Doctor Who – Mission to the Unknown

Mission to the Unknown is a bit of an oddity.  After Verity Lambert decided that Planet of Giants was a tad dull and could do with losing an episode, the production team were told they had to add this “spare” episode onto another story.

Considering that the BBC has always been rather cash conscious, this has always struck me as a strange move.  Four episodes were budgeted and paid for on Planet of Giants, even if only three made it onto the screen, so effectively Lambert and co were given a “free” episode.  Surely the scheduling bods could have slipped a few Tom and Jerry cartoons on one week and no-one would have been that bothered?

Anyway, it seems that the original idea was to bolt an extra episode onto a Terry Nation Dalek script.  If that means The Chase then I think we dodged a bullet there.  I was already losing the will to live with six episodes, so seven might just have pushed me over the edge.

Or maybe they were referring to The Dalek Invasion of Earth which was the final story in the first production block (it begin in late November 1964).

And for no other reason than the fact that I love original Doctor Who paperwork, here’s Donald Wilson’s memo from 1964 to prove that I’m not talking complete nonsense.

So if the circumstances surrounding the creation of Mission to the Unknown were a little unusual, it’s also strange that it’s not sitting directly before The Daleks’ Master Plan.  It works as a prologue for that story very well, but the fact you have four weeks of The Myth Makers between the two would have presumably puzzled many of those watching at home.

I’ve a strong suspicion that Terry Nation leapt at the chance to write a Dalek script which didn’t include the Doctor.  He was already working on his proposal for a big-budget American series featuring the Daleks (but not that strange old man in the police box) so it’s easy to see Mission to the Unknown (and large parts of The Daleks’ Master Plan) as a dry run for this.

The American series would have featured plucky members of the space corps (similar to Marc Cory, Sara Kingdom and Bret Vyon) facing off against the Daleks week after week.The television series came to nothing, but the seventies Dalek annuals give you a flavour of what it might have been like.

Anyway, back to today’s episode. We open in a jungle on Kembel, which has plenty of lush, aggressive vegetation.  You’d better get used to it as there’s going to be lots of jungle action once we hit The Daleks’ Master Plan proper.  We see someone who we later learn is Jeff Garvey (Barry Jackson).  His first words (“I must kill… must kill… must kill”) have a slightly ominous ring about them. He doesn’t seem at all well.

Elsewhere, space captain Gordon Lowery (Jeremy Young) is complaining to space agent Marc Cory (Edward de Souza) about this inhospitable planet.  It’s clear that Cory’s the man in charge though, which is confirmed when he shoots Garvey dead.  Lowery’s a tad upset about this, but Cory explains that Garvey had been infected by a Varga plant and it was him or them.

Cory then reveals his true identity to Lowery.  “Space Security Service. Licensed to kill.” Yep, this was very much the time when Sean Connery’s portrayal of James Bond was dominating cinema screens and Cory is a blatant attempt to steal a little of 007’s thunder.  It’s an unusual move for Doctor Who though, which until now hasn’t tended to be influenced that much by contemporary popular culture.

Cory explains that he’s on the trail of the Daleks.  They haven’t bothered the Earth for a thousand years, but all that seems to have changed as a Dalek ship has been spotted in the vicinity.  This shattering revelation is followed by the most melodramatic music cue possible.

Wait! Garvey’s not dead.  Instead he’s suffered a far worse fate – he’s turned into a Varga plant!

The Daleks are also on Kembel and they’re here to chair a meeting between the leaders of the seven galaxies.  Some of the representatives we see here also pop up in The Daleks’ Master Plan, although by then some were played by different actors.

And some of the representatives in The Daleks’ Master Plan are totally different from how they look in this episode, which is another puzzle.  Luckily there are those who have pondered these issues long and hard.  For the curious, I can recommend this post by Jac Rayner on her blog Delegate Detective.

Whatever names they have or whichever actor is playing them, the delegates are a rum lot who certainly don’t have a lot of love for our precious planet Earth.  As Malpha (Robert Cartland) succinctly puts it.  “This is indeed an historic moment in the history of the universe!  We six from the outer galaxies, joining with the power from the solar system – the Daleks!  The seven of us represent the greatest war force ever assembled!  Conquest is assured!”

That spells trouble.  I hope the Doctor is somewhere around …..

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Doctor Who – The Chase. Part One – The Executioners

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For those who regard Terry Nation as nothing more than a hack writer, The Chase must surely be exhibit A.  It’s easy to dismiss it as nothing more than six episodes of random nonsense, held together by the thinnest of plots (the Doctor is now the Daleks’ deadliest enemy and they’ve decided to hunt him down through all time and space.  Mmm, we’ll come back to that one).

It’s true that it’s not helped by having Richard Martin in the director’s chair.  Martin was the go-to guy for the big stories of season two, although it’s hard to see why.  He’s a decent director of film sequences, but much less assured when it comes to the multi-camera studio environment.  And since Doctor Who was largely recorded in the studio that’s something of a problem ….

If many of Nation’s story ideas are odd and/or silly (Morton Dill, the Haunted House sequence, etc) then Martin’s direction doesn’t help.  The Chase is one of the most technically inept productions we’ve seen so far – although whilst it’s true that the script was far too ambitious for the series at that time, with the right director (say Douglas Camfield) something could have been salvaged.

