Tag Archives: The Gunfighters

The Tenth Planet

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Known to most as the first Doctor Who regeneration and the premiere appearance of the Cybermen, it has been persuasively argued by Phil Sandifer in Tardis Eruditorum  that The Tenth Planet  represents neither.  Rather than signalling the First Doctor’s end, Sandifer states that it is rather the demise of the Doctor, per se.  Save for his appearance in The Three Doctors, William Hartnell never played the role of the First Doctor.  He was always merely “the Doctor” – the original, and some may say, the best.   Killed by the energy draining force of the planet Mondas, the Doctor collapses to the floor in his terrifying end. Not only is it the death of the Doctor, but also the death of Doctor Who.  Sandifer explains it thus:

The Tardis Crew are ready to brave the cold.  Polly chooses a highly impractical mini skirt

The Tardis Crew are ready to brave the cold. Polly chooses a highly impractical mini skirt

“And this is part of being a Doctor Who fan.  You are absolutely guaranteed to see the show die in front of you, and then get replaced with a strange, different show using the same name.  Eventually, everything that Doctor Who is comes to a crashing halt and something new happens instead”.

The Doctor dies

The Doctor dies

The sense of the television series named Doctor Who dying would have been very real to viewers on 29 October 1966. Doctor Who was William Hartnell and William Hartnell was the Doctor. There was no precedent for the change of the lead character in such a radical fashion.  Certainly the actor playing a role in a show, whether it be on television or stage, may have changed, but the character remained roughly similar in respect of personality type and more often than not, physical appearance. The most frequently cited similarity, that of the film version of Ian Fleming’s James Bond, was still being played by the first actor to do so, Sean Connery. It would not be until 1969 that George Lazenby would have his one and only outing as 007. Incidentally, it was that very same year that the American series Bewitched saw the character of Darrin Stephens played by a different actor, also with the unfortunate name of Dick. Dick Sargent replaced Dick York, but as in the case of James Bond, Darrin remained ostensibly the same character.

The face of a stranger replaces the familiar form of The Doctor

The face of a stranger replaces the familiar form of The Doctor

Doctor Who was different, however. This wasn’t the case of a quick change of lead actor, with the series continuing unchanged.  This was actually the death of the lead.  Although the new lead actor played the role of a character bearing the same name, the Doctor, his personality was remarkably different. There was very much a sense of re-birth and complete renewal.  This was particularly evident in The Tenth Planet’s setting.  This was the first “base under siege” story, a genre which would come to dominate Patrick Troughton’s tenure as the Doctor.  A “base under siege” involves circumstances where the Doctor and his companions find themselves caught in a confined space or remote geographic location and are confronted by monsters that threaten everyone’s lives, the “base’s” existence, or both.  The Series Seven story Cold War, in which the Doctor and Clara find themselves on a Soviet era submarine confronted by an Ice Warrior, is a classic example of the “base under siege” genre.

The Series 7 episode Cold War is a classic example of a "Base under Siege" story

The Series 7 episode Cold War is a classic example of a “Base under Siege” story

From its very opening sequence, where a rocket is launched, it is apparent that The Tenth Planet is a very different story. The Doctor and his companions are not seen until more than three and a half minutes after episode one’s commencement.  Prior to that an array of international characters, not seen before in Doctor Who, are shown. Staffing the South Pole base are Americans, Italians and British, and manning the space shuttle are an Australian and a West Indian (or a resident of another Caribbean country).  There’s a sense of confinement and it’s twenty years in the future – 1986. Once inside the base the Doctor is quick to be able identify a hitherto unknown planet hurtling towards the earth as Mondas, the Earth’s upside down twin.  For the first time the Doctor shows that he knows not only the past’s history, but also its future. Five minutes before the episode’s conclusion we catch our first glimpse of a Mark 1 Cyberman and it’s on its harrowing features that the episode ends on a classic cliff hanger.

