only to make a fleeting reappearance at the end of the story just to say goodbye. I never warmed to Ben, although his rough and ready attitudes provided a healthy contrast to Polly’s sophisticated Chelsea chic. A relationship between the two was always hinted at and Jamie McCrimmon’s appearance accidentally created the seed of an awkward love-triangle as sometimes Ben’s dialogue was fostered onto the young Scot. The trio only worked well in The Macra Terror, which offered them each opportunities to take centre stage. Polly is probably the first ‘traditional’ female companion: bright, good-looking, modern, not given to science but eminently capable, good at screaming, easily frightened yet full of fortitude, makes coffee, asks lots of questions.
The absent Polly is replaced by no less than three different women: Wanda Ventham’s secretary Jean Rock, Madalena Nicol’s Nurse Pinto and the outstanding Pauline Collins as the spiky, headstrong Liverpudlian Samantha Briggs. Playing well against Frazer Hines’ Jamie, Collins was offered a contract to become the next companion, but turned it down. Later, of course, Miss Collins had great theatrical, television and movie successes. She shines here, making gold out of sand. It’s good to see so many female characters in a show which has a tendency to be overpopulated with men. Colin Gordon’s Airport Commandant is probably the best of the blokes in this one. When not dealing with bossy women or trying to wrestle with officious authority, the Doctor and Jamie spend a fair bit of time with each other and we begin to see the rapport building between Patrick Troughton and Frazer Hines. It’s a charming double-act which the writers would note and expand upon for the remainder of the Second Doctor’s era.
The story dips badly after episode three, loses most of its air of mystery and never picks up pace again. The final resolution is tame and very swift: logistically, repatriating 50,000 miniaturised people from a space station would surely take ages; here, it appears to take an afternoon. It’s good to see the Doctor offering his scientific services to the beleaguered Chameleons, but he doesn’t appear to actually follow through on his promise. The best moment of the show – Pauline Collins’ performance aside – is our first sight of the alien at the end of episode one, a huddled, sickened, crag-like, veiny monstrosity, its eyes staring into nothingness. We are uncertain if we should be scared of or sympathetic towards what is clearly a pathetic creature. The air of doubt created by the scene is note-worthy.
The Faceless Ones was once completely lost, but now two episodes do exist and in 2020 the BBC cobbled them together with four chapters of colour animations. I couldn’t find that version online and sadly the reproductions I watched were shoddy affairs, so maybe my enjoyment was hampered. Unfortunately, I can only judge on what I see:
2½ from 5.
THE EVIL OF THE DALEKS
In a Dream Watch poll of 1993, The Evil of the Daleks was voted the best Dr Who adventure of all-time. As there is only a single episode remaining of this serial, I can only assume this was voted for by fans either with exceptionally good memories or wearing rose-tinted spectacles. What I saw isn’t that good. Not by a long chalk.
The main barrier to satisfaction, other than the vast majority of the adventure being wiped by the BBC, is the story’s elaborate and convoluted plot, riddled as it is with unanswered and unanswerable questions.
The story begins directly where the end of The Faceless Ones left us, with the Doctor and Jamie searching for the TARDIS, which appears to be missing. This is quite a jovial start, with elements of humour and intrigue. I enjoyed these little snippets of detective work. The scene in the café was particularly good, with music from the Beatles in the background identifying a time and place. They track the TARDIS to an antique shop, which sells brand new objects d’art from eras of antiquity. This is a good mystery; I was instantly intrigued. The travellers don’t find the TARDIS, but are instead tricked into entering a different, 19th Century, time machine which transports them back to a mansion estate in Victorian England. Here, two scientists, Theodore Maxtible and Edward Waterfield, have developed a rudimentary Time Machine using mirrors and electric pulses. I chuckled here; if it was this easy, we’d all have one, right? Unfortunately this time machine only brought forth the Daleks.
[How? Does this machine work like the molecular disseminator used by the S.S.S. in The Daleks Masterplan? Did the scientists know they were importing another lifeform from another planet? The machine must work two-ways, so were they not aware they were bringing back Daleks? What other alien creatures or items did they procure?]
The Daleks kidnapped Victoria, Waterfield’s daughter, persuading him to use the machine to steal the TARDIS and lure the Doctor to the Maxtible Estate.
