Crown Court – Doctor’s Neglect? (Part One)

This first Crown Court serial feels somewhat different to what would come later. For one thing, the familiar theme music (Distant Hills) is noticeably absent.

There’s also a fair amount of whispered chat in the courtroom as Mr Frost (George Waring) has a good old natter to Barry Deeley (John Atkin). He helpfully explains to Frost (and the viewers) various bits of procedure. This was dropped from the series as presumably it was felt the audience would be able to understand how the court functions without these prompts.

Mr Simpson, one of Fulchester’s leading chartered accountants, died after walking out of hospital (he had previously been involved in a car accident). His widow (played by Petra Davies) is suing the hospital for damages.

Mrs Simpson is the very model of middle class respectability and it’s easy to see that Mr Justice Waddingham (Ernest Hare) is rather taken with her. After James Elliot QC (Charles Keating) asks her a somewhat awkward question she appeals to Waddingham and the question isn’t pressed. This seems a little off.

Mrs Simpson comes across as a perfect witness. A little too perfect for me ….

The hawk-like Jonathan Fry QC (David Neal) is representing Mrs Simpson in her quest for damages and next calls an expert witness – Dr Sissons (Basil Dignam). Dignam would return to Crown Court – albeit as the top dog (he’d later play Mr Justice Poynter).

Another unusual aspect of this first serial is the way the action moves outside the courtroom every so often. This wouldn’t happen again in the early stories as they were firmly (and claustrophobically) courtroom bound.

Wogan’s Guide to the BBC (1982)

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Wogan’s Guide to the BBC is an entertainingly eclectic and idiosyncratic snapshot of the BBC circa 1982. Although Tel doorsteps some of the great and good – including James Burke, Frank Muir and Russell Harty – at the start of the programme (in order to winkle out some quick soundbites about what the BBC means to them) overall it’s a pleasingly unstarry sort of programme.

The two television drama productions covered – The Cleopatras and Beau Geste  – tend to concentrate on the production staff and extras rather than the stars (hard to imagine that sort of focus occurring today). It’s also noticeable that pretty much the same amount of time is devoted to both the BBC’s radio and television output.

For anyone who loves a dollop of Wogan whimsy, this is well worth your time.

Adam Adamant Lives! – To Set A Deadly Fashion

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Adam pops along to an Embassy ball and falls into conversation with Oretta (Nancy Nevinson), the wife of the Italian Vice Consul. And after she falls dead into his arms, he instantly turns detective ….

There’s no mystery about Oretta’s death as her conversation with Adam is intercut with shots of two eavesdroppers (Howarth and Watkins) who are able to hear every word that’s spoken. She’s wearing a bugged dress then, that’s different. And not only is it bugged, when it’s decided that Oretta has said too much they’re able to kill her by remote control.

The dress has been designed by Roger Clair (Colin Jeavons), a fashion designer who has plenty of connections in high society. Where do you start with Jeavons’ performance? Calling it camp just doesn’t do it justice – Jeavons is clearly enjoying himself tremendously, periodically winding himself up into explosive paroxysms of petulance.

Howarth (Alister Williamson) is his stolid number two. A much less showy turn, but then there’s only room in the story for one Jeavons-sized character.  Given how prima-donnish Clair is, it’s difficult to credit that he’s responsible for creating such an intricate espionage network – but it seem to be so.

Tony Williamson’s script also seems a little unclear in other places too. We’re told that a number of other society matrons have died in a similar way to Oretta (all apparently from heart attacks) but Clair was deeply upset when Howarth decided to terminate Oretta (Howarth was worried that Adam was getting too close to discovering their operation). So why did the others die? Oh well, possibly you’re not supposed to dig too deeply into the specifics of the story.

Adam toddles along to Clair’s latest fashion show, but is appalled when the models – dressed in bathing costumes – begin to parade themselves. Poor Adam, given a front-row seat, can’t bring himself to look whilst Georgina (it won’t shock you to discover) has signed on as Clair’s latest model.

This turns out to be a godsend for Clair as he’s able to pop the unsuspecting Georgina into a bugged dress. There’s a lovely spot of dialogue from Clair as he first recoils at the notion of Adam living in a car park, before approving of the notion of his flat (“what a ducky idea”).

Another episode highlight occurs when Adam, safely back with Georgina at his flat, suddenly twigs that her dress might be dangerous. He writes her a note (“take off your dress”) only for her to counter with a note of her own (“get lost”). Given she’s been panting over him since the start of the series, I’d have thought she’d have been quite keen to get undressed for him ….

Towards the end of the episode Adam has the chance to indulge in his usual spot of fisticuffs before facing the possibility of a grisly death at the hands of Clair’s wicked invention. Fear not though, the ever resourceful Adam can take just about anything that’s thrown at him and then throw it back with maximum vengeance.

Another solid episode, this one benefits enormously from the performance of Colin Jeavons.

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Adam Adamant Lives! – The Terribly Happy Embalmers

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The opening of this episode is AAL! at its most Avengerish (not really surprising of course since Brian Clemens wrote the script). Sir John Marston (John Scott) bids his friends and colleagues a cheerful goodbye before stepping into a comfortable coffin – immediately afterwards he is pronounced dead by Wilson (Jeremy Young).

The coffin is delivered to an undertakers run by Mr Percy (Arthur Brough – glass of water for Mr Grainger please) and is opened to reveal a happy Marston, declaring that it’s good to be alive again. Unfortunately Mr Percy then shoots him dead ….

Now that’s how you write a teaser!

Clemens’ script sparkles throughout. Mind you, it doesn’t hurt that it boasts fine performances from some experienced players. Such as Deryck Guyler as Grantham, the snuff-taking Man from the Ministry who calls in Adamant to solve the mystery of why a number of financiers (including Marston) died immediately before they were due to face charges of tax evasion.

The common link is a psychiatrist called Velmer (John Le Mesurier). His profession serves as a cue for Adam and Georgina to discuss the merits of psychiatry in another comic scene. Georgina’s abuse of Adam’s priceless tea service also raises a smile.

The presence of John Le Mesurier is another major plus point in the episode’s favour. Although for a bright man, Velmer seems to be a little dense (even after learning about Adam’s past life, he doesn’t twig that his subject is actually the celebrated Adam Adamant). This is even odder when it’s later revealed that Velmer knows all about Adam.

Hamilton Dyce, as Mr Percy’s second in command, and Ilona Rogers (Susan) help to fill out the cast.  I have to admit that she looks rather fine in her nurses uniform (which seems to have been designed to maximise her cleavage).

Velmer has sent Adam to a very strange nursing home where Susan is on hand to attend to his every need – although the buttoned up Adam draws the line at being undressed by her! The early dialogue exchanges between Harper and Rogers are a gift for both for them.

It’s nice to see Harper given some good material to get his teeth into – unlike some of the previous episodes Adam isn’t just portrayed as an uptight innocent, he seems to be a more rounded character today (quick witted and easy able to feign madness – Velmer is convinced that Adam’s Edwardian remembrances are simply delusions and Adam is happy to string him along).

