Tag Archives: The Abominable Snowmen

Missing Episodes – Let’s Discuss Coincidences

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In my review of the recently released The Ice Warriors DVD on 3 September I posited that there may be a relationship between the resurrection of seemingly deceased Doctor Who monsters and the sale of Classic Series DVDs. Only four months prior to The Ice Warrior’s DVD release an Ice Warrior emerged for the first time in 39 years in The Cold War. Similarly, the last Fourth Doctor DVD to be issued, The Terror of the Zygons, coincidently found its way onto retailers’ shelves but a mere six weeks prior to the Zygons much anticipated reprise in the 50th Anniversary Special, The Day of the Doctor. Should we anticipate the return of the Fish People soon given the impending release of The Underwater Menace, I asked.

The Ice Warriors DVD Cover

In retrospect, the recovery of The Web of Fear is now obvious considering the story arc which commenced with the 2012 Christmas Special, The Snowmen.  At the time the return of the Great Intelligence, a formless mass first encountered in The Abominable Snowmen and last seen in The Web of Fear 44 years earlier, was a incredibly bizarre decision by Doctor Who show runner Steven Moffat. Of all villains to resurrect, why choose one who only appeared in two missing serials over 40 years previously? Not that this was the first time that a monster seemingly lost for all time had been reimaged.  The Macra reappeared in the 2007 Series 3 episode Gridlock having last been seen in 1967’s The Macra Terror.

A snowman from 2012's The Snowmen

A snowman from 2012’s The Snowmen

The Great Intelligence’s revival was not limited to a single episode, however.  It went on to appear in two further Series 7 episodes, The Bells of Saint John and The Name of the Doctor and was the series’ major protagonist.  Which leads us to further coincidences.  Were the Snowmen who accompanied the Great Intelligence in The  Snowmen a substitute for the Intelligence’s first tools, the Yeti? Should we anticipate the recovery and issue of The Abominable Snowmen sometime soon? Moreover, is this image taken from the 50th Anniversary trailer perhaps a hint that The Abominable Snowmen has indeed been returned.  The snow capped mountains in the background clearly represent Tibet and the stone block building could readily be a monastery.  Is the Second Doctor playing his recorder as if to summon the missing episodes home? Only time will tell, however one thing is certain.  Henceforth the revival of any monsters and villains from lost 1960’s episodes  will be scrutinized and speculated upon by fans as evidence of recoveries.  Let’s see what the 50th Anniversary and Christmas Specials, together with Series 8, brings forth!

A screen capture from the BBC trailer for the 50th Anniversary Special, The Name of the Doctor

A screen capture from the BBC trailer for the 50th Anniversary Special, The Day of the Doctor

Vivien Fleming

©Vivien Fleming, 2013.

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The Wheel in Space

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The Wheel in Space marks the end of Doctor Who’s Fifth Season  and the almost constant run of missing episodes which have plagued marathon viewers since the beginning of Season Three. Season Six is complete, save for the penultimate serial The Space Pirates, and two episodes of the eight part serial The Invasion.  Thanks to the brilliant work of Cosgrove Hall. the two missing episodes of The Invasion have been animated and the complete serial is available for viewing on DVD.

Jamie and the Doctor with the Servo-Robot which subsequently rendered the Doctor unconscious

Jamie and the Doctor with the Servo-Robot which subsequently rendered the Doctor unconscious

The Cybermen made their fourth appearance in 18 months in The Wheel in Space. With the temporary retirement of the Daleks in the last serial of Season Four, the Cybermen had assumed the mantle of the Doctor’s number one enemy. Whereas the Daleks were previously guaranteed to appear in two serials per season, Terry Nation’s attempts to sell his creations to the US saw the Cybermen snatch their title as favourite recurring monsters.  Their appearance in The Wheel in Space, however, was a great deal more subtle than in previous adventures.  Not  seen until the cliff hanger of episode two, their screen time was nearly as limited as their speech.  The somewhat verbose sing-song voices of The Tenth Planet Cybermen were replaced by almost mute monsters with more human voices.  Now possessing three silver fingers, the Cybermen’s principal terror derived from them silently emerging unexpectedly from anywhere on the Wheel.

