Tag Archives: The Moonbase

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.

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The Faceless Ones

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If you’d tuned into Doctor Who in March or April 1967 you’d be excused for thinking that the programme’s production team had a real issue with holidaying Brits.  Firstly The Macra Terror compared  Butlins style Holiday Camps to a colony governed by giant mind-controlling crabs. Then the next serial, The Faceless Ones, took a shot at the bourgeoning package holiday market and groups of 18 to 25 year-olds jetting off  from Gatwick Airport to European destinations such as Rome, Dubrovnik and Athens.   Participating in such tours could find you miniaturized, shot 150 miles into the air in a aeroplane which transforms into a spaceship, and finally stored away indefinitely in a drawer after an alien has replicated and taken on your form. It’s enough to turn anyone off taking that next holiday!

The Tardis lands on the runway of Gatwick Airport

The Tardis lands on the runway of Gatwick Airport

Mind control and losing one’s identity were issues of great concern to the writers of Doctor Who in the late 1960s. Together with The Macra Terror and The Faceless Ones, such themes were also addressed in a number of other stories.  In the Cybermen serials there was the ever present threat of being upgraded and becoming one of them.  In the Underwater Menace you were at risk of being turned into a Fish Person, and miniaturization and long time storage had been canvassed in The Ark.

The four members of the Tardis Crew before the scatter at Gatwick Airport

The four members of the Tardis Crew before they scatter at Gatwick Airport

The Faceless One marks the real beginning of the classic pairing of Jamie and the Second Doctor.  In his previous outings in the Tardis Jamie had been almost a tacked on afterthought.  Written hastily into the series after his first appearance in The Highlanders, Jamie paraded around in a black wet suit in The Underwater Menace, moaned in a half conscious state about the “Phantom Piper” in The Moonbase, and showed his resilience to mind washing in The Macra Terror.  Jamie’s amazement at the technology of the 20th Century is at last played upon in this serial.  Large passenger aircraft are “flying beasties”,  £28 is a fortune and Gatwick Airport is a world unlike any that he’s ever seen. The audience is left wondering if the Highlander from 1746 is literate as he hides behind The Times newspaper which he holds upside down. They must also wonder what sort of fools the people searching for Jamie are, that they don’t notice the hairy legs of a kilted lad beneath the paper.

Jamie is amazed by all the sights at Gatwick Airport

Jamie is amazed by all the sights at Gatwick Airport

Jamie gets a kiss from Samantha

Jamie gets a kiss from Samantha

It is not until this outing that Jamie is paired principally with the Doctor, although he does spend a fair amount of air time with the Liver Bird, Samantha Briggs. The Liverpudlian character, whose brother was lost on one of the Chameleon Tours, was played by Pauline Collins and would have become the new companion had Collins agreed to the offer. I have little doubt that there were no regrets as her career progressed to stellar heights. Collins was not to appear in Doctor Who again until the 2006 Series 2 story, Tooth and Claw, in which she played Queen Victoria.

Pauline Collins played a girl from Liverpool, Samantha Briggs, who is searching for her lost brother

Pauline Collins played a girl from Liverpool, Samantha Briggs, who was searching for her lost brother

Pauline Collin's next appearance in Doctor Who would be 39 years later as Queen Victoria in Tooth and Claw

Pauline Collins’ next appearance in Doctor Who would be 39 years later as Queen Victoria in Tooth and Claw

Jamie’s rapport with the Doctor is incredible but is only the beginning of a steadfast relationship which will mature during Seasons five and six.  This partnership, however, is at the expense of Ben and Polly who depart the Tardis Crew at the end of episode six.  Ben’s days were numbered from Jamie’s arrival in The Highlanders and it was unfortunate that the dynamic between the two modern day London companions was lost.  Anneke Wills chose to relinquish her role as Polly once Michael Craze’s departure became known.

