Doctor Who – The Tomb of the Cybermen

So here we are at the start of season five. It’s hard not to feel a mild sense of achievement now that season four has been put to bed – with only ten surviving episodes from a run of nine serials (the last complete story was The War Machines way back at the end of season three) it’s fair to say that things were a little hard going at times.

But now we’ve hit S5, surviving episodes are the rule rather than the exception. Although it wasn’t always like that ….

Gnarled old Doctor Who fans will no doubt recall the excitement generated when Tomb was recovered in 1992. Personally I didn’t quite see what all the fuss was about. It was good news of course, but at that point in time I was only just beginning to build up my collection of DW VHSs. So the fact that Tomb had been unavailable before 1992 didn’t mean a great deal to me (after all, I’d only seen The War Games for the first time in 1990).

The later recoveries of The Enemy of the World and The Web of Fear were totally different of course. By 2013 I’d lived with the audios and telesnaps of those stories for decades, so finally getting the chance to see them was (dare I say it) just a little bit emotional.

Older fans than I had built an impressive mythology around Tomb. Jeremy Bentham, writing in DWB back in 1992, declared that Tomb was the pinnacle of missing stories (a viewpoint that seems odd now). But for me, not having to approach the story with any particular baggage meant I could simply enjoy it (or not).

Things begin promisingly enough. We’re introduced to an archeological group comprised of a number of wildly different characters. George Pastell made a career out of playing swarthy untrustworthy foreigners – today he’s cast as Eric Klieg (who’s a swarthy untrustworthy foreigner). He’s accompanied by Kaftan (Shirley Cooklin) who is content to play the Lady Macbeth role whilst her servant Toberman (Roy Stewart) lurks in the background, strong and mostly silent.

Kaftan, like Klieg, has a foreign accent which instantly marks them both down as villains while Professor Parry (Aubrey Richards), with his reassuring Welsh tones, is clearly on the side of the angels. Then there’s Cyril Shaps as John Viner and Bernard Holley as Peter Haydon. Both are destined not to see the story out – Holley cops it at the end of the first episode whilst Shaps meets his end in the following one.

That’s a double pity as both were the sort of actors who enlivened any production they appeared in. Holley had less to work with (Haydon was simply a cheerful type with no particular axe to grind) whilst Shaps played his trademark role – the little man seemingly always at the edge of a nervous breakdown.

The Doctor clashes entertainingly with Klieg in the first few episodes. Klieg’s overweening arrogance and belief in his own abilities contrasts sharply with the Doctor’s modest playfulness. It’s the Doctor, of course, who’s able to unlock the secrets of the Cybermen’s tomb – although given that he’s well aware how dangerous they are, why he should want to do so is anyone’s guess.

Without the Doctor’s help, would Klieg have continued to flounder? Maybe, or maybe not – so perhaps the Doctor felt that it was better to draw Klieg’s sting as quickly as possible.

The production centres around two key sets – the tomb entrance and the tombs themselves. Given that this story was recorded in Lime Grove (a studio not known for its size) this was a wise move, plus, as with The Moonbase, if you restrict the number of sets then you can spend more money on them – which doesn’t hurt.

There’s no doubt that several sequences – remembered by those who watched the story on its original transmission in 1967 – helped to bolster Tomb‘s reputation in the twenty five years that followed. The end of episode two – the defrosted Cybermen emerge from their tombs and the imposing figure of their Controller (Michael Kilgarriff) utters his first words – is an obvious one.

Once the Cybermen have warmed up a little, they reveal their master plan. Having taken a long nap in their tombs they decided to wait for someone to find and unfreeze them (those lucky people would then be the first in a new race of Cybermen). Given that Professor Parry’s party is on the small side, there’s a slight flaw here …

Whilst the Cybermen are still physically imposing (is it just me, or are they taller than before?) in other respects they’re slightly disappointing. Like all modern electronic devices they can’t last long without recharging – which means that most of the Cybermen are forced back into their tombs for forty winks long before the end of the story although the Controller does venture upstairs to use the revitalising machine.

This is an enjoyable scene, although the Controller bursting through the very flimsy door of the revitalising machine is one of those moments that would have worked better in audio (ditto, the damage the Cybermen do to the main hatch – at one point I thought they were going to stick their fist right through it).

And while we’re on the subject of the Cybermen, they do an awful lot of rhubarbing which also helps to slightly deflate their imposing aura.

Having been fairly passive throughout Evil of the Daleks, it’s good to see that Victoria was given more to do in this one. She spends some time in the villainous clutches of Kaftan, which allows Deborah Watling to tease out a little of Victoria’s pluck and bravery.  Sadly, Shirley Cooklin never really impresses, so these scenes don’t carry that much of a punch.

Strong female guest star roles were a rarity in this era (strong female guest star villains even rarer) so it’s a pity that Cooklin didn’t do more with the role of Kaftan. The potential was there – the script tells us on more than one occasion that Kaftan is the power behind the throne and she’s more than able to manipulate Klieg – but it all rather falls flat on screen.

Later, the Doctor and Victoria share a much quoted ‘moment of charm’. It’s mainly Troughton’s scene (“I have to really want to, to bring them back in front of my eyes. The rest of the time they sleep in my mind, and I forget”) but it also serves another purpose – reminding the audience where Victoria had come from.

Klieg’s come-uppance in the final episode is long overdue. It’s preceded by a lovely Troughton/Pastell two-hander in which the Doctor tests the limits of Klieg’s insanity.

DOCTOR: Don’t you see what this is going to all mean to all the people who come to serve Klieg the All Powerful? Why, no country, no person would dare to have a single thought that was not your own. Eric Klieg’s own conception of the, of the way of life!
KLIEG: Brilliant! Yes, yes, you’re right. Master of the world.
DOCTOR: Well now I know you’re mad. I just wanted to make sure.

Apparently Vladek Sheybal was the first choice for Klieg, but I’ve no complaints with Pastell’s turn. It’s not a subtle performance, but then neither was the character.

Before I wrap up, there’s just a few more things I need to get off my chest. Why did the Cybermen seemingly have no way to open their tombs once they were down below? Surely it’s not logical for the only opening switch to be above ground (where the Cybermen no longer are?)

And did Parry and Hopper really leave poor Toberman lying dead on the ground outside the tomb? After he sacrifices his life to save them, it looks for all the world like Parry and Hopper blithely toddle off to their ship whilst the Doctor, Jamie and Victoria stroll back to the TARDIS. I hope that someone came back and gave the chap a decent burial.

So Tomb of the Cybermen doesn’t quite live up to the mythic status it enjoyed prior to 1992, but then no story really could. It’s still a very competent production, although some of the flimsier sets are a bit distracting. The performances are good, but not great (none of the guest cast are given multi-layered characters and the likes of Clive Merrison do rather struggle with their American accents).

But on the plus side it zips by very agreeably, so it’s certainly worth 3.5 TARDISes out of 5.

Time to hit pause on this rewatch for a few weeks. All being well I should pick things up in mid July.

Doctor Who – The Evil of the Daleks

Following directly on from the events at the end of The Faceless Ones (a rarity for the Troughton era, although it happened regularly during his predecessors time) episode one of The Evil of the Daleks is content to take things nice and slow.

The audience are already several steps ahead of the Doctor and Jamie though. While our time-travelling chums spend some time wondering who’s stolen the TARDIS and diligently following a set of planted clues in order to recover it, the viewers at home (thanks to the story title) know exactly who’s to blame ….

This isn’t the first time that the Doctor’s been drawn into a story thanks to the machinations of his enemy (The Chase) and it would happen again fairly shortly (The Web of Fear).  It’s never been a favourite plot device of mine, although I will concede that it’s probably a better way of getting the story moving than having the Doctor turn up somewhere thanks to blind chance.

Mind you, when you begin to analyse the Daleks’ master plan (as it were) to ensnare the Doctor, you can’t help stumbling over some plotholes. For example, how did the Daleks know that the Doctor would turn up in 1966? (they have a time machine, so I suppose we can let that one go). But the way the Daleks allow Edward Waterfield (John Bailey) to travel from 1866 to 1966 in order to set up an antiques shop selling genuine Victoriana is a little harder to swallow.

It’s an incredibly elaborate way to bait the trap – although it does create an intriguing mystery (quickly solved though) about Waterfield. He’s a man with a courteous, florid way of talking who doesn’t understand even the most familiar of modern slang (as well as occasionally making the odd conversational stumble – referring to cabs as hansom cabs, for example).

Bailey is excellent throughout the story. He was the sort of actor who suffered exquisitely well, and that’s just as well since Waterfield’s got a lot on his plate (he’s an unwilling ally of the Daleks, only cooperating with them because they are holding his daughter Victoria hostage).

Oh, and whilst we’re on the subject of early plotholes, why does a Dalek travel back to Waterfield’s antiques shop in 1966? It’s to provide a decent cliffhanger at the end of episode one and exterminate the troublesome Kennedy (Griffith Davies) but in story terms there’s really no reason.

The 1966 setting of the first episode and a half is worthwhile in one way though – the sudden jolt felt after the Doctor and Jamie are gassed and wake up in 1866 is a more than decent twist.

They find themselves in the home of Theodore Maxtible (Marius Goring), a man who posseses an imposing beard and the habit of declaiming portentously at the drop of a hat. A decade or so earlier, Goring and Troughton were cast as allies in The Scarlet Pimpernel, but Maxtible and the Doctor have a far stickier relationship.

It’s often been commented upon, but why does Maxtible own a portrait of Waterfield’s dead wife? There’s clearly a subplot here to which we’re not privy.

The move to 1866 introduces us to a number of new characters in addition to Maxtible. There’s Mollie Dawson (Jo Rowbottom), Maxtible’s saucepot of a maid for one. The way that Mollie closes the door with her bottom when she first appears and the conspiratorial glances she puts Jamie’s way are evidence of this. Presumably this was Rowbottom doing her best to make something out of a fairly routine role (if so, she certainly caught the eye).

Brigit Forsyth is more restrained as Maxtible’s daughter, Ruth whilst Deborah Watling also makes her debut in the second episode as Waterfield’s daughter, Victoria. Why the Daleks decide to hold her hostage in Maxtible’s house rather than Ruth is another of those plot mysteries that we’re not going to get an answer for.

Watling’s screentime in episode two is pretty brief although we discover that she likes to feed the birds but hasn’t been eating herself (that the Daleks seem concerned about her weightloss and insist that they will force feed her if she doesn’t start tucking in is another of those scenes that’s a slight headscratcher).

Also puzzling is why Arthur Terrall (Gary Watson) pays the roughneck Toby (Windsor Davies) to kidnap Jamie. It later becomes apparent that Terrall is under the control of the Daleks, but since the Daleks and the Doctor need to have Jamie close at hand there seems to be no sense to Terrall’s actions.

The Doctor is forced into an uneasy collaboration with the Daleks (not to mention Waterfield and Maxtible).  This is a fascinating part of the tale – even more so than in his first couple of stories, Troughton’s Doctor is unreadable at this point. Presumably he knows that no real harm will come to Jamie, but he still has no compunction in casually exploiting his friend (although to be fair, it was probably the only option left to him).

With Troughton absent for most of episode four (apart from a handful of pre-filmed inserts) it falls to Jamie and his eventual new chum Kemel (Sonny Caldinez) to carry most of the narrative. Manipulated by the Doctor into rescuing Victoria (which is exactly what the Daleks want, as they plan to analyse his actions in order to locate the “human factor” which they claim their logical minds lack) he first has to battle Kemel.  But after Jamie saves his life, the pair quickly become best buds.

Since Kemel is mute and Jamie no doubt didn’t really feel like talking that much during their fight scenes, a fair amount of the fourth episode soundtrack is comprised of grunts and incidental music. Had we the pictures to go with it then possibly it would be more compelling, but I doubt it would be edge of the seat stuff.

So it’s another of those episodes where a very little plot is dragged out a very long way (given that the story was a seven-parter this isn’t too surprising). So you have to take your incidental pleasures where you can – Waterfield growing ever more hysterical and Maxtible ever more ruthless for example, or the continuing erratic behavour of Terrall.

Terrall is Ruth’s finance, and throughout the story she continues to wonder why the man she loves has recently become so erratic. Poor Ruth is only a very lightly sketched character, so we never feel too concerned about her feelings but Gary Watson is given a little more to work with. Watson (a familiar television face during the 1960’s, 1970’s and 1980’s) is good value, but Terrall just fades away in episode five and you end up wondering exactly what purpose his character served.

