Time-Flight is a bit of a mess. What it lacks in terms of budget and visuals it also lacks script-wise, so that we’re left with a pretty disappointing season finale.
It starts promisingly enough with episode one, which features Doctor Who’s most expensive ever product placement – Concorde. The location filming at Heathrow and the use of a real Concorde certainly adds a certain something.
The wheels fall off in episode two though. The prehistoric location doesn’t look great, mainly because it features incredibly obvious painted backdrops.
And just when you think things couldn’t get any worse, Kalid is revealed to be …. the Master! I’ve already written about the Ainley Master’s propensity for dressing up, in my post on Castrovalva but at least there was some logic to his cosplay in that story, since he was expecting the Doctor to turn up.
Here, there’s no such excuse, so why on earth did the Master decide to dress as an Oriental magician? Wisely, the script doesn’t dwell on this, presumably hoping that the audience won’t dwell on it either.
After escaping from Castrovalva, the Master found himself trapped on prehistoric Earth. By a remarkable coincidence, at exactly the same time the Xeraphin also become stranded in exactly the same place. The Master attempts to tap the power of the Xeraphin, but finds them difficult to control since they’re a gestalt intelligence whose good and evil sides balance each other out.
The Xeraphin are the most interesting part of the story, but they’re rather underdeveloped. Dropping the Master from the story would have allowed more time to feature them, but as it is we don’t really care about them since they’re painted so sketchily.
This is probably the least involving of all the stories featuring Ainley’s Master, but much better was to come over the next few years. For all its faults, The King’s Demons has a good explanation for the Master’s “small time villainy” and Planet of Fire is a story that is certainly lifted by Ainley’s performance.
If the visuals are sometimes disappointing and the script doesn’t really engage, then it’s just as well that the actors manage to make something out of pretty much nothing. By now the regulars are working well together and the loss of Adric has only served to give both Tegan and Nyssa more to do. After some dodgy performances earlier in the season, Fielding and Sutton have established a good partnership and they both have a good rapport with Davison’s Doctor.
The guest cast have their moments too. Richard Easton (Captain Stapley), Keith Drinkel (Flight Engineer Scobie) and Michael Cashman (First Officer Bilton) all seem to be enjoying themselves. None of the parts are that interesting, but all three actors help to give the story a much needed lift.
The main guest star was Nigel Stock as Professor Hayter. Stock had been a familiar face on British television and film for several decades (he was probably best known for playing Dr Watson alongside Douglas Wilmer and Peter Cushing in the BBC’s 1960’s adaptations of the Sherlock Holmes stories) and he brings a touch of class to the story. Professor Hayter, like the rest of the parts in the story, wasn’t a very rounded character but Stock does his best with what he’s been given.
Time-Flight ends on a cliff-hanger as Tegan’s left behind at Heathrow. Will she ever see the Doctor again? I guess we’ll have to wait until the next story to find out.
If you don’t fancy watching Time-Flight (or if you have and need cheering up) then this fab video by Farmageddon (aka Michael J. Dinsdale) should be just what, ahem, the Doctor ordered.
Time has maybe not been too kind to Earthshock. In 1982 it was a clear fan favourite, voted as the best of the year in every story poll. But over the years its popularity has dipped a little, possibly because when you take away the impact of the Cybermen’s return the rest of the story does seem to be a little hollow.
The Cybermen’s last appearance was in Revenge of the Cybermen some seven years earlier. In 1981, Cyber co-creator Gerry Davis submitted a story outline on spec entitled Genesis of the Cybermen. There isn’t any evidence to suggest that the story was ever seriously considered for production, or that the submission was even acknowledged, which upset Davis.
Speaking a few years later, he expressed dismay at his treatment: “I’ve had one in mind for a long time which is a Genesis of the Cybermen story and I’d love to do it. But every time I turn around and go back to America I find Nathan-Turner’s commissioned another Cyber-script and I’m not even invited to do it. It wasn’t very pleasant to be snubbed like that.”
When Christopher Priest’s script The Enemy Within proved to be unworkable, this left a hole in the S19 schedule that was ultimately filled with a new Cybermen adventure. Eric Saward was keen to write the story and although the script-editor wasn’t generally allowed to commission themselves, a solution was found. Anthony Root, who had briefly worked as script editor earlier in the season, was credited as Earthshock’s script editor although there’s no evidence that he actually did any work on it.
The first episode or so is set in some very nicely lit studio caves and concerns what we later learn to be a bomb, guarded by two androids, who have been programmed to kill anybody who gets too close.
The bomb has been planted by the Cybermen who intend to use it to destroy the Earth. They aren’t too disappointed when the Doctor deactivates it though, as they have a back-up plan (a rather impressive back-up plan it has to be said, almost as if they knew the bomb wouldn’t work).
