Tag Archives: The Daleks

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 Dominators

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Almost universally condemned as one of the worst Doctor Who serials ever, The Dominators was the serial Patrick Troughton personally requested be screened at the convention he was attending at the time of his death. Perhaps Troughton could see something of merit in The Dominators that fans and critics were unable to discern. But then again, in 1987 there weren’t many extant Second Doctor serials available. There aren’t many more accessible today. That’s probably reason enough to at least try to detect something favourable about the serial.  Thankfully the good contributors to Celebrate Regenerate have come to our rescue and said this about The Dominators:

The Quarks were less than convincing as monsters

The Quarks were less than convincing as monsters

I think I knew The Dominators was the weakest of the bunch.  But I still loved it: it was funny.  It’s the only Doctor Who story I know of that’s based on a clash of household furnishings.  Guys wearing sofas invade a world of people dressed in curtains.  The natives immediately surrender to them despite the fact that they’re incompetent (those other ten galaxies must have really been pushovers).  And then there are the Quarks.  Small, slow, waddling, penguin-esque with squeaky voices and very low-capacity batteries.  But at the end of the day , I love the Dominators …

Edited by Lewis Christian, Celebrate Regenerate is a fan produced chronicle of every Doctor Who episode

Edited by Lewis Christian, Celebrate Regenerate is a fan produced chronicle of every Doctor Who episode

Save for its slowness and distinct lack of plot, the principal criticism directed at The Dominators is the writers’ reactionary premise that pacifism is abhorrent and pacifists gullible and unintelligent. In their third and final outing as writers for Doctor Who Mervyn Haisman and Henry Lincoln took a direct swipe at the growing anti-war movement. The Dulcians are pacifists and presented as unquestioning morons. Although they have two hearts they are physically weak and not use to manual labour.  When forced to labour as slaves to the aggressors, the Dominators, they are next to useless and are seen to struggle under the burden of moving heavy rocks.  The Dulcians’ education system appears to prioritize rote learning over intellectual enquiry and they accept any statements as fact until they are otherwise proved false. It isn’t too hard to envisage what Haisman and Lincoln’s perception of anti-war protestors were.

The Dulcians are not use to physical labour

The Dulcians are not use to physical labour

The Dominators was not Doctor Who’s first anti-pacifist adventure.  That dishonour goes to Terry Nation’s The Daleks in which the gorgeous Thals are pilloried for their being unprepared to fight .  In my review of The Daleks I examined Nation’s contempt for the 1930’s British policy of Appeasement.  Unlike the Thals, Haisman and Lincoln do not afford the Dulcians any redemption. They are portrayed in an unfavourable light throughout the whole of the serial. Given that Doctor Who has generally taken a more liberal view on political issues this contempt for pacifism is all the more extraordinary.

The aliens with perhaps the most inept name ever, the Dominators

The aliens with perhaps the most inept name ever, the Dominators

More than 40 years later such distain for pacifism was again evidenced in Toby Whitehouse’s Series Six story, The God Complex (2011). This time, however, a reactionary political message was veiled in humour. When the Eleventh Doctor asks Gibbis, a native of Tivoli, how he arrived at the “hotel” his response was enlightening – “I was at work.  I’m in town planning. We’re lining all the highways with trees so invading forces can march in the shade. It’s nice for them”.  Tivoli is the most conquered planet in the galaxy and its residents have resigned themselves to being constantly overrun. Accordingly they welcome invading armies and their national anthem reflects the ease with which they accept domination – “Glory to <Insert Name Here>”.

Another pacifist portrayed in an unfavourable light was Gibbis in The God Complex (2011)

Another pacifist portrayed in an unfavourable light was Gibbis in The God Complex (2011)

What I also found disturbing about The Dominators was the patriarchal nature of the Dulcians’ society.  Only men, and old ones at that, are members of their governing council.  Certainly there are numerous other Doctor Who serials which are guilty of not positively representing women, however The Dominators totally disenfranchises them.  I would hope that this says more about the writers’ views than those espoused by the producers of Doctor Who.  That being said, the decision to give the Quarks childish female voices is bizarre, to say the least.  Hitherto all monsters, without exception, have had masculine voices even if their bodies are not specifically gendered. The one and only time that a woman is used to voice a monster, the voices are clumsy and laughable.  It left me wondering if this was some form of bad joke in which women, in general, were being ridiculed.

