Tag Archives: The War Machines

The Krotons

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The second part of Series 7 of Doctor Who, which is also referred to as Series 7B, has been said by some to be a “love letter” to Classic Doctor Who.   Resplendent with obscure references to Who’s 50 year history, the Eleventh Doctor’s final complete season also contained “shout outs” to the Second Doctor’s tenure.  Together with the re-appearance of the Great Intelligence after a 44 year absence and the Ice Warriors following a 39 year hiatus, Series 7 also made reference to the mysterious HADS, the Hostile Action Displacement System.  In the same episode that heralded the Ice Warrior’s return, the TARDIS dematerialized from a sinking submarine in the South Pole to the North Pole (Cold War).  When functioning correctly the HADS dematerializes the TARDIS to a close-by location when it is under external attack. It needs to be manually set, however, and the Doctor usually forgets to set it.  The first and only on-screen reference to HADS prior to Cold War was in the 1968-1969 serial, The Krotons.  In that instance the TARDIS relocated several metres up a hill after being attacked by Krotons.

The Krotons - HADS

That a story as humble and lowly regarded as The Krotons should be alluded to more than four decades later is a testament to the high regard in which the Patrick Troughton era is generally held.  Even “bad” Troughton stories have their redeeming features, not least of which is the very presence of the Second Doctor himself.  Troughton has some charming scenes in this story including his classic encounter with the Kroton’s intelligence testing machine.  As seen in the clip below, the Doctor decides to take the test after Zoe accidently completes it and receives a score twice as high as the Gonds’ previous best students. “Zo-Gond” (Zoe) is chosen to be a Companion of the Krotons and the Doctor won’t allow her to enter the Kroton’s Ship, the Dynatrope, alone.  Easily flustered, the Doctor has difficulties at the commencement of the test which precipitates a wonderful banter between the pair.  After assisting the Doctor to put on his headset and press the correct button, the Doctor barks at Zoe, “All right, there’s no need to shout!  Now go away and don’t fuss me.  No, come back.  What’s this?  It’s all right, I know.  Right, fire away, I’m ready”.

Great Jumping Gobstoppers, The Krotons.

“Oh, my giddy aunt” is one of the better known Second Doctor’s expressions, however it’s in The Krotons that it makes its debut – less than six months before the end of Troughton’s tenure. As shown in the video posted, “great jumping gobstoppers” is also a lovely Troughtonism.

The Doctor and Zoe are approached by a Kroton

The Doctor and Zoe are approached by a Kroton

Zoe’s extraordinarily high intelligence is remarked upon several times in The Krotons.  She tells Selris that the “Doctor’s almost as clever as I am” whilst earlier the Doctor had said to him, “Yes, well, Zoe is something of a genius. Of course it can be very irritating at times”. The Doctor, however, is never seriously concerned by Zoe’s brilliance. There’s no sense of threat and never a suggestion that her intellect is unbecoming of a young woman. Similarly, the Doctor is not dismissive of Jamie, notwithstanding his apparent dimness. What Jamie lacks in schooling and cultivation he more than compensates for in gut instinct and cunning. The Doctor is equally as accepting of both his companions.

The Doctor is almost as clever as Zoe

The Doctor is almost as clever as Zoe

Zoe helps the Doctor take the Kroton's test

Zoe helps the Doctor take the Krotons’ test

I have little doubt that if I’d watched Zoe as an impressionable young girl then she’d have been my heroine.  Able to complete any mathematical task better than a male and even the Doctor on occasion, Zoe had intellect in abundance and was gorgeous to boot. If I was 6” shorter, numerous kilos lighter and a few decades younger, playing Zoe would be my ultimate Cosplay ambition! The Third Doctor’s first companion, Liz Shaw, continued and expanded upon Zoe’s keen intellect and abilities, although her tenure was regrettably cut short.  I will extrapolate upon this when Season Seven in reached.

The delightful Wendy Padbury as Zoe Heriot

The delightful Wendy Padbury as Zoe Heriot

The moral that I took from The Krotons were the dangers of indoctrination and limitations to free scientific enquiry.  The Gonds had been in a state of self-perpetuating slavery to the Krotons for thousands of years.  They were educated by machines created by the Krotons and forbidden to study chemistry.  As the Doctor noted, there were tremendous gaps in the Gonds’ knowledge.  He asked why the Gonds had never thought to question why the prohibition on chemistry existed.  That people would be educated by machines in the future was a prediction considered several times in 1960’s Doctor Who. The First Doctor’s companion Vicki, an orphan from the 25th Century, had been educated for only one hour a week on machines and considered the History teacher Barbara’s 1963 curriculum to be infantile.  The manner of Zoe’s education is unclear, however as a product of City’s Educational institution she, like the Krotons, had enormous gaps in her knowledge.  Whilst able to undertake mental calculations in a second, she was bereft of social skills.

The Gonds have been in self perpetuating slavery to the Krotons for thousands of years

The Gonds have been in self perpetuating slavery to the Krotons for thousands of years

The 1960’s fear of educational indoctrination would most certainly have had its genesis in the Nazi’s brainwashing of the German people.  Technophobia is also likely to have been influential. Distain for computers was evident in The War Machines and The Invasion. In the latter the Doctor loudly proclaimed his hatred for computers on several occasions.  The Luddite-like smashing of the Kroton’s educational machines by a group of Gonds further evidences this fear of technology.

The growing awareness of South African apartheid, in which the minority whites  enslaved the black population, could also have influenced Robert Holmes in the writing of this story. On the suggestion of Roy  Skelton, he and Patrick Tull voiced the Krotons with a slightly South African inflection.

