For many years it was a widely held fan-myth that Nation and Spooner had penned alternate episodes of DMP – each installment ending on a “now get out of that” cliffhanger for the other one to deal with.
The reality (Nation writing 1-5 and 7, Spooner 6 and 8-12) was a little different, although at the start of Coronas of the Sun Spooner did have to resolve Nation’s previous cliffhanger which saw the Doctor surrounded by Daleks and apparently defeated.
When Spooner ended Coronas of the Sun with the Doctor warning Steven and Sara not to go outside, since the atmosphere was deadly, was this a challenge for Nation or just a gag at the Doctor’s expense?
Because for once they’ve not landed on a jungle planet, but instead have arrived in Britain during the mid sixties. The TARDIS has materialised outside a police station, which causes the boys in blue some consternation. Were the cast of Z Cars really due to appear in this sequence, before someone decided that it maybe wasn’t a good idea? Possibly it’s one of those drawing board ideas which progressed no further than that.
The appearance of Reg Pritchard as a man who’s come to report the fact that someone keeps moving his house (his greenhouse that is) enables the Doctor to tell him that he’s seen him before, in a market in Jaffa. Any fan who knows his Jethrik from his Jablite will be aware that Pritchard played Ben Daheer in The Crusade. Today, an in-joke like that would be picked up instantly by a section of the audience, but back in 1965 Doctor Who fans like that didn’t exist (a sobering thought I know). So this gag seems to have been put in (either by Hartnell or possibly Camfield) as something to amuse the crew. It’s an early sign there’s an “anything goes” feel about this Christmas Day episode.
There’s one lovely scene though, with Hartnell on sparkling form.
DETECTIVE-INSPECTOR: I’ve heard of a housing shortage, but I never knew it was so bad you’d have to spend Christmas in a Police Box.
DOCTOR: Oh, Christmas! Oh, is it? Of course, yes, yes, yes, yes! That accounts for the holly in the hall.
DETECTIVE-INSPECTOR: You mean you didn’t know?
DOCTOR: Well, of course I didn’t know! I travel about too much.
DETECTIVE-INSPECTOR: And why is that?
DOCTOR: Well, a quest of knowledge, dear boy. I mean, you have a saying in this country, have you not, er… “travel broadens the mind”?
DETECTIVE-INSPECTOR: You mean you’re not English?
DOCTOR: No, good gracious no!
DETECTIVE-INSPECTOR: Are you Welsh, then?
DOCTOR: Oh, you’ll have to think in a far bigger way than that! Your ideas are too narrow, too small, too crippled!
DETECTIVE-INSPECTOR: All right, all right. What are you then?
DOCTOR: Well, I suppose you might say that I am a citizen of the universe…and a gentleman, to boot!
Peter Purves gets to put on a Scouse accent (another nod to Z Cars) which is also good fun. It’s when they leave for Hollywood in 1920’s that things really get odd ….
The lack of visuals makes it impossible to know exactly how effective the Doctor’s misadventures in the film studio were, but with Camfield directing it almost certainly looked good. The dramatic piano music and silent inter-titles (another unusual meta textual joke) sound amusing and there’s some decent lines. Sara complains that a strange man keeps telling her to take her clothes off, whilst the Doctor succinctly sums the whole situation up. “This is a madhouse. It’s all full of Arabs.”
The Daleks are conspicuous by their absence though. Presumably it was felt that their brand of exterminating mayhem would have been a bit of a downer on Christmas Day. So instead Feast of Steven works (or not, depending on your point of view) as a stand-alone episode that has no connection at all to the rest of the serial.
Oh, and Hartnell’s Doctor ends by breaking the fourth wall years before Tom Baker did it …..