Doctor Who – The Massacre. Part Four – Bell of Doom

History continues to proceed in an inexorable fashion, with Steven and the Doctor caught in its flow. To begin with though, Steven is convinced that the Doctor is dead – so his sudden reappearance comes as something of a shock.

He doesn’t explain where he’s been, only mentioning that he was unavoidably delayed. This is something of a plot-flaw – bad enough that the Doctor decided to head off on his own, but it’s even worse that he now swans back without a care in the world.

It’s only when he realises the date and the year that it suddenly becomes clear to him just how much trouble they’re in (and also for those at home with a decent knowledge of French history). Was it assumed that the audience watching in 1966 would have been easily able to put two and two together? If so it implies that the (largely) child viewership must have been very historically literate.

The Doctor is keen to pack Anne off as soon as possible, but the girl has nowhere to go.

DOCTOR:  Now, my dear, there must be somewhere you can stay in Paris.
ANNE:  No, there’s only my aunt’s place, and they’ll kill me there.
DOCTOR:  Oh, nonsense. Tonight, you will be quite safe. Now you go carefully through the streets, hmm?

And that’s the last we see of her. When Steven later learns that thousands of Hugenots were massacred that day he’s convinced that she too must have died and that the Doctor was culpable. “You just sent her back to her aunt’s house where the guards were waiting to catch her. I tell you this much, Doctor, wherever this machine of yours lands next I’m getting off. If your researches have so little regard for human life then I want no part.”

Could the Doctor have saved her? Of course and they could all have left in the TARDIS together. We’ve seen the Doctor pluck people from many different periods of history, so it’s hard to see why Anne would have been any different. Indeed, it’s possible to believe earlier in the story that she was being groomed as possible companion material, but the events of The Daleks Master Plan should have taught us to take nothing for granted ….

If Hartnell’s been taking it easy for the last few weeks, then this episode gives him one of his signature moments. After Steven storms out of the TARDIS, the Doctor is left all alone. “Even after all this time he cannot understand. I dare not change the course of history. Well, at least I taught him to take some precautions. He did remember to look at the scanner before he opened the doors. Now they’re all gone. All gone. None of them could understand. Not even my little Susan, or Vicki. Yes. And there’s Barbara and Chatterton… Chesterton! They were all too impatient to get back to their own time. And now Steven. Perhaps I should go home, back to my own planet. But I can’t. I can’t”

It’s a lovely moment, although given Hartnell’s reluctance to learn lengthy speeches it can’t have been easy for him. Interesting that the Doctor here still seems wedded to the S1 concept of not interfering in history. This ties in with Lucarotti’s previous stories (notably The Aztecs) but the series, notably under the influence of Dennis Spooner, had somewhat moved on since then.

What’s disappointing is the way that the power of this scene is negated by what happens next. A young girl, Dodo Chaplet (Jackie Lane) bursts into the TARDIS, followed by Steven, and the Doctor is forced to take off immediately. This therefore not only cancels out Steven’s anger with the Doctor, it also provides us with the most perfunctory introduction possible for Dodo, the new companion.

That the Doctor tries to pour oil on troubled waters by pointing out that Dodo’s surname is similar to Anne’s, which maybe suggests than Anne survived after all, feels like little more than an exercise in straw-clutching.

This whole section seems rather bolted on (and was surely contributed by Donald Tosh, rather than John Lucarotti). But even allowing for the way that The Massacre rather dribbles to a halt, the bulk of the story is so strong that this isn’t really an issue.

It might not always feel like Doctor Who, but it’s still excellent drama. Let’s close with a line from Tavannes, a chilling proclamation that sums up the serial perfectly. “Tomorrow this city will weep tears of blood.”

Doctor Who – The Massacre. Part Three – Priest of Death

As has often been observed, The Massacre doesn’t really feel like a Doctor Who story. The sidelining of the Doctor is one reason – but it could also have something to do with the way that Lucarotti’s script harks back to the style of earlier stories (like The Crusade). In The Crusade, the Doctor was content to be an impartial observer, unable (or unwilling) to influence events.

And even allowing for Hartnell’s turn as the Abbot and Purves’ increasingly frantic efforts to prove that the Abbot is the Doctor, all the real drama in Priest of Death comes from the interaction of the guest cast.

de Coligny and Tavannes continue to cross swords, but now they do so in the presence of the King (Barry Justice) and his mother, Catherine de Medici (Joan Young). These scenes crackle with a theatrical intensity, thanks to the fine playing, but you can’t help but feel they’d work equally well in a one-off non-Doctor Who drama.

Justice’s Charles IX is a capricious, easily distracted ruler. At one point he tells de Coligny that “war is so tedious” and shows a desire to move onto other, more frivolous matters. His love and respect for de Coligny is honest and unforced though, a far cry from both his mother and Tavannes, who are plotting to kill him.

Quick to rise to anger, Charles is shown to be easily manipulated (especially by his mother). He does attempt to emphasise his dominance, but the Queen Mother (a calm, restrained performance by Young) remains uncowed.

QUEEN MOTHER:  You summoned the council?
CHARLES IX:  I gave orders I was to be left alone.
QUEEN MOTHER:  Without my knowledge or consent?
CHARLES IX:  I asked to be left alone, mother.
QUEEN MOTHER:  The threat over your friend, the Admiral? You are the King.
CHARLES IX:  Yes, I am the King – and to be obeyed! Now keep out of my sight unless you care to end your days in a convent.
QUEEN MOTHER:  I would wish you have the courage, my son.
CHARLES IX:  I have but to give the order.
QUEEN MOTHER:  Summon your guards, have me arrested. But you had better have a good reason for the council- and for the people.
CHARLES IX:  The attempted assassination of my Admiral, by you and Tavannes. Do you deny it, Madame?
QUEEN MOTHER:  No.
CHARLES IX:  Have a care. I mean what I say. I shall send Tavannes to the block!
QUEEN MOTHER:  You would execute the Marshall of France for doing his duty?
CHARLES IX:  Duty? He’s an assassin!
QUEEN MOTHER:  He tried to rid you of a dangerous enemy.
CHARLES IX:  de Coligny is my friend. You, Madame, are my enemy.

