Redcap – Epitaph for a Sweat

img_20181112_115056.jpg

Sergeant Mann has travelled to Aden in order to question Sergeant Rolfe (Leonard Rossiter).  Rolfe, an unbending soldier of the old school, is admired for his fighting qualities but has few friends amongst the men. Accused of beating up a local, he denies the charge – but the matter becomes much more complex after Rolfe dies on manoeuvres.

I’ve said it before and I’ll probably say it again, but Redcap featured some excellent guest casts. In today’s episode we have Rossiter, Kenneth Farringdon, John Horsley, Ian McShane, John Noakes and Mike Pratt. That’s not too shabby a line-up.

Rossiter catches the eye early on. Rolfe and Mann, as you might expect, clash quite strongly.  It’s restated in this episode that Mann is young and inexperienced and this naturally irritates an old sweat like Rolfe.  Although Rolfe denies any wrongdoing, there seems little doubt that he did viciously beat up the local – purely because he felt the “wog”  (a term which is used several times) needed to be taught a lesson.

Sergeant Rolfe may, we’re told, sometimes overstep the mark but the British army needs soldiers like that. That’s certainly the opinion of Major Coulter (John Horsley) who attempts to guide Mann into accepting this point of view. Mann doesn’t acquiesce immediately, which is another source of friction.

The Aden setting (achieved with a spot of stock footage and liberal application of fake sweat) is an interesting one. By the mid sixties it was one of the few remaining outposts of the British Empire and the pros and cons of occupation are discussed here.  Each side is allowed their viewpoint – chiefly Coulter and Asst. Sup. Yacoub (Norman Florrence) – but Richard Harris’ script isn’t a polemical one. The viewer is left to make their own mind up, although the historical distance of fifty years or more has no doubt changed the perspective somewhat.

Whilst Mann is investigating Rolfe, there’s a secondary plot bubbling away. Two young sappers, Russell (Ian McShane) and Baker (Kenneth Farringdon), are clashing time and time again. Baker is cocky and aggressive whilst Russell is passive and disinclined to respond to Baker’s taunts and jibes.  Whilst – at first – this doesn’t seem to connect to the main plot, it’s still very intriguing. Why is Russell so self-contained?

Both have little love for Rolfe, so when the pair of them – along with Morse (Roger Heathcott) and Evans (John Noakes) – head out into the desert with him, there’s an obvious question to be answered – was Rolfe’s death an accident or murder?  Having earlier questioned Rolfe, Mann now has four fresh subjects to quiz – indeed, this episode is an excellent one for showcasing Mann’s methodical approach.

Morse seems like a bit of a non-entity (he’s easily the one allocated the least lines) so can probably be discounted. And since Evans has been painted throughout as the comic relief, that leaves us with Russell and Baker as the more likely suspects.

Unlike the opening episode, there’s a satisfying conclusion to this investigation – Mann is able to extract a confession which isn’t under duress this time (even if he does play a slight trick).  The final few scenes with both McShane and Farringdon crackle very nicely – three episodes in and no duds so far.  And if this one hadn’t been an episode of Redcap then it could have slotted quite comfortably into an anthology series like Armchair Theatre.

Apart from those already mentioned, Mike Pratt has a couple of key scenes as Sergeant Bailey – possibly Rolfe’s only friend.  As you’d expect from Pratt, it’s a self-contained performance with just the odd flash of panic (at the point when Mann’s questioning becomes too probing). Much more exuberant is John Noakes’ turn as Evans. Evans is Welsh. Very, very Welsh.

During this era of television, it’s never a surprise to see British actors browning up to play ethnic roles (it upsets some today, but due to the small pool of actors available there wasn’t any alternative).  However, it’s slightly more surprising to see a Yorkshireman cast in this role.  Noakes isn’t bad (and it’s nice to see one of his handful of acting performances) but goodness, he ladles the accent on rather thickly ….

Hitting the Target – Doctor Who and the Daleks by David Whitaker

doctor who and the daleks

Given that most potential purchasers of this book back in 1964 would have been well aware about how the television series began, it’s a little odd that David Whitaker spent the first fifth of Doctor Who in an Exciting Adventure with the Daleks crafting an alternative origin story for the Doctor and co.