[Why? The Daleks already have a time machine; they don’t need Waterfield’s. Does this story take place before The Chase? And if not, how do they know where the Doctor is in time? How can they have perfected a plan to kidnap the Doctor using a time machine they could never have known existed? Why don’t the Daleks simply kill Waterfield and Maxtible and operate the time machine themselves?]
The Doctor must carry out experiments on Jamie which will help him identify and isolate the ‘human factor.’ The Daleks threaten to destroy the TARDIS if the Doctor refuses to cooperate.
[How do the Daleks know of Jamie? The TARDIS is indestructible; what sort of threat is this? Far easier to threaten a person.]
The ‘human factor’ will be introduced into the Dalek psyche. This will enable them to think like humans and eliminate mankind – the one race they have never managed to subjugate. Meanwhile, Jamie is kidnapped by a local hoodlum, Toby (played with brief panache by Windsor Davies, soon to be a household name in sitcoms). This happens for no reason what-so-ever.
[It really does; it is a pointless sequence.]
Toby was employed by Terall, Maxtible’s daughter’s fiancé, who is being controlled by the Daleks.
[It is never explained why. And if they can control him, why don’t the Daleks just control Waterfield and Maxtible in the same manner and cut out the kidnap ploy?]
Freed, Jamie passes a series of tests designed to kill him.
[If he fails, how would that demonstrate a ‘human factor’ – he’d be dead?]
He rescues Victoria with the help of her mute muscleman of a servant Kemel.
[Why is he mute? This makes every single one of his scenes excruciatingly sluggish as his fellow actors reinterpret everything for his benefit.]
The Doctor realises this ‘human factor’ will make his arch-enemies less evil.
[It temporarily turns three experimental Daleks into playful children; this involves a horrible scene where Patrick Troughton rides on a Dalek and plays at being trains. It was cringeworthy listening to it. Goodness knows what it must have looked like.]
Eventually, somehow and for some reason I didn't manage to comprehend, the action transfers to Skaro and the original Dalek City. This is a neat touch, bringing the Dalek narrative full circle.
[I think this involved another time capsule of some sort, I honestly didn’t notice. The Daleks, for some reason, take the TARDIS with them. There was no need; they were going to blow up the mansion and everyone inside it anyway, so there’d be no one left to blackmail]
The Dalek Emperor explains that the true reason for identifying the ‘human factor’ was to eliminate it from the Daleks’ spirit, creating an undefeatable ‘Dalek factor.’ Thus he plans to spread his poison throughout the human colonies, creating humanoid ‘Daleks’ and an unbeatable, remorseless, merciless army. The Dalek Emperor is a fantastic invention, a static, huge mechanoid, linked by metal octopus arms to the consoles surrounding it, presiding over its underlings, who scurry beneath it like downtrodden robot serfs. Maxtible meanwhile hopes to gain the alchemist’s dream, the formula to turn base metals into gold. He’s slowly been revealed as blinded by greed and has been manipulating Waterfield to aid him, first to build the time capsule, then to help the Daleks.
[It raises the question why the Daleks need two scientists, when clearly one of them is fully co-operating. Waterfield is a nuisance to them and to Maxtible.]
The Doctor double-double-crosses the Dalek Emperor and replaces the ‘Dalek factor’ with his last vial of ‘human factor.’ This produces a few amusing scenes as previously obedient Daleks begin to question authority. An all-out civil war ensues with remarkable speed. Waterfield dies saving the Doctor; Kemel dies protecting Victoria; Maxtible dies in the city, full of the joys of being a mind-mutated ‘Dalek factor Dalek.’ The Doctor, Jamie and Victoria escape as the city burns around them and the Daleks embark on an endless and self-destructive battle: “The final end,” concludes the Doctor.
The story looks good. The design can’t be faulted. Chris Thompson’s period sets and Sandra Reid’s costumes are first class. The futuristic stages and model work are maybe not quite as grand, but it looked like fun blowing them up. Director Derek Martinus has trouble maintaining full purpose. The opening two chapters are very strong, packed with quirky scenes and lots of clever dialogue. The show dips a little for the next three. Everyone becomes a prisoner and most of the story is set within the confines of the Maxtible mansion. Luckily the final two episodes are a breathless ride and almost redeem the mid-section, which feels extremely slow in comparison.
