Tag Archives: The Myth Makers

The Gunfighters

Standard

Image

Recently released to celebrate the 50th anniversary of Doctor WhoCelebrate Regenerate is a fan produced chronicle of every broadcast episode of Who.  Available as a free PDF download from http://celebrateregenerate.weebly.com/ this mighty tome features a page long article on every serial.  The authors of The Gunfighters article, Mike Greaves and Andrew Boland, succinctly summarize received fan wisdom on this Western adventure. Dreadful, terrible, boring, and badly made are some of the words and phrases used by Greaves and Boland to describe the average fan’s dismissal of this tale.  So convinced were they that the viewing experience would be tortuous and entirely unenjoyable that once viewed, they questioned whether  they’d watched the right serial.  Were there two 1960s Doctor Who Westerns, they wondered.   There was indeed only one and clearly there was something peculiar going on. Greaves and Boland had actually thoroughly enjoyed The Gunfighters.

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

Phil Sandifer in his book Tardis Eruditorum Volume 1: William Hartnell examines this received wisdom in depth and identifies three distinct stages of fan criticism.  The first he describes as 1980s fandom; the second as the Great Re-evaluation of the 1990s; and the third, the Reconstructionist era beginning in 2002. The first era occurred in a time when there was neither video releases of Doctor Who nor the internet.  Fan opinion was derived from memories of the programmes when originally broadcast and a limited number of books, the most notable of which was Peter Haining’s 1983 Doctor Who: A Celebration. This coffee table book was almost seen as the Bible of Who and its critical analysis of episodes taken as Gospel.   Haining’s review of The Gunfighters was scathingly negative and it is most probably from this source that received fan wisdom grew.

The Doctor and his companions visit Tombstone, Arizona

The Doctor and his companions visit Tombstone, Arizona

The Great Re-evaluation that followed the release of stories on VHS cassette was not so much a detailed reappraisal of stories, but rather discussions to produce a general consensus on the relative merits of each story.  It was not until all existing stories had been released on VHS, and Loose Cannon had completed their reconstructions, that what Sandifer describes as the democratization of fan criticism began.  The ordinary Who fan was now in a position to access the stories for themselves and with the re-launch of Who in 2005, new fans had little concern for what the Classic Series critics of old said. With the pervasiveness of the internet and instant access to television programming everyone had become a media critic.

Steven and Dodo enjoy dressing up as Cowboys and Cowgirls

Steven and Dodo enjoy dressing up as Cowboys and Cowgirls

It is from this new position of fan criticism that The Gunfighters has been reappraised.  That the story is unique cannot be denied.  It is the only Doctor Who story with a sung narration, in the form of The Ballad of the Last Chance Saloon. Sung by Lynda Baron, the Ballad is heard at times of climatic tension throughout the serial.  The lyrics change to reflect the action and it’s also sung by Steven and Doc Holliday’s girlfriend, Kate, in the saloon.  It’s the latter renditions that are posted below for your viewing pleasure.

The Ballad of the Last Chance Saloon

Written by Donald Cotton, the author of The Myth Makers, the serial has a similar comedy format to Cotton’s previous Who outing.  Again it mirrors the events in Troy when episode four descends into tragedy. The Gunfighters  is set in 1881 America and follows the film The Gunfight at the OK Corral  as one of its primary sources.  Doctor Who would not return to the American Wild West until the Eleventh Doctor’s 2012 adventure A Town Called Mercy. Having broken a tooth eating one of the Cyril’s lollies in The Celestial Toyroom, the Doctor uses his unexpected arrival in the American mid-west to procure the services of the local dentist, Doc Holliday. He is immediately mistaken for Holliday by the town’s residents and hunted down by the Clanton family. Throw into the mix the Earp brothers, Virgil and Warren, and add Johnny Ringo (who historically wasn’t involved in these Tombstone, Arizona events), and you have a ripping good yarn.

The Doctor has a tooth extracted by Doc Holliday

The Doctor has a tooth extracted by Doc Holliday

William Hartnell absolutely shines in The Gunfighters, undoubtedly because it was a comedy and the genre in which he most enjoyed to act. The Doctor is given some fabulous lines and rarely does he stumble on them.  Except, of course, when he refers to Steven as a “she”!  Peter Purves does a superb job, as always, and Jackie Lane, as Dodo, is at last afforded the opportunity to act.  Her scene with Doc Holliday when she threatens him with a gun is just fabulous.  The set work was superb even if the stair railings did wobble when Ike Clanton fell to his death. The Doctor Who production team must have recently found the services of an animal wrangler.  Less than two months earlier they’d had an elephant in the studio for The Ark and this time a horse.  I wonder what the cleaners thought at the end of the day’s filming!

The Doctor in Doc Holliday's dentist chair.  Beside the Doctor is Kate, Doc's girlfriend

The Doctor in Doc Holliday’s dentist chair. Beside the Doctor is Kate, Holliday’s girlfriend

There are a couple of interesting facts to note in this serial.  The original working title was The Gunslingers, and as anyone who has viewed the Series 7 episode, A Town Called Mercy, would be aware,  there’s a character by that very same name. The Gunfighters  also stared the Thunderbirds voice artists, David Graham (Brains) and Shane Rimmer (Alan Tracey). Graham played the unfortunate barman, Charlie, and Rimmer the character of Seth Harper.  Lynda Baron, the off camera singer of The Ballad of the Last Chance Saloon appeared in the Series 6 story Closing Time as Val.

