Saturday 2 April 2011

131 The Tenth Planet: Part One

EPISODE: The Tenth Planet: Part One
TRANSMITTED: 08 October 1966
WRITER: Kit Pedler & Gerry Davis
DIRECTOR: Derek Martinus
PRODUCER: Innes Lloyd
FORMAT: VHS: Doctor Who - Cybermen: The Tenth Planet & Attack of The Cybermen

A rocket launches into space. Over a shot of a control console we get some more nifty computer like graphics. Snowcap base has just taken control of the Zeus 4 space mission manned by Astronauts Schultz and Williams. The Tardis has materialised outside the base. Wrapped up in warm clothing the Time Travellers are trying to explore but hampered by the severe weather conditions. They, and especially Polly, are noticed by the guards who apprehend them and bring them inside for questioning by their commander, General Cutler. Zeus 4 is drawn off course, the Doctor believes he knows what is causing the problems but nobody listens to him. The crew of Zeus 4 find that their energy and their ship's is being drained somehow. They attempt to make a course correction using Mars as a navigation point but instead find a new planet. Observing from Earth the Time Travellers point out the planet's similarity to Earth (it looks very similar, just the other way up) The Doctor predicts that they will very soon have some visitors....

When I did the War Machines I said that I'd been keen to do two Hartnell stories since I started writing this block. That was one and this, the final First Doctor story, is the other. Just as War Machines reflects popular culture by showing us a swinging London in the sixties, Tenth Planet shows us a reflection of the space race to the moon which was in progress at the time. There's not a lot for the Tardis crew to do in this episode as the situation is set up with them as literal observers through the control room window for the majority of the episode. Notably the role of astronaut Glynn Williams is the largest part for a black actor in the series so far and Earl Cameron delivers a great performance. I've just looked at his IMDB entry and it appears he's still with us, aged 93, and still working. Liz bought Inception a few months back so I'm going to have to watch it again to spot him.

You'll have noticed that I like spotting familiar actor in Doctor Who (BTW the American Sergeant is John Brandon, who will go on to make a few appearances as Zeus, Archangel's Boss in Airwolf, including the superb Fallen Angel). However whenever I see this episode The Spacesuits catch my eye. I'm told they were previously used in the 1964 Harryhausen version of The First Men in the Moon. We'll see them reused in The Wheel In Space but they're probably the things that have been in Doctor Who that have been seen by the most people because they pop up in Star Wars & The Empire Strikes Back as BoShek and Bossk's costumes.

Apparently the fake snow in this episode aggravated Michael Craze's nose, which he'd recently had operated on to remove a chip of bone, when it was thrown in his face by Production Assistant Edwina Verner. He obviously didn't bear a grudge against her for this as they got married some while afterwards!

Following the success of the War Machines, Kit Pedler was proposed an idea where the Earth's energy to be being drained by Star Monks from Earth's twin planet Mondas. Gerry Davis, Script Editor, liked the idea but wasn't keen on the Space Monks and asked if Pedler could come up with a different idea for the protagonists....

Which brings us to the episode ending .... oh what an ending! A spaceship lands near the base. The Sergeant and Tito go outside to the Tardis, but unable to gain entry the Sergeant sends Tito back inside for cutting gear. To the strains of Martin Slavin's Space Adventure, a piece of music you'll be hearing more of later, tall mysterious figures walk out of the snow and slay the sergeant, one of whom disguises himself in the cold weather gear the Sergeant was wearing. Tito and a fellow guard return before being cut down by the visitors. They have metal & plastic chest units with all covering body suits. The hands look human but the faces are a taut mask with circle for eyes and a rectangular slit for a mouth, a lamp mounted on their heads, connected to the side of the head by massive handles. Watching for the first time in the sixties people must have wondered who these strange unnamed visitors were. We, of course, know who they are: The Cybermen have arrived!

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