Tag Archives: The Tomb of the Cybermen

The Dominators

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

The Quarks were less than convincing as monsters

The Quarks were less than convincing as monsters

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

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

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

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

The Dulcians are not use to physical labour

The Dulcians are not use to physical labour

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Only men are members of the Dulcian ruling elite

Only men are members of the Dulcian ruling elite

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

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

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

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

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

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

The Doctor and Jamie hold hands again

The Doctor and Jamie hold hands again

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

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

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

Vivien Fleming

©Vivien Fleming, 2013.

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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.

The Abominable Snowmen

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The 1960s saw the dawning of Western interest in Eastern religions.  Perhaps premier among the spiritualities investigated was Buddhism. It was in 1967 that a Trappist monk of the Abbey of Gethsemane, Thomas Merton, published his collection of essays, Mystics and Zen Masters.  More than 40 years later, two of the top five Google search results on “Merton and Buddhism” return a conservative Catholic article entitled, “Can You Trust Thomas Merton?” Yes, there are still many orthodox Catholics who would prefer to imagine that the Second Vatican Council never occurred, and fear that enlightened spiritual writers such as the late Fr Merton are a threat to the very fabric of Christendom.

Thomas Merton with the Dalai Lama

Thomas Merton with the Dalai Lama

It should come as no surprise, therefore, that Doctor Who should enter into this stream of consciousness with its Tibetan tale of Buddhist Monks and Yeti, The Abominable Snowmen.  Five of the six episodes of this serial are among the 106 currently missing from the BBC Archives.  Thankfully the good people at Loose Cannon Productions have come to our rescue, yet again, with their masterful reconstructions.  Episode two is available on the triple DVD set, Lost in Time.  An excellent precise of the serial was provided by David J Howe and Stephen James Walker in their 2003 publication, The Television Companion. The Unofficial and Unauthorised Guide to Doctor Who.  Rather than reinventing the wheel I’ll let them summarise the plot for you:

Songsten, Khrisong and a fellow monk

Songsten, Khrisong and a fellow monk

“The TARDIS arrives in Tibet in 1935 and the Doctor visits the remote Detsen (sic) monastery in order to return a sacred bell, the ghanta, given to him for safe keeping on a previous visit.  There he meets and Englishman, Travers, on an expedition to track down the legendary Abominable Snowmen or Yeti.  It transpires that the Yeti roaming the area are actually disguised robots, which scare away or kill anyone who approaches.  The High Lama Padmasambhava, whom the Doctor met hundreds of years earlier on his previous visit, had been taken over by a nebulous alien  being, the Great Intelligence, which has artificially prolonged his life and is now using him to control the Yeti by way of models on a chessboard-like map.  The Intelligence’s aim is to create a material form for itself and take over the Earth.  The Doctor banishes it back to the astral plane, allowing Padmasambhava finally to die in peace”.

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 Abominable Snowmen’s writers, Mervyn Haisman and Henry Lincoln, sought to authenticate the serial by utilizing some real life names from the history of Tibetan Buddhism. The Master of the monastery was Padmasambhava, so named after the eighth century Buddhist Master who is said to have brought Vajrayana (tantric) Buddhism to Tibet. History names Padmasambhava as the author of Liberation Through Hearing During the Intermediate State (Bardo Thodol) which is known colloquially in the Western world as The Tibetan Book of the Dead. Given that the Bardo Thodol is in effect a treaty on how to ensure an absolute death and escape from the cycle of reincarnations, it is profoundly ironic that Padmasambhava of The Abominable Snowmen should be caught in a state of suspended life for hundreds of years. His death at the conclusion of the serial is more in accord with Buddhist philosophy as Padmasambhava at last finds peace in absolute death.