The companion-in-waiting, Zoe, with two Cybermen

The companion-in-waiting, Zoe, with two Cybermen

The hints of humanity that the first generation Cybermen possessed were long gone, with the cyber creatures now described by the Doctor thus:  “Their entire bodies are mechanical  and their brains have been treated neuro-surgically to remove all human emotions, all sense of pain. They’re ruthless, inhuman killers!”. These Cybermen, the Doctor said, need to colonize and have the treasures of earth.

The emotionless Cybermen provide a brilliant juxtaposition to the Doctor’s newest companion, Zoe Heriot.  15 year old Zoe is an astrophysicist and astrometricist first class and employed as the Wheel’s parapsychology librarian. Her perfect recall of scientific facts and ability to undertake mental calculations faster than a hand-held calculator are the consequence of her being brainwashed by the City’s educational institution. The processes by which she was educated are not revealed, although one can only guess that they were somewhat similar to those encountered by the First Doctor’s companion,  Vicky. Coming from 2493, Vicky outlined to a stunned Barbara in The Rescue how her schooling comprised of being hooked up to a machine for only an hour a week.  Zoe, however, comes from a much earlier time, perhaps the early 21st Century,  so it’s possible that the education system was not the same. Wood and Miles in About Time argue that the character of Zoe would never work in a current day series “largely because most of her functions could be served by an idiot with a laptop”. With the digital age not even dreamed of in 1968, Zoe was one of the brainwashed bureaucrats that many feared would envelop us in the future.

Tat Wood & Lawrence Miles, About Time 2

Tat Wood & Lawrence Miles, About Time 2

An unfortunate consequence of Zoe’s education is she is entirely logic driven and completely unable to cope in unexpected circumstances.  She is described as being without emotion twice in one day by her co-workers on the Wheel. Rob Shearman in Running Through Corridors described her as “a robot wanting to be a human being”. Shearman’s analysis of Zoe on page 266 is so well written as to warrant me quoting it in full.

The Doctor's latest companion, Zoe Heriot

The Doctor’s latest companion, Zoe Heriot

Someone else enslaved to logic is Zoe Heriot.  She’s a much darker character than I’d ever realised.  Whitaker’s script rather brilliantly only hints that she comes from a pitiless totalitarian regime, where young children are taken and brainwashed so that they can come out the other end supergeniuses – capable of holding a huge amount of information, but not the wherewithal to respond to it emotionally.  She’s just another Cyberman.

Rob Shearman brilliantly analyses Zoe in Running Through Corridors

Rob Shearman brilliantly analyses Zoe in Running Through Corridors

Zoe’s brainwashing was quickly detected by the Doctor who responded to her with perhaps one of his most memorable comments,  “Logic, my dear Zoe, merely enables one to be wrong with authority”. During the course of the serial the limitations she faces because of her reliance on logic become painfully clear. Jamie and Zoe’s conversation in the Wheel Operations room during episode five evidences her growing disillusionment, and foreshadows her ultimate decision to stow away in the Tardis.

JAMIE: Oh, there is something you don’t know, then.

ZOE: There’s too much I don’t know.  I was trained to believe logic and calculation would provide me with all the answers.  Well, I’m just beginning to realise there are questions which I can’t answer.

JAMIE: You’re just not trained for an emergency like this.

ZOE: Well, that’s the whole point.  What good am I?  I’ve been created for some false kind of existence where only known kinds of emergencies are catered for.  Well, what good is that to me now?

JAMIE: Hey, we’re not done yet, you know.

ZOE: And if we survive?  What then, Jamie?  Suppose we do get ourselves out of this mess.  What have I got left?  A blind reliance on facts and logic?

