Sunday 30 September 2012

677 Remembrance of the Daleks Part Four

"Powerful! Crush the lesser races! Conquer the galaxy! UNIMAGINABLE POWER! UNLIMITED RICE PUDDING! Et cetera! Et cetera!"

EPISODE: Remembrance of the Daleks Part Four
TRANSMITTED: Wednesday 26 October 1988
WRITER: Ben Aaronovitch
DIRECTOR: Andrew Morgan
SCRIPT EDITOR: Andrew Cartmel
PRODUCER: John Nathan-Turner
RATINGS: 5 million viewers
FORMAT: DVD: Doctor Who - Remembrance Of The Daleks - Special Edition

Daleks emerge from the ship and leave the school to find the Hand of Omega. Mike tries to present his point of view to Ace but she refuses to listen and Gilmour charges him with offences contrary to the official secrets act. The Imperial Daleks come under heavy fire from the Renegade Daleks so the Emperor orders the Special Weapons Dalek into position.

The Special Weapons Dalek is the most radical Dalek variant seen since the Emperor in Evil of the Daleks. It's a normal white & gold base, but very dirty. The top half is a dome, without an eye stick, atop a massive cannon replacing the traditional sucker arm & gun stuck. The original idea is that the Imperial Daleks would have a floating weapons platform but budget constraints reduced it to this. But I think he looks fab, a really decent design.
The Doctor tells Ace he's rigged the shuttle's communication relay so they can monitor Dalek transmissions as the Imperial Daleks fight their way through the Renegade Dalek lines.
The Dalek Battle sequences take place on Windmill Walk and Wootton Street, both close to Waterloo station. Filming took place on Easter Bank Holiday Monday 4th April 1988. At this point in the program's history the special effects men were providing some very large explosions for the show. On particular blast set alarms off all over the area causing the emergency services to descend on the location in some force, fearing an IRA bomb, only to be confronted by Daleks emerging from the smoke.

The Dragonfire DVD features current special effects supervisor Danny Hargreaves watching & commenting on a number of explosions from the original series. Seeing one from this sequence, likely the one that caused the security alert, he comments that you wouldn't get away with that in Central London now!

The Doctor exploits a weakness in the shuttle's defences and abseils down to an undefended hatch on the top. He immobilises the Dalek pilot and disables the ship's defences. Mike escapes from the school cellar. The Doctor probes the shuttle's computer and learns that the Daleks have returned to Skaro. Mike reaches Ratcliffe's yard & warehouse but is captured by the Daleks. The Renegade Daleks prepare to leave when the Imperial Daleks arrive and attack. Mike & Ratcliffe steal the time controller, but Ratcliffe is killed by the battle computer's controller as they escape.
How is the girl from the battle computer projecting the electric bolts when she's not attached to the machine?
The Doctor links a television set into the damaged transmat system. Rachel asks why two Daleks and he allows Ace to explain:
Ace: Renegade Daleks are blobs.
Imperial Daleks are bionic blobs with bits added.
Well you can tell the Daleks are into racial purity.
So one lot of Daleks reckon that the other lot of blobs are too different.
Well they're mutants, not pure in their blobiness.
Doctor: Result? Ace: They hate each other's chromosomes!
War to the death!

It's a superb description of the two and dead on. It takes the Daleks back to their roots: hating the Thals, the unalike, themes which are to the front in both the Daleks & Genesis of the Daleks. Now each group of Daleks is facing another group of Daleks that isn't Dalek enough according to each's definition. Now all the race related material in episode 2 suddenly fits in terms of the larger story.

The Doctor & Ace leave Rachel & Allison in the cellar to go and see which blobs are winning.
The nationalisation of the story moves the events of this episode round a little allowing Ace & The Doctor to see some of the battle. On page 137, when the Doctor asks Ace which side she think is winning after seeing the Special Weapons Dalek in action she replies "The Bazooka Blobs!"
The Imperial Daleks on the ground report they have recovered the Hand of Omega and it follows them back to the shuttle. Ace spots Mike carrying the time controller and pursues him. The shuttle returns to the mothership ....
Lovely shot of Ace looking skyward and the shuttle flying overhead followed by the girl skipping down the street
.... and the Hand of omega is plugged into the control circuit. Gilmour asks to be let into plan but Doctor says it's a surprise. The Doctor contacts the Dalek Mothership and confronts the Emperor, calling on it to surrender the hand of omega and return to it's rightful time and place. The Emperor's case slides back revealing him to be Davros.
Just in case you hadn't figured out that the Emperor was Davros it's speech becomes more like Davros as his unveiling approaches!

The sixth Doctor's line in Revelation of the Daleks to Davros "with you as their Emperor?" now looks rather prophetic!

It worth pointing out now that the name of the actor credited as playing the Emperor in Episode 3, "Roy Tromelly", is of course an anagram of Terry Molloy who's playing Davros here just like he did in Resurrection & Revelation of the Daleks. He was also under cover policeman Russel in Attack of the Cybermen.

Ace returns to the boarding house where Mike pulls a gun on her. The Doctor pleads with Davros not to use the Hand of Omega as Davros says he will transform Skaro's sun and use it's power so the Daleks can overcome the Time Lords
Davros: We shall become all-

The Doctor: Powerful! Crush the lesser races! Conquer the galaxy! UNIMAGINABLE POWER! UNLIMITED RICE PUDDING! Et cetera! Et cetera!

> Davros activates the Omega device and it leaves for Skaro and it's Time Zone but when it encounters Skaro's sun the reaction goes out of control vaporising Skaro.
From the state of the planet in Destiny of the Daleks is probably safe to assume that there are no Thals left on Skaro.

Former Fan turned writer John Peel (Not the DJ!) tackles the destruction of Skaro in War of the Daleks coming up with a complicated plot that results in some other planet being destroyed. Despite this War of the Daleks is a better read than his follow on novel Legacy of the Daleks but to be honest both are to be avoided. Peel's adaptations of the 60s Dalek stories are rather good and well worth reading!

Davros accuses Doctor of tricking him. The Device returns towards the Daleks ship as Davros pleads for pity. Davros abandons the Dalek mothership in an escape pod and the mothership is vaporised by the Hand of Omega which then returns to Gallifrey. The child controlling the battle computer arrives at Mike's house and kills him with energy bolts before turning on Ace. The Doctor confronts the Supreme Dalek:
Doctor: Dalek! You have been defeated. Surrender! You have failed.
Dalek: Insufficient data.
Doctor: Your forces are destroyed, your home planet a burnt cinder circling a dead sun.
Dalek: There is no data.
Doctor: Even Davros, your creator, is dead. You have no superiors, no inferiors, no reinforcements, no hope, no rescue!
Dalek: You are lying. There is insufficient data!
Doctor:You're trapped, a trillion miles and a thousand years from a disintegrated home. I have defeated you. You no longer serve any purpose.
Dalek: Cannot compute!
The Supreme Dalek self destructs and the child collapses in the boarding house, freed from the Dalek influence.
Oh dear. The words "Insufficient data" and "cannot compute" are horrendous science fiction cliches. It's a weak link in the story, apparently replacing a sequence where the Doctor destroys the Supreme Dalek with a weapon. I can see that the Supreme needs to survive to this point as it's somehow linked to the child, but that never comes through until this point on screen. (it's much clearer in the novel)

Could it have been done better? Possibly: have the Supreme shooting at whatever comes near it, then the Doctor overcomes it using the device in episodes 2 & 3 before the army blow it up.

Sometime later Mike's funeral takes place but as the mourners process inside the chapel the Doctor & Ace, bringing up the rear slip away.
Remember I said that I'd never spotted that Gilmour was in the RAF? He's even wearing full RAF Uniform here.

This scene continues the run of the Doctor not entering the main body of a church. We don't think he does in The Smugglers and he definitely doesn't in the Daemons. He does in The Awakening but the building there is disused. It's probably a coincidence but an interesting one nonetheless....

Incidentally I've been reading Love and Monsters: The Doctor Who Experience, 1979 to the Present by Miles Booy who points out the number of times avowed Communist and Atheist Malcolm Hulke slipped biblical references into his Doctor Who books!

Ace asks the Doctor if they did good. "Perhaps", he says, "time will tell, it always does".
= = = = = = = = = = = = = = = = = = = = = = = = = = = =


Not perfect: Dursley McLinden acting ain't great, the character of Allison, Rachel's assistant, is a little superfluous and spends the story on the sidelines, the Daleks wobble and the timing of all the sequences from the end of the second episode onwards is skewed by one little in joke.

But against that it's so much better than what was shown the year before to open the season. It's a story about something, race, that neither forces the subject down our throat or makes it so hidden to be invisible. Instead it's a good Doctor Who story with both action and character moments. It's got Daleks in it so people will want to watch it, and you can watch it, it obviously makes sense watching it (unlike certain other stories) and looks good on the screen. If I was only allowed to keep one McCoy Doctor Who it would be this one. And it's a first script from writer Ben Aaronovitch!