An image of Padmasambhava

An image of Padmasambhava

The name of monastery’s Abbot, Songsten, is taken from seventh Century Tibetan Empire founder, Songtsän Gampo, whilst the young monk Thonmi is so named after Thonmi Sambhota, the person traditionally credited for the invention of the Tibetan script. When the script was novelized by Terrance Dicks in 1974 as Doctor Who and the Abominable Snowmen, it was on the suggestion of Doctor Who’s then producer, Barry Letts, that these names should be changed.  As a Buddhist Letts considered the appropriation of the names inappropriate and accordingly they were slightly amended to Padmasambvha, Songtsen, and Thomni . At face value it appears that perhaps the Abbot’s name would best have remained as Songsten, as that is further from the real spelling of Songtsän than Songtsen.

An image of Songtsan Gampo

An image of Songtsan Gampo

An image of Thonmi Sambhota

An image of Thonmi Sambhota

Whereas The Tomb of the Cybermen was resplendent with crazed archaeologists, The Abominable Snowmen instead has a “mad anthropologist”.  This at least is how the fictional press of the serial refer to the explorer Travers as. Incidentally Travers is played by Jack Watling, the father of companion Deborah Watling. Watling reprised his role of Travers three serials later in the sequel, The Web of Fear. Watling, the elder, did a fine job in the serial, as did Deborah who was quite mesmerizing in the scene where she speaks the same phrase automatically whilst under Padmasambhava’s trance.

Jamie, Victoria and the "mad anthropologist", Travers. Jack Watling, the father of Deborah Watling, played Travis

Jamie, Victoria and the “mad anthropologist”, Travers. Jack Watling, the father of Deborah Watling, played Travis

Victoria emerges from the TARDIS and is shocked by what she sees

Victoria emerges from the TARDIS and is shocked by what she sees

The necessity for compassion is perhaps the integral moral of this story.  Although the monk-warrior Khrisong is murdered by the Abbot, Songsten, he is forgiven of his crime by both the victim on his death bed, and by his fellow monks thereafter.  As the young monk Thonmi rightly concludes, Songsten had been put under a trance by the Master, Padmasambhava.  He was but a puppet, as was Padmasambhava whom the Doctor identified as also being controlled. The entity that was the source of this control was the Great Intelligence.  This theme of forgiveness is not restricted only to Buddhism, but also to Christianity. Khrisong’s final words are reflective of one of Jesus Christ’s seven final sayings, “Father, forgive them, for they do not know what they do” (Luke 23:34).  Judeo-Christian links in this story can also be gleaned from Padmasambhava’s use of the words “I am” on several occasions when describing himself.  Padmasambhava at one point states, “But our brother must not be allowed to depart in the knowledge that I am other than what I am”. “I am that I am” is the common English translation of God’s response to Moses when asked for his name (Exodus 3:14).

Khrisong is unforgiving to the Doctor as he is put out as Yeti bait.  In death, however, Khrisong forgives his murderer, Songsten

Khrisong is unforgiving to the Doctor as he is put out as Yeti bait. In death, however, Khrisong forgives his murderer, Songsten

The Doctor and the young monk, Thonmi

The Doctor and the young monk, Thonmi

The Great Intelligence returned, like Travers, in The Web of Fear, but the character would not be reprised for a third time for over 44 years, the longest period in abeyance of any monster, alien or foe in Who’s  history.  Manifesting itself as snow in the 2012 Christmas Special, The Snowmen, the Great Intelligence planned to invade the earth with Snowmen in lieu of Yeti.  The Great Intelligence eventually gained control of Walter Simeon’s body and would appear again as the Doctor’s main protagonist in the 2013 episodes The Bells of Saint John and The Name of the Doctor. A brief history of the Great Intelligence from The Abominable Snowmen  to The Name of the Doctor is set out in the video below.

The Great Intelligence Through the Ages 1967 -2013

The character’s long dormancy was most probably a consequence of the rift between its creators, Haisman and Lincoln, and the producers of Doctor Who following the pair’s ill-fated third Who script, The Dominators. Interestingly, no acknowledgement appears for Haisman and Lincoln as the creators of the Great Intelligence in the final credits of the Series 7 episodes in which the entity appears. Monsters created by other freelance writers, such as Terry Nation’s Daleks, are still credited to their originators to this day.