The Crew in the Control Room of the Wheel

The Crew in the Control Room of the Wheel

When Zoe is found in the TARDIS’s magic chest at the story’s end  Jamie’s immediate reaction is to say that it’s impossible for her to go with them. This of itself is quite extraordinary given that he voiced no such concerns when Victoria hitched a ride after her father’s death in The Evil of the Daleks. Perhaps Jamie was secretly hoping that the Doctor would pop back and pick up Victoria from Brittanicus Base?  The less polite might argue that Jamie wanted the Doctor all to himself!  The Doctor responded to Zoe’s request to stay by saying that it wasn’t impossible but “something that we have to decide”.  It appears that the TARDIS is a democracy and that the Doctor is not the sole decision maker.  This is in stark contrast to the First Doctor’s tenure where the Ship was clearly his own, to do with as he pleased. Kidnapping is something that the Second Doctor would never acquiesce to.

Jamie is initially reticent to accept Zoe as a member of the TARDIS Crew

Jamie is initially reticent to accept Zoe as a member of the TARDIS Crew

To help Zoe decide if she wanted to accept the challenges of life in the TARDIS, the Doctor projected his thought patterns onto a monitor and the reprise from episode two of The Evil of the Daleks was seen.  In the break between Seasons Six and Seven the BBC aired the first ever Doctor Who repeat, The Evil of the Daleks, and this was scripted into both episode six of The Wheel in Space and episode one of Season Six, The Dominators. This was the first and only time that a repeat was scripted into a serial.  The viewers had to wait for Zoe’s decision on whether to stay with the Doctor and Jamie.

The Evil of the Daleks was the first Doctor Who serial ever repeated and the first and only repeat to be scripted into serials

The Evil of the Daleks was the first Doctor Who serial ever repeated and the first and only repeat to be scripted into a serial

Another first for The Wheel in Space was the use of the Doctor’s pseudonym, John Smith.  When Gemma  Corwyn, the Second-in-Command of the Wheel and a particularly strong and well developed female character, asked Jamie what the Doctor’s name was he was stumped.   “The Doctor” was the only name by which Jamie knew this mysterious man with whom he’d lived and travelled for the past two years. Glancing over at some medical equipment manufactured by  John Smith & Associates Jamie replied, “Er. John Smith”.  Later, when the Doctor recovered from his Servo-Robot induced unconsciousness and Corwyn introduced him to Zoe, Jamie had to nudge the Doctor into recognizing that his name was John.

The piece of medical equipment which inspired the now literate Jamie to give the Doctor the alias John Smith

The piece of medical equipment which inspired (the now literate) Jamie to give the Doctor the alias “John Smith”

The Doctor would go onto use the alias John Smith dozens of time thereafter.  It could be argued that Jamie’s naming of the Doctor was a mere coincidence and that he was already known by that alias.  In the Series Five episode, The Vampires of Venice, the Doctor produced a library card with the First Doctor’s image on it and the address 76 Totter’s Lane.  This may well be another example of retroactive continuity as previously discussed in my review of The Abominable Snowmen.  Interestingly enough, on one occasion when the Doctor didn’t use the alias of John Smith (Tooth and Claw) he adopted the name James McCrimmon instead.  What a lovely nod to Jamie that was. 

The Eleventh Doctor shows his library card bearing the name and photo of Dr John Smith in The Vampires of Venice (2010)

The Eleventh Doctor shows his library card bearing the name and photo of Dr John Smith in The Vampires of Venice (2010)

The Tenth Doctor identifies himself as James McCrimmon in Tooth and Claw (2006)

It is important to be mindful, however, of the voluminous amounts of criticism that have been directed at The Wheel in Space. Frequently dismissed for being the last of an almost continuous stream of “Base under Siege” stories in Season Five, The Wheel is somewhat slow and features a great deal less of the Doctor then generally seen.  Patrick Troughton was on holidays during episode two when the Doctor is conveniently unconscious for the whole episode. When he does appear not a great deal happens. This general disaffection with the story is perhaps best summed up by Cornell, Day and Topping in The Discontinuity Guide (1994) when they describe the serial like this:

