Tag Archives: Planet of Giants

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.

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The Ice Warriors

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Whether there’s a relationship between the resurrection of seemingly deceased Doctor Who monsters and the sale of Classic Series DVDs is an issue worth pondering. Released in late August in the UK and Australasia, and mid September in the US, The Ice Warriors DVD emerged four months after an Ice Warrior appeared in the Mark Gatiss penned Cold War after a 39 year absence from Doctor Who.  Prior to the episode’s broadcast Steven Moffat stated that a lot of persuasion was needed to convince him that the Ice Warriors should return.

Grand Marshall Skaldak, a 2013 model Ice Warrior

Grand Marshall Skaldak, a 2013 model Ice Warrior

“It was Mark Gatiss’s idea and it was very much his pitch – he’d been pitching the Ice Warriors for a while.  I wasn’t tremendously persuaded.  I’ll be honest.  I thought they were maybe the default condition for what people thought of as rubbish Doctor Who  monsters – things that moved very, very slowly and spoke in a way that meant you couldn’t hear a word they said.  Mark came up with a couple of very clever ideas, which he pitched to me over the phone in what was meant to be a Sherlock  conversation.  He had a couple of really stormingly good ideas, and it’s a great episode, an absolute cracker of an episode”.

One is left wondering if perhaps Moffat failed to mention that the marketing department of the BBC was instrumental in the decision to have the Ice Warriors return.

Trailer for the return of the Ice Warriors in 2013’s Cold War. 

Are the Ice Warriors the default “rubbish” monsters that Moffat suggests? They were certainly slow and unfortunately restricted by their large fin like feet.  In the special feature, Cold Fusion, actor Sonny Caldinez tells several amusing anecdotes about his time as an Ice Warrior and particularly the filming of The Ice Warriors. He had such difficulty chasing Deborah Watling through the ice caves because of his costume’s feet that they had to slow down Watling’s running speed. That the design of the Ice Warrior in Cold War very faithfully reproduced the 1967 model says much for the integrity of the Mark 1 models.

Victoria chased by Turoc (Sonny Caldinez)

Victoria chased by Turoc (Sonny Caldinez)

One of the “stormingly good ideas” that Gatiss had about the 2013 Ice Warriors was undoubtedly Grand Marshall Skaldak emerging from his armour for the first time. Strangely, the slightly jerky head movements of the original Ice Warriors, a little akin to a person with mild Parkinson’s Disease, is absent from the current model Warriors. Similarly, Nicholas Briggs toned down the hissing of Skaldak’s speech in Cold War.  There wasn’t anything much more shocking in The Ice Warriors then when Zondal says that Storr was “ussselesss and uneccesssssary” just before killing him.

The Scot Storr is killed by an Ice Warrior

The Scot Storr is killed by an Ice Warrior

Interestingly, the 50th Anniversary Special on 23 November features the Zygons in only their second appearance in Doctor Who.  Their first and only appearance was with the Fourth Doctor in the 1975 serial Terror of the Zygons, which incidentally will be released on DVD in Australia and New Zealand on 2 October 2013. Is this a coincidence?  Who knows.

The Zygons will be returning in the 50th Anniversary special in November

The Zygons will be returning in the 50th Anniversary special in November

With the Classic Series range of DVD releases quickly coming to an end I’m left wondering if Season 8 will see the return of The Underwater Menace’s Fish People. Rumour has it that the missing two episodes will be animated and the DVD released sometime in 2014.  I can only hope that all of Galaxy 4 is recovered so my long held wish for the return of the Chumblies might be granted!

As outlined in my review of the First Doctor’s adventure Planet of Giants, I’ve always had a soft spot for Doctor Who serials with an environmental message.  The Ice Warriors is such a story, albeit one where the science is decidedly fiction and not fact. The Doctor, Victoria and Jamie find themselves at Brittanicus Base, one of a number of such bases established to stem the tide of ice glaciers which have been steadily engulfing the earth’s surface.  The New Ice Age which the Earth is confronted by is said to have arisen because of deforestation and the consequential loss of carbon dioxide from the atmosphere. Even a person as ignorant as myself in things scientific is aware that deforestation (and the burning of fossil fuels) is the cause of global warming, not global cooling. During photosynthesis trees convert carbon dioxide and water into sugar molecules and oxygen.  Less trees equals more carbon dioxide. I wonder where the writer, Brian Hayles, received his scientific knowledge on this one?