The Yeti taking a stroll

Haisman and Lincoln’s creations, The Yeti, taking a stroll

A final fascinating note on the Great Intelligence is that its appearance in The Snowmen predates chronologically its presence in The Abominable Snowmen and The Web of Fear.  With the Abominable Snowmen set in around 1935 and The Web of Fear in the UNIT era, which is probably sometime in the 1970s, the Victorian tale of The Snowmen well predates the Troughton era stories.  John Hussey in his article on the history of the Great Intelligence published in Doctor Who TV, posits that the Doctor’s battles with the Great Intelligence in The Snowmen  could have actually been the inspiration for the two earlier stories. As evidence Hussey directs the reader’s attention to the London Underground map which the Eleventh Doctor showed the Great Intelligence. In outlining to the Intelligence the weaknesses in the system the Doctor may in fact have been responsible for Intelligence’s subsequent (but shown on TV, earlier) attack utilizing the London Underground in The Web of Fear.

The Eleventh Doctor shows the Great Intelligence a map of the London Underground in The Snowmen

The Eleventh Doctor shows the Great Intelligence a map of the London Underground in The Snowmen

A snowman from 2012's The Snowmen

A snowman from 2012’s The Snowmen

Being so critical of racism in the last serial, The Tomb of the Cybermen, I would be remiss not to point out that the Tibetan characters in The Abominable Snowmen are all played by Caucasian males. Unlike other Who serials such as the Third Doctor’s Planet of the Spiders and the Fourth Doctor’s The Talons of Weng-Chiang , the characters’ facial make up isn’t overtly reminiscent of Asian identity.  This early example of the Doctor Who production team erring in its moral duty to employ a more multi-cultural cast could perhaps, in this instance only, be overlooked if the viewer chooses to regard all the monks as Western converts to Buddhism.

The Abominable Snowmen's Padmasambhava

The Abominable Snowmen’s Padmasambhava

An unfortunate example of racism in the Third Doctor's Planet of the Spiders

An unfortunate example of racism in the Third Doctor’s Planet of the Spiders

White men were still being cast as Asian males in The Talons of Weng-Chiang, a Fourth Doctor Adventure

White men were still being cast as Asian males in The Talons of Weng-Chiang, a Fourth Doctor Adventure

I couldn’t fail to conclude this review without saying a word or two on the most loveable of Doctor Who monsters, the Yeti.  By the writers’ making these mythical Himalayan creatures robots, the designers were given the most perfect excuse for their creation of a less than realistic monster. If the Yeti looked pair shaped and cuddly, rather than mammoth and scary, the designers could always claim that realism was not their intention.  Perhaps they could retrospectively claim that the Monoids of The Ark were really robots!  All told, The Abominable Snowmen is a cracking good yarn and comes highly recommended.  By me at least!

The Yeti were so cute as to attract children during the filming of The Abominable Snowmen in Wales

The Yeti were so cute as to attract children during the filming of The Abominable Snowmen in Wales

Perhaps The Ark's Monoids should have been robots.  It would help explain their appalling design!

Perhaps The Ark’s Monoids should have been robots. It would help explain their appalling design!

Episode 2 of The Abominable Snowmen is held in the BBC Archives and has been released on the triple DVD set, Lost in Time.  The Abominable Snowmen was originally broadcast in the UK between 30 September and 4 November 1967.

Episode 2 of The Abominable Snowmen is held in the BBC Archives and has been released on the triple DVD set, Lost in Time. The Abominable Snowmen was originally broadcast in the UK between 30 September and 4 November 1967.

Vivien Fleming

©Vivien Fleming, 2013.

REFERENCES:

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

John Hussey, “Attack of the Snowmen: The Story of the Great Intelligence”, Doctor Who TV, 7 January 2013, http://www.doctorwhotv.co.uk/attack-of-the-snowmen-the-story-of-the-great-intelligence-44236.htm.  Retrieved on 20 August 2013.