Remembrance of the Daleks opens the 25th season of Doctor Who but isn't the official 25th anniversary story: that's Silver Nemesis. But it deserves to be, celebrating Doctor Who's past by setting the story the weekend that the first episode aired and filling it with references to the first episode and previous Dalek stories.

It's also, sadly, the final appearance of the Daleks in the original Doctor Who series. So we say goodbye to some of it's longest serving contributors: Dalek Operator John Scott Martin has been inside the casing for almost every Dalek appearance since the Chase in 1965, but made his debut 3 stories earlier in The Web Planet as a Zarbi. Dalek voice artist Roy Skelton first voiced the Daleks in 1967's Evil of the Daleks, but had first provided voices during 1966's The Ark. John Scott Martin died on 6 January 2009 and Roy Skelton on 8 June 2011.

Ben Aaronovitch novelised his own script in June 1990, embelishing it with a considerable ammount of detail not seen on the screen and giving an airing to some of the themes found in "The Cartmel Masterplan". It's well worth a read if you can find a copy.

The release of this story has a somewhat lengthy history: It's first release on video was in a Dalek tin to celebrate the show's 30th anniversary in September 1993 along with the Chase. It was re-released in September 2001 as part of the WH Smith exclusive Davros set along with Genesis of the Daleks, Destiny of the Daleks, Resurrection of the Daleks & Revelation of the Daleks.

Doctor Who - Remembrance Of The Daleks was the 1st Seventh Doctor story and the fourth overall to be released on DVD on 26th Febuary 2001. This release contains a major error in episode 1 where the extermination effect is missing, a mistake caused by going to the earliest surviving video footage in an attempt to build a better quality of picture. This version also appears in a WHSmiths exclusive Dalek DVD set along with Dalek Invasion of Earth and Resurrection of the Daleks.

A special edition DVD release of Remembrance of the Daleks, correcting the fault on episode 1 and adding new special features was released as part of Doctor Who: The Davros Collection, released on 26th November 2007 to tie in with the release of Destiny of the Daleks on DVD, completing the DVD release of all five Davros stories on DVD. An individual version of the Remembrance Of The Daleks - Special Edition was released on 20th July 2009.

Saturday 29 September 2012

676 Remembrance of the Daleks Part Three

"weapons, always useless in the end"

EPISODE: Remembrance of the Daleks Part Three
TRANSMITTED: Wednesday 19 October 1988
WRITER: Ben Aaronovitch
DIRECTOR: Andrew Morgan
SCRIPT EDITOR: Andrew Cartmel
PRODUCER: John Nathan-Turner
RATINGS: 5.1 million viewers
FORMAT: DVD: Doctor Who - Remembrance Of The Daleks - Special Edition

The Doctor arrives with his disrupter device and immobilises the Daleks long enough for the army to deal with them using explosives. Rachel spots that one of the Mutants inside is still active and when the Doctor examines it he is grabbed by a claw which tries to strange him but Alison, Rachel's assistant, clubs it to death with Ace's baseball bat. He examines one, noting the mutant is more developed than those in the grey Daleks and has cyborg implants. On the Dalek Mothership an attack squad is prepared for deployment by Transmat but the Doctor destroys the Dalek transmat receiver in the cellar with the Baseball bat, which breaks.

The claw emerging from the Dalek here look very similar to what we saw at the end of Part 3 of the first Dalek Story.

The Doctor's line to Allison & Rachel "You look hungry, how about lunch?" is a bit out of place as the action here must take place at around teatime on Saturday judging by when Ace left the house in the previous episode. It fits a lot better into Ben Aaronovitch's novelization which provides a better time line for events placing this scene a lot earlier on in the day.

Ratcliffe finds the grave marked with a Greek Omega. The Doctor sits in Harry's Cafe concentrating. Ratcliffe sticks a metal stake into the grave which pulses with energy alerting the Imperial Dalek Mothership who detect the Hand of Omega and inform the Emperor.
Love the Dalek mothership set. Love it. Yes it's a few screens and some Neon tubing (which apparently nearly didn't work on the day) against a black back drop but it looks big and effective. And what's that I can hear? Yes it's the Dalek control room noise, still with us after 25 years since it's first appearance in The Daleks.

Rachel's complaining to Gilmour "drag me down from Cambridge" is reminiscent of Liz Shaw's comments to the Brigadier in Spearhead from Space.

The girl observes Ratcliffe & his men digging the grave up and stares upwards towards the sky. The Emperor arrives on the Dalek bridge and orders the assault shuttle deployed.
Huzzah, a new style Dalek. This Emperor Dalek is modelled on The comic strip Emperor Dalek, with a spherical dome replacing everything upwards of the skirt. The one in the comic had a sucker arm, gun stick & eye stalk: this is just a white sphere, on a standard Imperial Dalek base with a hexagonal eye on the front of the sphere. In many ways it looks like an old spherical air freshner we used to have when I was little that you opened by tilting the top of the sphere back. I'm told it was called an Airwick Ball.

The "Emperor on the Bridge" line as the Emperor arrives is very similar to Sulu's "Admiral on the Bridge" in Star Trek II: Wrath of Khan when James Kirk arrives on the Enterprise's bridge.

Roy Tromelly is credited as the Dalek Emperor here, a name not previously seen as a Dalek performer.

Ratcliffe shoos the girl away. The Doctor suddenly takes action and orders a base established at the school.
There's some indication here that the reason the Doctor's been concentrating is that he's been in telepathic contact with the Hand of Omega and has been listening for the signal that it's been disturbed. He certainly seems to comprehend the Hand's responses when he's talked to it but it's not made an audible response.

Allison & Rachel's lines "I wish Bernard was here" and "The British rocket group has it's own problems" are references to The Quatermass Experiment and it's sequels, a direct influence on Doctor Who.

Ace asks what's important about the school and the Doctor says nothing now the transmat is disabled. Ratcliffe arrives at his warehouse with the Hand of Omega and telephones his man.
Whatever it is in Ratcliffe's office gets in on the Cyberleader act with a well delivered "Excellent" here.
Mike takes a phone call at the school as the Doctor & Ace arrive keeping an eye on Group Captain "Chunky" Gilmour.
"why they call him chunky I have no idea" - a McCoy ad lib due to some mucking about in rehearsal and fun with a stage direction involving a "chunky revolver".
The Doctor explains how Omega used his remote stellar manipulator, the Hand of Omega to create the supernova that powers Time Lord time travel technology.
The line here, passed off as a slip of the tongue by the Doctor, "and didn't we have trouble with the prototype" is of key importance. One of the things Script Editor Andrew Cartmel wanted to do was inject a bit of mystery back into the Doctor. This is the start of insinuating that perhaps The Doctor had knew Omega & Rassilon and perhaps had something to do with the very beginnings of the Timelord. The Remembrance of the Daleks novelization introduces a third figure, the Other, who is developed through the Virgin New Adventures novels leading to revelations in Lungbarrow that.... I must try to remember to discuss when we get to the McGann Movie in a few weeks time. These ideas have come to be referred to as the Cartmel Masterplan.
The Daleks want the Hand of Omega to give them the power the Time Lords have.
Daleks have been previously seen with Time Travel technology in (deep breath) The Chase, The Dalek Masterplan, Evil of the Daleks, Day of the Daleks and Resurrection of the Daleks.
The Doctor wants the Daleks to have it, but it needs to be right sort of Daleks. A Black Dalek Supreme emerges from Ratcliffe's warehouse as the hand is unloaded.
If you asked most people what colour the Supreme Daleks is most people would probably say Black with Silver skirt balls. The original Supreme was Black & light blue and the one in Resurrection was Black & white.

Theed Street in Southark provides the location for Ratcliffe's Yard.

His grey minions exterminate Ratcliffe's workers, the being in the chair reveals itself to be the girl.
HUGE shock this at the time. That's not Davros? For three episodes the wools been pulled over our eyes. The obvious question now is where is Davros. Cos he must be in it right?
The Dalek Supreme confronts Ratcliffe threatening him with extermination as the girl activates the time controller to begin the Renegade Daleks journey home with the Hand of Omega. The Renegade Daleks go onto the streets to guard the warehouse against intruders but Ace & the Doctor sneak in.
Some horribly wobbly Daleks here thanks to swapping the castors that were usually used to support the Daleks for the kind of balls found on Garden wheelbarrows!
The Doctor & Ace's presence is missed at HQ and a search is organised. The Doctor speaks to the Hand confirming it knows what to do. He sees the Dalek base and identifies it as a Dalek Battle Computer.
The explanation behind the Daleks use of a child's imagination in their battle computer is a little wobbly but a link to the problems they faced in Destiny of the Daleks.
The Doctor puts the time controller out of phase to slow the Renegade Daleks and leaves his calling card behind. The Supreme Dalek orders his extermination. The Doctor and Ace escape, hiding in a telephone repair tent.
The Master hid in a telephone repair tent while bugging the lines into UNIT HQ in Mind of Evil.