Although the Doctor can operate an artificial food dispenser (with retro telephone dial) he is a little confused about the relationship between plants and carbon dioxide

Although the Doctor can operate an artificial food dispenser (with retro telephone dial) he is a little confused about the relationship between plants and carbon dioxide.  He is pictured here with Leader Clent.

The obstinate leader of Brittanicus Base, Clent, outlined to the Doctor and his companions how this catastrophic environmental disaster occurred.

“You know how efficient our civilisation is, thanks to the direction of the great World Computer.  As you also know how we conquered the problem of world famine a century ago by artificial food.  On the land that was once used to grow the food we needed, we built up to date living units, to house the ever-increasing population … So, the amount of growing plants on the planet, was reduced to an absolute minimum. Then suddenly, one year, there was no spring.  Even then it wasn’t understood.  Not until the ice-caps began to advance”.

During the course of the conversation the Doctor added the comment ,”No plants, no carbon dioxide.”  Is it any wonder that when the Doctor met with the Ice Warriors, Zondal stated “You do not look like a scientist”. “Looks aren’t everything, you know” replied the Doctor.

Together with Ice Warriors, glaziers threaten the earth

Together with Ice Warriors, glaziers threaten the earth

Although the consequences of deforestation is the exact opposite to what The Ice Warriors claims, i.e. global warming rather than global cooling, the essence of the message is not lost on the audience. Human manipulation of the environment, even if at the behest of a “great World Computer”, has horrendous consequences on the planet and its human occupants.  Population growth is also shown to have negative effects. During the 1960s there was much debate about population growth and artificial birth control. Little more than six months after the broadcast of The Ice Warriors  Pope Paul VI released his much discussed encyclical letter Humanae Vitae on human reproduction. In reaffirming the Catholic Church’s traditional teachings against contraception, Humanae Vitae contradicted a report of Paul’s own commission, two years previously, which had recommended limited contraceptive use for married couples.

Pope Paul VI

Pope Paul VI

The Ice Warriors shares the anti-computer rhetoric of The War Machines. Leader Clent and Senior Control Technician Miss Garrett have an unwavering confidence in the great World Computer’s ability to answer all questions logically and in society’s best interests. As would be expected in 1967, the computer is futuristic and answers questions verbally.  It’s very difficult to understand, particularly in episode one where the soundtrack is very muddy.  The disaffected scientist Penley  shares the Doctor’s distain for them.  “I refused to be sucked into that computerised ant-heap you call a civilisation. I’m a man, not a machine”, Penley says to Miss Gifford.  When speaking to the Doctor, Penley delivered a further sentence of superior anti-computer verbosity when he stated  “You don’t expect me to face Clent alone.  That mouth piece of the computer? He’s got a printed circuit where his heart should be”.  It’s all very beautifully written and elucidates the same fear of computerization that I outlined in my The War Machines review.

Clent and Miss Gifford with the futurist great World Computer. The Brittanicus Base crew had the most fabulous close fitting outfits

Clent and Miss Gifford with the futurist great World Computer. The Brittanicus Base crew had the most fabulous close fitting outfits

The computer is revered almost as God like in its decisions.  “Our trust is in the great computer.  With its aid, we cannot fail”, Gifford stated.  As the story proceeds, however, it is evident that this deification is undeserved.  When Clent reserves the right to consult the computer on whether they should use the ioniser when the alien spacecraft is powered by an iron reactor, the computer spins and gibbers.  Jamie cried, “It’s as though it’s gone mad”. The final decision is left to the human Penley, who not surprisingly chose the best option.

In a rather clever premonition of Little Britain’s Carol, Clent says “The computer says no!”. Little Britain – The Computer says no.