The Tomb of the Cybermen

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I first watched The Tomb of the Cybermen in the wake of Matt Smith’s much publicized disclosure that Tomb was his favourite Doctor Who serial. It’s often said that Smith is channelling Patrick Troughton.  I was somewhat bemused, therefore, when I walked away with a rather flat feeling at the serial’s end.  It was okay, I thought, but nothing spectacular.  My second view, for this marathon,  was somewhat more enjoyable, perhaps only because of the elation felt in watching the earliest and first complete Second Doctor serial in the BBC Archives. Nine incomplete serials in a row is a somewhat daunting undertaking so my relief is perhaps entirely understandable.

The men are amazed to see the Cybermen emerge from their frozen tombs

The men are amazed to see the Cybermen emerge from their frozen tombs

The second viewing, however, did nothing to soften my discontent with the unnecessary and detrimentally racist stereotypes.  For the second serial in a row there is a huge and mute black strongman.  In The Evil of the Daleks the character of Kemel was meant to be a Turkish Wrester.  The actor who played him, Sonny Caldinez, however was black.  In Tomb of the Cybermen we have an equally large black strongman, this time named Toberman, and the “manservant” to the equally mysterious, and racially ambiguous, Kaftan.  Early drafts of the script had Toberman (played by Roy Stewart) wearing a hearing aid, however this was written out of the final script.

Roy Stewart played the mute strongman and "man servant" of Kaftan, Toberman

Roy Stewart played the mute strongman and “man servant” of Kaftan, Toberman

Shirley Cooklin was the wife of Story Editor, Peter Bryant, and the role of Kaftan was written specifically for her.  In the Special Feature, The Lost Giants, which is included the Special Edition of The Tomb of the Cybermen DVD, Cooklin describes the difficulties she faced as an actress.  As someone who was not blond haired and blue eyed, she was constantly cast as characters such as French maids.  What Cooklin failed to mention in the video, however, was that she was made up to have much darker skin than she ordinarily had.  An unspecified accent was used throughout the serial and her very dark complexion was less than subtle in hinting that Kaftan was a mysterious  and potentially dangerous outsider.  So successful were the make-up artists in disguising Cooklin that Frazer Hines, a known ladies man, tried unsuccessfully to pick her up!

The "blacked up" Shirley Cooklin as Kaftan

The “blacked up” Shirley Cooklin as Kaftan

The third member of our trio of crooks was the increasingly manic Klieg, played by George Pastell. Pastell was a Greek Cypriot actor famous for playing swarthy villains.  The instigator of a totally crazy plan for world domination in which the Cybermen were to be conscripted as willing assistants, Klieg considered himself the most intelligent and logical person in the world. Clearly he was neither and his arrogance was his downfall.

George Pastell played the swarthy villain, Klieg

George Pastell played the swarthy villain, Klieg

In between my first and second viewings of The Tomb of the Cyberman I had the misfortune of watching the Series Seven episode, Journey to the Centre of the TARDIS. My choice of the word “misfortune” is quite deliberate because throughout that 2013 episode I experienced the same niggling concerns about racism as I had watching Tomb.  The Doctor and Clara find themselves, and the TARDIS, on board an intergalactic salvage ship. The ship is crewed by the brothers Gregor and Bram Van Baalen , together with a humanoid looking android, Tricky. If this was 1967 it would not have surprised me that the characters being “baddies” would also be “black”. This is 2013 however, and I just shook my head in disbelief as the first black characters in Doctor Who for a long time were also villains. Unfortunately most criticism directed to this episode related to allegedly poor acting on the part of Ashley Walters, Mark Oliver and Jahvel Hall. What is more important is that the actors were given little to work with and subjected to negatively stereotypical characterizations.