It’s no surprise that when The Daleks’ Master Plan was mounted the following season (which is pretty much The Chase 2) Camfield managed to produce a much more appealing effort (at least based on the evidence of the surviving episodes).

But having said all that, I find it impossible not to have a sneaking love for The Chase.  It’s shoddy and illogical but there are some moments of magic scattered throughout its six episodes.

The Executioners opens with the Daleks swearing vengeance on their arch enemy Doctor Who.  After only two meetings (and since the Daleks were apparently wiped out in the first one, who was keeping the records?) this is a bit hard to swallow.   I can understand why Nation did it – the personal angle is a decent one – but like the rest of The Chase it just feels a bit off.  Maybe it’s because it’s rather like a TV Comic story come to life.

The Doctor and his friends remain oblivious for the moment.  They’re relaxing in the TARDIS in a sort of lazy Sunday afternoon mode.  The Doctor’s tinkering with a piece of equipment he’s picked up from the Space Museum, Ian’s engrossed in a lurid book about space monsters, Barbara (being the sensible one) is doing some needlework whilst Vicki’s just bored.  They make a perfect family unit and it’s a charming little moment of peace before the mayhem begins.

The Doctor proudly demonstrates his new acquisition – a Time and Space Visualiser (it’s a time television which allows the operator to view any event in history).  Ian asks to see Abraham Lincoln deliver the Gettysburg Address (actually he doesn’t – he specifies a time, place and date and the Visualiser just focuses on Lincoln.  Clever that).

Barbara is curious to see the court of Queen Elizabeth and we eavesdrop on a meeting between her, William Shakespeare and Francis Bacon.  Vicki is keen to see the Beatles.  Ian’s dad dancing is a legendary moment and Vicki’s comment (“well, they’re marvellous, but I didn’t know they played classical music”) is an odd one.  Maybe in the future Vicki didn’t have access to the futuristic equivalent of YouTube and hadn’t already seen them (possibly there was no WiFi on Dido).

All this helps to pad out the episode, which you feel was Terry Nation’s first objective.  Simply find enough material to create a twenty five minute installment and worry (or not) about whether it was any good later.

Their television viewing comes to an end when the TARDIS lands on an arid, desert planet.  Vicki and Ian head off to explore, whilst the Doctor and Barbara relax and soak up the sun.  The Doctor’s clearly in a good mood as he starts singing.  Barbara, distracted by the sound from the Visualiser, asks the Doctor what the awful noise is.  Amusingly, the Doctor believes she’s turned into a music critic.  “I beg your pardon? Awful noise? That’s no way to talk about my singing!  Ha! I can charm the nightingales out of the trees.”  It’s not much of a gag, but Hartnell’s always good value whenever he’s given a comedy moment.

The Visualiser then shows us the Daleks.  And by a remarkable coincidence it’s honed in on precisely the moment when they announce their intention to target the TARDIS crew.  What were the chances of that, eh?  It’s interesting that the Terry Nation formula of not revealing the Daleks until the end of episode one wasn’t quite set in stone yet.  Not only do the Daleks appear right at the start (reprising the cliffhanger from the previous episode) but they also have a substantial scene mid way through.

This would have been a good point to end the episode on, but alas there’s still a little way to go (Vicki’s hysterical outbursts are especially odd.  Were they as scripted or had Maureen O’Brien just lost it?).  The cliffhanger’s just about worth waiting for though – a coughing, spluttering Dalek rising from the sand.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Doctor Who – The Dalek Invasion of Earth. Episode Three – Day Of Reckoning

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The relationship between Susan and David begins to deepen. In part this is due to their shared experiences – in this episode, the pair (in hiding) hear the Daleks exterminate a poor unfortunate.  “You killed my wife and my brothers, now you want to kill me, argh, get away from me! No, no, no…argh!”  Ford’s reaction sells the horror of the moment more powerfully than if we’d actually seen the man killed.  Following this disturbing moment, Susan wishes that they could simply leave.

SUSAN: If only we could go to the ship and get away from here.
DAVID CAMPBELL: Well, I couldn’t go anyway.
SUSAN: Oh, David, David! Perhaps you could! I…I..could ask Grandfather and I’m sure he’d let you come. Oh, we could go to place where they’d never even heard of Daleks.
DAVID CAMPBELL: And what happens if there’s something unpleasant in the new place?
SUSAN: We move on somewhere.
DAVID CAMPBELL: No Susan, that’s not for me.
SUSAN: Why not?
DAVID CAMPBELL: Look, things aren’t made better by running away.
SUSAN: Well its suicide to stay here.
DAVID CAMPBELL: This is my planet! I just can’t run off and see what it’s like i
SUSAN: I never felt that there was any time or place that I belonged to. I’ve never had any real identity.

The Doctor of S1 would have agreed with her and no doubt would have been just as keen to hot-foot it out of there, but Susan should know by now that the new, improved S2 Doctor is not going to leave until the Daleks are defeated.  It’s also notable that in the last few episodes Susan has begun to express a little dissatisfaction with life aboard the TARDIS.  This is something we’ll see repeated over the years and it usually happens just before a companion is due to leave.  Anytime a companion starts to complain more than they normally do (another obvious example is Victoria in Fury from the Deep) you know they’re heading for the exit door.

