Tag Archives: An Unearthly Child

Day 30 of 50th Anniversary Countdown – The Top 5 First Doctor Stories

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5. The Aztecs

A Special Edition of The Aztecs was released earlier this year which included an abridged reconstruction of Galaxy 4, together with episode three which was recovered in 2011. The Aztecs has long been held in high esteem by fandom and is a superb example of the historical dramas that the BBC has always brilliantly produced. Set in South America during the time prior to Spanish settlement, the serial tells the story of Barbara’s determination to change history. In a quest to satisfy her penchant for bracelets, Barbara donned a snake bangle discovered not long after the party disembarked from the TARDIS.  Mistaken by the locals as the reincarnation of the high priest Yetaxa, her extraordinary knowledge of history and modern sense of morality naturally saw her rile against human sacrifice. From the beginning the Doctor’s objective was to ensure that history was not rewritten.  This was the first serial in which the parameters of “fiddling” with time and space were examined.  Barbara’s refusal to conform to the Doctor’s direction that “time can’t be rewritten.  Not one line” very nearly had fatal consequences for the Crew. Henceforth there would be limits on the TARDIS Crew’s actions.

Ian was lucky to escape with his life in The Aztecs

Ian was lucky to escape with his life in The Aztecs

4. The Tenth Planet

The First Doctor’s final story, The Tenth Planet heralded a number of firsts – Doctor Who’s first regeneration, the introduction of the Cybermen and the prototype for the Second Doctor’s “base under siege” formula. Rumours abound that the missing fourth episode, which features William Hartnell’s regeneration, has been recovered.  The DVD of the story has recently been released featuring an animation of episode four.  I wonder if a Special Edition, with the (alleged) recovered episode four, should be expected soon?

The DVD cover art for The Tenth Planet

The DVD cover art for The Tenth Planet

3. The Massacre

The Massacre is completely missing from the BBC Archives, although some of the current missing episode rumours suggest that it has been recovered.  Set in 1572 France, the serial chronicles the Doctor and Steven’s adventures during the Massacre de la Saint-Barthélemy (the St. Bartholomew’s Day Massacre) in which thousands of protestant Huguenots were massacred in a religious war lead by Roman Catholics. William Hartnell plays two roles in The Massacre – both the Doctor and the Doctor’s evil doppelganger, the Abbot of Amboise. As this is a historical drama it can almost be assured that the set design and costuming was brilliant.  The story is the only example in monochrome Doctor Who of a single companion accompanying the Doctor.  It also introduces new companion, Dodo Chaplet, in the last 10 minutes of the final episode.

The Doctor and Steven in The Massacre

The Doctor and Steven in The Massacre

2. An Unearthly Child

The first Doctor Who serial, An Unearthly Child introduced the strange adventures of a belligerent old man, the Doctor, and his grand-daughter, Susan Foreman. Possessed of a time machine which externally resembled a Police Call Box, the Doctor’s Ship was larger on the inside and capable of both time and space travel.  Coal Hill school teachers, Ian Chesterton and Barbara Wright, barged their way into the TARDIS (an acronym for Time and Relative Dimension in Space) whilst looking for their student, Susan.  Fearful that the teachers would reveal his secret, the Doctor kidnapped the pair as the TARDIS was seen to dematerialize for the first time.

Episodes two, three and four of the serial are more properly known as The Cave of Skulls, The Forest of Fear and The Firemaker. The Doctor, Susan and their two unwilling companions find themselves in pre-historic times and at the mercy of a tribe of cavemen who have lost their knowledge of fire making.

The first TARDIS Crew in An Unearthly Child

The first TARDIS Crew in An Unearthly Child

1.  Marco Polo

I’m going out on a limb here nominating a completely lost seven part serial as the Top First Doctor story.  As outlined in our post Missing Episodes – Has Marco Polo Been Recovered?  last week, I wouldn’t be at all surprised if this classic serial has been recovered and restored, and finds its way onto the iTunes playlists before Christmas.