Only men are members of the Dulcian ruling elite

Only men are members of the Dulcian ruling elite

Unfortunately the Quarks proved to be appalling monsters.  Small in stature, school children were encased within them for the filming. They shuffled around, always looking as though they were about to tumble over, and had arms that were even more impractical than the Daleks’.  They were easily defeated, at one stage by a conveniently light boulder pushed from a hill top by Cully, the only resident of Dulkis to rebel from their pacifism. Created by Haisman and Lincoln specifically for their marketing potential, the Quarks were almost the subject of legal proceedings between the writers and the BBC. Relations between the writers and Doctor Who deteriorated further when the serial was cut from six episodes to five and substantially rewritten.  Haisman and Lincoln sought to have their names removed from the credits and accordingly a pseudonym, “Norman Asby”,  which was taken from the first names of the writers’  father-in-laws, was adopted.

The marketing rights to the Quarks almost resulted in legal proceedings between the writers and the BBC

The marketing rights to the Quarks almost resulted in legal proceedings between the writers and the BBC

Although the Quarks were never again seen on TV they were encountered in comics

Although the Quarks were never again seen on TV they were encountered in comics

The Doctor’s ethics in The Dominators are also questionable.  He is responsible for the deaths of the two Dominators after he places their atomic seed-device, intended to destroy the planet, onto the aggressor’s own space craft.  This is plainly an example of lazy writing as it was the easy option for disposing of the bomb quickly. Surely the Doctor could have diffused  it rather than acting as judge, jury and executioner.

The Doctor and Jamie hold hands again

The Doctor and Jamie hold hands again

Despite its many failing I surprised myself by actually enjoying The Dominators.  Perhaps I was just relieved at watching the first complete serial since The Tomb of the Cybermen or maybe, just maybe, I could see in the story the good that Patrick Troughton evidently saw.  I really don’t know, however I am sure that our next story, The Mind Robber, lives up to its reputation as Troughton’s favourite serial.  Please join me for my next review as we enter the land of fiction.

The Dominators was originally broadcast in the UK between 10 August and 7 September 1968

The Dominators was originally broadcast in the UK between 10 August and 7 September 1968

Vivien Fleming

©Vivien Fleming, 2013.

The Smugglers

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It’s somewhat bizarre to “watch” a serial in which all four episodes have been lost but miraculously, all the violence is intact as tiny snippets of film. Such is the case with the opening story of Season 4, The Smugglers.  Always to the rescue in the event of missing episodes, Loose Cannon’s reconstruction is resplendent with John Cura’s famous telesnaps, authentic photos taken during production and snippets from an amateur film of the production.  Most startling, however, are five short clips courtesy of Australia’s Commonwealth Film Censorship Board.  Discovered in the National Archives of Australia in October 1996 by Doctor Who fans Damian Shanahan and Ellen Parry, the clips had been excised by the Film Censorship Board and retained as evidence of the edits.  At some point they had been transferred to the National Archives, presumably in accordance with government agency retention policies.

Elroy Josephs, who played the pirate Jamaica, was the first black person to have a speaking part in Doctor Who

Elroy Josephs, who played the pirate Jamaica, was the first black person to have a speaking part in Doctor Who

Always broadcast during children’s television times in Australia, Classic Series Doctor Who was subject to government classification prior to airing.  Segments deemed too terrifying or violent for children were routinely cut.  It was for this reason that The Daleks’ Master Plan was never broadcast in Australia.  Who’s most violent story to that date, the cuts required to The Dalek’s Master Plan were so extensive as to make it incomprehensible to the ordinary viewer.  Thanks to Shanahan and Perry’s research, together with the Censorship Board’s hardline policy of the 1960s, a number of clips from otherwise totally lost episodes and stories have now been returned to the BBC’s archives. Perhaps the most iconic of these clips is from 1968 Second Doctor serial, Fury from the Deep. A full 54 seconds of a clip survives in which Quill and Oak suffocate Mrs Harris by breathing deadly gas from their mouths.  Stayed tuned for my review of that Season 5 Serial 6 story to see the outstanding film clip.

Once of the most iconic images from the Second Doctor's lost adventure Fury from the Deep.  Almost one minute of this clip survives thanks to the Australian Film Censorship Board

Once of the most iconic images from the Second Doctor’s lost adventure Fury from the Deep. Almost one minute of this clip survives thanks to the Australian Film Censorship Board

A listing of The Smugglers clips recovered from Australia can be accessed from this page of Loose Cannon’s website – http://www.recons.com/clips/clips-lc30.htm  Particularly valuable is Steve Phillips’ “The Doctor Who Clips List”.  Here you will find photographs and a short description of all recovered snippets – http://dwclips.steve-p.org/  An interview with Damian Shanahan is included amongst the special features of Lost in Time. Linked below for your viewing pleasure are The Smugglers clips, together with extracts from the amateur video.