The working title of The Gunfighters was The Gunslingers.  That name was not forgotten and the character, The Gunslinger, appeared in 2012's A Town Called Mercy

The working title of The Gunfighters was The Gunslingers. That name was not forgotten and the character, The Gunslinger, appeared in 2012’s A Town Called Mercy

Guess which two Thunderbirds voice artists appeared in The Gunfighters

Guess which two Thunderbirds voice artists appeared in The Gunfighters

The Gunfighters was originally broadcast in the UK between 30 April and 21 May 1966

The Gunfighters was originally broadcast in the UK between 30 April and 21 May 1966

The Gunfighters DVD was released with the Fifth Doctor adventure The Awakening in the Earth Story Box Set

The Gunfighters DVD was released with the Fifth Doctor adventure The Awakening in the Earth Story Box Set

Vivien Fleming

©Vivien Fleming, 2013.

REFERENCES:

Lewis Christian (ed), Celebrate, Regeneratehttp://celebrateregenerate.weebly.com/, 2013.

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

Advertisements

The Ark

Standard

Image

I let out an audible “Hooray” as I checked Mark Campbell’s Doctor Who: The Complete Series Guide and discovered that the next serial, The Ark,  was 100% complete.  For the first time since The Time Meddler, which was the last serial in Season 2, I could sit back and relax after I’d put the shiny DVD into the Blu Ray player. After two seasons with all but two serials alive, kicking and released on DVD, it came as somewhat of a drag to be confronted by an almost continuous stream of missing episodes and reconstructions.  The BBC did a superb job in reconstructing the three missing episodes of Galaxy 4  in condensed form which appeared, together with the recently found episode three, on The Aztecs Special EditionMission to the Unknown, The Myth Makers, the epic 12 part The Daleks Master Plan, and The Massacre were all viewed on YouTube using Loose Cannon’s splendid reconstructions.  Only three episodes in that 21 week run from Mission to the Unknown  to The Massacre are no longer lost and available for our viewing pleasure on Lost in Time, the triple DVD set of orphan First and Second Doctor episodes.

Mark Campbell's Doctor Who The Complete Series Guide provides a good introductory summary of each Doctor Who serial

Mark Campbell’s Doctor Who The Complete Series Guide provides a good introductory summary of each Doctor Who serial

It would be fair to say that The Ark doesn’t have the best reputation. Frequently dismissed as not a great  deal better than utter nonsense, it is nonetheless praised by some, such as Rob Shearman and Toby Hadoke, for its originality and brilliant direction by Michael Imison. It’s generally the second half of this four part story which attracts the greatest criticism and it has been posited  by Ian K McLachlan that the serial is actually “two two-part adventures stitched together.”

Monoids and Guardians together in the control room of the Ark

Monoids and Guardians together in the control room of the Ark

Episodes one and two of The Ark are set in the far future, the 57th segment of Time, on an enormous space ship (the Ark) headed for the planet Refusis 2.  The Doctor estimates that they may be up to 10 million years in the future. As was the case with all of the First Doctor’s adventures, the Doctor was unable to programme the Ship’s route and it landed slap bang in the middle of the Ark. On board the Ark are the sole survivors of Earth who have left the dying planet for the safe refuge of a new planet.  Refusis 2 is 700 years travel from Earth and yet the closest planet with similar atmosphere and vegetation.  To ensure the human race’s survival millions of humans have been miniaturized and stored on trays for reanimation upon arrival at Refusis 2. The humans are  not Christian, Jewish or Muslim as they do not know the story of Noah’s Ark.  Also travelling on the spaceship are an assortment of animals and the Monoids, a peculiar mute race whose most  distinctive feature is their one eye.  This single eye is in their mouths, or at least what would’ve been their mouths if they had human anatomy. These eyes are actually painted ping pong balls which the actors held in place with their mouths.  Now that’s ingenious small budget special effects for you!  On the top of their heads is a long Beatles style mop top wig, whilst the rest of their bodies are clothed in green ill fitting garb. They have webbed hands and feet and move slowly.

The Ark is so large that it even has a jungle full of a vast array of animals, including this elephant

The Ark is so large that it even has a jungle full of a vast array of animals, including this elephant

The Monoids are the servants of the human occupants of the spaceship.  The humans are referred to as the Guardians, so named for their responsibility maintaining the human race. Not surprisingly for the 1960s, all of the Guardians are white and hardly representative of the earth’s racial diversity.  One can only assume that there are non Caucasians miniaturized and stored for later reanimation.  In the eyes of Doctor Who they clearly can’t be trusted to staff a space craft. The Guardians are of the belief that they treat the servant Monoids with respect, however their inferior status is profoundly obvious when the common cold, introduced by the new companion, Dodo, begins to decimate the population. The common cold had been eradicated in the 20th Century and as such none of the occupants of the spaceship have an immunity to it. Such diseases are said to have been one of the contributing factors to the decimation of indigenous societies upon the arrival of Europeans.  Even Steven, who comes for several hundred years later than Dodo, has no immunity. Notwithstanding the earlier death of a Monoid, it isn’t until the first death of a Guardian that the humans take action against the perpetrators of this crime against them, the Doctor, Steven and Dodo.  It is only with the Doctor’s assistance that a cure for the common cold is found and both the humans and the Monoids saved from extinction.  The Doctor and his crew are quickly forgiven for the destruction that the cold virus had wrought.

