Tag Archives: The Power of the Daleks

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.

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The Highlanders

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Viewers who tuned into BBC One between 17th December 1966 and 7th January 1967 to watch Doctor Who must have really been left wondering exactly who or what the good Doctor had become. In the Power of the Daleks they saw a man with a completely different face who did his best to confound and confuse his companions by speaking in the third person. In The Highlanders the Doctor appeared more interested in acting the clown, playing fancy dress and putting on fake accents.  First he was a German physician named Doctor Von Wer, then dressed in drag as a Scottish washer woman, and finally he was a Cockney Redcoat soldier. Patrick Troughton was everything that William Hartnell wasn’t. What he didn’t appear to be playing was the Doctor.

One of the Doctor's many disguises in The Highlanders was as a Scots washer woman

One of the Doctor’s many disguises in The Highlanders was as a Scots washer woman

Whilst Patrick Troughton was being anything but the Doctor, Anneke Wills (Polly) and Michael Craze (Ben) were really allowed to shine. The character of Polly as been really growing on me,  and I was not disappointed by her outing in The Highlanders.  When the party disembark from the Tardis and discover a hot, old fashioned cannon ball, the Doctor is the first to want to leave.  The Doctor who was always guaranteed to want to explore, and lead himself and his companions into trouble, was seemingly gone.  Polly was dumbfounded and told him that they couldn’t leave as they looked like they were in England.  When Polly added, “Doctor, you don’t want us to think you’re afraid, do you?” the Doctor’s quick retort was, “Why not?”

The companions, Polly and Ben, take prominent roles in The Highlanders

The companions, Polly and Ben, take prominent roles in The Highlanders

The Doctor and Ben are lucky not to be hanged

The Doctor and Ben are lucky not to be hanged

After meeting up with an injured Laird and his clansmen, Polly is dispatched with the Laird’s daughter, Kirsty, to fetch clean water to bathe the wound.  Whilst the women are out Ben clumsily triggers off a gun and attracts the attention of the English redcoats, who are scouring the highlands for rebels following the Battle of Culloden (1746). Forced on the run after the men are captured, Polly has little time for the tears of her lassie companion.  She calls Kirsty a peasant, berates her for always crying and storms off in a huff, only to then find herself trapped in an animal pit. Kirsty finds Polly however she promptly falls into the pit herself.  Incredibly, the swinging 60’s girl is more resourceful than her 18th Century highland counterpart and is able to devise an escape plan.

Polly and Kirsty are forced to flee from the Redcoats

Polly and Kirsty are forced to flee from the Redcoats

Upon almost being seen by the Redcoat patrol that have been sent to pursue the women, Polly pulls the commanding officer, Lt Algernon Thomas Alfred ffinch, into the pit with them.  It’s here that Polly’s resourcefulness comes to the fore.  Taking the officer’s ID, she playfully taunts the upper class Lieutenant with the affected surname. ffinch  is spelt with two f’s and no capital so Polly promptly calls him f-finch.  Well that’s when she’s not calling him Algy!  Robbing ffinch of the vast sum of 20 guineas, they take a lock of his hair and his identification as bargaining tools should they be apprehended.  The women have effectively blackmailed ffinch as they demand his silence for fear that he will be exposed as the victim of an assault and robbery at the hands of two women.  Polly and Kirsty leave ffinch tied up in the pit as they continue their journey to Inverness where the Doctor, Ben and the highlanders have been taken as prisoners.

Polly seduces the hapless Lt ffinch

Polly seduces the hapless Lt ffinch

Polly, ffinch and Kirsty

Polly, ffinch and Kirsty

Once in Inverness Polly again exhibits her shrewdness with an ingenuous plan to find the Doctor and Ben.  Respectable women in 18th Century Scotland didn’t wander the streets alone, least of all enter taverns.  Disguised as orange sellers, however, the women were afforded the opportunity enter the Sea Eagle Inn.  Deemed to be orange wenches, or women of ill-repute, their plan quickly came to fruition when they ran into the Doctor, who was dressed in drag. Also in the tavern was the corrupt Solicitor Grey and his comic Clerk, Perkins.  Grey was in command of rebel prisoners, although he was making money on the side by selling the robust highlanders into the slave trade.

Polly procures suitable clothing for her masquerade as an "orange wench"

Polly procures suitable clothing for her masquerade as an “orange wench”

Ben, the Laird and the highlanders had become victims of the trafficking scheme and  found themselves in chains upon the ship Annabelle.  The Doctor would have been in the same situation had he not ingenuously escaped earlier whilst impersonating the German physician von Wer. Following his escape from the dungeon in which the prisoners were held prior to their transfer to the ship, the Doctor had trussed up Grey and left him in a cupboard and pounded Perkins head into a table.  Without fail every commentary I’ve read considers the Doctor’s “trick” with Perkins to be hilariously funny.  Perhaps it’s because I’m not a man that I find the gratuitous violence uncalled for and decidedly unfunny. Ben displays his own ingenuity once onboard the Annabelle. Trussed up and dunked from the yardarm, he uses a Houdini trick to be able to free himself from his shackles and swim ashore.