The Smugglers – Missing clips and amateur film

The Smugglers was William Hartnell’s last historical story, and the first Doctor Who serial requiring the cast and crew to embark on a journey to the seaside for location shooting.  Filmed at Cornwell, the serial is sure to have looked superb. Without the visuals, however, it’s somewhat difficult to state much at all about the serial.  Whilst perfectly enjoyable, The Smugglers is by no means extraordinary.  The story of the Doctor and his new companions arriving on a late 17th Century Cornwell beach, and finding themselves immersed in the deadly games of piracy and smuggling, is profoundly simple.  The story could’ve been taken from any Boys’ Own Adventure book. Save for the Doctor, Polly and Ben arriving and departing in the Tardis, there is no science fiction in the story.  Nor is it based on a real, or even mythical, historical event.

Ben and Polly arrive take their first trip in the Tardis

Ben and Polly take their first trip in the Tardis

As many clichés as possible were thrown into The Smugglers’ mix, such as an evil pirate captain with a hook for a hand; the drunken former pirate who becomes a drunken church warden; the local Squire who’s actually a small time crook; and the locals being insanely superstitious. For the first time ever a black actor has a speaking part, although Jamaica, the pirate crew member, is quickly dispatched by the evil Captain Pike for allowing prisoners to escape. The pirates are more interested in drinking the smugglers’ loot than retrieving it for their Captain, and most interestingly, the Doctor drinks some wine with Captain Pike.  It was only in The Gunfighters that the Doctor repeatedly vowed that he was a teetotaller.

The evil pirate, Captain Pike

The evil pirate, Captain Pike

Ben and Polly’s first trip in the Tardis provides from some comic interludes in the serial’s first part.  Unsurprisingly the new companions have difficulty accepting that the Tardis travels through time, although they are less puzzled by the Ship’s ability to transport them from London to Cornwell in a matter of minutes. Convinced that they are still in 1966, Ben and Polly immediately set off to find a train station.  Ben’s principal concern is returning to his boat in time.  This is despite him stating in The War Machines that he was on 6 months’ shore leave.  Perhaps the Crew had been put in a state of suspended animation for six months because in The Faceless Ones, Ben and Polly’s last story, they are returned to London on the same day that they left.  Needless to say, our new companions soon realize that it is not the 20th Century and quickly lose their sense of astonishment.  That is, of course, until Polly is repeatedly mistaken for a “lad” because she’s wearing trousers.  Even being locked up in a cell after being charged with the murder of the church warden, Ben and Polly are still decidedly calm.

Ben and Polly find appropriate clothing for 17th Century Cornwell.  Because she wears trousers Polly is mistaken for a "lad"

Ben and Polly find appropriate clothing for 17th Century Cornwell. Because she wears trousers Polly is mistaken for a “lad”

The Doctor, who is referred to as “Saw Bones” by the sailors, admits to his new companions that he is unable to control where and when the Tardis materializes. He displays a skill for tarot reading and a strong need to assist the local villagers.  When Ben seeks to quickly depart in the Tardis the Doctor advises Ben that he has a moral obligation to save the villagers from the rampaging pirates.  The Doctor’s ethics have changed considerably from his first adventures with Barbara, Ian and Susan.  In The Daleks he placed his Crew at risk to satisfy his desire to explore the Dalek city, and was just as quickly prepared to decamp from it without Ian and Barbara. No longer entirely egocentric, the Doctor is slowly developing into the universe saving character that we all know and love.

Captain Pike and Jamaica, just prior to the Jamaica's murder

Captain Pike and Jamaica, just prior to the Jamaica’s murder

Our next serial, The Tenth Planet, is Hartnell’s last journey in the Tardis as the Doctor. Join me for my next review in which the Cybermen make their premiere appearance and Doctor Who’s  first regeneration unfolds before our confused eyes.

Loose Cannon's VHS cover art for their The Savages Reconstructions. The Smugglers was originally aired in the UK between 10 September and 1 October 1966.

Loose Cannon’s VHS cover art for The Smugglers Reconstructions. The Smugglers was originally aired in the UK between 10 September and 1 October 1966.

Vivien Fleming

©Vivien Fleming, 2013.