The various team-ups that will endure over the next few episodes are now falling into place.  Barbara and the balaclava-loving Jenny begin to head for the mines in Bedfordshire.  Coincidentally, Ian is trapped on the Daleks’ saucer which is also heading for the mines in Bedfordshire.  Also hiding on the saucer is Larry (Graham Rigby) who wants to get to the mines in order to find his brother.  Larry is one of those characters who appear again and again in Doctor Who – they exist partly to line feed other characters (in this case Ian) and once their usefulness comes to an end they tend to be killed off.  The Doctor is reunited with Susan and together with David they decide to head … north (I’ve got a feeling they’ll end up at the mines at Bedfordshire, don’t you?)

Day of Reckoning is notable for a major location sequence in which Barbara, Jenny and the doomed Dortmunn flee from the Daleks whilst passing as many well-known London locations as they can fit in.  Accompanied by Francis Chagrin’s unusual percussion-based incidental music it’s an iconic few minutes – not least for the Daleks waving their suckers in a Nazi-salute style.

Hartnell doesn’t have a great deal to do in this episode, which is just as well as he was injured during rehearsals (as he was being carried down the Dalek saucer’s ramp he was dropped on the floor).  This could have been a lot more serious – Hartnell was temporarily paralyzed – but he recovered well enough to record the episode in the evening.  But it was recommended that he spend a few subsequent days recovering in bed, so he was hastily written out of the following episode (although luckily he wasn’t a major figure in that one either).

Doctor Who – The Dalek Invasion of Earth. Episode Two – The Daleks

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After the Doctor and Ian (and no doubt the audience) were surprised by the Dalek emerging from the Thames, they’re taken to the Dalek saucer at Chelsea.  Another prisoner, Craddock (Michael Goldie) explains how the Daleks invaded.

CRADDOCK: Well, the meteorites came first. The Earth was bombarded with them about…ten years ago. ‘Cosmic storm’ the scientists called it! Well, the meteorites stopped, everything settled down, and then … people began to die of this new kind of plague.
DOCTOR: Yes, that explains your poster, dear boy. Germ bombs, hmm?
CRADDOCK: Yeah, the Daleks were up in the sky just waiting for Earth to get weaker. Whole continents of people were wiped out. Asia, Africa, South America. They used to say the Earth had a smell of death about it.
IAN: Why Craddock? What were the doctor’s and the scientists doing about it?
CRADDOCK: Ah, well, they came up with some new kind of drug, but it was too late then.

This scene intercuts with David Campbell (Peter Fraser) telling Susan and Barbara the same story.

SUSAN: What happened next?
DAVID CAMPBELL: Well, the plague had split the world into tiny little communities. Too far apart to combine and fight and too small individually to stand any chance against invasion.
BARBARA: Divide and conquer?
DAVID CAMPBELL: Mmm. About six months after the meteorite fall, that’s when the saucers landed.

Nation’s draft scripts gave a different version of events. In the late twentieth century, the world was at war – China, Russia and America were at loggerheads whilst Britain was in conflict with Europe. But the arrival of the Daleks meant that the world united to face this common threat and a world government was formed in Japan.  The main problem with this scenario is that it would have begged the question as to exactly what the Daleks had been up to on Earth for the past two hundred years!

When Nation started crafting a sequel to The Daleks, his first thought was about how he could raise the stakes.  Showing the Daleks as the masters of Earth was an obvious choice – Jon Pertwee’s oft repeated comment about finding a Yeti using a public convenience in Tooting Bec demonstrates how mixing the everyday with the unknown can be a powerful one.  The Dalek/Thal conflict on Skaro worked well, but juxtaposing the Daleks with the familiar Earth landscape offered many more dramatic possibilities.  Of course you have to find a good reason as to why the Daleks would travel across the universe to invade the Earth.  Did Nation succeed? Mmmm.

Over the decades Earth would find itself under attack from a whole host of marauding aliens – but it’s rather fitting that the Daleks, given their status in the series, were the first.  They’re also by far the most successful, since subsequent invasions almost always happen when the Doctor is around, meaning that he’s able to save the day before things get too far out of hand.  Here, the invasion’s over and the Daleks have achieved a complete victory.  Humanity has been decimated and the survivors have been reduced to living underground or on the run, waging a seemingly hopeless struggle against an all-powerful enemy.

Nation’s memories of WW2 come to the fore in this episode, especially with the Daleks’ radio broadcast. “Rebels of London. This is our last offer. Our final warning. Leave your hiding places. Show yourselves in the open streets. You will be fed and watered. Work is needed from you but the Daleks offer you life.”

Susan and Barbara have made contact with the rebels. They’re all fairly broad character types, but luckily Richard Martin found good actors who were able to put a little meat on their bones.  Dortmunn (Alan Judd) is the wheelchair bound inventor who’s convinced he’s developed a bomb to destroy the Daleks – we’ll shortly see how terribly wrong he is.  Jenny (Ann Davies) is a hard as nails survivor who, no surprise, becomes more human as the serial develops.  Tyler (Bernard Kay) doesn’t have a great deal to do in this episode, except argue with Dortmunn, but Kay (who would return to the several several times in the future) is always watchable.  And David Campbell will serve a very definite purpose in the story, although there’s no sign of that yet.