The Krotons spoke with South African accents

The Krotons spoke with South African accents

Yet another attempt at a Dalek replacement, the Krotons were a poor substitute.  With arms that looked like the robot’s from Lost in Space, the Krotons were disabled by their strange and inflexible metal hands.  Possessed of a rather cool spinning head, the poor Krotons were not so lucky with that part of their costume below the waist. A rubber skirt was merely tacked on to disguise the operators’ legs.  The concept behind the Kroton’s creation was rather more interesting. Crystalline beings, the Krotons survive in their space-craft, the Dynatrope, in suspended animation in a form of slurry.  To reconstitute themselves they must absorb sufficient mental energy.  It is for this reason that every year they have taken the best two Gond students, drained them of their mental powers, and then killed them.  Rather than exterminating them as the Daleks do, the Krotons “disperse” them in a process in which the victim in essence disintegrates.

The Krotons with Jamie

The Krotons with Jamie

Join me for my next review when the Ice Warriors return in their second adventure, The Seeds of Death. Our time with Patrick Troughton is fast coming to an end.

The Krotons was originally broadcast in the UK between 28 December 1968 and 18 January 1969

The Krotons was originally broadcast in the UK between 28 December 1968 and 18 January 1969

Vivien Fleming

©Vivien Fleming, 2013.

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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.

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 Macra Terror

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Science Fiction is the perfect genre for disguised social commentary. Subjects deemed too sensitive, or politically charged, to examine in mainstream drama can be critiqued in Science Fiction beneath the cloak of fantasy.  Doctor Who in the 21st Century has been the vehicle for political exploration, particularly in respect of same sex marriage.  Whilst the Eleventh Doctor’s companions, Amy Pond and Rory Williams, conformed to the Judeo-Christian tradition of being legally married (even if the Doctor, in his naivety, thought single bunk beds were fun), same sex marriage has been displayed between Madame Vastra, a warrior Silurian and her Victorian maid, and subsequent wife, Jenny Flint. Hence, whilst seemingly supporting the status quo for present day human companions, Doctor Who radically offers an alternate agenda in which same sex marriage is in itself uncontroversial when between an alien and a human.

New Series Doctor Who has broached the subject of same-sex marriage.  Madame Vastra and her wife, Jenny Flint, are seen here in the 2012 Christmas Special The Snowmen

New Series Doctor Who has broached the subject of same-sex marriage. Madame Vastra and her wife, Jenny Flint, are seen here in the 2012 Christmas Special The Snowmen

The Series Three story, Gridlock, features an elderly human same sex couple,  Alice and May Cassini, who have been trapped on the motorway for  23 years.   Their relationship, whilst millions of years away in the far future, is disguised under the humour of a cat, Thomas Kincade Brannigan, who is married to a human, Valerie.  Notwithstanding his own less than conventional marriage, Brannigan is nonetheless unable to wrap his mind around the concept of two women being married to each other.  He continues to refer to the couple as the “Cassini Sisters”.  More about Gridlock, and its relationship to The Macra Terror¸ later in this review.

In 2007's Gridlock Thomas Kincade Brannigan, a cat, is married to a human, Valerie, but finds same-sex marriage difficult to comprehend

In 2007’s Gridlock Thomas Kincade Brannigan, a cat, is married to a human, Valerie, but finds same-sex marriage difficult to comprehend

The "Cassini Sisters", Alice and May, are actually a married couple.

The “Cassini Sisters”, Alice and May, are actually a married couple.

Whilst seemingly a story about giant killer crabs, The Macra Terror, is actually a biting social commentary on British working class recreation and totalitarian regimes. The third and final Doctor Who script written by Ian Stuart Black, The Macra Terror is a continuation of Black’s concerns surrounding colonialism which were raised in his first Who penned serial, The Savages. Black’s second serial, The War Machines, examined amongst other things, mind control which is another of the concerns of The Macra Terror.

Ian Stuart Black, writer of The Macra Terror, The Savages and The War Machines

Ian Stuart Black, writer of The Macra Terror, The Savages and The War Machines

The Macra Terror is set on an unnamed planet far in the future.  Colonized by Earth at some time in the past, this planet is the natural home of the Macra, giant crabs that are reliant up gases toxic to humans for their survival. Perhaps because humans had changed the above ground atmosphere of the planet, the Macra now reside underground, except at night when they visit the planet’s surface.  The Macra have enslaved the human population  and compels them to work mines to produce the toxic gas so essential for their survival.  The human residents, however, are ignorant of the Macra’s control of their colony and blissfully unaware that they have become enslaved through mind control. Believing themselves to reside in a utopian society, the human colony bears an uncanny resemblance to mid 20th Century British Holiday Camps.  Life is regimented, happiness compulsory and dissent considered a mental illness requiring treatment.

The Macra kills the Colony's Controller

The Macra kills the Colony’s Controller

A publicity shot of the Controller and Macra taken prior to filming.  Note that the Controller's hair and make up is different from the Australian Censors saved film clip

A publicity shot of the Controller and Macra taken prior to filming. Note that the Controller’s hair and make up is different from the Australian Censors saved film clip

A reasonable familiarity of the British holiday camp culture is required to understand the biting commentary of The Macra Terror.  As an Australian I found the story’s references to holiday camps oblique and the holiday camp atmosphere more akin to a prison.  Whilst that was certainly one of Black’s messages, British residents would have been a great deal more conversant with commercialized leisure culture that holiday camps were a part of.  These holiday camps were usually in seaside areas and were an immensely popular annual holiday for working class families.  Having suffered from the restrictions and rationing of the Second World War, the British were keen to escape from their work day drudgery into a world of organized leisure for a week or two a year.  Suitably priced for low income earners, the holiday camps offered affordable accommodation in acceptable, but rudimentary, accommodation and communal meals.  Activities for all the family were offered with these centring upon the communal nature of the holiday experience.  Competitions would be run for the best “Knobbly Knees” or the most “Glamorous Grannies”, for example, and holidayers would be conscripted into performing on stage.  Swimming pools, ballrooms, tennis courts, bars and funfairs could be found at these establishments.  Crèches provided child care for children, thereby allowing their parents the opportunity for valuable down time together.