This transports the Doctor and his friends to a deep space freighter where they encounter a rum bunch of characters. Ringway (Alec Sabin) is a traitor who has sold out to the Cybermen and is cursed with poor dialogue, such as: “I’m tired of your snide remarks and bullying ways”. Given this, it’s not surprising that the character never comes alive, but he’s not the only one.
Scott (James Warwick) is a bluff, gruff soldier who is drawn pretty broadly. Warwick chooses to intone each line with such deadly earnest that the performance often teeters on the edge of parody.
And then there’s Beryl Reid as Briggs. Doctor Who has often cast against type, many times with great success (Russell Hunter in Robots of Death and Nicholas Parsons in The Curse of Fenric, for example). Reid is a little more of a stretch but she’s not too bad, even if she sometimes seems to be a little lost.
There’s no denying the impact that the return of the Cybermen had in 1982, but this is about all the story has going for it. The plot is a little wooly at times (something Saward could often be guilty of). Perhaps the best example of this is when the freighter starts to travel backwards in time in episode four. How is this possible? Anything’s possible, says Adric, when you have an alien machine overriding your computer. Hmm, okay.
There’s certainly a place for this type of story in Doctor Who. The Caves of Androzani managed to combine a high level of action/adventure but also had rich chacterisation. Earthshock has the action, but the characters simply don’t engage.
The story did make the brave move of killing off a companion, as Adric dies in a futile attempt to stop the freighter crashing into the Earth. This is another shock in the story, but like a whodunnit when you know the identity of the murderer, the shocks lessen when the story is watched again, so that ultimately Earthshock feels somewhat less than the sum of its parts.
Black Orchid is a fairly simple tale, but there are some plot flaws, particularly in episode two, which impact the story.
It was the first two-parter since The Sontaran Experiment in 1975 and there are times when it’s easy to see why this wasn’t a regular format for the show. On occassions a little more time would have worked to the benefit of the story such as in the opening sequence, when we see in quick succession a man being murdered, somebody who looks like Nyssa sleeping whilst a mysterious man spies upon her and then we see someone tied up on a bed.
It’s the same person – George Cranleigh – who killed the man, spied upon the girl and is tied up on the bed, but although there’s a cross-fade between the second and third sequence this isn’t particularly obvious. A little more time spent on the opening could have made this much clearer.
The TARDIS has landed in the 1920’s where, thanks to a case of mistaken identity, the Doctor takes part in a local charity cricket match (he is, of course, an expert at the game) and is later invited, along with his companions, to a party at Cranleigh Hall.
Sarah Sutton gets the chance to play two parts, as well as Nyssa she’s also Ann Talbot (who is engaged to Lord Cranleigh). The split-screen shots work very well, although some of the sequences when her double is also in the frame are less convincing.
The party is quite a sight. It was recorded in October and as might be expected the weather wasn’t terribly kind. There’s strong wind in virtually every scene and they clearly had some rain as well, but they do their best to convince us it’s a glorious summers day.
The mysterious man in the attic Is a very tidy chap. After taking the Doctor’s fancy dress costume, killing a servant and carrying off Ann, he then returns the costume to the Doctor’s room. This is so the Doctor can then put it on and be misidentified by Ann as the murderer.
With the Doctor suspected of murder and taken off to the police station, things look bleak. Ideally it would have been good for the Doctor to prove his innocence by uncovering some clues, but instead he shows the TARDIS to the police, which does the trick. This is a rather lazy piece of writing and indeed the whole trip to the police station is a little unnecessary, it would have been better if everyone had stayed at Cranleigh Hall until the truth was uncovered.
Eventually the identity of the mysterious man in the attic is revealed to be George, the elder brother of Lord Cranleigh. George Cranleigh had been engaged to Ann before his disappearance some years previously and he carries off Nyssa in a case of mistaken identity. There then follows a rather odd sequence. George Cranleigh has started a fire and has taken Nyssa to the roof. The Doctor and Adric run up the stairs but decide it’s too hot to follow them.
Everybody goes outside, then the Doctor goes back inside and does follow them this time (what had changed?). He also makes the point that Nyssa’s life would be in danger if George realised the girl wasn’t Ann. So what’s the first thing he does when he confronts George? Tells him that the girl isn’t Ann! Poor George, who didn’t seem to have had much of a life, then plummets to his death, so that this particular family secret is brought to a conclusion.
Black Orchid has some very decent guest actors (Barbara Murray, Moray Watson, Michael Cochrane) and it chugs along nicely, but the flaws in the plot are a bit of a problem. If you want an expanded take on the story then Terence Dudley’s novelisation (available as an audiobook read by Michael Cochrane) does help to fill in the background and make the story feel more coherent.
Although Antony Root was only attached to the Doctor Who production office for a few months as a temporary script editor, he made one important decision that would shape the course of the series for several years to come.
One of the scripts Root worked on was The Visitation, by a writer new to Doctor Who – Eric Saward. Root was impressed with the script and when John Nathan-Turner asked him if had any ideas about who would be a good permanent script editor, Root suggested Saward.