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

Paul Cornell, Martin Day & Keith Toppiing, The Discontinuity Guide

Paul Cornell, Martin Day & Keith Topping, The Discontinuity Guide

Notwithstanding this criticism, The Wheel in Space was placed at 156 in the 2009 Doctor Who Magazine  Mighty 200.  That was well above several other Troughton serials including The Krotons (166), The Dominators (191), The Underwater Menace (194) and The Space Pirates (195). As two episodes are held in the BBC Archives, and have been released on the Lost in Time DVD, it is well worth disregarding the consensus and giving The Wheel in Space a view.  It’s worth it just to see the lovely Wendy Padbury introduced as Zoe.

The Wheel in Space was originally broadcast in the UK between 27 April and 1 June 1968.  Episodes 3 and 6  of The Wheel in Space held in the BBC Archives and have been released on the triple DVD set, Lost in Time.

The Wheel in Space was originally broadcast in the UK between 27 April and 1 June 1968. Episodes 3 and 6 of The Wheel in Space are held in the BBC Archives and have been released on the triple DVD set, Lost in Time.

Vivien Fleming

©Vivien Fleming, 2013.

REFERENCES:

Paul Cornell, Martin Day & Keith Topping, The Discontinuity Guide, Virgin Publishing Ltd: London,1995.

Robert Shearman & Toby Hadoke, Running Through Corridors. Rob & Toby’s Marathon Watch of Doctor Who. Volume 1: The 60s, Mad Norweigan Press: Illinois, 2010.

Tat Wood & Lawrence Miles, About Time. The Unauthorized Guide to Doctor Who 1966-1969 Seasons 4 to 6 Volume 2. Mad Norweigan Press: Illinois, 2010.

The Web of Fear

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Alistair Gordon Lethbridge-Stewart began his television career in Doctor Who as a Colonel in The Web of Fear and ended it, more than 40 years later, with a knighthood in the Sarah Jane Adventures serial Enemy of the Bane. In the interim the Brigadier, as he was most frequently and affectionately known, appeared in 103 TV episodes of Classic Series Doctor Who¸ the 1993 30th Anniversary Special Dimensions in Time, and two episodes of the Sarah Jane Adventures (2008). The character’s death was acknowledged in the Series 6 episode The Wedding of River Song (2011). The Brigadier also appeared as a character in countless audio dramas, books, cartoons and short stories right up until the actor Nicholas Courtney’s death in February 2011.

The Doctor first met Colonel Lethbridge-Stewart in less than perfect circumstances

The Doctor first met Colonel Lethbridge-Stewart in less than perfect circumstances in The Web of Fear  (1968)

Lethbridge-Stewart appeared alongside the Second, Third, Fourth, Fifth and Seventh Doctors in  serials and with the Sixth Doctor in Dimensions in Time. Nicholas Courtney, however, had the distinction of also appearing as Bret Vyon in the first four episodes of the First Doctor’s serial, The Daleks’ Master Plan.  Interestingly, Courtney’s first and last appearances in Classic Series Doctor Who were alongside fellow actor Jean Marsh. Marsh had played Courtney’s sister, Sara Kingdom, in The Daleks’ Master Plan and was Morgaine in 1989’s Battlefield. To tangle the interweaving web of Doctor Who even further, Marsh had been married to Jon Pertwee, the Third Doctor, between 1955 and 1960.