The Doctor and his companions find themselves in a base under siege

The Doctor and his companions find themselves in a base under siege

These are not the metal villains that the Cybermen are later portrayed as, but rather a far more frightening creation.  A race of humanoids whose body parts have been replaced as they wear out, they still retain the vestiges of a human form.  Their hands are human  and ungloved, and their faces almost mummified in a cloth stocking.  Instead of moving their lips as they speak, their featureless mouths open and their sing-song voices spew forth.  There is no hint of the monotone voices of the later Cybermen, nor is there a predilection to shout one word threats such as “delete”.  The Cybermen in The Tenth Planet are almost gentlemanly in their manners and until the fourth episode not intent on causing havoc to the Earth.  Devoid of all emotions, they are entirely logical and see their transformation to Cybermen as a great advance.  They are free from illness, heat and cold and wish the humans to travel to their home planet, Mondas,  where “You will become like us”.  The Cybermen are concerned only for survival, and a race for survival it is as Mondas careers towards the Earth.  Only one planet can survive, but which will it be?

The Tenth Planet – A Cyberman extols the virtues of their form

Created by Kit Pedler, an unofficial scientific adviser to Doctor Who, the Cybermen arose from Pedler’s fear of humans being artificially transformed.  A medical scientist by profession, Pedler wrote The Tenth Planet  more than a year prior to the first heart transplant in December 1967.  As displayed in the clip above, the Cybermen have their hearts removed.  When Polly questions whether they have a heart at all, the response is entirely literal. That humans may one day become like the Cybermen was a genuine fear held by Pedler.

The Cybermen are at their frightening best as their humanoid antecedents are still evident

The Cybermen are at their frightening best as their humanoid antecedents are still evident

Cybermen through the ages

Cybermen through the ages

The selfish concern of American General Cutler for the well being of his astronaut son, Terry, is a particularly frightening aspect of The Tenth Planet. Cutler is prepared to detonate the Z Bomb and destroy Mondas merely to save his son’s life. Terry has been sent on a rescue mission by Geneva for the space shuttle which unbeknownst to the United Nations, has already disintegrated.  The deaths of all on Mondas, and the possibility of immense radioactive damage to Earth, is of absolutely no concern to Cutler.  The loud and bullying American makes the Cybermen and their quiet extolling of Mondas’  virtues  appear almost palatable.

The American, General Cutler

The American, General Cutler

Unfortunately illness caused William Hartnell to be absent for episode three.  A stand-in faked his collapse to the floor and for the whole of the episode the Doctor is confined, unconscious, to quarters.  Given his death in episode four, the Doctor’s absence in episode three  provided a sense of continuity to the serial’s conclusion.   Quite shocking and unexpected, the Doctor’s collapse upon his return to the Tardis otherwise bears very little reference to the rest of the story.  In retrospect fans have read the events of previous serials into the Doctor’s weakening, although given the nature of Hartnell’s departure it’s just as likely that these “signs” were unintentional.

Polly tries unsuccessfully to reason with a Cyberman.  The Doctor looks on

Polly tries unsuccessfully to reason with a Cyberman. The Doctor looks on

You may recall that the Doctor was subjected to the Daleks’ Time Destructor in episode 12 of The Daleks’ Master Plan.   Although Sarah Kingdom aged quickly and died, the effects on the Doctor were not so great.  He nonetheless suffered the Time Destructor’s effects to some degree, although these were reversed when Steven accidently discovered the means of reversing the Destructor.   In The Celestial Toymaker the Doctor was rendered incorporeal by the Toymaker and in The Gunfighters he had a tooth removed by Doc Holliday. Finally in The War Machines an unsuccessful attempt was made to hypnotise him.  Did these events precipitate the Doctor’s decline?  It’s a question that is unlikely to be answered, although Phil Sandifer, whom we opened with, is adamant that the cause is without doubt the energy draining forces of the planet Mondas.  When Polly asked the Doctor at the opening of episode four what had happened to him he responded by saying, “Oh, I’m not sure, my dear.  Comes from an outside influence.  Unless this old body of mine is wearing a bit thin”.  It’s usually only the latter part of this answer that is remembered, rather than the “outside influence”.