Eventually the JNT/Saward partnership would implode in spectacular fashion when Saward quit the series in 1986 (during production of The Trial of a Time Lord) taking his script for the final episode with him. I’m sure we’ll come back to the troubles between the two of them in future posts, but for now let’s take a look at Saward’s debut script.
By his own admission, he hadn’t followed the series very closely for some years, so The Visitation does feel like a little bit of a throwback to a previous era. It bears some resemblance to the likes of The Time Warrior and The Masque of Mandragora, both of which featured aliens interfering in Earth’s history. The Time Warrior is the closest fit, since that story was also concerned with a stranded alien using human labour to achieve his goals.
I’ve previously touched upon the difficulties in writing for three companions. So far this season, Castrovalva put Adric In the background and Nyssa only made a token appearance in Kinda. All four regulars appear throughout The Visitation and after the opening sequence Saward only features two other main speaking parts (Richard Mace and the Terileptil leader) which does help matters.
But even this doesn’t hide the fact that Adric is very much surplus to requirements. After escaping from the Manor House in episode three, he spends part of the episode hanging around the TARDIS with Nyssa before deciding to go and look for the Doctor. He quickly gets captured by the villagers and is taken away (very slowly it has to be said). Eventually he escapes and makes his way back to the TARDIS. Therefore in the course of an episode or so, he’s done very little of consequence. But a solution to the overcrowded TARDIS was just around the corner.
Nyssa’s sub-plot (building a device to destroy the Terileptil’s android) isn’t terribly interesting but it does give her something to do. That leaves Tegan, who is closest to the action during the story. But it’s clear that Saward is most interested in his own creation, Richard Mace,
It’s a feature of Saward’s scripts that they often feature characters (such as Lytton or Orcini) that you sometimes feel he would be happier writing about, without that pesky Doctor always getting in the way. Richard Mace is the first example of this, as he gets many of the best lines. And like Kinda, Peter Davison benefits by linking up with a guest actor for a good part of the story (Nerys Hughes in Kinda and Michael Robbins here).
If the majority of the story is quite traditional, with few surprises, then the opening is a little different. We’re introduced to the inhabitants of the Manor House, who we assume will feature in the story, but after this scene we never see them again and their fate is only confirmed during episode three. They’ve been disposed of by the Terileptil leader (played by Michael Melia).
Given the heavy mask, Melia’s performance isn’t particularly subtle and it’s a shame that his voice wasn’t treated – since he sounds like a man speaking through a heavy mask. But although the design of the costume is a little crude, it does have some nice animatronic touches, such as an impressive curling lip.
The Terileptil’s plan to wipe out all of humanity does recall Tom’s line from Terror of the Zygons when he queries whether the Earth isn’t just a bit too big for only six Zygons (and there’s only three Terileptils!).
Overall then, The Visitation is a good story with a strong guest performance by Michael Robbins. If it feels a little insubstantial then that’s probably due to the small number of main characters. The villagers never tend to say much apart from “kill the strangers” which means that we don’t have a great deal of perspective about the world outside the Manor House. But it’s a decent enough story midway through a solid season.
Like Warriors’ Gate, Kinda was written by someone new to television and required a substantial rewrite before it was of broadcast standard. And while Christopher Bailey, like Steve Gallagher before him, had a very clear vision of what he wanted to achieve, there had to be a comprise between his original story concept and what script editors Christopher H. Bidmead and Eric Saward required from him in order to produce a Doctor Who story.
Bailey approached the Doctor Who production office in 1980 with a story outline entitled The Kinda. The inspiration for The Kinda was derived from Ursula K. Le Guin‘s 1976 novel The Word for World Is Forest.
Le Guin’s novel is set several hundred years in the future and concerns a human colony which has been established on the planet Athshe. Athshe is an unspoilt paradise which the humans regard as rich for exploitation. The Athsheans appear to be docile and primitive and have a culture based on “dream-time” in which they share their thoughts.
Although Kinda does superficially resemble this brief outline, Le Guin’s novel develops in quite a different way as some of the humans, particularly Captain Davidson, enslave large portions of the Athsheans and his cruelty eventually results in a revolt from the Athsheans with a considerable loss of life.
In Kinda nobody dies (except Panna, and as her knowledge and experience were passed over to Karuna, it’s debatable if we can regard this as a “death”). The disappearance of three of the expedition party (Roberts and two others) prior to the TARDIS crew arriving is more of a mystery and is never explained. Hindle (Simon Rouse) does, like Davidson in Le Guin’s novel, enslave some of the natives and poses a considerable threat to them, but unlike Davidson, Hindle is redeemed.
Christopher H. Bidmead was very impressed with The Kinda. For him, it was exactly the sort of intelligent science fiction he was always striving to find. Bailey was commissioned to provide a full story breakdown in summer 1980. He was briefed to include two companions (as this was before Nyssa was added to the crew) and as Tom Baker hadn’t yet decided to quit, it was written with the fourth Doctor in mind.