The Colony is run along the lines of a Holiday Camp.  Here Drum Majorettes perform

The Colony is run along the lines of a Holiday Camp. Here Drum Majorettes perform

Ben has a complimentary massage in the Refreshing Department

Ben has a complimentary massage in the Refreshing Department

These holiday camps, however, had an aura of regimentation around them.  Many of the camps had been resumed by the military during the war and still retained ghosts of soldiers’ past.  Public announcements were made through public address systems and some establishments, such as Butlins which was the UK’s largest holiday camp provider, awoke campers at the same time every morning with muzak.  Undoubtedly because of wartime austerity and regimentation, the average punter holidaying at these camps would have found such scheduling of their leisure unsurprising. An intriguing pictorial history of British Holiday camps can be accessed here.

Cinema release commercial for Butlins Holiday Camps

The music  you’d be woken up to each day at Butlins, together with postcards from the 1960s.

The Macra Terror opens with drum majorettes performing to a colony tune.  The Doctor, Ben, Polly and Jamie have found themselves on the planet and unwittingly captured an escaped patient of enforced conformity, Medok.  They are welcomed to the colony like honoured guests and afforded the services of the Refreshing Department.   A complete choice of all treatments is offered including steam baths, beauty treatments, massages, clothes cleaning, sunlight treatment, moonlight treatment, and sparkling and effervescent sprays.  Whilst Polly gleefully accepts a shampoo, the Doctor is put into a clothes reviver where both his body and his clothes are cleaned and he emerges immaculately groomed.  Although Polly thinks he looks gorgeous, the Doctor has other ideas.  Discovering the” rough and tumble machine” for the toning of muscles, the Doctor jumps in and emerges as his usual dishevelled self.  If only all four episodes of this serial weren’t lost, because this would be an incredible scene to see.

Paul Android, Colonial Dance, The Macra Terror.  The uploader describes himself as a hardcore Whovian who loves everything Doctor Who.  On his YouTube Channel he has over 100 piano arrangements of themes for Doctor Who.  Bless him!

The Doctor is quick to discover that all is not peachy in the colony.  The public address system announcements willing people to happiness have a sinister air about them. Whilst the humans are sleeping at night the Macra pump subliminal messages into their heads however the Doctor is able to awaken both Polly and Jamie before they come under its effects.  Ben is not so lucky and is successfully brainwashed.  This indoctrination ensures that all humans are compliant and are effectively in denial as to the Macra’s existence.  This indoctrination makes Ben turn against his friends and interestingly, loose his Cockney accent.   All is resolved at the end, however, when Ben saves the day by destroying the gas pumping equipment.  In doing so the Macra are killed and the colony again has its freedom.  Notwithstanding all the colony has been through, it appears to be happy to continue with its traditions of holiday camp style, enforced happiness.  When it’s suggested that the Doctor might become the Colony’s next Pilot (leader), the Tardis Crew is quick to decamp but not before Jamie does the Highland Fling as they exit through the door.  Now that’s another scene I’d love to have been able to see.

Jamie is a restless sleeper and cannot be indoctrinated.  Ben, however, is a victim of the mind control

Jamie is a restless sleeper and cannot be indoctrinated. Ben, however, is a victim of the mind control

The enforced happiness that is an essential element of the Macra controlled colony, is a theme that is taken up 21 years later in the Seventh Doctor story, The Happiness Patrol. Another biting political saga in disguise, The Happiness Patrol is scathingly critical of British Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher. The Macra, however, would not be seen in Doctor Who for another 40 years and currently hold the record for the second longest gap in appearances of any Who monster or character.  They made their return in the 2007 story, Gridlock, which bears some similarities with The Macra Terror. The character with the longest interval between appearances is The Great Intelligence, with 44 years between outings. In Gridlock the Macra have infiltrated the city of New New York in New Earth, whereas in The Macra Terror it is humans that have colonized the Macra’s planet. In both instances the Macra are reliant upon noxious gas, with the Gridlock variety thriving on the toxic fumes of motor vehicles.  The Tenth Doctor states that the Macra have devolved since last he met them, and again in Gridlock they appear to be doomed as the roof to the motorway opens, thereby allowing the gas on which they are reliant to escape.

Polly and Ben are confronted by the Macra

Polly and Ben are confronted by the Macra

The 2007 Macra of Gridlock are much smaller and less intelligent creatures

The 2007 Macra of Gridlock are much smaller and less intelligent creatures

The Macra Terror is unfortunately Ben and Polly’s penultimate Doctor Who serial.  Join me at Gatwick Airport for The Faceless Ones as we sadly bid them farewell.

The Doctor finds another funny hat to wear

The Doctor finds another funny hat to wear

The Macra Terror was originally broadcast in the UK between 11 March and 1 April 1967.  All four episodes are missing from the BBC Archives

The Macra Terror was originally broadcast in the UK between 11 March and 1 April 1967. All four episodes are missing from the BBC Archives

Vivien Fleming

©Vivien Fleming, 2013.

The Tenth Planet

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Known to most as the first Doctor Who regeneration and the premiere appearance of the Cybermen, it has been persuasively argued by Phil Sandifer in Tardis Eruditorum  that The Tenth Planet  represents neither.  Rather than signalling the First Doctor’s end, Sandifer states that it is rather the demise of the Doctor, per se.  Save for his appearance in The Three Doctors, William Hartnell never played the role of the First Doctor.  He was always merely “the Doctor” – the original, and some may say, the best.   Killed by the energy draining force of the planet Mondas, the Doctor collapses to the floor in his terrifying end. Not only is it the death of the Doctor, but also the death of Doctor Who.  Sandifer explains it thus:

The Tardis Crew are ready to brave the cold.  Polly chooses a highly impractical mini skirt

The Tardis Crew are ready to brave the cold. Polly chooses a highly impractical mini skirt

“And this is part of being a Doctor Who fan.  You are absolutely guaranteed to see the show die in front of you, and then get replaced with a strange, different show using the same name.  Eventually, everything that Doctor Who is comes to a crashing halt and something new happens instead”.