The planet Mondas is the Earth's twin

The planet Mondas is the Earth’s twin

I will really miss the irascible old Doctor as Who continues Season four with Patrick Troughton at the helm.  Join me for my next review as Doctor Who enters a new era with The Power of the Daleks.

The Doctor collapsed on the floor of the Tardis

The Doctor collapsed on the floor of the Tardis

The Tenth Planet was originally broadcast in the UK between 8 October and 29 October 1966.  The DVD of the three episodes held in the BBC Archives, together with an animation of missing episode four, is to released by the BBC in November 2013

The Tenth Planet was originally broadcast in the UK between 8 October and 29 October 1966. The DVD of the three episodes held in the BBC Archives, together with an animation of missing episode four, is to released by the BBC in November 2013

Vivien Fleming

©Vivien Fleming, 2013.

 

REFERENCE:

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

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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.

The Celestial Toymaker

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After the delight of watching a complete story on DVD for the first time in what seemed like an eternity, it was back to reconstructions for episodes one, two and three of The Celestial Toymaker.  Episode four is in the BBC Archives and was released on the Lost in Time DVD. This is perhaps an opportune time to discuss the incredible work done by Loose Cannon in reconstructing lost episodes of Doctor Who. Started in 1997 by Rick Brindell, Loose Cannon  Productions is a team of six very talented Doctor Who aficionados who have devoted their considerable energies to reconstructing lost episodes.  Some of their work, such as The Celestial Toymaker, could be more accurately described as a recreation because of the specifically created material contained within.  There being no telesnaps of The Celestial Toymaker missing episodes, Loose Cannon utilized authentic photos and screen grabs from the surviving episode four.  Large sections have been cleverly recreated such as Steven’s game of blind man’s bluff.  Here photos of a man hopping from block to block have been reimaged to appear as Steven.  It’s particularly well done and provides the viewer with a sense that they’re watching a much more animated production.  The use of extensive captions scrolling across the bottom of the screen provide a running commentary of the action and alerts the viewer to activity that still photos alone could not convey.

The Cover for Loose Cannon's The Celestial Toymaker.  Reproductions are only available on VHS tapes, although they can be viewed on YouTube.  Loose Cannon does not sell or profit financially from the sale of their reconstructions

The Cover for Loose Cannon’s The Celestial Toymaker. Reproductions are only available on VHS tapes, although they can be viewed on YouTube. Loose Cannon does not sell or profit financially from the sale of their reconstructions

Until the recovery of episode four and its release on video in 1991, The Celestial Toymaker had been held in generally high regard by Doctor Who fandom.   Based on the recollections of those who originally viewed the serial in 1966, The Target Books novelization and the audio soundtrack,  the serial had something of a mystique about it.  Sadly, once episode four was viewed opinion took a downward spiral.  This is unfortunate as I found the story very engaging and fascinating.  The concept of a world of make believe in which the characters are compelled to participate in childish games in order to retrieve the Tardis is both sinister and surreal. That I’m a great fan of the Second Doctor’s The Mind Robber probably evidences my idiosyncratic tendencies.  Both serials have a similar edge about them.

At last a story with some colour photographs!  The Toymaker, clowns and the Doctor

At last a story with some colour photographs! The Toymaker, clowns and the Doctor

Ballerinas block the companions path

Ballerinas block the companions path

The Celestial Toymaker had been commissioned by outgoing  producer John Wiles who had been frustrated by William Hartnell’s increasingly petulant behaviour. It had been his intention to write Hartnell out of Doctor Who and in doing so conceived of a plot line in which the Doctor would change his appearance.  Wiles’ plan to replace the lead character was vetoed and the new producer, Innes Lloyd, was compelled to retain Hartnell. Much of the storyline remained, however, with Hartnell absent from episodes two and three.  It appears that Hartnell had been sent away on holidays. In About Time 1, Tat Wood and Lawrence Miles argue that “from now on … Hartnell is on borrowed time”.