But I’m awfully glad that he did, because it’s absolutely gripping – a tale of fog, Barnes Common, everlasting matches, a strange telephone box, dead soldiers hanging out of lorries and a malevolent old man searching for a lost key ….

I love the way that Whitaker returns from time to time to the events of An Unearthly Child.  In both the book and television versions there’s the disturbing notion that the old man has (for reasons unknown) secreted a young girl inside a telephone box.  Plus Barbara remains the one who’s questing for answers to the mystery of Susan – with Ian a helpless passenger buffeted along by events.

Subtle touches to other television stories – when we first see Susan she’s wearing the same sort of bandage memorably sported by the Doctor in The Edge of Destruction – are woven in whilst Whitaker also takes the opportunity to expand upon the wonders of TARDIS.  He was clearly very taken with the food machine scene (repeating it here virtually verbatim from Nation’s script).  Indeed, he loved it so much that he later popped a food machine scene into the first draft of The Power of the Daleks (which was then snipped out by Dennis Spooner).

Whitaker’s additions include the metal skull cap which gives Ian an excellent haircut (“as good a barbering as I would have received at Simpson’s in Piccadilly”) and the oil and water shower. Clearly TARDIS had plenty of mod cons, although we never learn who cleaned and pressed Ian’s suit (was it Susan or was it all done by machines?)

Given the limited page count, the story has to be streamlined somewhat from the transmitted version, but little of substance is actually missing even if certain key scenes where Ian wasn’t present (Susan’s meeting with Alydon, for example) have to be re-told in the slightly clumsy way that was always a problem with first-person narratives.

There are scores of memorable descriptive passages, such as Ian’s shocked discovery about the horror which lurks inside the Dalek casing.

It was an evil monstrous shape. There was one eye in the centre of a head without ears and with a nose so flattened and shapeless it was merely a bump on the face. The mouth was a short slit above the chin, more of a flap really, and on either side of the temples there were two more little bumps with slits in them and I heard the Doctor mutter that they must be the hearing parts. The skin was dark green and covered in a particularly repellent slime. I felt my stomach heaving and I bit the inside of my mouth until I tasted blood.

In both of Whitaker’s novels, Ian and Barbara seem to be more than just good friends (this is made explicit in Doctor Who and the Crusaders where their future life plans have already been settled). Things are less certain in Doctor Who and the Daleks (after all, they’ve only just met) but a notable Whitaker addition to the second half of the story is Barbara’s cold fury towards him (“I suppose you imagine I like you hanging around me all the time. Well you’re wrong! We’re forced together, I can see that, but it doesn’t mean I have to like it!”). Does the lady protest too much? At the end of the story this question is answered.

Another interesting wrinkle by Whitaker is the way he reverses the viewpoints of Ian and Barbara concerning the question as to whether the Thals should be formed into a fighting army to help recover the Doctor’s fluid link from the Daleks. In the novel, Ian is gung-ho whilst Barbara is keen for them to make their own minds up. The boxing match – organised by Ian – is an entertaining addition.

The slow descent into the Dalek city via the caves by Ian, Barbara and a small group of plucky Thals is probably the lowpoint of the television version. These scenes work better in print, although it’s a pity that Antodus’ ever-growing fear has been deleted. On the plus side, Kristas is greatly expanded and becomes wise and sage-like. It’s therefore something of a shock to realise that the television original is a much more anonymous character.

Doctor Who and the Daleks never fails to engage. Certainly one of my top ten Targets.

Redcap – A Town Called Love

After assaulting a German girl called Gerda, Private Pendlebury (Michael Robbins) crosses over into East Germany. He may not be prime defector material, but he’s still made welcome. Back in the West, Mann is confronted by Pendlebury’s distraught wife.  She pleads with Mann to retrieve her husband ….

There’s one really clever thing about A Town Called Love, although I have to confess that until the credits rolled I’d completely forgotten about it. Gwendolyn Watts plays two roles – Gerda (Pendlebury’s German girlfriend) and Vera (Pendlebury’s wife).