The Ice Warriors succeeds because of its superior cast, magnificent set design and absolutely fabulous outfits.  Peter Barkworth as Leader Clent is outstanding as he shuffles around the base with his walking stick.  Barkworth would later go on to win two BAFTA awards for best TV actor. Peter Sallis generously plays the scientist Penley and is perhaps most famous for his 37 years spent as  Last of the Summer Wine’s  Norman Clegg. Most surprising of all is Bernard Bresslaw as the Ice Warrior Varga.  Bresslaw  was a comedy actor best known for his roles in the Carry On movies.  At 6′ 7″ tall Bresslaw provided the towering height needed for the Ice Warriors and is credited for creating their movements and hissing speech.

Bernard Bresslaw played the head Ice Warrior, Varga

Bernard Bresslaw played the head Ice Warrior, Varga

The Ice Warriors was originally broadcast in the UK between 11 November and 16 December 1967

The Ice Warriors was originally broadcast in the UK between 11 November and 16 December 1967

Vivien Fleming

©Vivien Fleming, 2013.

REFERENCE:

Fraser McAlpine, “Steven Moffat On Zygons, Ice Warriors And A Trip Into The Tardis”, 21 February 2013, BBC Americahttp://www.bbcamerica.com/anglophenia/2013/02/steven-moffat-on-zygons-ice-warriors-and-trip-int-the-tardis/. Retrieved on 3 September 2013.

The Moonbase

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The Moonbase is arguably the story where the Second Doctor’s characterization truly takes its most familiar form.  The Doctor who is sentenced to regeneration and exile to Earth in The War Games for his continual breaches of the Time Lords’ Non-Interference Policy, conceivably had his  genesis in The Moonbase.  For it is in The Moonbase that this Doctor’s incarnation utters perhaps his most famous words, “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”.  The Doctor’s goofing about has ended, although of course he’ll always be amusing, and his quest to save the universe has begun.

The genesis of the Second Doctor's characterization can be seen in The Moonbase

The genesis of the Second Doctor’s characterization can be seen in The Moonbase

In The Highlanders the Doctor was keen to leave as soon as he spied a steaming cannon ball.  It was only after Polly’s mocking of him that the Tardis Crew remained.  In The Moonbase, it is Ben who is keen to decamp at the earliest possible opportunity but the Doctor who is insistent on remaining. This is quite a radical change. This is, of course, after the Doctor had initially wanted to immediately leave the Moon after discovering he was not at his intended location, Mars. Being so experienced in space travel the Doctor had not even considered that his three companions may have relished the idea of walking on the moon.  This, naturally, was more than two years prior to the first human stepping foot on the Moon on 20th July 1969. Ever since the Soviet cosmonaut, Yuri Gagarin, became the first human to fly in space on 12th April 1961, the Western world was agog with the desire to beat the Communists and be the victors of the space race. That it took over three years for Doctor Who to first venture to the Moon is somewhat surprising given the context of the age.

It took three years for Doctor Who (and the Cybermen) to visit the Moon

It took three years for Doctor Who (and the Cybermen) to visit the Moon

Although appearing of sturdier construction than the Mondas forebears in The Tenth Planet, the Cybermen of The Moonbase  had lost their most frightening element – the vestiges of their humanity. Prior to watching The Tenth Planet I’d scoff at the awkward appearance of the Mark 1 Cybermen, with their cloth stocking faces and human hands. This was but another example, I thought, of lacklustre costuming.  Fancy the team at Doctor Who thinking that the audience could be scared of men with stockings over their heads!  How wrong was I. The Mark 1 Cybermen were so very threatening for the primary reason that the vestiges of their humanity were still evident.  Their sing-song voices hinted at a humanity that had somehow gone askew.