On the plus side though, Terrall and the Doctor share an interesting scene early in episode five. This is partly because it investigates some of Terrall’s oddities (he appears to be full of electricity and hasn’t eaten or drunk anything in ages – both side-effects of the Daleks’ control over him) but also because of the playful way the Doctor attempts to get under his skin.

The scene also contains one of my favourite lines from this or any other DW story. After Terrall comments that the Doctor appears to be a student of human nature, he responds “No, Mr Terrall, I am not a student of human nature. I am a professor of a far wider academy, of which human nature is merely a part”.

Jamie’s disenchantment with the Doctor, later the same episode, is a powerful moment.

JAMIE: No, Doctor. Look, I’m telling you this. You and me, we’re finished. You’re just too callous for me. Anything goes by the board. Anything at all.
DOCTOR: That’s just not true, Jamie. I’ve never held that the end justifies the means.
JAMIE: Och, words. What do I care about words? You don’t give that much for a living soul except yourself.

Unfortunately the impact is negated when, just a few lines later, Jamie becomes best friends with the Doctor again. But you can understand there’s no time for the Doctor and Jamie to have a tiff, as the story – having proceeded at a sluggish pace for a while – now begins to pick up momentum. With the human factor now isolated thanks to Jamie’s unwitting efforts, the Doctor implants it into three Daleks.

There then follows several scenes which are worth the price of admission alone. The human factor has made these three Daleks – christened Alpha, Beta and Omega by the Doctor – into friendly and benign creatures, happy to play with the Doctor (“dizzy, dizzy, Doctor”) and totally accepting that he and Jamie are their friends.

If the Daleks have been, to date, far less interesting or developed as characters in Evil than they were in Power, then these moments help to redress the balance a little.  And as time goes on, we begin to understand why the Doctor was so keen to co-operate – Daleks with a conscience would begin to question and eventually (so the Doctor hopes) cause insurrection.

The Doctor, Jamie, Maxtible, Waterfield, Kemel and Victoria all make the trip to Skaro. And there’s a treat in store when the Doctor, Jamie and Waterfield are brought into the august presence of the Dalek Emperor. Only fragmentary footage still exists of the Emperor, but – along with the booming voice – it’s hard not to feel a slight sense of awe.

It almost (but not quite) makes up for some of the serial’s more wayward plotting ….

The Doctor’s confidence that the human factor will see the downfall of the Daleks takes a battering after the Emperor tells him that he wants the Doctor to implant the Dalek factor (“to obey, to fight, to destroy, to exterminate”) throughout Earth’s history. Why can’t the Daleks do it themselves though? Since they have time travel capability, there seems no reason why not.

Civil war begins to brew on Skaro after the Doctor manages to reprocess a whole batch of Daleks with the human factor (once again, the Daleks – and the Emperor especially – should have been a little more cautious about the Doctor’s offer of help). And why does the human factor make the Daleks regress to a seeming childhood state?

On the other side of the coin, Maxtible becomes the first human processed with the Dalek Factor. This allows Goring to go even further over the top (only the recovery of the episode would allow us to know for sure just how stratospheric he actually was). Interestingly, he doesn’t receive his comeuppance (even after killing poor Kemel). The last we see of him he’s still stomping around Skaro, so there’s always the possibility he survived (maybe there’s some fiction out there which developed this notion – given some of the rum stuff that’s been produced over the years, I wouldn’t be surprised).

The Doctor proclaims that the Daleks have met their final end. That didn’t turn out to be the case (they only took a short break of five years). But since Terry Nation in 1967 wasn’t keen for the Daleks to be used again, it very well might have been – so Whitaker certainly gave them an impressive send off.

And with Waterfield dead, the orphan Victoria finds a new home with Jamie and the Doctor ….

Deborah Watling’s had very little to do throughout the story, so Victoria has struggled to make an impact. But hopefully the character will begin to be developed in the stories ahead.

There’s an awful lot to process throughout The Evil of the Daleks‘ seven episodes. It features strong performances (although Goring does err on the hammy side at times), some standout scenes (“dizzy, dizzy, Daleks”) and another fine central performance from Troughton.

It’s also well worth mentioning that it was the final time Peter Hawkins provided the voices of the Daleks. It’s sometimes easy to assume that anyone with a ring modulator can voice the Daleks, but that’s not so – there’s a viciousness and menace to Hawkins’ Daleks that we’ll rarely hear again,

A tip of the hat too to Roy Skelton who was making his Dalek voice debut. If Hawkins was the gold medal standard then I’ve always been more than happy to put Skelton in silver medal position.

To conclude, I’ll give Evil 3.5 TARDISes out of 5. It’s very good, but it’s not quite great.

Doctor Who – The Faceless Ones

The Faceless Ones is a key story in several respects. Firstly, it sees Malcolm Hulke (co-writing with David Ellis) finally get a Doctor Who script onto the screen. Secondly, the Troughton/Hines double-act really begins to kick into gear ….

Apart from a brief reappearance at the end of the story, Anneke Wills and Michael Craze were written out after the second episode.  Their absence means that Troughton and Hines are required to fill the gap – something they manage very comfortably. Along the way they chuck in various bits of business which more than likely were worked out during rehearsals.

For example, in episode one the Doctor has to give the garrulous Jamie several none too subtle kicks in order to stop him from spilling the beans about the TARDIS whilst in episode two the pair – now hunted fugitives at Gatwick airport – hide behind newspapers, although Jamie’s is held upside down!

It doesn’t sound that much, but these are the sort of touches that time and again we’ll see from the pair over the next few years.  Sometimes they can be self-indulgent, but mostly they’re just nice little moments which often help to perk up a flagging script.

Today’s story is pretty decent, although since it’s a six-parter there’s going to be times when things get a little quiet, so a spot of Troughton/Hines interaction will always be welcome.

The setting – Gatwick Airport – also helps to keep the interest levels up. It’s worth remembering that this sort of thing was still a novelty in the series. After The War Machines, The Faceless Ones was only the second DW story to be entirely set in a bustling modern-day environment.

You can’t quibble with the guest cast either. Colin Gordon is perfectly cast as the Commandant – a weary airport boss who initially finds it impossible to believe the Doctor’s tale of finding a dead body in the Chameleon Tours hangar (although by the final episode he’s become an unlikely ally). It’s not really that fascinating a part, but Gordon was the type of professional able to wring every last drop of exasperation from the role.

Donald Pickering, typecast as usual, is icily evil as Blade, Chameleon Tour’s chief pilot, Bernard Kay adopts a pipe and Scottish accent as the avuncular Inspector Crossland whilst Wanda Ventham doesn’t have a great deal to do, but she’s always going to catch the eye.

If Ventham’s role (as Jean Rock) is fairly forgettable then at least one female guest character gets a good crack of the whip – Pauline Collins as Samantha Briggs. As legend has it, Collins was offered the companion role but turned it down.

In retrospect, I think we dodged a bullet there. It’s impossible to know for sure and had she stayed then the character might have settled down, but I do find Sam to be more than a little irritating. Perhaps Collins was trying just too hard – she’d later reprise her Liverpudlian accent for the first series of The Liver Birds, but here everything just seems too forced.

Given that under Innes Lloyd’s watch we’d already had a cockney companion (Ben) who tapped into the swinging sixties zeitgeist that had seen the emergence of (amongst others) Michael Caine, maybe it’s no surprise that a year later it was felt that, given the ongoing success of the Beatles, a Mersey companion would also be the ticket.

But since the Merseybeat era was long over by 1967, maybe it was a good idea this wasn’t followed through. Post Ben and Polly, most 20th century DW companions turn out to be fairly timeless figures (the groovy Jo is probably the one most rooted in her own time) which helps not to tie them to a specific era. I mean, there’s plenty of other things which date the stories, but at least the companions weren’t often designed as bandwagon-jumping clichés …

Before Polly vanishes at the end of episode two she’s given a handful of effective scenes. Having witnessed a murder in the Chameleon hangar, she’s abducted and apparently brainwashed (the Doctor and Jamie later meet a young woman who appears to be Polly but doesn’t recognise them).  The truth is even more disturbing though – all the time that the faux Polly has been running about, the real one has been locked up in a packing case, unable to move.

Polly’s fate helps to tease out the main crux of the plot. The faceless aliens of the title are taking over the identities and faces of unwilling human hosts.  And whilst the humans are reduced to lifeless dummies (you can imagine from this how the first draft of the story – set in a department store – could have worked out) the aliens now have movement and freedom again (prior to the transference they appear to be in agony and barely alive).

When you start to dig into the plot a little deeper – Chameleon Tours organise foreign trips for young people who are then abducted, taken into space and used as hosts – everything slightly falls apart. Sam (concerned about her missing brother) seems to be one of the few people to have twigged that plane-loads of people have been vanishing on a regular basis.

Other parts of the plot remain opaque as well. Exactly how the horribly scarred aliens are able to ‘grow’ a face identical to their human host within a matter of minutes isn’t made clear. And why are they now replacing key personnel at Gatwick? Given that the game must nearly be up, it seems something of a waste of time (and although they’re shown to have infiltrated key posts, they never seem to do anything except the jobs their human hosts are paid to do).

Dialogue wise, things can be fairly clunky – the Doctor mentions ‘ray guns’ with a straight face whilst Blade (also playing it straight) is gifted lines like “you Earth men are more use to us alive” to the unfortunate Crossland, after he finds himself an unwilling passenger on a very special Chameleon Tours flight.

Although in the interests of fairness, I did enjoy Blade’s comment of “I don’t think it’ll reach where you’re going” in response to Crossland’s warning that the long arm of the British law would be after them.

The Chameleons are the survivors of a non-specific catastrophe on their home planet and require 50,000 humans (that’s an awful lot of charter flights). By the final episode they seem to have acquired their quota and are all set to toddle off home, before the Doctor manages to negotiate an acceptable solution to all.

Despite the fact that the Chameleons regard humans with contempt (“the intelligence of Earth people is comparable only to that of animals on our planet”) and have been responsible for several deaths, he’s happy to let them go free provided they return all the humans to Earth.

This is either another plot oddity or it’s maybe, just maybe, an early example of Malcolm Hulke’s unique Doctor Who worldview. His later stories, the Pertwee ones especially, rarely painted its villains as entirely bad – they tended to be motivated by a range of emotions (fear, pride, greed) rather than simply being evil for evil’s sake. So maybe the Doctor (despite the evidence to the contrary) decides that in time the Chameleons might find a solution to their problem which won’t involve the mass kidnapping of other species.

Hopefully so, because otherwise there’s nothing to stop them visiting another planet and starting all over again ….

So, apart from a nice tag scene with Ben and Polly bidding the Doctor and Jamie a slightly tearful goodbye, that’s that. There’s a lot to enjoy in these six episodes – especially with Troughton leading from the front – but since the story feels a few drafts away from being watertight I can only give it a fairly average 3 TARDISes out of 5.

Doctor Who – The Macra Terror

There was clearly something in the air back in 1967. Predating The Prisoner by several months, The Macra Terror – an everyday tale of brainwashing and control set in a seemingly idyllic paradise – certainly seemed to be tapping into the general sense of unease that Patrick McGoohan was also feeling.

In a way, it’s easy to see certain parallels with George Orwell’s Nineteen Eighty Four, although The Macra Terror swops grime and despair for a glossy utopia where drum majorettes are always in action, meaningless platitudes (“Nothing succeeds like success. If at first you don’t succeed –  try, try, try again!”) are endlessly trotted out and everyone wanders around with a smile on their face. Which of course, feels deeply disturbing.

At first, Ben and Polly see nothing wrong with this – they dive into the world of the Colony with enthusiasm, so it’s left to Jamie and the Doctor to be more cautious. It’s easy to understand why the Doctor, given his experience, isn’t prepared to accept anything at face value but Jamie’s a different matter.  This is a good move though, as it helps to flesh out his character (which in the preceding three stories has only been lightly sketched).

A number of familiar faces guest star. Peter Jeffrey as the Pilot is, as you’d expect, first rate as the man who looks after the day-to-day running of the Colony. If Jeffrey’s Pilot has the practiced slick skill of a politician, then Gertan Klauber’s Ola (the Chief of Police) is his diametric opposite – he’s the one who has to catch any miscreants and ensure they have the treatment they need.