Gerda is blonde whilst Vera is a brunette. This simple act of changing hairstyles obviously helped to create the illusion that they were two different people. Or maybe I was just distracted by Gerda’s transparent negligee …..

There’s no particular reason why the two parts should have been played by the same actress, but it offered Watts a more than decent showcase for her talents. Gerda – who possibly is seeking to entrap the unwary Pendlebury into criminal activity – is the less well defined of the two, but Vera is gifted several strong scenes.  Alternating between vulnerability and calculation, she’s able to appeal to the kind-hearted Mann, who then risks his own safety by crossing over the wall in an attempt to bring Pendlebury back.

Once again, there’s so much quality in the cast.  Michael Robbins, best known for playing the long-suffering Arthur in On The Buses, is equally long-suffering here. Pendlebury is a straightforward sort of chap – after his altercation with Gerda (he says she slipped and hit her head) he hot-foots it over to the East. But he finds life to be no better there than it was in the West, so he’s easily persuaded by Mann to return and take his punishment. But there’s a nasty sting in the tale for him when he does come back.

Magda (Yootha Joyce) and Bob McGregor (Garfield Morgan) are both very welcoming to all new defectors, but only because it’s their job. Morgan’s plummy good-cheer and Joyce’s sultry seductiveness both have a very hollow feel, but then I doubt that either Pendlebury or Mann were taken in by them.

There’s a cold opening to this episode, as Mann’s now changed location and seems to have a permanent base, operating with Sergeant Coulter (Glynn Edwards) and Colonel Matherson (Peter Copley). Neither appear again though, so this posting presumably was only temporary. That’s a pity, as both characters had scope for future development – Coulter’s friendly opposition with Mann (they have very different opinions about Pendlebury) and Matherson’s avuncular but steely command style could easily have been examined in more depth across a series of episodes.

Not quite as gripping as the first episode, possibly because there’s the sense that Mann isn’t going to remain in the East for very long (it would have been a short series had he done so) there’s still enough character conflict to keep things ticking along nicely.

 

Redcap – It’s What Comes After

Sergeant Mann’s investigation into a soldier who went AWOL is an open and shut case. But it indirectly leads onto a more puzzling affair – why has a previously upstanding officer, Captain Lynne (Keith Barron), suddenly started to act in a very erratic manner? Maybe it’s connected to his wife’s recent breakdown ….

Airing between 1964 and 1966, Redcap offered John Thaw his first starring role. Sergeant Mann, a member of the army investigative unit, has free reign to travel the globe, unearthing crime, corruption and disorderly conduct wherever British soldiers might be stationed. This gives Mann the air of a permanent outsider who’s always faced with an uphill battle to bring any perpetrators to justice. In retrospect, this sort of character fits Thaw like a glove – it’s easy to see echoes of Jack Regan in Mann (both, at times, are no respecter of authority).

Although Mann visited a fair few countries, the series never left the UK (and indeed rarely ventured outside of the studio). Some might view this as a weakness but if you love 1960’s studio-based VT drama, then Redcap will be just your cup of tea.

There was plenty of quality on the technical side – it was produced by John Bryce (who helmed The Avengers during 1963/64) and script-edited by Ian Kennedy-Martin (later to write Reganthe Armchair Cinema pilot which spawned The Sweeney). Plenty of familiar names pop up on the writing front such as William Emms on this opening episode.

The mystery as to why Lynne has gone to pieces is eventually revealed – his wife (played by Miranda Connell) was raped after leaving a mess party. With the crime having taken place inside the army compound, this makes it more than likely that a soldier was responsible. But even after this revelation there’s still an air of mystery – why is Lynne so reluctant to admit what happened?

Barron plays Lynne as an upper-crust type and manages to nicely suggest the conflict and turmoil that lies behind his apparent passivity.  He eventually does come clean, and to Lynne’s credit he wasn’t acting purely out of self-interest (although he does admit that public knowledge about his wife’s rape would damage both his career and reputation).