The Doctor dies

The Doctor dies

The sense of the television series named Doctor Who dying would have been very real to viewers on 29 October 1966. Doctor Who was William Hartnell and William Hartnell was the Doctor. There was no precedent for the change of the lead character in such a radical fashion.  Certainly the actor playing a role in a show, whether it be on television or stage, may have changed, but the character remained roughly similar in respect of personality type and more often than not, physical appearance. The most frequently cited similarity, that of the film version of Ian Fleming’s James Bond, was still being played by the first actor to do so, Sean Connery. It would not be until 1969 that George Lazenby would have his one and only outing as 007. Incidentally, it was that very same year that the American series Bewitched saw the character of Darrin Stephens played by a different actor, also with the unfortunate name of Dick. Dick Sargent replaced Dick York, but as in the case of James Bond, Darrin remained ostensibly the same character.

The face of a stranger replaces the familiar form of The Doctor

The face of a stranger replaces the familiar form of The Doctor

Doctor Who was different, however. This wasn’t the case of a quick change of lead actor, with the series continuing unchanged.  This was actually the death of the lead.  Although the new lead actor played the role of a character bearing the same name, the Doctor, his personality was remarkably different. There was very much a sense of re-birth and complete renewal.  This was particularly evident in The Tenth Planet’s setting.  This was the first “base under siege” story, a genre which would come to dominate Patrick Troughton’s tenure as the Doctor.  A “base under siege” involves circumstances where the Doctor and his companions find themselves caught in a confined space or remote geographic location and are confronted by monsters that threaten everyone’s lives, the “base’s” existence, or both.  The Series Seven story Cold War, in which the Doctor and Clara find themselves on a Soviet era submarine confronted by an Ice Warrior, is a classic example of the “base under siege” genre.

The Series 7 episode Cold War is a classic example of a "Base under Siege" story

The Series 7 episode Cold War is a classic example of a “Base under Siege” story

From its very opening sequence, where a rocket is launched, it is apparent that The Tenth Planet is a very different story. The Doctor and his companions are not seen until more than three and a half minutes after episode one’s commencement.  Prior to that an array of international characters, not seen before in Doctor Who, are shown. Staffing the South Pole base are Americans, Italians and British, and manning the space shuttle are an Australian and a West Indian (or a resident of another Caribbean country).  There’s a sense of confinement and it’s twenty years in the future – 1986. Once inside the base the Doctor is quick to be able identify a hitherto unknown planet hurtling towards the earth as Mondas, the Earth’s upside down twin.  For the first time the Doctor shows that he knows not only the past’s history, but also its future. Five minutes before the episode’s conclusion we catch our first glimpse of a Mark 1 Cyberman and it’s on its harrowing features that the episode ends on a classic cliff hanger.

The Doctor and his companions find themselves in a base under siege

The Doctor and his companions find themselves in a base under siege

These are not the metal villains that the Cybermen are later portrayed as, but rather a far more frightening creation.  A race of humanoids whose body parts have been replaced as they wear out, they still retain the vestiges of a human form.  Their hands are human  and ungloved, and their faces almost mummified in a cloth stocking.  Instead of moving their lips as they speak, their featureless mouths open and their sing-song voices spew forth.  There is no hint of the monotone voices of the later Cybermen, nor is there a predilection to shout one word threats such as “delete”.  The Cybermen in The Tenth Planet are almost gentlemanly in their manners and until the fourth episode not intent on causing havoc to the Earth.  Devoid of all emotions, they are entirely logical and see their transformation to Cybermen as a great advance.  They are free from illness, heat and cold and wish the humans to travel to their home planet, Mondas,  where “You will become like us”.  The Cybermen are concerned only for survival, and a race for survival it is as Mondas careers towards the Earth.  Only one planet can survive, but which will it be?

The Tenth Planet – A Cyberman extols the virtues of their form

Created by Kit Pedler, an unofficial scientific adviser to Doctor Who, the Cybermen arose from Pedler’s fear of humans being artificially transformed.  A medical scientist by profession, Pedler wrote The Tenth Planet  more than a year prior to the first heart transplant in December 1967.  As displayed in the clip above, the Cybermen have their hearts removed.  When Polly questions whether they have a heart at all, the response is entirely literal. That humans may one day become like the Cybermen was a genuine fear held by Pedler.

The Cybermen are at their frightening best as their humanoid antecedents are still evident

The Cybermen are at their frightening best as their humanoid antecedents are still evident

Cybermen through the ages

Cybermen through the ages

The selfish concern of American General Cutler for the well being of his astronaut son, Terry, is a particularly frightening aspect of The Tenth Planet. Cutler is prepared to detonate the Z Bomb and destroy Mondas merely to save his son’s life. Terry has been sent on a rescue mission by Geneva for the space shuttle which unbeknownst to the United Nations, has already disintegrated.  The deaths of all on Mondas, and the possibility of immense radioactive damage to Earth, is of absolutely no concern to Cutler.  The loud and bullying American makes the Cybermen and their quiet extolling of Mondas’  virtues  appear almost palatable.

The American, General Cutler

The American, General Cutler

Unfortunately illness caused William Hartnell to be absent for episode three.  A stand-in faked his collapse to the floor and for the whole of the episode the Doctor is confined, unconscious, to quarters.  Given his death in episode four, the Doctor’s absence in episode three  provided a sense of continuity to the serial’s conclusion.   Quite shocking and unexpected, the Doctor’s collapse upon his return to the Tardis otherwise bears very little reference to the rest of the story.  In retrospect fans have read the events of previous serials into the Doctor’s weakening, although given the nature of Hartnell’s departure it’s just as likely that these “signs” were unintentional.