The sequences of the Doctor & Ace's escape route from the warehouse were filmed on Windmill Walk near Waterloo station on 4th April, Easter Bank Holiday Monday 1988. The date is significant and contributes to an incident that occurs at the same location in episode 4.

Surely the Daleks eye stalk has infa red sensors that could detect them inside?

The Doctor says he hopes Imperial Daleks will wipe out Renegades and that won't then look as suspicious as if he just gives the Hand of Omega to them. The Doctor & Ace return to the school where they are met by Mike asks Ace out to pictures, but Renegade Daleks attack. Mike asks why the Renegade Daleks are attacking if they already have the Hand of Omega, giving himself away as knowing more information than he should.
Mike being a traitor unconsciously tips the hat towards Invasion of the Dinosaurs where Mike Yates is a dirty stinking traitor!
Gilmore has him locked up as the Renegade Daleks attack the school. Tin he Battle Computer detects the Imperial Shuttlecraft entering the atmosphere and recalls all Renegade Daleks to base. The Doctor is surprised when the shuttle lands in the playground and wonders if he has miscalculated.
The shuttle landing sequence looks good and there's a reason for it: it was done for real! The lightweight Shuttlecraft hull was lowered into position by a crane!
= = = = = = = = = = = = = = = = = = = = = = = = = = = =

Superb again, great stuff. Up the action, making it clear these are two different groups of Daleks we're dealing with. I can't emphasise how much of a shock that was to find out that wasn't Davros in Ratcliffe's Warehouse!

Friday 28 September 2012

675 Remembrance of the Daleks Part Two

"Just one thing, governor: I thought you said he was an old geezer with white hair!"

EPISODE: Remembrance of the Daleks Part Two
TRANSMITTED: Wednesday 12 October 1988
WRITER: Ben Aaronovitch
DIRECTOR: Andrew Morgan
SCRIPT EDITOR: Andrew Cartmel
PRODUCER: John Nathan-Turner
RATINGS: 5.8 million viewers
FORMAT: DVD: Doctor Who - Remembrance Of The Daleks - Special Edition

Ace overcomes the Headmaster, and unlocks the cellar door allowing the Doctor to escape who then locks the Dalek in. They discover a Dalek control device behind the Headmaster's ear and leave him just before the Dalek blasts through the door.

Dalek control devices have shrunk a lot and given much better performance since the zombie making Roboman helmets in Dalek Invasion of Earth!
The Doctor obtains an anti tank rocket from a delivery that Group Captain Gilmour has sent to the school, but this too is observed by the girl.
This is Jasmine Breaks' only appearance this episode.

Derek Keller plays Kaufman, the solider delivering the ATRs as Gilmour ordered in the previous episode. He's only on-screen briefly but he's so brilliantly written and performed that you get a perfect view of what he's like just from on line "You'll have to sign for that sir!" In fact Episode 2 has four characters that are only in this episode and only make brief appearances yet are all superbly crafted by writer Ben Aaronovitch, script editor Andrew Cartmel and the actors concerned. Keller I know nothing about but the other three all have Who form or are famed elsewhere.....

The Doctor & Ace re-enter the school where the Dalek attacks them but Ace destroys it with the ATR. The Doctor is unhappy with what's happening and asks Gilmour to evacuate the area.
The Doctor's line here when Gilmour asks what's going on "better still ask your scientific advisor" brings UNIT to mind once again.

Hang on, something I've only just spotted: Gilmour's wearing a RAF Cap Badge! I'd always assumed he was army. Now that is odd...

The Doctor leaves Ace with Rachel & Allison to stay the night at Mike's Mum's boarding house. The Doctor goes to Harry's cafe which is being run by his afro Caribbean assistant John. He and the Doctor discuss if the Doctor should have sugar and his tea, and the consequences of that decision.
This scene is frequently quoted as one of the greatest in Doctor Who. As the Doctor ponders whether to have sugar in his tea or not (I seem to recall the third Doctor tipping several in!) the consequences of the decision are discussed and as John points out the slave trade is a direct result of the demand for sugar. Without sugar he'd be an African, his forefathers would have never been shipped to Jamaica and he'd never be there.

The Doctor has obviously visited Harry's Cafe at some point in the future because he knows that Harry's wife, who the proprietor is visiting in hospital, has had twins.

Playing John is Joseph Marcell. He'd later find international recognition as the butler Geoffrey in The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air.

Daleks start beaming replacement troops into the transmat site at the school. Early the next morning an undertaker is disturbed by noises on their premises when the Doctor turns up asking to collect a casket he left there. Left alone with it the Doctor opens it up and, after speaking to what's within, it charges Ace's baseball bat with unknown energy.
Dialogue from the undertaker all but confirms that the first Doctor left the casket there:

"Hello, governor? Somebody's come to collect that big casket. Yes, yes the Doctor. Just one thing, governor: I thought you said he was an old geezer with white hair!"

A fabulous touch as the Doctor comes in carrying a period Milk Bottle! It's daylight when this scene starts and milk is being delivered so I think we can assume that it's the next morning.

The establishing exterior shot of the undertakers was filmed outside John Nodes Funeral Service in Ladbroke Grove.

The Undertaker Martin is played by William Thomas. In 2005 he became the first actor from the original series of Doctor Who to appear in the new series when he played Mr. Cleaver in Boom Town, but you'll probably know him better as Geraint Cooper, the father of Gwen Cooper in Torchwood!

Mike leaves his Mum's house to go to "the association".
Dursley McLinden, playing Mike, couldn't make "the association" sound more dodgy if he tried! The more I watch Remembrance the more I feel he's the one real weak link in proceedings.
The Doctor commands the casket to follow him, causing the undertaker to faint in shock.
I missed this episode on original broadcast - I was at a service for the induction of the new Minister at our church - but my friend Giles recorded it for me. The floating casket really stuck in my head at the time!
Ratcliffe discusses obtaining the Hand of Omega with his co-conspirator. The Doctor takes the casket to be buried with a blind local vicar officiating who remarks on the doctor's voice changing and that his pallbearers are quiet.
Playing the vicar is Peter Halliday, in his final Doctor Who role. He'd previously been in The Invasion as Packer, Doctor Who and the Silurians as the Silurian Voices, The Ambassadors of Death as the Alien Voices, Carnival of Monsters as Pletrac & City of Death as a Soldier. Halliday died on 19 February 2012.

The cemetery scenes are filmed at Willesden Lane Cemetery not far from Brondesbury Park railway station.

Ratcliffe receives a phone call confirming the Doctor has been found but his co-conspirator in the Dalek base tells him that Ratcliffe's man has been found by their enemies. Mike exits phone box and is followed by the Headmaster.
Remember it was Mike that introduced Ratcliffe to Gilmour in the previous episode.

The Headmaster's response here "I obey" will instantly send a shiver down the spine of anyone who owned a Palitoy talking Dalek. That was one of the phrases it spoke alongside "What are your orders?", "Attack, Attack, Attack" and, inevitably, "Exterminate, Exterminate!"

so.... (back to 1988 as Phil watches this for the first time) The Headmaster works for the White Daleks. The White Daleks are the enemies of Ratcliffe's ally. If Ratcliffe's ally is Davros like it implies (and they're taking their time over showing him properly) wasn't Davros last seen working with the White Daleks? And where do the Grey Daleks fit in?

The Headmaster attacks Mike asking for the location of the Renegade Dalek base, who have defied the rule of the Emperor and the Mike is an agent of the Renegades. Mike fights back but the Headmaster collapses and dies.
And that's a wrap on classic Doctor Who for Michael Sheard who'd been a guest star on and off ever since 1966! Sheard died on 31 August 2005 sadly before the new series had a chance to invite him back for an appearance. But you know it would have happened otherwise.

There's an Emperor Dalek? What like in Evil of the Daleks? Actually the title of Emperor Dalek was alluded to the last time we saw them in Revelation of the Daleks. Were you watching closely enough to see who it was applied to?

So the Grey Daleks are the Renegades....

Wonderful shot of the Headmaster's body lying there with an "In Loving Memory" stone next to his head.

The casket descends into the ground as the Doctor throws some soil onto it. Mike observes this from a distance. Mike brings the Doctor back to the boarding house where they find a note from Gilmour summoning them, but Mike says that Gilmour has specifically ordered Ace to stay behind. Doctor gives her the charged baseball bat.
Mike's obviously liking Ace, hence trying to keep her away from the action but his line here "work to be done, back at six, have dinner ready" betrays his attitude towards women. Offensive now, and to Ace, it's a common attitude then.

But.... it does help us know how the day is progressing. It certainly not remotely dinner time yet. Keep that in mind when we next see Ace.