Emms’ script briefly attempts to tease out the puzzle concerning the guilty party by offering us several possibilities. But since we only focus on one – Private Bolt (Kenneth Colley) – this mystery soon dissipates.  There are still several different ways the story might play out though – Bolt is guilty and confesses, Bolt is guilty but doesn’t confess, Bolt is innocent.

In the end, everything is wrapped up slightly too neatly. Mann has very little evidence, but contrives a situation where Bolt and Lynne are left alone. Lynne, having already been told by Mann that Bolt is the most likely suspect, snaps and viciously beats Bolt up. And having been pulped by Lynne, Bolt then helpfully confesses his crime to Mann.

Hmm, given this confession was extracted under duress it’s possible that it might not stand up in court. Mind you, it’s the kind of stroke you could imagine Jack Regan pulling.  Indeed, Thaw does glower throughout with the same sort of barely supressed fury that he’d later display in The Sweeney, so maybe even this early on Kennedy-Martin was taking notes ….

As with each episode, It’s What Comes After is immaculately cast. Keith Barron is good value as Lynne, whilst Colley slips in enough off-kilter gestures to suggest that Bolt is indeed the man we’re looking for.  Derek Newark, as the long-suffering Mess Sergeant (who has to deal with the insubordinate Bolt on a daily basis) also catches the eye.

It may not impress as a great example of detective work, but It’s What Comes After is certainly a strong opening episode.

Doctor Who – The Dalek Invasion of Earth. Episode Six – Flashpoint

flash.jpg

Flashpoint is an episode of two halves – the Daleks are defeated and the Doctor bids farewell to Susan.

After five episodes (and countless unseen years prior to the events of World’s End) it’s undeniable that the Daleks are dealt with rather quickly.  But the major niggle I have is how the destruction of the mine is assumed to signify the end of the Daleks’ rule.  This was an invasion of Earth, remember, nor just Britain.  So are there no Daleks in any other country?

It’s hard to be too critical of Nation though, since this would be a problem the series would encounter again and again over the years.  Subsequent invaders, be they Cybermen, Autons, etc would (for all their meticulous planning and strength in numbers) always have to be vanquished totally just before the end of the final episode.

When done badly it can feel like the Doctor’s simply flicked a switch to turn the story off.  Perhaps DIOE would have felt more satisfying had the Doctor left Earth with the humans holding the upper hand but still facing a long struggle to completely irradiate the Dalek menace.  But due to the way that stories tended to be neatly wrapped up by the concluding episode it’s not a surprise this option wasn’t taken.

There are a few bright spots during the first half though.  I love Barbara’s attempt to bamboozle the Black Dalek with news of a non-existent rebellion led by numerous famous figures from history!  She’s been rather sidelined during the last few episodes, so this was a nice moment.

A realistic touch is how shabby Ian’s clothes have become.  We’ve seen this before, An Unearthly Child for example, but it’s not something that would happen very often – later Doctors and companions would tend to look spotless, irrespective of the traumas they’d been through.

The Doctor’s in a proactive mood which is best demonstrated when he penetrates Dalek control.  His stand-off with a Dalek – seen from the eye-stalk of the metal meanie – is an impressive directorial flourish.  Hartnell, clutching his lapels, strikes a typically iconic pose.

The Dalek voices are rather inconsistent throughout the serial – at times it sounds like there’s little ring modulation used at all.  Most bizarrely, several times in this episode we hear Dalek voices over the tannoy and they sound for all the world like Peter Hawkins and David Graham have simply clamped a hand over their mouths!

The destruction of the mine is shown via stock footage, which is as convincing as stock footage usually is.  But the shot of Jenny, Tyler and the Doctor looking down on the devastation does almost makes up for this.  Both Ann Davies and Bernard Kay are immobile and expressionless as Jenny and Tyler begin to process the news that the war is over.  The joy of victory can come later, for now there’s just a weariness as they reflect how many lives have been lost over the years.

This still leaves ten minutes, which is a generous chunk of time to devote to Susan’s departure.  It’s interesting that neither Susan or David featured in the attack on the Dalek mine (was this an intentional sidelining of Susan?).  Given Ford’s unhappiness with the way Susan had been underused since the start of the series it’s ironic she wasn’t given a chance to shine against the Daleks in her last episode.