Bidmead found plenty of interest in the story breakdown but was well aware that a great deal of work needed to be done in order to turn it into a Doctor Who story. One major problem was that it lacked any villains – instead the conflicts came from the various choices and temptations faced by the characters. One of Bidmead’s first recommendations to Bailey was to make the Mara much more of a tangible, corporeal presence.
Although rehearsal scripts had been delivered by August 1980, it was clear that it wouldn’t be ready in time to form part of S18, so it was deferred until S19. By this time Tom Baker had been replaced by Peter Davison and a third companion, Nyssa, had been added to the mix. And by early 1981, Eric Saward was now in the script editors chair and he continued to work with Bailey on the scripts.
One early decision made by Saward was not to ask for the scripts to be rewritten in order to include Nyssa. It was felt that her absence would benefit the story as it would allow the other characters more room for development.
Thanks to Bidmead’s input, episodes one and two were in a workable shape but episodes three and four still required a substantial amount of work. For example, Saward would later comment that he always had a great deal of difficulty in getting Bailey to understand the importance of including a strong cliff-hanger at the end of each episode.
Saward’s major contribution to the script was the ending, where the Mara is drawn from the body of Aris and banished from Deva Loka forever. Bailey understood in the end that dramatically the serial needed such a conclusion, originally he had written something much more low-key.
Eventually, filmable scripts were delivered and John Nathan-Turner assigned Peter Grimwade to direct. Although they were later to have a spectacular falling out, at the time Grimwade was one JNT’s favourite directors. He had already directed Full Circle and Logopolis and would direct Earthshock towards the end of S19. Grimwade would also pen three stories for Davison’s Doctor – Time-Flight, Mawdryn Undead and Planet of Fire.
Grimwade was able to assemble an impressive cast, headed by Richard Todd. Todd had been one of the major stars of British cinema during the 1950’s (probably best known for The Dam Busters) but the decline of the film industry in the 1960’s meant he had spent more time acting on the stage during the 1970’s and by the early 1980’s he had also instructed his agent to look for interesting television roles.
Nerys Hughes was a familiar television face, thanks to her ten-year stint on The Liver Birds. Following the end of that series she had found other television work harder to come by, so this was a welcome role for her to re-establish her profile.
Mary Morris had had an extensive career in film, stage and television. For fans of British telefantasy though, she was probably best known for her roles in A For Andromeda and The Prisoner.
Simon Rouse was still a number of years away from his defining role as DCI Meadows in The Bill, but he was in good company in Kinda, as several other Sun Hill regulars such as Jeffrey Stewart (Dukkha) and Graham Cole (member of the Kinda tribe) were also present.
The decision was made to shoot the entire story in the studio. Although this meant that the forest would occasionally look a little stagey it worked quite well, although there were some problems. Early on it became clear that the movement of the TSS machine and the cameras caused the covering of leaves to be swept away and revealed the studio floor underneath. For later days, more leaves were brought in, but the floor can still be seen at various times during the story.
Story-wise, Kinda is interesting in that there are two main plot-threads (Hindle’s madness and the Mara crossing over in to the real world via Tegan/Aris) which run totally independently of each other. Both of the plot-threads offer the same possibility of destroying the Kinda and starting again the wheel of life as described by Panna in episode three.
As episode one begins, we see Adric and Nyssa playing draughts outside the TARDIS. The fact that Adric is easily able to beat her is a clear indication that she is not herself. The Doctor rigs up a delta wave augmenter in order to allow her to have 48 hours worth of uninterrupted sleep whilst the Doctor, Adric and Tegan explore their new surroundings.
As happens so often in Doctor Who, the three are very quickly separated. The Doctor and Adric end up at the Dome whilst Tegan sleeps alone under the wind chimes. One intriguing aspect of the story is how events are repeated. For example, when Tegan enters the dreamscape she encounters two old people playing chess which mirrors the same scene between Adric and Nyssa. Are the people in Tegan’s dream her subconscious representations of Adric and Nyssa?
As Tegan is offered a way out of her nightmare by Dukkha (which like many of the names in Kinda has a Buddhist translation, this one means suffering or anxiety) the Doctor and Adric meet the survivors of the survey team. They seem to be all quite recognisable archetypes – Sanders is the uptight leader and a stickler for discipline, Hindle is the rigid security officer who probably believes he should be in charge and Todd is the scientist with probably the best grasp on the reality of the situation. Two of these three will change dramatically during the course of the story.
Sanders decides to solve the mystery of his three missing team members and ventures into the forest. There he meets Panna (wisdom) and Karuna (compassion) who offers him the Box of Jhana (meditation).
The properties of the Box of Jhana do seem to change during the story. At this point it’s designed to send a message to the humans in order to bring them to the cave so that Panna can explain about the wheel of life and why they must leave Deva Loka.
