Category Archives: Season 6

Let the Marathon Recommence!

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With the hysteria of Doctor Who’s 50th Anniversary behind us, and Peter Capaldi’s debut series as the Doctor at least six months away, it’s time to recommence the Doctor Who Mind Robber’s ultimate marathon. Before the unrelenting barrage of Golden Anniversary publicity and hype derailed the writer’s quest to view and review all 800 episodes of Doctor Who, this humble blog had chronicled the Doctor’s adventures from William Hartnell’s debut serial, An Unearthly Child, to Patrick Troughton’s penultimate outing, The Space Pirates. Although the final serial of the monochrome era, The War Games, had been viewed several times, the review has yet to grace the pages of this blog. It’s almost as if I couldn’t bare to make the final break with my favourite doctor, Troughton. Alas, it’s time to move on. Peter Capalid’s channelling of Jon Pertwee’s Third Doctor in his costume publicity photos has reignited my passion to explore the tenure of our first full colour Doctor. Please join me for the journey!

Patrick Troughton

Vivien Fleming

©Vivien Fleming, 2014.

Day 41 of 50th Anniversary Countdown – 7 Companions That Could or Should Have Been (The Sixties)

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On Day 41 of our 50th Anniversary Countdown The Doctor Who Mind Robber examines some 1960’s companions that could or should have been. The would-be companions are listed in broadcast order only.

1.       Bret Vyon – The Daleks’ Master Plan

There are some fans who may posit that Bret Vyon, the Space Security Agent from The Daleks’ Master Plan, has already been accorded companion status.  This is somewhat of a minority view, however. Nicholas Courtney’s first Doctor Who role saw his character travel through time and space with the Doctor and his companions but he was somewhat of an interloper. His first meeting with the Doctor involved a threat of violence and he forced his way into the TARDIS uninvited. It took some time for a degree of trust to be established between the parties.

In any event Vyon was killed at the hands of his own sister, Sara Kingdom. Thank goodness he was or we would never have had the iconic Brigadier Lethbridge-Stewart.  Well at least not the Brigadier as played by Nicholas Courtney.

Nicholas Courtney played Bret Vyon in The Daleks Master Plan

Nicholas Courtney played Bret Vyon in The Daleks’ Master Plan

 2.       Anne Chaplet – The Massacre

Anne Chaplet was a French servant girl who the Doctor and Steven met in Paris during The Massacre. At the time Steven was the First Doctor’s sole companion, with this serial being the only one in the monochrome era of Doctor Who to feature just a single travelling companion. Vicki had left in the final episode of The Myth Makers and had been replaced by Katarina for episodes one to four of The Daleks’ Master Plan. Sara Kingdom then accompanied the Doctor and Steven until her death in episode 12 of that serial.  Proceeding directly on from the DMP, The Massacre is one of a long series of sadly missing episodes.

Anne Chaplet - the Huguenot servant girl that the Doctor refused to save in The Massacre

Anne Chaplet – the Huguenot servant girl that the Doctor refused to save in The Massacre

As the Doctor disappeared for the majority of episodes of The Massacre, only to be replaced by his evil double Abbot Amboise, Anne had very little contact with him.  Anne’s relationship with Steven, however, was strong and they immediately clicked. He was understandably devastated and angry when the Doctor refused to allow Anne to accompany them in the TARDIS when they left Paris in episode four.

STEVEN: Surely there was something we could have done?

DOCTOR: No, nothing.  Nothing.  In any case, I cannot change the course of history, you know that.  The massacre continued for several days in Paris and then spread itself to other parts of France.  Oh, what a senseless waste.  What a terrible page of the past.

STEVEN: Did they all die?

DOCTOR: Yes, most of them.  About ten thousand in Paris alone.

STEVEN: The Admiral?

DOCTOR: Yes.

STEVEN: Nicholas? You had to leave Anne Chaplet there to die.

DOCTOR: Anne Chaplet?

STEVEN: The girl!  The girl who was with me!  If you’d brought her with us she needn’t have died.  But no, you had to leave her there to be slaughtered.

DOCTOR: Well, it is possible of course she didn’t die, and I was right to leave her.

STEVEN: Possible?  Look, how possible?  That girl was already hunted by the Catholic guards.  If they killed ten thousand how did they spare her?  You don’t know do you” You can’t say for certain that you weren’t responsible for that’s girl’s death.

DOCTOR: I was not responsible.

STEVEN: Oh, no.  You just sent her back to her aunt’s house where the guards were waiting to catch her.  I tell you this much, Doctor, wherever this machine of yours lands next I’ m getting off.  If you have so little regard for human life then I want no part of it.

DOCTOR: We’ve landed.  Your mind is made up?

STEVEN: Goodbye.

Steven, Anne and Huguenots in The Massacre

Steven, Anne and Huguenots in The Massacre

No sooner had Steven left the ship than Dodo Chaplet mysteriously entered and Steven returned. Upon learning Dodo’s surname Steven was intrigued.  Could she perhaps be a descendant of Anne’s?  Logically, however, with would have been highly unlikely in a patriarchal society in which women were routinely given their father’s surnames.

3.       Samantha Briggs – The Faceless Ones

Pauline Collins’ first appearance in Doctor Who was in the 1967 serial The Faceless Ones as the Liverpudlian Samantha Briggs. Investigating the disappearance of her brother on a Chameleon Tours flight to Rome, Sam met up with The Doctor and his companions. Although born in Liverpool, Collins’ Liverpudlian accent in the story has been the cause of much mirth over the years. A possible romantic match for Jamie, the relationship between the two characters never progressed beyond a kiss.

As Polly and Ben were leaving Doctor Who at the end of The Faceless Ones Collins was offered the job as a full-time companion.  Perhaps wisely, given the lack of success of many companions post Who, Collins declined and went on to obtain an OBE, win a BAFTA for Best Film Actress, and be nominated for both an Academy Award and a Golden Globe.  She is best known for her role in the movie Shirley Valentine.  In 2006 Collins appeared in the Doctor Who episode Tooth and Claw as Queen Victoria.

Jamie gets a kiss from Samantha in The Faceless Ones

Jamie gets a kiss from Samantha in The Faceless Ones

 4.       Thonmi – The Abominable Snowmen

A young monk at the Det-Sen Monastery during the Doctor and his companions’ jaunt to Tibet in 1935 (The Abominable Snowmen), Thonmi would have been an intriguing companion.  Having quickly established a rapport with Victoria, this young man could have brought an element of spirituality to the Second Doctor’s tenure. I couldn’t help but wonder what Thonmi’s reaction would have been to the Doctor’s trance like communication with the Time Lords in The War Games. Although the producers of Doctor Who experienced difficulties with Katarina during her mere 4 episode companionship, the subsequent success of both Jamie and Victoria as historical companions showed that the juxtaposition of time could work very well.

The Doctor and the young monk, Thonmi in The Abominable Snowmen

The Doctor and the young monk, Thonmi in The Abominable Snowmen

5.   Astrid – The Enemy of the World

Sassy, sexy and a product of James Bond obsessed 1960’s Britain, Astrid would have made a perfect companion for the Doctor. Capable and organized, Astrid had the capacity to provide a strong female lead character to Doctor Who. At the time that Mary Peach filmed her role in The Enemy of the World she was also auditioning for Diana Rigg’s replacement in The Avengers. Although unsuccessful in obtaining The Avengers’ role, you could readily see her playing another Mrs Emma Peel.  How wonderful that the recovery and release of The Enemy of the World has allowed us to see another five episodes of Ms Peach’s work!

Mary Peach as Astrid in The Enemy of the World

Mary Peach as Astrid in The Enemy of the World

6. Anne Travers – The Web of Fear

Anne Travers was another product of the Second Wave of Feminism.  Intelligent and university educated, Anne was the daughter of Professor Travers whom the Doctor first met in Tibet during The Abominable Snowmen tale. So successful was Ms Traver’s career in science that she was working in the United States when called upon to provide assistance to her father.

Anne Travers gif1

Ms Traver’s was a scientific equal to the Doctor and ably worked alongside him during the 20 minute countdown thrust upon them by the Great Intelligence in The Web of Fear.  Like Isobel, she brilliantly turned the tables on any male who sought to denigrate her. Her comeback to Knight in Episode 1 was just brilliant:

KNIGHT: What’s a girl like you doing in a job like this?

ANNE: Well, when I was a little girl I thought I’d like to be a scientist, so I became a scientist.

KNIGHT: Just like that?

ANNE: Just like that.

Anne Travers another try

That Isobel and Anne shared a feminist outlook is not surprising given that Isobel was originally intended to be the reprisal of Anne in The Invasion. Circumstances meant that neither Professor Travers nor his daughter was reprised in The Invasion but in their places were substituted Professor Watkins and his niece Isobel. The Travers were nonetheless mentioned in The Invasion.

 Anne Travers gif37.       Isobel – The Invasion

I waxed lyrical about Isobel in my review of The Invasion notwithstanding Rob Shearman’s rather scathing critique of her in Running Through Corridors. A forthright young woman, not dissimilar to the former companion Polly, Isobel was intelligent, capable and a great friend to Zoe. The girls’ glee at Zoe blowing up the International Electromatics automated answering machine was infectious.  Just imagine the other hijinks they could have got up to. Isobel represented the growing second wave of feminism and did not retreat from her criticisms of patriarchy.  She successfully imparted a glint of this onto Zoe. 

Isobel and Zoe in The Invasion

Isobel and Zoe in The Invasion

Vivien Fleming

©Vivien Fleming, 2013.

Day 43 of 50th Anniversary Countdown – The 10 Best Second Doctor Quotes

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10. The Power of the Daleks

             The Doctor: Life depends on change, and renewal.

Ben: Oh, that’s it, you’ve been renewed, have you?

The Doctor: Renewed? Have I? That’s it, I’ve been renewed. It’s part of the TARDIS. Without it I couldn’t survive.

 

The Doctor, Ben and Polly in the Second Doctor's first adventure, The Power of the Daleks

The Doctor, Ben and Polly in the Second Doctor’s first adventure, The Power of the Daleks

9.  The Invasion

I hate computers and refuse to be bullied by them!

The Doctor could not abide being bullied by either Tobias Vaughn or computers in The Invasion

The Doctor could not abide being bullied by either Tobias Vaughn or computers in The Invasion

8.  The Tomb of the Cybermen

The Doctor:  You look very nice in that dress, Victoria

Victoria: Thank you.  Don’t you think it’s a bit …

The Doctor: A bit short? Oh, I shouldn’t worry about that.  Look at Jamie’s.

Victoria's dress was shorter than Jamie's kilt in The Tomb of the Cybermen

Victoria’s dress was shorter than Jamie’s kilt in The Tomb of the Cybermen

7.  The Seeds of Death

Your leader will be angry if you kill me.  I … I’m a genius!

The Doctor used his genius in an attempt to thwart death in The Seeds of Death

The Doctor used his genius in an attempt to thwart death in The Seeds of Death

6.   The Enemy of the World

People spend all their time making nice things and then other people come along and break them!

 

5.  The War Games

The Time Lords are an immensely civilised race.  We  can control our own environment – we can live forever, barring accidents, and we have the secret of space/time travel.

It was not until the Second Doctor's final story that we learnt that he was a Time Lord

It was not until the Second Doctor’s final story that we learnt that he was a Time Lord

4.  The Enemy of the World

Victoria: Perhaps we’ve landed in a world of mad men.

Doctor: They’re human beings, if that’s what you mean. Indulging their favourite past time – trying to destroy each other. Time we went, come on.

The Doctor gave Victoria a lesson on human nature in The Enemy of the World

The Doctor gave Victoria a lesson on human nature in The Enemy of the World

3.   The Moonbase

There are some corners of the universe which have bred the most terrible things.  Things which act against everything we believe in.  They must be fought!

Second Doctor Quotes - Some Things

2.     The Tomb of the Cybermen

Victoria: You probably can’t remember your family.

The Doctor: Oh yes, I can when I want to. And that’s the point, really. I have to really want to, to bring them back in front of my eyes. The rest of the time they… they sleep in my mind and I forget. And so will you. Oh yes, you will. You’ll find there’s so much else to think about. To remember. Our lives are different to anybody else’s. That’s the exciting thing, that nobody in the universe can do what we’re doing.

The Doctor had a tender conversation with Victoria about his family in The Tomb of the Cybermen

The Doctor had a tender conversation with Victoria about his family in The Tomb of the Cybermen

 

1 .  The Wheel in Space

Logic, my dear Zoe, merely enables one to be wrong with authority.

Vivien Fleming

©Vivien Fleming, 2013.

Missing Episodes Delay 50th Anniversary Countdown

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The Doctor Who Mind Robber regrets to advise that the recent news of the recovery of 9 missing episodes has thwarted our attempts to provide a daily article celebrating the countdown to Doctor Who’s 50th Anniversary. Far too much time has been spent speculating about, celebrating and watching The Enemy of the World and The Web of Fear to write the daily post.  Now that the hysteria is being to subside we will recommence our countdown at Day 44 tomorrow. Hopefully several posts per day will quickly allow us to catch up.  Today is 41 days until the 50th.

Please stay tuned as we continue our countdown to this incredible milestone. In the meantime feel free to read our previous 50th countdown posts.

Day 50 – The 10 Most Wanted Missing Episodes

Day 49 – The 10 Least Remembered Monsters of the Sixties

Day 48 – The Top 10 Cliff Hangers of the Sixties

Day 47 – The 10 Greatest Billy Fluffs

Day 46 – 10 of the Best First Doctor Moments

Day 45 – The 5 Least Wanted Missing Episodes

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Vivien Fleming

Day 45 of 50th Anniversary Countdown – The 5 Least Wanted Missing Episodes

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On Day 50 of The Doctor Who Mind Robber’s Countdown to Doctor Who’s 50th Anniversary we published our list of the Ten Most Wanted Missing Episodes. Not all episodes are as highly sought after as others and unfortunately there are a limited number that many fans have little or no desire to see returned. Our list of those sad and sorry stories that pine for some respect is provided in broadcast order only.

1.  Galaxy 4 – Season 3

The first broadcast of our least wanted missing stories is the Season 3 opener, Galaxy 4. Until November 2011 none of the story’s four episodes were held in the BBC Archives.  Upon episode three’s discovery, a reconstruction of the serial was produced and included as an extra in The Aztecs Special Edition.  The recovered episode was included in the reconstruction.

The villains of Galaxy 4 were the Drahvins

The villains of Galaxy 4 were the Drahvins

Although the resident monsters of the serial, the Rill and the Chumblies, are generally well regarded the story is nonetheless frequently discounted by fans. In The Discontinuity Guide (1995) Paul Cornell, Martin Day and Keith Topping’s “Bottom Line” was that “Galaxy 4 presents an interesting if flawed twist on the traditional bug-eyed monster tale”.  

A Chumbley with four Rills in the background

A Chumbly with four Rills in the background

Arguably it is most probably the presence of the chief villains, the Drahvins, which is the cause of most distain for Galaxy 4. Personally I found the concept of a female dominated, anti-male race of aliens absolutely enthralling. It’s for that reason that I rated the serial so highly in my own marathon watch.  Below is an example of one of the recent anti-Galaxy 4 tweets. The diversity of Doctor Who fandom is one of its greatest strengths.

2.  The Celestial Toymaker – Season 3

Prior to the recovery and release of episode four The Celestial Toymaker was held in reasonably high regard.  In Peter Haining’s 1983 coffee table book, Doctor Who A Celebration, Jeremy Bentham waxed lyrical about it.

The success of this story lies in the way if visualises a child’s nightmare – the secret world of toys from the nursery coming to life, harmless games that insidiously graduate into something far more sinister, smiling, happy faces concealing deadly menace.  In short it was a perfect fairy-tale of the kind told by the brothers Grimm – a multi-level fantasy appealing to young and old alike, but strangely being more disturbing to adults than to children.

Peter Haining, Doctor Who A Celebration Two Decades Through Time and Space (W. H Allen, London, 1983)

Peter Haining, Doctor Who A Celebration Two Decades Through Time and Space (W. H Allen, London, 1983)

The widespread availability of episode 4, firstly on the 1991 VHS release and then on 2004’s DVD, Lost in Time, quickly lead to the story’s reputation diminishing.  In Mark Campell’s widely read basic guide, Doctor Who The Complete Series Guide, he gives the serial only 4 out of 10.  His verdict is as follows:

A weird, and at times plodding, excursion into pure fantasy (some might say whimsy).  Not as interesting as its reputation might suggest.

Mark Campbell's Doctor Who The Complete Series Guide (Constable & Robertson Ltd, London, 2010)

Mark Campbell’s Doctor Who The Complete Series Guide (Constable & Robertson Ltd, London, 2010)

 My own marathon review of The Celestial Toymaker was rather more positive.  In introducing the story I stated:

I found the story engaging and fascinating.  The concept of a world of make believe in which the characters are compelled to participate in childish games in order to retrieve the TARDIS is both sinister and surreal. That I’m a great fan of the Second Doctor’s The Mind Robber probably evidences my idiosyncratic tendencies.  Both serials have a similar edge about them.

Dodo, Steven and Cyril the nasty "schoolboy" in The Celestial Toymaker

Dodo, Steven and Cyril the nasty “schoolboy” in The Celestial Toymaker

3.  The Underwater Menace – Season 4

Another poor and lowly regarded story is The Underwater Menace. Episode 3 is included on Lost in Time, and although episode 2 was recovered in November 2011 it has yet to be released on DVD. You have to wonder what that omission says about both the popularity and the quality of the serial. The Discontinuity Guide displayed its distain for the serial in its bottom line summary:

‘I could feed you to my pet octopus – yes? … I, too, have a sense of humour!’ At least Joe Orton got a kick out of watching Frazer Hines in episode four of this story.  

Paul Cornell, Martin Day & Keith Toppiing, The Discontinuity Guide (Doctor Who Books, London, 1995)

Paul Cornell, Martin Day & Keith Toppiing, The Discontinuity Guide (Doctor Who Books, London, 1995)

To find out more about the Joe Orton/Doctor Who connection I suggest you read this blog post.

In my marathon review of The Underwater Menace I successfully found some merit in the story and ended my article by stating, “ The Underwater Menace is a fun romp and nowhere near as bad as its reputation.  Watch it with an eye for the ridiculous and you won’t be disappointed”.

A rare colour photo of the Fish People of The Underwater Menace

A rare colour photo of the Fish People of The Underwater Menace

4.  The Wheel in Space – Season 5

As the lovely Wendy Padbury’s debut story, one would have thought that The Wheel in Space would be a fine contender in the list of the most sought after missing episodes. Moreover, the story features the Cybermen and is the last of a long and continuous run of missing Series 5 stories. That’s enough to make anyone celebrate.  Not so for the authors of The Discontinuity Guide who again panned the story:

Dull, lifeless and so derivative of other base-under-siege stories that it isn’t really a story in its own right.  Despite the detailed Wheel setting, the galloping lack of scientific credibility is annoying, and the Cybermen are so bland and ordinary that they could have been any other monster.  Generic speed-written tosh.

As a great fan of the companion Zoe I nonetheless enjoyed The Wheel in Space. There can never be too much Zoe.

Jamie is initially reticent to accept Zoe as a member of the TARDIS Crew in The Wheel in Space

Jamie is initially reticent to accept Zoe as a member of the TARDIS Crew in The Wheel in Space

5.  The Space Pirates – Season 6

Coming in at 195 in the 2009 Doctor Who Magazine Mighty 200, The Space Pirates has the unfortunate reputation as the least popular Patrick Troughton era Doctor Who serial. It is also the last story that is missing from the BBC Archives.  Being totally bereft of any telesnaps, and having a muddy and almost inaudible fan saved soundtrack, Loose Cannon’s reconstruction of The Space Pirates does not make for very engaging viewing.  So bad was it that I had great difficulty reviewing the story.  I was, however, impressed by Madelaine Issigri’s fabulous metal hair and Zoe’s hotpants!  The only episode held in the BBC Archives has been released on the Lost in Time DVD.

Madelaine Issigri had the most fabulous metal wig in The Space Pirates

Madelaine Issigri had the most fabulous metal wig in The Space Pirates

Vivien Fleming

©Vivien Fleming, 2013.

Official Confirmation – BBC to Reveal Missing Doctor Who Episodes

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It’s almost time to break open the champagne.  The BBC News and Entertainment website has published an article by Lizo Mzimba, Entertainment correspondent, BBC News confirming the recovery of an unspecified number of missing Doctor Who episodes.  BBC Worldwide is expected to confirm the find at a press screening in London later this week.

The Doctor, Ben and Polly in the Second Doctor's first adventure, The Power of the Daleks

The Doctor, Ben and Polly in the Second Doctor’s first adventure, The Power of the Daleks

More news will be provided as it comes to hand.

Get ready to party!

Get ready to party!

Vivien Fleming

Fans Frustrated by Delay in Missing Episode Recovery Announcement

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As previously reported in the Doctor Who MInd Robber. the UK tabloid the Mirror yesterday alleged that the BBC would announce the recovery of missing Doctor Who episodes on Tuesday. The Mirror’s claim appeared to be substantiated by an article in The Radio Times which indicated that two lost serials, likely to be from the Troughton era, would be released digitally on Wednesday. 

A November 1963 Radio Times announcing the launch of the new series Doctor Who

A November 1963 Radio Times cover announcing the launch of the new series Doctor Who

Fans hopes for an early resolution of the long standing missing episode rumours where dashed last night when the Mirror reported that the press conference had been postponed until the end of the week.  A BBC Insider is quoted as saying

“With all the excitement in the last few days about the lost episodes we are really keen to get the information out, but there are a few delays.

“We want everything to be ready and for this announcement to excite fans so they will have to wait a few days longer.

“They have been waiting nearly 50 years for this, so a couple of days shouldn’t make any difference.”

Almost simultaneously with the Mirror’s announcement of the delay, The Radio Times amended its online article concerning the digital release of missing episodes. It now ways that the missing episodes will be available for sale to the public this week.

Respected UK newspaper The Guardian has also weighed into the rumours and published an article today which claims that a BBC press conference will be held on Thursday.

Yeti in the tunnels of the London Underground in the lost Troughton era serial The Web of Fear

Yeti in the tunnels of the London Underground in the lost Troughton era serial The Web of Fear

The mounting tension among fans about the impending announcement is so great that at least one online Doctor Who forum has closed its Missing Episodes thread and curtailed all discussion of the issue until an official announcement by the BBC.

The latest rumours suggest that the two missing serials recovered, and due for release, are two Season Five stories, Enemy of the World and The Web of FearThe serials are consecutive stories and among the most sought after by fans. In our The 10 Most Wanted Missing Episodes article published on October 4 we listed the Enemy of the World as number 6 and The Web of Fear as number 5.

Patrick Troughton as Salamander in The Enemy of the World

Patrick Troughton as Salamander in the lost Season Five serial  The Enemy of the World

In the meantime,  general fan consensus seems to be that the Mirror’s claim of the recovery of over 100 missing episodes from Ethiopia is at best an exaggeration, and at worst an outright lie. The Mirror’s claims were reported on the UK’s SkyNews channel and also in the press worldwide, including Australia’s news.com.au.  There are now, however, very few sceptics remaining with the vast majority of vocal fans believing that at least some episodes have been recovered.

Further information will be published as it comes to hand.

Vivien Fleming

©Vivien Fleming, 2013.

 

UPDATE: 

Official Confirmation – BBC to Reveal Missing Doctor Who Episodes

Details here.

Radio Times Reports Digital Release of Two Missing Episodes This Week

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Yesterday The Doctor Who Mind Robber reported an article in Sunday’s Mirror newspaper alleging the recovery of over 100 missing Doctor Who episodes from Ethiopia.  As hoped, the reporting of these rumours in the mainstream media appears to have precipitated some movement on the BBC’s part. The Radio Times is today reporting that two stories, both believed to be from the Troughton era, have been digitally remastered and will be available for purchase on-line  from sources such as iTunes on Wednesday.  The BBC has yet to confirm or deny the claims in The Radio Times. 

A 1965 Radio Times cover featuring the Doctor Who serial The Crusades

A 1964 Radio Times cover featuring the Doctor Who serial Marco Polo

The Doctor Who Mind Robber understands that there is a small Missing Believed Wiped function on Tuesday and that the recovery of some missing episodes could be announced then.  Missing Believed Wiped is an annual event run by the British Film Institute which showcases recently discovered missing films.

The Mirror has published a further story in which they claim that BBC Worldwide has called a press conference and screening for Tuesday evening. The Mirror reports a BBC source as saying,

“There will be big news this Tuesday regarding lost Doctor Who episodes.

It is great that in the show’s 50th year, fans will now be able to look back with classic episodes as well as looking to the future with the new film-length episode in November.

For some fans watching their lost episodes will be like going back in time.”

The BBC Worldwide logo

The BBC Worldwide logo

Further details will be published as they come to hand.

Vivien Fleming

©Vivien Fleming, 2013.

Day 48 of 50th Anniversary Countdown – The Top 10 Cliff Hangers of the Sixties

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One of the most frustrating aspects of 21st Century Doctor Who is the almost complete absence of cliff hangers.  Very few stories have extended beyond one episode.  In a clear nod to William Hartnell era stories, the Series 7 story The Crimson Horror ended with a direct lead-in to the next story, Nightmare in Silver. Arriving back in present-day London, the companion Clara meets with the children she babysits, Angie and Artie, who blackmail her into taking them on her next adventure in the TARDIS.

Clara is blackmailed by Angie and Artie in the conclusion of The Crimson Horror

Clara is blackmailed by Angie and Artie at the conclusion of The Crimson Horror (2013)

In celebration of the great cliff hangers of Classic Series Doctor Who  this article will briefly examine the Top 10 Cliff Hangers of the Sixties.  So as not to reinvent the wheel, The Doctor Who Mind Robber has directly quoted the episode ending summaries from David J Howe and Stephen James Walker’s seminal book The Television Companion. No copyright infringement is intended.

David J Howe & Stephen James Walker's The Television Companion was published in 2003 by Telos Publishing

David J Howe & Stephen James Walker’s The Television Companion was published in 2003 by Telos Publishing

10.          Fury From the Deep – Episode 3

“Maggie Harris and Robson, both infected by the weed creature, meet on the beach.  The former tells the latter that he will obey his instructions.  Then she turns and walks straight out into the sea, eventually becoming completely submerged beneath the waves”.

The horror of this cliff hanger is the apparent suicide of Maggie Harris, the wife of one of the base employees.  It is not until several episodes later that it becomes evident that Mrs Harris is still alive.  Incidentally, Fury From the Deep is one of the few Doctor Who serials in which no one dies.

Unfortunately all episodes of Fury From the Deep have been lost, however the soundtrack, telesnaps and Loose Cannon’s excellent reconstruction brilliantly convey the horror.

In the cliff hanger to episode three Maggie Harris walks into the water, as if to commit suicide

In the cliff hanger to episode three Maggie Harris walks into the water, as if to commit suicide

9.            An Unearthly Child – Episode 1

“The TARDIS arrives on a Palaeolithic landscape, over which falls the shadow of a man”.

This is the cliff hanger to the very first episode of Doctor Who and it’s the first time that the television viewers see the TARDIS materialize.  The ominous shadow of a man in the barren landscape is both frightening and unexpected.

The ominous shadow of a man approaches the TARDIS in the cliff hanger to An Unearthly Child

The ominous shadow of a man approaches the TARDIS in the cliff hanger to An Unearthly Child

8.            The Mind Robber – Episode 1

“The TARDIS is in flight, the travellers having apparently escaped from the void.  A low, throbbing hum is heard which grows in intensity until it is unbearable.  Suddenly the TARDIS explodes.  The Doctor spins away through space while Jamie and Zoe are left clinging to the console as it is engulfed in swirling mist.”

The end of the first episode of The Mind Robber is absolutely brilliant.  This is the first time in Doctor Who that the TARDIS explodes and the crew is left floating perilously in space. The image of Zoe clinging onto the TARDIS console has become iconic for all the wrong reasons.  Her tight sparkly cat suit clings to her body as the camera focuses on her bottom.

Wendy Padbury in the scene for which, unfortunately, she is perhaps best known

Wendy Padbury in the scene for which, unfortunately, she is perhaps best known

7.            The Massacre – Episode 3

“The Abbot of Amboise lies dead in the gutter, a crowd of angry Catholics gathering around his body.  When Steven protests that the Huguenots were not responsible, Roger Colbert incites the crowd against him.  Steven flees for his life through the Paris streets …”

The Massacre sees William Hartnell play two roles – the Doctor and the evil Abbot of Amboise.  Both characters are absolutely identical in appearance however the audience and companion Steven are unaware if the Doctor is masquerading as the Abbot, or if the Doctor and the Abbot are two different people.  It’s for that reason that this cliff hanger is so powerful as it is not clear if it is the Doctor or the real Abbot who is dead.

The Massacre is another of the serials which unfortunately has  all episodes missing.  As discussed in Fury From the Deep, this does not distract from the potency of the ending.

Steven with the body of the Abbot of Amboise

Steven with the body of the Abbot of Amboise

6.            The Tenth Planet – Episode 4

“The Doctor returns to the TARDIS, closely followed by Ben and Polly.  The ship’s controls move of their own accord and the Doctor collapses to the floor.  His companions enter and, before their astonished eyes, the Doctor’s face transforms into that of a younger man”.

This episode ending is of course Doctor Who’s first regeneration. The First Doctor, William Hartnell, collapses and with exceptional special effects for the era, his face is transformed into that of the Second Doctor, Patrick Troughton.  The audience must wait until the next episode to see all of the new Doctor’s body and to experience his personality.  There was no precedent for a change of the lead character in such a manner, and the audience was left stunned as they anticipated the new Doctor’s personality and physical appearance.

Episode 4 of The Tenth Planet has been lost however an amateur film was taken of a television screen during the broadcast of the episode.  The episode has also been recently animated and will be released on DVD next month.

5.            The Dalek Invasion of Earth – Episode 1 and Episode 6

“The Doctor and Ian, menaced by a group of Robomen, prepare to escape by diving into the Thames. As they turn, they see rising slowly from the water the familiar shape of a Dalek.” (Episode 1)

“The TARDIS dematerialises and, comforted by David, Susan moves away.  Her TARDIS key lies discarded on the ground, with an image of a starscape superimposed …” (Episode 6)

The cliff hanger of episode 1 derives its force from both the iconic background of the Thames River and the emergence of Doctor Who’s first return monsters, the Daleks. Having been so well received in their first story, the return of the Daleks was eagerly anticipated by fans.  As was the common practise in early Doctor Who stories, the monsters rarely appeared on-screen until the end of the serial’s first episode.

The episode six ending marked the first departure of a companion in Doctor Who. Just prior to the episode’s end the Doctor gave an impassioned oration to his grand-daughter Susan whom he was effectively deserting on the 21st Century Earth.

A submerged Dalek emerging from the Thames River

A submerged Dalek emerging from the Thames River

Susan talks to the Doctor through the Tardis's PA system

Susan talks to the Doctor through the TARDIS’s PA system

4.            Planet of Giants – Episode 2

“After cleaning Farrow’s blood from the patio stones outside, Smithers goes into the laboratory to wash his hands, unaware that the Doctor and Susan are hiding in the water outlet from the sink.  As a helpless Ian and Barbara watch, he fills the sink with water, washes, and then pulls out the plug”.

The brilliance of the episode 2 cliff hanger of Planet of the Giants is that it successfully made the mundane frightening.  Watching a plug pulled from a sink and water cascading down a drain would ordinarily be exciting as watching the kettle boil. Our heroes, however, have been shrunk to less than an inch in height and are as vulnerable as an ant is to the heavy boot of a human.  The companions Ian and Barbara, together with the audience, are left paralysed with fear at the imminent drowning of the Doctor and Susan.

The Doctor and Susan before descending into the sink drain

The Doctor and Susan before descending into the sink drain

3.            The Daleks – Episode 1

“Exploring their apparently deserted city, Barbara encounters one of the Daleks and is menaced by its telescopic sucker arm.”

As outlined in The Dalek Invasion of Earth, it was standard practice in early Doctor Who for the monsters not to emerge until the cliff hanger of the first episode.  This absolutely iconic ending sees Barbara pinned to a wall in fear as a Dalek’s sucker arm menaces her.  The audience has not yet seen the rest of the Dalek’s body however the expression on Barbara’s face paints a picture of a horrifying spectacle.

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

2.            The War Games – Episode 1 and Episode 10

“In the First World War zone the Doctor has been found guilty of spying against the English forces and is tied up before a firing squad.  Captain Ransom brings his men to order, tells them to present arms and opens his mouth to give the order to fire.  A shot rings out and the Doctor grimaces” (Episode 1)

“A still protesting Doctor spins away through a dark void to begin his sentence of exile on Earth with a new appearance.  His face is shrouded in shadow …” (Episode 10)

By the time the first episode of The War Games was broadcast Patrick Troughton’s decision to leave the role of the Doctor had been made public.  Whilst history had shown that the Doctor always escaped serious harm, the audience could not be certain that his luck hadn’t finally ended.  Perhaps he would be killed by the firing squad and regeneration was imminent?

Episode 10 is perhaps my all-time favourite as so many mysteries about the Doctor’s past are answered. His forced regeneration at the episode’s end is chilling but perhaps not as sad as Jamie and Zoe’s departure earlier in the episode.  The monochrome era of Doctor Who was at an end and things would never be the same again.

The Doctor grimaces as a shot rings out

The Doctor grimaces as a shot rings out

1.            The Invasion – Episode 6

“The Cybermen emerge from the sewers and march through the streets of London as the invasion begins.”

The Cybermen’s emergence from the sewers of London and their march down the steps of St Paul’s Cathedral is justifiably iconic. By placing the monsters in an easily recognizable London landscape genuine fear would have been instilled in the audience.  Although the Daleks had visited tourist spots such as Westminster Bridge in The Dalek Invasion of Earth, the Cybermen were in current day London.  This wasn’t one of the Daleks’ futuristic tales but rather a genuine invasion in our own time.  As Jon Pertwee said,  there’s a “Yeti on the Loo in Tooting Bec”.

Perhaps the most iconic cliff hanger in classic series Doctor Who.  The Cybermen on the steps of St Paul's Cathedral

Arguably the most iconic cliff hanger in classic series Doctor Who. The Cybermen on the steps of St Paul’s Cathedral

TOMORROW – DAY 47 – The 10 Greatest Billy Fluffs 

YESTERDAY – DAY 49  – The 10 Least Remembered Monsters of the Sixties

Vivien Fleming

©Vivien Fleming, 2013.

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.