The Doctor tends to the ill Commander.  Beside him is the commanders daughter and a Mark 1  Monoid sans voice box

The Doctor tends to the ill Commander. Beside the Commander is his daughter and behind the Doctor is a Mark 1 Monoid sans voice box

A very obliging Mark 1 Monoid assists the Doctor as he attempts to find a cure for the common cold

A very obliging Mark 1 Monoid assists the Doctor as he attempts to find a cure for the common cold

Having effectively overcome the damage they had caused, the Doctor, Steven and Dodo depart the spaceship, which is now known affectionately as the Ark, at the end of episode two.  It is with surprise, therefore, that upon the Tardis materializing it is immediately evident that the Ship has landed in the very same spot it had left from. Making their way back to the control room of the Ark, the Tardis Crew are unable to find any of the Guardians. It is only upon seeing the enormous statue that the Guardians had been building that they realized that something was very wrong.  During their first visit to the Ark, our heroes had been advised that the massive statue would take 700 years to construct.  The statue which the Doctor and his companions were now staring at was not only complete, but had a head of a Monoid, rather than a human’s. At least 700 years have passed and the Ark must now be nearing its destination.

The statue, which took 700 years to carve, has been completed with a Monoid head

The statue, which took 700 years to carve, has been completed with a Monoid head

All is soon revealed. The Monoids can now talk.  Not having a voice box (presumably because they have an eye in their mouths) an artificial one was invented by the Guardians during their time as overlords.  The voice box looks not unlike a badly made paper necklace. The Monoids are now in control and their usurping of the Guardians was not, as one might expect, the consequence years of oppression but rather because of a mutation of the common cold which in same way had effected the will of the humans.  The Doctor and his companions, therefore, have more to answer for than originally thought.

A Monoid complete with voice box

A Monoid complete with voice box

The tables have been reversed and the humans are now enslaved by the Monoids.  Most have been killed, although a small number have been spared and are imprisoned in the “Security Kitchen.” That has to take the cake for the most imaginative portrayal of  a prison. In the Security Kitchen the humans cook for the Monoids, although preparation is now more efficient.  There’s no need for real potatoes as a tablet dropped into water immediately produces beautifully peeled ones.  The special effect is very well realized and made me wish for my own bottle of food producing tablets!  Any humans that are out of line are executed, without trial, by the Monoids’ heat guns.   The Monoids use of martial law evidences the deterioration of order in the society and their “payback” for the years of enslavement to the Guardians.  The manner in which they treat the humans is far harsher than the Guardian’s treatment of them previously.

The Guardians, with their appalling dress sense, are now slaves of the Monoids

The Guardians, with their appalling dress sense, are now slaves of the Monoids

So aggrieved are the Monoids at their past treatment that they intend to relocate to Refusis 2 without the humans, and to blow the humans and the Ark up with a bomb which has been hidden in the head of the statue.  In cute looking shuttles the Monoids and a few human slaves leave the Ark to scout out the previously unseen Refusis 2. Unknown to all, the planet is inhabited by benevolent (at least to humans) but invisible creatures.  Needless to say, the arrogance and aggressiveness of the Monoids soon sees them almost embark on a Civil War, with Steven contemplating that they might soon wipe themselves out.  From being rather quaint non-threatening creatures in episodes one and two, the Monoids have become the typical malicious monsters.  Perhaps because speech is such a new phenomena to them, the Monoids have the most annoying trait of explaining their devious plans out loud. Intelligent creatures they certainly aren’t.

The Monoids have placed a bomb in the head of the statue

The Monoids have placed a bomb in the head of the statue

Having won the confidence of a native Refusian, the Doctor has the invisible creature pilot one of the space shuttles back to the Ark.  It is there that the Refusian’s incredible strength comes in handy as he lifts the statue from the ground and throws it out of the escape chute.  It explodes in space shortly thereafter.  The humans have been saved from destruction, but how will they deal with  the murderous Monoids on Refusis 2?  The Refusian and the Doctor both offer the humans some advice.

Steven and Venussa.  The Doctor has advice to offer the Guardians

Steven and Venussa. The Doctor has advice to offer the Guardians

REFUSIAN: We’ll do everything we can to assist you in settling on our planet.

DASSUK: Thank you.

REFUSIAN: But one thing you must do.

VENUSSA: What’s that?

REFUSIAN: Make peace with the Monoids.

DOCTOR: He’s right.  A long time ago, your ancestors accepted responsibility for the welfare of these Monoids.  They were treated like slaves.  So no wonder when they got the chance the repaid you in kind.

REFUSIAN: Unless you learn to live together, there is no future for you on Refusis.

DASSUCK: We understand.

DOCTOR: Yes, you must travel with understanding as well as hope.  You know, I once said that to one of your ancestors, a long time ago.  However, we must be going.  Goodbye.

After facilitating peace our heroes depart

After facilitating peace our heroes depart.  Dodo, the Doctor and Steven.

And so ends The Ark.  The above was a succinct summary of the story’s moral however it was all rather unsophisticated and infantile.  We have no idea if the Monoids would accept the need to co-operate with their former overlords.  Given their actions in episodes three and four it’s just as likely that would maintain the rage and continue their devious plots for vengeance. One can only hope that the human’s enhanced understanding of stewardship will facilitate a reciprocal abatement of hostilities by the Monoids.

The Ark was originally broadcast in the UK between 5 March and 26 March 1966

The Ark was originally broadcast in the UK between 5 March and 26 March 1966

Vivien Fleming

©Vivien Fleming, 2013.

REFERENCES:

Mark Campbell, Doctor Who: The Complete Series Guide (Robinson, London: 2011).