Incredibly, the only photos I could find online of the Van Baalen brothers, and Tricky were either from behind or as monsters. Racism was again evident in 2013's Journey to the Centre of the TARDIS

Incredibly, the only photos I could find online of the Van Baalen brothers, and Tricky, were either from behind or as monsters. Racism was again evident in 2013’s Journey to the Centre of the TARDIS

I am not alone in my concerns about racism and Doctor Who.  Philip Sandifer in his blog, and now books, Tardis Eruditorum, is unashamedly critical and has published an excellent essay in the second volume of Tardis Eruditorum, entitled “What do we Make of All These Black Mute Strongmen?”.  He describes the decision by writers Kit Pedler and Gerry Davis to characterize Toberman as a black mute strongman not as a conscious act of malice, but rather an example of  “unconscious failures to even notice that there’s a problem.  More often than not, discrimination is just a particular flavour of stupidity”. In other words, these racist stereotypes are so ingrained that the writers didn’t even realize that they were being inherently racist.  Such racism, I would posit, was inherent in the Stephen Thompson penned 2013 story, Journey.

Philip Sandifer is critical of racism in Doctor Who

Philip Sandifer is critical of racism in Doctor Who

Published in July 2013, the Lindy Orthia edited book, Doctor Who and Race, is a collection of 23 essays on the issue. In May this year there was widespread controversy when Orthia was reported as describing Doctor Who as “thunderingly racist”. The BBC issued a statement which stated as follows:-

Doctor Who has a strong track record of diverse casting among both regular and guest cast.  Freema  Agyeman became the first black companion and Noel Clarke starred in a major role for five years [Mickey Smith].  Reflecting the diversity of the UK is a duty of the BBC, and casting on Doctor Who, is colour-blind. It is always about the best actors for the roles”.

Doctor Who and Race, edited by Lindy Orthia, was released in July 2013

Doctor Who and Race, edited by Lindy Orthia, was released in July 2013

I’m still waiting for Doctor Who and Race to be released on Kindle.  Once it is I will undoubtedly post a review of it on this blog.

The Tomb of the Cybermen does, however, have its positives.  The emergence of the Cybermen from their frozen tombs in episode two is brilliantly done and undeniably iconic. You can even excuse them for using cling wrap as it was as “new” and “exciting” as bubble wrap was to the 1970s Doctor Who designers.

The Cybermen emerge from their icy tombs

The Cybermen emerge from their icy tombs

The Doctor’s discussion with the new companion, Victoria, in episode three is as close to tear-jerking as you’ll get. In discussing the death of Victoria’s father (in The Evil of the Daleks), the Doctor gently tells her of his own family recollections – “I have to really want to, to bring them back in front of my eyes.  The rest of the time they  … sleep in my mind and I forget. As so will you”. The Doctor also discloses for the first time his age and we learn that in earth terms he is roughly 450 years old.

The Doctor and Victoria’s episode three discussion.

Finally, the scene in which the Doctor and Jamie accidently hold hands as they enter the tomb is just fabulous.  Both intending to hold Victoria’s hand, they quickly disengage when the manliness of the other hand becomes apparent.  In the Special Features Frazer Hines describes how he and Patrick Troughton didn’t officially rehearse the scene.  Fearing that their unscripted gag would be cut out, they left its unveiling to the actual filming knowing that cuts were expensive and rarely made.

Frazer Hines and Deborah Watling discussing the making of The Tomb of the Cybermen. 

The Tomb of the Cyberman is unfortunately the only complete serial featuring Deborah Watling as Victoria. It’s back to reconstructions and only one complete episode, when I continue my marathon with The Abominable Snowmen.

The Tomb of the Cybermen was originally broadcast in the UK between 2 September and 23 September 1967

The Tomb of the Cybermen was originally broadcast in the UK between 2 September and 23 September 1967

Vivien Fleming

©Vivien Fleming, 2013.

REFERENCE:

Phil Sandifer, Tardis Eruditorum Volume 2: Patrick Troughton. Self published, 2012.

The Evil of the Daleks

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Season four draws to a close with the Daleks’ last appearance in Doctor Who for five years in The Evil of the Daleks. Ranked 18th in the Doctor Who Magazine’s Mighty 200 poll of 2009, this serial bears all the hallmarks of a classic. The most highly placed Second Doctor story in the poll, The Evil of the Daleks displays a hitherto unseen darkness in the Doctor’s character. By melding the BBC’s panache for period piece Victoriana drama and the futuristic world of Skaro, the serial arranges the Daleks in a threatening new light.