Tat Wood & Lawrence Miles About Time 1.  The Unauthorized Guide to Doctor Who 1963-1966 Seasons 1 to 3

Tat Wood & Lawrence Miles’ About Time 1. The Unauthorized Guide to Doctor Who 1963-1966 Seasons 1 to 3

Hartnell’s absence from half of the story was achieved by the ingenious ploy of making the Doctor firstly invisible, and then mute.  This required only the pre-recording of a few lines of script, the use of a hand double, and some very clever special effects for the mid 1960s. The Doctor is in battle with the Toymaker, an evil immortal who finds great joy in condemning others to a lifetime of playing puerile children’s games for his own gratification.  Even with the control of others so firmly in his grasp, the Toymaker is still bored with this dolls’ house existence.  He will not stop, however, as being vain and indignant he never likes to lose.   The Doctor is compelled to play a game of trilogic, a puzzle in which the ten pieces must be moved and restacked in exactly the correct 1023 moves.  Annoyed by the Doctor’s presence the Toymaker makes him incorporeal, leaving only his right hand visible. Not satisfied by the Doctor’s invisibility, the Toymaker then makes him mute. It is in this state that the Doctor stays until he is one move away from winning the game in episode four.

The Toymaker finds the Doctor's presence intolerable

The Toymaker finds the Doctor’s presence intolerable

The sergeant, cook and ballerinas

The sergeant, cook and ballerinas

Meanwhile the Doctor’s companions, Steven and Dodo, are engaged in a surreal world of children’s games with clowns, playing cards, ballerinas, a cook, a sergeant, and a bratty school boy. None of the characters are real, however distancing herself emotionally from them is very difficult for Dodo. At the end of each episode a riddle is flashed onto the screen, the answer to which will guide Steven and Dodo in the successful completion of their tasks.  The Tardis has been taken by the Toymaker and to facilitate its return the companions must not only win the games, but do so prior to the Doctor completing his 1023 move game.

The Toymaker with a robot with a TV in its stomach

The Toymaker with a robot with a TV in its stomach

Dodo, Steven and the clowns

Dodo, Steven and the clowns

The particularly belligerent Steven and the childlike Dodo play blind man’s bluff,  musical chairs, avoid the dolls, find the key and a human board game, all with sinister obstacles. Sitting on the wrong chair, for example, may result in you being frozen solid or melted.  To fall from a space in the board game sees you electrocuted, and being caught by a ballerina results in you perpetually dancing.  Needless to say, our heroes are victorious . The Doctor beats the Toymaker by bluff and cunning and with their Tardis returned, the crew retire to it.  Having pocketed some hard lollies from Cyril, the superbly played “adult” school boy, Dodo shares them around.  Given that Cyril is not real, I was somewhat bemused to note that his sweet treats are.  Despite his “death” by electrocution, Cyril has the last laugh.  The Doctor breaks a tooth on the lolly, and so the scene is set for the next episode’s western shenanigans. If you’re up for a comedy musical with an extraordinarily repetitive sung narration, then join me when I next review The Gunfighters.

Dodo, Steven and Cyril the nasty "schoolboy"

Dodo, Steven and Cyril the nasty “schoolboy”

The King and Queen of Hearts

The King and Queen of Hearts

Episode 4 of The Celestial Toymaker is included in the Lost in Time triple DVD set. The Celestial Toymaker was originally broadcast in the UK between 2nd April and 23rd April 1966

Episode 4 of The Celestial Toymaker is included in the Lost in Time triple DVD set. The Celestial Toymaker was originally broadcast in the UK between 2nd April and 23rd April 1966

Vivien Fleming

©Vivien Fleming, 2013.

Reference

Tat Wood & Lawrence Miles, About Time. The Unauthorized Guide to Doctor Who. 1963-1966 Seasons 1 to 3. Mad Norweigan Press, Illinois, 2009.