Robert Shearman and Toby Hadoke, Running Through Corridors.  Rob and Toby’s Marathon Watch of Doctor Who (Mad Norwegian Press, Des Moines, Iowa: 2011),

The Daleks’ Master Plan – The First Deaths of Doctor Who Companions

Standard

Image

Magnificent in parts, and downright dodgy in others, The Dalek’s Master Plan was a serial of extremes. It was condemned for its violence and criticized for its comedy interludes.  In Australia it was one of only two Doctor Who serials that were never screened.  As parts of the 12 part serial had been classified as adult, the ABC decided against reconstructing it to fit the child friendly time slot in which Who normally aired.  Viewer reaction to the Christmas special, The Feast of Steven,  which was broadcast as episode 7,  was particularly bad.  The comedy antics in the Liverpool Police Station and the 1920’s Hollywood film set would have perplexed an audience that for the previous month and a half had been viewing a serial resplendent with fear and violence.  Similarly, the unexpected arrival of the Doctor’s adversary from The Time Meddler, the Monk, in episode 8 and the comedy interludes that continued with him through episodes 9 and 10, must have been puzzling to the audience. That being said, I love the Monk and only wish he’d again grace our screens.  Steven Moffatt, are you reading this?

Kert Gantry - the first of many violent deaths in The Daleks Master Plan

Kert Gantry – the first of many violent deaths in The Daleks’ Master Plan

Given the length of the serial it is not my intention to provide even the most rudimentary synopsis.  One transcript I’ve seen is 72 pages long and unfortunately I don’t have the time to write a 10,000 word dissertation!  There are a number of books that provide excellent summaries of this, and other, Who serials.  In particular I’d suggest David J Howe and Stephen James Walker’s The Television Companion.  The Unofficial and Unauthorised Guide to Doctor Who.  Published by Telos in 2003 the book is now out of print although copies frequently appear on eBay.  Telos Publishing uploaded  cover photos of Volume 1 and 2 of  the 2013 edition of The Television Companion on their Facebook page in late 2012.  I’m uncertain when the release is anticipated.

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

The death of real humans, and not the “Bug Eyed Monsters” that Sydney Newman so decried, was a permeating feature of The Daleks’ Master Plan. The deaths of three Tardis travellers, companions Katarina and Sara Kingdom, and Space Security Service agent Bret Vyon, upended all hitherto held presumptions that the Doctor always averted disaster.  Unlike any Who serial that it had preceded in respect of violence, The Daleks’ Master Plan evidenced the new tangent that producer, John Wiles, was taking the show.  It is to the lives and deaths of these three Tardis fellow travellers that I will be devoting today’s review.

The Doctor, Vyon, Steven and Katarina

Vyon, the Doctor, Katarina and Steven

KATARINA

Katarina, the deferential handmaiden of Cassandra, was a sudden and unwitting occupant of the Tardis as the credits rolled in The Myth Makers.  Pushed into the Ship by the departing Vicki, Katarina was clearly out of her depth in a world of space travel.  Possibly born as early as 1300 BC, Katarina’s fellow passenger was the space pilot Steven, whose era of birth was never stated but was probably born sometime after 2500 AD. With around four millennia separating their births, Steven and Katarina would have been as alien to each other as the Doctor was to Barbara and Ian when first they met in the scrap merchant’s yard at Totters Lane. Katarina was a women of her time and naturally observed and comprehended  all around her in the context of a mystical or supernatural schema.  Once in the Tardis she believed she had entered the hereafter and that the Doctor was her gateway to the Place of Perfection.  She spoke barely a word during her full three episodes as a member of the Tardis Crew, and took no active part in any of the proceedings, save for operating some buttons on the console as directed by the Doctor and retrieving tablets from Bret Vyon’s pocket.

Katarina

Katarina

The object of the third episode cliff hanger, Katarina was taken hostage at knifepoint by a prisoner, Kirksen, who had boarded the Doctor’s stolen spacecraft after it had crash landed on the prison planet,  Desperus.  Unaware that Kirksen was onboard and hiding in the airlock, the spacecraft took off again after hasty repairs.  Kirksen threatened to kill Katarina if he was not returned to the nearest planet, which inconveniently for the Doctor and crew was the very planet from which they’d just escaped, Kembel.  Heated debate ensued between the Doctor, Steven and Bret Vyon as to whether they should turn back.  Although a decision was eventually made to return to Kembel, Katarina pushed a button which opened the airlock door.  She and Kirksen are sucked into space and died, and all within the first five minutes of episode four. Although Steven thought that this may have been an accident, the Doctor was convinced that she had sacrificed her life for them.  He lamented her demise whilst congratulating her courage:

Katarina tends the gravely ill Steven

Katarina tends the gravely ill Steven

“She didn’t understand.  She couldn’t understand.  She wanted to save our lives and  perhaps the lives of all the other beings of the Solar System. I hope she’s found her Perfection.  Oh, how I shall always remember her as one of the Daughters of the Gods.  Yes, as one of the Daughters of the Gods”.

Katarina is taken captive by Kirksen

Katarina is taken captive by Kirksen

Katarina’s shocking death was the first to befall a companion in Doctor Who and was yet another in an increasingly long string of failures for the Doctor.