But at least she’s given a decent send-off (something that several future companions will be denied).  Grubby and tear-stained, we come to see that Susan loves David but can’t bear the thought of leaving her grandfather.  So the Doctor makes the decision for her and locks her out of the TARDIS.  Hartnell’s close relationship with Ford was well known (he’d come to look on her almost as his real granddaughter) and it’s plain that Hartnell, just as much as the Doctor, feels the pain of their separation.  Fifty plus years later it’s still touching stuff.

One day I shall come back. Yes I shall come back. Until then there must be no regrets, no tears, no anxieties.  Just go forward in all your beliefs and prove to me that I’m not mistaken in mine.

Doctor Who – The Dalek Invasion of Earth. Episode Five – The Waking Ally


We see a little more of the Slyther at the start of The Waking Ally, but not for long as Ian bashes it with a rock and sends it plummeting to its death down the mineshaft.  As it falls, it makes a rather pitiful cry.  Am I the only one to have a tinge of regret at the Slyther’s passing?

After spending the early episodes as exterminating baddies, the Daleks we see at the mines are slightly less exciting.  They come across as a group of middle-managers, worrying about work parties and the like.  It’s interesting that eight years later, in Day of the Daleks, they’re very similar.  Had Day been written by Nation it would have been an obvious retread, but that one was scripted by Louis Marks.  Possibly Marks had been influenced by these episodes or maybe he was just drawing on a similar theme.  After all, you can only exterminate so many people – if you kill them all then you’ll have no labour force left to carry out your nefarious plans.

Hartnell’s back and he’s in fine form – we see the Doctor give one of the Robomen a damn good thrashing.  For those who believe the Doctor is a pacifist it might be somewhat unexpected, but in reality he’s never been averse to using force.  It’s rarer that he actually gets physical (unless he’s being played by Jon Pertwee) but there’s countless occasions when the Doctor is shown to be quite happy to wipe out large numbers of whoever he considers to be the enemy that week.

Barbara and Jenny, whilst looking for shelter, find a tumbledown house in the middle of the woods.  The original plan had been for the house to contain three old women who would have resembled the witches from Macbeth (was it budget problems that ensured only two made it to screen?!)

One of the women reacts with polite pity to the news that London is no more.  “Destroyed? Well I never. Oh, when I went it was beautiful. There was the moving pavements and the shops and the astronaut fair.”  This sort of world-building via dialogue would later be a hallmark of Robert Holmes and although Nation’s brief effort is somewhat cruder it does give us a brief glimpse of 22nd Century life.  The women betray Barbara and Jenny to the Daleks.  In Nation’s first draft, one of them tells Barbara that “we’re old, child. Times are difficult. There’s only one law now – survive.”

Larry injures himself after he and Ian reach the bottom of the mine.  This is a sure sign that he won’t be around much longer, which is a shame as I’ve enjoyed Graham Rigby’s performance.  He manages to deliver lines like “who knows what the Daleks are up to? I told you what my brother Phil said – all they want is the magnetic core of Earth” with aplomb.  I like the contradiction inherent in this statement – who knows what they want? Oh, it’s the magnetic core of Earth that they want …

His death is so bleak.  He finds his brother, but discovers that he’s been turned into a Roboman.  Larry’s efforts to find some spark of humanity still remaining in his sibling (“Phil…it’s Larry, your brother Larry. Think Phil! Remember me! Angela…Your wife, Angela! I’ll take you to her”) comes to nothing and Robo Phil kills him.  As Larry dies, so does Robo Phil and the final (unscripted) recognition of Larry by Robo Phil just before he draws his final breath simply adds another level of tragedy to this scene.

How does the Doctor work out that the Daleks’ mine-works in Bedfordshire are the centre of their operations?  For all we know there could be similar Dalek mines dotted all around the globe.  The others ask the Doctor what the Daleks’ intention could be. He’s not sure, but the cat’s already been let out of the bag by Larry – his assertion that the Daleks are keen to extract the Earth’s core turns out to be 100% accurate. Perhaps it would have been better to snip this earlier line out, that way the mystery would have lasted a little longer.