Brigadier Sir Alastair Gordon Lethbridge-Stewart in the Sarah Jane Adventures serial, Enemy of the Bane (2008)

Brigadier Sir Alastair Gordon Lethbridge-Stewart in the Sarah Jane Adventures serial, Enemy of the Bane (2008)

Brigadier Sir Alistair Gordon Lethbridge-Stewart was the longest running recurring human character in Doctor Who by a country mile.  The only villainous characters of greater longevity have been the Daleks, who first appeared in 1963, the Cybermen (1966), The Ice Warriors (1967) and quite ironically for the purposes of this review, the Great Intelligence (1967).  And to think that contract to appear as Colonel Lethbridge-Stewart was only four weeks long!

The Eleventh Doctor learns of the Brigadier’s death in The Wedding of River Song

Aside from the creation of the iconic Lethbridge-Stewart, one would be hard pressed to find another Doctor Who story that had such a long term influence on the series than The Web of Fear. As a classic example of the “base under siege” genre, it was the first to be set in present day London.  Transferring the previously Himalayan bound Yeti to the London Underground provided both a contemporary and identifiable point of reference for viewers.  The sense of terror was greatly amplified when monsters were lurking in the tunnels and tube stations that most viewers knew so well.  Incidentally, one of the actors in the Yeti suits was none other than John Levene, who would go on to portray another long time recurring character, UNIT’s Sergeant Benton.

Yeti in the tunnels of the London Underground

Yeti in the tunnels of the London Underground

The Second Doctor’s co-operation with the military in The Web of Fear would resurface in Season Six’s The Invasion, in which both Lethbridge-Stewart and Benton were members of the newly established United Nations Intelligence Taskforce (UNIT). The Invasion was the template for the Third Doctor’s earthbound exile in Seasons Seven and beyond.  But more about that when I review The Invasion.

Jack Watling reprised his role of (an aged) Travers in The Web of Fear

Jack Watling reprised his role of (an aged) Travers in The Web of Fear

The appearance of the Yeti in The Abominable Snowmen, and its sequel, The Web of Fear, propelled them to iconic status.  As a consequence of the writers, Henry Lincoln and Mervyn Haisman’s, falling out with the Doctor Who production team the Yeti would only appear again briefly in the 1983 Twentieth Anniversary Special, The Five Doctors. The Yeti’s short screen time had little effect on the creatures’ iconic status. Although never appearing alongside the Yeti on screen, Jon Pertwee is fondly remembered for his oft quoted phrase, “Yeti on the loo in Tooting Bec”.  What Pertwee was referring to was the direction that Doctor Who had taken during the Third Doctor’s earthbound tenure.  The Doctor was confronting  the monsters, not on an alien planet, but in the viewers’ own backyards, or toilets, or under their city ….  Akin to the expression, “Behind the Sofa”, “Yeti on the loo” quickly entered the Who vocabulary.

Reading a paper in the loo is a perfectly reasonable thing to do.  But did the Third Doctor anticipate meeting a Yeti in the loo?

Reading a paper in the loo is a perfectly reasonable thing to do. But did the Third Doctor anticipate meeting a Yeti in the loo?

This “Yeti on the loo” in-joke was most probably lost on a great many New Series viewers to part three of Pond Life, the prelude mini-adventures to Series Seven. The pun was much more than just the play on words of “Ood” and “loo”, and was most certainly a shout-out to Classic Series Who. Give a thought to the late Jon Pertwee as you watch Rory and Amy’s startled responses to the Ood in their bathroom.

Rory and Amy are confronted by an unexpected guest in Part 3 of Pond Life.

Before we leave the Yeti, The Web of Fear was the last serial to feature the sublime composition by British Composer, Martin Slavin, entitled Space Adventure. Ordinarily the Cybermen’s theme, it provided a superb backdrop for their first three stories, The Tenth Planet, The Moonbase and The Tomb of the Cybermen. In its last appearance in Who this composition accompanied the Yeti in Covent Garden.  

