Monthly Archives: July 2013

The Highlanders – Loose Cannon Reconstructions

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ImageAll four episodes of The Highlanders are missing from the BBC Archives.  For the purposes of this marathon I viewed Loose Cannon’s reconstructions, links for which appear below.

Loose Cannon’s The Highlanders, Episode 1 Part 1

Loose Cannon’s The Highlanders, Episode 1 Part 2

Loose Cannon’s The Highlanders, Episode 2 Part 1

Loose Cannon’s The Highlanders, Episode 2 Part 2

Loose Cannon’s The Highlanders, Episode 3 Part 1

Loose Cannon’s The Highlanders, Episode 3 Part 2

Loose Cannon’s The Highlanders, Episode 4 Part 1

Loose Cannon’s The Highlanders, Episode 4 Part 2

The Highlanders

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Viewers who tuned into BBC One between 17th December 1966 and 7th January 1967 to watch Doctor Who must have really been left wondering exactly who or what the good Doctor had become. In the Power of the Daleks they saw a man with a completely different face who did his best to confound and confuse his companions by speaking in the third person. In The Highlanders the Doctor appeared more interested in acting the clown, playing fancy dress and putting on fake accents.  First he was a German physician named Doctor Von Wer, then dressed in drag as a Scottish washer woman, and finally he was a Cockney Redcoat soldier. Patrick Troughton was everything that William Hartnell wasn’t. What he didn’t appear to be playing was the Doctor.

One of the Doctor's many disguises in The Highlanders was as a Scots washer woman

One of the Doctor’s many disguises in The Highlanders was as a Scots washer woman

Whilst Patrick Troughton was being anything but the Doctor, Anneke Wills (Polly) and Michael Craze (Ben) were really allowed to shine. The character of Polly as been really growing on me,  and I was not disappointed by her outing in The Highlanders.  When the party disembark from the Tardis and discover a hot, old fashioned cannon ball, the Doctor is the first to want to leave.  The Doctor who was always guaranteed to want to explore, and lead himself and his companions into trouble, was seemingly gone.  Polly was dumbfounded and told him that they couldn’t leave as they looked like they were in England.  When Polly added, “Doctor, you don’t want us to think you’re afraid, do you?” the Doctor’s quick retort was, “Why not?”

The companions, Polly and Ben, take prominent roles in The Highlanders

The companions, Polly and Ben, take prominent roles in The Highlanders

The Doctor and Ben are lucky not to be hanged

The Doctor and Ben are lucky not to be hanged

After meeting up with an injured Laird and his clansmen, Polly is dispatched with the Laird’s daughter, Kirsty, to fetch clean water to bathe the wound.  Whilst the women are out Ben clumsily triggers off a gun and attracts the attention of the English redcoats, who are scouring the highlands for rebels following the Battle of Culloden (1746). Forced on the run after the men are captured, Polly has little time for the tears of her lassie companion.  She calls Kirsty a peasant, berates her for always crying and storms off in a huff, only to then find herself trapped in an animal pit. Kirsty finds Polly however she promptly falls into the pit herself.  Incredibly, the swinging 60’s girl is more resourceful than her 18th Century highland counterpart and is able to devise an escape plan.

Polly and Kirsty are forced to flee from the Redcoats

Polly and Kirsty are forced to flee from the Redcoats

Upon almost being seen by the Redcoat patrol that have been sent to pursue the women, Polly pulls the commanding officer, Lt Algernon Thomas Alfred ffinch, into the pit with them.  It’s here that Polly’s resourcefulness comes to the fore.  Taking the officer’s ID, she playfully taunts the upper class Lieutenant with the affected surname. ffinch  is spelt with two f’s and no capital so Polly promptly calls him f-finch.  Well that’s when she’s not calling him Algy!  Robbing ffinch of the vast sum of 20 guineas, they take a lock of his hair and his identification as bargaining tools should they be apprehended.  The women have effectively blackmailed ffinch as they demand his silence for fear that he will be exposed as the victim of an assault and robbery at the hands of two women.  Polly and Kirsty leave ffinch tied up in the pit as they continue their journey to Inverness where the Doctor, Ben and the highlanders have been taken as prisoners.