Steven and Katarina

Steven and Katarina

BRET VYON

It is perhaps because Nicholas Courtney went on  to become the much cherished Brigadier Alistair Gordon Lethbridge-Stewart,  that the first character he played in Doctor Who, Bret Vyon, has not been accorded the status of companion in the annals of Who history.  Spending as much time onscreen and inside the Tardis as the official companion Katarina, Vyon’s character has been viewed somewhat as an interloper, albeit one with an incredibly extensive role in episodes one through to four.  Unlike the almost mute Katarina who was almost entirely compliant with the Doctor’s commands, Vyon was headstrong and self assured, and began his relationship with the Doctor on less than civil terms.  On the planet Kembel with fellow agent Kert Gantry, Vyon was looking for leads on the fate of Marc Cory, the agent who met his demise  at the Daleks’ hands in Mission to the Unknown.  Gantry was quickly and violently dispatched by the Daleks within minutes of the opening of episode one, leaving Vyon alone in the jungle.  Finding the Doctor outside of the Tardis, Vyon threatens him at gunpoint and demands the key.  “Give me the key or I’ll kill you”  he states. Leaving the Doctor outside, Vyon enters the Tardis and is confronted by Katarina and Steven, who is only in a semi-conscious state following the injuries sustained at the end of The Myth Makers.  Vyon demands that the crew fly the Ship, together with him, off the planet. Rousing briefly in a groggy state, Steven uses a spanner and knocks out Vyon who falls to the floor.

NIcholas Courtney played Bret Vyon in his first Doctor Who appearance

Nicholas Courtney played Bret Vyon in his first Doctor Who appearance

The Doctor soon enters the Tardis  and puts the unconscious Vyon into  chair.  Upon the disorientated Vyon waking up the Doctor says to him, “I call it the magnetic chair. It has a forcefield strong enough to restrain a herd of elephants”. After the Doctor leaves, Vyon assists Steven by guiding Katarina to remove two tablets from his pocket.  The naive Katarina has never seen tablets before and has to ask Vyon if what she’s found is indeed them.  By assisting in Steven’s recovery Vyon, whom the Doctor had earlier considered to be a “violent young man”, showed himself to be an ally of the Tardis Crew.  Released from the restraint of the chair, Vyon thereafter works in coalition with the Doctor.

Katarina, Steven, the Doctor and Vyon

Katarina, Steven, the Doctor and Vyon

Again displaying his propensity for violence, Vyon commandeers Mavic Chen, the Guardian of the Solar System’s, Spar which for all intents and purposes is a hotted up spaceship.  After sneaking into the ship and taking the pilot and engineer by surprise, Vyon shouts “I’m taking over this spaceship.  Over there. Tie them up”. With just Steven and Katarina present during the heist, Vyon almost takes off without the Doctor after being shocked by the sound of an alarm.  Luckily the Doctor returns just prior to take-off.  After the death of Katarina along the way, the eventually arrive at Earth where Vyon meets up with an old friend, Daxtar, the manager of a research station. Vyon believes that Daxtar will become an ally against the Daleks’ and Mavic Chen’s plans for domination of the universe. Unknown to Vyon, Chen has already procured Daxtar’s allegiances.  The Doctor quickly twigs to this betrayal upon Daxtar mentioning the taranium core, something which Daxtar could only be aware of if he was in league with the enemy.  Without a second’s delay Vyon shoots Daxtar dead. Before there’s any chance to contemplate the consequences of Vyon’s actions, the group is scattered by the arrival of Space Security Agent Sara Kingdom and her colleague, Borkar.  Sent by Chen to assassinate the “traitors” who had stolen the Taranium core, Kingdom shoots Vyon dead. It is only later that we become privy to the fact that Kingdom is Vyon’s sister.

Vyon and Steven

Vyon and Steven

SARA KINGDOM

Like Vyon, Sara Kingdom is an employee of the Space Security Service.  The SSS is at the service of Mavic Chen, the Guardian of the Solar System  and perhaps one of Doctor Who’s most evil villains ever.  Highly regarded by the Service, Kingdom is known to obey orders without question  in a ruthless and timely manner.  It is with these credentials in mind that Chen dispatched Kingdom to seek and destroy the Doctor, Steven, and Vyon.  Our hero, the Doctor, had masqueraded as  Zephon, one of the delegates to the Dalek’s conference, and attended the meeting in which Chen had advised that the Daleks’ ultimate weapon, the Time Destructor, was complete.   The real Zephon, however, had been tied up by Katarina and Steven at Vyon’s command.  Upon Zephon freeing himself and activating an alarm, the Daleks’ conference went into a state of chaos and the Doctor  was able to escape with the Taranium Core, the essential element required to activate the Time Destructor. It was because the Doctor and his crew had the Taranium Core that Mavic wanted them dead and the Core returned to him.

Jean Marsh in black cat suit as Sara Kingdom

Jean Marsh in black cat suit as Sara Kingdom

Unlike her brother Vyon, Kingdom is not yet cognisant of Chen’s treachery and assumes that he is working in the best interests of the Solar System.  She immediately accepts Chen’s command and quickly dispatches Vyon with seemingly no remorse. Kingdom is portrayed as a cold blooded killer and orders her colleague, Borkar, to track down and kill the Doctor and Steven.  After chasing the Doctor and Steven, Kingdom is caught  with them in a laboratory.  Whilst there they are accidently subjected to a molecular dissemination experiment (together with some mice, but that’s another story) and transported to the planet Mira.  Confronted by invisible monsters named Visians, the Doctor, Kingdom and Steven retreat into a cave.  Steven argues with Kingdom about Vyon’s death and accuses her of blindly following Chen’s orders without question.  Had she not considered, Steven posited, why a space security agent, one of her own people, had become a traitor?  She questioned neither Chen nor Vyon, and didn’t give Vyon a chance. Considering Steven’s story fantastic Kingdom eventually admits that Vyon was her brother and rushes out of the cave in a distraught manner.  The Doctor takes this as a sign that Kingdom finally believes them.  Shortly thereafter Kingdom returns to the cave after being touched by a Visian.  From that point forward Kingdom is a firm ally of the Doctor and Steven.