One such miscreant is Medok (Terence Lodge) whom the Doctor and his friends meet at the beginning of episode one. Later the Pilot tells the Doctor what Medok’s fate will be.

PILOT: Oh, well, he’ll be taken back to the hospital for correction. He’ll be given another course of treatment. And when he returns to the Colony, Medok will be a changed man. He will cooperate and he will obey orders. He’ll be just like the rest of us.

DOCTOR: Why do you want everyone to be the same?

PILOT: Doctor, this Colony was founded many centuries ago by our ancestors who came from the Earth planet, like your young friends. Our ancestors believed in the virtues of healthy happiness and we have tried to keep their ideals alive. Sometimes, alas, it is necessary to use force.

The parallels with The Prisoner are obvious, and whilst it’s plain that, given the timescale, there’s no way that The Prisoner could have been directly influenced by The Macra Terror, it’s still interesting that both are pushing very similar buttons (but no doubt if one were to dig through the film and television archives of this era you’d find similar, earlier, examples of the same thing).

As seen in the dialogue quote above, the Doctor, even more than usual, is positioned as an individual – resisting any attempt to make him conform. This is expressed in the script in both humorous ways (in the first episode he reacts with horror when a machine tidies up his clothes and hair) and more dramatic ones (in episode two he tells Polly that “it’s just possible that you’ve been given a series of orders while you’ve been asleep. You know, do this, do that, do the other thing. My advice to you is don’t do anything of the sort. Don’t just be obedient. Always make up your own mind”).

Ben, Polly and Jamie are all subjected to deep sleep adjustment. A calming voice (“the sleeper must relax and believe. Everything in the Colony is good and beautiful. You must accept it without question. You must obey orders”) is piped through to their quarters but Ben is the only one to succumb. This allows Michael Craze to act evil for a change (and gives him something more to do than usual – with three companions all jockeying for position there have been times recently when one or more has ended up quite redundant).

The monsters of the tale – crab-like baddies called Macra – tend to lurk in the shadows. This is understandable since they must have been incredibly unwieldy (anyone who wants to escape from them just has to walk away at a moderate pace). Once again we have to thank the Australian censors whose squeamishness has preserved several short clips for us to enjoy. They show the Macra in all their slow moving glory (though to be honest it’s hard to imagine them giving that many people sleepless nights – unless they have a crab phobia).

Medok’s role in the story is an interesting one. As the only Colony member who seems to know the truth about the Macra, you’d assume that he would play a key role in overcoming them. But this isn’t the case – he’s rather casually killed off in episode three and no-one seems to notice or care that much.

By this point, Jamie’s lost in the mines and tangling with the Macra (in scenes that tend to go on a little), Ben’s beginning to fight against his processing (some more good work from Craze here) whilst the Doctor and Polly team up at the gas refinery to cause as much confusion as possible.  Troughton and Wills bounce off each other very agreeably in these scenes, indeed it’s at this point that you realise they haven’t really shared that many scenes together and since Polly’s time is nearly up, they won’t do so again ….

Ian Stuart Black delights in giving Troughton a number of lines that perfectly sum up his Doctor (“Confusion is best left to the experts” and “I can stand an operation on its head quicker than anyone” to name but two).

Also of interest is the moment when the Pilot confronts the Doctor, who has been entertaining himself by scrawling an impossibly complex series of calculations on the wall. “You’re not asking me to believe that in a few moments you have been able to work out a formula which it has taken our combined computers years to perfect?”

The Doctor has, of course, done just that and it serves as a reminder that – erratic as he may appear – he still possesses a keen scientific brain.

When the Doctor later shows the Pilot that the Macra are the ones in control he’s shocked and stunned. This raises an intriguing point – is it only the rank and file workers who undergo mind control? Since the Pilot immediately agrees to join forces with the Doctor to destroy the Macra, I would assume so. Ola probably also has free will – he continues to toe the party line but presumably only because he’s a sadist who sees nothing wrong with the status quo.

All in all this is a story that’s rich in incidental detail, even if the main plot is quite straightforward and (to be honest) not that interesting. With the Macra only able to provide the occasional scare, the actors – both regulars and guest cast – are required to keep things ticking along, which they do nicely.

Troughton especially is on great form and Peter Jeffrey doesn’t disappoint, although it’s a shame that the Pilot only has a handful of scenes in the second half of the story. John Harvey (as Officia), returning for his second Ian Stuart Black story, is another dependable performer who has a little more to do here than in The War Machines.

A bit of a run around then, but it rates a healthy 3.5 TARDISes out of 5.

Doctor Who – The Moonbase

Some four months after making their debut, the Cyberman – having undergone a radical makeover – are back …

In some ways, The Moonbase is a retread of The Tenth Planet. The action once again takes place in an isolated base under siege (last time it was in Antarctica, now it’s on the Moon – and you can’t get much more isolated than that) run by a male-only group who hail from a variety of counties (although once again there’s no room for those pesky Russians).

But there are differences too. Hobson (Patrick Barr), the base commander, is an amiable old soul – even when he’s acting all stern you get the feeling that his bark’s far worse than his bite. The fact his men call him “Hobby” to his face is evidence of this.

By this time a very familiar face both in British films and on television, Barr is one of The Moonbase’s major strengths. Sadly most of his team of scientists remain pretty anonymous (the way they regularly keep getting picked off by the Cybermen doesn’t help of course). One exception is André Maranne as Benoit, Hobson’s second in command. He’s not really that well drawn a character, but given Maranne’s extensive career you can’t help but have a residual well of affection for him.

It’s worth remembering that when the Doctor, Ben, Polly and Jamie set foot on the Moon (in 1967) they were two years ahead of Neil Armstrong and Buzz Aldrin. But although that part of the story would change from science fiction to science fact, Moonbases – despite what Moonbase 3 (1973) and Star Cops (1987) would later tell us – are still just a sci-fi concept. Still, maybe one day that’ll change ….

As I’ve said, Hobson is a surprisingly placid character. Showing little surprise or interest when the Doctor and his friends suddenly appear, he’s content to give them the run of the base (even though Moonbase has suddenly been struck by a mystery illness). There’s some inconsistency with the timing here – in episode one we’re told that the first case only happened a few hours before the Doctor arrived, but by episode two it’s become two weeks.

We know the Cybermen are behind it, but the story – despite only being a four-parter – is content to eke out the suspense. In episode one the Cybermen mostly only appear in silhouette (judging by the telesnaps, quite effectively so) whilst by episode two they’ve grown a little bolder although they’ve still yet to utter a word.

Compared to their terribly verbose brothers in The Tenth Planet this is an obvious difference.

The Moonbase has often been seen as the story where Troughton’s Doctor settles down and loses many of his earlier eccentricities. His short speech in episode two (“There are some corners of the universe which have bred the most terrible things. Things which act against everything that we believe in. They must be fought”) is often quoted in support of this, although it’s worth remembering that he was equally adamant that the Daleks had to be fought in Power of the Daleks.

But it’s true that he’s proactive and keen to find a reason for the base’s mystery illness (even though he fails to do so). Eventually the reason – the Cybermen have been doing something nasty to the sugar – comes to light. Hmm, this is an odd sort of plot point (the latest victim keels over very, very dramatically seconds after drinking his coffee – if this sort of thing happened to everyone else, why wasn’t it commented upon?)

Mind you, that plot niggle pales into insignificance after you’re invited to accept that the Cybermen come and go with ease from the Moonbase via a large hole they’ve made in the outer wall. I’m no expert, but wouldn’t that cause a little bit of decompression? Apparently not, as all the Cybermen have to do is stack some bags against the wall and voila! it’s as good as new.

Given that Kit Pedler (along with an uncredited Gerry Davis) was on scripting duty, it’s an odd moment. Especially since at other times Pedler’s rigorous scientific voice is heard loud and clear (for example, Hobson and the others check the misfunctioning Gravitron during episode two in a scene which feels accurate, if deadly dull).

The Gravitron, a device for controlling Earth’s weather, seems to be the main reason why the Moonbase exists. The way the Earth-based controller reacts so negatively when it’s suggested that it’s turned off for a while makes me suppose that Earth’s weather has deteriorated so badly by 2070 that there would be numerous catastrophes without it.

When the Cybermen turn up in force at the start of episode three they finally spill the beans about their masterplan. It’s to use the Gravitron to destroy all life on Earth. Not in revenge for the destruction of Mondas (oh no) but simply because they fear that Earth might one day be a rival. Since everyone on Earth seems to have forgotten about them that’s a little odd, but no odder than the rest of the story I suppose.

Episode three is where we hear the new Cyber voices for the first time. Less comic than in The Tenth Planet, the Cybermen now prefer to talk in staccato sentences with few wasted words (although at one point they mention “stupid Earth brains” and patronisingly follow this up with “clever, clever, clever” which sits rather uncomfortably alongside their more direct dialogue elsewhere).

The second half of the story meanders somewhat. Highlights include Ben and Jamie almost coming to blows over Polly (this moment of sexual tension passes quickly though) and the trio going Cyberman hunting with a lethal cocktail that doesn’t do the Cybermen’s chest units any good at all.

The Moonbase climaxes with the Gravitron being used to send the Cybermen flying off into space. This sort of ending, which happened from time to time (see also The Dominators) always rather irritated me. Just because this group of Cybermen have been defeated, why shouldn’t a back-up force be dispatched immediately? The Doctor clearly doesn’t think so, as he’s very keen to get back to the TARDIS and begin his next adventure, so we’ll just have to hope that Hobson has no trouble from now on.

If so inclined, you really can pick the plot of The Moonbase apart but I can’t shake off my love for it. Partly because it looks pretty impressive but mostly it’s due to the fact that Doctor Who and the Cybermen was one of the earliest Doctor Who novelisations I read, which means that the story (even the very silly bits) will always have a place in my heart. 4 TARDISes out of 5 then.

Doctor Who – The Underwater Menace

When it was announced some years ago that Airlock (the third episode of Galaxy 4) and The Underwater Menace episode two had been recovered, the news was met with polite indifference in some quarters. Galaxy 4 and The Underwater Menace, along with The Space Pirates, have to be amongst the most unloved missing/or partly missing Doctor Who stories.

This point of view is a bad one of course, as the return of any previously missing episode should always be cherished (especially as returns have been so thin on the ground since 2013). Now that half of The Underwater Menace exists, there’s no doubt that it’s gone up in my estimation.

I mean it’s still a very silly story, but it’s nice to see moving pictures now and again ….

But before we can get back to those moving pictures, there’s still the first episode to tackle. The Tenth Planet 4 to The Underwater Menace 1 means a run of twelve consecutive episodes existing in audio form only. But looking on the positive side, we’ll never have a longer streak to “enjoy” again.

As the episode opens, Jamie’s still suffering from a mild attack of culture shock, but it’s glossed over fairly quickly (partly no doubt because he’d been hurriedly written into the script at the last minute). I’m sure the location filming would have been nice, but since we can’t see it there’s not a great deal to get the pulse racing in the first ten minutes or so (save the Doctor’s glorious unspoken wish for “prehistoric monsters”).

It’s only when the four time-travellers are captured and taken underground to what turns out to be the lost city of Atlantis that the plot begins to kick into gear.

Any time I see a collection of primitive types wearing funny hats who enjoy chanting and sacrificing people, my heart sinks a little. They will become a familiar Doctor Who sight, although it’s funny how they tend to appear in the less impressive stories (like Power of Kroll, say).

As often happens, religion gets a pretty rough ride – later it’s strongly implied that anybody who worships Amdo is both foolish and easily manipulated. Normally you’d expect then to be told that it’s best to place your faith in science. Not so in this story though, especially once you’ve met the scientist in resident …

The Doctor manages to save his friends from a grisly sacrificial death after realising that the brilliant but quite loony Professor Zaroff (Joseph Furst) now lives in Atlantis (the Doctor does this after tasting a delicious meal of plankton). Yes I know that little bit of deduction sounds thin, but you’re just going to have to accept that the plotting of this story is (ironically, given its location under the sea) less than watertight at times.

Much has been written about Furst’s performance. I’ve little to add, except to say that Zaroff’s pop-eyed madness wasn’t his normal stock in trade (check out his appearances in Armchair TheatreA Magnum for Schneider or Callan A Village Called G for the sort of subtle performances he normally gave).