The acting is fairly good too, even if the characters border on stereotypes. Guest stars like Marius Goring and Brigit Forsythe help immeasurably. Deborah Watling is underused as Victoria Waterfield, but she’s a pretty presence and joins the TARDIS crew as a fresh-faced orphan. Frazer Hines in particular comes up trumps. He carries the action for most of the serial’s mid-section and has a great scene with Troughton which recalls the First Doctor’s arguments with Ian and Steven. Jamie accuses him of being callous, cagy and egocentric. For this adventure, he’s not far wrong. Troughton’s performance is quite startling because for the most part he reacts to the situations without cracking jokes, hamming it or getting dressed up in disguises. He is definitely quite shifty and self-centred. Although it turns out he has all along been acting a role, the fact he was able to do so raises the question of why the writers prefer the bumbling cheery version to the secretive, wary, disciplined one. Troughton delivers a brilliant line when discussing why he’s helping the Daleks: “I am not a student of human nature. I am a professor of a far wider academy of which human nature is but a part. All forms of life interest me.” Towards the end, when the new ‘Dalek factor’ fails to turn him, the Doctor admits, for the first time, he isn’t human. We’d kind-of twigged that.
The Daleks themselves have a robust final fling, but are bystanders for much of the narrative. While the idea of a Dalek with a soul has its attractions, there is still more appeal in them not having one. The ‘evil factor’ is what makes a Dalek a Dalek and why we love them. When “Exterminate” was replaced with “Why?” they started to sound like metallic union bosses and their aura of invincibility and cruelty vanished. This is not how I want to see the greatest of Dr Who’s villainous aliens.
Overall this is a solid adventure let down by a ponderous centre and a hopeless narrative. The Evil of the Daleks was meant to write the Daleks out of Dr Who. David Whittaker’s script does just that. But the beauty of time travel is, you don’t have to meet your enemies in your present. Eventually, the Doctor’s arch adversaries would return. This temporary farewell gets a cautious:
Summary - Part Two
After a marvellous beginning, something seems to go horribly wrong with the Second Doctor’s initial season. The Power of the Daleks displays all the classic ingredients of a great Dr Who story: an exceptional villain, evil monsters, a good support cast, great design, a clever and literate script. That these fundamentals appear to be abandoned for most of the remaining stories is concerning. One can only assume that producer Innes Lloyd and his script editor Gerry Davis were struggling to come to terms with a new Doctor and, as is the nature of long-running shows, were having to adapt already commissioned screenplays to account for this. The sudden appearance of Jamie into the TARDIS crew delivers the same problem. In several episodes one or two of the travellers are simply written out, allowing another to seize the stage. This is particularly hard on Michael Craze’s Ben, a character I never warmed to anyway, but whose role is never fully developed. The stories following the opener are uniformly workmanlike. They suffer from ragged design, frequently undercooked performances and, critically, some terrible lapses in continuity. However, it is difficult to judge the season’s impact, or lack of it, when so little remains. None of Troughton’s first seven stories survive complete. Indeed of the 35 episodes only a lowly 7 can be viewed. This really isn’t enough to pass informed opinion. Patrick Troughton himself appears not to understand his role fully and a series of skits attempt to mark him out as dramatically different to William Hartnell. The differences should add tension. Oddly though, it is the similarities between the First and Second Doctors which creates friction on board the TARDIS for the opening adventure. The Doctor appears obstinate, discourteous and scatter-brained. I had a sense that David Whittaker’s script for this and The Evil of the Daleks owed more to Hartnell’s interpretation than Troughton’s. The latter ought to be given plaudits for providing a new spin on the former’s irascible nature. But for the remainder of the season, there’s a desperation on the part of the production team to make the Doctor a loveable, genius buffoon. The attempts don’t work. The show isn’t supposed to be a comedy and much of the exaggerated humour falls very flat. There are attempts to innovate, including The Moonbase with its enclosed-set-under-threat ideas, but without a strong central character the season’s stories struggled to convince. I can only hope this is a ‘bedding in’ period and better things are on the horizon.