The only problem with this is that the Box of Jhana can only be opened safely by a woman. Since five of the six members of the survey team were probably male, this is a bit awkward. Why Panna couldn’t visit the Dome and leave a more straightforward message is a plot-hole that is never explained.
When Sanders opens the box he regresses to childhood, although this is only temporary. Eventually he re-emerges as a whole and better-adjusted person than he seemed to have been at the start of the story. Hindle becomes dangerously psychotic so that when he looks into the box it resets the balance of his mind. The Doctor concludes that the Box of Jhana is a Kinda healing device, which is somewhat different from the start of the story when it was designed to send a message. Perhaps it does both at the same time?
Tegan is still trapped in her dreaming and agrees to let the Mara (the personification of unwholesome impulses) take over her body. Janet Fielding’s three previous broadcast stories had all been somewhat problematic for her character and Kinda is the first time that she’s been allowed to really act. But given that this is seen as a Tegan-centric story, it’s a little surprising that she doesn’t have all that much screen time.
All of her key scenes are in the first two episodes, although if you added up all the sequences in the dreamscape then they wouldn’t run for too long. Her re-emergence into Deva Loka, now possessed by the Mara, is another stand-out moment (but again it’s a fairly short scene). She’s then pretty much absent for episode three and only rejoins the narrative in the last episode. But this is definitely a story where quality outweighs quantity and what she does is certainly memorable.
Matthew Waterhouse has more screen time and spends a large amount of the middle part of the story sharing three-handed scenes with Richard Todd and Simon Rouse. The story of Waterhouse offering the vastly experienced Richard Todd tips on acting is legendary, but Waterhouse doesn’t fare too badly against these two quality actors.
At the start of the story we know perfectly well what sort of character Sanders is. We’ve seen his type in countless films, books and television programmes before (indeed, his name is a direct lift from the British empire yarn Sanders of the River). So his return to the Dome as a wide-eyed childish innocent is a major jolt.
By far the most difficult role in the story is portrayed by Simon Rouse. Doctor Who has portrayed mad and unbalanced people before, but none quite like this. It’s a tour-de-force performance.
Eventually the Box of Jhana is delivered to somebody that can understand the message and Dr Todd and the Doctor venture out to find Panna. With Tegan isolated for much of the story and Adric teamed up with Sanders and Hindle this leaves the Doctor and Todd together.
Nerys Hughes worked very well with Davison, indeed she could have made a very interesting companion. There’s certainly more of a connection between the two of them than there has been between the Doctor and Adric, Nyssa and Tegan in his first few stories.
The Kinda, like many of the civilisations seen in S18, exist in a form of stasis. Panna explains to Aris, the Doctor and Todd why the presence of the Dome and the Mara threatens the Kinda’s idyllic existence –
PANNA: Please. What are you going to do?
ARIS: We shall destroy the dome. The Not-we must be killed. This is our duty.
PANNA: You fool, you blind male fool. Do you think it ends there?
ARIS: We shall be free.
PANNA: Of course not. It doesn’t end there. That is how it all begins again, with a killing. It doesn’t end. That ends as it has always done, in chaos and despair. It ends as it begins, in the darkness. Is that what you all want?
DOCTOR: Did you see the design on his arm?
TODD: What design?
PANNA: The sign of the snake.
DOCTOR: Yes, that’s right.
PANNA: It is the mark of the Mara, the evil ones.
TODD: Doctor, I really think we should …
DOCTOR: What do you know of the Mara?
PANNA: It is the Mara who now turn the wheel. It is the Mara who dance to the music of our despair. Our suffering is the Mara’s delight, our madness the Mara’s meat and drink. And now he has returned.
The Mara (in the body of Aris) doesn’t, it has to be said, seem to pose much of a threat. The Kinda lack any weapons and Aris’ decision to build his own TSS Machine (from wood) might work symbolically but is no match for the real machine even when piloted by the inexperienced Adric.
Hindle is a much more immediate threat, but luckily he opens the Box of Jhana just in time, which solves that problem. This only leaves the job of extracting the Mara from Aris and banishing it from Deva Loka.
With the help of the Kinda, the Doctor traps the Mara within a circle of mirrors. As he says: “No Mara can bear the sight of its own reflection. It must recoil from itself. Understandably, don’t you think, given it’s nature.”
The plan works, although for some the sight of the puppet snake is a major problem. Luckily there is now a CGI snake option for those that object to the original.
After its initial transmission in 1982, Doctor Who fandom was split over the merits of this story. Let’s look at some of the differing opinions.
“Kinda was by far the most mind-taxing story of the season, [but] despite the complex nature of the story I thoroughly enjoyed watching it — every moment was brilliant.”
(Michael Emmerson, Views, News and Reviews)
“The one feature cursed by all and sundry though was that wretched snake. With its balance of good and bad scenes Kinda was good, but not, like so much of this season, excellent.”