Zaroff is cautiously pleased to welcome the Doctor as a fellow scientist and is happy to explain his plan for raising Atlantis from the bottom of the ocean. This will mean destroying the world, but that’s just an incidental point …

Episode two provides us with our earliest opportunity to see Troughton in action and he doesn’t disappoint. As Furst continues to chew any scenery within reach, Troughton is calm and subdued when playing opposite him (it’s this contrast which helps to make their scenes together so effective).

Elsewhere, Polly has regressed to a helpless damsel in distress. True, I wouldn’t fancy being turned into a Fish Person either, but she shows little of the pluck displayed throughout The Highlanders. Colin Jeavons (one of those actors never really used well by the series – this and K9 & Company are both lesser chips off the block) skulks around as Damon, a man intent on turning Polly into a little fishy.

And then there’s Peter Stephens (last seen in The Celestial Toymaker) camping it up as Lolem whilst Tom Watson, despite his silly hat, maintains an air of dignity at all times as Ramo. Catherine Howe does her best with the character of Ara but it’s really a paper-thin one. Like Tom Watson and Colin Jeavons, Noel Johnson is a good actor wasted in a nothing role (at least he’d have a chance to redeem himself later in Invasion of the Dinosaurs). P.G. Stephens and Paul Anil round off the main cast as Sean and Jacko, a couple of cheeky-chappie mineworkers who team up with Ben and Jamie in order to effect a staggeringly easy break from captivity.

Watching episodes two and three back to back, you can’t help but wonder if the story’s reputation would have been higher had episode two been the one to have initially escaped the mass purgings. It’s certainly true that episode three is pretty heavy going – with only some more of the Doctor’s disguises (he favours the gypsy look today) and the remarkable underwater ballet moves of the Fish People (to the strains of Dudley Simpson’s electronic score) standing out.

The Underwater Menace is a good early example of the way this Doctor seemingly bumbles around for a solution to any problem. First he decides that inciting the Fish People to go on strike will do the trick (although at least he’s honest enough to confess shortly afterwards that he’s not quite sure what this will achieve). The Fish People catch all the food eaten in Atlantis, so their withdrawal of labour is going to have serious consequences (since there’s no way to stop the food going rotten within hours).

Zaroff may be one of the greatest scientists the world has ever seen, but inventing a fridge or freezer was clearly beyond him.

This plan, which achieves nothing in story terms, only serves as an interlude before the Doctor then declares that Zaroff can only be stopped if they flood the lower levels of Atlantis. This appears to be a rather drastic solution to the problem (some loss of life will be inevitable) but the Doctor blithely carries on anyway.

Given this, when Ben later has to pretend that the Doctor is his prisoner, his comment to a guard (“Well, blimey, look at him. He ain’t normal, is he?”) has more than a ring of truth about it.

Polly’s at her weakest and whiniest during the second half of the story. It’s a remarkable regression for her character, but hopefully she’ll be more like her old self next time.

Zaroff’s monomania starts to get a little wearying by the final episode and it’s impossible not to heave a sigh of relief once he gets swallowed up by the sea. I’ll sum up by giving this story 3 TARDISes out of 5 (a large chunk of that is down to how entertaining episode two is – without it, the mark would have been a little lower).

Doctor Who – The Highlanders

And so we bid farewell to the historical story (at least until 1982 when they made a brief and unexpected comeback). The historicals might account for many of the best stories during the Hartnell era, but by late 1966 their time was up.

Innes Lloyd was not a fan. As producer, one of his chief aims was to push the ratings up again and the historical tales always seemed to be less popular than the science fiction stories. Whether that’s true or not is a debate for another time, but it’s true that some of the later Hartnell ones did pull in very low AI figures.

A Doctor Who story set in 1746 immediately after the Battle of Culloden seems unlikely Saturday tea-time fare. True, when the story begins the violence is over but there’s still a grisly picture painted in the dialogue. The Doctor, Ben and Polly are taken for “camp followers to the Duke of Cumberland, come to steal from the dead” whilst we’re told shortly afterwards that the “English troopers gave no quarter to men, women and bairns”.

The Highlanders episode one continues where The Power of the Daleks left off – by depicting human nature at its worst. The English are either corrupt (Solicitor Grey) or callous and indifferent to the suffering around them (Lt. Algernon Ffinch).

Falling in with a small group of Highland refugees, Ben and the Doctor are set to be hanged, along with young Jamie McCrimmon (Frazer Hines) and the ailing Laird (Donald Bissett) whilst Polly hides out in the heather with the Laird’s daughter, Kirsty (Hannah Gordon).

Aye, it’s time to say hello to Jamie. Although since he makes very little impression throughout the story it’s hard to see why it was decided to make him a TARDIS regular (presumably Hines’ off-screen personality helped).

Solicitor Grey, serving King George as his Commissioner of Prisons, has established a profitable sideline by selling healthy prisoners to Captain Trask (Dallas Cavell) who will ship them overseas to work and die as plantation slaves. Cavell’s performance is an extraordinary one – if you remember Tony Hancock’s impression of Robert Newton as Long John Silver you’ll get the general idea.

David Garth’s turn as Solicitor Grey is thankfully a lot more restrained and he forms a nice double act with Sydney Arnold as Perkins, his very put-upon clerk. Hannah Gordon snivels a lot to begin with, but at least her Scottish accent is good. And since Kirsty is something of a wet lettuce in the early episodes, it allows Polly to be more forthright than she’s been for a while.

Somewhat sidelined during Power of the Daleks, Polly is more active during The Highlanders. Not content to sit around moping, she quickly attempts to break the Doctor and Ben out of jail – casually manipulating the hapless Ffinch (Michael Elwyn, another actor who’s an asset to the production).

If the first episode is full of implied horror, then the tone begins to lighten in episode two. The Doctor, masquerading as a German, manages not only to bamboozle Grey but then, after bashing Perkins’ head against the table several times, manages to convince him that he’s got a headache! The comedy continues when the Doctor disguises himself as a washerwoman ….

This all helps to reinforce the obvious fact that the new owner of the TARDIS is very different from the old one.

A quick commentary about the Doctor’s German accent. Troughton was never really known for being a man of a thousand voices (the voice he later uses for Salamander in The Enemy of the World is pretty much his one-size fits all swarthy foreign accent). So is the Doctor’s German accent supposed to be deliberately bad or was Troughton doing his very best? I’ll leave it up to you to decide.

The Culloden setting only serves as window dressing for The Highlanders. A debate about its rights and wrongs was clearly felt to be outside of the series’ parameters, although the script does make the effort to be negative about both sides. The English (corrupt butchers) come off worse but the Scottish aren’t exempt from the odd brickbat – at one point the Doctor mutters “romantic piffle” after flinging aside a Jacobite bonnet inscribed with some flowery words whilst Jamie implies that Bonnie Prince Charlie’s early departure from the battlefield was a sign of cowardice.

Along with the Doctor’s dressing up (later he also masquerades as an English soldier) and his various accents (none of them convincing), he also continues to use his new catchphrase – “I would like a hat like that”. It pops up twice in The Highlanders having debuted in The Power of the Daleks.  Luckily all these idiosyncrasies, along with his stove pipe hat, were soon to phased out ….

With the story unable or unwilling to tackle the political and social realities of the time, The Highlanders somewhat devolves into a swashbuckling tale of derring-do.  It’s entertaining enough – the Doctor, Ben, Polly and Kirsty incite armed rebellion aboard Trask’s ship which ensures that the Scottish survivors are free to set sail for a new life in France – but (as was common with historical stories) you do tend to feel that the story could have easily played out just as well had the Doctor not been there.

Even Grey’s arrest by Ffinch feels a little contrived – I suspect that, given all we’ve seen so far, the solicitor will be able to buy himself out of trouble.

If we could actually see it, maybe it would rise a little in my affection but at present I can only give it a solid but unspectacular 3 TARDISes out of 5.

Doctor Who – The Web of Fear. Episode Six

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We’ve seen over the last few episodes how Lethbridge-Stewart’s fighting force has been somewhat decimated.  Apart from himself, only Evans and Arnold are still standing.  Evans remains an unreconstructed coward whilst Arnold continues to be a pillar of no-nonsense strength.

ARNOLD: Now look, lad, you’re scared, that’s understandable. But you’ve been in the Army long enough to know that orders is orders. There’s four people up there. If we don’t warn them, they’re for the chop.
EVANS: So? Four of them’s getting the chop. There’s no reason to make it six, is there?

There’s another surprise reappearance – that of Chorley – who was last seen in episode three. It’s suggested again that he’s the Intelligence’s agent, but since he’s been absent for so long that doesn’t quite scan.

Evans getting carried off by the Yeti (“Hey, steady on. Oh, going for a walk, are we? There’s lovely”) is an episode highlight as is the moment when he’s deposited by the Yeti next to the Colonel and the Doctor. He brazenly denies that he had intended to make a break for it. “Desertion? Me? Oh, good heavens, no. No, I thought I’d try a single-handed and desperate attempt to rescue Professor Travers and the girl”.

We’re entering the end-game, as everyone is brought to the Piccadilly ticket hall, where the Intelligence has set up its brain drain machine. And this is where the Intelligence’s agent is finally revealed.  Right up until the last moment we’re teased that it’s Chorley, but then the shock reveal of Arnold is made.

Jack Woolgar impresses as the passionless voice of the Intelligence, but this is another of those moments which doesn’t make any sense. The Intelligence state that he’s been hiding in Arnold’s lifeless body for some time – but exactly how long?

Arnold seemed no different when he reappeared than he did before, but it’s equally hard to believe that he’s been controlled by the Intelligence all along (although that’s what the story tells us). There’s a faint air of disappointment here, somewhat akin to the feeling you get when a whodunit doesn’t play fair.

The story dropped numerous red herrings along the way, hinting that the Colonel, Evans, Chorley, etc were all credible candidates, but suspicion never fell on Arnold for a minute. Maybe this was due to the Great Intelligence’s skill, but it still feels like a little bit of a cheat.

And if the Doctor’s final reckoning with the Intelligence is a bit of damp squib, then it doesn’t really alter the fact that The Web of Fear is a classic slice of Who. A few quibbles about the script apart, this is glorious stuff and something which is always a pleasure to revisit.

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Doctor Who – The Web of Fear. Episode Five

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After four episodes, the Great Intelligence – speaking through the voice of Travers – finally explains what his/her/its evil plan is.  Some might think that the Intelligence has been somewhat slow on this score, but with six episodes to fill it clearly couldn’t show its hand too soon.

TRAVERS: Through time and space, I have observed you, Doctor. Your mind surpasses that of all other creatures.
DOCTOR: What do you want?
TRAVERS: You! Your mind will be invaluable to me. Therefore I have invented a machine that will drain all past knowledge and experience from your mind.

And this is where the wheels of the story slightly come off. I think that one of the reasons why I enjoy 60’s Who so much is that much of the mythos which would later build up around the character of the Doctor is absent. He’s no god-like creature, known and feared throughout the universe, he’s simply a wanderer in space and time.

So stories where he’s targeted by the baddies are pretty rare (this one and The Chase spring to mind) meaning that it’s much more likely that wherever he appears nobody’s heard of him.

And anyway, if the Great Intelligence needs the Doctor’s intelligence than he/she/it can’t be that great anyway. The Almost Great Intelligence maybe?

We’ve previously seen that the Lethbridge-Stewart of this story is a pragmatist, happy to escape rather than fight to the last man.  So when Evans suggests that if they agree to the Intelligence’s plan (delivering up the Doctor) possibly everyone else will be allowed to go free. The stalwart Brigadier would never consider this of course, but as has been touched upon, the man here isn’t quite the man he’d become and there’s a palpable moment of ambiguity in the air.

The controlled Travers stomps off with Victoria as a hostage whilst the others debate what to do next. Given that the Yeti have decimated the soldiers, there has to be a good reason why the Intelligence simply didn’t take the Doctor. And there is – unless the Doctor submits willingly, the brain drain machine won’t work.  So the fact that the Doctor has been given a deadline to either give himself up or face the consequences provides him with a welcome spot of breathing time.