Polly tries unsuccessfully to reason with a Cyberman.  The Doctor looks on

Polly tries unsuccessfully to reason with a Cyberman. The Doctor looks on

You may recall that the Doctor was subjected to the Daleks’ Time Destructor in episode 12 of The Daleks’ Master Plan.   Although Sarah Kingdom aged quickly and died, the effects on the Doctor were not so great.  He nonetheless suffered the Time Destructor’s effects to some degree, although these were reversed when Steven accidently discovered the means of reversing the Destructor.   In The Celestial Toymaker the Doctor was rendered incorporeal by the Toymaker and in The Gunfighters he had a tooth removed by Doc Holliday. Finally in The War Machines an unsuccessful attempt was made to hypnotise him.  Did these events precipitate the Doctor’s decline?  It’s a question that is unlikely to be answered, although Phil Sandifer, whom we opened with, is adamant that the cause is without doubt the energy draining forces of the planet Mondas.  When Polly asked the Doctor at the opening of episode four what had happened to him he responded by saying, “Oh, I’m not sure, my dear.  Comes from an outside influence.  Unless this old body of mine is wearing a bit thin”.  It’s usually only the latter part of this answer that is remembered, rather than the “outside influence”.

The planet Mondas is the Earth's twin

The planet Mondas is the Earth’s twin

I will really miss the irascible old Doctor as Who continues Season four with Patrick Troughton at the helm.  Join me for my next review as Doctor Who enters a new era with The Power of the Daleks.

The Doctor collapsed on the floor of the Tardis

The Doctor collapsed on the floor of the Tardis

The Tenth Planet was originally broadcast in the UK between 8 October and 29 October 1966.  The DVD of the three episodes held in the BBC Archives, together with an animation of missing episode four, is to released by the BBC in November 2013

The Tenth Planet was originally broadcast in the UK between 8 October and 29 October 1966. The DVD of the three episodes held in the BBC Archives, together with an animation of missing episode four, is to released by the BBC in November 2013

Vivien Fleming

©Vivien Fleming, 2013.

 

REFERENCE:

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

The War Machines

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The War Machines ushers in not only the end of Doctor Who’s third season,  but also the hasty, and unceremonious, exit of perhaps the most derided of all the Doctor’s companions, Dodo.  Having lost Steven only the previous week, when he decamped at the Doctor’s bidding to mediate a new world for the Savages and the Elders in The Savages, it looked for all of a minute that the Doctor might again be companion less. Although the Doctor’s ignorance seemingly lasted seven days until the next serial, The Smugglers, the audience well knew that Ben and Polly were new members of the Tardis Crew.  The cycle of companions continued, but more of that later.

Dodo disembarks from the Tardis for the last time. The Doctor hangs an "Out of Order" sign on the Tardis lest it is mistaken for a real Police Box

Dodo disembarks from the Tardis for the last time. The Doctor hangs an “Out of Order” sign on the Tardis lest it is mistaken for a real Police Box

The last of the First Doctor’s serials which is 100 percent complete, The War Machines, plays upon the increasing fear of the mid 1960s that computers would usurp humans. This was an era almost ten years before the introduction of the first personal computers and 15 years before the release of IBM’s first PC and Microsoft’s MS-DOS computer operating system in 1981. Although personal computers had made inroads into the business markets by the late 1980s (Microsoft Windows was released in 1985) it was not until the mid 1990s that home PCs became more affordable and popular.  After borrowing friends’ unwieldy home-made computers to write my BA (Hons) thesis in mid 1980s, it was not until 1990 that I bought my first PC.  A clone of the IBM XT, it had a mammoth 128 KB of RAM and a 5¼ inch floppy drive!  An early adaptor of computer technology, the wonders of this piece of computer history came at an outrageous price of around $3,000.00.

An IBM XT.  My first computer was a clone of this machine

An IBM XT. My first computer was a clone of this machine

At the time of The War Machines’ transmission, it was unlikely that more than a handful of viewers would have ever personally seen a computer.  Computers were massive objects that frequently were the size of a room.  Perhaps seen in educational documentaries or on science fiction shows, computers were a great unknown. The playthings of mad scientists and eccentric geniuses, the distance between computers and the general public was such that they were greatly shrouded with mystique. I went through the whole of my schooling in the 1970s without ever seeing a computer, and entered the “real world” under a misapprehension, that was most probably quite commonly shared, that computers were only the domain of mathematical geniuses.

Anyone thinking of computers in the 1960s would probably envisage a machine such as this - The Whirlpool Computer which was designed for strategic air defense applications.  Photo courtesy of http://www.clavius.org/techcomp.html

Anyone thinking of computers in the 1960s would probably envisage a machine such as this – The Whirlpool Computer which was designed for strategic air defence applications. Photo courtesy of http://www.clavius.org/techcomp.html

Is it any wonder, therefore, that the ordinary Joe or Joy Bloggs might find a Doctor Who story set in present day London in 1966, about a computer intent on human domination, an altogether feasible possibility.  Although plainly science fiction, there was a kernel of fear and mistrust among many that this may one day become science fact.  Watching Classic Series  Doctor Who with an eye to history exhibits time and again that science fiction sometimes does become reality.  In Who’s first episode, An Unearthly Child, Susan predicts the UK’s conversion to decimal currency eight years prior to its eventual introduction in February 1971. “Spooky”, you might think, however The Time Machines did it again in mid 1966 when it foreshadowed the internet.

The War Machines foreshadowed the internet years before its introduction.  They even used funky computer graphics in the opening titles

WOTAN,  an acronym for Will Operated Thought ANalogue, is the most advanced computer in the world, although not necessarily the largest.  It’s advanced technological capacities were a perfect companion for the building in which it was housed, the new Post Office Tower. Officially opened on the 15th July 1966 by the British Prime Minister, Harold Wilson, the Post Office Tower was the tallest building in London.  Towering 177 metres from the ground (581 feet), it held that title until 1980. “C Day”, or Computer Day was set for 16th July 1966, the day after the Post Office Tower’s official opening.  On that date all computers throughout the world were to be linked together under WOTAN’s (pronounced Votan) central control. The various sites to which WOTAN would be connected included the White House, Cape Kennedy, ELDO, TESTAR, RN, Woomera and EFTA.