The comic relief, Solicitor Grey's Clerk named Perkins

The comic relief, Solicitor Grey’s Clerk named Perkins

All four episodes of The Highlanders are missing from the BBC Archives so not surprisingly a lot is lost in the translation to audio and telesnaps. The battle on board the Annabelle in which the highlanders wrest control of the ship, thanks to the weaponry provided by the Doctor, is hard to visualize. So too are the scenes in Culloden. We miss seeing the last Doctor Who historical adventure until 1982’s Black Orchard, and also Frazer Hines’ debut as Jamie McCrimmon. That being said, Jamie’s role is minor and a proper companion he does not become until the next serial, The Underwater Menace. Join me for my next review as I continue my journey through Doctor Who. 

The VHS cover art for Loose Cannon's The Highlanders reconstructions.  The Highlanders was originally broadcast in the UK between 17 December 1966 and 7 January 1967

The VHS cover art for Loose Cannon’s The Highlanders reconstructions. The Highlanders was originally broadcast in the UK between 17 December 1966 and 7 January 1967

Vivien Fleming

©Vivien Fleming, 2013.

The Power of the Daleks – Loose Cannon Reconstructions

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All six episodes of The Power of the Daleks are missing from the BBC Archives. For the purposes of this marathon I watched Loose Cannon’s reconstructions, links for which appear below.

Loose Cannon’s The Power of the Daleks, Episode 1 Part 1

Loose Cannon’s The Power of the Daleks, Episode 1 Part 2

Loose Cannon’s The Power of the Daleks, Episode 2 Part 1

Loose Cannon’s The Power of the Daleks, Episode 2 Part 2

Loose Cannon’s The Power of the Daleks, Episode 3 Part 1

Loose Cannon’s The Power of the Daleks, Episode 3 Part 2

Loose Cannon’s The Power of the Daleks, Episode 4 Part 1

Loose Cannon’s The Power of the Daleks, Episode 4 Part 2

Loose Cannon’s The Power of the Daleks, Episode 5 Part 1

Loose Cannon’s The Power of the Daleks, Episode 5 Part 2

Loose Cannon’s The Power of the Daleks, Episode 6 Part 1

Loose Cannon’s The Power of the Daleks, Episode 6 Part 2

 

The Power of the Daleks

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“The Doctor was a great collector, wasn’t he”, the strange little man with the ill-fitting, improvised clothes said as he rummaged through the large chest.  “But you’re the Doctor” exclaimed a confused Polly.  “Oh, I don’t look like him” quipped the man.

So began the journey of the Second Doctor, Patrick Troughton, as he recovered  from his “renewal” as though he’d been on an LSD trip.  In fact, the reference to LSD  comes directly from the production notes.  This was 1966, of course.  When Ben had told the “old Doctor” that the ordeal in the Cyberman ship was “all over”  (The Tenth Planet) the Doctor had replied by saying “What did you say, my boy?  It’s all over.  It’s all over.  That’s what you said.  No, but it isn’t all over.  It’s far from being all over”.  The “new”  Doctor had strangely chuckled “It’s over.  It’s over” as he scrambled to his feet upon regenerating. Whilst the Doctor’s “renewal” may have been over, his journey to be understood by his companions was only beginning.

Upon renewal the Doctor is in a confused state, as if he'd been tripping on LSD

Upon renewal the Doctor is in a confused state, as if he’d been tripping on LSD

Quietly hostile and prone to referring to himself in the third person, the Doctor evaded answering uncomfortable questions by playing a recorder retrieved from the chest. The sceptic Ben was infuriated by the Doctor’s behaviour  and didn’t believe the man before him to be the same person as the “old Doctor”.  Polly, however, was more willing to believe and recalled the old Doctor’s comment to the effect that perhaps his old body was wearing a bit thin.  No one had exited or entered the Tardis so surely this stranger must be the Doctor. It would take a Dalek to recognize the Doctor by sight, towards the end of episode two, for Ben to finally believe that the “new” Doctor was one of the same as the “old Doctor”.

