Tag Archives: The Underwater Menace

The Ice Warriors

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Whether there’s a relationship between the resurrection of seemingly deceased Doctor Who monsters and the sale of Classic Series DVDs is an issue worth pondering. Released in late August in the UK and Australasia, and mid September in the US, The Ice Warriors DVD emerged four months after an Ice Warrior appeared in the Mark Gatiss penned Cold War after a 39 year absence from Doctor Who.  Prior to the episode’s broadcast Steven Moffat stated that a lot of persuasion was needed to convince him that the Ice Warriors should return.

Grand Marshall Skaldak, a 2013 model Ice Warrior

Grand Marshall Skaldak, a 2013 model Ice Warrior

“It was Mark Gatiss’s idea and it was very much his pitch – he’d been pitching the Ice Warriors for a while.  I wasn’t tremendously persuaded.  I’ll be honest.  I thought they were maybe the default condition for what people thought of as rubbish Doctor Who  monsters – things that moved very, very slowly and spoke in a way that meant you couldn’t hear a word they said.  Mark came up with a couple of very clever ideas, which he pitched to me over the phone in what was meant to be a Sherlock  conversation.  He had a couple of really stormingly good ideas, and it’s a great episode, an absolute cracker of an episode”.

One is left wondering if perhaps Moffat failed to mention that the marketing department of the BBC was instrumental in the decision to have the Ice Warriors return.

Trailer for the return of the Ice Warriors in 2013’s Cold War. 

Are the Ice Warriors the default “rubbish” monsters that Moffat suggests? They were certainly slow and unfortunately restricted by their large fin like feet.  In the special feature, Cold Fusion, actor Sonny Caldinez tells several amusing anecdotes about his time as an Ice Warrior and particularly the filming of The Ice Warriors. He had such difficulty chasing Deborah Watling through the ice caves because of his costume’s feet that they had to slow down Watling’s running speed. That the design of the Ice Warrior in Cold War very faithfully reproduced the 1967 model says much for the integrity of the Mark 1 models.

Victoria chased by Turoc (Sonny Caldinez)

Victoria chased by Turoc (Sonny Caldinez)

One of the “stormingly good ideas” that Gatiss had about the 2013 Ice Warriors was undoubtedly Grand Marshall Skaldak emerging from his armour for the first time. Strangely, the slightly jerky head movements of the original Ice Warriors, a little akin to a person with mild Parkinson’s Disease, is absent from the current model Warriors. Similarly, Nicholas Briggs toned down the hissing of Skaldak’s speech in Cold War.  There wasn’t anything much more shocking in The Ice Warriors then when Zondal says that Storr was “ussselesss and uneccesssssary” just before killing him.

The Scot Storr is killed by an Ice Warrior

The Scot Storr is killed by an Ice Warrior

Interestingly, the 50th Anniversary Special on 23 November features the Zygons in only their second appearance in Doctor Who.  Their first and only appearance was with the Fourth Doctor in the 1975 serial Terror of the Zygons, which incidentally will be released on DVD in Australia and New Zealand on 2 October 2013. Is this a coincidence?  Who knows.

The Zygons will be returning in the 50th Anniversary special in November

The Zygons will be returning in the 50th Anniversary special in November

With the Classic Series range of DVD releases quickly coming to an end I’m left wondering if Season 8 will see the return of The Underwater Menace’s Fish People. Rumour has it that the missing two episodes will be animated and the DVD released sometime in 2014.  I can only hope that all of Galaxy 4 is recovered so my long held wish for the return of the Chumblies might be granted!

As outlined in my review of the First Doctor’s adventure Planet of Giants, I’ve always had a soft spot for Doctor Who serials with an environmental message.  The Ice Warriors is such a story, albeit one where the science is decidedly fiction and not fact. The Doctor, Victoria and Jamie find themselves at Brittanicus Base, one of a number of such bases established to stem the tide of ice glaciers which have been steadily engulfing the earth’s surface.  The New Ice Age which the Earth is confronted by is said to have arisen because of deforestation and the consequential loss of carbon dioxide from the atmosphere. Even a person as ignorant as myself in things scientific is aware that deforestation (and the burning of fossil fuels) is the cause of global warming, not global cooling. During photosynthesis trees convert carbon dioxide and water into sugar molecules and oxygen.  Less trees equals more carbon dioxide. I wonder where the writer, Brian Hayles, received his scientific knowledge on this one?