Victoria, Jamie and the Doctor contemplate their options

Victoria, Jamie and the Doctor contemplate their options

The Web of Fear is not without its failings. There is an unfortunate negative Jewish stereotype in episode one in the form of Julius Silverstein, a wealthy artefact collector and business person who runs his own museum.  Having acquired a deactivated Yeti from Edward Travers, he refused to return it after being advised that the Yeti’s control sphere had been reactivated and disappeared. The consequence of this belligerence was Silverstein’s own death at the hands of the reactivated Yeti.  When Terrance Dicks novelized the serial as Doctor Who and the Web of Fear in 1976 the character’s name was changed to Emil Julius in an attempt to avoid the negative stereotype.

The unfortunate artefact owner, Julius Silverstein

The unfortunate artefact owner, Julius Silverstein shortly before his death at the hands of a Yeti

As equally offensive, but rarely mentioned, example of racism is the characterization of Driver Evans, a Welsh officer of the British Army and a member of Lethbridge-Stewart’s team.  Evans is portrayed as unintelligent and cowardly, and he clearly wants to dessert from the Army. Had there been more than one Welsh Army officer in the serial then this Cymrophobia (anti-Welsh sentiment) could have been averted by presenting the other character(s) as courageous. Evidently Terrance Dicks was also concerned by this Cymrophobia and had Lethbridge-Stewart state that ordinarily the Welsh are good soldiers.

The character of Driver Evans was evidence of Doctor Who's Cymrophobia.

The character of Driver Evans was evidence of Doctor Who’s Cymrophobia.

The unfortunate stereotyping of the age aside, The Web of Fear is a tremendously suspenseful serial beautifully directed by Douglas Camfield. High up on many Who fans lists of “most wanted” missing serials, The Web of Fear’s influence on the future of Doctor Who could never have been imagined when its episodes were junked.  Only episode one remains in the BBC Archives, which is one more than the next serial in my marathon, Fury From the Deep. Join me for my next review as I examine how Australian film censorship has given us a tantalizing glimpse of this long lost story.

A body at the entrance of the deserted Tube Station

A body at the entrance of the deserted Tube Station

Episode 1 of The Web of Fear is held in the BBC Archives and has been released on the triple DVD set, Lost in Time.  The Web of Fear was originally  broadcast in the UK between 3 February and 9 March 1968.

Episode 1 of The Web of Fear is held in the BBC Archives and has been released on the triple DVD set, Lost in Time. The Web of Fear was originally broadcast in the UK between 3 February and 9 March 1968.

Vivien Fleming

©Vivien Fleming, 2013.

The Abominable Snowmen – Rare Yeti Photographs

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The Abominable Snowmen – Loose Cannon Reconstructions

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ImageOnly one of the six episodes of The Abominable Snowmen is held in the BBC Archives and has been released on the triple DVD set, Lost in Time. The remaining five episodes can be viewed as reconstructions by Loose Cannon Productions.

Loose Cannon’s The Abominable Snowmen, Episode 1 Part 1

Loose Cannon’s The Abominable Snowmen, Episode 1 Part 2

Loose Cannon’s The Abominable Snowmen, Episode 3 Part 1

Loose Cannon’s The Abominable Snowmen, Episode 3 Part 2

Loose Cannon’s The Abominable Snowmen, Episode 4 Part 1

Loose Cannon’s The Abominable Snowmen, Episode 4 Part 2

Loose Cannon’s The Abominable Snowmen, Episode 5 Part 1

Loose Cannon’s The Abominable Snowmen, Episode 5 Part 2

Loose Cannon’s The Abominable Snowmen, Episode 6 Part 1

Loose Cannon’s The Abominable Snowmen, Episode 6 Part 2

Episode 2 of The Abominable Snowmen is held in the BBC Archives and has been released on the triple DVD set, Lost in Time.  The Abominable Snowmen was originally broadcast in the UK between 30 September and 4 November 1967.

Episode 2 of The Abominable Snowmen is held in the BBC Archives and has been released on the triple DVD set, Lost in Time. The Abominable Snowmen was originally broadcast in the UK between 30 September and 4 November 1967.