THE TOMB OF THE CYBERMEN
American sci-fi fan John Kenneth Muir rated The Tomb of the Cybermen the best Dr Who story ever made. He also ranks Patrick Troughton as the best Doctor. In his book A Critical History of Doctor Who on Television, he raves and raves about this adventure for five whole pages. I won’t be swayed by his rhetoric. I honestly believe he’s biased towards the Second Doctor’s era as he even talks up stories where there is little or no filmic evidence available. Now, Muir is very well read and watched. He has detail in his mind or in reference libraries which he can call upon to make comparisons and draw influences. He does conjecture hard about what makes a serial great, why an audience does or ought to enjoy it. Sometimes, though, I can tell he hasn’t really studied what he can visually see or audibly hear.
The Tomb of the Cybermen is not a perfect Dr Who serial. It is very good, certainly, but it has several shortcomings and if an adventure is obviously deficient, if it lacks style and grace, if it makes me laugh at odd places, I can’t consider it to be a five-star story, let alone the very best of a series’ adventures. Unfortunately for Kit Pedlar’s third Cybermen epic there are several clear issues:
1. The second half of the story, which predominantly features the titular monsters is less dramatic than the first. It lacks suspense at key times and the smallness of the tomb set is shown up to be incompetent. Time seems to shrink and expand when it suits the director; the tunnels to the last resting place of the Cybermen look about ten feet long when they should resemble a one or two hundred metre catacomb maze. This would make the chase scenes less absurd. Cameraman Alan Reed inserts a few nifty angles, but director Morris Barry needed to do far better than this.
2. The Cyber Controller has a ridiculous ‘brain dome’ instead of a helmet. He is the only cyberman to speak. The same metallic whine is used to disguise his speech as in The Moonbase and I could barely catch a word he said.
3. The Cybermats are a good foil, but after an early appearance where one attempts to bite the jugular of Kaftan, they don’t pose any particular threat. The scene where a half-dozen ankle-high metal armadillos terrorise six full size human beings was borderline hilarious. Considering Victoria had earlier shot one [when did she learn to fire guns?] the solution should be fairly apparent. A stupid, stupid scene.
4. At one point a Cyberman throws Kaftan’s bodyguard Toberman through the air and we can clearly see the zip-wire attached to his belt. Later on, when Toberman returns the favour, the Cyberman is clearly just an empty suit.
5. Having been freed from their tomb, the Cybermen don’t have enough energy to stay alive, so they need to re-entomb themselves. This flatters the writers, who now only have to deal with one Cyberman at the story’s climax, but makes no logic of the monsters’ scheme. Additionally the recovery chamber is in the main vestibule and nowhere near the actual tomb; another mishap which serves only the writers’ needs.
6. As the climax to episode four approaches, some scenes or dialogue seem to run in the incorrect order; for instance Toberman has been half-converted into a Cyberman and the Doctor appeals to his human nature for help, yet this happens far too early in the narrative at a point where Toberman’s muscle power isn’t required.
7. There is a special effect for the Cybermen’s wrist guns, but no one thought to provide any F/X for the archaeologists who are still using pistols and bullets. This makes no sense; we know technology would have moved on in the five hundred years since the attempted invasion of earth!
These issues detract from a very competent story. The stage is well designed by Martin Johnson. The hibernation tomb itself resembles a futuristic Petra, hewn as it were from solid rock. It’s a pity the reception chambers aren’t as elaborate. The hatchway to the lower levels doesn’t work as a prop and ought really to have been a sliding door. Nonetheless, the tale does look good. The location footage is particularly striking. The serial features a range of fine performances and a proliferation of genuine cliff hanger endings.
Firstly though, let’s consider Victoria Waterfield. Deborah Watling seizes her role and gives a whole-hearted performance, adding some nuances to her character, who was thinly drawn in The Evil of the Daleks. She seems ill-at-ease wearing a fragile, above-the-knee dress and is very obviously scared as the team of space archaeologists attempt to enter the tomb of the last Cybermen, buried somewhere on the planet of Telos. She begins to demonstrate more fortitude after a heart-to-heart with the Doctor where the two of them discuss loss and grief. For me, this demonstrates Patrick Troughton at his very best. He isn’t fawning or acting the clown, he’s not befuddled, scatty or manic; he’s very calm, quiet and concerned. He even reflects on missing his own family, reminding us he does have a granddaughter. He concludes the counselling with a great summary of travelling the stars which also reflects on the audience’s role as participants on those journeys: “Our lives are different to everyone else’s. No one else in the universe can do what we are doing.”