Jamie's addition to the Tardis Crew eventually came at Ben's expense

Jamie’s addition to the Tardis Crew eventually came at Ben’s expense

Polly discovers a dead body in episode one of The Faceless Ones

Polly discovers a dead body in episode one of The Faceless Ones

Ben and Polly’s farewell was not much better than Dodo’s in The War Machines, which was incidentally Ben and Polly’s first adventure with the Doctor. Absent from episodes three, four and five, they only appeared in a pre-filmed segment at episode six’s close.  A ten month companionship spanning  two Doctors ended abruptly when the couple realized that it was 20 July 1966, the very day that they’d stumbled into the Tardis at the conclusion of The War Machines.  Although visibly upset, Polly was pleased to be able to get back to her own world.  The Doctor said how lucky they were because he never got to return to his.  Exhibiting a marked sexism the Doctor stated, “Now go on, Ben can catch his ship and become an Admiral, and you Polly, you can look after Ben”.  What a life.  You could tell it was 1967!  After Polly enquired as to whether the Doctor would be safe, Jamie assured her that “I’ll look after him”.

We bid Ben and Polly a sad farewell

We bid Ben and Polly a sad farewell

The Second Doctor’s first present day serial, The Faceless Ones,  is sure to have influenced Mark Gatiss when he wrote the Series 2 story The Idiot’s Lantern. In that 2006 Tenth Doctor story an evil entity, The Wire, existed only in the form of energy.  She transferred herself  between television sets and fed off humanity’s mental signals as people innocently watched the telly.  In stealing the humans’ energy The Wire hoped to one day  regain a corporeal form.  Her victims, however, were robbed of their faces and minds, although they still retained consciousness. Faceless the victims became, but nowhere near as grotesque as their predecessors in The Faceless Ones.

Rose Tyler becomes faceless in 2006's The Idiot's Lantern

Rose Tyler becomes faceless in 2006’s The Idiot’s Lantern

The Chameleon Faceless Ones of 1967 were altogether more frightening

The Chameleon Faceless Ones of 1967 were altogether more frightening

Overall, I thoroughly enjoyed The Faceless Ones and am saddened that only two of the six episodes are held in the BBC Archives.  The Second Doctor serials are just such a delight and it’s appalling that there are only a handful of complete Troughton serials remaining.  As the Doctor and Jamie walked off at the story’s end, looking for the stolen Tardis, I contemplated how pleased I was that Doctor Who is a British and not an Australian programme.  Jamie would never have had his Scottish accent stolen, and replaced by a Received Pronunciation one in the Chameleon-Jamie, if the show was made in Australia.  Nor would the actor who played the Police Inspector Crossland experience such difficulties in gaining and retaining a Scots brogue. Most importantly, however, the humans who were replicated by the Chameleons would never have been left hidden in cars.  Residing in such a hot environment we’re all too schooled  in the “dogs die in hot cars” commercials to ever contemplate leaving a human in one!  Join me next time as Season four comes to an end with The Evil of the Daleks and Doctor Who gets its newest companion, Victoria.

Sam, Inspector Crossland and Jamie

Sam, Inspector Crossland and Jamie

The Doctor and Inspector Crossland

The Doctor and Inspector Crossland

The Faceless Ones was originally broadcast in the UK between 8 April and 13 May 1967.  Episodes 1 and 3 are available on the triple DVD set Lost in Time

The Faceless Ones was originally broadcast in the UK between 8 April and 13 May 1967. Episodes 1 and 3 are available on the triple DVD set Lost in Time

Vivien Fleming

©Vivien Fleming, 2013.

The Moonbase – Loose Cannon Reconstructions

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ImageEpisodes two and four of The Moonbase are held in the BBC Archives and have been released on the triple DVD set, Lost in Time.  Episodes one and three are missing. Loose Cannon’s magnificent reconstructions of them can be viewed at the links below.

Loose Cannon’s The Moonbase, Episode 1 part 1

Loose Cannon’s The Moonbase, Episode 1 part 2

Loose Cannon’s The Moonbase, Episode 3 part 1

Loose Cannon’s The Moonbase, Episode 3 part 2

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

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.