Sara Kingdom in combat mode

Sara Kingdom in combat mode

Kingdom is adept at martial arts and karate chops several villains in the course of our heroes’ adventures.  Unfortunately those episodes are lost in time so viewers are unlikely to ever see the black cat suited Kingdom doing her moves on our TV screens. She eventually loses her life in episode 12 after going back into the Daleks’ underground city to assist the Doctor.  The Doctor activates the Time Destructor after the distraction caused by Chen’s execution, and he and Kingdom make their way back to the Tardis.  Steven is already safely ensconced within, having previously been ordered back to the Ship by the Doctor.  In the process of returning to the Tardis through the jungle the Doctor and Kingdom begin to rapidly age. Having both collapsed, Kingdom dies, is reduced to bones and quickly thereafter, dust. Presumably because of his Time Lord anatomy (although, of course, he was not yet identified as such in the series) the Doctor does not age as rapidly as Kingdom.  Seeing the pair on the scanner, Steven rushes outside and also begins to age.  In attempting to deactivate the Time Destructor Steven accidently puts it in reverse resulting in our two heroes returning to the correct ages. Being already dead, it is too late for Kingdom and also for the Daleks, who had until that point been seemingly immune to the effects of the Time Destructor.  More about the fate of the Daleks, however, in my next review.

Sara Kingdom ages from the effects of the Time Destructor

Sara Kingdom ages from the effects of the Time Destructor

As an aside, there’s a rather nice interview with Jean Marsh, who played Sara Kingdom, in the special features of the Seventh Doctor’s Battlefield DVD.  In the segment  entitled From Kingdom to Queen, Marsh reminisces on her three appearances in Doctor Who – The Crusade (1965), The Daleks’ Master Plan (1965/6) and Battlefield (1989). Although not referred to in the interview, it’s interesting to note that Marsh appeared with Nicholas Courtney in both his first (The Daleks’ Master Plan) and last (Battlefield) appearance on Doctor Who. That makes the world of Who seem very small and incestuous, doesn’t it?

Sara Kingdom collapses as she rapidly ages

Sara Kingdom collapses as she rapidly ages

Stay tuned for my next review on three of the villains in The Daleks’ Master Plan – Mavic Chen, the Daleks, and the Monk.

The young Sara Kingdom

The young Sara Kingdom

An interview with Jean Marsh, From Kingdom to Queen, is one of the special features of the Seventh's Doctor Battlefield DVD

An interview with Jean Marsh, From Kingdom to Queen, is one of the special features of the Seventh Doctor’s Battlefield DVD

Episodes 2, 5 and 10 of "The Daleks' Master Plan" are included in the "Lost in Time" triple DVD set. "The Daleks' Master Plan"  was originally broadcast in the UK between 13th November 1965 and 29 January 1966.

Episodes 2, 5 and 10 of The Daleks’ Master Plan are included in the Lost in Time triple DVD set. The Daleks’ Master Plan was originally broadcast in the UK between 13th November 1965 and 29 January 1966.

Vivien Fleming

©Vivien Fleming, 2013.

Reference

David J Howe & Stephen James Walker, The Television Companion. The Unofficial and Unauthorised Guide to Doctor Who. Telos Publishing Ltd, Surrey, 2003.

The Peculiar Case of Vicki’s Quick Exit

Standard

Image

I have to admit I really liked Vicki. Young, perhaps no more than 17, she had a vibrancy that had been missing in her predecessor, the Doctor’s grand-daughter, Susan.  As a former secondary school teacher I envied the way she was schooled. In The Web Planet Vicki incorrectly assumed that Barbara had taught at a nursery school because they “worked upwards from the three Rs.”  The curriculum of Coal Hill School in 1963 seemed like child’s play to her.  At the age of 10 she took a certificate of education in medicine,  physics and chemistry.  When asked by Barbara how long she spent in the classroom Vicki was totally perplexed.  She’d spent almost an hour a week with a machine.  Life in 2493 must have been a child’s dream existence!

A rare photo of  Maureen O'Brien as Vicki in colour

A rare photo of Maureen O’Brien as Vicki in colour

Vicki was a member of the Tardis Crew  in episodes which screened from 2 January 1965 until 6th November 1965.  In just under 12 months Vicki had gone from an orphaned girl stranded on the planet Dido to the love interest of Troilus, son of the King of Troy. During that time, however, there was little in the way of character development. Save for when we met Vicki in The Rescue and she was clearly suffering from the effects of Bennett/Koquillion’s abuse, she remains a vibrant and forthright young woman throughout. As I have previously lamented, it was a shame that the opportunity wasn’t taken to examine the long term effects of this abuse on Vicki, however my concern for Post Traumatic Stress Disorder plainly comes from a 21st century perspective.

Koquillion and Vicki

Koquillion and Vicki

This absence of character evolution says much about the 1960’s perception of women, particularly young ones.  In the 1960s the median age of first marriage for women was around 20 years of age.  Career opportunities  were limited and pay was not equal.  Although unable to locate figures for the United Kingdom, Australia as a Commonwealth country would have been reasonably similar. Until 1966 the Australian Public Service required single women  to resign from their positions on the eve of their marriage. Equal pay was not granted until 1972. Is it any surprise, therefore, that women were portrayed as either children or mothers?  With women having perhaps only five years between leaving school and marriage, this period between childhood and motherhood was marginalized and frequently forgotten.