A late revision to the script concerned the intelligence test that the Daleks use to decide which humans are fit to be converted into Robomen.  In the first draft, the Daleks simply turned up and took their prisoners to be Robotised one by one.  This obviously wasn’t deemed to be satisfactory, so something more elaborate was created.  But it does beg the question as to why the Daleks bother with all this palaver – since the Robomen are seen to have no free will of their own, why do the Daleks need to select those of a certain intelligence?  This also means that a Dalek has to be present outside every cell, waiting for the prisoners to work out how to escape.  Surely this would tie up a lot of Daleks?  The Peter Cushing movie streamlined things considerably by showing Cushing’s Doctor using a comb to escape!

Technically, this episode is a little messy.  A member of the production team wanders in shot at one point and David Graham’s pre-recorded Dalek lines are cued in too early in one scene.  The rebels’ attack on the saucer doesn’t really convince either – had it been shot on film rather than VT then it could have been cut together more convincingly.

Doctor Who – The Dalek Invasion of Earth. Episode One – World’s End

The Dalek Invasion of Earth was where everything changed.  It’s the first time that an element from a previous story returned, so it can be said to be the beginning of Doctor Who continuity.  Whether you call it “continuity” or “kisses to the past” or something else, it’s a dirty word for some people.  Many considered 1980’s Doctor Who to be far too obsessed with its own past (and just to show that nothing changes, the modern series is the same for some people).

Maybe one of the reasons why I love 1960’s Doctor Who is because it’s fairly light on continuity.  There are returning monsters (Daleks, Cybermen, Yeti, Ice Warriors) but they’re the exceptions rather than the norm – a returning baddy was more of an event then, as it didn’t happen all the time.  The Doctor’s place in the universe is another reason why I like 1960’s Who.  He’s able to travel around in almost complete anonymity – compare this to the series from the 1970’s onwards, where he increasingly became someone that everyone in the universe seemed to know (and if they didn’t know him personally, they’d probably have heard of the Time Lords at least).  The trend continues to this very day, and modern Who feels even more constricted than the original series ever did.

True, we see a few examples of the Doctor’s fame during the Hartnell and Troughton eras (for example, there’s the frankly bizarre notion that the Doctor’s travels have been monitored in The Savages, making Jano and his friends the very first Doctor Who fansbut they’re rather an exception.  Hartnell’s Doctor never arrives somewhere and announces that he’s a Time Lord, or the most powerful being in the universe, or the thing that monsters are afraid of, etc, etc.  He has to gain people’s trust by his actions rather than simply relying on his reputation.

Turning back to DIOE,  Terry Nation had to do some frantic re-tooling in order to present the Daleks as a galactic force.  In The Daleks they seemed to have no ambition for conquest – they merely wanted to survive.  Later in this story we see the Doctor blithly tell Ian that the Daleks they encounter on Earth come from an earlier period, which suggests that Skaro’s Daleks had devolved (the Skaro Daleks couldn’t move outside of their city, whilst the Earth Daleks have no such trouble).  This might lead us into the murky world of Dalek continuity, so I think it’s best to leave it there.

As will be traditional with most Dalek stories, they only pop up right at the end of episode one.  It’s an obvious trick – hook the viewer in and then reward them with just a taste, thereby forcing the audience to return next week.  So if we don’t have the Daleks here, what do we have?

For starters, it’s the series’ first major location shoot and also the first time that the regulars were seen on location.  Having spent nine stories confined in the studio it’s a considerable novelty to see Billy and co. out in the open.  As with most stories to this point, Nation elects to block the entry to the TARDIS – this time via a collapsing girder – which forces the Doctor and his friends to venture further afield.  Given that the raison-d’etre of the series had subtly changed (the Doctor was now becoming more proactive in his desire to combat evil) it probably wasn’t required, but it’s always nice to see old plot favourites (Susan’s sprained ankle is another).

It slowly becomes clear that they haven’t returned to Ian and Barbara’s time (notices which state “It is forbidden to dump bodies in the river” are something of a giveaway).  The mystery is settled when Ian finds a calendar for 2164 (Doctor Who often liked to set stories exactly a few hundred years in the future).  Quite why 2164 looks a lot like 1964 is a mystery that’s never explained on screen (although in Terry Nation’s original drafts it was revealed that the Daleks had invaded in the 1970’s – so any technological or architectural progress would have been drastically curtailed from that point onwards).

The paper plate Dalek spaceship is priceless!  The CGI replacement on the DVD is very nice, but as with all the replacement effects I rarely use them – and if you’re the sort of person to be worried by the original effect you probably shouldn’t be watching the series anyway.  It’s not a case of being blind to the series’ numerous production faults and missteps, rather you just have to accept the production for what it was (true, sometimes you have to be very accepting!)

As we get further into the story, I’m sure we’ll find time to discuss the Daleks’ bizarre reasons for invading Earth, but for now let’s restrict ourselves to the underwater Dalek.  Why was it underwater?  Apart from providing a decent cliffhanger I can’t think of any other credible reason.  But that’s been a good enough reason for many Doctor Who cliffhangers down the ages, so let’s not carp too much.