Although not the world's largest computer, WOTAN in the most intelligent

Although not the world’s largest computer, WOTAN in the most intelligent

A media conference is held to outline WOTAN's roll out.  A graphic is displayed showing the computers which will be linked to WOTAN

A media conference is held to outline WOTAN’s roll out. A graphic is displayed showing the computers which will be linked to WOTAN

TELSTAR was the name of various telecommunications satellites which were launched in the early 1960s.  They provided the first transatlantic satellite television and telephone communications.  So heralded was the launch of the first TELSTAR in 1962 that an instrumental tune by the British band The Tornados became the first number one hit in the United States for a UK band.  Below, for your listening pleasure, is the Tornados with Telstar. ELDO was an acronym for the European Launcher Development Organisation (now the European Space Agency).  RN is presumably the British Royal Navy, EFTA is the European Free Trade Association (formed in 1960), and Woomera is a weapons testing range in South Australia.  Between 1946 and 1980 it was location for joint British and Australian weapons testing. The White House and Cape Kennedy require no explanation.

The Tornados – Telstar

The “C Day” linking of the world’s major computers foreshadowed the ARPANET, the first packet switching, in 1969. The Advanced Research Agencies Network (ARPANET) linked four university research centres together in the United States.  The World Wide Web as we know it now, did not reach fruition until the early 1990s. It could perhaps be rightly claimed that this serial of Doctor Who was the first television show to predict the emergence of the web.  Until I amended Wikipedia, a 1985 episode of Benson claimed to be the first such reference 🙂

Professor Brett - the inventor of WOTAN.  The super-computer was to link all the leading computers in the world together

Professor Brett – the inventor of WOTAN. The super-computer was to link all the leading computers in the world together

Although the staff designated with WOTAN’s installation and roll-out were quick to dispel fears that the super-computer may eventually  become destructive, it does not take long for the malignant nature of WOTAN to become evident. WOTAN can speak and is receptive to voice commands, although ordinarily its answers are printed on a dot matrix type printer.  Computer monitors had clearly not been envisaged.  More intelligent than humans, WOTAN knows the answer to all questions, including inexplicably, what TARDIS is an acronym for. WOTAN, however, has a hidden agenda.  it believes that the world cannot possibly progress with humans at its helm and seeks to usurp them by mobile computer killing machines – the War Machines.

WOTAN has a secret agenda to usurp human control with its clumsy creations, the War Machines

WOTAN has a secret agenda to usurp human control with its clumsy creations, the War Machines

WOTAN uses mind control through the emission of sonic sounds and the humble telephone, to hypnotise humans into its sinister plan. Dodo is amongst its first victims and is instructed to co-opt the Doctor.  As luck would have it, his non-human form affords him protection from hypnosis, but not without him suffering physically nonetheless.   The Doctor’s magic ring again comes to the rescue as he is able to put Dodo to sleep, and snap her out of her hypnotic trance, merely by waving his hand before her face five times. Upon waking Dodo is dispatched to the country to recuperate and never again seen. Her subsequent decision to remain in London is communicated to the Doctor via a message from the companions-in-waiting, Ben and Polly.  A more pathetic companion departure had never been seen.

Dodo is hypnotised by WOTAN

Dodo is hypnotised by WOTAN

Hypnosis via the humble telephone is attempted on the Doctor.  The already submissive Dodo looks on

Hypnosis via the humble telephone is attempted on the Doctor. The already submissive Dodo looks on

WOTAN has its staff of hypnotised human slaves building a dozen War Machines in a disused warehouse in Covent Garden.  Professor Brett, the computer scientist who invented WOTAN, is quickly a victim of WOTAN’s hypnosis, and dispatched to the warehouse to oversee construction.  Polly, Brett’s secretary, also comes under WOTAN’s spell and is rescued by the Cockney sailor, Ben, who was sent on a mission by the Doctor to investigate. These War Machines were mobile computers but not in a form that we have today.  Extraordinarily large, they were more like wartime tanks than the laptops, net books and tablets that we know today.  Programmed by WOTAN, the War Machines are able to disable the firing mechanisms of Army guns and ammunition, and as such are seemingly unstoppable.  In an Army raid of the warehouse, the single operational War Machine is able to effect the deaths of many personnel.  On a rampage through the streets of Covent Garden, the War Machine is eventually outwitted by the Doctor’s cunning.  After the stupendous cliff hanger of episode three where the Doctor comes face to face with the War Machine and stares it down, he eventually stops the machine in its tracks by setting up an electromagnetic field around it.  An adept computer programmer, as he is of all manner of things scientific, the Doctor is able to reprogramme the War Machine. The machine is then sent on a mission to the Post Office Tower where it is able to reach the top floor, where WOTAN is housed, and destroy it. Commentators frequently joke about how the War Machine was able to fit in the lift, let alone press the floor buttons!

WOTAN's slave labour force construct War Machines

WOTAN’s slave labour force construct War Machines

Polly, Professor Brett's secretary, is hypnotised by WOTAN

Polly, Professor Brett’s secretary, is hypnotised by WOTAN

Save for the first episode of An Unearthly Child, in which you only see Coal Hill School and 76, Totter’s Lane,  and Planet of Giants, where the Tardis Crew are miniaturized in a suburban back yard and house, this is the first time Doctor Who has been set in modern day London. It affords the opportunity for many shots of 1966 London and naturally, the most innovative building of the day, the Post Office Tower. There are a number of very interesting special features on the DVD including Now and Then, a look at the locations used in the making of the story in which those used in 1966 are compared with the present day; Blue Peter, which includes a compilation of segments on the War Machines, and One Foot in the Past, in which the Politician and ex-Postmaster General Tony Benn investigates the history of the Post Office Tower. It’s all fascinating stuff.