The Mark 2 Cybermen of The Moonbase have lost the vestiges of their humanity

The Mark 2 Cybermen of The Moonbase have lost the vestiges of their humanity

A Mark 1 Cyberman in The Tenth Planet

A Mark 1 Cyberman in The Tenth Planet

The Mark 2 Cybermen of The Moonbase are an almost different species altogether. Monsters they are, but humans they are not.  Their monotone metallic voices pay no homage to their humanoid origins and they are little more than robots.  Of itself there is nothing amiss with robots, per se, it’s just that “Cyber” without the “men” makes for an altogether different creature.  Doctor Who, however, had established its second great monster and no longer would the audience’s imaginations be limited to a Dalek only mindset.   Iconic imagery would soon abound to add to the Dalek’s emergence from the murky pollution of the Thames in The Dalek Invasion of Earth.  Cybermen will emerge from their icy tombs in The Tomb of the Cybermen and march down the steps of St Paul’s Cathedral in The Invasion.  Nothing will be the same again.

A Cyberman with Jamie

A Cyberman with Jamie

Akin to The Power of the Daleks, the Doctor is recognized by the Cybermen, notwithstanding his regenerated form.  Moreover, the adventures of the Doctor and his gang have for the first time gone down in the annals of history.  Hobson is perplexed by the Doctor’s ignorance of Cyberman history.  Every child knows that the Cybermen died when Mondas was blown up, Hobson states irritably. School children clearly now learn about the adventures of the Doctor and his companions.  The Moonbase commander, Hobson,  is  also the first to utter the words “we’re under siege” but the sentiment of  a confined environment under threat by monsters  is quickly to become a hallmark of Patrick Troughton’s era. There’s a “base under siege” and under siege the confines of Doctor Who will remain for much of the Second Doctor’s tenure.

The Moonbase is under siege and staffed by an international contingent including Brits, French, Danes, Australians and New Zealanders

The Moonbase is under siege and staffed by an international contingent including Brits, French, Danes, Australians and New Zealanders

The Moonbase is an early example of Doctor Who’s environmental concerns which would become all the more evident during Barry Lett’s tenure as Producer in the early 1970s. The 1964 Season Two opener, Planet of Giants, had contemplated the effect of pesticides on the world’s eco-systems.  In The Moonbase the Gravitron controls the Earth’s tides and has been doing so for the last 20 years since 2050.   By controlling the tides through the emission of deep sonic fields, the Gravitron controls the weather.  It is thermonuclear powered and has an inner core temperature of four million degrees.  The Gravitron guides hurricanes, for example, and when it is not working correctly the potential for disaster exists.  In this story we learn that thirty minutes previously, in Miami, Florida, they’d been experiencing blue skies and a heatwave.  Cyclone Lucy was now just overhead.  Something was causing the Gravitron to malfunction, but it is not until the story progresses that it is revealed that the Cybermen are the source of the problems. It’s the Cybermen’s intention to use the Gravitron to kill all life on the Earth and hence eliminate its threat to themselves. Whereas the Mark 1 Cybermen of The Tenth Planet were susceptible to radiation, it’s gravity which is the Mark 2 version’s weakness. The Doctor saves the world by turning the Gravitron onto the Cybermen and blasting them out into space.

The Gravitron is operated by men in funny hats that look like they were rejects from The Underwater Menace

The Gravitron is operated by men in funny hats that look like they were rejects from The Underwater Menace

Polly is spectacular in The Moonbase, and seemingly without scientific training is able to formulate a solvent to disintegrate the Cybermen’s plastic chest plates. Deriving the idea from Jamie’s off-hand comment that witches were kept at bay by sprinkling holy water, Polly reasons that if nail polish is a plastic and is removed by acetone, then surely chemicals exist on the base which could disintegrate the chamber holding the Cybermen’s heart and lungs.  Being uncertain that acetone would be the correct solvent to dissolve the Cybermen’s plastic, Polly sets about making a cocktail of different solvents in the hope that one will do the trick.  Thankfully her ad-hoc mix of benzene, ether, alcohol, acetone and epoxy-propane doesn’t blow up and does a splendid job of producing great sprays of foam from the dying Cybermen.  Ben nick-names the concoction the “Polly Cocktail”, although the boys, as is their want, seek to take the fame for the Cybermen’s destruction and to dissuade Polly from participating in “men’s work”. Girls can do anything and Polly certainly proves this!