Later on, the Black Dalek helpfully explains exactly what their ultimate plan is via the intercom. “This is the Supreme Controller. Our mission to Earth is nearly completed. We were sent here to remove the core of this planet. Once the core is removed, we can replace it with a power system that will enable us to pilot the planet anywhere in the universe.”  This is breathtakingly bonkers.

The scene with the Black Dalek is a good example of the chaos that can occur when you choose to pre-record Dalek dialogue. This didn’t happen that often – probably for the reasons you see here.  Mid-way through the scene, the cues begin to go hopelessly out of sync which gives us a bizarre moment when three Daleks are all taking at once and making very little sense!

Doctor Who – The Dalek Invasion of Earth. Episode Four – The End Of Tomorrow

end.jpg

As previously discussed, Hartnell wasn’t able to take part in the recording of this episode, so his handful of lines had to be farmed out.  This occurs when David steps up to dismantle the Daleks’ firebomb (this would have been the Doctor’s only contribution to the episode).  It’s presumably a sign of the times that no thought was given to the possibility of Susan becoming the bomb expert.  It would have been a good reminder that whilst she looked like a fifteen-year old girl she possessed experience which belied her appearance.  But no, it has to be the man who takes charge, while Susan hovers anxiously in the background.

There’s a first in The End of Tomorrow – it’s the first time that Doctor Who filmed in a quarry (and this was one of those rare times when the location was actually shown to be a quarry and not an alien planet!)  John’s Hole at Stone, Kent has this singular honour.  And how well do the Daleks work in the quarry?  Answer, not very well.  We see one trundle a short distance rather slowly, but otherwise they wisely stay immobile.

The unmistakable Nicholas Smith, sporting an unexpected Mummerset accent, pops up as Wells.  He racked up numerous credits during the 1960’s but he’ll always be best remembered as Mr Rumbold from Are You Being Served?

Terry Nation has often been accused of being little more than a hack writer, churning out formulaic scripts at great speed.  His very brief original description of the Daleks is used as an example of this, but it’s fair to say that there were other times when he took more of an interest in detailing how his creations should be visualised.  His description of the Robomen is a good case in point.

“They are dressed in black from head to foot, high-necked, very utilitarian garb made from rough cloth. There is no expression on the face. The eyes stare unblinking. Their movements are a a little stiff, but not over-emphasized. They seem to have a slight mechanical quality about them.  Their voices are very mechanical and slow, like a child deaf from birth learning to make sounds.”

Maybe one of the reasons why Nation didn’t spend too long on descriptive passages is that he knew his ideas might not be adopted.  With the Robomen, some of his concepts were taken on board, but it’s notable that Nation didn’t specify that they should wear what appears to be wastepaper baskets on their heads.  The movie managed something more sleeker, but the concept of miniaturisation doesn’t seem to have been considered here.

With the Doctor unconscious, Susan and David are exploring the sewers.  In Nation’s original draft, David mentions that people moved underground to avoid the plague.  Their descendants are still there, but they’re no longer quite human.  Having adapted to living in total darkness, their “hair is matted and shoulder length and, like the face, it is totally white. Only the eyes make black circles. They are larger than human eyes, bulging and dark like those of a night creature. Canine teeth project over the lower lip.”  Instead we see Susan tangle with a friendly alligator.  Oh well, it was cheaper I guess.

We catch a brief glimpse of the Slyther.  It’s the sort of thing that defies description and you have to be impressed at how seriously William Russell reacts to it.  Later on there would have been the temptation to send it up (goodness knows what would have happened had Tom Baker met it – something along the lines of The Creature from the Pit no doubt) but Russell is rock solid.  The bizarre sounds it makes are also memorable.

There can be few odder cliffhangers than the sight of the Slyther advancing on Ian and Larry whilst it slowly waves a portion of itself.  Richard Martin might not be Doctor Who’s most highly-rated director, but at least he wisely chose to keep this shot as a close-up.