The Doctor once again teams up with Anne. I wonder if these scenes influenced the creation of Zoe? Zoe might have been younger and more frivolous, but the seed of partnering the Doctor with a scientifically-minded companion might have been sown here.

The scene where Evans deliberately disobeys Lethbridge-Stewart’s order is a fascinating one.  The Brig wouldn’t have stood for this sort of insubordination of course, but the Colonel – still somewhat shell-shocked by the events of the previous episode – accepts Evans’ flagrant disregard of his orders quite calmly.  For those who know Lethbridge-Stewart well, to see the character so out of control is quite disturbing.

Deborah Watling is a little out of the action, but she does get to share a few nice scenes with her father. And when Jamie, out in the tunnels with the Colonel, spots Victoria’s handkerchief it’s hard not to be reminded of one of Frazer’s most famous convention anecdotes.

The Web of Fear is one of those stories where characters tend to disappear suddenly and then reappear with the same lack of ceremony. Both Arnold and Chorley have been MIA for a while but then Arnold pops up out of nowhere, seemingly no worse for wear.

The Doctor and Anne’s lash-up (a device to control the Yeti) seems to work, but a mass of web seems to spell the end for the Goodge Street fortress ….

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Doctor Who – The Web of Fear. Episode Four

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Presumably sometime during the previous episode Anne decided to swop her mini-skirt and boots for a trouser suit, since that’s what see her wearing as the moving pictures start again.  Given all that’s going on it seems a little strange that she was such a slave to fashion.  She might be an independent young woman, making her way in a man’s world, but it’s possibly not too much of a surprise to find her portrayed as something of a clothes horse (a sign of those times).

When the Doctor and the others find her, she’s in a highly distressed state, which is pretty understandable since the Yeti have abducted her father.  Tina Packer rather overplays here, although given the situation Anne finds herself in that’s not too surprising.

Troughton continues to underplay though, which is notable in the early scene where Evans asks the Doctor if he believes that the Yeti have taken Travers.  The Doctor’s dialled-down, abstracted air makes it plain that he’s considering multiple possibilities, none of them good. When the Doctor later outlines what he knows about the Intelligence, it’s yet another wonderfully delivered few lines from Troughton. “Well, I wish I could give you a precise answer. Perhaps the best way to describe it is a sort of formless, shapeless thing floating about in space like a cloud of mist, only with a mind and will”.

Jack Woolgar continues to impress as well.  Look for the moment when Arnold tells Lethbridge-Stewart that Weams and the others are dead – Arnold’s voice cracks for a split-second, just enough to show the pain he feels at the loss of his men.  That Arnold later turns out to be the agent of the Intelligence, rather than the more obvious Chorley, is a cruel blow, possibly one of the cruellest of the story.

But red herrings continue to be spread about, since the Colonel doesn’t seem to remember meeting Evans (he was apparently his driver).  Does this mean that Lethbridge-Stewart is the agent or is Evans possibly the rotten apple?  No to both questions, but they’re nice misdirects.

Anne operates in this episode as pretty much a proto Zoe or Liz.  Like them, she’s able to speak to the Doctor on a similar scientific level (something that Jamie and Victoria were unable to do) which enables the Doctor to have a confidant who can also act as a sounding board for his theories.

One of the reasons why the Yeti work so well is that they’re not seen very often.  Keep them on screen for too long and their shortcomings become obvious.  But a few brief glimpses here and there, ideally lurking in the shadows, and they’re the stuff of nightmares.

But this episode sees them head out and about as they tangle with Lethbridge-Stewart and the others at Covent Garden.  This film sequence shouldn’t work at all – Yeti in the cold light of day sounds like a very bad idea – but Camfield pulls it off in a pulsating action scene that’s an obvious story highlight.

It’s interesting that Lethbridge-Stewart mounts the mission to Covent Garden for one reason only – to locate the TARDIS which will enable them all to escape.  The Brigadier would surely have remained and fought to the very last man, but the Colonel is much more of a pragmatist, keen to find an escape route.

During the scene you can play spot the stuntman – Terry Walsh, Derek Martin and Derek Ware should all be instantly recognisable and the minute they pop up you know that a spot of action is imminent.  It does seem a little odd that a very familiar piece of stock music (associated with the Cybermen) is used here, but maybe Camfield was unaware it had been used before or possibly it was felt that it didn’t matter that it had previously featured.

Favourite moment during this scene is Yeti who clutches his eyes before falling over.  Since we know that John Levene was playing one of the Yeti, I like to think that he was the one here who decided to go extra-dramatic.  Corporal Blake’s rather horrible death – mainly due to Richardson Morgan’s blood-curdling screams – is something which lingers long in the memory.

Knight and the Doctor head up to ground level to look for some vital electronic spares.  Alas, Knight doesn’t make it as he’s mown down by the Yeti.  The last shot we have of Knight – his lifeless body slumped across a table – is yet another unsettling choice from Camfield and Knight’s sudden, unexpected death helps to raise the stakes.  If Knight, one of those characters you’d have assumed would make it to the end, can be killed then no-one is safe.

This is also borne out when every member of the Covent Garden party – except the Colonel – is killed.  And with Knight also dead and Arnold missing, Lethbridge-Stewart is pushed to breaking point.  The cliffhanger – showing the arrival of the Yeti together with a catatonic Travers – ratchets up the tension several more notches.

Doctor Who – The Web of Fear. Episode Three

It’s a pity that this episode is still missing, although one day it might come back, yes it might come back ….

The major irritant is that it denies us our first glimpse of Nicholas Courtney as Lethbridge-Stewart (although since nothing from his debut existed in the archives before 2013 we can’t grumble about this too much).  And if there had to be a missing episode, then better this one than the next (the Covent Garden battle sequence would have been a much more serious loss).

Although Courtney’s characterisation as Lethbridge-Stewart is already pretty recognisable, the Colonel we see here isn’t quite the Brigadier that he’d become from The Invasion onwards.  Like some of the others (notably Chorley) he’s given the odd, off-key moment, suggesting he might have a secret to hide.   The fact that the story will shortly raise the spectre that the Intelligence must have a mole inside the fortress raises the possibility that the Colonel may well be a traitor ….

Chorley’s undergone something of a transformation from the previous episode.  Although things looked grim then, he was calm and in control. But now he’s suddenly become hysterical and desperate to leave.  Again, this suggests that he may be a man with his own agenda (or it could possibly be that he’s simply a coward, thinking only of his own survival).

The return of the Doctor energises the story – he quickly takes command and impresses the Colonel with his practical suggestions.  Lethbridge-Stewart also has ideas of his own – getting rid of the annoying Chorley by creating the superfluous job of “co-ordinator”, for example.

The Colonel is also in his element when leading a briefing.  Interestingly it’s Anne who is slightly riled when everybody’s presence is requested (“a briefing? We’re not in the army yet”) rather than the Doctor. It would be easy to imagine the Pertwee Doctor expressing a similar sentiment, but the Troughton incarnation was always much more easy-going.

But although the Doctor may appear to be pretty placid, it’s plain that there’s plenty going on under the surface. This was always one of the joys of Troughton’s Doctor. He didn’t need to dominate proceedings like Jon Pertwee or Tom Baker’s Doctors, he was content to sit, watch and wait. But when he spoke, people tended to listen – as seen with this short exchange between him and the Colonel.

DOCTOR: Someone here is in league with the Yeti. Maybe even controlling them.
COLONEL: What?
DOCTOR: The main door didn’t open by itself, did it? It may be any one of us.
COLONEL: Me, perhaps?
DOCTOR: Perhaps.

Based on what we later know, the idea of Lethbridge-Stewart as a traitor is laughable, but at this point we simply don’t know him, so it’s completely possible.  And the fact that Troughton doesn’t overplay this moment – he delivers his lines in very a matter-of-fact way – makes the scene even more powerful.  Unlike some of his successors, Troughton tended to understand that less was more.

Jamie spends most of the episodes stuck in the tunnels with the rather annoying Evans, whilst Victoria’s back in the fortress with the others. She doesn’t do a great deal in the episode sad to say, partly this seems to be because Anne – a more dominant character – is rather taking the limelight. And it’s a pity that as the episode draws to a conclusion we’re left with a whimpering Victoria and a slightly angry Doctor (she’s told Chorley about the TARDIS – a bad move if he’s the agent of the Intelligence).

The sudden death of Weams (the first – but not the last – of the established characters to die) and the cliffhanger shot of a terrified Travers tangling with the Yeti (who have been mostly off-screen during this twenty-five minutes) provides a strong hook into the next episode where – hurrah! – the pictures will move again.

Doctor Who – The Web of Fear. Episode Two

With Patrick Troughton on holiday, episode two allows the others, especially Frazer Hines and Deborah Watling, a little more screen-time.

Jamie and Victoria’s first encounter with the aged Travers is a treat.  Camfield favours lingering on Victoria’s delighted face as she instantly realises that the old man in front of them is the same person they encountered forty years earlier in Tibet.  It’s a nice touch that Victoria is several steps ahead of Jamie, who doesn’t recognise Travers to begin with at all (although when he finally twigs, his comment – “here, hasn’t he got old? Oh, but we’re very pleased to see you, Professor. Very pleased” – is lovely).

The formidable Anne tangles with another man and again easily bests him. Here, it’s the oily newspaperman Harold Chorley (Jon Rollason).

CHORLEY: Oh, for goodness sake, why is everybody being so evasive? Why won’t anybody answer any questions?
ANNE: Perhaps they’re afraid you’ll interpret them in your own inimitable style.
CHORLEY: And what does that mean, pray?
ANNE: It means you have a reputation for distorting the truth. You take reality and you make it into a comic strip. In short, Mister Chorley, you are a sensationaliser.
CHORLEY: You smug little redbrick university ….
ANNE: Don’t say it, Mister Chorley. I have a very quick temper and very long claws.

Ouch! It’s interesting that although Web was made some fifty years ago, Chorley’s character – a unscrupulous journalist – is still a very recognisable one. The more things change ….

Jack Woolgar gives a lovely performance as Staff Sergeant Arnold. Arnold is your archetypical NCO – a gruff, no-nonsense type who’s easily able to keep his subordinates in order. Amongst his charges is the familiar face of Richardson Morgan (as Corporal Blake). Morgan would later turn up in The Ark in Space. Also good value is Stephen Whitaker as Craftsman Weams.

The arrival of Driver Evans (Derek Politt) adds a little levity to the story. He’s a comic, cowardly Welshman (if his accent wasn’t obvious enough, then the fact he turns up singing the Welsh national anthem provides the audience with another clue as to his nationality. Not the subtlest of characterisations then).

The Yeti look very good when lumbering through the tunnels on film. When they pop up on videotape it’s fair to say that they’re slightly less impressive, but Camfield is still a good enough director to ensure that they don’t look completely ridiculous (other directors might not have been so successful on this score).

There’s already a nice sense of claustrophobia and unease throughout this instalment, which increases as the story progresses. Although the Troughton era tended to overdose on base-under-siege stories, when done well (as here) they’re gripping entertainment. By the end of the second episode, the parameters of the story have been established – a small group of heroes isolated in the underground and menaced by the Yeti on all sides.

With Victoria lost in the tunnels and the Doctor still missing, things are nicely set up for episode three.

Doctor Who – The Web of Fear. Episode One

Following the news of Deborah Watling’s death, I’m sure I wasn’t the only one to reach for this story.  Back in the mid eighties though, if you wanted to see Victoria in action you were limited to either the second episode of The Abominable Snowman, episode three of The Enemy of the World or the first episode of this one (and that was always supposing that you were able to obtain a pirate VHS from a friendly contact).

It’s very pleasing that season five is now much better represented than it was back then and, for me, it’s the two stories returned in 2013 – The Enemy of the World and this one – which are the real jewels in the crown.

I first encountered Web 1 back in the late eighties, on a pirate tape along with a selection of other orphaned Hartnell and Troughton episodes (a bit like an early Lost in Time then, although the picture quality sometimes left a little to be desired).  It’s therefore an episode which I’m very familiar with, having rewatched it countless times across the decades (always wondering whether the rest of the story would maintain this strong opening).

Non-controversial statement – Douglas Camfield was Doctor Who‘s best director.  It’s easy to see why he directed more stories than anybody else – his skill at crafting intriguing picture compositions (both in the studio and on film) was second to none and there’s plenty of examples to be found in this opener.