The "Polly Cocktail" makes Polly the true hero of The Moonbase

The “Polly Cocktail” makes Polly the true hero of The Moonbase

Jamie doesn’t see a great deal of action in The Moonbase and spends most of his time recovering from a head injury in the sick bay.  His Scottish Highland origins are brought more to the fore in this serial.  Together with his comment about holy water and witches, Jamie also innocently speaks of seeing the “man in the moon” and in a hallucinatory state thinks that a Cyberman is the “Phantom Piper”.  Akin to the Grim Reaper, the McCrimmon “Phantom Piper” appears just prior to death. Thankfully we get to see Jamie running around in a kilt, which is always a blessing!

Polly tends to the ailing Jamie.  Whilst hallucinating  Jamie mistakes a Cyberman for the "Phantom Piper"

Polly tends to the ailing Jamie. Whilst hallucinating Jamie mistakes a Cyberman for the “Phantom Piper”

The Moonbase concludes with Doctor firing up the time scanner, a hitherto unheard of Tardis accoutrement which provides a glimpse into the future. Used infrequently and not very reliable, the time scanner shows an image of a giant claw. Our next story, The Macra Terror, is sure to be chilling.

The Moonbase was originally broadcast in the UK between11 February  and 4 March 1967.  Episodes 2 and 4 are available on the triple DVD set Lost in Time

The Moonbase was originally broadcast in the UK between 11 February and 4 March 1967. Episodes 2 and 4 are available on the triple DVD set Lost in Time

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.

Planet of Giants

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The opening serial of the second season of Doctor Who, Planet of Giants saw the return of the Tardis Crew after a break from the television screens of a mere six weeks. The penultimate serial to feature all the original cast members, Planet of Giants, albeit in a somewhat divergent form and with a different writer, was originally intended as the premiere serial of the first series.  Rather unsurprisingly given its infancy, the ninth Who story was the first since the premiere episode, An Unearthly Child, to be set in modern day England.  That being said, the action is all studio based and not a glimpse of London can be spied. Although modern day London was featured prominently in the season three finale, The War Machines, viewers didn’t have to wait that long to see the recognizable landmarks of England’s capital.  Set in the twenty second century the next serial, The Dalek Invasion of Earth, would undoubtedly have satiated the tastes of all those viewers seeking earth-bound points of reference. That story, however, is for my next review.

The frightened Tardis Crew are smaller than painted blades of grass

The frightened Tardis Crew are smaller than painted blades of grass

Planet of Giants was an ambitious story, beautifully realized on what was undoubtedly a budget almost as minute as the Doctor and his companions were in the serial.  Originally filmed as four episodes, but cut to three to quicken the pace of episodes three and four, Planet of Giants saw the Tardis Crew reduced to not much more than the size of ants.  As the Tardis was materializing in a suburban London backyard, presumably to return Barbara and Ian home, the doors flung open. For reasons unable to be later explained by the Doctor, the ship and its occupants were shrunk. The Tardis Crew, however, were unaware of their diminutive size until they stumbled upon a series of strange and perplexing objects whilst exploring outside. After splitting into two groups, Ian, with Susan, initially presumed that they had landed in the middle of some form of trade fair.  An exhibition, of sorts, in which huge copies of various objects were on display. Ants were the size of dinosaurs and matchboxes like houses. It was Susan, though, who quickly realized that it was the Tardis Crew that had been shrunk.  Perhaps it was her alien antecedents that permitted her to see that which Ian couldn’t.

Susan, Ian and the matchbox

Susan, Ian and the matchbox

Soon the Doctor and his companions were confronted by the hazards that naturally confront ant sized people.  Ian, who had climbed into a near empty match box, was picked up and carried away but a short distance. He was bounced around the matchbox brutally, slamming uncontrollable from side to side. To the others, this otherwise short stroll across a nicely manicured lawn to be reunited with Ian was a treacherously long haul. The Doctor, who was now much more concerned about the well-being of his companions, was insistent on locating “Chesterton”.  Eventually they are reunited.