Doctor Who – The Keys of Marinus. Episode Six – The Keys of Marinus

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It’s fair to say that the whodunit mystery in this episode and the previous one is hardly of an Agatha Christie level. Barbara, Altos and Sabetha decide to speak to Aydan’s wife Kala to see if she knows anything. But it it seems not. “Leave me alone. I do understand and I sympathise with you. You must have been sick with worry since you spoke to Susan, but I just can’t help you. I know nothing.”

Of course, she couldn’t have known that Susan and Barbara had spoken (on the space-phone, after Susan was kidnapped) so it proves she was involved – and as it turns out was the one who murdered Aydan. Doh!

Kala’s accomplice is unmasked (not the greatest shock in the world) and the Doctor and the others are then free to return to Arbitan. But none of them know that he’s dead – murdered by Yartek (Stephen Dartnell). Or to give him his full name – Yartek, Leader of the Alien Voord. If my memory serves me right this phrase first pops up in The Making of Doctor Who by Terrance Dicks and Malcolm Hulke, but wherever it first surfaced it’s remained pretty much the only way to refer to him for decades. Or if you prefer the shorterned version – YLOTAV.

Yartek isn’t terribly convincing when he pretends to be Arbitan, but it still seems to good enough to fool Ian, who hands over the final key to him. When he and Susan leave the Conscience Machine he still seems to be putting the pieces together – but afterwards he tells the Doctor that he only handed over a fake key (so was he pretending he didn’t know what was going on to Susan?)

Arbitan wanted all the keys so he could restart the machine and control the Voord. But the Voord had proved to be immune to the machine’s control, so how would that work? But since Yartek planned to use the machine, it seemed that he knew that he and the other Voord wouldn’t fall under its control. Somehow. Possibly after six episodes, Terry Nation had begun to find his attention wandering a little.

What’s slightly irksome is that after they’ve spent weeks searching for the keys, the machine is destroyed – so they might as well not have bothered in the first place. The Doctor then says “I don’t believe that man was made to be controlled by machines. Machines can make laws, but they cannot preserve justice. Only human beings can do that.” A pity he didn’t say that in episode one, it would have saved them a fair amount of trouble!

The Keys of Marinus might be a low-brow romp, but it’s never less than thoroughly entertaining. However, as we prepare to enter the temple of evil, the tone of the series is set to change again.

Doctor Who – The Keys of Marinus. Episode Five – Sentence of Death

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The search for the final micro-key takes place over the course of the next episode and a half (this extra time allows for a slightly more involved plot). We’ve reached the city of Millenius and Ian finds himself accused both of murder and the theft of the micro-key. And here, the accused is guilty until found innocent.

Hartnell’s back from his holidays! It’s lovely to see the Doctor again and he turns up at just the right time since he’s the ideal person to speak for Ian at the tribunal. The Doctor’s in his element here. “My Lords, I cannot defend a man when I have not considered every aspect of the case. I must have time to examine witnesses, read statements and to prepare my case.” He just loves the whole court atmosphere, doesn’t he?

Things to love about this episode number one – the hats of the three judges. You don’t often see hats as impressive as this.

Things to love about this episode number two. Raf De La Torre is the senior judge and the only one to have a speaking role. The other two (played by Alan James and Peter Stenson, who doubled up with other roles as well, playing Voords, Ice Soldiers, etc) are noteworthy for several reasons. The first is their stick-on beards and the second is their excessive head movements when Raf De La Torre confers with them. Neither are allowed to speak, as they’re just lowly extras, so they indulge in manic head bobbing instead. It’s a lovely moment of unintentional comedy.

The Doctor’s pretty smug. He’s convinced he knows who committed the murder (it’s elementary, he says) but he has no evidence. Using Barbara and Susan he demonstrates exactly how the crime was committed – but the problem remains, how to prove it?

Things to love about this episode number three – a classic Billyfluff. “I can’t improve at this very moment. I can’t prove this very moment.”

There’s some familiar faces to spot. Fiona Walker, who returned to the series twenty four years later as Lady Peinforte in Silver Nemesis, is Kala. Donald Pickering, whose Doctor Who career culminated (if that’s quite the right word) with Time and the Rani is Eyesen. I love watching Pickering as he’s always a compelling screen presence. It’s not much of a role, but with a less skilled actor it wouldn’t have been half as interesting.

And what’s the Doctor’s plan to prove Ian’s innocence? He gets Sabetha to perjure herself by pretending that Aydan (Martin Cort) gave the key to her. Not quite the sort of thing that you’d expect to see at the Old Bailey. Aydan’s startled admission of guilt (and his murder immediately afterwards) moves the case on a little. But it doesn’t prove that Ian is innocent, so his execution will take place at the designated time. Ian looks at the Doctor, who can only shake his head sadly, which isn’t very encouraging.

And then Susan is kidnapped. Eek!

Doctor Who – The Keys of Marinus. Episode Four – The Shows of Terror

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It was David Whitaker’s idea that the locations of the story should be quite varied – one week a jungle, the next desolate snowy wastes. This is something that doesn’t occur very often in Doctor Who – normally when the TARDIS lands we’re never expected to wonder what the rest of the planet might be like. Often (picking a few random examples – say, The Daleks and The Krotons) it’s strongly implied that everywhere else is of little interest and where the Doctor is now is all that matters. But The Keys of Marinus, which shows us several cities ruled by different people as well as more barren locales, is quite different and should be applauded for that.