Here, I like Victoria. If she’s occasionally a little too modern for a 19th Century girl, perhaps this is a reflection of how her attitude has adapted to the new universe she has encountered. It isn’t clear how much time she’s spent in the TARDIS between encountering the Daleks and meeting the Cybermen. I suggest much longer than the few minutes of screen time it takes the Doctor to explain the rudiments of the time ship [useful again for any newcomers watching the series]. We also learn he’s approximately 450 years old! Frazer Hines’ Jamie is becoming a more rounded individual too. As the better experienced of two ‘historical’ companions, he has to carry the bulk of the techno-babble. There’s a neat shot where, as the Doctor rambles on, we see Jamie in the background explaining to Victoria what he’s talking about. Hines plays well with Troughton and there’s another playful moment when, in offering to take Victoria’s hands, they accidentally clasp each other’s, but continue walking forward, oblivious. This subtle comedy is much more appropriate to the show than the disguises, pratfalls and mockery we witnessed in Season Four.
The supporting cast is headed by George Pastell as Erik Klieg, the crazed envoy of the Brotherhood of Logisticians. This authoritarian organisation has funded the expedition, but has an ulterior motive: Klieg wants to use the Cybermen to help the Brotherhood launch a violent coup on Earth. This resembles the motives of Bragen and Listersen in The Power of the Daleks. Klieg’s utter conviction he can control the monsters is also similar to Mavic Chen’s belief in The Daleks’ Masterplan. Like the latter, Klieg is suitably manic, especially towards the end. He has several excellent head-to-heads with the Doctor. At first Klieg can’t fathom the logic system used to open the tombs. We think he’s incompetent and so does the Doctor. Later, we realise he’s been deliberately misleading everyone as he manipulates the hibernation chamber controls with ease. It’s interesting to note that From Russia With Love’s Vladek Sheybal was suggested for this role. I can’t imagine him being as forceful as Pastell, who is rather good indeed.
Klieg is accompanied by Shirley Cooklin’s unscrupulous Kaftan – a female villainess being another throwback to The Power of the Daleks – and Roy Stewart’s mute Toberman. Stewart of course would later co-star with Roger Moore as Quarrel Jr in Live and Let Die. As the token black presence his role is underwritten and stereotypical. This may be hindsight writing, but why does the strong man / bodyguard / mute giant have to be black? I had similar misgivings about Kemel in the previous story The Evil of the Daleks. However, I was impressed that Toberman, who starts out a villain’s stooge, mentally asserts himself over both his old masters and his new cyber-masters, eventually becoming the hero.
The remainder of the cast sticks to Pedlar’s idea of a multinational International Space Command and share an array of accents and disparate levels of performance. During the first two episodes, as the explorers investigate the tomb, there is obvious tension between the archaeologists. This propels the narrative and keeps us interested. Once the Cybermen have emerged from their cocoons – another iconic episode ending – the human confrontations shrink into the background and the remaining episodes are a basic rerun of The Tenth Planet and The Moonbase [i.e. a small group of humans fend off the attacking cybermen in a confined environment]. The only consolation is the rantings of Klieg and the sacrifice of Toberman.
Worth noting is the repetition of the ‘those in peril’ format which Kit Pedlar introduced from his previous Cyberman adventure. Here, as there, the Doctor and his companions are trapped in an enclosed, or cut-off, environment and attacked by an enraged enemy alien. Unlike the tensionless The Moonbase, the writers fully deliver on the premise and construct situations which, for the most part at least, feel dangerous and certainly put our heroes in necessary peril. The producers must have noted the potential of the format during the making of The Moonbase as, with minor alterations, the format is reused in six of the seven stories of Season 5.
There isn’t very much wrong with The Tomb of the Cybermen, but when it is wrong, it delivers the serial a huge disservice. Almost, but not quite a classic:
4 from 5.
THE ABOMINABLE SNOWMEN
The title of the Fifth Season’s second adventure gives the game away too early about who the monsters may be, but that doesn’t detract from some splendid entertainment. The TARDIS lands in the Tibetan Himalayas – represented by North Wales – and the Doctor is excited to return to the Det Sen monastery with a Holy Ghanta, a sacred bell he was given for safe keeping when he last visited.