A profoundly dead insect of mammoth proportions is examined by Barbara and the Doctor

A profoundly dead insect of mammoth proportions is examined by Barbara and the Doctor

In the interim, the viewers were witnesses to a conversation about a new insecticide, DN6, between Farrow, a “Ministry” man and Forrester, a conniving business person whose income and life style is dependent upon the approval, production and marketing of DN6.  Developed by the scientist Smithers in his back yard laboratory, DN6 has the capacity to kill more than just insects and remains effective indefinitely.  Farrow had learned of the potentially fatal consequences of DN6 whilst preparing a report for the government, however the insecticide’s inventor, Smithers, seemed blindly unaware of its hazards.  Unprepared to risk losing approval for DN6, Forrester shoots Farrow dead. He soon after reveals the murder to Smithers, thereby implicating him as an accessory after the fact.

The deceased Mr Farrow as seen by the Doctor and his companions.  This looks like something out of a Hitchcock movie

The deceased Mr Farrow as seen by the Doctor and his companions. This looks like something out of a Hitchcock movie

The Doctor and his companions are confronted by Farrow’s body on the lawn but are soon separated again when Ian and Barbara seek shelter in a brief case.  The brief case is picked up and carried inside the house.  Barbara considered the ride in the suitcase not dissimilar to that of a roller coaster and sustained a bad bruise to her knee from an unsecured paper clip. The Doctor and Susan must now rescue the teachers and in doing so encounter adventures galore.  Whilst outside a domestic cat was a menacing beast, inside a common sink and drain is sufficient to make out heroes contemplate imminent death by drowning. Lighting a match is akin to ramming a stockade, whilst lifting a telephone receiver is almost as laborious as lifting a London bus an inch off the ground.

Ian and Susan are confronted by a giant ant

Ian and Susan are confronted by a giant ant

Perhaps what I admire most about this story is its strong environmental message. Concern for the long term effects of pesticides is something I would have thought was rarely discussed in the early 1960s. It’s certainly Doctor Who’s first venture into enviro-politics, an area of much concern in a number of Third Doctor serials including Inferno and The Green Death (yes, the one with the giant maggots!).  Not only is the Doctor concerned about the effect of the insecticide on his companions – he advises them not to eat or drink anything – but also other insects.  When Barbara questions what would kill insects in an ordinary garden, and then posits that killing “bees, and worms, and things” is wrong, the Doctor concurs and states that “Quite so.  Both are vital to the growth of things”.

The Doctor and Susan contemplate death by drowning

The Doctor and Susan contemplate death by drowning

Barbara, who absolutely shines in this story, subsequently becomes gravely ill after touching a grain of wheat which had been sprayed by insecticide.  Ian, who is with her at the time, does not notice and upon realizing her error, Barbara hides her actions from him. This is in spite of the fact that Barbara had asked to borrow Ian’s hanky and was aggressively attempting to clean the poison off her hands.  The usually observant and intelligent Ian was clearly away with the fairies on this occasion. Once Barbara becomes so ill that she collapses, and can no longer deny that she touched the insecticide, the Doctor determines that they must return to the Tardis as soon as possible.  When the ship’s crew is returned to their normal sizes the pesticide will only be 1/70th as potent on Barbara, the Doctor asserts. Naturally the Doctor was entirely correct and at the serial’s end the grain of wheat which was taken into the Tardis with much physical exertion, had resumed its normal proportions. Barely could it be seen.

Barbara is terrified to run into a giant fly

Barbara is terrified to run into a giant fly

A thoroughly enjoyable romp, with an honourable message and momentous adventure,  the Planet of Giants was a memorable start to Doctor Who’s second season. 

Planet of Giants was originally broadcast in the UK between 31st October and 14th November 1964

Planet of Giants was originally broadcast in the UK between 31st October and 14th November 1964

Vivien Fleming

©Vivien Fleming, 2013.