Polly seduces the hapless Lt ffinch

Polly seduces the hapless Lt ffinch

Polly, ffinch and Kirsty

Polly, ffinch and Kirsty

Once in Inverness Polly again exhibits her shrewdness with an ingenuous plan to find the Doctor and Ben.  Respectable women in 18th Century Scotland didn’t wander the streets alone, least of all enter taverns.  Disguised as orange sellers, however, the women were afforded the opportunity enter the Sea Eagle Inn.  Deemed to be orange wenches, or women of ill-repute, their plan quickly came to fruition when they ran into the Doctor, who was dressed in drag. Also in the tavern was the corrupt Solicitor Grey and his comic Clerk, Perkins.  Grey was in command of rebel prisoners, although he was making money on the side by selling the robust highlanders into the slave trade.

Polly procures suitable clothing for her masquerade as an "orange wench"

Polly procures suitable clothing for her masquerade as an “orange wench”

Ben, the Laird and the highlanders had become victims of the trafficking scheme and  found themselves in chains upon the ship Annabelle.  The Doctor would have been in the same situation had he not ingenuously escaped earlier whilst impersonating the German physician von Wer. Following his escape from the dungeon in which the prisoners were held prior to their transfer to the ship, the Doctor had trussed up Grey and left him in a cupboard and pounded Perkins head into a table.  Without fail every commentary I’ve read considers the Doctor’s “trick” with Perkins to be hilariously funny.  Perhaps it’s because I’m not a man that I find the gratuitous violence uncalled for and decidedly unfunny. Ben displays his own ingenuity once onboard the Annabelle. Trussed up and dunked from the yardarm, he uses a Houdini trick to be able to free himself from his shackles and swim ashore.

The comic relief, Solicitor Grey's Clerk named Perkins

The comic relief, Solicitor Grey’s Clerk named Perkins

All four episodes of The Highlanders are missing from the BBC Archives so not surprisingly a lot is lost in the translation to audio and telesnaps. The battle on board the Annabelle in which the highlanders wrest control of the ship, thanks to the weaponry provided by the Doctor, is hard to visualize. So too are the scenes in Culloden. We miss seeing the last Doctor Who historical adventure until 1982’s Black Orchard, and also Frazer Hines’ debut as Jamie McCrimmon. That being said, Jamie’s role is minor and a proper companion he does not become until the next serial, The Underwater Menace. Join me for my next review as I continue my journey through Doctor Who. 

The VHS cover art for Loose Cannon's The Highlanders reconstructions.  The Highlanders was originally broadcast in the UK between 17 December 1966 and 7 January 1967

The VHS cover art for Loose Cannon’s The Highlanders reconstructions. The Highlanders was originally broadcast in the UK between 17 December 1966 and 7 January 1967

Vivien Fleming

©Vivien Fleming, 2013.

The Power of the Daleks – Loose Cannon Reconstructions

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All six episodes of The Power of the Daleks are missing from the BBC Archives. For the purposes of this marathon I watched Loose Cannon’s reconstructions, links for which appear below.

Loose Cannon’s The Power of the Daleks, Episode 1 Part 1

Loose Cannon’s The Power of the Daleks, Episode 1 Part 2

Loose Cannon’s The Power of the Daleks, Episode 2 Part 1

Loose Cannon’s The Power of the Daleks, Episode 2 Part 2

Loose Cannon’s The Power of the Daleks, Episode 3 Part 1

Loose Cannon’s The Power of the Daleks, Episode 3 Part 2

Loose Cannon’s The Power of the Daleks, Episode 4 Part 1

Loose Cannon’s The Power of the Daleks, Episode 4 Part 2

Loose Cannon’s The Power of the Daleks, Episode 5 Part 1

Loose Cannon’s The Power of the Daleks, Episode 5 Part 2

Loose Cannon’s The Power of the Daleks, Episode 6 Part 1

Loose Cannon’s The Power of the Daleks, Episode 6 Part 2

 

The Power of the Daleks

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“The Doctor was a great collector, wasn’t he”, the strange little man with the ill-fitting, improvised clothes said as he rummaged through the large chest.  “But you’re the Doctor” exclaimed a confused Polly.  “Oh, I don’t look like him” quipped the man.

So began the journey of the Second Doctor, Patrick Troughton, as he recovered  from his “renewal” as though he’d been on an LSD trip.  In fact, the reference to LSD  comes directly from the production notes.  This was 1966, of course.  When Ben had told the “old Doctor” that the ordeal in the Cyberman ship was “all over”  (The Tenth Planet) the Doctor had replied by saying “What did you say, my boy?  It’s all over.  It’s all over.  That’s what you said.  No, but it isn’t all over.  It’s far from being all over”.  The “new”  Doctor had strangely chuckled “It’s over.  It’s over” as he scrambled to his feet upon regenerating. Whilst the Doctor’s “renewal” may have been over, his journey to be understood by his companions was only beginning.