Since studio time was always limited, most directors wouldn’t spend too long on creating interesting visual images – simply getting the actors to hit their marks and deliver their lines without bumping into the scenery seemed to be the top priority.  Camfield, possibly due to the fact that he ran his productions with a military precision, was quite different as he was able to find the time to craft pleasing shot selections.

A good example can be found in the early TARDIS scenes.  The Doctor, Jamie and Victoria, staring at the scanner screen, are positioned with the Doctor in front, Victoria behind him and Jamie at the back.  In order to make this shot work, all three actors had to hit their marks exactly whilst the cameraman also had to be in precisely the right place.  If anybody was slightly off, then the composition wouldn’t work.  Many directors would simply have elected to line them up side by side (this would have been easier to shoot, but also would have looked unnatural – Peter Davison raises this point several times on his audio commentaries – the way that certain directors shot the TARDIS scenes very flatly).

I assume the reason why the confrontation between Travers (Jack Watling) and Julius Silverstein (Frederick Schrecker) is recorded on film was because the underground sets took all the available studio space.  Camfield always had an affinity with film (no surprise that he later graduated to all-film series like The Sweeney) which makes this scene a creepy pleasure.  It’s true that Jack Watling gives a very broad performance (“stubborn old goat!”) and his facial contortions are something to behold, but presumably he was playing the part as written.

Strong female characters aren’t terribly common during this period of the show, so Travers’ daughter Anne (Tina Packer) stands out rather.  A scientist in her own right, she’s acidly polite when the hapless Captain Knight (Ralph Watson) attempts to clumsily chat her up.

KNIGHT: What’s a girl like you doing in a job like this?
ANNE: Well, when I was a little girl I thought I’d like to be a scientist, so I became a scientist.
KNIGHT: Just like that?
ANNE: Just like that.

Compare and contrast this with The Invasion (which in its early drafts would have featured return appearances for Anne and Professor Travers). Anne’s replacement – Isobel – is a much more pallidly drawn character who’s happy to entertain romantic overtures from Knight’s counterpart – Captain Jimmy Turner.

Whilst I may love The Web of Fear dearly, it’s not a story that makes a lick of sense.  Firstly, if the Great Intelligence’s plan was to ensnare the Doctor, why envelop London in a web?  After all this wasn’t the early seventies – a time when the Doctor was resident on modern-day (to the viewers) Earth.

And the moment when the museum Yeti changes before our eyes from the cuddly Abominable Snowman version into the sleeker Web of Fear model might look good, but again it’s something which isn’t at all logical.

Quibbles apart, this opener effectively sets the story up.  We know what we’re dealing with (Yetis in the Underground!) and we’ve also been introduced to a varied cast of military characters who we’ll get to know better as the serial progresses.

For many long years there seemed to be little hope that we’d ever get to see the rest of the story.  And then in 2013 something remarkable happened …..

Doctor Who – The Enemy of the World – Episode Six

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The Doctor’s impersonation of Salamander places him in a rather precarious position as Benik doesn’t seem to be totally convinced.  But he’s able to authorise the release of Jamie and Victoria and he asks Bruce to take them to the gates to ensure they get away safely.  There’s a lovely moment when Bruce asks them to call his deputy Forrester, once they get outside, and tell him that Bruce is at the research station (using the word “redhead”).  Jamie wonders if that’s a reference to his wife, but Bruce tells him no, it’s just a code-word.  Typical Jamie, always thinking of women!

Once Jamie and Victoria leave they don’t reappear until the the final scene, so this, together with their fairly light appearance in episode five and their absence from episode four, means they’ve hardly featured in the second half of the story.  Maybe this is because whilst The Enemy of the World is a good story, it’s not necessarily a good Doctor Who story, so Jamie and Victoria end up rather surplus to requirements.  Indeed, you could remove the Doctor as well and it would have been made a very decent one-off serial with Kent and Astrid facing off against Salamander and Benik.

Astrid is able to do little for Swann, but he’s able to tell her the whole story and Astrid ventures underground to tell the workers that Salamander has duped them. She’s only able to take them up two at a time, so she naturally elects to take Colin and Mary (there’s no point taking any of the others, as they’re non-speaking extras!).

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For a large part of the story, Kent has insisted that the Doctor should impersonate Salamander in order to find incriminating evidence that will expose him.  In the end, this doesn’t happen (and is rather neatly reversed) when Kent meets Salamander (or so he believes) and betrays himself.  Kent and the faux-Salamander seem to be trapped in the records room, but Kent knows about the secret exit.

DOCTOR: Well, that’s very interesting, Mr Kent. Why didn’t you tell me that before?
KENT: Oh no, it can’t be.
DOCTOR: Oh, I’m afraid it is. Oh, look. Here’s another surprise for you. Look behind you.
KENT: Astrid, you’ve come just in time.
ASTRID: It’s too late, Giles. I know everything.
COLIN: That’s him. That’s the man who took us down there in the first place.
MARY: Giles Kent. We thought you were dead.
KENT: Now look, I’ve never seen these people before in my life.
ASTRID: They’ve told me everything. You and Salamander were in it together.

The emergence of Astrid at just the right moment (and with two people who can confirm that Kent was Salamander’s partner) is more than a touch contrived, but it works in story terms as it finally strips away the lingering pretence that Giles Kent was on the side of the angels. The Doctor tells him that he was never convinced by him anyway, as “any man who resorts to murder as eagerly and as rapidly as you must be suspect. You didn’t just want to expose Salamander, you wanted to kill him and take his place.”  Although Kent may have been more convincing had Bill Kerr played him as a more reasonable and sympathetic character, it’s still a very watchable turn.  Best known as Tony Hancock’s idiot friend in the radio version of Hancock’s Half Hour, he also enjoyed a long and successful acting career (some of it spent in the UK) and once of the joys of the recovery of this serial was that we were able once more to enjoy his complete performance.

As previously touched upon, Doctor Who was still a long way away from out-of-order recording, so each episode has to mostly feature Troughton as either the Doctor or Salamander.  Since it was the concluding episode, it’s not a surprise that he’s mainly the Doctor, although this means that after building Salamander up throughout the serial, he rather fades away.  But he does get to confront his old associate Kent, before his first (and last) encounter with the Doctor.

Had there not been at least one meeting between the Doctor and Salamander, the audience would probably have felt a little cheated (although the Doctor and the Abbot never met in The Massacre).  Before that happens though, loose ends are tied up as Bruce and Astrid take charge.  Kent has apparently killed both himself and Salamander (via a huge explosion) and the Doctor leaves Astrid as she attempts to rescue the people trapped in the underground shelter.

The final scene is a bit of a cracker.  Salamander impersonates the Doctor and he asks Jamie to operate the TARDIS controls.  This naturally confuses the Scot, but when the real Doctor makes an appearance, all becomes clear.  The Doctor tells Salamander that “we’re going to put you outside, Salamander. No friends, no safety, nothing. You’ll run, but they’ll catch up with you.”  After a tussle, Salamander is flung out in the Space/Time vortex and (unusually for the Troughton era) the story closes on a cliff-hanger.

Although The Enemy of the World does have a few logistical issues, there’s plenty to enjoy (especially as it’s such a break from the norm).  It was a daring move to tackle a James Bond-type plot with the series’ usual budget (and especially since 95% of the story was shot in the studio) but, apart from the odd wobbly set, it all holds together.  Troughton’s great (no matter who he’s playing) and he’s surrounded by some familiar faces (Colin Douglas, George Pravda, Milton Johns) all of whom would appear in later Doctor Whos.  Hines and Watling have little involvement in the later part of the story, but Whitaker keeps the story bubbling away so nicely that this never becomes an issue.

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Doctor Who – The Enemy of the World – Episode Five

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The mysterious visitor at the end of episode four is revealed to be Donald Bruce.  Although he’s Salamander’s head of security, he also seems to have a policeman’s instinct, as he’s willing to listen to the claims of Kent and the Doctor that Salamander is not the universal benefactor he claims to be (although anybody who’s spent time around him surely would have quickly picked up plenty of negative vibes).

Astrid disarms Bruce’s guard and the Doctor attempts to bring Bruce onto their side by handing the gun back to him.  As Bruce says, “you must be a complete fool or very clever.”  The Doctor responds that Bruce will “have to make up your mind to that right away.”  This fairly basic piece of psychology does the trick and Bruce agrees to accompany the Doctor as he attempts to enter the Research Centre.  But as insurance, Astrid and Kent are left behind – under guard.

Meanwhile, Salamander is still underground.  One of the slight problems with the underground scenes is that there’s only three speaking roles – Swann, Colin and Mary (there’s plenty of other people in the scenes, but they’re all just rhubarbing extras who rush around with clipboards, looking busy).  Adam Verney (as Colin) is still machine-gunning his lines, delivering them with an intensity that borders on the manic.  As the character is supposed to be somewhat stir-crazy, it’s a reasonable performance choice – although a little of him does go a long way.  Especially when delivering lines such as “I don’t think it’s right. Just work, sleep, eat, if there’s enough to go round. Like worms under the earth, sightless worms wriggling about without hope, without purpose.”

Mary (Margaret Hickey) has the thankless task of having little to do except react to Colin’s complaints.  Swann (Christopher Burgess) initially seemed also to be a rather uninteresting character, very much Salamander’s yes-man, but events take an unexpected turn when he discovers a fragment of newspaper which was stuck on their new boxes of supplies.  Salamander has told them all that there’s a global war occurring on the surface, and that their work (engineering natural disasters), is vital to the war effort.

But the scrap of newspaper has a report about the sinking of a holiday liner.  How can there be holiday liners in a world at war?  Swann confronts Salamander and it’s the first time that we’ve seen Salamander even slightly shaken.  He quick back-peddles and tells Swann that the war is over, but the survivors are deformed in mind and body.  “They have a kind of society, but it’s evil, corrupt. You don’t think I could expose you to that sort of thing? Think of Mary and the other women.”  Swann insists on going up to the surface with Salamander.  Salamander readily agrees and it’s not hard to understand why – Swann may go up, but he’s not coming down again.

Jamie and Victoria were absent from the previous episode and in the first half of this one were only in a brief shot (as their unconscious bodies were carried past the camera).  Once they’ve woken up, they have to face the tender devotions of Benik.  Milton Johns excels in this scene.  So much is left unsaid, as it’s left to the viewer’s imagination to wonder exactly what Benik would be prepared to do to them.  Jamie tells him that he must have been a nasty little boy, Benik concedes he was, but that he had a very enjoyable childhood.”

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But he only gets as far as tugging Victoria’s hair when he’s interrupted by Bruce and (apparently) Salamander.  In order to convince Bruce that Salamander is as corrupt as he believes him to be, the Doctor stays in character for a while – and he’s convincing enough to fool both Jamie and Victoria.  The recovery of this episode allows us to see a few more nice visual touches – as Jamie and Victoria confront the man they believe to be Salamander, the Doctor takes fright and falls off his chair.  He’s then concerned that his friends don’t recognise him, but after miming playing the recorder he’s delighted to find they believe him after all.  Just before this, Letts manages to ramp up the tension as he rapidly cuts between close ups of Hines and Watling as they list some of Salamander’s crimes.

Kent and Astrid manage to distract the guard (thanks to some HP sauce, it appears) and Kent hot-foots it to the Research Station.  He says he’ll have no trouble getting in, since he has a pass (are we supposed to believe that Salamander wouldn’t have had it cancelled by now?!).

At the same time, Astrid is trying to shake off the guard (through a very unconvincing section of forest – alas, it’s too obvious that it’s a studio mock-up) when she hears a cry for help.  She stumbles across a mortally injured Swann, who clearly has come off second best in a tussle with Salamander.  It’s interesting that a few minutes earlier Salamander asked Swann if he was sure he wanted to go right up to the surface – the inference being that if he’d changed his mind, Salamander would have spared his life.   I’m not sure if that was the scripted intention or just how it was played, but it does make the character of Salamander a little more interesting (was he reluctant to kill?  And if so, was it just because he didn’t want to get his own hands dirty?)

As it is, we once again end on a cliff-hanger where neither the Doctor and his friends are in danger.  It’s another atypical ending to an atypical (but far from uninteresting) story.