The Doctor tells Ace to stay there while he tries to keep everyone out of trouble and prevent deaths. The thing in Ratcliffe's office tells him that the Enemy, the imperial Dalek faction is about to start moving and asking Ratcliffe if he's ready for war.
Ratcliffe's reply that he thinks the country fought on the wrong side in the last war and that he was arrested when he spoke out instantly labels Ratcliffe and, by extension, his "association" as a bunch of fascists.
Gilmour tells the Doctor that there's been an evacuation organised for the area.
Some superb dialogue here:

Gilmour "A D-notice has been prepared"
Rachel "what is it?"
Gilmour "no idea, not my department"

The details just doesn't matter. It's been sorted, he can do his job. Then

Gilmour "Doctor, since you hold my career in your hands...."
Doctor "with respect, your career is magnificently irrelevant!"

Fabulous. And he's right too!

The Doctor asks for search for signs of high orbital activity and for the troops to avoid engaging the enemy. Ace turns the tv on in the boarding house but after discovering a "No Coloureds" sign in the window she leaves.
Sadly I'm just about old enough to remember seeing things like that as a boy. But the sign, and John's dialogue earlier, firmly place Race on the agenda in this story and it gets further explored as things progress.

Script Editor Andrew Cartmel was very proud of this scene. When he and producer John Nathan-Turner showed it to BBC Head of drama Mark Shivas, Shivas was called away for a phone call. On his return Cartmel rewound the tape for him to see the scene. Shivas responded "she should have torn the card up". I think he's right too! We find out later that Ace has some experience of racism towards a friend from the Indian Subcontinent who was attacked and killed in a fire and I really feel that in light of that her reaction here is distinctly mild.

Ah the television. As Ace leaves the room in splutters into life:

"This is BBC television. the time is a quarter past five and Saturday viewing continues with an adventure of the new science fiction series Doc"..

Fabulous in joke, dating the events of this episode as taking place on 23rd November 1963, the day Doctor Who started. The problem is that if it is 17:15 in late December, you'd expect it to be dark outside and all the remaining events of this episode to be taking place at night! When Ben Aaronovitch novelised Remembrance of the Daleks he removed the joke with the television and re-timed this scene to occur at around 12.15 making the daylight setting here and for the rest of the story make more sense.

The tracking stations find an object which the Doctor believes is the Dalek Mothership, carrying up to 400 Daleks. Gilmour asks if they are nuclear capable to which the Doctor responds that they have weapons that can crack planet like an egg. Gilmour then asks if the Mothership is their main base. The Doctor says that there are two groups of Daleks from the future that are here. Ace goes back to the school to retrieve her Ghetto Blaster but it picks up Dalek transmissions and she is found.
why would the school be open to visitors on a Saturday? It wouldn't be, she's expecting to find the army there!
The Doctor builds a device to interfere with Daleks control signals like he did on Spiridon.
Planet of the Daleks: he constructs it from the Tardis Log recorder to enable him and the Thal Codal to escape from their cell.
A Dalek transmission is detected from the school and Doctor & army leave for Coal Hill, discovering from Mrs Smith that Ace has gone there. Ace's Ghetto blaster is destroyed by a Dalek. Ace attacks the Daleks with the baseball bat damaging it and she flees to a lower level, taking an ATR from a dead soldier she finds on the way. She is cornered in a corridor by Three Daleks before she can load the ATR and they close in one her crying Exterminate!
The end of the episode assembles the full Dalek cast for the first time in this story. Regular voice artist Roy Skelton is joined by Brian Miller & Royce Mills. Miller & Mills first worked as Dalek voices on Resurrection of the Daleks with Mills reprising the role alongside the returning Skelton for Revelation of the Daleks. Miller had been in Doctor Who before as Dugdale in Snakedance. In real life he was married to Elizabeth Sladen, the actress that played Sarah Jane Smith, until her death in 2011. I can remember reading an interview with all three Dalek operators in the Times Magazine when this story was published but haven't managed to find a copy to link to here.

As well as debutant Hugh Spight, who was in episode 1, three regular Dalek operators join us now. John Scott Martin first played a Zarbi in 1965's The Web Planet but he graduated to Dalek Operator 3 stories later in the Chase fulfilling the same role in (deep breath) Mission to the Unknown, The Daleks' Master Plan, The Power of the Daleks, The Evil of the Daleks & Day of the Daleks. Cy Town joins John Scott Martin for Frontier in Space and they work together on Planet of the Daleks, Death to the Daleks & Genesis of the Daleks. John Scott Martin misses Destiny of the Daleks, which Cy Town appears in, but then plays the lone Dalek in The Five Doctors. Town & Scott Martin are reunited for Resurrection of the Daleks, where they are joined by Tony Starr and all three appear in Revelation of the Daleks. Phew! Then we have John Scott Martin's other Doctor Who appearances to take into account: he was a Mechanoid in The Chase, the IMC robot in Colony in Space, a villager in The Dæmons(uncredited), a Mutt in The Mutants, a gell guard in The Three Doctors(uncredited), Hughes in The Green Death, a guard in Robot(uncredited), Kriz in The Brain of Morbius and the Nucleus in The Invisible Enemy!

= = = = = = = = = = = = = = = = = = = = = = = = = = = =

That's a brilliant episode of Doctor Who, very different from the norm. Yes we've got a bit of action book ending it but the majority of the episode is quiet character stuff. And it's all done so well. The four guest actors that only appear in this episode ( Peter Halliday, Joseph Marcell, William Thomas & Derek Keller ) don't put a foot wrong between them and really bring each of their characters to life even though they are on screen ever so briefly. One year previous Doctor Who was doing Time & The Rani: this is a completely different show and so much better for it.

Thursday 27 September 2012

674 Remembrance of the Daleks Part One

"What am I dealing with, little green men?"
"No, Little green blobs in bonded polycarbide armour"

EPISODE: Remembrance of the Daleks Part One
TRANSMITTED: Wednesday 05 October 1988
WRITER: Ben Aaronovitch
DIRECTOR: Andrew Morgan
SCRIPT EDITOR: Andrew Cartmel
PRODUCER: John Nathan-Turner
RATINGS: 5.5 million viewers
FORMAT: DVD: Doctor Who - Remembrance Of The Daleks - Special Edition

High above the Earth a large spaceship approaches the planet....

We start Doctor Who's 25th anniversary season with a fabulous pre credits sequence showing the Earth in space with excerpts from various famous speeches playing. First there's an excerpt from the American University speech given by US President John F. Kennedy on June 10, 1963:

"our most basic common link is that we all inhabit this small planet.
We all breathe the same air.
We all cherish our children's future."

There's then an excerpt from a Charles de Gaulle but my French is so poor I can't tell you what it says. there then follows part of the I Have a Dream from Martin Luther King, Jr. given on August 28, 1963:

"I have a dream that one day this nation will rise up"

before the picture pulls back to show the hull of the ship.

Kennedy is intimately associated with fans to the start of Doctor Who, having been assassinated the day before so it's an obvious thing to work him into this story some how. This is the only mention of him here though: The Kennedy Assassination will be further alluded to in the official 25th anniversary story Silver Nemesis and then again in the superb and very out of print Doctor Who conspiracy novel Who Killed Kennedy.

We're on Wednesday nights for this season's episodes, probably just so we can have an episode on Doctor Who's actual 25th anniversary on 23 November 1988. I'm in at the start of my fifth & final year at secondary school.

This story is written by new author Ben Aaronovitch. He'd sent an unsolicited script "The Dole Queue Detective" into Caroline Oulten, then a BBC Script Editor, who suggested he might be suitable for Doctor Who and passed him to Andrew Cartmel. He loved it and was keen for Ben to write for the show. They were in the process of developing a script called "Knight Fall" when word came through that the Daleks could be used in this season and Cartmel knew he wanted Aaronovitch to write it.

Cartmel relates a story in his book about not knowing Ben's phone number, looking up the name Aaronovitch in the phone book and ringing the first one he found then discovering they're all related.... well it now turns out that several of them have their own Wikipedia entries. His father Sam Aaronovitch was an academic & Communist Party member, one of his brothers David Aaronovitch is a journalist, broadcaster, and author while another Owen Aaronovitch is an actor who has appeared on Coronation Street a and played the part of Gan in an audio version of Blake's 7.

Children file into the start of Cole Hill Road Secondary School in Shoreditch for the start of the days lessons.
Cole Hill School was the setting for the very first episode of Doctor Who, An Unearthly Child. Events in episode 2 will tell us that this episode is taking place on Friday 22nd November 1963, the day that Kennedy was shot. The Doctor Who Discontinuity Guide has a good go at working out which day the events of An Unearthly Child took place and reckons a Wednesday or Thursday. In which case the staff will be starting to wonder what's happened to two of their teachers and a pupil....

The dating of this story makes it the only original series story set with a setting in the past but still within the timespan of the run of the original series.

The school location was at St. John's CE Junior and Infants School in Hammersmith, the other side of London to the supposed Shoreditch fictional location.

At the school gate a girl watches a black van, with an aerial on top, over the street and sees The Doctor & Ace's arrival.
The Tardis has landed in Macbeth Street near the school which is near the school location.

This is Jasmine Breaks' only TV work as the girl and she gives a really creepy performance throughout.