Upon renewal the Doctor is in a confused state, as if he'd been tripping on LSD

Upon renewal the Doctor is in a confused state, as if he’d been tripping on LSD

Quietly hostile and prone to referring to himself in the third person, the Doctor evaded answering uncomfortable questions by playing a recorder retrieved from the chest. The sceptic Ben was infuriated by the Doctor’s behaviour  and didn’t believe the man before him to be the same person as the “old Doctor”.  Polly, however, was more willing to believe and recalled the old Doctor’s comment to the effect that perhaps his old body was wearing a bit thin.  No one had exited or entered the Tardis so surely this stranger must be the Doctor. It would take a Dalek to recognize the Doctor by sight, towards the end of episode two, for Ben to finally believe that the “new” Doctor was one of the same as the “old Doctor”.

Ben, Polly and the new Doctor with his 500 Year Diary

Ben, Polly and the new Doctor with his 500 Year Diary

The Dalek’s recognition of the Doctor, and the Doctor’s visible fear of his oldest foe, was a superbly climatic scene which undoubtedly influenced Rob Shearman as he wrote Dalek, the pepper pots’ debut in Season 1 of the 2005 series.  Watch the short clip from Dalek below and marvel at the Ninth Doctor’s fear when he hears the monotone voice of the Dalek say “Dock Toorrr”. The Doctor’s fear as he runs to the door is just palpable. Were The Power of the Daleks not lost and we could watch the serial in its full glory, then I suspect that the Second Doctor’s fear, as he backs into a chair as the Dalek focuses his eye stalk onto him, would be  just as unmistakeable.

That The Power of the Daleks should be an influence on the writers of new series Who should come as no surprise. The serial is critically lauded as perhaps the best Dalek story ever and is undoubtedly held in higher regard as a consequence of its missing status.  The soundtrack is smashing and the few fragment clips of the Daleks absolutely superb. You can even excuse the production team for the reasonably obvious cardboard cut-out Daleks used to swell the numbers in crowd scenes.  We hear much chanting of “exterminate, annihilate, destroy” and  “Daleks conquer and destroy”, whilst also seeing the construction of Daleks for the first time.  Whilst proceeding down the conveyer belt their mutant insides are plonked inside and seen by viewers for the first time in their live state.  The Dalek mutants seen in episode of 12 of the Daleks’ Master Plan were in a regressed form. What makes the Daleks all the more frightening is that they are initially so compliant and obliging.

The Power of the Daleks – Surviving Dalek clips

The similarity between the Series 5 episode Victory of the Daleks and The Power of the Daleks is remarkable.  In both stories the Daleks originally portray themselves as servants of humans.  In Power the Dalek chants “I am your servant”, whilst in Victory their incantation is “I am your soldier”.  In both stories the Doctor is increasingly frustrated at everyone’s refusal to take his concerns about the Daleks seriously.  Wildly cognisant of the Dalek’s evil reputation, similar fear and frustration would be instilled into the viewers as well.  As Toby Hadoke stated in Running Through Corridors, “… with us, the audience, more aware than most of the characters involved in this adventure just how deadly these creatures are.  It’s like watching kids playing with a hand grenade, but being stuck behind soundproofed glass and unable to issue a warning”.

Victory of the Daleks Trailer

Victory of the Daleks bears distinct similiarities to The Power of the Daleks

Victory of the Daleks’ antecedents can be seen in The Power of the Daleks

Many of the humans in The Power of the Daleks are not particularly likeable.  A rebel group within the community are planning a rebellion, however their grievances are unclear.  Unlike the young double eye-browed rebels in The Space Museum whose oppression one could empathise with, even though they were the most useless revolutionaries ever portrayed on TV, these rebels are bullish and ignorant.  Prepared to sacrifice anyone to achieve their ends, they make the Daleks in earlier episodes appear positively gentlemanly. Whereas the humans were unable to fathom the Cybermen’s lack of empathy in The Tenth Planet, it is in The Power of the Daleks that the monsters express the very same disbelief about the humans.  A Dalek innocently asks, “Why do human beings kill human beings?”

The Power of the Daleks - Title Card

It’s invariably the ignorance of humans, and the Rebels’ preparedness to co-opt the Daleks to their cause,  which is the reason for their downfall. After using the humans to acquire the materials necessary to construct new Daleks, they have no further need for humans and destroy them.  The Daleks are at their evil best and it’s a great shame that the visuals have been lost because the telesnaps make the massacre at the end look magnificent.  Ultimately, however, the Doctor saves the day by destroying the Daleks.  Or does he?