Ben, Polly and the new Doctor with his 500 Year Diary

Ben, Polly and the new Doctor with his 500 Year Diary

The Dalek’s recognition of the Doctor, and the Doctor’s visible fear of his oldest foe, was a superbly climatic scene which undoubtedly influenced Rob Shearman as he wrote Dalek, the pepper pots’ debut in Season 1 of the 2005 series.  Watch the short clip from Dalek below and marvel at the Ninth Doctor’s fear when he hears the monotone voice of the Dalek say “Dock Toorrr”. The Doctor’s fear as he runs to the door is just palpable. Were The Power of the Daleks not lost and we could watch the serial in its full glory, then I suspect that the Second Doctor’s fear, as he backs into a chair as the Dalek focuses his eye stalk onto him, would be  just as unmistakeable.

That The Power of the Daleks should be an influence on the writers of new series Who should come as no surprise. The serial is critically lauded as perhaps the best Dalek story ever and is undoubtedly held in higher regard as a consequence of its missing status.  The soundtrack is smashing and the few fragment clips of the Daleks absolutely superb. You can even excuse the production team for the reasonably obvious cardboard cut-out Daleks used to swell the numbers in crowd scenes.  We hear much chanting of “exterminate, annihilate, destroy” and  “Daleks conquer and destroy”, whilst also seeing the construction of Daleks for the first time.  Whilst proceeding down the conveyer belt their mutant insides are plonked inside and seen by viewers for the first time in their live state.  The Dalek mutants seen in episode of 12 of the Daleks’ Master Plan were in a regressed form. What makes the Daleks all the more frightening is that they are initially so compliant and obliging.

The Power of the Daleks – Surviving Dalek clips

The similarity between the Series 5 episode Victory of the Daleks and The Power of the Daleks is remarkable.  In both stories the Daleks originally portray themselves as servants of humans.  In Power the Dalek chants “I am your servant”, whilst in Victory their incantation is “I am your soldier”.  In both stories the Doctor is increasingly frustrated at everyone’s refusal to take his concerns about the Daleks seriously.  Wildly cognisant of the Dalek’s evil reputation, similar fear and frustration would be instilled into the viewers as well.  As Toby Hadoke stated in Running Through Corridors, “… with us, the audience, more aware than most of the characters involved in this adventure just how deadly these creatures are.  It’s like watching kids playing with a hand grenade, but being stuck behind soundproofed glass and unable to issue a warning”.

Victory of the Daleks Trailer

Victory of the Daleks bears distinct similiarities to The Power of the Daleks

Victory of the Daleks’ antecedents can be seen in The Power of the Daleks

Many of the humans in The Power of the Daleks are not particularly likeable.  A rebel group within the community are planning a rebellion, however their grievances are unclear.  Unlike the young double eye-browed rebels in The Space Museum whose oppression one could empathise with, even though they were the most useless revolutionaries ever portrayed on TV, these rebels are bullish and ignorant.  Prepared to sacrifice anyone to achieve their ends, they make the Daleks in earlier episodes appear positively gentlemanly. Whereas the humans were unable to fathom the Cybermen’s lack of empathy in The Tenth Planet, it is in The Power of the Daleks that the monsters express the very same disbelief about the humans.  A Dalek innocently asks, “Why do human beings kill human beings?”

The Power of the Daleks - Title Card

It’s invariably the ignorance of humans, and the Rebels’ preparedness to co-opt the Daleks to their cause,  which is the reason for their downfall. After using the humans to acquire the materials necessary to construct new Daleks, they have no further need for humans and destroy them.  The Daleks are at their evil best and it’s a great shame that the visuals have been lost because the telesnaps make the massacre at the end look magnificent.  Ultimately, however, the Doctor saves the day by destroying the Daleks.  Or does he?

The Daleks are at their frightening best in The Power of the Daleks

The Daleks are at their frightening best in The Power of the Daleks

What puzzled me was why the Daleks needed to be charged in Power of the Daleks whenever they were not on metal, yet the Daleks seen in The Chase and The Daleks’ Master Plan didn’t.  Wood and Miles in About Time 2  posit cheekily that these Daleks must have been exhausted from their 200 years spent at the bottom of the mercury swamp or not fully-charged as they were fresh models straight off the production-line.   One wonders how viewers can pick up these continuity discrepancies in the early years of Doctor Who, and yet the writers could not.  Perhaps it was because the serial was written by David Whitaker and was the first Dalek serial in which Terry Nation had no input.

The Power of the Daleks was originally broadcast in the UK between 5 November and 10 December 1966

 Loose Cannon’s VHS cover art for The Power of the Daleks. The Power of the Daleks was originally broadcast in the UK between 5 November and 10 December 1966

 

Vivien Fleming

©Vivien Fleming, 2013.

 

REFERENCES:

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

Tat Wood & Lawrence Miles, About Time. The Unauthorized Guide to Doctor Who. 1966-1969 Seasons 4 to 6. Mad Norweigan Press, Illinois, 2010.

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.