Tag Archives: The Dalek Invasion of Earth

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 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 Underwater Menace

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In the 2009 Doctor Who Magazine Mighty 200 Poll of Doctor Who stories, The Underwater Menace was voted the seventh least popular.  Coming in at an appalling 194, it was one story above another long derided Patrick Troughton serial, The Space Pirates. Throw in The Dominators at 191,and the Second Doctor has three of the ten least popular serials.  That even beats Colin Baker’s Sixth Doctor and Sylvester McCoy’s Seventh Doctor, each of whom had two serials each in the bottom 10.

Two Fish People resplendent in their sequin costumes

Two Fish People resplendent in their sequin costumes

So why is The Underwater Menace so lowly regarded? That until late 2011 only one of its four episodes were held in the BBC Archives may provide part of the answer.  In fact, nearly two years after episode two’s return, it has yet to be released on DVD.  Episode three was first released to the public on VHS cassette in 1998 and subsequently reissued on the 2004 DVD Lost in Time.

Damon in his funny head gear

Damon in his funny head gear

Without the context of the previous two episodes, episode three of The Underwater Menace must look extraordinarily bizarre to the casual viewer.  The classic disparaging comments dished out to Doctor Who, including bad graphics, wobbly sets and atrocious acting might, to the uninitiated, appear spot on.  The Fish People, who are enslaved by the Atlanteans, are surgically modified humans.  Having gills, flippers and scales, which are none other than sequins stuck to their faces, the Fish People farm the plankton that they, and the Atlanteans, are reliant upon for food. Being apparently bereft of refrigeration, this food source lasts only several hours before deterioration, thereby requiring the slave labour force to work around the clock to provide a constant fresh supply of stock. Polly narrowly escapes being operated upon to become a Fish Person in the episode one cliff hanger, which thanks for the ever vigilant Australian Censorship Board, we still have for our viewing pleasure.

Polly narrowly escaped being turned into a Fish Person

Polly narrowly escaped being turned into a Fish Person

Polly and Damon

Polly and Damon.  Polly’s Atlantean gear is just fab

Almost universally condemned for their costuming, I personally think the Fish People look fabulous, in a trippy, 1960s sort of way.  The Fish People swim around gracefully in an extended  performance of synchronized swimming during episode three.  I’m not entirely certain what the sequence’s purpose is  however it looks completely wild.  I can even excuse the trapeze wires that hold up the swimming Fish People up as they  elegantly swoon around.  Spotting the wires holding up space ships has always been one of my favourite parts of watching Doctor Who (there are some great strings to be spotted in The Dalek Invasion of Earth). This is just a logical extension of that peculiar interest!  That the Fish People decide to go on strike after having their humanity questioned by some enslaved miners is a bit farfetched, but hey, the reverse logic worked.

A rare colour photo of the Fish People

A rare colour photo of the Fish People

Not all Fish People wore sequins.  Given that The Underwater Menace went so over buget the BBC must not have been able to afford more sequins for this poor Fish Person

Not all Fish People wore sequins. Given that The Underwater Menace went so over budget, the BBC mustn’t have been able to afford more sequins for this poor Fish Person

Joseph Furst’s acting as the insane Polish Professor Zaroff is frequently the source of criticism.  Episode three ends with his classic manic cry of “Nothing in ze world can stop me now!”  That Zaroff is a parody of the mad scientist, and clearly meant to be played in a hammy, over the top fashion, appears lost on most critics. Where’s everyone’s sense of humour gone?  Zaroff’s plan to drain the oceans into the Earth’s molten core, thereby causing the planet’s explosion from overheated steam, is also dismissed as ludicrous.   Sure, he only wants to destroy the Earth because he can, and will also die in the resultant explosion, but that’s what mad scientists do.  They wouldn’t be mad scientists if their plans were rational. As Philip Sandifer states in Tardis Eruditorum, Zaroff’s scheme is no crazier an idea than the Daleks’ plan in The Dalek Invasion of Earth to drill the core out of the centre of the Earth and use the planet as a space ship. And that second Dalek serial isn’t dismissed out of hand as some form of corny atrocity.

The mad scientist Professor Zaroff

The mad scientist Professor Zaroff. “Nothing in ze world can stop me now!”

The Doctor and Zaroff

The Doctor and Zaroff

The Underwater Menace sees the Doctor take the lead in saving the Earth without recourse to dressing up continuously, although he does look rather cool when briefly dressed as some sort of tambourine playing hippy with sunglasses and bandanna.  We are even afforded the opportunity to see a snippet of the Doctor’s good conscience when he decides that he just can’t let Zaroff drown at the end of episode four.  A rock fall blocks the path to rescue, although at least the Doctor’s intentions are good. In this story the Doctor begins to display the characteristics that become his  staple for the duration of his tenure.

The Doctor is disguised as a tambourine playing hippy

The Doctor is disguised as a tambourine playing hippy

Polly, however, is denied the forthrightness of previous outings, and plays the screaming damsel far too often. Having been buoyed by her characterisation in The Highlanders, Polly’s inability to assertively take control of her own destiny in this serial was more than a little disappointing.  She can, however speak “foreign”, as Ben refers to it, and is conversant in German, French and Spanish.  Ben displays a good rapport with the Doctor and Jamie appears surprisingly unaffected by being dragged out of the 18th Century Scottish highlands, and into an underwater world of Fish People, temple worship and mad scientists. Ben and Jamie spend much of the time running around in black wetsuits.  The synthetic rubber of the wetsuit must have been an unusual sensation against Jamie’s highland skin, but remarkably he is not seen to make a comment about it.

Jamie and Ben spend much of their time in black wet suits

Jamie and Ben spend much of their time in black wet suits

The Underwater Menace ends with the mad scientist dead and the Atlanteans saved from Zaroff’s dastardly plan, although the city of Atlantis is flooded. No more Fish People will be made, and presumably they are freed from servitude. Religion, however, will be no more.  Damon believes that priests, superstition and temples made the Atlanteans follow Zaroff’s crazy plans and the temple should be buried forever.  Quite how this conclusion is reached is never stated and is certainly a very superficial solution to the Atlanteans’ problems. All told, however, The Underwater Menace is a fun romp and nowhere near as bad as its reputation.  Watch it with an eye for the ridiculous and you won’t be disappointed.

The Underwater Menace was originally broadcast in the UK between 14 January and 4 February 1967.  Episode 3 is available on the triple DVD set Lost in Time

The Underwater Menace was originally broadcast in the UK between 14 January and 4 February 1967. Episode 3 is available on the triple DVD set Lost in Time

Vivien Fleming

©Vivien Fleming, 2013.

REFERENCE:

Phil Sandifer, Tardis Eruditorum Volume 1: William Hartnell. Self published, 2011.