Category Archives: Barbara Wright

The Reign of Terror

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Released for the first time on DVD in 2013, The Reign of Terror is an eagerly awaited addition to the collections of Doctor Who fans.  With episodes 4 and 5 junked by the BBC, the missing episodes were animated.  For the first time, probably since its original transmission, viewers are able to see this great historical epic on the French Revolution.

The Doctor in animated form

The Doctor in animated form

The last story of Season 1, The Reign of Terror was also the first Doctor Who serial to include some location filming, albeit in the form of a very persuasive double of The Doctor walking down a row of poplar trees. It was also the last filming of First Doctor stories at the old and cramped Lime Grove studios where the Director, Henric Hirsch, collapsed in the third episode. Unable to complete direction of that episode, Hirsch was not credited as Director.

The Doctor with the work-party leader whom he subsequently knocks unconscious with a shovel

The Doctor with the work-party leader whom he subsequently knocks unconscious with a shovel

Attempting to return Barbara and Ian to present day London, the Tardis, not surprisingly, gets the time and location wrong.  Instead it lands 170 years earlier and 100 kilometres away in Paris during the height of the French Revolution.   Not that any of the Crew initially realize the error!  That the ship should dock in the Doctor’s favourite period of Earth history, The French Revolution, is quite fortuitous, for him at least.  Whilst the teachers are again unable to return home, the Doctor is afforded the opportunity to dress in fine clothing and impersonate a District Commissioner.  The Reign of Terror allows the Doctor the occasion to again take the show’s lead and save his fellow companions.  Ian, Barbara and Susan are arrested by soldiers and are awaiting execution by guillotine.  The Doctor was lucky to escape capture by being conveniently knocked unconscious just prior to the soldier’s arrival.  His miraculous escape from a burning farmhouse, with the help of a young peasant boy, afforded him an element of surprise as he was assumed dead.

The Doctor, resplendent in the costume of a District Commissioner

The Doctor, resplendent in the costume of a District Commissioner

Whilst the Doctor is more willing to take risks to save the Tardis Crew in this serial, his ethics still remain dodgy.  He not only forges documents enabling him to impersonate a senior government official, but also grievously assaults the leader of a work-party after he has been mistakenly conscripted into it. Although this incident is played somewhat as a farce, it certainly exhibits a dimension of the Doctor which fans of today’s episodes would be unfamiliar with. Hitherto, knocking people out had been Ian’s domain.  The Doctor also takes a blow at another bloke whilst endeavouring to free Susan from prison.

Barbara and Susan in prison

Barbara and Susan in prison

The companions in The Reign of Terror begin to take on a more secondary role, in line with the Doctor’s increasingly pivotal role. Susan spends much of the serial moaning (quite justifiably) or ill, and displays a profound fear of rats. Ian and Barbara are given a little more to play with, and are particularly amusing when they take on the roles of landlord and barmaid of a pub. Barbara gets a love interest, of sorts, and William Russell’s two weeks leave during the serial is well disguised by the insertion of pre-recorded segments.

Ian looks from his prison cell as Barbara and Susan are taken to the guillotine

Ian looks from his prison cell as Barbara and Susan are taken to the guillotine

Whilst lore has it that historical dramas were the least popular of the early Doctor Who escapades they certainly showcased the BBC’s great skill at historical dramas. Costuming was divine. The animation of the two missing episodes was particularly well done, even if my children questioned why it was presented in black and white.  Once I explained the need for authenticity so as not to stand out from four extant black and white episodes, they were happy to accept what appeared to them to be very bizarre animation.

An animated Doctor

An animated Doctor

Barbara animated

Barbara animated

The Reign of Terror was originally broadcast in the UK between 8th August and 12th September 1964

The Reign of Terror was originally broadcast in the UK between 8th August and 12th September 1964

Vivien Fleming

©Vivien Fleming, 2013.

The Sensorites

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The Sensorites

The Sensorites

Comedian, actor, and author of Moths Ate My Doctor Who Scarf, Toby Hadoke, investigates the writer of The Sensorites, Peter R. Newman, in an informative documentary in the Special Features of the Doctor Who The Sensorites DVD release.  Why am I telling you this, you may ask? Because of Hadoke’s humorous manner of introducing The Sensorites.  It says much about how The Sensorites has been viewed by the Doctor Who fan community. Here’s how Hadoke leads into the documentary.

Toby Hadoke - Stand-up comedian, actor and author of "Moths Ate My Doctor Who Scarf".

Toby Hadoke – Stand-up comedian, actor and author of “Moths Ate My Doctor Who Scarf”.

HADOKE:  The Sensorites.  Poor, unloved, The Sensorites.  Nestling, lost somewhere, down the back of the fans’ collective sofa.  There it lies at number 7 in the first heady year of Doctor Who.  It didn’t even have the decency to be wiped so we could all mourn its loss, and imagine how brilliant it must have been.  It’s not a story anyone really talks about.  We certainly don’t know that much about it …

The Tardis Crew and a Sensorite

The Tardis Crew and a Sensorite

Yes, the much derided The Sensorites. In the development of Doctor Who, however, The Sensorites is not without merit.  If it were not for The Sensorites there’s a distinct possibility that one of the New Series’ favourite creatures, the Ood, may never have made their way to The Impossible Planet in 2006.  Like the Ood, the peculiar looking Sensorites have a humanoid bodily appearance but with rather unusual heads. They share telepathy with the Ood and a tube that hangs from their body.  In the Sensorites case there isn’t an external brain at the cord’s end, but rather a stethoscope type device which, when put to the forehead, permits their telepathic communication.  Devoid of the Ood’s face tentacles, the Sensorites instead have a fine head of hair growing onwards and upwards from their chins.  It’s perhaps because of the quantity of hair on the lower part of their heads that they have none left for their bald heads!  Like the Ood, the Sensorites appear genderless and nameless.  According to 2008’s Planet of the Ood, their home planet, the Ood-Sphere, is close by to the Sensorites’ home, the Sense-Sphere.