The Doctor investigates the van while Ace goes for something to eat at a local cafe. She has trouble finding anyone to serve her but another customer Mike loudly summons the manager Harry from the kitchen.
Playing Mike Smith is Dursley McLinden. A then up & coming actor he died at the age of just 30 in 1995. Harry the cafe owner is played by Harry Fowler, who's got an astonishing long career in cinema. I'd never heard of him!
Ace struggles with the currency. As the Doctor examines mysterious regular burn marks on playground the playground, the girl plays hopscotch and sings a song

Five, Six, Seven, Eight,
It's a Doctor at the gate....

The Doctor gets into the back of the van and meets Professor Rachel Jenson who has detected an artificial signal. Rachel summoned by a Group Captain over the radio. Mike returns towards the van with Ace, explaining Imperial Currency to her and is called inside by Rachel.
Playing Rachel is actress Pamela Salem, formerly Toos in Robots of Death and one of Xoanon's voices in Face of Evil.

The problems Ace is having with Imperial currency will be familiar to anyone of my age who's asked their parents about it. But it's also a nice call back to Unearthly Child where Susan doesn't know how many shillings in a pound and remarks, prophetically, about Britain not having a decimal system yet.

They drive to IM Foreman's junkyard at 76 where Group Captain Gilmore is waiting for them with a soldier who the Doctor examines to discover that he's died due to massive internal displacement from a projected energy weapon.
Oh Dear, little mistake there with the Scrapyard sign: it should read IM Foreman not the IM Forman that was shown on screen! An earlier mistake when it was painted LM Forman was spotted but nobody spotted the mistake the surname!

This is of course the junkyard that the Tardis is shown to leave from in the very first episode of Doctor Who where it was shown as a studio set. In 1985 the Tardis returned to the junkyard, the location where it became stuck as a Police Box, in Attack of the Cybermen the very first time it ever changed shape. Then the junkyard was portrayed on location in Becklow Road Acton. Now we're a few miles to the South West at Kew Bridge Steam Museum , a short bus ride away from where I went to school in Ham.

Andrew Cartmel tells a story in his book Script Doctor: The Inside Story of Doctor Who 1986-89 of the unnamed original production assistant assigned to the show, later replaced, trying to convince them to set this scene anywhere but a period junk yard completely missing it's significance!

Playing Group Captain Gilmore is Simon Williams, the principle guest star for this serial, best known for playing James Bellamy in Upstairs, Downstairs. Upstairs Downstairs was co-created by Jean Marsh, the first Mrs Jon Pertwee who was Joanna in the Crusade, Sara Kingdom in The Dalek Masterplan and will be Queen Morgana in Battlefield. She also co starred in it as Rose Buck, house maid. Other Who personnel involved include Pauline Collins (Samantha Briggs in the Faceless Ones) as Sarah Moffat, Patsy Smart (Ghoul in Talons of Weng Chiang) as Maud Roberts and Jenny Tomasin (Tasambeker in Revelation of the Daleks) as Ruby Finch, all "downstairs" maids. Gilmour's first wife was actress Belinda Carroll, thus making him the former brother in law of Kate O'Mara (The Rani). His second wife Lucy Fleming played Jenny Richards in Terry Nation's Survivors.

The Doctor deduces that whatever fired at the is trapped in building. Gilmore orders the dead soldier's body removed but as he does the troops performing the task are lined up within an electronic sight and an energy blast from within the building hits killing him.
The Dalek extermination effect started with the entire screen going negative, then a negative field round the hit person accompanied by a ray from Genesis of the Daleks onwards. Now we get an electric blue energy blast and the body glowing exposing the skeleton within. Best effect in the entire original series, so much so that it was adopted by the new series when they introduced the Daleks.

Unfortunately when the original Remembrance Of The Daleks DVD came out in 2001 this effect was left of accidentally when the team producing it went back to the earliest available video to produce the best quality picture and missed the effect off when rebuilding the episode. Easily the most obvious mistake made on the DVD range it was the main catalyst for the Remembrance Of The Daleks - Special Edition released on 26th November 2007 as part of Doctor Who : The Davros Collection and then on it's own in 2009.

The Group Captain has the soldier launch grenades into the building as Mike calls for reinforcements but the creature inside picks up the radio signal and opens fire on the van Mike's hiding in.
The Doctor addresses the Group Captain as Brigadier in this segment, recalling his time with UNIT.

Chronologically this is the first time the Army has met the Doctor. Three years later he'd work with them again against WOTON (The War Machines) and two years after that against the Yeti in the Underground (The Web of Fear) where he first meets the future Brigadier Lethbridge Stewart.

A grey Dalek emerges from the smoke within the building.
Now this was a surprise at the time: all the publicity for the story including the colour photos in the Radio Times (which I still have) showed White & Gold Daleks....

The only Dalek operator credited for this episode is débutante Hugh Spight.

The Doctor lures the Dalek into the open & destroys it using a stack of bricks and Ace's nitro nine explosives.
That's a little bit vulnerable for a Dalek isn't it? I suppose it's been hit by a lot of weight and force all at once but....
The Doctor & Ace borrow the Army's van to drive back to the school and on the way the Doctor explains the Daleks' origins in the nuclear war between them and the Thals. Ace assumes they want to conquer the Earth but the Doctor tells her that they're after the Hand of Omega.
Superb summary of the Daleks origins here: extensive enough to explain it to the casual viewer, short enough not to annoy fans in the know whose ears would have pricked up the moment they heard the word Omega, a renegade Time Lord seen in the Three Doctors & Arc of Infinity.

Some fab comedy between The Doctor & Ace with confusion between left & right and swapping positions in the van as it passes under a bridge.

Before the bridge, when Ace is driving, is Braybrook Street, the bridge itself is on Old Oak Common Lane and the Doctor driving was filmed on Wulfstan Street.

Mike brings Mr Ratcliffe to meet Group Captain Gilmour who he believes can help them.
Would the army really bring in civilian assistance on such a job as this? Ratcliffe is played by George Sewell who has been superb in many programs for donkeys years. Science fiction fans will know him as Colonel Alec Freeman in UFO.

The exterior of Ratcliffe's HQ is Horn Lane Territorial Army Volunteer Centre. The building had previously served as the rehearsal rooms for episodes 3 & 4 of the Chase.

Arriving at the school the Doctor is observed by the child again and meets the headmaster who assumes he's here for caretaker's job. The Doctor asks to look round the premiss. At first the Headmaster refuses and then, after becoming vague & rubbing his ear, he agrees.
Ladies and gentlemen, for his final Doctor Who guest role please welcome the great Michael Sheard! By this point he was famed for playing teacher Mr Bronson in Grange Hill so his casting as a Headmaster here was a little bit of a joke. He'd previously played Rhos in The Ark part 2: The Plague, Dr Summers in Mind of Evil, Laurence Scarman in Pyramids of Mars, Lowe in Invisible Enemy and Mergrave in Castrovalva. He was was Admiral Ozzel in The Empire Strikes Back and has played numerous senior Nazis including Adolf Hitler five times and Heinrich Himmler three times.
Ratcliffe's men move the destroyed Dalek from the junkyard.
The sight of the two dead soldiers left behind in the now abandoned junkyard is quite chilling.
The Doctor & Ace go the chemistry lab on an upper floor, where Ace finds book on the French Revolution but accidentally leaves her ghetto blaster behind.
We've seen the lab before: that's where Ian Chesterton is teaching in An Unearthly Child. The book on the French Revolution is the one that Susan borrows, prefiguring a visit to that period at the end of the first season. We must assume she read it through in the lab and left it there before going back to Totter's Lane.
Looking out of a window the Doctor points out the burn marks on the playground which he believes were caused by a spacecraft landing. Ace argues that if a spaceship had landed in London in 1963 she'd have heard about it but the Doctor points out that she doesn't remember the Zygons & Loch Ness Monster or the Yeti in the Underground. The Doctor explains to her that he left the Hand of Omega behind when he was here before. Ratcliffe takes destroyed Dalek back to his yard and speaks to a figure hunched in a black Dalek base.
A black Dalek base with silver spots? This must be Davros right? The person providing the voice here is John Leeson, formerly the voice of K-9 and Dugeen in The Power of Kroll. I'm told he also supplies some Dalek voices during these episodes.
The Doctor & Ace investigate the school cellar, but are seen entering by the Headmaster. In the cellar they find a Transmat station that the Doctor deactivates just as a Dalek begins to form on it. Their interference is detected by the Transmat operator, a white & gold Dalek who emerges from the shadows in the cellar. The Doctor & Ace make a run for it up the stairs, but the Doctor trips over half way up. Ace emerges from the cellar only to be clubbed to the floor by the headmaster who locks the Doctor in. As the Doctor hammers on the door the Dalek advances up the stairs towards him with the Doctor fixed firmly within it's targeting sight

You are the Doctor!
You are the enemy of the Daleks
You will be exterminated!