“I felt Kinda was an exceptionally good story, but it lacked something. I regret having to put it last in the DWAS poll, but the other stories far surpassed normal standards.”
(Tim Westerman, Laseron Probe)
“Kinda was one of the most visually striking stories since the Hinchcliffe era. Television is a visual art, but it is a rare treat to see work of such high artistic quality.”
(Simon Lydiard, Skaro)
The 2014 DWM poll ranked it at number 63 out of 241 stories, which is fairly respectable. It probably should be higher, since for me it’s an exceptional story that manages to transcend the limitations of the studio environment to produce a story of some depth. It’s certainly a story that repays multiple rewatches in order to discover the various different layers of meaning contained within.
I like Four To Doomsday. It’s by no means perfect, but there’s plenty of good things that balance out the elements that work less well. Let’s start by looking at some of the positives.
Stratford Johns as Monarch. I’ve written here about how much I enjoyed the first series of Softly Softly: Task Force, and one of the major strengths of that series was Stratford Johns’ performance. So if you ever fancy seeing what he looks like when he’s isn’t dressed like a frog then the DVD is well worth getting.
Although encumbered by the make-up, Johns is still able to bring a real personality to Monarch. At times charming, but also able to change to murderous rage in an instant, it’s a lovely guest performance.
Tony Burrough’s sets. Whilst Four To Doomsday wasn’t the first story to feature sets with ceilings, there was a real novelty to this at the time, as it allows what otherwise would be fairly static and dull corridor scenes to be lit much more interestingly. And all of the sets look pleasingly solid, there’s no S17 wobbling sets here.
Philip Locke as Bigon. The ending to episode two may lack a little, effects wise, but his final line as he holds up the printed circuit that contains his personality and reason is still compelling.
Roger Limb’s score. It’s a shame that there wasn’t an isolated soundtrack on the DVD (and the fact that there was an iso track for his frankly awful Terminus score demonstrates that there’s no justice in the world).
Peter Davison. This was Davison’s first recorded story, but you wouldn’t know that from his performance. Some have claimed that he plays the Doctor somewhat differently here, but I can’t really see it. He’s totally confident and able to hold his own against the scene-stealing Stratford Johns.
So. that’s the good, what about the bad?
Adric and Tegan. Both aren’t at all well served by the script. It was a feature of his stories that Adric would sometimes pretend to side with the baddies (State of Decay, Castrovalva) but here he swallows Monarch’s claim that he’s the saviour of humanity hook, line and sinker even though he knows that Nyssa is in danger. Any way you try to rationalise it, this is an amazing display of gullibility that does the character no favours at all.
This was only Janet Fielding’s second recorded story and whilst much better was just around the corner (Kinda), here (particularly in episode three when Tegan hysterically tries to take off in the TARDIS) she’s not given much in the script to latch onto and therefore doesn’t come over very well.
Terence Dudley’s script is a mixture of the good and bad. The basic plot doesn’t make a great deal of sense. It’s hard to imagine that the likes of Lin Futu and Bigon would be able to persuade the peoples of Earth that Monarch means them no harm, but for what other reason has he taken them onboard? Also, Bigon tells us that he can’t rebel due to his programming, but Lin Futu is able to replace Bigon’s personality chip (surely a rebellious act?) and then Bigon is quite capable, like the other leaders, to happily incite rebellion.
In my post on Castrovalva I mentioned how there was an air of the Hartnell era about that story and this is certainly also present in Four To Doomsday. Terence Dudley had directed a S18 Story (Meglos) but if you’d told me that prior to that he hadn’t watched the series since about 1965 I would have believed you.
It’s very possible to imagine the first TARDIS crew stepping into Monarch’s ship and expressing amazement at the technological wonders contained within. Whilst 1960’s Doctor Who sometimes had a pessimistic view of science (The Daleks, Planet of Giants, etc) in general there was a fairly positive vibe that scientific progress was a good thing. But as the early 1970’s dawned this was replaced with a more consistantly downbeat tone (Colony in Space, The Mutants, The Green Death, etc).
And just as in Marco Polo, where everybody settles down for a story from Ping Cho, here we see the action stop in both episodes two and four whilst a whole host of different cultures entertain us. This does help to slow down the pace of episode two to an almost glacial level, but like most of Four To Doomsday there’s something strangely compelling about the whole mise en scène.
And that’s much like the whole of Four To Doomsday. As I said at the start, it’s got problems (particularly in the characterisations of Adric and Tegan) but there’s an earnest charm about it that has always appealed to me.
As soon as Peter Davison had been announced as the Doctor there was speculation as to how he would play the part. JNT believed that he had cast a “personality” actor, similar to Jon Pertwee or Tom Baker, so assumed that Davison would effortlessly inject his own persona into his portrayal.