Georgina has been sidelined for most of this episode – stuck in the flat with Simms who’s been entertaining her by reciting several of his hair-raising limericks – but eventually she pushes herself into the story by skulking around the offices of the health club. She encounters a strange-looking man rising from a coffin in a shock moment that seems designed to lead into an ad break (before you remember this was a BBC show).

Georgina and Susan later have a brief catfight which is the cue for Georgina to steal her clothes and for Susan to emerge a moment later in a state of undress. The conclusion – with the undertakers perishing in a barrage of friendly fire and Adam and Wilson fencing to the death – is a bit of a cracker.

The Very Happy Embalmers has a rather thin story but since it’s assembled and performed so well I’m not complaining. After a few false starts, this episode pointed a possible way ahead for the series, albeit as an Avengers clone.  If AAL! was going to have a long term future then it would need to find its own voice, but for now this episode is simply content to be nothing less than first rate entertainment.

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Adam Adamant Lives! – Allah Is Not Always With You

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Allah Is Not Always With You opens in eyebrow raising fashion –  an attractive young woman called Linda (Miranda Hampton) is tied to a bed and offered the prospect of torture unless she does as she’s instructed. Golly. The attentive viewer will probably notice that she’s dressed in fishnets and a fluffy upper costume, which raises the kink factor an extra notch.

You have to say though that maybe the baddies’ hearts weren’t in it, as once Linda is left alone she unties herself with embarrassing ease and manages to dodge past the tough guarding the door.  If this is slightly hard to swallow, then more swallowing is required when (fleeing down a long corridor) she’s knifed in the back.  Had the distance between Linda and the knife thrower not been so great then possibly this wouldn’t have come across as such a superhuman feat.

Mortally wounded though she is, Linda still manages to pop on a coat (sorry, I’ll try and stop nitpicking soon) and takes a cab (driven by George Tovey, who always did a very nice line in cabbies) to Adam’s flat.  Her arrival in Adam’s sitting room (her barely conscious form carried over the threshold by Simms) is an amusing moment. It’s also significant, as this caused the original Simms (played by John Dawson) a great deal of trouble – sent off to hospital with a bad back, Dawson was quickly replaced by Jack May.

Everything seems to centre on The Fluffy Club which is a joint where the hostesses are dressed in a fluffy fashion (nothing to do with the Playboy Club, honest). It’s the sort of decadent gambling den you know Adam will find totally abhorrent, even if by today’s standards it looks amusingly tame.  And if it’s somewhat predictable that Adam’s ended up in such a place, then it’s even more predictable that Georgina – having ignored Adam’s order not to get involved – has enrolled at the club as a Fluffy Girl in order to be his inside woman.

She has all the attributes to be a Fluffy Girl, her legs seem to go on forever ….

Kevin Brennan oozes melodramatic menace as Vargos, the club owner who intends to ensnare Ahmed (David Spenser), a wealthy Middle Eastern playboy. Whilst Ahmed heads off to be fleeced in the big card game, Adam is lurking about the corridors. At this point it’s hard to see how he’ll fit into the narrative (he can hardly gatecrash the game) but luckily there’s another damsel in distress close at hand and a few toughs for Adam to duff up.

Adam’s new damsel, Helen (Jennifer Jayne), is – of course – an associate of Vargos (poor Adam always seems to hone straight in on the bad women). So clever, but oh so vulnerable. She manages to snatch a quick kiss with him and he doesn’t pull away. Perhaps Adam is slowly moving into the sixties …..

Fictitious Middle Eastern states were an ever-present staple of sixties adventure series and today’s example is a fairly common one. Ahmed is the headstrong young heir to the Sheikdom who’s been assimilated into – or corrupted by – Western culture whereas his father is much more of a traditionalist.  The Sheik is played by a browned-up John Woodnutt, which is the sort of casting that may look a little odd today but was perfectly common back then.

It’s interesting that whilst Adam finds himself sidetracked by Helen, Georgina is the one who’s doing all the hard graft – taking Ahmed out for a bun in order to find out what Vargos is up to. And once she’s got the info, Georgina scooters off to Adam’s pad to share the news – almost running into Helen who’s just been enjoying an intimate tête-à-tête with Mr Adamant. Frosty stares are exchanged between the two females.

Eventually Georgina is able to persuade Adam that the Sheik’s life may be in danger (in London for a routine operation, if he dies then Vargos will be able to pull Ahmed’s strings and rule by proxy).

Allah Is Not Always With You chugs along quite nicely with all the familiar story beats of the series – easily duped Adam, plucky Georgina, fisticuffs ahoy – firmly in place. It never quite kicks into top gear though since Vargos is too nebulous a villain whilst Ahmed is also quite sketchily portrayed (given this, it’s hard to feel any particular sympathy for him).

The identical pleasures – a horrified Adam meeting the sedate fleshpots of the Fluffy Club, say – are the moments which really stand out. Not bad then, but hopefully more substantial fare will be just round the corner.

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Armchair Theatre – Office Party (17th August 1971)

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Fay Weldon’s Office Party might not be the sharpest ever AT, but it’s still of interest – partly since it’s a good example of the studio-bound ITV play (something which would gradually disappear from the schedules) but also because Weldon’s script offers up plenty of food for thought regarding gender politics (even if the problems she creates are resolved rather neatly by the end).

The setting is a bank, after hours, where the staff have convened to wish their manager (played by George A. Cooper) a fond-ish farewell.  Cooper plays to type as a plain-speaking man who is well aware that he’s not particularly loved (or even well liked) but still condones the party. Perhaps he likes receiving presents.

Also slotting into a familiar role is Peter Barkworth as his number two, Dickie. Barkworth seemed to spend most of his career playing buttoned-down types who had a distinct code of old fashioned honour.  At first, Dickie seems to regard his secretary, Julia (Angharad Rees), with nothing but contempt, but by the end of the play he’s mellowed considerably.

Rees exudes an undeniable sexiness – especially when she arrives at the party wearing a somewhat revealing dress. This inflames the passions of some of her colleagues (Giles Block and Peter Denyer both give good turns in this respect).  Roy (Block) seems somewhat put out when he tells Julia that he’s placed her top of his list of most desirable office females (she fails to respond in the manner he expects).

If Rees is vulnerable at times then Ray Brooks is rather boorish as Dave (Julia’s boyfriend). He exhibits little loyalty towards her, even after learning that she’s pregnant, and seems much more interested in squiring another young lady round the party and telling Roy all about his liaisons with Julia in the stationery cupboard. Dave is an alpha male – friendship with his male buddies comes first, a relationship with his girlfriend is a distant second.

The clash between Julia and Dave midway through is clearly one of the play’s key points. At this stage it looks as if any sort of relationship between them will be impossible (marriage is certainly out of the question). There’s a happy ending though as the pair reconcile in the last minutes which means that everything seems to be settled. Although given that both have rather volatile natures, possibly we’re invited to not expect them to live happily ever after ….

Elsewhere, I did enjoy the confrontation between Barkworth and Cooper late on. Julia is, once again, the topic of conversation, with the outgoing manager insistent that she be sacked whilst Dickie shows a more compassionate side to his nature by standing by her.

That Dickie, when learning of Julia’s pregnancy, offers her a chair feels exactly like the sort of thing you’d expect a character played by Barkworth to do. Julia remains passive as the men debate her fate (at one point turning her bare back on them) but she does eventually speak up.

Office Party has some good comic moments, along with a first rate cast to play them, and overall it still stands up well. As I’ve said, it maybe doesn’t entirely satisfy, but there are far worse ways to spend fifty minutes.

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Doctor Who – Galaxy 4. Part Four – The Exploding Planet

After the Doctor and Vicki rescue Steven from the airlock, they leave him to have a chat with the Rill (still voiced in a deep and booming fashion by Robert Cartland).  This is one of the more interesting scenes in this final episode.  Earlier, both Vicki and the Doctor were happy to accept the Rill’s bona fides at face value, but Steven’s a much more cynical sort.

STEVEN: So the Doctor trusts you?
RILL: Why shouldn’t he?
STEVEN: No reason. I suppose you gave right ethical reasons for him, so naturally he does trust you.
RILL: We rescued you from the Drahvins, but you still don’t trust us?
STEVEN: Oh, you could be the same as them – using us for your own salvation.

Steven eventually accepts that the Rills are operating in good faith, but this scene demonstrates Steven’s independence.   Peter Purves’ dislike for the story is well known (he believed his part had originally been written for Barbara and then was hastily rewritten) but little moments like this are good ones for the character.

In the end, the moral of the story is helpfully spelled out after the Doctor, Steven and Vicki have a face-to-face meeting with the Rill.  Even the Doctor is slightly taken aback by his appearance, but after his initial surprise he treats him with equanimity.

Vicki and Steven are equally accepting.  Vicki says that “I mean, after all, we must look just as strange to you” whilst Steven tells the Rill that “what difference does it make what your form is?”  The Doctor is able to cap these noble sentiments off when he grandly proclaims that “importance lies in the character and to what use you put this intelligence. We respect you as we respect all life.”

It’s Maaga’s inability to see past the Rills’ startling experience which seals her fate and that of her soldiers.  The Rills would have been happy to take the Drahvins with them once the Doctor had repaired their ship, but this was never a possibility for Maaga.  For her there was only one answer – kill the Rills and take their ship by force.

But her attempt to launch an attack comes to nothing and she’s forced to watch as the Rills’ spaceship takes off without them.   That we’re denied a pitched Drahvin/Chumbly battle for control of the Rills spaceship feels like a missed opportunity, as is the fact that the Doctor and his friends are able to reach the TARDIS without being stopped by Maaga.

I wonder if some of the other Doctors would have decided to rescue Maaga and the others?  Not Billy though, he’s more than happy to nip off and leave them to their fate.  In the world of the first Doctor it’s plain that the Drahvins had their chance to demonstrate that – like the Rills – they could show compassion for others.  They didn’t, so the Doctor leaves them to face certain death.

With only one extant episode it’s hard to really know how effective the story was.  The Loose Cannon recon certainly makes an heroic effort to provide some visual moments for the other three episodes, but even if the whole story existed I doubt it would be regarded as anything more than a fairly middling story.

The rather simplistic message at the heart of the story (ugly doesn’t have to mean evil) had been covered more fruitfully before – even in the sedate form of The Sensorites.

Doctor Who – Galaxy 4. Part Three – Airlock


Galaxy 4 has never been regarded as one of Doctor Who‘s great tales, something which was made plain when Air Lock was recovered.  The news was met with polite interest, but there was an undeniable feeling that many were wishing something from a “classic” story (like Power of the Daleks) had been found instead.

Hopefully some minds were changed after the episode was released on DVD, as the return of any missing DW episode (even from an obscure and unloved story like this one) should be celebrated.  It’s wonderful to have the audios and recons, but they can only tell half the story – the previously unknown visual moments from Air Lock were a real revelation for me.

For example, we finally got to see a Rill in all its glory.  One of the series’ more mysterious monsters (for a long time even photographic evidence was sparse) it’s fair to say that the visuals didn’t do it many favours.

It does rather look like a piece of cardboard slowly moving behind a screen (so this was one of those occasions where the static image was preferable).  The voice acting from Robert Carland was powerful though – he certainly put everything he could into the role.

But if the visual representation of the Rill was a little disappointing, then the joy of watching Hartnell in full flow more than made up for it.  I love Hartnell’s Doctor (I may have mentioned this a few times before) and he’s in cracking form in this episode.

One of my favourite moments (another of those visual touches that we hadn’t previously known about) occurs when the Doctor orders the Chumblies about.  Lovely stuff!  The scene when he tangles with a Drahvin, using his stick as a weapon (and calling her madam!) is another little gem.

This was Derek Martinus’ directorial debut on the series.  He wasn’t the first, and certainly wouldn’t be the last, to find Hartnell rather difficult, but whilst Martinus may have been inexperienced he was still able to produce some interesting moments.

Most notable is Maaga’s monologue which Stephanie Bidmead delivers direct to camera. The flashback scene showing the moment when the Drahvins and Rills both crashed on the planet was another impressive visual touch – shot from the Rill’s POV.

The Doctor’s in a very reckless mood. He decides to sabotage the Rill’s machine which produces ammonia for them. Let’s give him the benefit of the doubt and say that he didn’t realise it was vital to their survival. At least he has the good grace to look a little bashful afterwards!

Peter Purves doesn’t have a great deal to do today.  Trapped in the air lock for most of the episode, he might as well have sat this one out.  This passive role no doubt helps to reinforce his belief that Galaxy 4 was a story that did Steven few favours, but had one of the earlier episodes been recovered then it’s possible that he may have looked a little more kindly on the story (as Steven certainly has a more active role in the first two episodes).

Doctor Who – Galaxy Four. Part Two – Trap of Steel

Maaga has allowed the Doctor and Steven to leave the Drahvin ship in order to establish whether the planet really will be destroyed in fourteen dawns.  The audience is several steps ahead though – we know that this estimate is wildly optimistic (the planet will actually expire in another two dawns).

Vicki’s been left behind as a hostage, but luckily she doesn’t have to bear Maaga’s company for too long as the others return with news.  The Doctor decides to be economical with the truth to begin with and tells Maaga that the Rill’s estimate of fourteen dawns was correct.  The only problem is that Maaga then reveals that the repairs to the Rill’s spaceship will also take fourteen dawns.

Maaga once again repeats what almost seems to be a mantra – the Rills are evil and must be destroyed.  The possibility of working together to leave the planet never seems to enter her head.

But it’s interesting that despite the fact she seems to loathe the Rills, she’s also picked up a certain amount of information from them – the notion that the planet’s lifespan is limited to fourteen dawns and the time needed to repair their ship, for example.  If they’re such implacable enemies it’s a little odd that they’ve been so free with vital information like this.

Maaga is able to winkle out from the Doctor the fact that two dawns is all the time the planet has left to enjoy.  So the Doctor and Vicki (with Steven this time left behind as the Drahvin’s hostage) set out to meet the Rills to see if they can speed up the repairs 

This is not before time – after all, we learnt early in episode one about them and there’s a strong sense that the story can’t advance until we hear their side of things.  But the Doctor, and the story, isn’t inclined to rush so we’ll have to wait until the next episode before the Doctor and Vicki come (sort of) face to face with a Rill.

Whilst the Doctor and Vicki are slowly making their way to the Rill’s spaceship, Steven is attempting to sow discord aboard the Drahvin’s ship.  He’s able to easily manipulate one of Maaga’s footsoldiers, but it doesn’t gain him much of an advantage.

Galaxy 4 has long been one of Peter Purves’ least favourite stories, mainly because he believed it was written for Ian and Barbara (and Barbara’s role was then hastily rewritten for him).  There’s not a great deal of evidence for that in this episode though.  Steven has several very decent scenes – especially when he confronts Maaga – and whilst it’s possible that Barbara could have been as strong, everything we see here is totally consistent with Steven’s already established character.

Little of note happens in Trap of Steel.  Events are moving, but we’ll have to wait until the next episode to see how they pay off.  Since episode three now exists that’s not entirely a bad thing, but it does mean that Trap of Steel is rather forgettable in its own right.

Doctor Who – Galaxy Four. Part One – Four Hundred Dawns

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Galaxy 4 opens with a scene of domestic life aboard the TARDIS – Vicki is cutting Steven’s hair. Does she also trim the Doctor’s I wonder? But musings about the barbering requirements aboard the ship are (ahem) cut short when they land on what appears to be a completely deserted planet.

The Doctor is convinced there’s no life out there. Ooops. Just a minute later a strange robot is observed slowing moving around the TARDIS. Later Doctors tended to verge on the omnipotent, but this moment is a reminder that the original Doctor didn’t have all the answers (and also had the good grace to admit when he was wrong).

Vicki’s delighted with the small robot, nicknaming it a Chumbley, because it has a sort of chumbley movement. No, me neither. But it’s as good a name as any and it’s helpful to have the device named since it instantly imbues it with more of a personality.

So far we’re about eight minutes in and the story has proceeded in a leisurely fashion. Things start to pick up when two blonde women throw a net over the hapless Chumbley. Steven’s all over them in a rash. “Aren’t they a lovely surprise” he coos and when they introduce themselves as Drahvins he responds “and very nice too.” A smooth talker, that boy.

This early scene helps to establish that there are two factions on the planet – the Drahvins and the Rills (who control the Chumblies). The Drahvins view the Rills with extreme loathing. “They are not people. They are things. They crawl. They murder.”

I wonder if the story was asking the audience to assume that the Rills were evil and the Drahvins good? But since the script makes it plain that both the Doctor and Vicki view the Drahvins, even after this initial meeting, with suspicion that doesn’t seem to be so. They might be superficially attractive but there’s an unsettling coldness to them.

This does sap the suspense somewhat – it may have been more interesting for the Drahvins to be presented as welcoming and friendly, with their true natures only slowly revealed. Of course, another avenue to explore would have been if both sides were as evil and warlike as each other – meaning that the Doctor and his friends were caught in the middle with no potential allies.

Until the recovery of episode three, Airlock, the only surviving visual material had been a five minute excerpt from this episode. After the static nature of the recon, it’s nice to have moving pictures again (albeit briefly) as the Doctor and the others meet the leader of the Drahvins, Maaga (Stephanie Bidmead). She rules her subordinates with fear, but is cordial with the Doctor, no doubt because she believes he could be of some use to her in the war with the Rills.

Maaga chats a little about her home planet, which adheres to various SF clichés. “Oh, we have a small number of men, as many as we need. The rest we kill. They consume valuable food and fulfill no particular function.” Most of the Drahvins are clones – only Maaga is a real person, the rest are bred to fight and die (which handily explains their wooden delivery and lack of spark).

With the planet due to explode in fourteen dawns time, Maaga has a problem. Their ship is damaged, so she has to find some way to force the Rills to take them (or destroy the Rills and commander their ship). If the episode has proceeded in a rather leisurely fashion so far, then the revelation that the planet will actually explode in two dawns does add a little urgency to proceedings ……

Doctor Who – The Time Meddler. Part Four – Checkmate

It’s not too much of a stretch to see the Monk as an inversion of the Doctor.  Wheras the Doctor has had a strong aversion to changing history (although only it seems to apply to the Earth prior to the 1960’s) the Monk is quite the opposite.

He explains his brilliant plan to the Doctor. “Well, for instance, Harold, King Harold, I know he’d be a good king. There wouldn’t be all those wars in Europe, those claims over France went on for years and years. With peace the people’d be able to better themselves. With a few hints and tips from me they’d be able to have jet airliners by 1320! Shakespeare’d be able to put Hamlet on television.”

No surprise that the Doctor is appalled, although one of the problems with stories which address the possibility of changing history is that they pose more questions than they answer.

Doctor Who’s first script editor David Whitaker was quite clear on this point – the Doctor couldn’t change history.  Not wouldn’t, couldn’t.  Several less than convincing reasons were provided to explain this. For example, if they’d attempted to assassinate a key figure like Napoleon then the bullet would have been bound to miss him.

Quite how this would happen is never made clear, unless we assume that that there’s some mysterious force in the universe which knows the “true” course of history and would automatically deal with any deviations.

This isn’t very satisfying and when Dennis Spooner took over from David Whitaker he quickly changed things around.  Now, the Doctor could change history but the question was more whether he should.  The Doctor voices his fear about the Monk’s meddling.  “He’s utterly irresponsible. He wants to destroy the whole pattern of world history.”

Is the Doctor concerned because the Monk’s plans will have a detrimental effect on Earth’s development or is it that he doesn’t want to see established history changed?  If everything the Monk predicted came to pass then it might actually be positive.  But how would anybody know?  As discussed by Vicki and Steven, as soon as a change is made it would become true history and they’d never have known any other.

VICKI: It looks as though that Monk’s going to get away with it after all.
STEVEN: Yes, but he can’t, can he? I don’t know much about history but I do know that William the Conqueror did win the Battle of Hastings.
VICKI: Up till now he did. If the Monk changes it, I suppose our memories will change as well.
STEVEN: What about the history books?
VICKI: That’s all right. They’re not written yet. They’ll just write and print the new version.
STEVEN: But that means that the exact minute, the exact second that he does it, every history book, every, well, the whole future of every year and time on Earth will change, just like that and nobody’ll know that it has?
VICKI: I suppose that’s what I’m trying to say.

Although the Doctor’s still keen to present himself as an observer and not a meddler like the Monk, every time he visits a planet he makes a material difference and therefore changes history. If he hadn’t appeared somewhere then events would have played out differently. How different this is from the Monk’s plans is hard to say. See, time travel is a tricky business …

The Doctor manages to defeat the Monk, although I’ve always found it slightly strange that he elects to strand him on Earth.  He may not have access to his TARDIS, but he still has his knowledge and a stockpile of anachronistic inventions.  Surely he could do some damage to history with these?

Ah well, probably best to think about it too deeply.  The Time Meddler is content to be nothing more than a comic romp, with the main entertainment to be found in the Doctor’s clashes with the Monk.  It’ll never top any favourites poll, but it’s a solid entertainment and brings the second series to a decent conclusion.

Doctor Who – The Time Meddler. Part Three – A Battle of Wits

At the start of this episode it’s clear that Vicki still has the upper hand over Steven.  She’s the one who deduces that the Doctor must have escaped from his cell via a secret passage (and she also manages to find it).

But the roles are reversed later after they return to the beach.  Vicki is appalled to find that the tide’s come in, as it surely must mean that the TARDIS has been washed out to sea.  Steven tries to comfort her by telling her that maybe the Doctor has moved it, but that only upsets her even more.  If the Doctor’s demateralised the TARDIS then he’d have no way of returning and they’ll be stranded in eleventh century Britain forever.

Although Vicki has developed a pleasingly independant streak over the last few stories, her sudden despair and defeatism does suggest that she’s not too far removed from the naive young girl we met in The Rescue.  It seems hard to credit that she’d really believe the Doctor would just leave them – but possibly this doubt can be put down to the lingering trauma of her life on Dido.

The Doctor’s still very much about though and he pays another visit to Edith.  As he takes his leave of her, there’s a nice shot as the camera moves from behind the actors and refocuses with Hartnell framed in a close-up and a puzzled looking Edith placed in the background.

Apart from Douglas Camfield’s undoubted skill with a film camera, he was also someone who pushed hard to achieve interesting picture compositions in the studio.  Due to the hectic nature of Doctor Who‘s production it wasn’t always possible, but scattered throughout his stories are numerous examples (the grouping of the Doctor, Jamie and Victoria at the start of The Web of Fear is a good one).

Given how unwieldy the cameras were in 1965 it obviously wasn’t an easy task to move it so quickly (you can detect a little wobble as it repositions) but I’m glad Camfield made the effort as it just adds a little something to the conclusion of the scene.

The nature of the Doctor’s relationship with the Monk is still a mystery (which is only answered, indirectly, at the end of the episode).  That the Monk knows his name when they meet again might suggest that they already know each other, but this could also be explained away by a conversation earlier in the story which we didn’t see.

It’s interesting that the Doctor gains the upper hand by using the old trick of pointing a stick into the Monk’s back and pretending that it’s a rifle.  If they were old acquaintances then you’d have assumed that the Monk would know that the Doctor wouldn’t pull the trigger.  Unless, of course, the young Doctor was a bloodthirsty sort who’s only recently mended his ways!

The Monk’s plan is becoming clearer though.  He wants to destroy the incoming Viking fleet and has a helpful checklist to aid his memory, which I love.  It starts with his landing in Northumberland and ends with him meeting King Harold (no doubt to receive the King’s grateful thanks).  Clearly the Monk was a little starstruck.

Two less than fearsome Vikings – Sven (David Anderson) & Ulf (Norman Hartley) are still lurking about.  They decide to hide in the monastery, which is a bad idea as the Doctor and the Monk are able, independently, to deal with them.  Both are attended to in the same way – the Doctor and the Monk bash them over their heads with what appears to be very thin strips of balsa wood.  Is this just a coincidence or is the script attempting to show that the two time-travelers are very much the same deep down?

Various clues – a wristwatch in the forest, the record player – have strongly suggested that the Monk isn’t of this time, but we have to wait until the end of the episode before Vicki and Steven make a stunning discovery – the Monk has a TARDIS.  This is something of a game-changer for the series as it’s the first step on the road to introducing the Time Lords.

Doctor Who – The Time Meddler. Part Two – The Meddling Monk

monk

During The Watcher, the monk was presented as something of a sinister figure, but the first minutes of The Meddling Monk portrays the character in quite a different light. We see him pottering about the monastery preparing breakfast (with the unspoken question ligering about how there could be a toaster and other modern appliances in England, 1066). He then toddles along to the Doctor’s cell and cheerily bids him good morning.

Although he’s obviously crowing that the Doctor’s still his prisoner, since he’s gone to the trouble of preparing him a hearty breakfast he can’t be all that bad. Such a pity that his efforts are wasted as the Doctor flings the food back into his face! Pre-recorded lines of dialogue from Hartnell help to create the illusion that the Doctor’s in the cell (whereas we won’t actually see him in person again until the following episode).

Butterworth’s a joy throughout this episode and indeed the rest of the story as well. Little bits of business – such as attempting to take some snuff on the windy mountaintop – might have been the sort of thing worked out in rehearsal, but it helps to fill what would otherwise be a quiet moment.

Butterworth interacts appealingly with the villagers as well as Vicki and Steven but he really shines when the monk and the Doctor clash later in the story . Hartnell and Butterworth spark off each other so well that it’s no surprise that the monk was brought back for a further appearance in season three.

Steven continues to act in a fairly aggressive manner. After they’re apprehended by the villagers he’s quick to react angrily, but the headman of the village, Wulnoth (Martin Miller), believes they’re are innocent travellers and is content to see them on their way.

He provides them with food and drink for their journey, which Steven – first grudgingly and then with more feeling – thanks him for. In parting, Wulnoth and Edith offer their ritual farewell – “god be with you”. Politeness dictates that both Vicki and Steven respond in kind. Vicki does so straightaway, but it’s another nice character beat that Steven hesitates for a few seconds before he gives the response as well.

A small raiding party of Vikings adds an element of danger to the story. They’re a rum looking lot though (beards and eye-patches ahoy). The leader orders his men to remain undetected, as their mission is to gather intelligence for a forthcoming substantial attack. However they don’t really achieve this …..

Two of them attack Edith and although it’s not explicitly stated, it’s plain that she’s been raped. That Vikings enjoyed a bit of rape and plunder is a historical fact, but it’s still a slight surprise to see it in this story (even if it’s done in an understated way).

Eldred (Peter Russell), a beardy, wide-eyed member of the village is convinced that Steven was responsible, but this potential plotline was never developed as Edith quickly confirms that it was the Vikings. Had this been a six-parter, then maybe we might have seen the angry villagers pursuing Steven and Vicki, but this potential plotline is nothing more than a throwaway moment here.

Indeed, the story continues to move at quite a pace – only a few moments after Wulnoth, Eldred and the others set off to look for the Vikings, they find them (and a brief battle ensues). With Eldred injured, Wulnoth takes him to the monastery, where the monk is forced to take him in. Vicki and Steven are also there and find the Doctor’s cell, but the Doctor’s no longer there …..

Doctor Who – The Time Meddler. Part One – The Watcher

The opening moments of The Time Meddler finds both the Doctor and Vicki in a reflective mood.  But this period of quiet (nicely played by both Hartnell and O’Brien) is rudely shattered by noises from within the TARDIS.  Vicki’s convinced that it’s a Dalek and the pair take up defensive postures.  Although had have been, I’m not sure that the Doctor’s coat and Vicki’s shoe would have been adequate weapons!

But of course it’s not, instead a rather disheveled Steven Taylor comes staggering through the door, still clutching his toy panda Hi-Fi.  Our last sighting of Steven came in the previous episode when he was grabbed by the fungoids (insert your own joke here).  So somehow, weak though he was, he was able to stagger into the TARDIS – but rather than remain in the console room, he ventured further inside and managed to remain undetected until after the Doctor had taken off.

It’s a slightly contrived way of reintroducing him, but nonetheless it’s quite effective – I’m sure a large portion of the audience would have assumed he was simply a one-episode character who we’d never see again.

Immediately after Steven makes his presence known, the TARDIS lands on a rocky beach next to the sea.  One the things that most impresses me most about this serial is how Douglas Camfield was able to use a number of simple, but very effective, tricks to create the feel of outdoors locations in this wholly studio-bound story.

The arrival of the TARDIS is a good example – there’s a few seconds of stock footage showing waves crashing on rocks, then a cut to a photographic slide of a rocky outcrop where the TARDIS materialises, followed by  a shot of the monk (Peter Butterworth) observing events from higher up.  Behind the monk, courtesy of back projection, clouds roll past.  The latter was a fairly common trick used at the time, but sometimes – if the backcloth was wrinkled – it didn’t convince.  Here it’s perfect and the illusion is very effective.

Whereas Vicki had little difficulty in her first story about believing that the TARDIS could travel anywhere in time and space, Steven is a lot harder to convince (he’s rather like Ian in this respect).   But whilst Vicki (and later Dodo) were designed to be little more than Susan clones, Steven is a little different from Ian.  Steven is initially presented as brash and arrogant and incurs the Doctor’s displeasure when he refers to him as Doc (something which always irritated the Doctor down the years).

The Doctor’s quickly separated from Vicki and Steven (and isn’t reunited with them until episode four).   This is partly designed to cover Hartnell’s absence from episode two, but it also allows Purves and O’Brien to immediately build a rapport.  Steven and Vicki work well together and there’s a few entertaining sparks in their relationship (something which never happened with the much more settled combination of Ian, Barbara and Vicki).

Meanwhile the Doctor’s wandered off to a small settlement and has made the acquaintance of Edith (Alethea Charlton).  Charlton had appeared in the first story, also in a somewhat grimy role, but Edith is a much more welcoming character than Hur.  The Doctor’s scenes with Edith, as he shares a cup of mead and they chat, are rather charming.  But his time relaxing is cut short when he hears strange noises at the monastery – the chanting monks suddenly dramatically slow down.

This moment marks the first occurrence of what tended to be known as the pseudo historical.  Historical stories had been a feature right from the start of the series, but this is the first time that elements from the future (apart from the Doctor himself) were added into the mix.  Possibly this was done in order to shake up the format – a mixture of history and sci-fi was an obvious move.

During this episode Peter Butterworth’s monk has been a solitary, silent figure (the watcher of the title).  The cliffhanger shows the Doctor trapped in the monastery and the monk laughing at his fate.  We’ve still yet to learn anything about the monk or his motivations though – but the next episode (as Hartnell takes a holiday) will allow him to come to the fore.

Peter Wyngarde – A Life Amongst Strangers by Tina Wyngarde-Hopkins

wyngarde

I’ve been a fan of Peter Wyngarde’s film and television work for a fair few years, but until now I didn’t really know a great deal about the man himself – apart from a series of oft-repeated tales (which no doubt grow more distorted every time they’re repeated).

Tina Wyngarde-Hopkins’ hefty tome (clocking in at over 500 pages) has been designed to rectiy this and although she’s obviously approached the book intent on righting perceived wrongs from various points in Wyngarde’s life, it still manages to paint a vivid picture of a charismatic, but often difficult, man.

Wyngarde-Hopkins first met Peter in the early nineties when she set up a fanzine dedicated to him. Over the years their bond grew closer as she became his assistant, companion and eventual soul mate. Drawing upon an impressive archive (letters, scripts, diaries, interviews) she’s been able to fashion a substantial biography where the subject is often able to chip in on the subject in hand.

His early years, as a prisoner of the Japanese in an interment camp in Shanghai, are vividly portrayed. There are lighter moments – organising theatrical entertainments – but also darker ones (the guards broke both his feet in order to discourage him from running about).  Wyngarde’s relationship with his parents – his mother looks to have been something of a flighty man-eater whilst he idolised his father (who died at sea in 1947) – is also touched upon.

Rather like his mother, Wyngarde enjoyed a healthy sex life (one of the things he’s – along his with acting – probably best known for). And as he attempted to establish a name for himself as an actor in post-war Britain, there were no shortage of opportunities for liasons.  Plus plenty of invitations which Wyngarde declined (from the likes of Noel Coward, Peggy Ashcroft and Bette Davis). It’s up to the reader to decide how much of this is credible – no doubt Wyngarde wasn’t above spinning a tall tale or two.

His years in provincial rep and his eventual emergence during the 1950’s as a familiar face on both the London stage and as an early television favourite are entertainingly sketched. The likes of Kenneth Williams and Orson Welles feature in some amusing anecdotes.

By the 1960’s Wyngarde was guesting in a number of cult television series which still endure to this day. Most notably The Avengers and the episode A Touch Of Brimstone, in which he played the Honorable John Cleverly Cartney, leader of a modern Hellfire Club. Wyngarde would later recall that Cartney’s whip cracking was very carefully choregraphed – one wrong move could have resulted in a serious injury for Diana Rigg.

His real ascent to cult fame would, of course, come with Department S and Jason King. Paid the princely sum of £336 for the first thirteen episodes (rising to £1,000 if the series continued past that point) Wyngarde seems to have earned the respect of many of the guest actors (Anthony Hopkins speaks warmly of his experience working with him on Department S) although it was a different story with his co-star Rosemary Nichols. More detail on this – or indeed production of both series – would have been welcome, as they’re dealt with rather quickly.

Two very different events during the seventies are still debated today by Wyngarde watchers. The first is his 1970 self-titled spoken word album, which included such memorable offerings as “Rape”. Judging by the eleven tracks not included in the final cut (including “Merry Sexmas”) it could have been a double album ….

A Life Amongst Strangers posits that RCA had hoped the album would be a flop, thereby allowing them to write it off as a tax loss. But unfortunately for them it turned out to be a success. That’s certainly an interesting spin on events.

In 1975 Wyngarde was fined £75 for committing an act of gross indecency in the public toilets at Gloucester Bus Station. Although he kept working, this dealt a devastating blow to both his career and public image from which he never really recovered.  Wyngarde-Hopkins remains convinced he was innocent (and that he was PERSECUTED! not prosecuted).  Throughout the book she’s also at pains to dismiss the numerous rumours concerning his sexuality – presenting Wyngarde as a firmly heterosexual character.

From the eighties onwards the work began to dry up, although there were still some notable credits, such as Flash Gordon (1980) and a guest role in a 1984 Doctor Who serial (Planet of Fire). Peter Davison would remember Wyngarde’s contribution to this story in his autobiography, although this still attracted Wyngarde-Hopkins’ ire (due to the fact he misspelt Wyngarde’s surname and omitted him from the index).

His final years, as his health began to falter, makes for bleak reading – although by the end you’re left in no doubt about just how much Tina Wyngarde-Hopkins loved him.

A Life Amongst Strangers offers a substantial portrait of Peter Wyngarde. As with all autobiographies and biographies the reader will have to decide just how accurate a portrait it is, but it certainly doesn’t skimp on detail.  Published by Austin Macauley, it’s well worth checking out.

Doctor Who – The Chase. Part Six – The Planet of Decision

The Mechanoid takes the time-travellers up to the city.  The lift they travel in is incredibly quiet, which is either an intentional touch (to suggest how advanced the Mechanoids are) or it’s because Richard Martin forgot to add any sound effects.  Given all that’s happened so far, I tend to favour the latter possibility ….

It’s easy to see where a large part of the budget went.  The Mechanoids are substantial creations, although their sheer size and unwieldiness was a major factor in making this their only appearance.

The episode has a faint echo of The Daleks – the Doctor and his friends are apprehended by the strange inhabitants of a futuristic city who then imprison them – but the Mechanoids have quite different motives from the Daleks.

The Daleks are thinking creatures, acting on fear and racial hatred, whilst the Mechanoids are purely machines – they aren’t evil, they’re simply obeying their programming.  And if that means keeping people captive (albeit in comfortable surroundings) then so be it.

Steven Taylor (Peter Purves) has been a prisoner of the Mechanoids for several years.  Starved of any human contact during that time, his first reaction when he meets the Doctor and his friends is to wonder if they’re real.

This might suggest that his grip on reality has started to go, but we’ll soon see that he’s still a very resourceful young man.  After appearing as the hillbilly Morton Dill a few episodes earlier, Purves (now with a natty beard) returned to play a quite different character.

With the imminent departure of William Russell and Jacqueline Hill, Purves would go on to be the solid rock of the series during the next year or so.  William Hartnell remained the star (although there are points during series three, which we’ll no doubt touch upon in due course, where he’s rather sidelined) but his increasing health issues meant that he would come to depend on Purves, who would be invaluable in dealing with his variable moods.

One interesting point is that the Daleks refer to the Mechanoids as Mechons, due to the fact that all their dialogue was pre-recorded before this script element was changed.  Given the chaotic nature of the story it’s good there aren’t any glaringly obvious Dalek dialogue mis-cues (as happened in The Dalek Invasion of Earth).

The set-piece battle between the Daleks and the Mechanoids is impressive – an element of the serial which benefitted from being shot on film.  It’s got nothing to do with the Doctor though, who’s hot-footing it with the others down to the surface of the planet, courtesy of a very long rope.  Possibly Terry Nation already had visions of his big-budget Dalek series (in which they maybe faced off against the Mechanoids week after week) so was this ending something of a trial run?

So that just leaves the departure of Ian and Barbara.  Companion exits tend to happen in one of two ways – either their desire to leave is hinted throughout their final story (Susan or Victoria, for example) or, like Ian and Barbara, they only decide at the end of the story that the time is right to go.

The discovery of the Daleks’ abandoned time machine gives them a perfect opportunity to return to their own time (remember this was still the period when the Doctor had no control over the TARDIS) although the Doctor’s very dubious.

You’ve got to a feel a little for Hartnell here.  Although the Doctor’s obviously sorry to have to say goodbye to Ian and Barbara, William Hartnell was even more unhappy that William Russell and Jacqueline Hill were leaving.  Possibly this contributes to one of his most famous fluffs (he tells them they’ll end up as cinders floating around in “spain, err space”) if they use the DARDIS.

I love the photo-montage that shows their delight in returning to the 1960’s, especially Ian’s mock-horror at observing a telephone box!  They’ll certainly both be missed, as Ian and Barbara were the moral centre of the series (especially during the early stories) but it’s true that their place in the series was becoming slightly redundant.

By this point the Doctor was a much more rounded character, so he didn’t need other people to act as his conscience.  All he needed was a young girl to get into scrapes and a young man to provide a bit of muscle – a formula that would endure for the rest of the decade.

Doctor Who – The Chase. Part Five – The Death of Doctor Who

death-of-doctor-who

One of the frustrating things about The Chase is the fact that the script has some very good ideas which are then rather frittered away.  The robot duplicate of Doctor Who is a case in point – this could have easily been developed over a number of episodes, possibly with the audience unaware that a substitution had been made (which would have made the reveal all the more dramatic).

But as this didn’t happen, this part of the plot doesn’t really progress beyond the robot Doctor briefly menacing Barbara before its true nature is revealed to her.  Although there’s one plus point – since today’s episode was structured more effectively than the previous one, Hartnell’s able to play both the Doctor and his robot double in several key scenes.

There are still some close-ups of Edmund Warwick mouthing William Hartnell’s pre-recorded lines which doesn’t even remotely convince, but we do get a short battle between the real Doctor and his mechanical counterpart which is quite amusing.

Although The Chase isn’t the sort of script you really should spend a great deal of time thinking about, it’s always slightly irritated me that although the Daleks have now got a time machine they never seem to think it might be a good idea to find out where the Doctor is going to land next and then arrive before him  That’s what a time machine can do, for goodness sake!

Instead, Terry Nation seems to regard the TARDIS and DARDIS (only named in the script – popular fan opinion states that it stands for “Daleks are Rusty Dustbins in Space”) as purely linear machines, meaning that the Daleks are always x number of minutes behind the Doctor’s craft.  This is rather silly, but no more than the rest of the script I guess.

Anyway, mild rant over.  The Doctor, Ian and Barbara have arrived on the planet Mechanus, home of the Mechanoids (who are mechanical, do you see?).  Mechanus has the sort of jungle that Terry Nation always seemed to love – the flapping fungoids are an unforgettable sight – although it’s a lot more of a low rent environment than those we would later see in The Daleks Master Plan  or Planet of the Daleks.  Money was clearly running out, so it’s a mercy that the lighting is kept low (although Barbara and Vicki’s tussles with the fungoids are still hopelessly unconvincing even in this dim light).

The others are reunited with Vicki and after defeating the robot Doctor they ponder their next move (they can’t get back to the TARDIS, since the jungle is crawling with Daleks).  The dawn of a new day reveals the city of the Mechanoids in all its glory – it’s a shot not dissimilar to our first sight of the Daleks’ city on Skaro.

For those keeping an eye on the number of times that BBC television cameras wander into shot, then 21:14 into this episode gives us a good sighting of another one.  Although if you wanted to do a ret-con, maybe it was actually a new, special weapons Dalek ….

If this episode has somewhat meandered about, then the final twenty seconds or so – when we get our first sight of a Mechanoid – is worth waiting for.

Doctor Who – The Chase. Part Four – Journey into Terror

terror

Journey Into Terror (yet another generic Terry Nation episode title) is pretty poor stuff.  Technically it’s very sloppy (watch out for the camera at the top of the stairs about five and a half minutes in). There’s another problem a few seconds later when a Dalek is revealed.  But the Daleks haven’t arrived yet, so this prop shouldn’t have been in shot. Oops …..

The script had a rather confusing genesis.  Terry Nation originally conceived the haunted house as only existing in the imaginations of the four time-travellers (and there’s a remnant of this in the script since that remains the Doctor’s theory).  Nation then muddied these waters in the draft script when the Daleks announced that the TARDIS had landed in Transylvania – implying that the Doctor was preparing to meet the real Count Dracula.  In the end the script was redrafted to explain that everything they see is nothing more than an elaborate funfair attraction.

Which is closed.  So why is the power on and why are the various (very realistic) mechanical monsters moving about?  Also, why do they develop homicidal tendencies?  Maybe that was the reason why the attraction was closed down.  I love when Barbara asks Vicki if she thinks whether “there’s something strange going on around here?” That’s after they’ve both met Count Dracula, so it’s a fair bet that something’s not quite right!

By now, the pattern of events should be clear.  The Doctor and his friends arrive somewhere, look around and leave.  The Daleks then turn up (they’re always just a little behind the TARDIS) curse that they’ve missed the Doctor yet again and get into a tussle with the locals.  If the Daleks have a time-machine why are they always a few minutes behind the TARDIS?  This makes no sense, but The Chase isn’t a story that makes a lot of sense anyway.

A little wrinkle is added after Vicki is left behind (she’s forced to take refuge in the Daleks’ time machine).  It’s rather remarkable that the others don’t twig she’s missing straight away. Nation would do this again a decade or so later in the Blakes 7 story Seek, Locate, Destroy where Cally went AWOL for a long time before anybody noticed.

The Daleks’ next wheeze is to create a robot copy of Doctor Who.  It’s identical to him in every respect (at certain angles anyway, at others it looks nothing like him).  This is another of those script ideas that just doesn’t work.  Had Hartnell played both the Doctor and his double all the time (with split screen filming for the scenes where they meet) then they could have pulled it off.  But Richard Martin bizarrely elected to use shots of Edmund Warwick dressed as the Doctor, badly miming Hartnell’s pre-recorded dialogue.  Does this convince?  Umm, not really.

It’s true that split-screen would have probably been outside of the programme’s budget, but it’s baffling why the script wasn’t tailored to enable Hartnell to play all of the robot scenes at the end of this episode.  Instead, we have shots of Warwick miming, which then changes to a close up of Hartnell.  Hardly the most impressive of cliffhangers.

Doctor Who – The Chase. Part Three – Flight Through Eternity

flight

The opening scene in the Daleks’ time machine looks pretty impressive. The set (designed by Raymond Cusick) feels substantial and has some groovy 1960’s embellishments such as the spinning wall designs. It’s also populated with quite a few Daleks – true, at least one is a cardboard cutout and others are cannibalised from the Peter Cushing movie, but it all helps to create the impression of a decent fighting force.

It’s therefore a pity that one of the Daleks is rather hesitant (“umm err”) which rather dissipates this good start. This wasn’t scripted and seems to have been a gag dropped in during rehearsals. It’s another moment which chips away at the invulnerability of the Daleks, although there’s worse to come ….

The TARDIS next drops our intrepid time-travellers off at the top of the Empire State Building. This is the cue for a number of interesting American accents. The first comes from Arne Gordon playing the guide. If you’re bored with the story at this point you can always amuse yourself by counting the number of times he says “err”. Gordon had also played Hrostar in The Web Planet, although you’d be forgiven for not realising this. There’s no excessive hand movements or mutterings of “Zaaaarrbbiiii” for example.

Next up is hillbilly Morton Dill, played by Peter Purves. As is well known, Purves’ small role so impressed Verity Lambert that she offered him the role of series regular Steven Taylor a few weeks later. Quite what she liked about Morton Dill is a bit of a mystery to me as Purves overplays horribly, although you could argue that The Chase is hardly the story where naturalistic acting is required.

I’d assume it must have been Purves’ off-camera persona which convinced her that he’d work well with Hartnell (and she was quite right as he would provide Hartnell with solid support during the next year or so).

Dill’s brief run-in with the Daleks is another instructive moment – he’s convulsed with laughter at their appearance and refuses to take them seriously. Had he then been blasted into nothingness it would have reminded the audience about the power of the Daleks (to coin a phrase). This doesn’t happen, so Skaro’s finest remain something of a joke.

Mercifully, we don’t spend too long in New York. The TARDIS is on the move again, landing the Doctor and his friends on an old-fashioned sailing ship. As with the Empire State Building sequence, it’s over and done with so quickly that only very superficial characterisation can be established.

A gag from The Romans – Ian is knocked out by one of his crewmates, this time Vicki – is reused and once again the Doctor leaves before the Daleks arrive. But whereas they couldn’t be bothered to deal with Morton Dill, here they’re in a much more bloodthirsty move and elect to exterminate all the crew.

This does give us some nicely shot film sequences, showing hapless crew members jumping from the ship into the sea (including, rather disturbingly, a mother and her child). As with the events in the previous episode, you have to wonder why the Doctor never seems to worry that almost everywhere he’s visiting is then obliterated by the Daleks. This is a throwback to the self-centered Doctor of season one, where his survival (and that of his companions) was his sole interest.

The reveal that the ship was the Mary Celeste is a rather groanworthy one, but at least it gives us an explanation for this age-old mystery. The crew and passengers were exterminated by the Daleks! It’s as good a solution as any other.

Doctor Who – The Chase. Part Two – The Death of Time

death

It’s pulpy sci-fi thrills all the way for the duration of The Death of Time. The appearance of the Aridians (they live on an arid planet, do you see?) isn’t a highpoint of the story as not only do they look ridiculous but they’re forced to deliver fairly uninspiring dialogue in a very stilted way.

These scenes are mainly of interest thanks to the appearance of Hywel Bennett as Rynian. Like Martin Jarvis in The Web Planet there’s a morbid curiosity in watching someone who’d go on to have a long and successful career looking ridiculous. With only a short amount of screentime the Aridians are very lightly sketched. They give the Doctor and his friends an account of their history, but since it’s not naturally delivered it feels like little more than info-dumping.

The Daleks present the Aridians with a stark ultimatum – hand over the Doctor or their planet will be destroyed. It’s no surprise that the Doctor’s able to escape but it’s slightly more of a surprise that he doesn’t seem to feel any obligation to the Aridians and is quite content to leave them to their fate. Because the Aridians are such pallid, comic-strip characters it’s hard to feel that invested about what happens to them, but it still feels a bit off for the Doctor just to beat a hasty retreat.

For those keeping an eye on the technical imperfections of the story, 16:45 in is a good one. For several seconds nothing seems to happen, then Jacqueline Hill is covered with unconvincing polystyrene rocks. It’s one of a number of moments that was crying out for a take two. A minute later, Richard Martin lingers over a shot of the Mire Beast. If you’ve ever seen it then you’ll know why that wasn’t a terribly good idea.

There’s now just one Dalek between the Doctor, Ian and the TARDIS. Do you get the feeling that they aren’t treating this Dalek with all due seriousness? Ian distracts the Dalek with the memorable call of “yoo-hoo! Dalek! Over here, friend!” whilst the Doctor gets in on the act with “yoo-hoo, Archie!” Dudley Simpson’s jaunty music doesn’t help to engender a sense of menace either. Treating the Daleks as comic characters is a dangerous road to go down as once you so it’s harder to recreate their sense of power.

And what exactly does The Death of Time refer to? Sometimes I get the feeling that Terry Nation just drew his episode titles from a hat, not caring that they sometimes bore no resemblance to the events of the script.