Although the Doctor can operate an artificial food dispenser (with retro telephone dial) he is a little confused about the relationship between plants and carbon dioxide

Although the Doctor can operate an artificial food dispenser (with retro telephone dial) he is a little confused about the relationship between plants and carbon dioxide.  He is pictured here with Leader Clent.

The obstinate leader of Brittanicus Base, Clent, outlined to the Doctor and his companions how this catastrophic environmental disaster occurred.

“You know how efficient our civilisation is, thanks to the direction of the great World Computer.  As you also know how we conquered the problem of world famine a century ago by artificial food.  On the land that was once used to grow the food we needed, we built up to date living units, to house the ever-increasing population … So, the amount of growing plants on the planet, was reduced to an absolute minimum. Then suddenly, one year, there was no spring.  Even then it wasn’t understood.  Not until the ice-caps began to advance”.

During the course of the conversation the Doctor added the comment ,”No plants, no carbon dioxide.”  Is it any wonder that when the Doctor met with the Ice Warriors, Zondal stated “You do not look like a scientist”. “Looks aren’t everything, you know” replied the Doctor.

Together with Ice Warriors, glaziers threaten the earth

Together with Ice Warriors, glaziers threaten the earth

Although the consequences of deforestation is the exact opposite to what The Ice Warriors claims, i.e. global warming rather than global cooling, the essence of the message is not lost on the audience. Human manipulation of the environment, even if at the behest of a “great World Computer”, has horrendous consequences on the planet and its human occupants.  Population growth is also shown to have negative effects. During the 1960s there was much debate about population growth and artificial birth control. Little more than six months after the broadcast of The Ice Warriors  Pope Paul VI released his much discussed encyclical letter Humanae Vitae on human reproduction. In reaffirming the Catholic Church’s traditional teachings against contraception, Humanae Vitae contradicted a report of Paul’s own commission, two years previously, which had recommended limited contraceptive use for married couples.

Pope Paul VI

Pope Paul VI

The Ice Warriors shares the anti-computer rhetoric of The War Machines. Leader Clent and Senior Control Technician Miss Garrett have an unwavering confidence in the great World Computer’s ability to answer all questions logically and in society’s best interests. As would be expected in 1967, the computer is futuristic and answers questions verbally.  It’s very difficult to understand, particularly in episode one where the soundtrack is very muddy.  The disaffected scientist Penley  shares the Doctor’s distain for them.  “I refused to be sucked into that computerised ant-heap you call a civilisation. I’m a man, not a machine”, Penley says to Miss Gifford.  When speaking to the Doctor, Penley delivered a further sentence of superior anti-computer verbosity when he stated  “You don’t expect me to face Clent alone.  That mouth piece of the computer? He’s got a printed circuit where his heart should be”.  It’s all very beautifully written and elucidates the same fear of computerization that I outlined in my The War Machines review.

Clent and Miss Gifford with the futurist great World Computer. The Brittanicus Base crew had the most fabulous close fitting outfits

Clent and Miss Gifford with the futurist great World Computer. The Brittanicus Base crew had the most fabulous close fitting outfits

The computer is revered almost as God like in its decisions.  “Our trust is in the great computer.  With its aid, we cannot fail”, Gifford stated.  As the story proceeds, however, it is evident that this deification is undeserved.  When Clent reserves the right to consult the computer on whether they should use the ioniser when the alien spacecraft is powered by an iron reactor, the computer spins and gibbers.  Jamie cried, “It’s as though it’s gone mad”. The final decision is left to the human Penley, who not surprisingly chose the best option.

In a rather clever premonition of Little Britain’s Carol, Clent says “The computer says no!”. Little Britain – The Computer says no.