The Tomb of the Cybermen

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I first watched The Tomb of the Cybermen in the wake of Matt Smith’s much publicized disclosure that Tomb was his favourite Doctor Who serial. It’s often said that Smith is channelling Patrick Troughton.  I was somewhat bemused, therefore, when I walked away with a rather flat feeling at the serial’s end.  It was okay, I thought, but nothing spectacular.  My second view, for this marathon,  was somewhat more enjoyable, perhaps only because of the elation felt in watching the earliest and first complete Second Doctor serial in the BBC Archives. Nine incomplete serials in a row is a somewhat daunting undertaking so my relief is perhaps entirely understandable.

The men are amazed to see the Cybermen emerge from their frozen tombs

The men are amazed to see the Cybermen emerge from their frozen tombs

The second viewing, however, did nothing to soften my discontent with the unnecessary and detrimentally racist stereotypes.  For the second serial in a row there is a huge and mute black strongman.  In The Evil of the Daleks the character of Kemel was meant to be a Turkish Wrester.  The actor who played him, Sonny Caldinez, however was black.  In Tomb of the Cybermen we have an equally large black strongman, this time named Toberman, and the “manservant” to the equally mysterious, and racially ambiguous, Kaftan.  Early drafts of the script had Toberman (played by Roy Stewart) wearing a hearing aid, however this was written out of the final script.

Roy Stewart played the mute strongman and "man servant" of Kaftan, Toberman

Roy Stewart played the mute strongman and “man servant” of Kaftan, Toberman

Shirley Cooklin was the wife of Story Editor, Peter Bryant, and the role of Kaftan was written specifically for her.  In the Special Feature, The Lost Giants, which is included the Special Edition of The Tomb of the Cybermen DVD, Cooklin describes the difficulties she faced as an actress.  As someone who was not blond haired and blue eyed, she was constantly cast as characters such as French maids.  What Cooklin failed to mention in the video, however, was that she was made up to have much darker skin than she ordinarily had.  An unspecified accent was used throughout the serial and her very dark complexion was less than subtle in hinting that Kaftan was a mysterious  and potentially dangerous outsider.  So successful were the make-up artists in disguising Cooklin that Frazer Hines, a known ladies man, tried unsuccessfully to pick her up!

The "blacked up" Shirley Cooklin as Kaftan

The “blacked up” Shirley Cooklin as Kaftan

The third member of our trio of crooks was the increasingly manic Klieg, played by George Pastell. Pastell was a Greek Cypriot actor famous for playing swarthy villains.  The instigator of a totally crazy plan for world domination in which the Cybermen were to be conscripted as willing assistants, Klieg considered himself the most intelligent and logical person in the world. Clearly he was neither and his arrogance was his downfall.

George Pastell played the swarthy villain, Klieg

George Pastell played the swarthy villain, Klieg

In between my first and second viewings of The Tomb of the Cyberman I had the misfortune of watching the Series Seven episode, Journey to the Centre of the TARDIS. My choice of the word “misfortune” is quite deliberate because throughout that 2013 episode I experienced the same niggling concerns about racism as I had watching Tomb.  The Doctor and Clara find themselves, and the TARDIS, on board an intergalactic salvage ship. The ship is crewed by the brothers Gregor and Bram Van Baalen , together with a humanoid looking android, Tricky. If this was 1967 it would not have surprised me that the characters being “baddies” would also be “black”. This is 2013 however, and I just shook my head in disbelief as the first black characters in Doctor Who for a long time were also villains. Unfortunately most criticism directed to this episode related to allegedly poor acting on the part of Ashley Walters, Mark Oliver and Jahvel Hall. What is more important is that the actors were given little to work with and subjected to negatively stereotypical characterizations.