The fourth Doctor Who story, Marco Polo was directed by Waris Hussein who was also responsible for the first serial, An Unearthly Child. As far as the BBC is presently letting on, all that remains of Marco Polo are some stunning colour photographs taken on set and the fan recorded soundtrack.  In the days prior to home video recording and commercial VHS releases, the only way that a fan could re-live a Doctor Who episode was to listen to the reel-to-reel audio recording which they’d made during the episode’s original transmission. Incredibly, around half a dozen fan recorded collections remained extant and were located during the 1980s and 1990s. It was during those decades that fans became cognisant of the BBC’s destruction of its television heritage and went searching for what remained.  Thanks to the endeavours of a small group of hard-core fans who religiously recorded Doctor Who each Saturday evening, aficionados of Who were now able to listen to long lost episodes.

Is Marco Polo really as good as fans who watched the original and only transmission remember?  Certainly the audio suggests something very special.  Hopefully we’ll all be able to soon judge for ourselves.

Marco Polo is the earliest missing Doctor Who serial

Marco Polo is the earliest missing Doctor Who serial

HONOURABLE MENTIONS

The Daleks’ Master Plan

Sara Kingdom in combat mode in The Daleks' Master Plan

Sara Kingdom in combat mode in The Daleks’ Master Plan

The Myth Makers

Vicki and Troilus in The Myth Makers

Vicki and Troilus in The Myth Makers

The image at the top of this post is a painting by Francois Dobois depicting the St. Bartholomew’s Day Massacre. No copyright infringement is intended.

Vivien Fleming

©Vivien Fleming, 2013.

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It’s About Time, It’s About Space

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ImageSo pervasive was the force of American television popular culture on this child of the 1960s that every time I type An Adventure in Space and Time, the forthcoming docudrama on the genesis of Doctor Who,  I have to make a correction that the spell checker never picks up. What error could this be, I hear you ask? Well, for the last 40 odd years a catchy little theme song has been running through my head that goes something like this “It’s about time, it’s about space, about two men in the strangest place …”

Yes, the Sherwood Schwartz created one season science fiction comedy series, It’s About Time, will forever make me type An Adventure in Time and Space. This 1966-1967 CBS show was in production at the same time as Schwartz’s more famous offering, Gilligan’s Island. It’s About Time chronicled the adventures of two astronauts that travelled faster than the speed of light and somehow found their way back to the prehistoric times. Their interactions with the locals were the constant cause of merriment.

The stars of It's About Time Frank Aletter and Jack Mullaney

The stars of It’s About Time Frank Aletter and Jack Mullaney

Having watched the short YouTube clip memories of my Australian childhood came flooding back as I recalled the days when we had only three TV stations.  It wouldn’t have mattered that It’s About Time was filmed in wonderful “Technicolor”, because we still only had black and white TV. Colour transmission didn’t begin in Australia until 1 March 1975. Name an American children’s themed TV show of the Sixties and you can be sure that it was played ad nauseam on one of Australia’s networks.

The clan of cavemen, in wonderful Technicolor, from It's About Time

The clan of cavemen, in wonderful Technicolor, from It’s About Time

I couldn’t help but notice the similarities between episodes two, three and four of An Unearthly Child and It’s About Time. The Cave of Skulls, The Forest of Fear and The Firemaker saw the Doctor and his companions, Ian, Barbara and Susan, caught in pre-historic times and at the mercy of likes of Za, Kal, Hur and Horg. As Season One of Doctor Who was never aired in the US the likelihood of Sherwood Schwartz having seen, let alone heard, about Doctor Who is negligible. Stranger things have happened, though!

The Doctor is at the mercy of cavemen in An Unearthly Child

A monochrome Doctor is at the mercy of cavemen in An Unearthly Child

Vivien Fleming

©Vivien Fleming, 2013.

Waris Hussein Gives Extensive Interview to Radio Times

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ImageDoctor Who’s first Director, Waris Hussein, has given an extensive interview on the genesis of Doctor Who to the Radio Times.  Hussein, who directed the debut serial An Unearthly Child, together with the missing seven part epic Marco Polo, speaks candidly about Verity Truman, Who’s first producer, Sidney Newman, the Canadian born head of BBC drama and the First Doctor, William Hartnell.  You can read the first part of this enlightening interview here.

The second part of Waris Hussein’s interview, in which he discusses Mark Gatiss’ drama, An Adventure in Time and Spacecan be found here. 

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.