The Ice Warriors succeeds because of its superior cast, magnificent set design and absolutely fabulous outfits.  Peter Barkworth as Leader Clent is outstanding as he shuffles around the base with his walking stick.  Barkworth would later go on to win two BAFTA awards for best TV actor. Peter Sallis generously plays the scientist Penley and is perhaps most famous for his 37 years spent as  Last of the Summer Wine’s  Norman Clegg. Most surprising of all is Bernard Bresslaw as the Ice Warrior Varga.  Bresslaw  was a comedy actor best known for his roles in the Carry On movies.  At 6′ 7″ tall Bresslaw provided the towering height needed for the Ice Warriors and is credited for creating their movements and hissing speech.

Bernard Bresslaw played the head Ice Warrior, Varga

Bernard Bresslaw played the head Ice Warrior, Varga

The Ice Warriors was originally broadcast in the UK between 11 November and 16 December 1967

The Ice Warriors was originally broadcast in the UK between 11 November and 16 December 1967

Vivien Fleming

©Vivien Fleming, 2013.

REFERENCE:

Fraser McAlpine, “Steven Moffat On Zygons, Ice Warriors And A Trip Into The Tardis”, 21 February 2013, BBC Americahttp://www.bbcamerica.com/anglophenia/2013/02/steven-moffat-on-zygons-ice-warriors-and-trip-int-the-tardis/. Retrieved on 3 September 2013.

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The Faceless Ones

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

The Tardis lands on the runway of Gatwick Airport

The Tardis lands on the runway of Gatwick Airport

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

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

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

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

Jamie is amazed by all the sights at Gatwick Airport

Jamie is amazed by all the sights at Gatwick Airport

Jamie gets a kiss from Samantha

Jamie gets a kiss from Samantha

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

We bid Ben and Polly a sad farewell

We bid Ben and Polly a sad farewell

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

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

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

The Chameleon Faceless Ones of 1967 were altogether more frightening

The Chameleon Faceless Ones of 1967 were altogether more frightening

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

Sam, Inspector Crossland and Jamie

Sam, Inspector Crossland and Jamie

The Doctor and Inspector Crossland

The Doctor and Inspector Crossland

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

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

Vivien Fleming

©Vivien Fleming, 2013.

The Underwater Menace – Loose Cannon Reconstructions

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Episodes one and four of The Underwater Menace are missing from the BBC Archives. Episode three has been released on the Lost in Time DVD, whilst episode two remains unreleased.  For the purposes of this marathon I watched episodes one, two and four using Loose Cannon’s reconstructions, and episode three on the Lost in Time DVD. Episode two part two of Loose Cannon’s reconstructions is presently unavailable on YouTube. In lieu I watched an animated version uploaded by doctorwhoanimator.

Loose Cannon’s The Underwater Menace, Episode 1 Part 1

Loose Cannon’s The Underwater Menace, Episode 1 Part 2

Loose Cannon’s The Underwater Menace, Episode 2 Part 1

Doctorwhoanimator’s The Underwater Menace, Episode 2 Part 2

Loose Cannon’s The Underwater Menace, Episode 4 Part 1

Loose Cannon’s The Underwater Menace, Episode 4 Part 1

The Underwater Menace was originally broadcast in the UK between 14 January and 4 February 1967.  Episode 3 is available on the triple DVD set Lost in Time

The Underwater Menace was originally broadcast in the UK between 14 January and 4 February 1967. Episode 3 is available on the triple DVD set Lost in Time

The Underwater Menace

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In the 2009 Doctor Who Magazine Mighty 200 Poll of Doctor Who stories, The Underwater Menace was voted the seventh least popular.  Coming in at an appalling 194, it was one story above another long derided Patrick Troughton serial, The Space Pirates. Throw in The Dominators at 191,and the Second Doctor has three of the ten least popular serials.  That even beats Colin Baker’s Sixth Doctor and Sylvester McCoy’s Seventh Doctor, each of whom had two serials each in the bottom 10.

Two Fish People resplendent in their sequin costumes

Two Fish People resplendent in their sequin costumes

So why is The Underwater Menace so lowly regarded? That until late 2011 only one of its four episodes were held in the BBC Archives may provide part of the answer.  In fact, nearly two years after episode two’s return, it has yet to be released on DVD.  Episode three was first released to the public on VHS cassette in 1998 and subsequently reissued on the 2004 DVD Lost in Time.