= = = = = = = = = = = = = = = = = = = = = = = = = = = =

What a superb episode ending totally playing with the heads of he casual viewers who believe that Daleks can't climb stairs. The effect here is achieved by putting the Dalek on a stairlift and covering the base with the orange video effect glow. The Dalek in this episode is voiced by Roy Skelton, who'd voiced Daleks previously in The Evil of the Daleks, Planet of the Daleks, Genesis of the Daleks, Destiny of the Daleks, The Five Doctors & Revelation of the Daleks. He was also Monoid voices in The Ark, Cybermen voices in The Tenth Planet & The Wheel in Space, Computer voice in The Ice Warriors, Kroton voices in The Krotons, Norton in Colony in Space, Wester in Planet of the Daleks, James in The Green Death, Marshall Chedaki in The Android Invasion and King Rokon in The Hand of Fear as well as being famed throughout the UK as the voice of both Zippy & George in Rainbow.

It's a good opening episode for a story and a season: plenty of incident, the Daleks as an added lure for the audience plus it presents some mystery to get people back the next week: what is the Hand of Omega? Why are there two different sets of Daleks? What's Davros seemingly doing working with some humans?

Wednesday 26 September 2012

673 Dragonfire Part Three

EPISODE: Dragonfire Part Three
TRANSMITTED: Monday 07 December 1987
WRITER: Ian Briggs
DIRECTOR: Chris Clough
SCRIPT EDITOR: Andrew Cartmel
PRODUCER: John Nathan-Turner
RATINGS: 4.7 million viewers
FORMAT: DVD: Doctor Who: Ace Adventures Box Set (Dragonfire/The Happiness Patrol)

Kane orders McLuhan & Bazin into the ice tunnels to search for the Dragon and to bring him it's head. The Dragon takes the Doctor to another chamber where he shows the Doctor starcharts but the Doctor is concerned noting that the positions are wrong. On the way back to the others they are ambushed by McLuhan & Bazin and the Dragon pursues them. Glitz leaves Ace & Mel in the Ice Caves to go to fetch explosives from the Nosferatu but arrives in time to see it lift off carrying Iceworld dwellers fleeing from Kane's army, then sees it destroyed by Kane. McLuhan & Bazin slay the dragon but are killed trying to remove the crystal from it's head. The Doctor, Ace & Mel go to the Tardis where the Doctor works out that several thousand years have passed since the dragon's star charts were made. Ace goes to fetch explosives from her room but is seized by Kane. The Doctor & Mel find the bodies of the dragon, McLuhan & Bazin and the Doctor removes the crystal for safekeeping. They find Glitz looking for Ace and hear an announcement from Kane demanding the Dragonfire crystal in exchange for Ace's life. Kane uses the crystal to power up Iceworld turning it into a huge starship and sets forth to his home world of Proamnon. The Doctor tell him that Proamnon has been destroyed in his absence and when he opens the main viewing window to see for himself he is melted by the rays of the sun. Mel elects to stay on the Iceworld complex, now rechristened Nosferatu II by Glitz and Ace is persuaded to travel with the Doctor.

Deeply unsatisfying: The A.N.T. hunt that McLuhan & Bazin are sent on? Hardly like the BUG Hunt in Aliens at all, and made worse by the Dragon bearing a resemblance to the Alien creature. Kane's face melting? No, that's not the end of Raiders of the Lost Ark at all. I do remember that this episode got complaints at the time due to the melting face incident at the end. I was reminded of this when I watched it with my son Jonathan (aged 5) who'd really getting into his Doctor Who and he turned round to me and said "I no like Dragonfire, I no like the melty face!"

Mel's leaving scene is gibberish, supposedly nicked from Sylvester McCoy's audition piece and her reason for leaving makes no sense at all whereas, as I said three days ago, you could perhaps see her staying in the late 50s in Delta & The Bannermen. I believe that while the possibility of Bonnie Langford departing had been known about for a while, the thought being that Ray in Delta & The Bannermen might replace her, it wasn't sure until filming actually started on this story. So the ending, which inexplicably would have seen Ace who has spent the entire story abusing Glitz, now has Mel inexplicably staying with him. I've never warmed to Mel, and I fell that her character and the casting of the actress, both of which were producer John Nathan-Turner's idea, were a big mistake.

Back to the story. I mentioned the ripped off ANT Hunt - doesn't the Dragon die far too easily which rather undermines the threat it posed earlier - but what's the point of McLuhan & Bazin anyway? They're effectively replacements for Belazs & Kracauer in this episode so why bother killing Belazs & Kracauer in the previous one? And honestly what point does that stupid little girl serve in the story? I've watched all three episodes now and have had no reason to mention her in the plot summaries. She's just using up screen time for no reason whatsoever. Dragonfire won various polls in the wake of season 24 but I didn't think it was my favourite story of the season even then (Paradise Towers for me). The first two episodes are OK but this episode just looses it's way.

Dragonfire was written by Ian Briggs, another writer like Delta & The Bannermen's Malcolm Kohll that Andrew Cartmel had met on a BBC writer's course. Cartmel championed his cause before producer John Nathan-Turner going through several script ideas before they arrived at what eventually became Dragonfire.

Dragonfire was novelised by Ian Briggs and released in March 1989. It was released on video in December 1993 and on DVD as part of Doctor Who: Ace Adventures Box Set alongside The Happiness Patrol on 6th May 2012, and watching the story for the blog has been my first opportunity to view the discs.

A month and a bit after Dragonfire finished the BBC's new science fiction comedy series Red Dwarf aired for the first time.

Tuesday 25 September 2012

672 Dragonfire Part Two

EPISODE: Dragonfire Part Two
TRANSMITTED: Monday 30 November 1987
WRITER: Ian Briggs
DIRECTOR: Chris Clough
SCRIPT EDITOR: Andrew Cartmel
PRODUCER: John Nathan-Turner
RATINGS: 5 million viewers
FORMAT: DVD: Doctor Who: Ace Adventures Box Set (Dragonfire/The Happiness Patrol)

Glitz rescues the Doctor and persuades him to help steal his ship back. Ace & Mel evade the dragon. Glitz & The Doctor are caught on the flight deck of Glitz's ship the Nosferatu by Kane's liutenant Belazs but manage to escape. They are reunited with Mel & Ace, but find themselves stalked by Glitz's former crew now in Kane's service. Belazs & Kracauer attempt to kill Kane to escape from his service but he discovers their attempt and slays them. The Doctor and his friends are saved by the arrival of the Dragon which takes them to the chamber it inhabits where it shows them a hologram telling how Kane was imprisoned on Svartos for his crimes on the planet Proamnon. The treasure, the Dragonfire, that Kane has been seeking is housed within the head of the dragon, a bio-mechanoid creature, but thanks to the monitoring device in Glitz's map he now knows it's precise location.

A "let run around in the tunnel" episode, enlivened by some nasty killings on the part of Kane and the stunning Dragon creature. It looks good anyway, but the scene where it's head opens to reveal the crystal is fab. Now at the time I first saw this I hadn't seen Alien or it's sequel Aliens but knew enough about them to recognise the design similarity, probably a result of designer Lindsay MacGowan having created it. Andrew Cartmel's book tells how the designer, who'd worked on Aliens, was back in the UK due to his work permit in the US having run out and was able to work on this story. He also tells of some damage having been down to the creature with the designer staying up half the night to repair it! Two familiar design elements crop up in this episode: first the Nosferatu's flight deck is the redressed Bannerman ship interior from Delta & The Bannermen and then along the walls of Kane's control room we see the familiar triangle/hexagonal wall panels seen frequently since their creation for the Mutants.

Are we sitting comfortably? Then I'll begin: Daphne Oxenford, who plays the holographic archivist who explains about Kane's imprisonment on Svartos,was for many years the voice of Listen with Mother. The scene which she appears in would seem to owe a certain debt to the scenes in Superman of the title character being addressed by a hologram of his mother while in a chamber in his ice constructed Fortress of Solitude. A whole load of the rest of the character names in this story are inspired by famous films or those involved in the study of films, while many of the cast are familiar faces. Kane was played by Edward Peel who was known for his role as DCI Mark Perrin in Juliet Bravo. His character's name obviously comes from Citzen Kane while his deceased love Xana is taken from Xanadu, the name of Kane's estate in the film. Tony Osoba plays Kracauer and returns to Doctor Who after his previous appearance as Lan in Destiny of the Daleks. Osoba is best known for playing McLaren in Porridge. His character's name comes from Sigfried Kracauer, a German film theorist. Playing Belazs is Patricia Quinn famed for her role as Magenta in both The Rocky Horror Show stageplay and The Rocky Horror Picture Show film. We will assume that you've seen it and merely past comment that it's astounding .... The real Belazs is (and at this point I had to go fishing for the Doctor Who Magazine Fact of Fiction on Dragonfire! It's in issue 444 from Feb 2012) Bela Balzas, the author of The Theory of Film. Stuart Organ as Bazin would later find fame as Mr Robson in Grange Hill (see the next story for the return of one of Grange Hill's most famous actors). Andre Bazin was a French Film Critic and Theorist. Ace's boss Anderson was named after Lindsay Anderson, another French film critic, McLuhan after Canadian critic McLuhan, Pudovkin after Russian director Vsevolod Pudovkin and Arnheim after Rudolf Arnheim a German film theorist. Plus there's an announcement in part 1 calling for a "Miss Kael", a reference to Pauline Kael an American film critic and Glitz's ship's name, Nosferatu, is taken from Nosferatu, eine Symphonie des Grauens a 1920s German horror film. Of the remaining cast The Creature/Dragon was played by Leslie Meadows who'd been Adlon in Delta and the Bannermen while the Announcer was voiced by Lynn Gardner, the actress originally cast as Ray in Delta and The Bannermen who'd had to withdraw after injuring herself practising on a scooter.