The Doctor stops the War Machine by creating an electro magnetic field around it

The Doctor stops the War Machine by creating an electro magnetic field around it

The War Machines has shots a-plenty of London in 1966

The War Machines has shots a-plenty of London in 1966

Perhaps the most visually memorable part of The War Machines is when the Doctor enters the Inferno nightclub via a flight of stairs.  Resplendent in his cape, he enters the “hottest” night club in London, only to be told by one of the hipsters that his gear looked “fab”. It was not many episodes earlier that the Doctor had severely reprimanded Dodo for the use of the word “fab” and questioned if she could speak English properly.   Times were a-changing for Doctor Who and this was even more evident by the new companions.  Polly is a young London secretary who dresses in trendy clothes and is phenomenally forthright.  Ben is a Cockney merchant sailor who breaks the hitherto unwritten rule that all major cast members of Doctor Who must speak in “BBC English” or Received Pronunciation.  It was but a mere three months earlier that Dodo’s Manchurian accent lasted but 10 minutes. For the rest of Dodo’s tenure as a companion her accent changed from episode to episode and became increasingly more posh.  As groundbreaking as it was to have a companion without an RP accent, it took until the Seventh Doctor’s incarnation in 1987 for the Doctor to have his first regional accent.

Ben and Polly in "The Inferno", the hottest nightclub in London

Ben and Polly in “The Inferno”, the hottest nightclub in London

The Doctor, in that amazing cape, stares down the War Machine in the episode 3 cliff hanger

The Doctor, in that amazing cape, stares down the War Machine in the episode 3 cliff hanger

Join me for my next review where you’ll encounter the predecessor to 2011’s The Curse of the Black Spot, The Smugglers, in which every conceivable pirate cliché is presented before us.  It’s sure to be fun!

The Doctor is about to have two new companions.  Dodo and Ben meet the Doctor to pass on a message from the departing Dodo

The Doctor is about to have two new companions. Dodo and Ben meet the Doctor to pass on a message from the departing Dodo

The War Machines was originally broadcast in the UK between 25th June and 16th July 1966

The War Machines was originally broadcast in the UK between 25th June and 16th July 1966

Vivien Fleming

©Vivien Fleming, 2013.

REFERENCE:

Lance Parkin & Lars Pearson, AHistory: An Unauthorised History of the Doctor Who Universe 3rd Edition. Des Monies, Mad Norwegian Press, 2012.

The Savages

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The Savages - Book

Watching The Savages was somewhat of a rare treat.  Not only was it a serial that I’d never before watched, but also one that I’d neither read nor heard spoken about.  I entered its viewing, therefore, with no preconceptions and an entirely open mind.  I’m very pleased that I did because I was thoroughly taken by this 1960’s tale of morality.  I enjoy looking for the political in serials, even if a message was not intentionally left.  The Savages, however, proudly flaunts its political design.  Whether it was intended to be a tale against South Africa’s apartheid regime, the association of eugenics with Nazi Germany, or a cutting condemnation of the British Class system, it matters not.  What is important in my mind is that The Savages is as equally as relevant today as it was in 1966.

The "Savage" inhabitants of the planet.  They are humans, just like the Elders, whoever they are considered barbarians

The “Savage” inhabitants of the planet. They are humans, just like the Elders, however they are considered barbarians by the Elders

The Doctor and his companions find themselves on an unnamed planet amongst a civilization which the Doctor considers highly advanced. Although the landscape is somewhat arid and populated by people leading an almost caveman like existence (the Savages), there is built on the planet a sparkling city.  Freedom is afforded to the city’s occupants sufficient to allow them as much leisure time as they so desire.  Their wants are always met, however they are unable to exit the city to the real world.  The city is entirely enclosed with no access to natural air, light, sun, rain or wind, however the occupants don’t consider themselves to suffer materially or physically as a consequence.  The occupants of both the city (the Elders) and the outside world (the Savages) are human and save for the vast differences in their qualities of life, are nonetheless identical physically and psychologically.

 Steven and Dodo are confronted by a Savage.  They run to the Tardis for cover


Steven and Dodo are confronted by a Savage. They run to the Tardis for cover

The Elders consider themselves superior in all ways to the Savages, who are treated as barbarians.  The Elders welcome the Doctor’s arrival and claim that they have been tracking the course of his spaceship for many eons. His arrival is considered a time of momentous historical importance. The Doctor is treated as a folk hero and a man of very high regard,  and is afforded the honorary office of High Elder. The Council of Elders, however, is nonetheless surprised that the Doctor is travelling with companions.  Dodo and Steven are welcomed and given gifts of a mirror inlaid with precious gemstones (for Dodo) and an ornamental dagger (for Steven).  The mirror plays an important role in the story at a later stage.

The Doctor and Jago, the Elder's leader

The Doctor and Jago, the Elder’s leader

The Elders are proud of their intellectual and scientific progress and extol its virtues to the Doctor.  Jano’s discussion of race perfection is chillingly reminiscent of eugenics:

“Doctor, do you realise that with our knowledge, we can make the brave man braver, the wise man wiser, the strong man stronger.  We can make the beautiful girl more beautiful still.  You will see the advantages of that in the perfection of our race”.

Nanina is a Savage whose life force the Elders use to make their own people more beautiful

Nanina is a Savage whose life force the Elders use to make their own people more beautiful

Whilst initially impressed by the Elders’ “vast scientific research” and their race of “great intelligence”, the Doctor soon became suspicious and had an uncomfortable feeling about this  place which otherwise evidenced a greatly advanced society.  On coming upon one of the Savages in the Elders’ facility the Doctor was quickly cognisant of what was occurring.  The Elders had “discovered a way of extracting life’s force from human beings, and absorbing it into themselves, leaving the victim, as you see, almost dead”.