Damon in his funny head gear

Damon in his funny head gear

Without the context of the previous two episodes, episode three of The Underwater Menace must look extraordinarily bizarre to the casual viewer.  The classic disparaging comments dished out to Doctor Who, including bad graphics, wobbly sets and atrocious acting might, to the uninitiated, appear spot on.  The Fish People, who are enslaved by the Atlanteans, are surgically modified humans.  Having gills, flippers and scales, which are none other than sequins stuck to their faces, the Fish People farm the plankton that they, and the Atlanteans, are reliant upon for food. Being apparently bereft of refrigeration, this food source lasts only several hours before deterioration, thereby requiring the slave labour force to work around the clock to provide a constant fresh supply of stock. Polly narrowly escapes being operated upon to become a Fish Person in the episode one cliff hanger, which thanks for the ever vigilant Australian Censorship Board, we still have for our viewing pleasure.

Polly narrowly escaped being turned into a Fish Person

Polly narrowly escaped being turned into a Fish Person

Polly and Damon

Polly and Damon.  Polly’s Atlantean gear is just fab

Almost universally condemned for their costuming, I personally think the Fish People look fabulous, in a trippy, 1960s sort of way.  The Fish People swim around gracefully in an extended  performance of synchronized swimming during episode three.  I’m not entirely certain what the sequence’s purpose is  however it looks completely wild.  I can even excuse the trapeze wires that hold up the swimming Fish People up as they  elegantly swoon around.  Spotting the wires holding up space ships has always been one of my favourite parts of watching Doctor Who (there are some great strings to be spotted in The Dalek Invasion of Earth). This is just a logical extension of that peculiar interest!  That the Fish People decide to go on strike after having their humanity questioned by some enslaved miners is a bit farfetched, but hey, the reverse logic worked.

A rare colour photo of the Fish People

A rare colour photo of the Fish People

Not all Fish People wore sequins.  Given that The Underwater Menace went so over buget the BBC must not have been able to afford more sequins for this poor Fish Person

Not all Fish People wore sequins. Given that The Underwater Menace went so over budget, the BBC mustn’t have been able to afford more sequins for this poor Fish Person

Joseph Furst’s acting as the insane Polish Professor Zaroff is frequently the source of criticism.  Episode three ends with his classic manic cry of “Nothing in ze world can stop me now!”  That Zaroff is a parody of the mad scientist, and clearly meant to be played in a hammy, over the top fashion, appears lost on most critics. Where’s everyone’s sense of humour gone?  Zaroff’s plan to drain the oceans into the Earth’s molten core, thereby causing the planet’s explosion from overheated steam, is also dismissed as ludicrous.   Sure, he only wants to destroy the Earth because he can, and will also die in the resultant explosion, but that’s what mad scientists do.  They wouldn’t be mad scientists if their plans were rational. As Philip Sandifer states in Tardis Eruditorum, Zaroff’s scheme is no crazier an idea than the Daleks’ plan in The Dalek Invasion of Earth to drill the core out of the centre of the Earth and use the planet as a space ship. And that second Dalek serial isn’t dismissed out of hand as some form of corny atrocity.

The mad scientist Professor Zaroff

The mad scientist Professor Zaroff. “Nothing in ze world can stop me now!”

The Doctor and Zaroff

The Doctor and Zaroff

The Underwater Menace sees the Doctor take the lead in saving the Earth without recourse to dressing up continuously, although he does look rather cool when briefly dressed as some sort of tambourine playing hippy with sunglasses and bandanna.  We are even afforded the opportunity to see a snippet of the Doctor’s good conscience when he decides that he just can’t let Zaroff drown at the end of episode four.  A rock fall blocks the path to rescue, although at least the Doctor’s intentions are good. In this story the Doctor begins to display the characteristics that become his  staple for the duration of his tenure.