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Doctor Who – The Enemy of the World – Episode Three

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Until late 2013, this was the only surviving episode of The Enemy of the World and it may be the reason why the story generally enjoyed a fairly low standing, pre-recovery.  There’s nothing particularly wrong with it, but it’s quite low on incident (which is quite typical for one of the middle episodes of a six-parter).

Salamander orders Denes to be arrested and he later tells Fedorin to kill him (thoughtfully he provides the poison to do so).  Given that Denes would obviously prove to be awkward if he was brought to trial, his removal is understandable – it’s just bizarre that Salamander would chose Fedorin to do it.  From his first scene he’s been presented as a weak link.  True, if he did murder Denes then it would tie him even closer to Salamander, but logically you would have expected that a hand-picked guard would be a better choice.

As has often been stated, it’s a little odd that Denes is kept under guard in a corridor.  This is because, apparently, it’s the easiest place to guard him.  What, easier than a room with a door they can lock?  In story terms, having Denes in the corridor means that he can easily interact with any passing character, but it’s a pity that they couldn’t come up with a better reason why he was there.

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This episode is immeasurably livened up by Griffin the Chef (Reg Lye).  In plot terms he contributes nothing (and he doesn’t appear later in the story either) but his droll sense of humour is welcome in a story that’s been rather grim up until now.  Griff’s an eternal pessimist and with a long-suffering air agrees to take on Victoria as an assistant.  He asks her to write out the menus.  “First course interrupted by bomb explosion. Second course affected by earthquakes. Third course ruined by interference in the kitchen. I’m going out for a walk. It’ll probably rain.”

Jamie wonders if somehow Salamander managed to cause the earthquakes.  We then cut to scenes of the continuing earthquakes and rather neatly we pull away from this footage to show it was something the Doctor and Kent were watching on a monitor screen.  It seems like a nice directorial flourish, although it may have been scripted since Kent unconsciously continues the conversation that Jamie (many miles away) was having as he tells the Doctor he’s convinced that Salamander, via the Research Station, is somehow responsible for the earthquakes.

This is Troughton’s sole scene in episode three as the Doctor and he’s still not convinced.  “What you’re saying is that Salamander’s found a way of harnessing the natural forces of the earth. It’s a little difficult to accept. I’m not saying it’s impossible, mind you.”  Although the plot’s ticking away nicely and Troughton continues to entertain as Salamander, the necessity of the story means that the Doctor is once again placed in the background.  He gets to witness how unpleasant and ruthless Beink can be, but it’s still not enough proof for him.  “Unpleasant, yes, destructive, but not necessarily evil.”

There’s quite a high body count in this story and in episode three we bid farewell to both Denes and Fedorin.  Denes is shot in the back after Astrid attempted to rescue him and Fedorin is poisoned by Salamander.  I love Fedorin’s death scene, as you can clearly see that David Nettheim was milking it for all it was worth!  Denes’ death is a little more rushed though – it’s possible that time was a factor as there’s a swift cut after he’s shot straight into the next scene.  It’s a shame that Denes won’t take any further part in proceedings as George Pravda, especially in this episode, was rather good, especially the way he managed a wry tolerance of the madness occurring around him.

We end with Salamander becoming increasingly suspicious of Jamie and Victoria (which will conveniently remove them from the story for a week).  He’s also amazed to hear from Bruce that he’s recently met with Giles Kent ……

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Doctor Who – The Enemy of the World – Episode Two

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The Doctor manages to bluff Bruce into believing that he’s Salamander, but afterwards he’s still not convinced that he should help.  “I don’t know where you stand, Mister Kent, but you and this Salamander are obviously on opposite sides. That at least is clear. But which side is good? Which side is bad? And why should I interfere?”

Kent’s proposal is that Jamie and Victoria infiltrate Salamander’s HQ (using a plan he’d already devised for his own operatives) to find proof of his criminal activities.  Given the Doctor’s reluctance to get involved, it’s a little strange that he agrees so freely to this, as it will place both Jamie and Victoria in terrible danger.  We’ve seen the manipulative side of Troughton’s Doctor before, notably with his treatment of Jamie in Whitaker’s The Evil of the Daleks, but it’s still difficult to believe that he would agree to such a risky plan so readily.

As Jamie and Victoria leave for the Central European Zone, Kent suggests that he and the Doctor take a look at the Kanowa Research Station.  They won’t reach there until episode three, but we briefly see inside it this episode, as we meet a character who’ll become more central to the story later on – Benik (Milton Johns).  Before we go inside, there’s an establishing shot of the outside of the building.  Although it’s represented by a still photo, it’s a nice touch that a small piece of foliage is slowly waved very close to the camera, increasing the impression that it’s a live action shot.  It’s a very simple trick, but quite effective.

Like many of the actors in Enemy of the World, Milton Johns would make several appearances in Doctor Who as well notching up hundreds of other credits.  Frankly, he’s something of a national treasure – one of many, many actors of this era who could always be guaranteed to enliven whatever tv show or film he appeared in.  Never the lead, but always solid support.

He’s tended to specialise in playing odd, weak or ineffectual characters and Benik fits into all three categories quite nicely.  We’ll discuss Benik in more depth later on, but even in his single scene here it’s quite possible to get a good grasp of his character.  He occupies a position of some power and he’s no problems with exercising this authority (witness his confrontation with Bruce).  But there’s something slightly repellent about him and he certainly doesn’t give off a very trustworthy vibe.

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We then move to the Central European Zone, where we get our first proper look at Salamander.  He’s got an interesting accent which at times does slightly rob the character of a little of his menace, but it’s Troughton, so you know that he’s always going to deliver a nuanced performance that will command the screen.

He’s meeting with the Zone controller Denes (George Pravda) and Fedorin (David Nettheim).  Salamander warns that the Zone will shortly suffer a devastating earthquake.  Denes is polite, but noncommittal, although he promises to have his experts check the data (much to Salamander’s irritation).  Denes is another of Kent’s allies, although when he speaks to Astrid later he mentions that the meeting he just had with Salamander was the first time he’d met him.  This would imply that Denes has only just been made controller, as surely he would have had contact with him on a regular basis.  And since he’s never met him, why is he so convinced that Salamander is evil?

Once Denes leaves, Salamander explains to Fedorin exactly what will happen next.  Denes will die and Fedorin will take over.  Salamander has incriminating evidence (faked, if we believe Fedorin) on Fedorin, but doesn’t plan to use it, “this just an insurance, hmm?”  It’s a joy to watch Troughton’s Salamander steamroller the ineffectual Fedorin and it gives us an early indication that he’s utterly ruthless – replace an honest man with one that you have a hold over and your power-base is immeasurably stronger.  David Nettheim’s role isn’t particularly large (he only appears in this and the next episode) but his twitchy, anxious turn is a memorable one.

Barry Letts elects to use back projection for the park scenes, which is an innovative, if not entirely successful, attempt to suggest the action is taking place outdoors and not in the studio.   After the initial location splurge at the start of episode one, the rest of the story is largely studio bound so it was reasonable enough to try and open things out.  When he became producer of Doctor Who, Letts would delight in using CSO in ways that few other directors would ever attempt, so it’s not surprising that he tried something similar here.  It looks just as fake as CSO often did, but we’ll give him points for effort.

The other major character introduced in this episode is Fariah (Carmen Munroe).  She’s one of Salamander’s servants, but Fedorin observes that she doesn’t appear to be an ordinary servant.  Fariah tells him that she’s his food taster, as there have been many attempts to poison him.  As her contempt for Salamander is barely concealed, Fedorin wonders why she decided to work for him.  Fariah tells him that Salamander has a way of persuading people and Salamander’s own comments on her are quite noteworthy.  “She was hungry. Only thing is, now she has all the food she needs, she’s lost her appetite. Both Troughton and Munroe are skillfully able to imply an intriguing back-story with just a few lines.

Meanwhile Jamie and Victoria have managed to win Salamander’s confidence (in a slightly unbelievable way, it must be said).  Salamander’s security must be really poor for Jamie to be able to get within touching distance of him without any of his guards being able to stop him.  Although his ruthless streak is made even clearer when he tells his guards to take the guard that Jamie overpowered away.  “Look after him.  Better still, get rid of him.”

Episode two ends with Salamander’s forecasted volcanic eruptions.  This is achieved, less than satisfactorily, via stock footage which doesn’t at all match with the clean VT studio sequences.  It’s also a little strange that Salamander quite calmly watches the devastation from the veranda in his Presidential Palace, which implies that that the eruptions can’t be too far away.  But at no time does anybody suggest that they should leave and move to a safer place.

Salamander orders Denes to be arrested and we then see a rather odd cliffhanger which ends on the worried face of Fedorin who’s clearly deciding whether to agree to Salamander’s plan or support Denes.  It’s a convenient place to pause the story, but rather atypical (normally we’d expect to see one of the regulars in peril).

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Doctor Who – The Enemy of the World – Episode One

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Even some eighteen months later, there’s a faint air of unreality about the recovery of The Enemy of the World and The Web of Fear.

Maybe this is because the notion of complete (or nearly complete) stories returning to the archives seemed to be such a remote possibility.  Yes, it had happened back in 1992 with Tomb, but as time went on that appeared to be a miraculous one off.  Post-Tomb, we’d become conditioned that the small (but very welcome) trickle of orphaned episodes would be all we could ever expect.

The recovery of these nine episodes changed that though and it allows us to reassess a substantial chunk of season five.  For most people, including myself, viewing these two stories was a very different experience from watching The Tomb of the Cybermen back in 1992.  Tomb might have been a legendary lost story, but in 1992 I didn’t even have a complete collection of the existing episodes (although I was well on the way).  So Tomb was just another story and I approached it with none of the baggage that some older fans would have had.

Enemy and Web were very different.  I’d had the orphaned episodes for twenty five years and the audios for nearly as long.  So the small amount of existing visual material and the audio of the remaining episodes were very familiar – meaning that finally being able to put pictures to the sounds was an exciting, if slightly nerve-wracking experience, first time around.

This was Barry Letts’ first brush with the series and it’s apt that episode one features both a hovercraft and a helicopter, given that the Pertwee era would show a similar love of hardware.  The opening ten minutes or so are mostly shot on film and they help to give the story a glossy, expansive start.  As a first-time director on the show, Letts was clearly keen to push as far as he could and there’s some impressive shots (such as the POV from the helicopter showing Anton and Rod firing as it pulls away) that maybe a more experienced (or jaded) director wouldn’t have bothered with.

The early minutes are peppered with some lovely visual moments – such as the Doctor stripping down to his long-johns to take a dip in the ocean.  This emphases the Troughton Doctor’s child-like nature although he’s also quick to sense that the approaching hovercraft means them harm (although this seems to be via a sixth sense as there’s no visual clue).

The hovercraft is piloted by Anton (Henry Stamper), Rod (Rhys McConnochie) and Curly (Simon Cain).  It’s Anton who gets the lion’s share of their dialogue, although sadly it’s not particularly memorable and Stamper’s unsubtle delivery doesn’t help.  Thankfully, all three are put out of our misery shortly afterwards.

The Doctor, Jamie and Victoria are rescued by Astrid (Mary Peach).  Our first sight of Astrid is from the rear and it’s easy to believe that this was a deliberate shot-choice from Letts as Ms Peach does have a rather attractive derriere.  Certainly something for the dads there!

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But although it’s impossible to deny that Astrid is an objectified figure right from the start, she’s also a strong, capable woman at a time when that was still something of a rarity in Doctor Who.  There are other examples in the Troughton era – Anne Travers in the next story and Gia Kelly in The Seeds of Death, for example – but they were still the exception rather than the rule.

After the Doctor attended to a flesh-wound she picked up during their escape, she begins to delicately pump him for information.  Once she learns he’s a Doctor, Astrid wonders in what field, possibly law or philosophy.  Troughton’s reply, with a faint smile playing around his lips, of “which law? Whose philosophies, eh?” is another of those lovely moments that only works when you have the visuals to match up to the soundtrack.  And it does make you wonder just how many more examples of Troughton’s magic are lost on the audio-only episodes.

Another nice moment comes shortly afterwards when she tells the Doctor that he’s “the most wonderful and marvellous man that’s ever dropped out of the skies” and asks if he’ll do something for her.  The Doctor’s quite taken with her compliment and dreamily tells her that, yes, he will.  But he’s brought up sharply when Astrid tells him it’ll probably cost him his life!  It’s a gag moment, as it’s impossible to believe that the Doctor would ever be taken in by such a cheap piece of flattery, but it’s still amusing.