Davison was less sure that he was that sort of actor and so went back to the tapes to study his predecessors. Castrovalva has some obvious nods to past Doctors (particularly in the first episode) but going forward what Davison seemed to mostly draw upon were elements from the Hartnell and Troughton incarnations.
Jon Pertwee and Tom Baker’s Doctors tended to automatically dominate proceedings, whereas Hartnell and Troughton might stay a little more in the background before emerging with the solution. Davison’s Doctor would also, like Troughton’s, be happy to play the fool in order to lull people into a false sense of security.
If elements of his portrayal harked back to Hartnell and Troughton, then having three companions was another link back to the 1960’s. However this worked better then than it did in 1982, for several reasons.
Firstly, as the 1960’s series ran virtually all year round, a larger regular cast helped to fill the gaps when one of the lead actors took a holiday. The stories also tended to be longer, therefore there were more opportunities to split the narrative between the Doctor and his companions.
But possibly the most obvious reason why the dynamic of the Doctor/Ian/Barbara/Susan worked so well was down to how each character operated within the structure of the series as it was during S1. To put it somewhat crudely, the Doctor provided the scientific know-how, Ian provided the practical know-how, Barbara was the moral centre and Susan screamed and needed rescuing.
Somewhat of a rough generalisation, but in essence that was how things worked. The S1 Doctor was mostly motivated by a desire to return to the safety of the TARDIS and if he helped anybody along the way it was often incidental. It was Barbara and sometimes Ian who most often tried to help others (or interfere as the Doctor would say, in The Aztecs for example).
Over time the Doctor would take over the characteristics of Ian and Barbara, so that by the early 1970’s the Doctor only needed a single companion – to ask questions, scream and be rescued (again, to put things slightly crudely).
The problem of the overcrowded TARDIS was obviously picked up during the scripting of S19, so in Castrovalva Adric takes a back seat which allows Nyssa and Tegan to take the lions share of the action. Nyssa then sits out Kinda so that Adric and Tegan can enjoy a more substantial role in proceedings.
Christopher H. Bidmead obviously loved the concept of the TARDIS and the first episode and a half are set within the ship. During this time we see flashes of the Doctor-to-be from Davison and Nyssa and Tegan’s friendship starts to develop.
Whilst the Doctor is weak and vulnerable for much of the story, particularly in the opening couple of episodes, there’s enough signs to demonstrate that Davison already has a good grasp on the part (although this story was actually recorded fourth). His character wouldn’t really emerge until the end of episode four, but it’s a confident enough performance.
Unlike Patrick Troughton or Tom Baker, Davison could never take a so-so script and turn in a performance that would help you to ignore the average material. But give him a good script and a well written character (Frontios, Androzani) and he would deliver the goods.
Once the TARDIS crew enter Castrovalva then the story really begins to motor. There are fine performances from Frank Wylie (Ruther), Michael Sheard (Mergrave) and Derek Waring (Shardovan) and the dialogue has a pleasing, lyrical nature. It’s maybe a shame that they didn’t pitch up here an episode earlier.
Michael Sheard was always such a dependable performer, both in Doctor Who and in general, and there’s a typically good performance from him in this story as Mergrave. This is complimented by Frank Wylie and together they make a nice double-act.
Most interesting of all is Derek Waring as Shardovan. There’s a clear sense of misdirection at play here as everything is directed to make the audience believe that he’s the villain (he’s dressed in black for example whilst the Portreeve is dressed in white) but he turns out to be a man struggling with the concepts of reality and illusion.
As for the Master, Anthony Ainley has a bit of a sticky wicket. In the first few episodes he’s stuck in a cupboard and forced to share numerous two-handed scenes with Matthew Waterhouse – a difficult task for any actor. He then gets to indulge in a bit of dressing up as the Portreeve. The Master’s love of disguises would reach a peak in The King’s Demons, for which I find it difficult to find adequate words to describe the full majesty of his performance. Once I reach that story I promise to try though!
He’s more restrained as the Portreeve, but it still begs the question as to whether it was designed to fool the audience or the Doctor and his friends. It’s hard to imagine that the audience wouldn’t have failed to notice it was Ainley dressed up, so let’s be generous and assume that the Doctor didn’t twig because of his post-regenerative state and the atmosphere of Castrovalva affected Nyssa and Tegan’s senses.
Apart from the Master’s dressing up games, it has to be said that this is one of the most bizarre and convoluted schemes he’s ever been responsible for. It’s therefore possible to posit that somewhere between The Deadly Assassin and The Keeper of Traken the Master went completely, totally, mad. This would explain the incredibly over-elaborate plan he’s concocted here.
Somehow he knew that the Doctor would die in Logopolis, knocked up a duplicate Adric with block transfer computation, switched him for the real one, got the faux Adric to programme the TARDIS to fly back to Event-One, and if that failed to destroy the ship then the TARDIS would journey onto the non-existant Castrovalva, as well as inputing information about the planet in the TARDIS data-bank. Faux-Adric only flicks a few buttons on the TARDIS console, but it’s enough to do all this. Clever, that!