The Elders escorting Nanina from their laboratory following a transference

The Elders escorting Nanina from their laboratory following a transference

Once aware of the horrors that were perpetrated against the Savages, the Doctor was quick to condemn the travesty.  In doing so, however, he found himself an unwilling participant in the Elders’ immoral “medical” procedure.  The Doctor’s powerful conversation with the Elder leader, Jano, is worthy of quoting verbatim.

JANO:  We do not understand you, Doctor. You have accepted our honours gladly, how can you condemn this great artistic and scientific civilisation because of a few wretched barbarians?

DOCTOR: So your rewards are only for the people that agree with you ?

JANO: No. No, of course not.  But if you are going to oppose us.

DOCTOR: Oppose you? Indeed I am going to oppose you, just in the same way that I oppose the Daleks or any other menace to common humanity.

JANO: I am sorry you take this attitude, Doctor.  It is most unscientific.  You are standing in the way of human progress.

DOCTOR: Human progress, sir?  How dare you call your treatment of these people progress!

JANO: They are hardly people, Doctor.  They are not like us.

DOCTOR: I fail to see the difference.

JANO: Do you not realise that all progress is based on exploitation.

DOCTOR: Exploitation indeed!  This, sir, is protracted murder!

JANO: We have achieved a very great deal merely by the sacrifice of a few savages.

DOCTOR: The sacrifice of even one soul is far too great!  You must put an end to this inhuman practice.

JANO: You leave me no choice.  Take him away, Captain.  And tell Senta that we have an emergency.  I shall be sending him special instructions.

The Doctor is placed on a gurney and strapped down.  Wheeled into the vaporization unit, the Doctor undergoes transference.  This procedure is considered by the Elders to be the most impressive ever undertaken because no person of such high intellect has previously been subjected to it. The Doctor is rendered unconscious and upon waking he is weak, groggy and disorientated.  He is unable to speak for the rest of the episode.

The Doctor is an unwilling donor in the Elders' life force extraction

The Doctor is an unwilling donor in the Elders’ life force extraction

Given the unique nature of the Doctor’s transference the Elder leader, Jano, volunteers to be the recipient of the Doctor’s life force. Unbeknownst to all, Jano receives more than he bargained for.  Perhaps because of the Doctor’s non-human DNA, Jano develops a conscience and the speech mannerisms of the Doctor. Rob Shearman argues in Running Through Corridors that this was a ploy by the Doctor Who production team to see if the Doctor could be performed by someone other than William Hartnell.  In my review of The Celestial Toymaker I noted that Hartnell was lucky to have escaped the chop during that production run.  Shearman goes on to state that Frederick Jaeger, the actor who played Jano, was unsuccessful in pulling it off.  Had he done so, and replaced Hartnell, then the series is unlikely to have lasted more than a short period of time.  It was the radical reworking of the title character in the form of Patrick Troughton, Shearman argues, that secured Doctor Who’s future.

Dodo in the tunnels of the Elders' city

Dodo in the tunnels of the Elders’ city

It is the emergence of Jano’s conscience that facilitates his treason against the Elders and support of the Doctor, his companions and the Savages in the destruction of the Elders’ scientific equipment.  The Doctor’s acquiescence to the wilful destruction evidences a distinct change to his previous “no interference” policy.  The Doctor is changing history and quite proudly doing so.  The devastation of the equipment is undertaken in a most luddite like manner and is perhaps a hint that this serial is just as much about the perils of technology, and its effect upon the working classes, as it is about issues pertaining to racism or eugenics. Given that the writer, Ian Sturt Black, died in 1997 we are unlikely to ever know for sure.

The Doctor and Exorse, one of the Elders. Note Exorse's less than flattering head gear

The Doctor and Exorse, one of the Elders. Note Exorse’s less than flattering head gear

It has been argued that The Savages is essentially the same story as The Ark. Both involve a society residing in an artificial environment in which one group oppresses the other.  There is no logical basis for this discrimination and in both serials the oppressed rise up and usurp their overlords.  Both end with the need for co-operation between the former enemies.  When reviewing The Ark I noted that there was no guarantee that the Monoids would accept the Guardians’ proposals for peace.  In The Savages, however, peace is assured by the intervention of an independent third party as mediator.  Much to Steven’s  dismay, the Doctor volunteered him to remain and facilitate the transformation to a fair and just society. Although initially hesitant, Steven quickly accepts the challenge and the Doctor and Dodo depart to the Tardis. Although Steven’s retreat  is only slightly less hasty than Vicki’s, at least he is not the victim of a quick romance and marriage.  As our next serial, The War Machines, will show, there are a lot worse companion exits to come.

The Doctor says farewell to Steven as the distressed Dodo looks on

The Doctor says farewell to Steven as the distressed Dodo looks on

For the record, The Savages is the first serial to not have its episodes individually titled. Henceforth the viewers are better able to know when a serial starts and finishes.  Unfortunately for diehard fans of the series it also means that there will no longer be any arguments on what the serial’s correct title is! A sign of the more innocent times of the 1960s can be seen in the Doctor’s unique calculating apparatus – a Reacting Vibrator.  Is it any wonder that it was never seen or heard of again. This serial is also unique in that there are absolutely no monsters.  The inhumanity of humans to their own kind is monstrous enough. The four episodes of The Savages are among the 106 episodes that are no longer held in the BBC archives.  This marathon was undertaken by viewing Loose Cannon’s excellent reconstructions.

The Doctor and his strangely named RV - Reacting Vibrator.  Is it any wonder that it was never seen or heard of again?

The Doctor and his strangely named RV – Reacting Vibrator. Is it any wonder that it was never seen or heard of again?

Loose Cannon's VHS Cover art for their The Savages reconstructions.  The Savages was originally broadcast in the UK between 28th May and 18th June 1966

Loose Cannon’s VHS Cover art for their The Savages reconstructions. The Savages was originally broadcast in the UK between 28th May and 18th June 1966

Vivien Fleming

©Vivien Fleming, 2013.

REFERENCE:

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