Tuesday 23 August 2011

274 Inferno: Episode Three

EPISODE: Inferno: Episode Three
TRANSMITTED: 23 May 1970
WRITER: Don Houghton
DIRECTOR: Douglas Camfield (and Barry Letts - Uncredited)
SCRIPT EDITOR: Terrance Dicks
PRODUCER: Barry Letts
FORMAT: DVD: Doctor Who - Inferno
Episode Format: 525 video RSC

Stahlman refuses to restore the Doctor's power. Sir Keith decides to go to London to protest to the minister about Stahlman's behaviour. The Doctor wakes up in the building he was using on the outskirts of the complex but finds it being used as a storeroom. On the wall is a poster with a man's face declaring Unity is Strength. Outside he finds a symbol inscribed on the door. He is fired on by troops and drives off in Bessie but they give chase. Sheltering on the gas stores he is menaced first by the mutated Bromley and then by Private Wyatt, who he saw killed. Wyatt is shot by a troop on the ground and plunges to his death. The Doctor is again chased and seeks shelter. He sees a dark haired Liz Shaw wearing a Uniform but she pulls a gun on him and summons the troops. He is taken to see the Brigade-Leader: a clean shaven Brigadier with a scar over one side of his face and an eye patch. The Doctor asks to see Keith Gold, but is taken to Director Stahlmann who explains that Gold was killed in a car crash. Convinced by his knowledge of the project that the Doctor is a spy he is sentenced to execution but an alert at the drill head postpones it. Temporarily stunning Platoon Under Leader Benton the Doctor escapes to the control room and tries to repair the computer. Benton recovers and finds him, threatening to shoot the Doctor there and then.

Superb, absolutely brilliant. We've mentioned the little details in the first two episodes as helping the story, here they become crucial. The different uniforms the soldiers wear, the guns they use, the hooter noise the Brigade-Leader's phone makes, all these things help differentiate the parallel universe Earth from the real one even when you can't see the obvious touches.... Yes we can go no further, we must repeat the Eyepatch story: On the first take of these scene where Nicholas Courtney's Brigade-Leader turns round revealing himself he found his fellow cast members all wearing eye patches. Possibly the most famous Doctor Who convention anecdote ever my wife had never heard it until I mentioned it to her when we saw Inferno earlier this year. We're told little of what the parallel Earth is like in this episode but the signs on the doors, posters and general manner of the army officers makes you think that it's a fascist state of some sort. The "Unity is Strength" posters seen on the walls use the face of Jack Kline, the head of the BBC Special Effects workshop.

Terrance Dicks is generally credited with having the idea of inserting a parallel Universe into the Don Houghton's drilling project story (Who And Me: The Memoir of Barry Lett, p97). Parallel Universes have been a science fiction stable for years and indeed what you see here is a textbook example of the concept, namely "What is the Nazis won World War II?" The 1964 film It Happened Here is a good example. People are usually quick to cite the Star Trek episode Mirror, Mirror as an influence, indeed one book I own The Discontinuity Guide by Paul Cornell, Martin Day & Keith Topping does it in print, but according to the list of Star Trek episode broadcast dates I have Mirror, Mirror wasn't shown in the UK till the autumn of 1970 so I can't see how it could have been.

There is, unlike earlier episodes, a small amount of music used in the chase sequences here but it's very minimalistic. Remember that Douglas Camfield, the director, and Dudley Simpson, the series regular composer, were no longer on speaking terms following a disagreement some years previously which almost certainly factors into Camfield's musical choice for the story. The lack however, gives it a different feel to many other Who stories and helps it stand out. The stunt fall, where Private Wyatt falls to his death from the gas container, was performed by Havok member and falls specialist Roy Scammell. At the time of shooting it was, and may still be, the highest stunt fall ever. Another member of the stunt team was injured when he was hit by Bessie while trying to evade the car in the sequence where the Doctor is chased by the soldiers.

It's at this point the production of Inferno ran into very serious trouble. The location filming and first studio block, the interior shots for episodes 1 & 2, had gone off without a hitch. But during rehearsals for episodes 3 & 4 Douglas Camfield collapsed, suffering from a heart murmur exacerbated by a number of disagreements on set. He was rushed to hospital and Barry Letts, the producer and a seasoned director, stepped in and directed the remainder of the production. Camfield's name still appears on the credits, a move by Letts to safe guard future offers of work for Camfield. It's noticeable that Camfield doesn't return to Doctor Who until after Letts & Pertwee depart. Barry Letts safe guarding Camfield's health perhaps? Maybe, but Letts would later use Camfield on the classic serial Beau Geste and indeed had Camfield booked for another directing job when he passed away in 1984. It looks as if the reason for Camfield's absence is that he & Pertwee hadn't particularly got on during the production so we will be deprived of the services of one of Doctor Who's better directors for the next few years worth of viewings.

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