Maureen O'Brien

Maureen O’Brien

When we first meet Vicki she is in a stereotypical role as carer for Bennett.  As Bennett is supposedly crippled and unable to work, Vicki is compelled to undertake all the chores including collecting water, cooking and cleaning.  She isn’t seen to complain about this notwithstanding the absence of any thanks from Bennett.   Once a member of the Tardis Crew, Vicki  is somewhat of a companion for the Doctor – a faux grand-daughter, if you like.   The Doctor has someone to fuss around, care about and instruct.  She provides him with moral support  and most probably a sense of identity.  She is close by his side in The Romans and The Crusade and does not distance herself in any great manner until The Space Museum, where she becomes involved with the young Xeron rebels and seems to start a revolution for fun.  A potential love interest comes to nothing. Although coupled with Steven for much of The Time Meddler, Vicki is back at the Doctor’s side during Galaxy 4.  In her final serial, The Myth Makers, Vicki  is again separated from the Doctor but only because he’s compelled her to remain in the Tardis because of a sprained ankle.  As was the case with both Susan and Barbara, female companions in Doctor Who are overly susceptible to wrenching their ankles.  They require time to recuperate from such injuries, unlike Ian who was frequently knocked unconscious and seemed able to get up, and shake it off, each time.

Vicki, Steven and the Doctor in The Time Meddler

Vicki, Steven and the Doctor in The Time Meddler

Quite phenomenally Vicki is capable of falling in love with Troilus in less than 24 hours, most of which time she was a prisoner in a dungeon.  This love affair was even quicker than Susan and David’s in The Dalek Invasion of Earth. Having pleaded with the Doctor in The Crusade not to leave her as the Tardis was her only home, Vicki was extraordinarily quick to leave its confines in The Myth Makers. The television audience is not even privy to Vicki’s farewells to the Doctor as they take place out of camera shot inside the Tardis. The Doctor, nonetheless, appears satisfied with her explanation which seems to have been that she didn’t want Troilus to think she had betrayed him.

Vicki with the Doctor in The Crusade

Vicki with the Doctor in The Crusade

Although spending one’s life travelling in a blue wooden box through time and space may appear somewhat aimless, it’s certainly more secure than with a bloke you’ve only known for a day; in a time several thousand years before your own; and in a land where your love’s home City has been destroyed.  Ever quick to point out logical flaws in a witty manner, Wood and Miles in About Time 1 couldn’t help but extrapolate on a grave problem that Vicki and Troilus would be confronted by.  As the Tardis translates languages for the benefit of the Crew and persons they meet along the way, once it had left then the two lovers would be unable to communicate with each other.  Unless, of course, Vicki had learnt Ancient Greek, the language that Homer attributes to the Trojans in Iliad, in school!

Vicki - I hope that tasted nice!

Vicki – I hope that tasted nice!

Aside from the characterization failures in Doctor Who, the reality of Maureen O’Brien’s hasty exit from the role of Vicki appears to lay in programme’s change of producer.  According to Howe, Walker and Stammers in The Handbook, O’Brien had been cast by Verity Truman having been suggested by one of her former drama teachers who then was in the employ of the BBC. The new producer, John Wiles, replaced Truman beginning with the production of The Myth Makers, although he had shadowed Truman during the making of Galaxy 4. Wood and Miles argue that “Wiles had noticed her tendency to pick holes in the dialogue during rehearsals for Galaxy Four, and made arrangements to have her removed while the cast were on holiday”.  It was on her return from a week’s break given to the regular cast whilst Mission to the Unknown was filmed  that O’Brien heard of her dismissal. Although the new character of Katarina was going to replace Vicki it soon became evident to Wiles and story editor, Donald Tosh, that Katarina’s Trojan naivety would make her an unsuitable companion.  It’s for that reason that Katarina was just as hastily written out of Doctor Who in the fourth episode of The Daleks’ Master Plan.

A recent photo of Maureen O'Brien

A recent photo of Maureen O’Brien

So ends the less than a year long tenure of Maureen O’Brien as Vicki.  This was but the beginning of a revolving door of companions which would grace the screens of Doctor Who over the next several years.

Vicki as we first meet her

Vicki as we first meet her

Vivien Fleming

©Vivien Fleming, 2013.

 

References

David J Howe, Stephen James Walker & Mark Stammers, The Handbook. The Unofficial and Unauthorised Guide to the Production of Doctor Who. Telos Publishing Ltd, Surrey, 2005.

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

The Myth Makers

Standard

Image

Emerging from the materialized Tardis on the plains just outside of Troy, the Doctor is mistaken for the god Zeus by the Greek warrior Achilles who is in battle with Hector, son of Trojan King Priam.  Doctor Who has entered into the legend of the Trojan War with the four part serial, The Myth Makers. Whereas Barbara had been mistaken for the reincarnation of the high priest Yetaxa by the Aztecs for wearing his bracelet, the Doctor needs don nothing to take on a deified form in Homeric Troy.  Aware that Zeus had appeared among his people in many forms, Achilles is honoured to have the god appear to him in guise of an old beggar.

Whilst initially insulted at being mistaken for a beggar, the Doctor quickly sees the benefits of his  alleged divinity and plays along. Achilles is reprimanded for not addressing the Doctor with due deference and threatened with a strike of thunderbolt if the Doctor should be hindered from returning to the Tardis.  The Tardis is my “travelling temple”, the Doctor states, “being small, it’s convenient”.