The Daleks are at their frightening best in The Power of the Daleks

The Daleks are at their frightening best in The Power of the Daleks

What puzzled me was why the Daleks needed to be charged in Power of the Daleks whenever they were not on metal, yet the Daleks seen in The Chase and The Daleks’ Master Plan didn’t.  Wood and Miles in About Time 2  posit cheekily that these Daleks must have been exhausted from their 200 years spent at the bottom of the mercury swamp or not fully-charged as they were fresh models straight off the production-line.   One wonders how viewers can pick up these continuity discrepancies in the early years of Doctor Who, and yet the writers could not.  Perhaps it was because the serial was written by David Whitaker and was the first Dalek serial in which Terry Nation had no input.

The Power of the Daleks was originally broadcast in the UK between 5 November and 10 December 1966

 Loose Cannon’s VHS cover art for The Power of the Daleks. The Power of the Daleks was originally broadcast in the UK between 5 November and 10 December 1966

 

Vivien Fleming

©Vivien Fleming, 2013.

 

REFERENCES:

Robert Shearman and Toby Hadoke, Running Through Corridors.  Rob and Toby’s Marathon Watch of Doctor Who (Mad Norwegian Press, Des Moines, Iowa: 2011),

Tat Wood & Lawrence Miles, About Time. The Unauthorized Guide to Doctor Who. 1966-1969 Seasons 4 to 6. Mad Norweigan Press, Illinois, 2010.

Chook of the Week – The Fourth Doctor

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Chook of the Week - The Fourth Doctor

This week’s winner of Chook of the Week goes to an eccentric character known as the Fourth Doctor. All beak and curls, the Doctor is highly energetic and has a fine, distinguished crow. He is frequently mistaken for the aged Tom Baker so being vain, the Doctor is considering dying his feathers brown. Originally a recluse, the Doctor spent time in a monastery before determining that his vocation was marriage. Keen to catch up on lost time, the Doctor has had three wives. An extremely popular rooster he is indeed!

The Fourth Doctor with one of his former wives, Dusty.

The Fourth Doctor with one of his former wives, Dusty.

Missing Episodes Hysteria

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As the months countdown to Doctor Who’s 50th Anniversary on 23 November 2013, so the rumour mill concerning lost Doctor Who episodes escalates exponentially.  To the best of fans’ knowledge 106 episodes remain missing from the BBC Archives, however the blog site Bleeding Cool has today reported two new rumours. One unnamed person associated with the Doctor Who production team is said to believe that there have been at least 40 episodes returned to the BBC, whilst another alleges 93. These rumours can be added to the pile which also includes claims that 90 episodes have been discovered somewhere in Africa.  Dubbed the omnirumour (or omnirumor for those in America), the Africa 90 story has been circling for months and has set Who internet forums alight.

The 12 part Dalek's Master Plan is one of the most sought after missing Doctor Who serials

The 12 part Daleks’ Master Plan is one of the most sought after missing Doctor Who serials

Unfortunately absolutely no evidence has been forthcoming of any finds, not even one single screen capture. Hearsay is the sole testimony offered, with information only forthcoming from friends of friends.  There has been talk of the BBC having compelled the signing of non disclosure agreements, delicate negotiations with film collectors and/or dictators, and all manner of other theories to justify the complete absence of evidence.  The BBC has issued at least one statement denying that it has lost episodes in its possession, however the rather ambiguous nature of the statement did little to stem the flow of rumours.

The first Doctor Who regeneration (although it was not so named at the time) is among the 106 missing episodes

The first Doctor Who regeneration (although it was not so named at the time) is among the 106 missing episodes

Having watched 11 straight missing episode reconstructions in the last several days, and with another two tomorrow before a one episode breather (episode three of The Underwater Menace), there’s not much more that I’d love than for a hoard of missing episodes to turn up. I won’t be holding my breath, however. Here’s hoping, though, that one day the hardened Doctor Who marathon viewers will be watching a lot fewer of the brilliant Loose Cannon Reconstructions.

The triple DVD Lost in Time contains many orphan Doctor Who episodes from the First and Second Doctor's tenures

The triple DVD Lost in Time contains many orphan Doctor Who episodes from the First and Second Doctor’s tenures

Bleeding Cool’s latest contribution to the missing episodes hysteria can be read at http://www.bleedingcool.com/2013/07/29/those-doctor-who-missing-episodes-rumours-take-a-licking-but-keep-on-ticking/

You can read my update of the Missing Episodes rumours here.

Vivien Fleming

©Vivien Fleming, 2013.