[This untelevised story must have occurred between The Power of the Daleks and The Highlanders as Jamie has not been to Tibet, yet the ancient High Lama recognises the Doctor.]
All is not well at Det Sen: the monks are besieged by marauding wild Yeti; a visiting anthropologist, Professor Travers, accuses the Doctor of murder; Jamie and Victoria are trapped in a cave full of strange glowing metallic spheres; the Abbot is behaving oddly, spending most of his time in communication with the unseen High Lama Padmasambhava. The Doctor, once he clears his good name by returning the Ghanta, soon realises the Yeti are in fact sophisticated robots controlled by mind spheres. The question is: controlled by whom?
Padmasambhava has had his life sustained for over three hundred years [they say two hundred, but that’s a miscalculation as the Doctor previously visited in 1630] by a Great Intelligence, a formless alien being intent on reinhabiting a material body. The Doctor outsmarts this lifeforce in a battle of wills, his companions destroy the hidden control centre and the mountain containing the mass of spheres explodes. The High Lama is finally able to die at peace.
What makes The Abominable Snowmen such a good adventure isn’t the Yeti monsters, but the distinctiveness of the Great Intelligence, an unusual adversary for the Doctor. This entity can control human lives for centuries. It has scientific knowledge, can educate and coerce, ensuring the High Lama creates advanced technologies to further its aims. The scenes where the Abbot is entranced by the Intelligence inside the Inner Sanctum chill because this evil appears so benign. It has been impersonating the mouthpiece of Buddha, a man-god, and deceiving his followers for decade upon decade. It has a great will, but no frame to sustain it. The overlapping of Padmasambhava’s voice with that of the alien’s is excellently realised. As the Intelligence becomes more powerful, the High Lama strains to be recognised. Their conflicting voices portray the mental battle raging inside the creased old body. Victoria is the first to witness the corrosive effect of the entity on a human: Padmasambhava is a shrivelled, crumpled mess of a person. Full marks to Sylvia James’ make-up team. This ‘adversary’ is more evil-looking than his ‘monsters.’
The Yeti monsters themselves are not a failure, even if they do look a trifle too cuddly. Director Gerald Blake is careful to disguise his hairy beasts. Early on we don’t see them at all. The eventual initial encounter between a Yeti and Jamie is shockingly effective, as are the battles between the monks and another. Blake’s close-ups and swift editing create visceral, confused moments of high action. Only when he occasionally shows the beasts full length do they fail to ignite our interest. It’s disappointing there’s only one surviving episode [plus a few excised clips] of The Abominable Snowmen as the Yeti do look much better on film that in photo. Loose Cannon’s reproduction is okay, but it does lose some visual magic.
Luckily the audio soundtrack is complete. This provides evidence of the outstanding lead performances from the travellers. Patrick Troughton is again on top form; gone is his fussing, erratic, confused idiocy. Instead we have infectious, gleeful curiosity. Plaudits too for Frazer Hines and Deborah Watling who ebulliently sustain our interest. Wolfe Morris is spine chilling as Padmasambhava / The Great Intelligence. Jack Watling – Deborah Watling’s father – is merely adequate as Professor Travers, but he would return to better effect later in the series. Of the monks [and they don’t look anything like Tibetan monks, a curious oversight from the costumers] the best is probably David Spenser’s novice, Thonmi. The soundtrack also allows us to hear Brian Hodgson’s excellent special effects, never better than in episode one as he builds the atmosphere of the open Himalayan wilderness and the enclosed, quietude of the monastery, which initially appears abandoned. Malcolm Middleton’s sets are first class. Location shooting helps too, although it would have been nice to see snow!
The story has a tendency to wander during the mid-section, but it does reach a fine climax. It certainly sounded spectacular and I’ll trust it looked it. There is one very prominent plot hole: how did the High Lama manage to build such advanced machinery on his own without anyone noticing and why has nobody challenged his excessively long lifespan? One has to assume the Great Intelligence induced some form of group hypnosis, but writers Mervyn Haisman and Henry Lincoln have omitted to suggest so. This kind of basic error has begun to creep into Dr Who with increasing regularity. In fairness, the adventure is more concerned with the then unique ideas of alien possession, unseen entities, the nature of evil and the purpose of life. The abominable snowmen of the title aren’t relevant to that and are merely a vessel to provide the prerequisite action. It is the malevolent power of the Great Intelligence which terrifies most.