The War Machines

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The War Machines ushers in not only the end of Doctor Who’s third season,  but also the hasty, and unceremonious, exit of perhaps the most derided of all the Doctor’s companions, Dodo.  Having lost Steven only the previous week, when he decamped at the Doctor’s bidding to mediate a new world for the Savages and the Elders in The Savages, it looked for all of a minute that the Doctor might again be companion less. Although the Doctor’s ignorance seemingly lasted seven days until the next serial, The Smugglers, the audience well knew that Ben and Polly were new members of the Tardis Crew.  The cycle of companions continued, but more of that later.

Dodo disembarks from the Tardis for the last time. The Doctor hangs an "Out of Order" sign on the Tardis lest it is mistaken for a real Police Box

Dodo disembarks from the Tardis for the last time. The Doctor hangs an “Out of Order” sign on the Tardis lest it is mistaken for a real Police Box

The last of the First Doctor’s serials which is 100 percent complete, The War Machines, plays upon the increasing fear of the mid 1960s that computers would usurp humans. This was an era almost ten years before the introduction of the first personal computers and 15 years before the release of IBM’s first PC and Microsoft’s MS-DOS computer operating system in 1981. Although personal computers had made inroads into the business markets by the late 1980s (Microsoft Windows was released in 1985) it was not until the mid 1990s that home PCs became more affordable and popular.  After borrowing friends’ unwieldy home-made computers to write my BA (Hons) thesis in mid 1980s, it was not until 1990 that I bought my first PC.  A clone of the IBM XT, it had a mammoth 128 KB of RAM and a 5¼ inch floppy drive!  An early adaptor of computer technology, the wonders of this piece of computer history came at an outrageous price of around $3,000.00.

An IBM XT.  My first computer was a clone of this machine

An IBM XT. My first computer was a clone of this machine

At the time of The War Machines’ transmission, it was unlikely that more than a handful of viewers would have ever personally seen a computer.  Computers were massive objects that frequently were the size of a room.  Perhaps seen in educational documentaries or on science fiction shows, computers were a great unknown. The playthings of mad scientists and eccentric geniuses, the distance between computers and the general public was such that they were greatly shrouded with mystique. I went through the whole of my schooling in the 1970s without ever seeing a computer, and entered the “real world” under a misapprehension, that was most probably quite commonly shared, that computers were only the domain of mathematical geniuses.

Anyone thinking of computers in the 1960s would probably envisage a machine such as this - The Whirlpool Computer which was designed for strategic air defense applications.  Photo courtesy of http://www.clavius.org/techcomp.html

Anyone thinking of computers in the 1960s would probably envisage a machine such as this – The Whirlpool Computer which was designed for strategic air defence applications. Photo courtesy of http://www.clavius.org/techcomp.html

Is it any wonder, therefore, that the ordinary Joe or Joy Bloggs might find a Doctor Who story set in present day London in 1966, about a computer intent on human domination, an altogether feasible possibility.  Although plainly science fiction, there was a kernel of fear and mistrust among many that this may one day become science fact.  Watching Classic Series  Doctor Who with an eye to history exhibits time and again that science fiction sometimes does become reality.  In Who’s first episode, An Unearthly Child, Susan predicts the UK’s conversion to decimal currency eight years prior to its eventual introduction in February 1971. “Spooky”, you might think, however The Time Machines did it again in mid 1966 when it foreshadowed the internet.

The War Machines foreshadowed the internet years before its introduction.  They even used funky computer graphics in the opening titles

WOTAN,  an acronym for Will Operated Thought ANalogue, is the most advanced computer in the world, although not necessarily the largest.  It’s advanced technological capacities were a perfect companion for the building in which it was housed, the new Post Office Tower. Officially opened on the 15th July 1966 by the British Prime Minister, Harold Wilson, the Post Office Tower was the tallest building in London.  Towering 177 metres from the ground (581 feet), it held that title until 1980. “C Day”, or Computer Day was set for 16th July 1966, the day after the Post Office Tower’s official opening.  On that date all computers throughout the world were to be linked together under WOTAN’s (pronounced Votan) central control. The various sites to which WOTAN would be connected included the White House, Cape Kennedy, ELDO, TESTAR, RN, Woomera and EFTA.

