Monday 31 October 2011

343 Frontier in Space Episode Six

EPISODE: Frontier in Space Episode Six
TRANSMITTED: 31 March 1973
WRITER: Malcolm Hulke
DIRECTOR: Paul Bernard and David Maloney
SCRIPT EDITOR: Terrance Dicks
PRODUCER: Barry Letts
FORMAT: DVD: Doctor Who - Dalek War: Frontier in Space & Planet of the Daleks
Episode Format: 625 video

Jo sees the Master as a Drashig, a Mutants & a Sea Devil but she concentrates and sees through the illusion. The Doctor, General Williams & the Draconian Prince leave for the Ogron planet. Jo starts to tunnel out of her cage using a spoon. Following an attack by a Draconian Battle Cruiser the Doctor has to Spacewalk to make repairs. Jo escapes and witnesses the Ogrons sacrificing food to their god, a giant orange creature, before taking the Master's fear device and finding the radio which she uses to call for help. The Doctor hears the report and decides to land, but the Master recaptures Jo telling her she has baited his trap. The Doctor's repairs overheat as the ship comes into land. Exploring they are attacked by Ogrons who are in turn attacked by the orange monster they worship as a God. The Master speaks with his employers looking forward to their arrival. The Doctor's party witness the ship landing from a distance, and the Doctor feels a premonition of danger. They captured by The Master and his employers The Daleks! The Daleks want to exterminate the Doctor but the Master persuades them to leave the Doctor in his custody so he may witness what will happen to Earth. Imprisoned with Jo, the Doctor's party escape using the Master's fear device to convince an Ogron there is a Dalek locked in the cage which he must open. General Williams & The Prince leave to warn their respective governments. The Master & Ogrons capture the Doctor & Jo, but the Doctor activates the fear device, terrifying the Ogrons. In the confusion the Doctor is shot by the Master. Jo helps the wounded Doctor into the Tardis where he dematerialises and activates the telepathic circuits sending a message to the Time Lords......

Right .... Make yourself comfortable: we're going to be here a while today. Frontier in Space has already given me much more to talk about than most Doctor Who stories and the final episode is no exception.

As a piece of dramatic television this last episode isn't bad at all. Over the end of the last episode and start of this one Jo shows real character development: She's no longer the naive girl that easily falls for the Master's hypnotic command delivering the bomb in Terror of the Autons, here she first resists his hypnotic powers and then resists the fear machine. General Williams seems like a different character to that which was in the first few episodes, finding out what he did and how many innocent deaths he caused has rapidly changed him. Of course when The Doctor gets to the Ogron planet then the real power behind the plan emerges: The Daleks. Since his work on Day of the Daleks someone's obviously taken Paul Bernard to one side and given him some tips on how to make your meagre number of Daleks look more than you have. There's still three Dalek cases available for the team to use, but like Day one is still painted Gold so the location work at Beachfields Quarry effectively has two grey Daleks to play with and thanks to multiple reveals of one or two Daleks we think there's a much larger force present here than there is.

One actor is credited in this episode but doesn't appear: Bill Mitchell would have been a Newscaster, seen on the wall of the president's office during the sequence where she watches Congressman Brook's speech. This was cut for timing reasons after recording and since an earlier edit of episode 6 doesn't exist it'll never be seen. We'll gloss over the previous credits for Dalek Operators John Scott Martin & Murphy Grumbar because they've appeared loads before and are back in the next story, but we will point out that this is Cy Town's debut in a Dalek shell, after working as an extra on previous Doctor Who stories, and he'll return in every other Dalek story for the rest of the series. Also on Dalek debut here is Michael Wisher, who we've just seen in Carnival of Monsters so look at previous blog entries for his other credits, as the Dalek voice which will lead to his most famous role of all. Jon Pertwee also gets to provide a very poor Dalek voice in this episode, but since it's part of the illusion the Ogron is witnessing we'll let him off

While we're on the subject of the Daleks we aught to note this is the last appearance of the Gold Dalek in Doctor Who. He gets resprayed grey for the next story, Planet of the Daleks, but isn't the Dalek used in the CSO sequence at the end of the first episode of that story. One of the Daleks props will later be resprayed Gold, a colour which it will remain for most of the Seventies appearing on Nationwide, going to hospital fetes and, famously, appearing in *that* photo set with Katy Manning. DISCLAIMER: Don't go looking for "Katy Manning Dalek" on the Internet while at work.

With the Daleks being revealed, we can now see Frontier in Space for what it is. Wanting to celebrate the tenth anniversary of Doctor Who Barry Letts & Terrance Dicks decided to do an epic story similar to the Hartnell 12 parter the Dalek Masterplan. (does that then make the Master the Meddling Monk?) They decided to make their story out of two separate but linked six parters. For it's part Frontier in Space has done the job, it's told the story of a potential war between Earth & Draconia which the Daleks would use to weaken both sides and move in. We now know the Daleks are around, and they have an army somewhere and that leads us into the second half of the epic, but still leaves Frontier in Space standing as a story in it's own right. I'd approached Frontier dreading it, as I had it down as the off story this season but once again episodic watching has proved me wrong, highlighting episodes 3 & 4 as the problems. I think we can vastly improve the story loosing some of the escape/recapture stuff from episode 2, the moon prison in 3, the Spacewalk stuff in 4 and the Draconian attack & another spacewalk in 6. The attack would have been useful if it had caused the ship to crash but as it is it serves no purpose except to delay the Doctor getting to the Ogron planet and reduce the amount of screen time for the Daleks! With that stuff gone you'll have a reasonable four parter. It'll need a little sewing together between the existing parts 2 & 5 so have the Master turn up and take the Doctor & Jo from Earth, or better yet have him do it with the Ogrons, let them get massacred leaving the Master escaping with the captive Doctor & Jo on their own together to get captured by the Draconians as per the end of episode 4. The story itself is frequently credited as a dry run for Barry Letts & Terrance Dicks' Moonbase 3 but personally I think this story feels more like Blake's 7, especially this episode with the style of Dudley Simpson's music and the Hyperspace effect deployed behind the model work.