As a side note, the real Padmasambhava was an 8th Century monk who founded the Tibetan branch of Buddhism. He wrote several religious books, one of which espoused the theory of death being preferable to suffering. This is particularly apt in The Abominable Snowmen as the fictional Padmasambhava has suffered torment for three hundred years and, on his sorrowful demise, is released from the anguish.
A very good and very unexpected:
THE ICE WARRIORS
Brian Hayles’ third authorial effort for Dr Who opens over a series of stunning glacial landscapes. The titles are huge, bold and fill the whole screen. Ron Grainer’s audio effects and Dudley Simpson’s musical score conjures eerie, whistling atmospheric sounds. Director Derek Martinus zooms into the interior of an icebound base beneath an enormous protective dome. A command centre is in crisis, its Ioniser control system in meltdown. The scurrying technicians are a sleekly dressed, fashionable bunch – spray on conditioner, kinky boots, funky eyeshadow, miniskirts, hot pants and jump suits. As an audience watching in 2021, I was transported almost immediately back to a 1950s view of the future; then again it might be the sixties: all those short skirts and the curious, weeping, humming music score reminded me of Star Trek, a show which at the time of The Ice Warriors’ transmission had already been on air in the U.S. for a year. The circular control room could have been culled from the bridge of the U.S.S. Enterprise.
These first impressions do not last. Easily dismissed as an inventive reworking of Howard Hawks’ cult horror flick The Thing from Another Planet, The Ice Warriors is in fact a story much more concerned with humankind’s over-reliance on technology. In 1967 this may’ve seemed an unlikely premise; fast forward fifty years and the way our world functions has begun to resemble the slow-witted, detached lifestyles of Controller Clent and his cohorts, led by the icily efficient Miss Garrett. These functionaries cannot operate without a computer. They need its advice and computations for the smallest of decisions. The Doctor arrives into a maelstrom of chaos, realises the central computer [Hayles called it ECCO in his novelisation, but it’s unnamed here] is malfunctioning and recalibrates it, saving the Ioniser core. The Doctor invokes immediate suspicion because he used his intuition, not programmed logic. Meanwhile, a research team inspecting a rapidly oncoming ice flow discover a giant figure trapped deep in the glacier.
The opening chapter of The Ice Warriors is far and away one of the cleverest and most intriguing twenty-five minutes Dr Who has produced for some time. Earth is in the midst of another Ice Age, brought on by under-plantation [by 2021 the science doesn’t hold up for this, but it probably sounded perfectly reasonable in 1967] and the Britannicus Ice Base is at the forefront of a battle against nature, its Ioniser melting ice as fast as the glaciers are extending. The location of the base is never mentioned, but the name suggests it must be somewhere in the UK. It’s housed in an old stately mansion, the panelled walls and gaslight fittings still in place; it reminds Victoria of her home. Clent explains the building was once of historic interest. This is a neat touch, suggesting not everything changes so fast in the future and, in retrospect, may explain why the London of 2165 didn’t look too far removed from London in 1965 [see my review of The Dalek Invasion of Earth, above]. There are however those snazzy outfits, wrist watch communicators, advance miniaturised medicines, tiny taser guns and an over reliance on technology. What they can’t do in the future is fight mother nature. A spectacular avalanche kills a scientist. The oncoming glacier is a constant, hawking threat, burdening the lives of everyone inside the base. It is almost driving them mad. Clent in particular seems unable to comprehend the situation, more concerned with his personal standing than any compassionate actions. Outside, on the tundra, two fugitives – Storr, a scavenger who has returned to traditional hunting methods, and Penley, a rogue computer expert who fled the oppressive base in protest – are battling to survive the elements. Arden, in a scene more reminiscent from the 1930s classic Buck Rogers, then uncovers the Ice Warrior and attempts to thaw it. As Jamie and Victoria discuss the fashions of the year 3000AD, the reptilian looking beast opens its eyes, starts to breathe and flex its pincer muscles. Another fantastic episode ending cliff-hanger!