Then the Master creates a whole world, down to the smallest details, in order for what exactly? His great plan seems to consist of nothing more than a wish to prise open the zero cabinet so he can take one last look at the Doctor before killing him. Couldn’t he have just killed him on Earth? It would have saved a lot of bother.
Ainley’s performance when the Master is attempting to open the zero cabinet with a poker is a little embarrassing, although maybe that was what they were aiming for, as it clearly shows the Master’s grip on reality has gone completely. But the final shot of the Master, as he’s pulled back in the city by the Castrovalvans, is very well done – it has a suitably nightmarish quality.
Overall then, Castrovalva is a decent opening story for Peter Davison with some good guest performances. It wraps up the plot threads from S18 and allows a fresh start for the further adventures of the new Doctor and his young group of companions.
And so after seven long years it all came to an end on a set cobbled together from leftover pieces from The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy and Top of the Pops.
Tom Baker still casts a long shadow over Doctor Who – he was voted No 1 in the DWM 2014 poll which is a fair indication that his support amongst older fans remains secure whilst many younger ones have also succumbed to his charms. If there’s one certainly, it’s that in five or ten years time Matt Smith will have slipped from the No 2 position but Tom Baker seems indomitable at No 1, ready to outsit eternity you might say.
Is Logopolis a good story to bow out on? Yes, pretty much. It’s by no means perfect, but it does give Tom some good moments whilst also moving into place the line-up that would accompany Peter Davison through S19.
Introduced in this story is Tegan (Janet Fielding). An unwilling traveler at first, to put it mildly, Tegan would take several stories (probably until Kinda) before she really settled in. In Logopolis, this may be partly be because she’s much more broadly Australian than later on, when her accent is notably toned down, or it could be that from Kinda onwards she was simply a better written character.
Like Adric and Nyssa, Tegan joins the Doctor after a close relative is murdered – coincidence or a definite story plan, I wonder?
Both Nyssa and Tegan have lost loved ones at the hands of the Master who makes a full appearance here, in the guise of Anthony Ainley, following his brief appearance at the end of The Keeper of Traken.
Christopher H. Bidmead seemed to hold the opinion that the Delgado Master simply wasn’t evil enough, so the Ainley Master has notably less charm than the Delgado incarnation. But this does seem to fundamentally misunderstand the role of the Master during the Pertwee era.
Whether by accident or design, Pertwee’s Doctor largely ended up as a moral, rather humourless figure, so Delgado’s Master was allowed to have all the charm and wit that the Third Doctor rarely showed. Remove this aspect from the Master and there’s little left. But the Doctor and the Master do enjoy a little byplay in Logopolis, such as this scene –
MASTER: The Pharos computer room.
DOCTOR: Yes. I envy you your TARDIS, Master.
MASTER: Excellent, Doctor. Envy is the beginning of all true greatness.
(A technician returns to the room. The Master points a device at him. The Doctor snatches it away.)
MASTER: It’s the lightspeed overdrive, Doctor. You’ll need that to accelerate the signal from the transmitter.
DOCTOR: I’m so sorry. I thought you meant to shoot him.
MASTER: Oh, Doctor. You can explain.
DOCTOR: Ahem. Good morning. Good evening.
(The Doctor notices the Master now has a weapon in his hand and drags the technician’s chair aside before the Master can fire)
DOCTOR: He’s unconscious.
MASTER: Never mind. I feel we’ve been spared a very difficult conversation.
The return of the Master wasn’t the only link to the Pertwee era. Possibly it was the influence of Barry Letts as executive producer that saw several lifts from Third Doctor stories (the radio telescope as seen in Terror of the Autons and the Master’s TARDIS inside the Doctor’s TARDIS from The Time Monster).
Barry Letts was also on hand to read the scripts and offer his advice, although often it wasn’t taken. He wasn’t happy, for example, with the Master’s line that although Tremas was dead his body remained useful, feeling that the concept of an animated corpse was rather disturbing. He also queried the rather large plot hole concerning the lash-up job that the Doctor and the Master made at the Pharos Project to save the Universe.
What would happen to the Universe, asked Letts, if the Pharos Project switched it off? This is quietly forgotten at the end of the story and the impact of the imminent death of the Universe is rather swept under the carpet.
Letts also disliked the concept of the Master broadcasting his threats to the entire Universe. How, he reasoned, could they respond? Still, he wasn’t alone in pointing out how idiotic that was!
But whilst the script does feel somewhat bitty in places, there is a definite sense of impending doom as the Doctor finds himself shadowed at every turn by the Watcher. And despite the end taking place in a hastily cobbled together set made from bits and pieces from other programmes, it’s a sequence that still (particularly for those of a certain age) resonates today.
Doctor Who would go on, but Tom Baker would be a very hard act to follow.