The near neighbours of the Sensorites, the Ood.

The near neighbours of the Sensorites, the Ood.

Tat Wood and Lawrence Miles in their well regarded series of books, About Time, describe The Sensorites as “quite possibly the most important Doctor Who story of all”.  Why? Because “the Doctor saves a planet not simply to get his Ship back but because it’s the right thing to do”. Yes, the Doctor that we know and love is beginning to develop.  For once he’s the instigator of action, rather than Ian, and beginning to be less egocentric. The Doctor, quite inexplicably though, still threatens to put Ian and Barbara off the ship at the next planet because Ian reiterates the Doctor’s own admission that he can’t control the TARDIS.  There’s still some way to go for the Doctor, although he’s beginning to take the well worn path that we all know.

A Sensorite using telepathy.

A Sensorite using telepathy.

In The Sensorites Susan exhibits a strong telepathic tendency in her ability to communicate with the planet’s locals. She is a little more reminiscent of the Susan we see in An Unearthly Child and also quarrels with her grandfather for the first time.   “Growing up” is how the forever teacher Barbara describes her behavior to the Doctor.

Susan and a Sensorite

Susan and a Sensorite

The change that is taking place in the Tardis Crew is mentioned in the first episode, Strangers in Space.  It also provides a convenient potted summary of the crew’s adventures in the previous 6 months since Doctor Who was first broadcast.

IAN: There’s one thing about it, Doctor.  We’re certainly different from when we started out with you.

SUSAN: That’s funny.  Grandfather and I were talking about that just before you came in.  How you’ve both changed.

BARBARA: Well we’ve all changed.

SUSAN: Have I?

BARBARA: Yes.

DOCTOR: Yes, it all started out as a mild curiosity in a junkyard, and not it’s turned out to be quite a, quite a great spirit of adventure, don’t you think?

IAN: Yes.  We’ve had some pretty rough times and even that doesn’t stop us.  It’s a wonderful thing, this ship of yours, Doctor.  Taken us back to pre-historic times, the Daleks.

SUSAN: Marco Polo, Marinus.

BARBARA: And the Aztecs.

The Sensorites was originally broadcast on BBC1 between 20th June and 1st August 1964.

The Sensorites was originally broadcast on BBC1 between 20th June and 1st August 1964.

Vivien Fleming

©Vivien Fleming, 2013.

Reference

Tat Wood & Lawrence Miles, “About Time. The Unauthorized Guide to Doctor Who. 1963-1966 Seasons 1 to 3”. Mad Norweigan Press, Illinois, 2009.

The Aztecs

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There’s probably very little that needs to be said about The Aztecs, a serial that is widely lauded by fans and critics alike as an outstanding  milestone in the history of Doctor Who.  It is in The Aztecs that the parameters of what New Series fans might describe as the “Wibbly Wobbly Timey Wimey … Stuff” are fleshed out.  Rules are enunciated that will forever limit the Doctor and his companions’ ability to alter the course of historical events.  As the Doctor states categorically to Barbara, “You can’t rewrite history.  Not one line!: It’s also the serial where Barbara is mistaken for the reincarnation of the Aztec high priest, Yetaxa, and the Doctor accidently becomes engaged by sharing a cup of cocoa!

Barbara unconditionally shines in The Aztecs.  When the serial commences Barbara exhibits her superb knowledge of history, finely tuned by years of secondary school teaching, when she tells Susan, almost down to the year, the age of some Aztec masks.  That Susan didn’t already know this is somewhat surprising, particularly given her knowledge of the French Revolution in An Unearthly Child.  Perhaps her historical knowledge is limited to her grandfather’s pet interests, for it’s in The Reign of Terror that Susan tells us that the French Revolution is the Doctor’s favourite historical period.

Yetaxa in all her finery.

Yetaxa in all her finery.

Having already displayed a keen interest in bangles during The Keys of Marinus, Barbara locates and puts on a snake bracelet.  After being detained by the Aztec leaders, Barbara is quickly identified as the reincarnation of the high priest, Yetaxa.  Susan asks why the Aztecs should think Barbara the reincarnation when Yetaxa was a man.  Displaying again her broad knowledge, Barbara responds by advising that form doesn’t matter.  It’s the wearing of the bracelet that’s all important.  Barbara immediately falls into the role of a god and is resplendent in fine clothing and head gear.  Her demeanor, deportment and speech is that of a being with infinite authority.  When confronted with a forthcoming human sacrifice Barbara grasps the opportunity to save the Aztecs from their eventual demise.  Mindful of the link between the Aztecs’ cultural practices and the destruction of their society, Barbara resolves to end the practice of human sacrifice, which she considers barbaric.  She refuses to sit back and watch at the ceremony in which Ian, who has been conscripted as a warrior, must hold down the sacrificial victim.  Despite the Doctor’s advice that history must never be rewritten Barbara remains resolved.  The dialogue between the Doctor and Barbara is extraordinarily powerful and worth providing here verbatim.

The Doctor explains a few facts to Barbara about time travel.

The Doctor explains a few facts to Barbara about time travel.

DOCTOR: There’s to be a human sacrifice today at the Rain Ceremony

BARBARA: Oh, no.

DOCTOR: And you must not interfere, do you understand?

BARBARA: I can’t just sit by and watch.

DOCTOR.: No , Barbara!  Ian agrees with me.  He’s got to escort the victim to the altar.

BARBARA: He has to what?

DOCTOR: Yes, they’ve made him a warrior, and he’s promised me not to interfere with the sacrifice.

BARBARA: Well, they’ve made me a goddess, and I forbid it.

DOCTOR: Barbara, no!

BARBARA:  There will be no sacrifice this afternoon, Doctor.  Or ever again.  The reincarnation of Yetaxa will prove to the people that you don’t need to sacrifice a human being in order to make it rain.

DOCTOR: Barbara, no.

BARBARA: It’s no good, Doctor, my mind’s made up.  This is the beginning of the end of the Sun God.

DOCTOR: What are you talking about?

BARBARA: Don’t you see?  If I could start the destruction of everything that’s evil here, then everything that is good would survive when Cortes lands.

DOCTOR:  But you can’t rewrite history!  Not one line!

SUSAN: Barbara, the high priests are coming.

DOCTOR:  Barbara, one last appeal.  What you are trying to do is utterly impossible.  I know, believe me, I know.

BARBARA: Not Barbara, Yetaxa.

The Doctor is pleased to have found a source of poison

The Doctor is pleased to have found a source of poison

Barbara’s command not to sacrifice the victim does not save his life, however.  Considering it an honour to be sacrificed, the intended victim is shamed and jumps to his death.  The Doctor, naturally, quickly seizes the opportunity to chide Barbara for her actions.  He explains that human sacrifice is their tradition and religion.  The intended victim wanted to be offered.  A distressed Barbara tells the Doctor that “she just didn’t think”, to which the Doctor promptly apologizes for being so harsh.  The Doctor advises her that what happens next is up to her.  Already suspected of being a false god by some, Barbara faces a challenge.

Barbara and Ian

Barbara and Ian

Barbara continued the façade of being the Yetaxa and amongst her other actions, put a knife to Tlotoxl’s throat in  a successful endeavour to save Ian’s life.  Engaged in a ritualistic fight to the death with Ian, Ixta (the combatant) had the upper hand after the Doctor had, by Ixta’s deception, given him a mild poison.  Ixta had scratched Ian on the wrist with this poison during the fight, thereby rendering him groggy and increasingly incapable of fighting.  When goaded by the participants to save her servant Ian, presumably by supernatural means, Barbara responded by threatening to kill Tlotoxl if Ian died.  Commanding Ixta to put down his club, the combatant obeyed and the fight was over.  Ixta didn’t claim victory.  In response to Autloc’s subsequent comment that the people had been awaiting a miracle from the Yetaxa, Barbara pragmatically stated “Why should I use divine powers when human ability will suffice?”

Barbara holds a knife to Tlotoxl's throat.

Barbara holds a knife to Tlotoxl’s throat.

After outwitting a plan to have her consume poison, thereby proving her human identity, Barbara eventually admits that she is not the Yetaxa.  When the Tardis Crew is eventually able to escape back into the cave and reach the safety of the Tardis, Barbara laments the failure of her mission to civilize the Aztecs.  Again, it is worth quoting the Doctor and Barbara’s conversation verbatim.

BARBARA: We failed.

DOCTOR: Yes, we did.  We had to.

BARBARA: What’s the point of travelling through time and space if we can’t change anything? Nothing. Tlotoxl had to win.

DOCTOR: Yes.

BARBARA: And the one man I had respect for, I deceived.  Poor Autloc.  I gave him false hope and in the end he lost his faith.

DOCTOR: He found another faith, a better, and that’s the good you’ve done.  You failed to save a civilization, but at least you helped one man.

Tlotoxl - Evil dudes don't come much better than this!

Tlotoxl – Evil dudes don’t come much better than this!

The Doctor’s character softens to a small degree in The Aztecs.  For the first time we see a love interest in the form of the intelligent and resourceful Cameca.  Although clearly taken by Cameca, he is not prepared to take her with him.  This relationship affords several opportunities for comic relief, not least of which is when the Doctor accidently accepts Cameca’s proposal of marriage.  He was not aware that sharing a cup of cocoa was an act of betrothal.  Similarly, when the Doctor advises Ian that he has a fiancée, the expression on Ian’s face is priceless.  Clearly the tension between Ian and the Doctor is beginning to mellow.

The Doctor and his love interest, Cameca.

The Doctor and his love interest, Cameca.

That shared cup of cocoa!

That shared cup of cocoa!

Ian learns that the Doctor has a fiancee.

Ian learns that the Doctor has a fiancee.

This mellowing of tension is also shown in the Doctor’s relations with Barbara, and particularly her eventual acknowledgement that the Doctor was correct in respect of not rewriting history.  Although chiding Barbara harshly, she soon admits her own indiscretion and readily forgives him.  The Doctor shows ingenuity in making the wheel, a device not yet discovered by the Aztecs.  This allowed the Doctor and his companions to lift the door separating them from the Tardis.

The Doctor and that not so heavy stone

The Doctor and that not so heavy stone

Susan’s character development in The Aztecs is particularly interesting and in some respects proto-feminist.  Susan was sent to a seminary type institution upon suspicions of Barbara’s divinity being raised.  Yetaxa’s “handmaiden” was tutored in the skills required of a young Aztec woman.  She displayed a quick aptitude to learn however, like Barbara, she was not prepared to accept the status quo in all respects.  Upon being told to keep her eyes downcast when she meets her future husband, Susan asked how she would know who he is.  In response she was advised that she will be told who she’ll marry.  Susan was outraged and stated that she would live her life the way she wanted and chose whomever she wished to marry.

Susan, the Yetaxa's handmaiden.

Susan, the Yetaxa’s handmaiden.

Later, it had been decided that Susan would marry the “Perfect Victim”, the person intended for the next sacrifice three days later during an eclipse.  Such a person is afforded anything they wish for in the days prior to their sacrifice.  Susan responded to this news with rage and stated that it’s barbaric and that they were all monsters.  For her insubordination she was to be punished.  That the male writer, John Lucarroti, should attribute Susan with such a strong will against this undeniably sexist practice is quite extraordinary.  This serial was aired in 1964, prior to the large scale emergence of second-wave feminism.  Perhaps Lucarroti had read Betty Friedan’s seminal work, The Feminine Mystique, which was first published in 1963.

Ian defeats Ixta with finger power

Ian defeats Ixta with finger power

Ian almost succumbs to Ixta.

Ian almost succumbs to Ixta.

Ian remains the hero and “man of action” in this serial.  He becomes a warrior, defeats Ixta in a trial battle through the mere use of finger pressure to the neck, and eventually propels Ixta to his death is a most heroic and ingenious manner.  He moves a large boulder blocking a tunnel with little discomfort, although it’s admitted in the special features that the boulder was made from a very light material.  He also knocks out a number of people.  A force to be reckoned with, Ian is also becoming more tolerant of the Doctor and can have the occasional light moment with him.  The Tardis Crew is not yet a totally cohesive group, however the hostility of early serials is beginning to diminish.

Ian the warrior

Ian the warrior

The Aztecs was originally broadcast in the UK between 23 May and 13 June 1964

The Aztecs was originally broadcast in the UK between 23 May and 13 June 1964

Vivien Fleming

©Vivien Fleming, 2013.

The Keys of Marinus

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Much ridiculed by fans, but less so than The Sensorites, the Keys of Marinus is one of two little regarded stories in Doctor Who’s first season.     Written by the Daleks’ author, Terry Nation, it was hoped that the Voord, the principal baddies in the serial, would become the “next big thing”.  Alas, this was not to be and unlike the Daleks whose iconic status sees them still appearing in Who 50 years later, the poor Voord have never again been spied.  Although their heads were pretty cool, the wetsuit clad bodies and swimming flippers do not a great monster make!

You can't help but love the Voord, the "next big thing" that were never seen again on Doctor Who.

You can’t help but love the Voord, the “next big thing” that were never seen again on Doctor Who.

Not dissimilar to season 16’s The Key to Time, this serial involves a quest by the Doctor and his companions to locate the four hidden micro-keys for the Conscience of Marinus, a machine with the power to not only judge good and evil, but also permeate the minds of citizens, eradicating all evil thoughts and intentions, and replacing them instead with only good and honourable deeds.

The Conscience of Marinus

The Conscience of Marinus

Whereas the Fourth Doctor, Tom Baker, and Romana I’s quest for keys extended to six serials (five of four episodes and the last of six), the Keys of Marinus must be found in six episodes only.  Episodes 1 and 6 are set in the Tower, the home of Arbitan, the keeper of the Conscience of Marinus, whereas the remaining episodes (2-5) are each set in a different city or area of the planet Marinus.  The logistics of this, naturally, meant the construction of five different sets, something which invariably would have been a huge budgetary headache for the production team. The ravine over which the party, minus the Doctor, cross in episode 4, The Snows of Terror, looks suspiciously like the set used in The Ordeal, which is part 6 of The Daleks.   The trusty BBC could be assured of not wasting a good set!

Sabetha, with the assistance of Susan, crosses that ravine.

Sabetha, with the assistance of Susan, crosses that ravine.

For all the criticism directed at the Keys of Marinus, which are too numerous to elucidate here, the story is not without its virtues.  The Doctor, who is absent from episodes three and four because William Hartnell was on holidays, begins to protect his reluctant companions more so than in previous stories.  In episode 5 particularly, Sentence of Death, the Doctor acts as Ian’s advocate at a trial in the city of Millennius.  Ian has been framed for murder and the legal system operating in the city is the opposite of that which we know in the United Kingdom and its former colonies.  Rather than there being a presumption of innocence, in Millennius one is guilty unless innocence can be proved beyond reasonable doubt.  Any person, irrespective of legal training, can appear as advocate (the equivalent to a solicitor, barrister or attorney) for the accused.  The Doctor shines in his spirited defense of Ian.  A salutary moral is obviously told in respect of the rule of law.

The senior judge in the city of Millennius.  All three were possessed of the most outrageous head gear.

The senior judge in the city of Millennius. All three were possessed of the most outrageous head gear.

That humans should not be ruled by machines, and that individual conscience is essential to human society, is an overarching theme of the story.  The Conscience of Marinus’ destruction at the story’s end is shown as a worthy result.

The Doctor with Arbitan, the keep of the Conscience of Marinus

The Doctor with Arbitan, the keep of the Conscience of Marinus

Ian remains the hero of the show which is all the more evident in that the Doctor’s absence in episodes three and four is barely noticed.  Susan screams too much, particularly in part 3, The Screaming Jungle, and Barbara is initially prepared to accept the decadent wealth of the city in part 2’s The Velvet Web.  Whilst Ian is the pragmatist and wonders what price you must pay for having all that you desire, he is soon won over.  It is Barbara, who after a night’s rest, can see through the charade and realizes that the beauty she had previously seen, and the other members of the Tardis Crew still see, is but an optical illusion.  Beautiful clothes are but rags and fine drinking ware is tin.  Barbara also has the tremendous scene where she smashes the Brains of Morphoton, horrid brains in bell jars that look not dissimilar to snails’ heads. It is in the next serial, The Aztecs, that Barbara will really shine. Striking throughout is the character of Sabetha, played by Katherine Schofield.  At the end I was left rather wishing that she’d joined the Tardis Crew and not gone off to start a new life with her boyfriend, the gorgeous Altos.

Barbara smashes the Brains of Morphoton

Barbara smashes the Brains of Morphoton

The Keys of Marinus was originally broadcast in the UK between 11th April and 16th May 1964

The Keys of Marinus was originally broadcast in the UK between 11th April and 16th May 1964

Vivien Fleming

©Vivien Fleming, 2013.

Marco Polo

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The novelization of Marco Polo.

The novelization of Marco Polo.

Undoubtedly the most sought after of the lost Doctor Who serials, Marco Polo has an almost mythical status.  An historical story, this seven part serial was the fourth to be broadcast and is set in 1289 Cathay (China).  Landing in the Himalayas, the Tardis Crew are picked up by the explorer Marco Polo as his caravan is making its way along  the Silk Road to meet Emperor Kublai Khan. Seeking to win the favour of Khan, Polo seizes the Tardis with the intention of giving the strange “flying caravan” to him.

The BBC made a 30 minute reconstruction of Marco Polo and it was released with The Edge of Destruction as part of the 3 disc The Beginnings box set.  Utilizing photographs from the production, the reconstruction provides a nice teaser of what clearly was an extraordinary serial.  Surprisingly, many colour photos have been preserved, a few of which I share for your viewing pleasure.

Ping ChoMarco Polo 2marco_polo_in_colourMarco Polo

The 30 minute BBC reconstruction of "Marco Polo" can be found in the 3 Disc box set "The Beginning".

The 30 minute BBC reconstruction of “Marco Polo” can be found in the 3 Disc box set “The Beginning”.

Vivien Fleming

©Vivien Fleming, 2013.

The Edge of Destruction

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The necessity to produce a two part story without any budget for guest actors, or sets other than the pre-existing Tardis,  precipitated the watershed serial, The Edge of Destruction. The third story of Doctor Who, it followed An Unearthly Child and The Daleks and was envisaged as an inexpensive means of producing the last two of thirteen episodes initially authorized by the BBC for production.

The Edge of Destruction Title Card

The Edge of Destruction Title Card

In a style very much similar to a psychological thriller, The Edge of Destruction focused principally on the interactions between the hitherto discordant Tardis occupants.  After leaving Skaro following the Tardis Crew’s defeat of the Daleks, the ship experiences a frightful bang whilst in flight. The Doctor is laying on the floor, Ian slumped in a chair, and Susan sprawled over the console.  All are unconscious, save for Barbara.  When each awake it is evident that all is not well. The memories of the occupants have been erased and Ian still thinks that he’s at Coal Hill School.

The story begins with all but Barbara unconscious.

The story begins with all but Barbara unconscious.

After patching up the Doctor’s cut head with an almost magical bandage, Susan collapses when she touches the console.  Ian hauls Susan over his shoulder and takes her to the bedroom where he pulls an S shaped recliner down from the wall. Placing Susan on the bed, Ian briefly leaves the room and returns with a wet handkerchief.  Brandishing a pair of scissors, Susan sits up and asks Ian who he is.  She attempts to stab him, but being unsuccessful stabs at the reclining bed numerous times prior to collapsing again. This quite horrifying scene was the cause of many complaints to the BBC and the show’s pioneering producer, Verity Lambert, subsequently admitted that its inclusion was an error of judgement.

Susan threatens Ian with a pair of scissors.

Susan threatens Ian with a pair of scissors.

Barbara wonders whether anything has entered the ship, perhaps another intelligence, thereby producing the crew’s illogical behavior.  An impatient Doctor dismisses Barbara’s concerns and labels them “absurb theories”.  Although Ian had removed the scissors from Susan, she subsequently sneaks out of the sleeping bay and retrieves them, returning to the bed and feigning sleep.  When Barbara checks on Susan she again menaces her with them.

Barbara and the fabulous food machine.

Barbara and the fabulous food machine.

The Doctor, meanwhile, has become increasingly paranoid and accuses Ian and Barbara of having tampered with the ship’s controls.  In response to Ian’s question of why ever they would do that, the Doctor states “Blackmail, that’s why.  You tried to force me to return you to England”. The subsequent exchange between Barbara and the Doctor exhibits so profoundly the distrust and fear amongst the ship’s crew.  It’s worth quoting a section verbatim.

BARBARA: How dare you! Do you realise, you stupid old man, that you’d have died in the Cave of Skulls if Ian hadn’t made fire for you? 
DOCTOR: Oh, I 
BARBARA: And what about what we went through against the Daleks? Not just for us, but for you and Susan too. And all because you tricked us into going down to the city. 
DOCTOR: But I, I 
BARBARA: Accuse us? You ought to go down on your hands and knees and thank us. But gratitude’s the last thing you’ll ever have, or any sort of common sense either. 

Immediately it becomes evident that there is a force, other than the passengers, at work and the Doctor, in an apparent 180 degrees turn , admits that they need more time to think.  Bearing a tray with cups, he  offers all members of the party a cup of tea.  Ian is astounded by the Doctor’s bipolar type behavior and states “I wish I could understand you, Doctor.  One moment you’re abusing us, and the next, you’re playing the perfect butler”.

The Doctor and Ian.

The Doctor and Ian.

The cliff hanger to the first episode sees the Doctor at the console with a person’s hands around his throat.  We learn in the next episode that these are Ian’s hands.  After being pushed away by the Doctor, Ian collapses on the floor.  The Doctor is furious and alleges that  Ian is play-acting.  Again he accuses Barbara and Ian of a plot to control the Tardis.  Despites Barbara’s protestations of innocence the Doctor states “I told you I’d treat you as enemies”.  Barbara asks the Doctor what he thinks she and Ian have done to him.  Have they hypnotised or drugged him?  Accusing the teachers of trying to poison Susan’s mind against him, the Doctor threatens to put Ian and Barbara off the ship.

The Doctor with Susan.

The Doctor with Susan.

The Doctor is soon to admit that the drink he gave them the prior evening was a sleeping drug.  The perfect butler he certainly wasn’t! For reasons best known to himself, the Doctor has an epiphany  and realizes that the problem lies with all crew members. Advising that they are on the brink of destruction, the Doctor says that total destruction is imminent.  Ten minutes is all he believes they had left. Why the crew would believe him, particularly as the Doctor is again forced to confess to lying to Ian, is a moot point.

Barbara and the Doctor.

Barbara and the Doctor.

After an educational diatribe on the formation of solar systems, the Doctor admits to having underestimated Barbara.  It was the spring in the Fast Return, which was permanently switched on, which had been the fault all along.  Barbara, not being happy to accept half hearted apologies, sulks and asks the Doctor why he cares what she thinks and feels.  “As we learn about each other, so we learn about ourselves”, the Doctor responds.  Admitting that he’d accused Ian and Barbara unjustly, the Doctor complimented Barbara on her determination to prove him wrong.

It was the Fast Return all along!

It was the Fast Return all along.  It’s a shame that the BBC couldn’t afford any professional lettering!

The episodes ends with the Tardis having landed in a snow covered land. Offering Barbara “wearing apparel” from the ship’s “extensive wardrobe” the Doctor gives Barbara his arm and states “we must look after you, you know.  You’re very valuable”.

The Edge of Destruction was originally broadcast on BBC ONE between 8th and 15th February 1964.

The Edge of Destruction was originally broadcast on BBC ONE between 8th and 15th February 1964.

Vivien Fleming

©Vivien Fleming, 2013.

Transcript courtesy of http://www.chakoteya.net/doctorwho/1-3.htm

The Daleks – Character Development

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The Unearthly Child introduced Ian and Barbara as reluctant passengers of the Doctor’s spaceship who had been held against their will by the Doctor in an immoral, if not criminal, manner. The Doctor, however, saw no ethical issue with his actions and blamed the teachers for barging their way into his ship uninvited.  The Doctor’s lack of empathy for the stranded passengers evidenced his narcissistic tendencies and refusal to acknowledge responsibility for any of his actions. On those few occasions when he apologized to Ian and Barbara it was inevitably shallow and consisted of platitudes such as “I’m sorry, I’m so terribly sorry”.  The Doctor would soon revert, however, to his standard fare of blaming all but himself.

Ian and Barbara are reluctant passengers of the Tardis.

Ian and Barbara are reluctant passengers of the Tardis.

Relations between Ian and Barbara, and the Doctor, remained strained throughout the The Daleks.  In the first episode, The Dead Planet, Barbara questioned if the Doctor would ever return them to earth and Ian, admitting to being scared, doubted it would ever happen. Barbara expressed frustration at having nothing to rely on and being unable to recognize or trust anything.  She even pondered whether the Doctor deserved some form of retribution.  The teachers were not the happy companions of later series, excited to experience a life of adventure travelling through time and space.  They had no desire to travel with the Doctor and were keen to return to the security of 1963 London at the earliest possible convenience.

Ian and a Dalek - in colour!

Ian and a Dalek – in colour!

When Ian forcefully told the Doctor that “we’re fellow travellers, whether you like it or not”, the Doctor retaliated with his standard defense that they had pushed their way into his ship. By way of an analogy, no Court of Law would acquiesce to householders permanently detaining trespassers to their property!   The Doctor’s arrogant attitude continued unabated in The Daleks when he dismissed Ian’s inquiries by stating “I won’t be questioned by uninvited passengers”.

Ian's legs are paralysed by a Dalek attack.

Ian’s legs are paralysed by a Dalek attack.

The Doctor’s ultimate act of treachery to his almost prisoner-like teacher companions was to remove the fluid link from the Tardis, and then claim that it required mercury to work again.  This, of course, was one of the Doctor’s many lies and done solely with the intention of affording him the opportunity to explore the Dalek city on the premise that he might obtain mercury there.   The Doctor did not admit to his lie until the second episode, The Survivors, during which time he contemplated departing with Susan and leaving Ian and Barbara alone in the Dalek city.  Ian, the moral compass as always, argued that it was about time that the Doctor faced up to responsibility.

Barbara, the Doctor and Susan attempt to extricate Ian from inside the Dalek.

Barbara, the Doctor and Susan attempt to extricate Ian from inside the Dalek.

That morality was not a consideration for the Doctor was stated in as many words when he asserted that “this is no time for morals” when discussing the Thals’ pacifist objections to assisting the Tardis Crew retrieve the fluid link. Without the fluid link the ship and its crew would be stranded on Skaro.  Clearly the Doctor considered his and Susan’s interests more highly than that of the collective Thal people.

The Doctor and his oldest foe.

The Doctor and his oldest foe.

Although successful in defeating the Daleks together, the Tardis Crew was still not a cohesive group of fellow travellers.  It would take the third story of Doctor Who, The Edge of Destruction, to exhibit just how brittle relations between the alien Doctor and his grand-daughter, and their human passengers, really were.

Vivien Fleming

©Vivien Fleming, 2013.

The Daleks

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The Terry Nation penned seven part serial, The Daleks,  is undoubtedly a product of its times.  Produced less than two decades after the cessation of the Second World War, and just prior to the emergence of the 1960’s peace movement, The Daleks not so subtly examines the politics of appeasement, pacifism and the effects of nuclear war.

"The Daleks" writer, Terry Nation,

“The Daleks” writer, Terry Nation.

The Daleks are a by product of a neutronic war between the then humanoid  Daleks and their fellow inhabitants of the planet Skaro, the Thals.  At the cessation of the war 500 years earlier the Dalek forefathers, mutated as a consequence of radiation, retreated into the Dalek underground city and protected themselves inside the machines we now know as the iconic Daleks.   The Thals remained outside the city and also mutated, abandoning their warrior ideology and becoming pacifists.

Ray Cusick, the designer of the iconic Daleks.

Ray Cusick, the designer of the iconic Daleks.

Whereas the Dalek mutation was horrific, the Thal mutation resulted in a fine looking race of blonde humanoids.  Susan considered them magnificent looking people. The Thals protected themselves from further mutation with an anti-radiation drug and became farmers. They cultivated their land, relying on a great rain every two or three years to maintain their crops.  At the time of the Doctor and his companions arrival on Skaro the Thals much needed rain was two years overdue.  As a consequence they had left their plateau  12 months previously in search of better pastures and food.

The Doctor and the gorgeous Thals.

The Doctor and the gorgeous Thals.

Unlike the Thals, the Daleks maintained, fostered and celebrated their warrior heritage.  They knew that some Thals survived the neutronic war but assumed that they must be terribly mutated . As Ian quickly learned, the Daleks don’t act and feel like humans.  They have “a dislike for the unlike”.  They are arrogant and will make no concessions.  As one Dalek stated “we don’t have to adapt to the environment.  The environment will adapt to us”.  That the writer, Terry Nation, chose to have these words coming from the story’s aggressors exhibits his obvious interest in the environment decades prior to society’s concern about Global Warming.

Barbara encounters a Dalek for the first time.

Barbara encounters a Dalek for the first time.

After obtaining some of the Thal’s anti-radiation drugs,  the Daleks on which the drugs  were administered become ill. It quickly became evident that the Daleks relied on radiation for their continued existence and they determined to release a massive dose of radiation the following day.  In doing so it was hoped that the Thals would be destroyed and the Daleks would become Masters of Skaro.  The Daleks considered it logical that both the Thals and the Tardis Crew would attack them.

Susan accepts delivery of anti-radiation drugs from a Thal.

Susan accepts delivery of anti-radiation drugs from a Thal.

The once warrior race of Thals, however, were now farmers and pacifists.  Their society is a democracy where decisions can’t be made without the full approval of the people. They subscribe to the philosophy that “fear breeds hatred and war” and would return to the plateau from which they came if they were attacked by the Daleks. As one of the Thals stated “there can never be any question of the Thals fighting the Daleks”.

The Doctor and Susan are confronted by Daleks whilst held prisoner.

The Doctor and Susan are confronted by Daleks whilst held prisoner.

Ian and Barbara are intrigued by the Thal’s pacifism.  Barbara wonders if it’s possible for pacifism to become a human instinct, whilst Ian posits that pacifism only works if everyone thinks the same way. Barbara ponders if pacifism is a belief that has become a reality because they’ve never had to test it. The Tardis Crew, however, seek the Thal’s fighting assistance to get into the Dalek city and retrieve the fluid link that the Daleks had previously confiscated from them. Ian is initially reticent to have the Thals sacrifice themselves for the sake of assisting the Doctor and his companions.  The Doctor, however, considers this no time for morals and engages in a verbal dispute with Ian.  Ian asks if the Thals are cowards or against fighting on principal.

Ian attempts to goad the Thals into fighting.

Ian attempts to goad the Thals into fighting.

Attempting to goad the Thals into action and determine if there’s anything they will fight for, Ian  grabs a Thal woman by the arm and threatens to take her to the Dalek city with him.  A Thal male retaliates by punching Ian in the face. Reclining on the ground and rubbing his face, Ian’s mission has been accomplished as he has proved that the Thals will indeed fight for what is theirs.  It doesn’t take long for the Thals to then agree to assist the Tardis Crew in their actions against the Daleks.

The Doctor and Dyoni.

The Doctor and Dyoni.

Hasten to add, the Doctor, his companions and the Thals eventually defeat the Daleks in their own city. The moral of the story, therefore, is that pacifism is no answer to unadulterated aggression.  Born in 1930, Terry Nation grew up during the Second World War at a time when in his own words “men were trying to kill me”.  Nation was clearly contemptuous of the British policy of appeasement against German and Italian aggression in the 1930s, considering it cowardice.  The pacifist Thals were therefore analogous to the pre World War II British and the Daleks to the German Nazis.  The Doctor represents those who were skeptical of appeasement.   Once the Thals rejected pacifism and fought they, like Britain, were successful in defeating the (Dalek) enemy.

Vivien Fleming

Doctor Who and the Daleks

The first Doctor Who monsters and the Doctor’s oldest foes, the Daleks, were introduced to the public between 21 December 1963 and 1 February 1964. A British icon was born.

©Vivien Fleming, 2013.

An Unearthly Child

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3 DVD Disc Set including the first ever Doctor Who serials "An Unearthly Child", "The Daleks" and "The Edge of Destruction".

3 DVD Disc Set including the first ever Doctor Who serials “An Unearthly Child”, “The Daleks” and “The Edge of Destruction”.

"An Unearthly Child".  The first ever Doctor Who serial broadcast between 23 November and 14 December 1963.

“An Unearthly Child”. The first ever Doctor Who serial broadcast between 23 November and 14 December 1963.

Those with even a cursory knowledge of the history of Doctor Who will invariably be aware that An Unearthly Child was the first Doctor Who serial ever screened on (British) television. Broadcast on 23 November 1963 , An Unearthly Child is in reality the name of the first of four 25 minute episodes that constituted the first Doctor Who story, or “serial”. Prior to The Savages, which was aired from 30 April 1966, all episodes in a serial had a unique name but no collective serial title. It was only in later years that an overriding serial title was assigned to these earlier individually named episodes which constituted a single story. What is now known as An Unearthly Child was broadcast in four episodes entitled “An Unearthly Child”, “Cave of Skulls”, “The Forest of Fear”, and “The Firemaker”.

The opening credits to "An Unearthly Child".

The opening credits to “An Unearthly Child”.

Unsurprisingly, it is in this serial that we first meet The Doctor, together with his three companions, Susan Foreman, Ian Chesterton and Barbara Wright. Although the viewer is soon appraised of the fact that The Doctor is not from our planet, the earth, the location of his home is not disclosed for a number of years. Nor is The Doctor identified as a Time Lord who has two hearts and is capable of regeneration in the event of serious injury or impending death. Our soon to be hero’s Gallifreyan heritage and unique physical characteristics are traits that have yet to be invented by the programme’s writers.

The Doctor's grand-daughter Susan, with her History Teacher, Barbara Wright and Science Teacher, Ian Chesterton.

The Doctor’s grand-daughter Susan, with her History Teacher, Barbara Wright and Science Teacher, Ian Chesterton.

Instead, we meet a seemingly elderly man who is at best a little crotchety, and at worst devoid of any vestiges of morality. The Doctor is not the hero that he is to soon become, but rather an alien being, in the physical form of a human, whose actions are profoundly egocentric. Accompanying him to 1963 London is his 15 year old grand-daughter, Susan, who against the Doctor’s express desires enrolls in a local comprehensive secondary school, Coal Hill School. Just why an alien teenager would attend school is never explained, although one might posit that Susan was keen to escape from her grandfather’s control and experience a settled and ordinary “human” existence.

Susan intrigues her teachers by being absolutely brilliant at some things and excruciatingly bad at others.

Susan intrigues her teachers by being absolutely brilliant at some things and excruciatingly bad at others.

Home for the Doctor and Susan during their earthly sojourn is an apparently abandoned Scrap Metal Merchant’s yard. The gate to the yard bears a sign reading “IM Foreman Scrap Metal Merchant”. Mr Foreman’s whereabouts, and the circumstances in which the Doctor and Susan took up residence there, is not revealed. Amongst the junk that has accumulated in premises is a blue Police Box. A common sight in 1960s London, these Police Boxes were used by the local constabulary to make telephone calls back to their Police Stations and to temporarily hold arrested persons. This box, however, is no ordinary Police Box but the Doctor’s spaceship which Susan named the Tardis, an acronym for “Time and Relative Dimensions in Space”. Bigger on the inside than out, the Tardis is capable of travelling through time and space.

The Doctor's earthly home, 76 Totters Lane.

The Doctor’s earthly home, 76 Totters Lane.

Concerned by the diminishing standard of Susan’s homework, two of her teachers, Barbara Wright and Ian Chesterton resolved to visit her home and speak to Susan’s grandfather. Barbara teaches history and Ian teaches Science. Following Susan home one evening, Ian and Barbara see Susan enter the Scrap Metal yard and discreetly follow her in. Once inside the yard the teachers are unable to find where Susan has gone and investigate the premises. Confronted by the Doctor, who sneaks out of the darkness, the teacher detectives identify themselves and seek information on Susan’s whereabouts. The Doctor is arrogant and dismissive of the teachers’ questions and denies that Susan has entered the yard. A noise from inside the Tardis, however, alerts Ian and Barbara to Susan’s presence. They gain entry into the Tardis and are dumbfounded by what appears to be an optical illusion. Notwithstanding the evidence Barbara and Ian aren’t convinced that the Doctor and Susan are from another time and world. Angry at having strangers barge their way into his spaceship, the Doctor contemplates the problems that this may cause. Prior to being able to act upon his desire not to release the pair, a scuffle occurs and the Tardis accidentally starts. Ian and Barbara pass out as we hear the now distinctive sound of the Tardis materializing. Like it or not, the teachers are now unwilling companions of the Doctor and Susan as they begin their travels in time and space.

The Tardis materializes for the first time.

The Tardis materializes for the first time.

It has not been infrequently stated that the following three episodes of this story are nothing more than cavemen running around talking and fighting about fire. Whilst fire is indeed the principal topic of the remainder of the serial it is by no means quite so simple. The Tardis lands in a deserted location which the viewer soon learns is in pre-historic times. The land is inhabited by a tribe of cavemen who have lost their knowledge of how to make fire. The previous leader of the tribe died without imparting the tribe with this essential knowledge and as a consequence their continued existence is threatened. Whilst investigating the strange box which is inhabiting their landscape, the cavemen come upon the Doctor who, for the first and last time in Doctor Who, is seen to be smoking. The cavemen are intrigued by the fire that is seemingly comes from the Doctor’s fingers as he lights his pipe. The smoke he exhales is further evidence to these pre-historic men that the doctor is possessed of unique powers that permit him to make fire. The Doctor’s ability to make fire is needed by the tribe. The Doctor is kidnapped by the tribe and taken back to their cave home and is subsequently joined by the other three members of the Tardis crew.

The Doctor is kidnapped for his smoking habit.

The Doctor is kidnapped for his smoking habit.

The tribe’s subsequent internal battles for leadership and the Tardis team’s attempts to escape fill the following episodes. Although the desire to obtain, or not to obtain, fire is the pervasive theme, nonetheless important character development and moral messages are evident. In a society seemingly without reason and logic, the leader of the caveman tribe is young and strong – a person who can make fire and can also collect meat. The presumption by the cavemen that the “old” and therefore presumably physically weak cannot be leaders causes friction amongst the Doctor’s party when the tribe mistakes Ian as the leader. It is with surprise, therefore, that Ian corrects this misapprehension and nominates the Doctor as their leader. For all intents and purposes it is Ian that displays the qualities of leadership. Whereas the cave men settle their leadership disputes with clubs and brawn, the Tardis Tribe leadership is determined by a battle of words and the deferential respect for the aged.

The caveman, Kal.

The caveman, Kal.

Sexual politics, however, appears to have changed little from cavemen time to 1963. Susan, whose power was evident in her otherworldliness in Part 1, has been reduced to a screaming child. The intelligence, and indeed genius, that Ian identified at Coal Hill School is little evident. Susan’s principal contribution to the last 3 parts was the discovery that skulls became illuminated when placed upon a burning stick. For an unearthly child, she certainly seems less than alien, and profoundly human, when compelled to confront the stark realities of time travel.

Vivien Fleming

©Vivien Fleming, 2013.