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

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

A media conference is held to outline WOTAN's roll out.  A graphic is displayed showing the computers which will be linked to WOTAN

A media conference is held to outline WOTAN’s roll out. A graphic is displayed showing the computers which will be linked to WOTAN

TELSTAR was the name of various telecommunications satellites which were launched in the early 1960s.  They provided the first transatlantic satellite television and telephone communications.  So heralded was the launch of the first TELSTAR in 1962 that an instrumental tune by the British band The Tornados became the first number one hit in the United States for a UK band.  Below, for your listening pleasure, is the Tornados with Telstar. ELDO was an acronym for the European Launcher Development Organisation (now the European Space Agency).  RN is presumably the British Royal Navy, EFTA is the European Free Trade Association (formed in 1960), and Woomera is a weapons testing range in South Australia.  Between 1946 and 1980 it was location for joint British and Australian weapons testing. The White House and Cape Kennedy require no explanation.

The Tornados – Telstar

The “C Day” linking of the world’s major computers foreshadowed the ARPANET, the first packet switching, in 1969. The Advanced Research Agencies Network (ARPANET) linked four university research centres together in the United States.  The World Wide Web as we know it now, did not reach fruition until the early 1990s. It could perhaps be rightly claimed that this serial of Doctor Who was the first television show to predict the emergence of the web.  Until I amended Wikipedia, a 1985 episode of Benson claimed to be the first such reference 🙂

Professor Brett - the inventor of WOTAN.  The super-computer was to link all the leading computers in the world together

Professor Brett – the inventor of WOTAN. The super-computer was to link all the leading computers in the world together

Although the staff designated with WOTAN’s installation and roll-out were quick to dispel fears that the super-computer may eventually  become destructive, it does not take long for the malignant nature of WOTAN to become evident. WOTAN can speak and is receptive to voice commands, although ordinarily its answers are printed on a dot matrix type printer.  Computer monitors had clearly not been envisaged.  More intelligent than humans, WOTAN knows the answer to all questions, including inexplicably, what TARDIS is an acronym for. WOTAN, however, has a hidden agenda.  it believes that the world cannot possibly progress with humans at its helm and seeks to usurp them by mobile computer killing machines – the War Machines.

WOTAN has a secret agenda to usurp human control with its clumsy creations, the War Machines

WOTAN has a secret agenda to usurp human control with its clumsy creations, the War Machines

WOTAN uses mind control through the emission of sonic sounds and the humble telephone, to hypnotise humans into its sinister plan. Dodo is amongst its first victims and is instructed to co-opt the Doctor.  As luck would have it, his non-human form affords him protection from hypnosis, but not without him suffering physically nonetheless.   The Doctor’s magic ring again comes to the rescue as he is able to put Dodo to sleep, and snap her out of her hypnotic trance, merely by waving his hand before her face five times. Upon waking Dodo is dispatched to the country to recuperate and never again seen. Her subsequent decision to remain in London is communicated to the Doctor via a message from the companions-in-waiting, Ben and Polly.  A more pathetic companion departure had never been seen.

Dodo is hypnotised by WOTAN

Dodo is hypnotised by WOTAN

Hypnosis via the humble telephone is attempted on the Doctor.  The already submissive Dodo looks on

Hypnosis via the humble telephone is attempted on the Doctor. The already submissive Dodo looks on

WOTAN has its staff of hypnotised human slaves building a dozen War Machines in a disused warehouse in Covent Garden.  Professor Brett, the computer scientist who invented WOTAN, is quickly a victim of WOTAN’s hypnosis, and dispatched to the warehouse to oversee construction.  Polly, Brett’s secretary, also comes under WOTAN’s spell and is rescued by the Cockney sailor, Ben, who was sent on a mission by the Doctor to investigate. These War Machines were mobile computers but not in a form that we have today.  Extraordinarily large, they were more like wartime tanks than the laptops, net books and tablets that we know today.  Programmed by WOTAN, the War Machines are able to disable the firing mechanisms of Army guns and ammunition, and as such are seemingly unstoppable.  In an Army raid of the warehouse, the single operational War Machine is able to effect the deaths of many personnel.  On a rampage through the streets of Covent Garden, the War Machine is eventually outwitted by the Doctor’s cunning.  After the stupendous cliff hanger of episode three where the Doctor comes face to face with the War Machine and stares it down, he eventually stops the machine in its tracks by setting up an electromagnetic field around it.  An adept computer programmer, as he is of all manner of things scientific, the Doctor is able to reprogramme the War Machine. The machine is then sent on a mission to the Post Office Tower where it is able to reach the top floor, where WOTAN is housed, and destroy it. Commentators frequently joke about how the War Machine was able to fit in the lift, let alone press the floor buttons!

WOTAN's slave labour force construct War Machines

WOTAN’s slave labour force construct War Machines

Polly, Professor Brett's secretary, is hypnotised by WOTAN

Polly, Professor Brett’s secretary, is hypnotised by WOTAN

Save for the first episode of An Unearthly Child, in which you only see Coal Hill School and 76, Totter’s Lane,  and Planet of Giants, where the Tardis Crew are miniaturized in a suburban back yard and house, this is the first time Doctor Who has been set in modern day London. It affords the opportunity for many shots of 1966 London and naturally, the most innovative building of the day, the Post Office Tower. There are a number of very interesting special features on the DVD including Now and Then, a look at the locations used in the making of the story in which those used in 1966 are compared with the present day; Blue Peter, which includes a compilation of segments on the War Machines, and One Foot in the Past, in which the Politician and ex-Postmaster General Tony Benn investigates the history of the Post Office Tower. It’s all fascinating stuff.

The Doctor stops the War Machine by creating an electro magnetic field around it

The Doctor stops the War Machine by creating an electro magnetic field around it

The War Machines has shots a-plenty of London in 1966

The War Machines has shots a-plenty of London in 1966

Perhaps the most visually memorable part of The War Machines is when the Doctor enters the Inferno nightclub via a flight of stairs.  Resplendent in his cape, he enters the “hottest” night club in London, only to be told by one of the hipsters that his gear looked “fab”. It was not many episodes earlier that the Doctor had severely reprimanded Dodo for the use of the word “fab” and questioned if she could speak English properly.   Times were a-changing for Doctor Who and this was even more evident by the new companions.  Polly is a young London secretary who dresses in trendy clothes and is phenomenally forthright.  Ben is a Cockney merchant sailor who breaks the hitherto unwritten rule that all major cast members of Doctor Who must speak in “BBC English” or Received Pronunciation.  It was but a mere three months earlier that Dodo’s Manchurian accent lasted but 10 minutes. For the rest of Dodo’s tenure as a companion her accent changed from episode to episode and became increasingly more posh.  As groundbreaking as it was to have a companion without an RP accent, it took until the Seventh Doctor’s incarnation in 1987 for the Doctor to have his first regional accent.

Ben and Polly in "The Inferno", the hottest nightclub in London

Ben and Polly in “The Inferno”, the hottest nightclub in London

The Doctor, in that amazing cape, stares down the War Machine in the episode 3 cliff hanger

The Doctor, in that amazing cape, stares down the War Machine in the episode 3 cliff hanger

Join me for my next review where you’ll encounter the predecessor to 2011’s The Curse of the Black Spot, The Smugglers, in which every conceivable pirate cliché is presented before us.  It’s sure to be fun!

The Doctor is about to have two new companions.  Dodo and Ben meet the Doctor to pass on a message from the departing Dodo

The Doctor is about to have two new companions. Dodo and Ben meet the Doctor to pass on a message from the departing Dodo

The War Machines was originally broadcast in the UK between 25th June and 16th July 1966

The War Machines was originally broadcast in the UK between 25th June and 16th July 1966

Vivien Fleming

©Vivien Fleming, 2013.

REFERENCE:

Lance Parkin & Lars Pearson, AHistory: An Unauthorised History of the Doctor Who Universe 3rd Edition. Des Monies, Mad Norwegian Press, 2012.

An Unearthly Child

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

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

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

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

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

The opening credits to "An Unearthly Child".

The opening credits to “An Unearthly Child”.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

The Doctor's earthly home, 76 Totters Lane.

The Doctor’s earthly home, 76 Totters Lane.

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

The Tardis materializes for the first time.

The Tardis materializes for the first time.

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

The Doctor is kidnapped for his smoking habit.

The Doctor is kidnapped for his smoking habit.

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

The caveman, Kal.

The caveman, Kal.

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

Vivien Fleming

©Vivien Fleming, 2013.