Incredibly, the only photos I could find online of the Van Baalen brothers, and Tricky were either from behind or as monsters. Racism was again evident in 2013's Journey to the Centre of the TARDIS

Incredibly, the only photos I could find online of the Van Baalen brothers, and Tricky, were either from behind or as monsters. Racism was again evident in 2013’s Journey to the Centre of the TARDIS

I am not alone in my concerns about racism and Doctor Who.  Philip Sandifer in his blog, and now books, Tardis Eruditorum, is unashamedly critical and has published an excellent essay in the second volume of Tardis Eruditorum, entitled “What do we Make of All These Black Mute Strongmen?”.  He describes the decision by writers Kit Pedler and Gerry Davis to characterize Toberman as a black mute strongman not as a conscious act of malice, but rather an example of  “unconscious failures to even notice that there’s a problem.  More often than not, discrimination is just a particular flavour of stupidity”. In other words, these racist stereotypes are so ingrained that the writers didn’t even realize that they were being inherently racist.  Such racism, I would posit, was inherent in the Stephen Thompson penned 2013 story, Journey.

Philip Sandifer is critical of racism in Doctor Who

Philip Sandifer is critical of racism in Doctor Who

Published in July 2013, the Lindy Orthia edited book, Doctor Who and Race, is a collection of 23 essays on the issue. In May this year there was widespread controversy when Orthia was reported as describing Doctor Who as “thunderingly racist”. The BBC issued a statement which stated as follows:-

Doctor Who has a strong track record of diverse casting among both regular and guest cast.  Freema  Agyeman became the first black companion and Noel Clarke starred in a major role for five years [Mickey Smith].  Reflecting the diversity of the UK is a duty of the BBC, and casting on Doctor Who, is colour-blind. It is always about the best actors for the roles”.

Doctor Who and Race, edited by Lindy Orthia, was released in July 2013

Doctor Who and Race, edited by Lindy Orthia, was released in July 2013

I’m still waiting for Doctor Who and Race to be released on Kindle.  Once it is I will undoubtedly post a review of it on this blog.

The Tomb of the Cybermen does, however, have its positives.  The emergence of the Cybermen from their frozen tombs in episode two is brilliantly done and undeniably iconic. You can even excuse them for using cling wrap as it was as “new” and “exciting” as bubble wrap was to the 1970s Doctor Who designers.

The Cybermen emerge from their icy tombs

The Cybermen emerge from their icy tombs

The Doctor’s discussion with the new companion, Victoria, in episode three is as close to tear-jerking as you’ll get. In discussing the death of Victoria’s father (in The Evil of the Daleks), the Doctor gently tells her of his own family recollections – “I have to really want to, to bring them back in front of my eyes.  The rest of the time they  … sleep in my mind and I forget. As so will you”. The Doctor also discloses for the first time his age and we learn that in earth terms he is roughly 450 years old.

The Doctor and Victoria’s episode three discussion.

Finally, the scene in which the Doctor and Jamie accidently hold hands as they enter the tomb is just fabulous.  Both intending to hold Victoria’s hand, they quickly disengage when the manliness of the other hand becomes apparent.  In the Special Features Frazer Hines describes how he and Patrick Troughton didn’t officially rehearse the scene.  Fearing that their unscripted gag would be cut out, they left its unveiling to the actual filming knowing that cuts were expensive and rarely made.

Frazer Hines and Deborah Watling discussing the making of The Tomb of the Cybermen. 

The Tomb of the Cyberman is unfortunately the only complete serial featuring Deborah Watling as Victoria. It’s back to reconstructions and only one complete episode, when I continue my marathon with The Abominable Snowmen.

The Tomb of the Cybermen was originally broadcast in the UK between 2 September and 23 September 1967

The Tomb of the Cybermen was originally broadcast in the UK between 2 September and 23 September 1967

Vivien Fleming

©Vivien Fleming, 2013.

REFERENCE:

Phil Sandifer, Tardis Eruditorum Volume 2: Patrick Troughton. Self published, 2012.