The Doctor looks on as Edward Waterfield and Theodore Maxtible discuss their experiment

The Doctor looks on as Edward Waterfield and Theodore Maxtible discuss their experiment

Written by David Whitaker, The Evil of the Daleks in part draws upon Whitaker’s own Dalek cartoons which were a feature in TV Century 21 magazine. Published over 104 issues in 1965 and 1966, the Dalek cartoons featured a Dalek Emperor, the titular head of the Daleks not hitherto encountered in the television series.  In cartoon form the Dalek Emperor was more similar in appearance to the 1988 Dalek Emperor of Remembrance of the Daleks than the large elaborate one of The Evil of the Daleks. That a Dalek spin off cartoon should influence the television production of Doctor Who clearly exhibits how iconic the Daleks had become in the mythology of Doctor Who during those early years.

The Dalek Emperor first appeared in the David Whitaker penned Dalek cartoons published in TV Century 21 magazine

The Dalek Emperor first appeared in the David Whitaker penned Dalek cartoons published in TV Century 21 magazine

The Dalek Emperor of the comics was more faithfully reproduced in the 1988 serial Remembrance of the Daleks

The Dalek Emperor of the comics was more faithfully reproduced in the 1988 serial Remembrance of the Daleks

The Doctor co-operates with the Daleks in putting Jamie to a test in saving the daughter of Edward Waterfield, Victoria who has been imprisoned by the Daleks. In doing so the Doctor engages in an uncharacteristic argument with Jamie with the sole intention of utilizing reverse psychology to obtain his own ends.  The Doctor tells Jamie that he has never purported that “the ends justify the means”, however Jamie consider this to be mere words.  “You and me, we’re finished.  You’re just too callous for me”, Jamie says to the Doctor. “Anything goes by the board.  Anything at all”.

Jamie's task is to save the companion-in-waiting, Victoria Waterfield, from the Daleks

Jamie’s task is to save the companion-in-waiting, Victoria Waterfield, from the Daleks

The test which Jamie was undertaking would enable the Daleks to plot and distil those essential human characteristics that had until then always permitted humans to defeat the Daleks. Courage, pity, chivalry, friendship, and compassion were some of those virtues and emotions that Jamie exhibited in his trial to rescue Victoria.  When three dormant Daleks were impregnated with the “human factor” they behaved in a somewhat unexpected manner. Episode five ends with the Doctor being taken for a “train” ride by a Dalek.  “Jamie, they’re taking me for a ride” the Doctor exclaims in delight, “they’re playing a game”.  Episode six opens with the Doctor advising that the Daleks are only children, but will grow up very quickly – in a matter of hours, in fact. He advises the baby Daleks that Jamie is a friend and to their delight gives each of them a name – Alpha, Beta and Omega.

Jamie and the Doctor drink coffee in a cafe during episode one

Jamie and the Doctor drink coffee in a cafe during episode one

Despite their childish play the Daleks do not take on the comic like features that they did in The Chase. The Doctor’s oldest foes remained menacing because  of their radical and quick transformation back to their dangerous and menacing form. By impregnating a large number of Daleks with the “human factor” the Doctor incites a Dalek Civil War as the humanized Daleks question the orders of their superiors. Never before had the Daleks questioned “why” they automatically follow commands.  This was very much a human trait. Notwithstanding that total genocide of the Daleks is a possible consequence of the Civil War, the Doctor nonetheless  encourages their destruction.  This is very much at odds with the classic stand of the Fourth Doctor in Genesis of the Daleks.