Last time, we left Ian and Barbara freezing to death in the fake snow. Luckily(?) they’ve been rescued by Vasor (Francis de Wolff) a man who lives in a hut all by himself in the middle of the snowy wastes. He shows Barbara how to restore life to her frost-bitten hands (doing so in a way that carries a certain overtone – it’s clear that he enjoys holding her hands in his). Indeed, there’s no two ways about it – Vasor is clearly keen for Barbara to spend some quality time with him (just as soon as he’s got Ian out of the way) and it’s equally clear what he wants to spend this time doing. It’s not spelt out, but then it doesn’t really need to be.

Ian sets out to find the others and hands over his travel dial in exchange for some of Vasor’s furs. Although Vasor, as scripted, tells Ian to pick up a coat and gloves, he only puts on a ratty piece of fur – which can hardly be expected to offer a great deal of protection (a poor bargain for his travel dial). Once Vasor and Barabara are alone he insists on feeding her some more food. “We must fatten you up, eh?” Brrrrr, I don’t fancy Barbara’s chances ….

Ian discovers Altos unconscious in the snow, but once Ian’s rubbed some life into his legs he seems able to carry on (yes, you can read something homoerotic into this if you wish). Luckily for Barbara, the two of them get back to the hut before Vasor’s been able to have his wicked way and the four of them then go back out to look for Susan and Sabetha.

They’re taking shelter in the ice caves, which is a decent-looking set. The Ice Soldiers, frozen warriors who are guarding the micro-key, aren’t quite so impressive though. This is another of those inexplicable Arbitan moments. The micro-key is contained within a solid block of ice, but if they melt the ice then the homicidal Ice Soldiers will wake up. Arbitan certainly didn’t like to make things easy, did he?

The excitement level as our heroes are pursued is fairly low – although Vasor gets his long overdue comeuppance from the Ice Soldiers (a sword in the back). Not the best episode of the story then, but Francis de Wolff (at times overacting like a good-un) is entertaining enough.

Next time, Ian faces a sentence of death.

Doctor Who – The Keys of Marinus. Episode Three – The Screaming Jungle

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It’s not really correct to think of the Voord as the villains of the story as they only appear briefly in episode one and then not again until episode six. Had they decided to shadow the Doctor and his friends as they quested for the keys that would added a little extra excitement, although with their wetsuits and big flippers they probably would have stood out somewhat.

Carole Ann Ford wasn’t particularly enamoured of the way Susan was portrayed in this story and it’s not hard to see why – she seems to be written down in age somewhat (acting more like a very young child at times). So given how hysterical she is in the jungle setting, it’s a blessed relief she’s packed off to the next location pretty quickly.

Things to love about this episode number one – the jungle vines that attack Susan in a less than convincing way.

Things to love about this episode number two – the statue with human arms which gives Jacqueline Hill a quick grope (although in the interests of decency it’s lucky that it could only reach her lower legs).

When they find the micro key in the first few minutes, it appears that this episode will be ending twenty minutes early. Sabetha, Altos and Susan head off for the next location whilst Ian stays behind to look for Barbara. But the key is a fake, meaning that Barbara and Ian still have to find the real one. Slimming down the cast at this point isn’t a bad move since it would have been a stretch to find something for five characters to do (even worse if the Doctor had been there as well).

And since Ian and Barbara are left alone it allows them a decent share of the action. Indeed, had it been decided at the end of The Velvet Web that Sabetha, Altos and Susan should search for the third key, whilst the Doctor went off to look for the fourth, then they could have dispensed totally with the services of Carole Ann Ford, Robin Phillips and Katherine Schofield for this episode and the production would have saved itself some money.

What Ian and Barbara find is a building full of traps. At times, all the suspension of belief you can muster is required – especially when Barbara is menaced by slowly descending spikes (of the patently rubber variety). It’s the sort of thing you might expect to see in a 1940’s Flash Gordon serial, although done somewhat better. And whilst Barbara faces death of an especially unconvincing kind, Ian is struggling to free himself from a prison of solid iron bars.

Except that they’re not solid – it looks like one sneeze would cause them to collapse. Just as it takes all of Jacqueline Hill’s professionalism to make us believe that the spikes are dangerous, so William Russell has to call on his acting experience to make the bars seem solid. Bless them both, they don’t quite succeed but it’s fun to watch them try.

All these traps have been set by Darrius (Edmund Warwick). Rather oddly he tells Ian and Barbara that only couriers sent by Arbitan would have been able to negotiate the hazards that he’s set. But Arbitan didn’t pass this information on – simple absent-mindedness maybe?

The silliest episode so far, it’s somewhat disposable fare – but at least one of the good things about this story is that we’re never too far away from a new location. And as the cliffhanger looms, Ian and Barbara find themselves menaced by some fake snow …..

Doctor Who – The Keys of Marinus. Episode Two – The Velvet Web

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The first stop on their quest to recover the keys of Marinus takes them to Morphoton. It’s a place where every whim and request is able to be indulged – although if this seems too good to be true it’ll probably comes as no surprise to learn that it is.

This episode is notable for having more edit points than was usual at the time – this was in order to demonstrate the difference between Barbara’s viewpoint (she can see their room for what it is – dirty and bare) and the others (they’re conditioned to view it as opulent). In later years this would be a scene that wouldn’t be at all remarkable, but when watching sequentially it’s another of those small moments which does stand out.

It’s maybe right that Barbara – the voice of reason – should be the one not to fall under the spell. But this wasn’t through any demonstration of free will, it was only because the conditioning disc placed on her forehead slipped off during the night. Note to the brains of Morphoton – it might be better to find a more effective way of conditioning your subjects (or at least use better glue).

The episodic nature of the serial means there’s not really time to develop the horror of Barbara being totally isolated.  She’s the only one of the four to retain her own memories (the Doctor, Ian and Susan have all been thoroughly brainwashed). This is a pity as the concept would have produced good material for several episodes. But there’s still the odd creepy moment, such as when Barbara rushes to the reassuring presence of Ian – but immediately after she’s embraced him it’s clear from his immobile stance that he’s no longer the man she knew.

We meet Altos (Robin Phillips) and Sabetha (Katherine Schofield). Both will join the others on the quest (Sabetha is Arbitan’s daughter and Altos is one of Arbitan’s couriers). Their presence is a good thing, especially as Billy’s shortly off for a two-week holiday. They’re fairly stock Terry Nation characters, so how well they come across depends on the actors (who do the best they can).

The brains of Morphotron are a little disturbing (especially the way they’re voiced by Heron Carvic) although the black and white picture does rob them of some of their impact. Barbara saves the day by smashing their brain cases and killing them. Or, at least, that was how it was scripted – alas, Jacqueline Hill only managed to smash one of the four cases and there was clearly no time for a retake. Oh well.

The Doctor’s decided to nip ahead and look for the last key (so we won’t be seeing Hartnell for a few weeks) whilst the others head to their next destination.

And it’s a Terry Nation favourite – a dangerous jungle!

Doctor Who – The Keys of Marinus. Episode One – The Sea of Death

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By going from Marco Polo to The Keys of Marinus we’ve taken a trip from the sublime to the ridiculous. That’s not to say that Marinus is bad – it’s good, pulpy fun – but when watching the series sequentially it’s a little jarring to have this sudden shift in tone. But that’s one of Doctor Who‘s great strengths – the fact that every new adventure might play out in a totally different way from the previous one.

You have to admire the ambition of Verity Lambert’s time as producer. It seems that no story was too ambitious to mount (think of the expertly created props in Planet of Giants or the sheer weirdness of The Web Planet) and Marinus is another example of this. With such a tiny budget the notion of creating a new environment in episodes two, three, four and five obviously placed a huge strain on the meagre resources of Ray Cusick. He manages to pull it off quite successfully, although there are times when you do need to be a little forgiving.

The miniatures that open the story are excellent though. The shot of the island – with a model TARDIS (light flashing) then appearing – is a lovely one. The sight of the Voord’s submersibles traversing the sea of acid is less effective though – mainly because it’s painfully obvious they’re being pulled along by wires (and one of them is reluctant to move, so requires a few hard tugs to enable it to reach the beach!)

The sight of the Doctor, Susan, Ian and Barbara surveying this strange new planet shows how far we’ve come since The Daleks. Back then, Ian and Barbara were wracked with fear and doubt (hating the fact that they’d been uprooted from their safe, 20th century existence) but now they regard this bizarre island with nothing more than mild curiosity.

Hartnell’s a bit stumbly over his lines in the early part of the episode (which gives us one of his classic Billyfluffs – “yes, and if you’d had your shoes on, my boy, you could have lent her hers”). This part of the story – as the four examine the beach – is a little problematic. Given that the studio was so small, the beach set couldn’t be particularly large either – which becomes painfully obvious when everybody has to walk around rather slowly.

The moments when they notice the Voord’s submersibles and Arbitan’s building both seem false – there’s no way to imply that they’ve travelled any distance from the TARDIS, so these things must have been under their noses all the time.

I know that examining logical loopholes in a Terry Nation script is a little futile, but the sight of the Voord suit – which contained a man who’s been destroyed by acid – has always irked me. If the suit had a rip then that would have let the acid in, but he was inside a submersible – so that too, must have had a hole (which is rather unlucky really). And if that was the case, wouldn’t the submersible have been full of acid?

Why does Arbitan’s building allow people to enter? You’d have thought it would have made much more sense to keep them outside (and since the Voord don’t seem to have any particular weapons, an impenetrable wall seems as good a barrier as any). Instead, its obvious that although there’s interior defences, sheer force of numbers will allow the Voord to succeed once they do get inside.

It was a bit of a coup to get George Coulouris to appear as Arbitan, although he was no stranger to low-budget British science fiction, having appeared in ITV’s Pathfinder trilogy. He’s the Keeper of the Conscience of Marinus and he explains to the Doctor and his friends exactly what the machine does. “At first, this machine was simply a judge and jury that was never wrong or unfair. And then we added to it, improved on it, made it more and more sophisticated so that finally it became possible to radiate its power and influence the minds of men throughout the planet. They no longer had to decide what was wrong or right. The machine decided for them”.

And Arbitan wants the Doctor’s help to restore the machine’s power! The notion of anybody being denied free will would later become something the Doctor would fight against time and time again (for example, The Masque of Mandragora) so it’s astonishing that he sees nothing wrong with this machine.

Thanks to a handy bit of blackmail with the TARDIS (the Doctor’s still the type of person not prepared to launch into a dangerous adventure just for the fun of it – that will come a little later) Arbitan persuades the four time-travellers to set off for a jaunt around Marinus to recover the four keys that will restore the machine to its former glory.

Doctor Who – The Daleks. Episode Seven – The Rescue

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The literal cliff-hanger from last time saw Antodus fail to jump the ravine – which means he’s plunged down a bottomless cavern and Ian (tied on the other end of the rope) is slowly losing his grip on him.  There’s something rather casual about this sequence – why Ian doesn’t call for help from the others?  And even when Ganatus does pop up, neither of them are very quick to twig that a little more assistance would be a good thing.  With Kristas and Barbara also holding onto the rope they should have been able to pull Antodus up.

As it is, Antodus settles the matter by cutting the rope and plunging to his death.  This is a moment that can be taken several ways – was it a noble act of self sacrifice (saving Ian’s life) or did Antodus (who was convinced they’d all die) commit suicide because he didn’t have the nerve to carry on?

Although Ian tells Ganatus that his brother died to give them a chance, it’s not really a credible statement.  Alydon and the rest of the Thals just seem to stroll into the Dalek City, which makes the efforts of Ian, Barbara, Ganatus and Kristas seem somewhat futile (why make all that effort to gain access via the caves when they could have just walked in through the front door?!)

Meanwhile, the Doctor and Susan are prisoners of the Daleks.  Hartnell has a great line – “this senseless, evil killing” – which helps to give the Doctor a sense of morality that hasn’t always been present in the episodes to date.
The climax of the story is a little bit of a damp squib – the Daleks’ control room is invaded by the Thals and after the briefest of battles the Daleks all die.  Their power has (somehow) drained away, exactly how is never really explained.  After seven episodes it would have been nicer to have a more considered conclusion.

In Nation’s original draft, it was revealed that a third party had engineered the war five hundred years ago between the Daleks and the Thals for their own benefit.  This mysterious alien presence then returns to Skaro and the Daleks and Thals team up to destroy it.  Although the televised ending is a little abrupt, I certainly prefer that to the original draft which poses more questions than it answers (why did the aliens decide to return to Skaro after so long?)

Hartnell’s Doctor has another small, defining moment. “I might just say this to you. Always search for truth. My truth is in the stars and yours is here.”  It’s character scenes like this where Hartnell really excels.

So if the conclusion is a little disappointing (as is well known, Terry Nation wrote the seven scripts very quickly – for him it was just another job.  “Take the money and fly like a thief”) then there’s still enough memorable moments from the earlier episodes to always make this a rewarding rewatch.

Doctor Who – The Daleks. Episode Six – The Ordeal

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An aptly named episode this.  The Ordeal is the point where the wheels start to come off as the story begins to splutter to a conclusion which will continue in the following episode.  The main problem with episode six is that the bulk is taken up with the efforts of Ian, Barbara and the Thals to break into the Dalek City – and this is very, very dull.

It can’t help but feel very padded out – had there not been seven episodes to fill then no doubt it wouldn’t have taken so long to find a way in.  Alas we have to follow them for almost the whole episode as they explore the very small cave sets very slowly.

There’s the odd moment of interest though.   There seems to be something of a romantic spark between Barbara and Ganatus which Ian is oblivious to.  Although Ganatus’ comment that they won’t use one of the customs of her planet – ladies first – is baffling (just how long have they had to discuss the Earth?)  When David Whitaker novelised the story he elected to make Barbara very antongistic and distant to Ian as they attempted to breach the city – it was a surprise to me that this wasn’t a part of the television original.  I mourn for the glass Dalek as well …..

Antodus continues to be the weak link in the group –

ANTODUS: Ganatus. I want to go back.
GANATUS: What for?
ANTODUS: I can’t go on any more.
GANATUS: You must.
ANTODUS: No. We’re going deeper, deeper all the time. We’ll be trapped in the mountain, I know we will. Please, Ganatus, let me go back.
GANATUS: You can’t.
ANTODUS: But you don’t really need me, not really. I could, well, I could go back and signal to the others that we’ve managed to get as far as we have.
GANATUS: Antodus, we go on together.
ANTODUS: Why? Why are you making me do all these things? Even if we do get through, we’ll never defeat the Daleks. Ganatus, we’re all going to be killed.
GANATUS: We can’t turn back now.
ANTODUS: The others can’t, but we could. Listen, they’re going to die anyway. We could just go back and tell the others that the Daleks killed them.

Alas, the next line is fluffed by Philip Bond (Ganatus) when he says that Antodus has to go back, rather than go on. But there’s nothing to do but press on, hope the audience hasn’t noticed and luckily an unconvincing rock-fall causes a distraction.

There’s not much Hartnell in this one, but he does have a lovely scene where he disables a control panel outside the city.  He spends so much time crowing about this (“a superior brain”) rather than taking Susan’s advice that they should leave, that the pair end up getting caught by a group of Daleks!

The first time, but by no means the last, that the plot has to come to a virtual halt to fill the episode count. Often there’s enough decent character interaction to make it more bearable, but The Ordeal (with its sub 1940’s adventure serial atmosphere) doesn’t have a great deal going for it.