Monday 24 September 2012

671 Dragonfire Part One

EPISODE: Dragonfire Part One
TRANSMITTED: Monday 23 November 1987
WRITER: Ian Briggs
DIRECTOR: Chris Clough
SCRIPT EDITOR: Andrew Cartmel
PRODUCER: John Nathan-Turner
RATINGS: 5.5 million viewers
FORMAT: DVD: Doctor Who: Ace Adventures Box Set (Dragonfire/The Happiness Patrol)

The Doctor and Mel visit the Iceworld colony on the planet of Svartos where they are reunited with a down on his luck Sabalom Glitz and meet waitress Ace. Glitz has a treasure map which he coerces the Doctor into helping him follow, but refuses to take Mel & Ace with them. What Glitz doesn't know is that the seal on the map contains a bug/tracking device enabling local warlord Kane to track them. Ace is fired from her job and then she & Mel are seized by Kane after they try to unblock a passage sealed with ice. Kane tries to coerce Ace into joining his army but she and Mel escape only to be cornered by the dragon creature that leaves in the ice tunnels while the Doctor becomes separates from Glitz and ends up dangling over an ice chasm.

That wasn't bad at all, enjoyed that. Yes the cliffhanger makes no sense as seen on screen with the Doctor literally hanging from a cliff. Personally I think Mel being scared by the sight of the dragon with the monster reveal would have made a better ending to the episode. There's some fun stuff going on here: a frozen food centre on an ice planet would seem to be an obvious Iceland/Iceworld joke.

Back comes Tony Selby as Sabalom Glitz but it's a debut here for Sophie Aldred as new companion Ace. We learn a lot about her very quickly: she's 16, pretending to be 18, from Perivale in the 20th century, a liking for home made explosives which has got her into trouble and transported to Iceworld by a timestorm. That gets picked up in a few years time but was it planned at this stage? Possibly because it's a bit odd for a 20th century girl to be out in space. (apparently not according to the DVD Commentary) They're attempting to give her some attitude here but because this is going out pre watershed she can't swear like any normal teenager would. The outbursts they've given her instead aren't so bad but are immediately undermined by having Mel repeat several of them. The original intention was the character's real name would be Dorothy Gale, just like the character in Wizard of Oz and drawing comparisons between the time storm & the tornado, but the surname never made it to the screen and a different one was used when the character eventually received one in the books..... Ace's costumer involves a jacket adorned with badges, including a pair of Blue Peter badges that Aldred herself had won years before. The red tights under the cycling shorts that are worn for this story just look horrible though!

This was Sophie Aldred's first television job, having previously interviewed as a Kang, for Ray in Delta & The Bannermen (Aldred could ride a motorbike) and for Ace, but by the time this episode aired she'd been seen presenting Corners, a BBC children's program setting her on a career working in children's television and then into voice overwork that continues to this day. Follow her on Twitter as @sophie_aldred.

This episode went out on Doctor Who's 24th anniversary and gained the highest viewing figures for that season. Dragonfire was publicised as the 150th Doctor Who story, which involves some creative accountancy from the BBC as it ignores Shada but counts Trial of a Timelord as 4 stories!

Making a brief appearance in this episode as a former member of Glitz mutinous crew which he has sold to Kane is Sean Blowers as Zed. He'd later be seen as John Hallam in London's Burning alongside Glen Murphy who was Glitz's previous sidekick Dibber in Trial of a Timelord. Meanwhile the mother of the child, who Ace throws the Milkshake over causing her to loose her job, is Shirin Taylor who was the short lived female camper in Stones of Blood.

Sunday 23 September 2012

670 Delta and the Bannermen Part Three

EPISODE: Delta and the Bannermen Part Three
TRANSMITTED: Monday 16 November 1987
WRITER: Malcolm Kohll
DIRECTOR: Chris Clough
SCRIPT EDITOR: Andrew Cartmel
PRODUCER: John Nathan-Turner
RATINGS: 5.4 million viewers
FORMAT: DVD: Doctor Who - Delta and the Bannermen

The Doctor rides off with Mel & Burton. Ray rescues Hawk & Weismuller and takes them to Goronwy's cottage. Billy steals some of the solution that Delta has been using to feed the fast growing Chimeron Princess and uses it to start to transform himself into a human/Chimeron hybrid. The Bannermen assault Goronwy's farm as the Doctor returns with the others to the Tardis outside the camp only to find it booby trapped. The Bannermen fall into a trap set by the Doctor, getting covered by Goronwy's honey and being stung by a mass of bees. They then turn their attentions to the camp where the Doctor puts the Chimeron Princess' singing through the loudspeaker system overcoming the Bannermen and causing Gavrok to stumble into the booby trap force shield surrounding the Tardis killing him. Billy leaves with Delta & the Princess in the captured Bannerman ship taking the captured Bannerman survivors with them as the missing coach party turns up and the Doctor returns the damaged satellite to Weismuller & Hawk.

The start of this episode has always annoyed me: why does Gavrok let the Doctor leave, and not only that but leave with his prisoners? He doesn't strike me as the type to respect a flag of truce and anyway nicking your opposition's prisoners is a pretty provocative thing to do. I find this episode lets the side down a bit. It's missing the tour party for a start and seems to be just running around between different locations. And it does really need Ray to get angry with Billy for running off with another woman and Delta for nicking her bloke. You can see how the story as written could lead into a "there's nothing here for me now, can I come with you in the Tardis Doctor?" situation, just like you can see Mel, who in her brief appearance in this story, deciding that she's happy here and wants to stay. That makes more sense than her actual exit next story!

This has been the first three part twenty five minute Doctor Who story since Planet of Giants in 1964. Planet of Giants was written as a 4 part story and had the last two episode cut down to one after filming, so this is the first story planned & written as 3 x 25 minutes.

Amongst all the period musical pieces used in the story one really stand out for me: The Devil's Gallop, more commonly known as the theme music to Dick Barton Special Agent.

I said yesterday that I'd not got on with Delta & The Bannermen when it first aired but it's improved for me over time and subsequent viewings. The first two episodes are better than the third, the story looses something with the death of the tourists and their coach driver. Like the Victorian matrix segment in Trial of a Timelord 13 & 14 it works better due to it's period setting & costume.

Delta & the Bannermen was novelised by it's TV author and released in 1989. It came out on video in March 2001 and was released on DVD on 22nd June 2009.

Saturday 22 September 2012

669 Delta and the Bannermen Part Two

EPISODE: Delta and the Bannermen Part Two
TRANSMITTED: Monday 09 November 1987
WRITER: Malcolm Kohll
DIRECTOR: Chris Clough
SCRIPT EDITOR: Andrew Cartmel
PRODUCER: John Nathan-Turner
RATINGS: 5.1 million viewers
FORMAT: DVD: Doctor Who - Delta and the Bannermen

The bounty hunter is atomised by a charge sent to his communicator by the Bannermen, knocking the Doctor & Ray out. The US agents Weismuller & Hawk continue their search for the satellite, questioning local bee-keeper Goronwy. The next morning Billy goes to see Delta who takes him into her confidence. He takes her, and her rapidly growing Chimeron baby, away from the camp in his Vincent motorcycle. The Doctor awakes and convinces Burton to evacuate the camp, giving coach driver Murray the regenerated crystal to fit while he & Ray search for Delta. Weismuller & Hawk witness the arrival of the Bannermen spaceship and are taken prisoner. The Bannermen trace the advanced technology in the disguised bus to the camp and destroy it killing the entire tour party. Mel and camp manager Burton are taken prisoner. The Doctor finds Delta. While looking for a place of safety Delta senses Goronwy's bees and she, Ray, the Baby & Billy find shelter at Goronwy's house while the Doctor goes to parley with Gavrok under a white flag of truce. As he tried to leave with their prisoners they find themselves surrounded by Bannermen.