What happens next is interesting.  The Doctor seems reluctant to meet with Astrid’s boss, Giles Kent (Bill Kerr) and wishes to leave.  It’s Jamie who for reasons unknown (perhaps he fancies Astrid?) tries to persuade him to stay.  The Doctor’s inaction during the story was mainly for practical reasons – an episode could either largely feature Troughton as the Doctor or as Salamander, but it would be hard to do both.  So the Doctor had to drop out of the narrative for a few episodes in order for Salamander to dominate. Therefore, if the Doctor had agreed to the impersonation straight away, then the story would have been over much sooner.

There could be another reason though – since the story was scripted by David Whitaker, the show’s original script editor, whose view of the series was very different from those who came after (especially Dennis Spooner).  Something very consistent in the Whitaker script-edited stories is that the Doctor never decides to stay and help purely out of a sense of moral duty (instead it’s generally because he’s unable to leave – the TARDIS is taken by Marco Polo, the lock of the TARDIS is stolen in The Sensorites, the TARDIS is trapped by a fallen girder in The Dalek Invasion of Earth, etc).  It’s therefore quite reasonable for Whitaker to script a Doctor who’s reluctant to act.

This is unusual for the series at this time though, where the Doctor is generally quite happy to pitch in straight away. But it’s an interesting move, as whilst Giles Kent is very convincing in painting Salamander as a villain, there’s little actual evidence to back this up.  For anybody familiar with the parameters of the series to date, it would seem clear that Salamander = Bad and Giles = Good.  As we’ll see though, things aren’t quite as clear cut and this is an early example of the series taking a more pessimistic world-view where few, if any people, can be trusted.  Possibly the best example of this is The Caves of Androzani which must be unique in lacking any characters (outside of the regulars) that could be said to be wholly “good”.

But even this early on, we have clear evidence that Kent is a ruthless manipulator.  He wants the Doctor to impersonate Salamander but obviously knows that he’ll take a great deal of persuading.  So he contacts Salamander’s head of security Donald Bruce (Colin Douglas).  Since they’re implacable enemies, quite what he says is something of a mystery, but Bruce turns up shortly afterwards and Kent gives the Doctor an ultimatum.  He has to impersonate Salamander and he has to be good enough to fool Bruce, otherwise the lives of Jamie and Victoria will be forfeit.

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Give a monkey control of its environment and it’ll fill the world with bananas. Doctor Who – The Two Doctors

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The Two Doctors is, to put it mildly, a real mixed bag.  Robert Holmes was asked to include a number of elements – a foreign setting (originally New Orleans, later Seville), the Second Doctor and Jamie and the Sontarans.  We’ve previously discussed how Holmes disliked “shopping list” stories – this was the reason he didn’t complete his draft script for The Five Doctors for example – so placing so many restrictions on him was possibly asking for trouble.  Another problem was that it was effectively the same running time as a six-parter (which was a length of story Holmes loathed).

Given all this, it’s a little surprising that The Two Doctors turned out as good as it did.  Its tone is uncertain at times (Holmes always had a dark sense of humour and was probably delighted to find his whims indulged by Eric Saward) and it’s surprising to see that Troughton is somewhat wasted, but there’s plenty to enjoy here, so let’s dive in

The opening fifteen minutes or so are pure bliss.  Back in 1985, the sum total of my exposure to Patrick Troughton’s Doctor comprised of The Krotons and The Three Doctors from the Five Faces repeats in 1981 and The Five Doctors from 1983.  They were enough to convince me that Troughton was a brilliant Doctor and this story only cemented my appreciation of him. Although Troughton looks much older and greyer than before, there’s still a spark there and his byplay with Shockeye and Dastari is lovely.  Frazer Hines, somewhat remarkably, didn’t look much older than when he bade the Doctor farewell in The War Games, some sixteen years earlier.  Whilst Hines works well later on with Colin Baker and Nicola Bryant, it’s a pity he’s separated from Troughton for the majority of the story.

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The incomparable Patrick Troughton

Given the length of the story, it’s odd that Troughton is absent for such a long period (he vanishes fifteen minutes into the first episode and doesn’t re-appear until fifteen minutes into episode two – some forty five minutes).  And after such a strong start, he’s a somewhat impotent character for the remainder of the story.  He spends episode two tied up (although he has a few good scenes) and suffers the indignity of being turned into an Androgum in episode three, something of a lowlight of the story. But back to episode two, there’s a delightful scene between Troughton and Stike (Clinton Greyn).

DOCTOR: Tea time already, nurse?
STIKE: I do not understand.
DOCTOR: Just as well. A face like yours wasn’t made for laughing.
STIKE: The operation must begin at once. I am needed at the front.
DOCTOR: Yes, I heard you. What was it, a vital strike in the Madillon Cluster? Oh, dear me. Nothing changes, does it? You and the Rutans have become petrified in your attitudes.
STIKE: Nothing can change till victory is achieved. But, but I fear I might have made a tactical error.
DOCTOR: Oh? I thought the Sontarans never made mistakes.
STIKE: It is not easy being commander. The loneliness of supreme responsibility.
DOCTOR: Why don’t you resign, Stike? Take a pension.
STIKE: When I die, it will be alongside my comrades at the front. Doctor, you have a chance, in death, to help the Sontaran cause.
DOCTOR: How can I do that?
STIKE: Tell Dastari where your symbiotic nuclei is located in your cell structure. Vital time will be saved and I can be on my way.
DOCTOR: Is that what Chessene’s offered you, the knowledge of unlimited time travel? In that case, you should watch your back, Stike.
STIKE: What?
DOCTOR: She’s an Androgum! A race to whom treachery is as natural as breathing. They’re a bit like you Sontarans in that respect!
(Stike slaps the Doctor.)
STIKE: That is for the slur on my people!
DOCTOR: And for that I demand satisfaction!
STIKE: You know that is impossible.
DOCTOR: I am challenging you to a duel, Stike. That is traditional among Sontarans, is it not?
STIKE: Oh, I would dearly love to kill you, but unfortunately you are needed alive.
DOCTOR: Release me, Stike. You are not only without honour, you’re a coward as well.
STIKE: As you are not a Sontaran, Doctor, you cannot impugn my honour.
(Stike leaves.)
DOCTOR: Well, that didn’t work, did it?

It does worry some people that Troughton’s Doctor is working for the Time Lords (and that Jamie knows all about them).  This has given rise to the Season 6b theory, but the basic truth is that this was the latest attempt by Robert Holmes to demystify the Time Lords.  Holmes disliked the way they had been portrayed in The War Games (aloof, august, etc) and instead he took every opportunity to portray them as out of touch and basically corrupt.  The Deadly Assassin (which so upset a vocal minority of fandom at the time) was the clearest demonstration of this and The Two Doctors, more subtly, carries this on.  Holmes would, of course, continue this theme the following year in his episodes of The Trial of a Time Lord.  This interview excerpt with Holmes sheds some light on exactly what he was attempting to achieve.

When I wrote The Two Doctors, it was no mistake that the Troughton Doctor knew he was being controlled by the Time Lords. The theory which myself and others who worked on Doctor Who began to conceive was that the Time Lords were in dual control of the TARDIS all the time. The first trial was a mockery, a public relations exercise, because the Doctor had become involved too close to home and something had to be done about him. That’s why he is almost half-hearted about attempting to escape, which normally he never was. He knew that they were in complete control and had been all along. To operate as sneakily as this, you would have to be corrupt, and that’s what came later, when I was the script editor. Did they not condemn the Doctor to exile for interfering in the affairs of other planets? And yet who had sent him on these missions? They had!

nicola

Episode one has some rather strange plot holes (although it’s possible to argue these away).  What was reason for displaying the image of the Second Doctor apparently being put to death?  If nobody was left alive then who would have seen it?  And it’s incredibly sloppy to leave the equipment in place, so that when someone came to investigate they would instantly see that the Doctor’s death was a fake.

And if the Second Doctor’s death was phony, why should the Sixth Doctor be affected?  It’s also a remarkable co-incidence that when the Sixth Doctor decides to seek medical advice he not only chooses Dastari (out of all the medical men and women in the Universe) but lands the TARDIS at exactly the point in time immediately after the Sontarans have attacked the space station.  The only possible explanation for these whacking great plot holes is that the Time Lords were aware the Second Doctor had been kidnapped and subtly influenced the Sixth Doctor in order to get him to investigate.

Robert Holmes always had a gift for language, which is very much present in this story.  True, it sometimes edges towards the macabre (there were plenty of examples of this in the 1970’s and it does seem that Saward was keen to exploit this).  Colin Baker benefits from Holmes’ writing – he’s impressed me in his stories so far, but here (thanks to Holmes) he goes up another couple of notches.  This is a good example of morbid Holmes.

PERI: Ugh! Oh, Doctor, it’s foul. Are you sure it’s safe?
DOCTOR: Plenty of oxygen.
PERI: Yeah, but that awful smell.
DOCTOR: Mainly decaying food (sniffs) and corpses.
PERI: Corpses?
DOCTOR: That is the smell of death, Peri. Ancient musk, heavy in the air. Fruit-soft flesh, peeling from white bones. The unholy, unburiable smell of Armageddon. Nothing quite so evocative as one’s sense of smell, is there?
PERI: I feel sick.
DOCTOR: I think you’ll feel a good deal sicker before we’re finished here.

And this is lyrical Holmes.

DOCTOR: She can’t comprehend the scale of it all. Eternal blackness. No more sunsets. No more gumblejacks. Never more a butterfly.

There are problems with The Two Doctors, and the major one is the Sontarans.  Although they have the reputation of being a classic Doctor Who monster, they were remarkably ill used, particularly in the original series.  Linx was great, thanks to a wonderful performance by Kevin Lindsey and an impressive mask.  Styre was comprimised by only appearing in one episode and a slightly less impressive mask (made to ease the strain on Kevin Lindsey).  Stor was pretty rubbish and the Sontarans were generally pretty ineffectual anyway in The Invasion of Time.

Which leads us on to their next appearance, in this story, and it does seem to be a case of diminishing returns.  The masks here are the worst yet seen – they look far too obviously like masks (just compare them to Linx from a decade earlier).  Both Stike and Varl are very tall as well, which looks a little odd – nasty, brutish and short should be how the Sontarans look.  Holmes writes them quite well, and Stike has a nice military swagger, but it’s clear they’re not the focus of the story and it probably would have worked just as well with just the Androgums.

The Sontarans (and their ill-fitting masks) fail to impress
The Sontarans (and their ill-fitting masks) fail to impress

The debate about violence during S22 was a fairly hot topic and there are two main talking points here – the death of Oscar and the death of Shockeye.  Oscar (James Saxon) seems to be an archetypal Holmes figure (think Vorg in Carnival of Monsters or Jago in Talons of Weng Chiang).  They exist to bring a little light relief to the story with their cowardly antics, but they come good in the end – by showing unexpected reserves of courage. Holmes was never afraid to kill off sympathetic characters (Lawrence Scarman in Pyramids of Mars, for example) but the death of Oscar is a jolt.

Although he wasn’t used as much as Jago, there would have been a similar shock if Greel had knifed Jago to death in the last episode of Talons.  His death is supremely pointless too – although maybe that’s Holmes’ point.  Throughout the story we’ve seen how groups of characters treat the species’ they consider to be lesser than them.  The Doctor and Dastari consider the Androgums to be a lower form of life, just as the Androgums regard humans as little more than animals whilst Oscar has no compunction in killing moths, which he does simply for the pleasure their mounted displays brings him.

The Doctor’s killing of Shockeye isn’t a problem – it’s obviously self defence as Shockeye was out for blood.  It’s just unfortunate that we have a few shots of the Doctor smiling whilst preparing the cyanide.  The sight of the Doctor apparently relishing what was about to happen is more than a little disturbing – although this may not have been the intention and simply how it was cut together.

So whilst the story flags somewhat in the last episode (like City of Death and Arc of Infinity they can’t resist a run-around so they can show off the foreign location) it’s never less than entertaining across all three episodes.  It’s a pity that Troughton wasn’t used better and also that the two Doctors were kept apart for the majority of the story, but apart from these niggles it’s a very decent script from Robert Holmes and in many ways it was the last one he wrote where he was fully on top of his game.