The ending of this episode is a bit of a mess: As scripted it would have involved the Ogron eating monster/god thing. From it's brief appearance on screen we can see it's little more than an orange duvet. I presume we would have seen it frightening the Ogrons off.... So during the next story David Maloney records a new sequence to finish the episode, presumably the bits in the Tardis, which help link Frontier in Space & Planet of the Daleks together in a manner not seen since the Hartnell & Troughton stories.

It's time to show the completed "locked up" tally

Episode 1:
1) The Doctor & Jo are locked up by the crew members on the cargo ship
2) Jo is locked up again by the Ogrons.
Episode 2:
3) The Doctor & Jo are locked up in a Cell on Earth
4) Cell on Earth after being taken to President & Draconian Prince
5) Cell on Earth after Doctor escapes from Draconian embassy
Episode 3:
6) Thrown back in cell - Jo's there for most of the episode while the Doctor is mind probed and taken to the president.
7) Doctor taken to lunar penal colony
8) Doctor locked in airlock
Episode 4:
9) The Doctor in Solitary Confinement after Escape Attempt
10) Jo, and then the Doctor in the Master's ship
11) Jo locked in airlock
12) The Doctor, Jo & the Master locked up in the Master's ship
Episode 5:
13) Jo captured by the Ogrons
and finally episode 6:
14) Jo put in cell on Ogron planet.
15) Jo put back in cell on Ogron planet.
16) Doctor, Prince & General Williams thrown in cell

SIXTEEN times in six episodes ? That's silly. And obviously wasting time somewhere along the line.

Frontier in Space was novelised as The Space War by it's author Malcolm Hulke. It's my favourite Hulke book and I used to borrow it all the time from my local library frequently with Planet of the Daleks which they also had. Frontier is the only story this season not repeated on the BBC, though of course UK Gold have shown it many times. Episode 6 of Frontier in Space was released as part of the Doctor Who: The Pertwee years in March 1992. As we explored in the last episode I suspect Pertwee would have preferred episode five which more prominently features his favourite monsters the Draconians rather than episode six which features just one Draconians and as a bonus also has his least favourite villains the Daleks in it! The whole of Frontier in Space was released on video in August 1995, where the copy of episode five used was the longer earlier edit featuring the Delaware theme. See, they could have stuck the longer episode five, with it's Draconians and odd theme music on the Pertwee Years and used the broadcast version for the whole story release! The story was released on DVD on 5 October 2009 as part of Doctor Who - Dalek War with it's following story Planet of the Daleks.

Sadly this episode is the final appearance in Doctor Who for Roger Delgado's Master. He's last seen shooting at the Doctor and sort of disappears after that which really just isn't right. However this wasn't planned to have been his last appearance by any means. Having been a regular through season 8 he had appeared sporadically during season 9 but had found getting other work hard due to people thinking he was fully committed to Doctor Who. Discussing the matter with Barry Letts & Terrance Dicks he was asked if he would like to go quietly or with a bang. He chose the later option and so Barry Letts was developing a story with his writing partner Roger Sloman to close season 11 where the Master & Doctor would end up teaming up to defeat some universe threatening menace which would end with the Master sacrificing himself to save the Doctor, potentially elaborating on the idea that they were school mates and, perhaps, brothers. Jon Pertwee himself leaves at the end of the eleventh season but I don't think his departure was in the minds of the production team at this stage.

Roger Delgado took an acting job on the comedy film "The Bell of Tibet" which required a location shoot in Turkey. Delgado's usual practice for working on location was to travel with his wife Kismet but on this occasion due to the hours he'd be working they decided it would be better if she stayed at home in Teddington, Middlesex. On 18th June 1973 Roger Delgado was killed in a car crash along with two Turkish film technicians, when car they were travelling went off the road into a ravine. He was 55. His death rocked the Doctor who team and almost certainly hastened Pertwee's departure from the show.

The character of the Master was removed from the series, not returning until many years later during the Deadly Assassin. An attempt has been made to bridge the gap in John Peel's Eighth Doctor Adventure Legacy of the Daleks. Don't bother looking for it because it's easily the worst book in the range and fan**** of the highest order.

Meanwhile Roger Delgado's widow Kismet found herself virtually penniless when his insurance company refused to pay out on his life insurance due to the driver of the Turkish car not being properly licensed/insured. She was taken in by Jon Pertwee, and his wife Ingeborg, while Barry Letts enabled her to gain an Equity card allowing her to work as an actor. I note her Dixon of Dock Green role was directed by Who director Michael Briant who directed her husband twice and also features Stephen Grief, who narrates the superb Roger Delgado tribute on Doctor Who - Dalek War that's worth the price of the box set by itself. She would later marry the actor William Marlowe, who we've seen in Mind of Evil, working with Roger Delgado, and will shortly see again in Revenge of the Cybermen.

I grew up in the 1980s when Anthony Ainley brought the role of the Master back to prominence. However now I've seen Roger Delgado he gets my vote for best Master.

Join us tomorrow as we start PLANET OF THE DALEKS during the course of which we'll pass a notable personal milestone.

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