The whole adventure doesn’t quite match the brilliant, intense and gratifying opening, where all the major characters are effectively introduced, the landscape of its telling is explained and the main thrust of the story is developed. The Ioniser continues to be the focus of the adventure. Varga, the Ice Warrior, [who never calls himself such, nor does he call himself a Martian; he only says he comes from “the red planet”] has been buried for millennia and wants to return home. He defrosts his companions and plans to escape the earth, but needs the Ioniser core to power his spaceship. Clent now can’t activate the Ioniser to melt the glacier because he fears it will react with the spacecraft’s atomic engines and cause a nuclear holocaust. A tense standoff ensues which only Penley’s sudden human illogic solves.
Throughout the adventure there is tension, drama and a good deal of excitement. There’s barely a bad performance. Peter Barkworth’s ranting, accusatory and panicky Clent is probably the standout routine. Aided by a limp, a walking stick and an agitated attitude, he’s believable, crass and sympathetic all at once. His antithesis is Peter Sallis [yes, he of the jovial Last of the Summer Wine and Wallace and Gromit, reminding us he could do serious as well as funny] who as Penley has assurance, clear-headedness and a conscience unbound from computer logic. This twosome’s warring rivalry gets gold stars all round. Yet we mustn’t forget Wendy Gifford’s fetching Miss Garrett, a young, capable woman unable to comprehend life beyond the restrictions of technology. Or Angus Lennie’s grimy, stickleback Storr, whose interaction with Peter Sallis is a series of brilliant socio-comic vignettes, the two locked in an orangery, delaying and delaying the inevitable, like Vladimir and Estragon from a futuristic Waiting for Godot. So too an unrecognisable Bernard Bresslaw [yes, he of the Carry On sagas, reminding us he also could be serious] as Varga, a monster with legitimate reasons for his villainy, considering humans a threat to his own race.
This is also Patrick Troughton’s first tour de force as the Doctor. He is incisive, reflective, justifiably stroppy and occasionally humorous. Wrapped in a fur coat for most of proceedings he looks like your mischievous cuddly uncle, the one just as likely to start an argument as cool a confrontation. Troughton’s subtle where it counts, never over-the-top and careful to ensure he rolls with the suspense rather than heightening it with his trademark caterwauling. He leaves all that to Deborah Watling, who is reduced to screaming virtually non-stop until she inexplicably vanishes at the end of episode five. Jamie’s immobilised for most of the serial so the field was left remarkably open for Troughton to shine. I’m pleased he’s finally found his niche as the Doctor for after the opening season I had my doubts.
It’s noticeable too that The Ice Warriors includes humour to deflect the tension. Some of this is physical, although not in a slap-stick manner, most is verbal, caustic little asides of dialogue, like the Doctor on hearing the base is fully computerised remarking: “Oh, well, never mind.” Penley has a penchant for depreciating irony – Sallis can’t help being amusing, even when he’s playing with potential tragedy. Confronted with a marauding hungry bear, Penley says to the injured, stretchered Jamie: “I don’t intend to leave you here as an hors d’oeuvre.” Even Bresslaw’s Ice Warrior has a nice line; confronted by the scruffy-looking Doctor he seems to chuckle: “You don’t look like a scientist. You look more like the scavenger… and I killed him.”
The Ice Warriors is a fine piece of entertainment. It’s excellently designed, well played and directed and is probably the finest exponent of the ‘those in peril’ format. It does have a few idiosyncrasies [what Dr Who story doesn’t have dodgy laser guns, elastic plot lines, weird science, unexplained time lapses and cheap-looking special effects?] These are overcome by the powerful playing of the cast, an insightful screenplay about man’s reliance on technology and the taut claustrophobic direction. Jeremy Davis’ interiors and crunchy, spiky, icescape exteriors are wonderful. Martin Baugh provided the futuristic costumes and well-realised reptilian monsters. While the costumes are probably the best the designers have come up with so far, the serial’s biggest detriment is the hissing voices of the Ice Warriors which I struggled to hear properly. I had similar problems with the metallic shrill-like vocalisation of the supercomputer. I don’t think I’m getting audibly challenged, but I could barely understand half the monster’s or the computer’s dialogue.
The story is missing two episodes and the animated versions of chapters 2 & 3 don’t quite capture the imagination like the rest of the story. I was very tempted to give The Ice Warriors full marks, but the niggles, while small, niggled too much, especially those voices. Still, a glacially grateful: