Category Archives: Season 1

Day 49 of 50th Anniversary Countdown – The 10 Least Remembered Monsters of the Sixties

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10.          The Mechonoids – The Chase

Written by the Daleks’ creator, Terry Nation, the Mechonoids appeared in the penultimate serial of Season 2, The Chase.  Together with the farewell of companions Ian and Barbara, The Chase  was the first attempt by Terry Nation to create a rival to the Daleks’ popularity. The Mechonoids were created to protect humans on the planet Mechanus however ultimately no humans colonized the planet. The Daleks battled the Mechonoids during this story.  Not unlike many early Doctor Who monsters, the Mechonoids were large, cumbersome and totally unsuited for most of their tasks.

The Chase was the Mechonoids only television appearance on Doctor Who, although they did appear in comics and had several items of merchandise produced.

A mechonoid with two Daleks in The Chase

A mechonoid with two Daleks in The Chase

9.            The Macra – The Macra Terror

Although revived in the Series 3 episode Gridlock, the providence of the Macra would probably have been lost on most New Series Doctor Who fans. With all four episodes of The Macra Terror lost, it is of little surprise that the Macra have long faded from memory.  Giant crab like creatures, they inhabited underground tunnels and were reliant upon toxic gases to breath.

Thanks for the vigilance of the Australian Censorship Board, several censored clips from The Macra Terror have survived.  A 15 second clip of a Macra grabbing Polly and another 7 second clip of Ben and Polly watching an approaching Macra, have survived from Episode Two. A two second clip of the Controller being attacked by a Macra survives from Episode Three.

A publicity shot of the Controller and Macra taken prior to filming

A publicity shot of the Controller and Macra taken prior to filming

8.            The Krotons – The Krotons

Robert Holmes’ first serial for Doctor Who produced yet another one-off monster, the Krotons.  In my review of The Krotons I described these monsters thus:

 Yet another attempt at a Dalek replacement, the Krotons were a poor substitute.  With arms that looked like the robot’s from Lost in Space, the Krotons were disabled by their strange and inflexible metal hands.  Possessed of a rather cool spinning head, the poor Krotons were not so lucky with that part of their costume below the waist. A rubber skirt was merely tacked on to disguise the operators’ legs”. 

The Krotons spoke with South African accents

The Krotons spoke with South African accents

7.            The Quarks – The Dominators

Created by Mervyn Haisman and Henry Lincoln, the writers of the two Yeti stories The Abominable Snowmen and The Web of Fear, the Quarks of The Dominators were nowhere near successful as Haisman and Lincoln’s first monsters. The Quarks were less than convincing monsters and were ostensibly a box with legs, two pieces of wood for arms, and a quite fancy round head.  The creatures were so small that school children were hired as operators.

Haisman and Lincoln believed that they’d created “the next big thing” and as a consequence a dispute between the writers and the BBC ensued. The writers’ sought exclusive rights for the marketing of the Quarks however unbeknownst to them, the BBC had already sold the comic rights to the Quarks. An injunction against the airing of The Krotons was threatened, although legal action was not forthcoming. The Dominators was the last Doctor Who serial that Haisman and Lincoln worked on. Although never again appearing on TV, the Quarks had a short career as comic book characters.

The Quarks were less than convincing as monsters

The Quarks were less than convincing as monsters

6.            The Fish People – The Underwater Menace

Of The Underwater Menace’s four episodes, two are held in the BBC Archives and only  one has been released on the Lost in Time compilation DVD. Another of the Troughton era serials that is generally held in low regard by fandom, The Underwater Menace featured Fish People.  These strange creatures were once humans but had been operated on to enable them to breath underwater.  These surgically modified humans, who now had gills, flippers and scales, were slaves to the Atlaneans. Polly narrowly escaped being transformed into a Fish Person.

The Fish People’s costumes included many sequins and they spent much of their time engaged in synchronised swimming.  The rest of the time they collected  a constant supply of fresh plankton  which was required by the Atlaneans who were bereft of refrigeration.  Alas, the plankton of The Underwater Menace were not as cute as the SpongeBob SquarePants character.

A rare colour photo of the Fish People

A rare colour photo of the Fish People

5.            WOTAN – The War Machines

Making its first and only appearance in the Season Three finale, The War Machines, WOTAN was the world’s most sophisticated computer.  Pre-empting the internet, WOTAN was designed to link together all of the world’s computers. Located on the top floor of the newly opened Post Office Tower in London, WOTAN was a malignant machine which sought world domination.  WOTAN evidenced the fear of many that the newfangled room-sized computers would usurp humans.

Although not the world's largest computer, WOTAN in the most intelligent

Although not the world’s largest computer, WOTAN is the most intelligent

4.            The Rill – Galaxy 4

Although technically a monster, the Rill of Galaxy 4 were actually benign creatures who had long been the victims of a campaign of aggression by the Drahvins, a race of aggressive females.  Enormous and obscenely ugly green creatures, the Rill can only breathe ammonia. In a tale with the well worn moral of “you can’t judge a book by its cover”, the beautiful blonde Drahvins are the evil and the ugly Rill are the good.

A Chumbley with four Rills in the background

A Chumbley with four Rills in the background

3.            The Menoptra and The Zarbi – The Web Planet

Hailed by some fans as a masterpiece, the First Doctor adventure The Web Planet also has a sizeable number of critics. I was so bored and uninspired by the painfully slow six part serial that I was unable to gather the enthusiasm to write a review.  Instead I posted a fan made YouTube clip which although only three minutes in duration, was immeasurably better than the 150 minute serial.  Is it any wonder that the Menoptra and the Zarbi are forgotten Doctor Who monsters?

Creatures of The Web Planet

Creatures of The Web Planet

2.            The Sensorites – The Sensorites

The penultimate story of Season One, The Sensorites was Doctor Who’s first attempt to create a monster to rival the Daleks.  The Sensorites, who are near neighbours to the New Series monsters, the Ood, are a strange race of creatures who communicate by telepathy. With unusually shaped bald heads, the Sensorites have a fine head of hair growing onwards and upwards from their chins.  Like the Ood, the Sensorites are nameless and genderless and have a tube which hangs from their bodies.  The cord is not the external brain of the Ood, however, but rather a stethoscope to facilitate their communication by telepathy.

A Sensorite using telepathy.

A Sensorite using telepathy.

1.            The Monoids – The Ark

Surely the worst designed of all Sixties Doctor Who monsters, the Monoids  were originally the servants of the Guardians.  In my review of The Ark I described the Monoids in this way:

“.. .a peculiar mute race whose most  distinctive feature is their one eye.  This single eye is in their mouths, or at least what would’ve been their mouths if they had human anatomy. These eyes are actually painted ping pong balls which the actors held in place with their mouths.  Now that’s ingenious small budget special effects for you!  On the top of their heads is a long Beatles style mop top wig, whilst the rest of their bodies are clothed in green ill fitting garb. They have webbed hands and feet and move slowly”.

A lowly regarded serial, The Ark is nonetheless a stunningly directed four part story which is always met by sighs of relief by marathon watchers.  After five lost serials in succession, including the 12 part The Daleks’ Master Plan, watching The Ark on DVD is almost like winning the lottery!

A Monoid complete with voice box

A Monoid complete with voice box

HONOURABLE MENTIONS

  1.  The Voord – The Keys of Marinus
  2.  The Delegates – The Daleks’ Master Plan
  3.  The Chumblies – Galaxy 4

TOMORROW – DAY 48 – The Top 10 Cliff Hangers of the Sixties

YESTERDAY – DAY 50 – The 10 Most Wanted Missing Episodes

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.  The Keys of Marinus.

Some of the delegates in attendance in The Daleks Master Plan

Some of the delegates in attendance in The Daleks’ Master Plan

A Chumbly with the Drahvins

A Chumbley with the Drahvins in Galaxy 4

Vivien Fleming

©Vivien Fleming, 2013.

The Hartnell Years – In Colour

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I was recently browsing YouTube and came upon this fabulous compilation of colourized clips from William Hartnell’s tenure as the First Doctor.  Here’s what the producer, who is known only by the alias of “It’s far from being all over”, says about his work:

“My Tribute to the man that started it all, William Hartnell.

I always felt many of his adventures deserved to be seen in colour, so I set to work. It’s taken about three months and I’ve colourised something in the region of 2,125 frames – one by one, frame by frame. 

Some clips work better than others – as I reached the end I found myself dropping shots I didn’t like and recreating new ones! It’s been a labour of love and I hope you enjoy seeing some classic 60’s Doctor Who – in Colour!

Big thanks to ‘Pelham Cort ‏aka @johnxgin3’ for his colour references and support throughout – I’ll do some Troughton soon! “

The Hartnell Years – In Colour

Missing Episodes Hysteria Update

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Rumours of the recovery of missing episodes of Doctor Who still continue but to date there has been no evidence produced of any finds.

The Yeti's second adventure in The Web of Fear is rumoured to have been found

The Yeti’s second adventure in The Web of Fear is rumoured to have been found

An also rumoured recovery is a television interview with the First Doctor, William Hartnell.  To date no interviews with Hartnell, out of character, are known to exist. The opportunity to hear Hartnell speak in his normal accent is widely sought after.

The Enemy of the World is one of the rumoured Missing Episodes finds.  In this serial Patrick Troughton plays the dictator Salamander who is the spitting image of him

The Enemy of the World is one of the rumoured Missing Episodes finds. In this serial Patrick Troughton plays the dictator Salamander who is the spitting image of the Doctor

Outpost Skaro has reported on its Twitter feed that a “mate of mine is saying that people are beginning to see Enemy of the World … hope it’s true!” The most commonly bandied around number for returned episodes is 17, although claims that as many of 94 of the missing 106 have been returned, have been made. The oft quoted 17 returned would probably entail all seven episodes of Marco Polo, and five each of The Enemy of the World  and The Web of Fear.  Episode three of Enemy and episode one of Web are held in the BBC Archives and have been released on the triple DVD set, Lost in Time.

Episode 3 of The Enemy of the World and Episode 1 of The Web of Fear are held in the BBC Archives and have been released on the tripe DVD set, Lost in Time

Episode 3 of The Enemy of the World and Episode 1 of The Web of Fear are held in the BBC Archives and have been released on the triple DVD set, Lost in Time

Given the decimated nature of the archival material of Patrick Troughton’s tenure as Doctor, it would be an incredible coup to have returned two complete and consecutive Season Five serials.  Season Five hitherto has one complete serial, The Tomb of the Cybermen, and four out of the six episodes of The Ice Warriors.  The two missing episodes of The Ice Warriors  have been animated and the complete serial is being released on DVD later this month.

The Ice Warriors is to be released in late August 2013.  Included with the four recovered episodes are two animated ones

The Ice Warriors is to be released in late August 2013. Included on the DVD release will be the four episodes held in the BBC Archives, together with two animated missing episodes

Anyone interested in an in depth analysis of 1960s Doctor Who and the missing episodes is advised to track down the updated edition of Richard Molesworth’s seminal work Wiped! Doctor Who’s Missing Episodes. The revised edition was released by Telos Publishing Ltd earlier this year .  Wiped!  is presently available for purchase online through The Book Depository UK.

The updated edition of Richard Molesworth's book Wiped! was released by Telos Publications Ltd earlier this year

The updated edition of Richard Molesworth’s book Wiped! was released by Telos Publications Ltd earlier this year

You can find my first article on the Missing Episodes Hysteria here.

Vivien Fleming

©Vivien Fleming, 2013.

10 Tips for Building a Complete Doctor Who DVD Collection

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Having just received in the mail the last two Classic Series Doctor Who DVDs required to complete my collection, it’s probably an appropriate time to discuss the best ways to build a DVD collection. With the exception of Spearhead from Space, the Third Doctor’s debut, Classic Series Doctor Who is only available on DVD.  Spearhead from Space  has been released on Blu Ray as it is the only Classic Series serial produced entirely on film.   New Series Doctor Who is now released on both DVD and Blu Ray, although Series One through to Four and the 2009 Specials are DVD only. Please note that this article is written from an Australian perspective. Unless otherwise stated, all references to box sets refer to Region 2 and Region 4 releases only. American Region 1 Classic Series Doctor Who DVDs have been released by individual serial only.  To the best of my knowledge there are no American Classic Series box sets.

1. BUY ONLINE

This is probably stating the obvious, however procuring a complete Doctor Who DVD collection would be prohibitively expensive if all your titles are purchased from bricks and mortar stores.  Also, finding any one title that you require in a physical store could very likely see you traipsing the length and breadth of your city.  Retailers of DVDs/Blu Rays tend not to stock extraordinarily large catalogues of Doctor Who DVDs. JB Hi Fi is perhaps one exception and you can generally find a very long shelf full of Who titles in each store. Even then, you’ll only find a small percentage of releases at any one store.  JB Hi Fi’s website has search functions enabling you to search by title and then ascertain stores with stock.  Delivery is available from JB Hi Fi for only 0.99c per DVD.

First Doctor DVDs

First Doctor DVDs

When considering purchasing online look for stores that offer free postage.  Postage charges can be a real killer and you can potentially save a great deal with free or low cost postage. Online retailers in Australia that offer free postage include Fishpond and The Nile.

2. BUY FROM OVERSEAS

For Australian purchasers it is unfortunate that the prolonged period of a high Australian dollar has come to an end.  After reaching a high of around 108c US, the dollar has now plummeted to 91c US.  I was fortunate enough to do the bulk of my collecting when the Australian dollar was at its peak but nonetheless, significant savings can still be made. Region 4 DVDs can be prohibitively expensive however Region 2 DVDs are frequently more affordable.  Please see the paragraph below on UK Region 2 DVDs for further details. In recent times I’ve found the most competitive prices are available at Fishpond.

Second and Third Doctor DVDs

First, Second and Third Doctor DVDs

When purchasing from overseas be prepared to wait for your titles to arrive rather slowly. Between four and six weeks is not an uncommon time frame for arrival from the UK.

3. UK REGION 2 DOCTOR WHO DVDS ARE DUAL CODED REGIONS 2 AND 4

When perusing an online store such as Fishpond you will generally find up to three listings for each DVD title – one for each of Regions 1, 2 and 4. Region 1 titles are from the US and are even more expensive than the Australian and New Zealand Region 4 titles.  Region 2 titles, from the UK,  are nine times out of ten the cheapest.

Third Doctor DVDs

Third and Fourth Doctor DVDs

What these websites invariably don’t tell you is that the BBC’s Doctor Who DVDs are dual coded for Regions 2 and 4. Instead the titles are generally listed as Region 2 only, with the usual disclaimer stating that you will require a multi-region player. It’s only when you have the DVD in your hands that the dual coding is obvious . Once you’ve bought your first Region 2 advertised Doctor Who and seen for yourself that it’s dual coded, you’ll wonder why you’ve been wasting your money on the higher priced Region 4 ones for so long.

The Region 2 release of The Five Doctors.  You will note from the back cover that it is dual coded Region 2 and Region 4

The Region 2 release of The Five Doctors. You will note from the back cover that it is dual coded Region 2 and Region 4

Region 2 DVDs are also more attractively packaged than the Region 4 ones.  Nearly all DVDs have the whole of the disc covered in a colour graphic from the serial.  The Region 4 DVDs are generally a solid colour only with no pictures.  Region 2 DVDs also have a 4 page brochure setting out the production details and special features.  This is a great deal handier than the Australian and New Zealand releases that have this information printed on the reverse side of the cover.  This necessitates removing the printed cover from the sleeve if you wish to read it.   The Region 2 brochure is also in a larger font than the Region 4 releases, therefore making reading easier.

An example of a Region 4 Doctor Who disc.  Note that it doesn't have any photographs or otherwise interesting artwork

An example of a Region 4 Doctor Who disc. Note that it doesn’t have any photographs or otherwise interesting artwork

An example of a Region 2 New Series disc.  Classic Series Region 2 discs also generally have photographs and interesting graphics

An example of a Region 2 New Series disc. Classic Series Region 2 discs also generally have photographs and interesting graphics

4. EVEN CHEAP REGION 4 DVD PLAYERS MAY BE MULTI-REGION

If you’re still not convinced that the BBC’s region 2 DVDs are dual coded for Region 4, consider that even your cheap Region 4 DVD player may be multi-region.  My Studio Canal release of The Dalek Collection which includes the two Dalek movies, Dr. Who and the Daleks and Daleks: Invasion Earth 2150 AD, is listed as Region 2 only.  It’s a non BBC release. It plays perfectly on one of my $25.00 K-Mart Region 4 DVD players. You can read two interesting articles from the Sydney Morning Herald here and here.  In these articles, and the numerous comments to them, you will find discussion of Multi-Region (Region-Free) DVD players being marketed in Australia as Region 4 only.

Fourth Doctor DVDs

Fourth Doctor DVDs

If you want to be 100% certain then I would suggest buying a multi-region DVD player which can be picked for as little as $35.00. You’ll make the purchase price up dozens of times over with the savings you’ll obtain buying Region 2 DVDs.

5. COMPARE PRICES and BUY DURING SALES

It is more than worthwhile to shop around a number of websites and compare prices before every purchase.  In my experience prices can vary frequently so what is cheaper one day at a store may not be so the next day. Try eBay as well. Also be on the lookout for sales. JB Hi Fi seem to have 20% off DVD sales every few weeks. It’s worthwhile subscribing to the stores’ emails so that you can be advised of upcoming sales.

Fourth Doctor DVDs

Fourth and Fifth Doctor DVDs

6. COLLECT BY CHEAPEST FIRST RATHER THAN FAVOURITE TITLES

If you are looking to buy the complete collection then it’s worthwhile purchasing titles when you find them on special even if they’re not your favourites.  If you’re going to buy them all eventually you’ll be kicking yourself that you missed the chance for a bargain.

Fourth and Fifth Doctor DVDs

Fifth and Sixth Doctor DVDs

7. DON’T BUY IMMEDIATELY UPON RELEASE

Especially when it comes to Special Editions, don’t buy your DVDs immediately upon release.  Prices for new releases are always at a premium so if you are prepared to wait you can often save up to $10.00 on the purchase price.

Sixth and Seventh Doctor DVDs

Sixth and Seventh Doctor DVDs

8. KEEP A LIST AND MARK OFF TITLES ORDERED AND RECEIVED

This is another fairly obvious point however it’s easily overlooked. There are 155 Classic Series serials, 90% of which have been released as individual stories and not as part of a box set.  Unless you’ve rote learnt the names of every title then you’re sure to forget what you’ve bought and also ordered.  In completing my collection I used Mark Campbell’s Doctor Who. The Complete Guide, to mark off the serials as I ordered then, and again as they were received.  The book has the added advantage of allowing me to see what’s next in my marathon and also quickly consult a list of cast members, writer, directors and the like for each serial.

Classic Series Revisitations Box Sets, Torchwood and Sarah Jane Adventures

Classic Series Revisitations Box Sets, Torchwood and Sarah Jane Adventures

9. ACQUAINT YOURSELF WITH THE CONTENTS OF BOXED SETS

Probably around 10% of Classic Series titles have been released as part of a box set.  Find out what serials are included in each box set as generally you can’t search by story title for those serials contained in a box set. A complete list of DVD releases can be found here.

New Series Doctor Who

New Series Doctor Who

Although New Series DVDs are packaged as Series box sets, Classic Series DVDs are generally sold by single serial only.  The only Classic Series Seasons released in a single box set are Season 16 (the Fourth Doctor and Romana I) The Key to Time,  and Season 23 (the Sixth Doctor, Peri and Mel) The Trial of a Time Lord. This unfortunately means that Classic Series collecting can be an expensive past time and also takes up a great deal of shelf space.

The Key to Time is Season 16 of Doctor Who.  It is one of only two Classic Series Seasons released as a box set

The Key to Time is Season 16 of Doctor Who. It is one of only two Classic Series Seasons released as a box set

The Trial of a Time Lord is Season 23 of Doctor Who

The Trial of a Time Lord is Season 23 of Doctor Who

The most inexpensive (and shelf efficient) way of buying Series 1 through to 4 of Doctor Who (2005-2008) is by the Complete Box Set. Purchased from the UK this Box Set costs around $70.00

The most inexpensive (and shelf efficient) way of buying Series 1 through to 4 of Doctor Who (2005-2008) is by the Complete Box Set. Purchased from the UK this Box Set costs around $70.00

10. DISPLAY YOUR COLLECTION WITH PRIDE

Once you’ve finished your collection display it with pride and sit back and enjoy watching 50 years of Doctor Who history.  You’re in for a great ride!

Mark Campbell's Doctor Who The Complete Series Guide provides a good introductory summary of each Doctor Who serial.  This book has been of invaluable assistance to me in building my complete collection of Doctor Who DVDs

Mark Campbell’s Doctor Who The Complete Series Guide provides a good introductory summary of each Doctor Who serial. This book has been of invaluable assistance to me in building my complete collection of Doctor Who DVDs

SUGGESTED ONLINE DVD RETAILERS

The ABC Shop – http://shop.abc.net.au/

eBay – http://www.ebay.com.au/

Fishpond – http://www.fishpond.com.au/ (Australia) and http://www.fishpond.com/ (world-wide)

JB Hi Fi – http://www.jbhifi.com.au/

Mighty Ape – http://www.mightyape.com.au/

The Nile – http://www.thenile.com.au/

WOW HD – http://www.wowhd.com.au/

ZAVVI – http://www.zavvi.com/home.dept

I’ve posted several UK based online retailers with free or low cost world-wide delivery here.

DISCLAIMER: The information provided in this article is of a general nature only and the author does not purport to be an expert in the sale or operation of DVDs or DVD players.  The information is made available on the understanding that the author is not  engaged in rendering professional advice. Buyers of DVDs and DVD players should make their own inquiries in respect of compatibility issues.

Vivien Fleming

©Vivien Fleming, 2013.

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.

The Daleks’ 50th Birthday Party

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With all the hype surrounding Doctor Who’s 50th Anniversary  on 23rd November,  the 50th birthday of the Doctor’s oldest and most deadliest foe, the Daleks, looked like it may well have been forgotten.  Born on the screens of the United Kingdom’s 405 line black and white TV sets on 21st December 1963, the Daleks have appeared in over 30 Doctor Who serials, together with a number of cameos and flashbacks.  They have battled against 10 of the Doctor’s 11 incarnations and have been killed and resurrected more times than Rory Williams!

Barbara is pinned against the wall in fear during the Daleks' first appearance in Doctor Who on 21st December 1963

Barbara is pinned against the wall in fear during the Daleks’ first appearance in Doctor Who on 21st December 1963

The BBC has today announced that the Daleks will appear in the Doctor Who 50th Anniversary special, together with the shape shifting Zygons who will make only their second appearance  – 38 years after their first. Details of the nature of the Daleks battle with the Tenth and Eleventh Doctors, together with John Hurt, a hitherto unknown incarnation, have yet to be revealed.  Let’s hope it’s as memorable as the closing shot of 1963’s The Dead Planet where companion Barbara Wright is pinned in fear against wall.  Barbara’s screams indicated the presence of a terrifying foe, although for the next seven days the audience could only but imagine what the strange rubber object on the end of a metal rod was. The Daleks were born and there was no looking back.  Without the Dalekmania which followed their first story, it’s unlikely that Doctor Who would have celebrated its first birthday, let alone its 50th. Long live the Daleks and may we look forward to another 50 years of terror!

The BBC today released this photograph of the Daleks from the 50th Anniversary special which is to be aired on 23rd November 2013

The BBC today released this photograph of the Daleks from the 50th Anniversary special which is to be aired on 23rd November 2013

Vivien Fleming

©Vivien Fleming, 2013.

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.