Full of incident that episode, accompanied by a soundtrack that's got lots of period music embedded into it. At the time it rather put me off the story but now I'm finding it better than many of the surrounding stories. Mel's a little bit of an absent figure in proceedings with the companion role effectively being filled by Ray. Sara Griffiths wasn't the original choice for the role with Lynn Gardner originally being cast. Gardner then hurt herself practising on a scooter. Griffiths, who had auditioned for this role as well as that of Ace in Dragonfire, was cast as her replacement and Gardner given a voice over role in Dragonfire. The character of Ray was designed as a potential replacement companion as by this point Bonnie Langford had made clear her intention to leave. As it was the production team decided to use Dragonfire's Ace instead but in her only appearance Ray comes out as a nicely portrayed and well rounded character. So Doctor Who misses out on having a Welsh companion something which, despite the series now being produced in Cardiff, it still hasn't had!

The main guest star in this series in Don Henderson playing the Bannermen leader Gavrok. Science fiction fans may recognise him as General Tagge in Star Wars or as a rogue simulent in Red Dwarf: Beyond a Joke, but he's best known for his role as George Bulman in XYY Man, Strangers and Bulman. He'd later appear in The Paradise Club with Resurrection of the Daleks' Leslie Grantham. American agent Weismuller is played by Stubby Kaye, an actor with a long US Film career, including an appearance in Who Framed Roger Rabbit. Reputedly he introduced himself to the cast as "Stubby Kaye, former boy actor". Belinda Mayne, playing Delta, was apparently shortlisted for the role of the first Romana. Two of the actors in this show have sitcoms to their name: Richard Davies, as Burton the Holiday Camp manager, was Mr Price in Please Sir! while Hugh Lloyd, playing Goronwy, starred in Hugh and I with Terry Scott. Johnny Dennis, playing Murray, probably won't be familiar to many of you but since 1995 he's been the voice of the public address system at Lord's Cricket Ground, succeeding Alan Curtis who was Major Green in the War Machines.

The major location used in this story is Majestic Holiday Camp, formerly Butlin's Barry Island. All th other locations can be found nearby: Sutton Farm which served as Goronwy's cottage, Pyscodlyn Mawr Reservoir, where Billy takes Delta and Coed Y Wallas, the location the Bannermen landed.

Friday 21 September 2012

668 Delta and the Bannermen Part One

EPISODE: Delta and the Bannermen Part One
TRANSMITTED: Monday 02 November 1987
WRITER: Malcolm Kohll
DIRECTOR: Chris Clough
SCRIPT EDITOR: Andrew Cartmel
PRODUCER: John Nathan-Turner
RATINGS: 5.3 million viewers
FORMAT: DVD: Doctor Who - Delta and the Bannermen

The ruthless Bannermen have murdered all the Chimeron people with just their princess, Delta, escaping with one unhatched egg. The Tardis materialises at toll port G715 where the Tollmaster informs the Doctor & Mel that they are the ten billionth customer and awards them a place on a Navarino holiday trip to Disneyland Earth in the 1950s. Mel goes in the Navarino Spaceship, disguised as a coach, and Delta joins the travel party little knowing there is a bounty hunter aboard who reports her to the Bannermen. The Doctor follows the coach in the Tardis and saves the coach when it is hit by a newly launched American satellite. Two US agents are monitoring the satellite in Wales. The Tardis lands the coach at a nearby holiday camp where the Navarinos are admitted, the camp host mistaking them for a missing tour party. The Doctor offers to grow a replacement crystal to fix the damaged coach engine. The Bannermen arrive at the toll post tracking Delta and kill the Tollmaster. Camp mechanic Billy falls for Delta, singing her a romantic song at the dance, and upsets his supposed girlfriend Rachel. While Mel talks to Delta the egg starts to hatch and as the Doctor comforts Rachel they are trapped by the Bounty Hunter....

I really didn't like Delta & The Bannermen first time out and on the rare occasions I've seen it since. But this episode worked for me, nothing wrong with it at all. Not even the stunt casting of Ken Dodd as the Tollmaster spoils it, and Ken actually puts in a reasonable performance.

I need to sneak this fact in and can't think of any other way to do it: in 1989 Ken Dodd was prosecuted for Tax Evasion by Brian Leveson QC, now Lord Justice Leveson and chair of The Leveson Inquiry, a public inquiry into the culture, practices and ethics of the British press following the News International phone hacking scandal!

Yes, those are the Earthshock trooper helmets you see the Bannermen wearing, last seen in Trial of a Timelord 1-4. And yup, that's the first appearance of the question mark handle umbrella, reportedly requested by Sylvester McCoy himself. The dog that appears in this episode with the camp manager Burton is Pepsi, owned by the producer John Nathan-Turner. This wasn't her first television appearance and she was already familiar to Doctor Who fans from the book A Day With A Television Producer.

The band in this episode bear a little looking at. The guitarist is this series regular composer Keff McCulloch. He's the second composer for the series to appear in the show after Dudley Simpson portrayed the conductor in the theatre in Talons of Weng Chiang. Keff's girlfriend (and later wife) is one of the backing singers. Which one it is the Internet is unhelpfully not telling me but fortunately the production subtitles confirm that it's Tracey Wilson. Her sister Jodie Wilson plays the other singer and later becomes the fourth and latest Mrs Des O'Connor! I've seen it claimed that the Wilson sisters are the daughter of Delores Whiteman, who played Aunt Vanessa in Logopolis. However the only thing I can find to support this outside of the forum where I saw the claim was made is in Wikipedia's Australian contributions to Doctor Who article. Since it says "Dolores' daughter played one of the Lorrells in Delta and the Bannermen" and the women here are sisters, so therefore she's got to be the mother of *both* of them, I'm taking this with a pinch of salt!

The band isn't the only musical connection to the episode. Keillor the bounty hunter is played by Brian Hibbard who was the lead singer of The Flying Pickets, who's members had previous included Christopher Ryan, Kiv from Trial of a Timelord 5-8 (Mindwarp).

Making his only appearance in this story is Tim Scott as Chima, one of the last surviving Chimerons. He would reappear in The Happiness Patrol, directed by the same director, as the Forum Doorman.

All of this story was filmed on location, apart from the Tardis scenes which were filmed during Dragonfire. In these later seasons of Doctor Who the two 3-part stories will share production crew with one being made on location and another entirely in the studio. Even the scenes in the Bannerman spaceships were filmed in a set constructed on location. We'll cover the bulk of the locations used later in the story but for the shots of the overrun Chimeron homeworld at the start of this episode we return to Springwell Quarry, previously seen as Omega's realm in the Three Doctors, the cave entrance in Earthshock and the surface of Titan Three in the Twin Dilemma! The tollport was filmed at British Tissues Hangar which now forms part of Llandow Trading Estate.

Thursday 20 September 2012

667 Paradise Towers Part Four

EPISODE: Paradise Towers Part Four
TRANSMITTED: Monday 26 October 1987
WRITER: Stephen Wyatt
DIRECTOR: Nicholas Mallett
SCRIPT EDITOR: Andrew Cartmel
PRODUCER: John Nathan-Turner
RATINGS: 5 million viewers
FORMAT: DVD: Doctor Who - Paradise Towers

The Kangs help the Doctor escape, but the Chief Caretaker is taken over by Kroagnon and has the cleaners start to kill everyone in the building. Mel is attacked by a swimming pool cleaning robot and when Pex freezes she takes his gun and shoots it which gets Pex taunted by the Kangs when they arrived with the Doctor who is finally reunited with Mel. The remaining Rezzies come to the pool to ask for the Doctor's help as does the Deputy Chief Caretaker who reveals to the Kangs where a hidden supply of explosives is allowing them to attack the cleaners and set a trap for Kroagnon. Pex volunteers to lead Kroagnon to the Doctor but they arrive to soon. Kroagnon attacks the Doctor but Pex finds the courage to attack Kroagnon and they both fall into the Kang base detonating the booby trap and killing them both. All the remaining Paradise Towers residents gather to mourn Pex. As the Doctor & Mel leave Paradise Towers the Doctor is presented with a red and blue scarf making him an honorary Kane. The Tardis dematerialises revealing some newly painted wall scrawl proclaiming that "Pex Lives!".

Is Richard Briers going for Zombie or Gumby with his possessed Kroagnon performance? I'm not sure, but we can tell he's not the Chief Caretaker any more!

The scarf at the end reminded me that years later I'd own a double sided university scarf: on one side is the colours of Royal Holloway College and on the reverse that of the University of London.

You can't say that Paradise Towers isn't trying to make an effort. In lots of ways it succeeds, projecting a society that's gone to pieces in the aftermath of a war with the Kangs speaking in their own distorted version of English a particular highlight. I can remember really enjoying Paradise Towers when I first saw it .... Twenty Five years ago! Watching it again now it stands head and shoulders above the last few stories and just like 25 years ago I'm encouraged to think what lies ahead.

Stephen Wyatt novelised his script for Target Books and if my memory serves it's the first book published after the cessation of the hardback range. It was released on video on 2nd October 1995 (I found a dated receipt for it inside the video case when I opened it up to watch the last two episode on video while staying at my Mother's) and on DVD in July 2011.