The Doctor's travelling temple - small and convenient.  This is not a shot taken from The Myth Makers. Unfortunately no telesnaps survive.

The Doctor’s travelling temple – small and convenient. This shot is not taken from The Myth Makers. Unfortunately no telesnaps survive of the four part serial.

And so the scene is set for a comedy in which the norms and conventions of Doctor Who, as laid out in the previous two years, are set aside and the Doctor shown not to be always the hero.  But before this conclusion is reached the fourth and final episode of the serial rapidly becomes a tragedy as the Doctor actively causes history to be made.  The Doctor, as you will recall, was scathingly critical of Barbara in The Aztecs when she willing accepted the divinity thrust upon her.   She was not to change one line of history, the Doctor implored Barbara, who had determined that the Aztec society should be saved from itself by the abolition of human sacrifice. How quickly the Doctor had forgotten his own advice!

Taken prisoner by the Greeks, the Doctor maintains his ruse as Zeus (I know, it’s a bad pun!) until he discovers the Tardis stolen the next morning.  Steven, dressed in Greek garb, had been taken prisoner separately from the Doctor and both men had pretended not to know each other to permit the Doctor’s continued masquerade as Zeus.  Steven is mistaken as a Trojan spy and the Greeks seek to execute him. The Doctor saves him from being killed by offering to execute him with a bolt of lightning (as Zeus) at his “temple” the following morning.  As this is clearly a ploy to enable our heroes to escape in the Tardis, the Doctor has little option other than to admit to his fraud.  Odysseus allows the Doctor and Steven to live, but only if the Doctor assists him in defeating the Trojans within two days.

The Tardis, meanwhile, has been taken into the walls of the City by another of King Priam’s sons, Paris, who presents it to his father as a gift.  Vicki has remained within the Ship tending a sprained ankle and emerges from it just prior to King Priam’s daughter, Cassandra, setting it alight as a sacrifice for the gods.  Blessed with the gift of prophesy, Cassandra has dreamt of a wooden structure left outside the city by the Greeks which once brought inside, would spill forth an army of Greeks who would decimate the City. Vicki’s miraculous appearance is seen as another sign from the gods and she is renamed Cressida by the King.

Vicki, King Priam, and Cassandra

Vicki, King Priam, and Cassandra

Cassandra, who is ridiculed by the family for her prophesies, is nonetheless correct in her visions of a Greek gift bringing forth doom. It wasn’t the Doctor’s Tardis that contained the Greeks, however, but  rather the giant wooden horse which was built upon the Doctor’s suggestion. After initially rejecting Steven’s notion of a Trojan Horse, the Doctor soon suggests the idea and within a day the phenomenally large edifice has been constructed. Finding himself inside the Trojan Horse, the Doctor panics and suggests that the whole plan is a bad idea.  It is too late to change, however, and upon being taken inside the City the Greeks emerge and slaughter the people of Troy.  Cassandra is taken prisoner and the rest of her family, save for the youngest son Troilus,  are slain.  Steven, who has masqueraded as a Greek, willingly been taken prisoner, and then escaped, is badly injured in the shoulder whilst in battle with a Trojan soldier.  Katarina, the dutiful handmaiden of Cassandra,  finds Steven and assists him to the Tardis.  Vicki, in the interim, has fallen in love with King Priam’s youngest son,  Troilus and sent him out of the City on a faux errand to avoid the impending bloodshed.  Determined to meet up with her love and assure him that she had not betrayed him, Vicki tells the Doctor privately of her intention to leave the Tardis Crew.  She pushes both Steven and Katarina into the Tardis as the Doctor dematerializes his Ship.  Vicki meets Troilus on the plain and they resolve to establish a new Troy together.

Vicki and Troilus

Vicki and Troilus

Although the Tardis is safely away from the bloodshed of Troy, all is not well for the Doctor and his crew.  Steven is critically injured, the naive Katarina believes that she’s in the afterlife, and the viewer can never again be assured that the Doctor will save the day.  In “causing” history, the Doctor has facilitated the destruction of Troy and the deaths of a multitude of people.   Having already seen in  Mission to the Unknown that the Doctor cannot be relied on materialize when he’s needed,  the Doctor’s reputation has again taken a severe blow.  With the return of his arch enemies in the next serial,  The Daleks’ Master Plan, the odds appear against the Doctor.

The Doctor causes history by suggesting that the Greeks construct the Trojan Horse

The Doctor causes history by suggesting that the Greeks construct the Trojan Horse

The complete four part serial of The Myth Makers is missing from the BBC archives.  For the purposes of this marathon I watched Loose Cannon’s reconstruction, the links for which are below. The Myth Makers was originally broadcast in the United Kingdom between 16th October and 6th November 1965.

Loose Cannon’s The Myth Makers – Episode 1 Part 1

Loose Cannon’s The Myth Makers – Episode 1 Part 2

Loose Cannon’s The Myth Makers – Episode 2 Part 1

Loose Cannon’s The Myth Makers – Episode 2 Part 2

Loose Cannon’s The Myth Makers – Episode 3 Part 1

Loose Cannon’s The Myth Makers – Episode 3 Part 2

Loose Cannon’s The Myth Makers – Episode 4 Part 1

Loose Cannon’s The Myth Makers – Episode 4 Part 2

Vivien Fleming

©Vivien Fleming, 2013.