The Evil of the Daleks – 3D Animation – Prelude to the Civil War

Victoria's father, Edward Waterhouse, sacrifices himself to save the Doctor

Victoria’s father, Edward Waterhouse, sacrifices himself to save the Doctor

The chief human baddie, Theodore Maxtible, looks surprisingly like our most common images of Karl Marx.  I wonder if that was intentional? Although the Daleks were conjured into Maxtible’s 1866 Victorian home by mistake, he is nevertheless keen to make what he can out of the Daleks’ technology.  Waterfield co-ops the Doctor and Jamie’s assistance against their will but for the more honourable cause of having his daughter freed.  Waterfield is disturbed by the death that surrounds him and his complicity with the destruction caused. When he accuses Maxtible of constantly avoiding reality – that people are dying because of them – Maxtible remains indignant. “We are not to blame for everything that has happened” he said “No English judge or jury would find it in their hearts to convict us of one solitary thing”. The legality of what they had done was not Waterfield’s concern, but clearly the morality of it.  He went on to state that he would confess his role in everything once Victoria was released.  Unfortunately that opportunity was never afforded to him as he sacrificed his life to save the Doctor.

The character of Theodore Maxtible, played by Marius Goring, bears an uncanny resemblance to Karl Marx

The character of Theodore Maxtible, played by Marius Goring, bears an uncanny resemblance to Karl Marx

The real Karl Marx

The real Karl Marx

The “human factor” in The Evil of the Daleks would re-emerge in a somewhat different form, as DNA, in the Rob Sherman penned Dalek in 2005. In the first Dalek story of New Series Doctor Who, companion Rose Tyler replenishes a long dormant Dalek by placing her hand upon it.  Her DNA enables the Dalek to regenerate its casing and break free of the chains that have bound it. Later the Dalek experiences human emotions as a consequence of the human DNA.  Psychologically traumatised by emotions that are alien to Daleks, the Dalek commits suicide after commanding Rose to order its own death.  The “human factor” in The Evil of the Daleks, which precipitated questioning, the Dalek Civil War and ultimately the (temporary) Dalek destruction, had the same decimating effect on the pepper pot’s psychology and continued existence in Dalek.

Rose Tyler comforts a Dalek in the 2005 episode Dalek, thereby transferring some of her DNA to it

Rose Tyler comforts a Dalek in the 2005 episode Dalek, thereby transferring some of her DNA to it

Rose is compelled to order the Dalek's own destruction as it is psychologically traumatized by its human DNA

Rose is compelled to order the Dalek’s own destruction as it is psychologically traumatized by the human DNA

The Evil of the Daleks has aged badly in respect of its racial stereotyping of the character of Kemel.  Played by the West Indian born Sonny Caldinez, Kemel is a Turkish wrestler and strongman for Maxtible.  Although possessed of almost super-human strength, Kemel is both unintelligent and mute. He’s almost the kind of character that you would expect in a First Doctor story, as William Hartnell was unfortunately infamous for his intolerance of all but Caucasian Englishmen. Sonny Caldinez would go on to play an Ice Warrior in each of the four Ice Warrior themed serials in the Classic Series, The Ice Warriors, The Seeds of Death, The Curse of Peladon and The Monster of Peladon.

Sonny Caldinez played the role of Kemel, a Turkish wrester and strongman

Sonny Caldinez played the role of Kemel, a Turkish wrester and strongman

Sonny Caldinez subsequently appeared as an Ice Warrior in four Classic Series stories.  He's seen here with the Third Doctor and Alpha Centauri in The Monster of Peladon (1974)

Sonny Caldinez subsequently appeared as an Ice Warrior in four Classic Series stories. He is seen here with the Third Doctor and Alpha Centauri in The Monster of Peladon (1974)

The Evil of the Daleks does leave us with perhaps one of the Doctor’s best ever quotes.  In speaking to Terrall the Doctor says,  “I am not a student of human nature.  I am a professor of a far wider academy, of which human nature is merely a part. All forms of life interest me”. “Professor” is the name that companion Ace playfully called the Seventh Doctor, but I’m rushing ahead of myself here.  Join me for my next review where Season five opens with the first 100% complete Second Doctor serial, the iconic Tomb of the Cybermen.

The Evil of the Daleks was originally broadcast in the UK between 20 May and 1 July 1967.  Episode 2 is available on the triple DVD set Lost in Time

The Evil of the Daleks was originally broadcast in the UK between 20 May and 1 July 1967. Episode 2 is available on the triple DVD set Lost in Time

Vivien Fleming

©Vivien Fleming, 2013.

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.