The Doctor is disguised as a tambourine playing hippy

The Doctor is disguised as a tambourine playing hippy

Polly, however, is denied the forthrightness of previous outings, and plays the screaming damsel far too often. Having been buoyed by her characterisation in The Highlanders, Polly’s inability to assertively take control of her own destiny in this serial was more than a little disappointing.  She can, however speak “foreign”, as Ben refers to it, and is conversant in German, French and Spanish.  Ben displays a good rapport with the Doctor and Jamie appears surprisingly unaffected by being dragged out of the 18th Century Scottish highlands, and into an underwater world of Fish People, temple worship and mad scientists. Ben and Jamie spend much of the time running around in black wetsuits.  The synthetic rubber of the wetsuit must have been an unusual sensation against Jamie’s highland skin, but remarkably he is not seen to make a comment about it.

Jamie and Ben spend much of their time in black wet suits

Jamie and Ben spend much of their time in black wet suits

The Underwater Menace ends with the mad scientist dead and the Atlanteans saved from Zaroff’s dastardly plan, although the city of Atlantis is flooded. No more Fish People will be made, and presumably they are freed from servitude. Religion, however, will be no more.  Damon believes that priests, superstition and temples made the Atlanteans follow Zaroff’s crazy plans and the temple should be buried forever.  Quite how this conclusion is reached is never stated and is certainly a very superficial solution to the Atlanteans’ problems. All told, however, The Underwater Menace is a fun romp and nowhere near as bad as its reputation.  Watch it with an eye for the ridiculous and you won’t be disappointed.

The Underwater Menace was originally broadcast in the UK between 14 January and 4 February 1967.  Episode 3 is available on the triple DVD set Lost in Time

The Underwater Menace was originally broadcast in the UK between 14 January and 4 February 1967. Episode 3 is available on the triple DVD set Lost in Time

Vivien Fleming

©Vivien Fleming, 2013.

REFERENCE:

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

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.

Missing Episodes Hysteria

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As the months countdown to Doctor Who’s 50th Anniversary on 23 November 2013, so the rumour mill concerning lost Doctor Who episodes escalates exponentially.  To the best of fans’ knowledge 106 episodes remain missing from the BBC Archives, however the blog site Bleeding Cool has today reported two new rumours. One unnamed person associated with the Doctor Who production team is said to believe that there have been at least 40 episodes returned to the BBC, whilst another alleges 93. These rumours can be added to the pile which also includes claims that 90 episodes have been discovered somewhere in Africa.  Dubbed the omnirumour (or omnirumor for those in America), the Africa 90 story has been circling for months and has set Who internet forums alight.

The 12 part Dalek's Master Plan is one of the most sought after missing Doctor Who serials

The 12 part Daleks’ Master Plan is one of the most sought after missing Doctor Who serials

Unfortunately absolutely no evidence has been forthcoming of any finds, not even one single screen capture. Hearsay is the sole testimony offered, with information only forthcoming from friends of friends.  There has been talk of the BBC having compelled the signing of non disclosure agreements, delicate negotiations with film collectors and/or dictators, and all manner of other theories to justify the complete absence of evidence.  The BBC has issued at least one statement denying that it has lost episodes in its possession, however the rather ambiguous nature of the statement did little to stem the flow of rumours.

The first Doctor Who regeneration (although it was not so named at the time) is among the 106 missing episodes

The first Doctor Who regeneration (although it was not so named at the time) is among the 106 missing episodes

Having watched 11 straight missing episode reconstructions in the last several days, and with another two tomorrow before a one episode breather (episode three of The Underwater Menace), there’s not much more that I’d love than for a hoard of missing episodes to turn up. I won’t be holding my breath, however. Here’s hoping, though, that one day the hardened Doctor Who marathon viewers will be watching a lot fewer of the brilliant Loose Cannon Reconstructions.

The triple DVD Lost in Time contains many orphan Doctor Who episodes from the First and Second Doctor's tenures

The triple DVD Lost in Time contains many orphan Doctor Who episodes from the First and Second Doctor’s tenures

Bleeding Cool’s latest contribution to the missing episodes hysteria can be read at http://www.bleedingcool.com/2013/07/29/those-doctor-who-missing-episodes-rumours-take-a-licking-but-keep-on-ticking/

You can read my update of the Missing Episodes rumours here.

Vivien Fleming

©Vivien Fleming, 2013.