And so we come to Hartnell’s appearance as the Abbot. Apart from a few words at the end of the first episode, it’s little more than a cameo (two scenes lasting only a few minutes). Hartnell doesn’t change his speech patterns (despite some fan claims to the contrary) which makes it easier for Steven to believe that it’s just the Doctor pretending.

The reluctance by Lucarotti to confirm or deny the true state of affairs leads us into a classic cliff-hanger. Steven finds the Abbot’s dead body (murdered on the orders of Tavannes) in the street and is still convinced that it’s the Doctor. Logic tells us that it can’t be him, but (if we could be see it) I’m sure it would be a striking image.

Doctor Who – The Massacre. Part Two – The Sea Beggar

The Sea Beggar offers Peter Purves further chances to flex his acting muscles as Steven –  and of course the audience – puzzles over the mystery of the Abbot of Amboise.  When Steven spies him out of a window, he immediately believes the man he can see is the Doctor (which isn’t a surprise as they look identical).

But his innocent exclamation raises Nicholas’ suspicions, who decides that Steven must serve the Abbot and is therefore his enemy.  Steven later suggests that the Doctor is impersonating the Abbot, although Lucarotti is content to take his time before revealing the truth. But Steven’s theory seems have some weight after it’s revealed that Colbert only met the Abbot the day before (and nobody else in Paris knows him by sight).

Why would the Doctor be masquerading as the Abbot?  Who knows, but it’s exactly the sort of thing he would do and it would also explains his disappearance.  Everything seems to be chugging along to the conclusion that the Abbot is the Doctor, but we’ll have to wait for quite a while before Lucarotti reveals the truth ….

Popular fan-lore maintains that Hartnell’s performance as the Abbot was something of a tour-de-force, allowing the actor to show his versatility in a role that was poles apart from the Doctor.  The reality is a little different – the Abbot is a surprisingly minor character with only a handful of lines (and none of them in this episode). If the recon is to be believed then Hartnell was briefly glimpsed as the Abbot in this episode. Of course it’s always possible that he was absent during this recording and Steven only pretended to see him. That seems likely, as it would be odd to have Hartnell around just to act as a walk-on (unless his appearance was a pre-filmed insert).

The Sea Beggar sees the introduction of two heavyweight performers, André Morell as Marshal Gaspard de Saux-Tavannes and Leonard Sachs as Admiral de Coligny.  It’s very aggravating that the only Doctor Who story to feature Morell (a favourite actor of mine – if you haven’t seen it then you should certainly check out Quatermass and the Pit) was wiped, but it’s still possible to get a feel for the quality of his performance from the audio.  Sachs would later return in Arc of Infinity, but we can’t blame him for that.

These Catholics are terrible at keeping secrets. Steven learns that their target is code-named the Sea Beggar. Nobody knows who this might be, until de Coligny reveals that the King has given him this very nickname. Needless to say he’s totally unaware that this signifies he’s been marked for death ….

Doctor Who – The Massacre. Part One – War of God

John Wiles never made any secret of the fact that The Daleks Master Plan was rather imposed on him, which means that The Massacre offers us a much better chance to understand what his vision of Doctor Who was.  Bleak and uncompromising would seem to be the answer.

This serial presents the viewer with the first “straight” historical since The Crusade.  Following that story, lighter fare such as The Time Meddler had been the order of the day, but John Lucarotti’s third and final script for the series (albeit heavily rewritten by Donald Tosh) returns firmly to the themes of season one.

Most notably, the Doctor’s insistence that he’s unable to change history (also a key part of Lucarotti’s The Aztecs).  This was later blithely ignored on numerous occasions, so it’s tempting to wonder whether Lucarotti, who hadn’t contributed to the series for several years, was simply unaware of this.

Paris, 1572.  The Doctor is keen to meet Charles Preslin (Erik Chitty) and discuss the latest scientific developments.  For a story that’ll turn very dark, it’s a little odd that Hartnell’s in his default setting of hyperactive at the start of the episode, bumbling around with a very casual air.  Given that he must have been aware that this period in time was rather dangerous, it slightly beggars belief that he decides to go and meet Preslin alone, leaving Steven to kick his heels until his return.

In story terms it makes perfect sense, as Hartnell doesn’t return as the Doctor until episode four (in episodes two and three he plays the Abbot) so they had to be split up somehow – it’s just a pity it couldn’t have been done in a more subtle way.  But no matter – as it allows Peter Purves to play the leading man for the majority of the serial.  Purves remains something of an unsung hero of this era, probably because of the paucity of existing episodes, but he’s rock solid in whatever he’s given to do.

Here, he plays the innocent aboard.  Steven doesn’t arouse suspicion in those he meets because his story – an Englishman who’s only recently arrived in Paris – is the truth.  He also mentions he’s recently been to Egypt, but he wisely doesn’t add when!

Given the obscurity of this period of history, there’s an awful lot of info-dumping which has to take place – but it’s scripted well enough to not make this terribly obvious.  We’re introduced to Nicholas Muss (David Weston) and Gaston (Eric Thompson).  Both are Protestants (Huguenots) and are seen to clash with the ruling Catholics, represented by Simon Duval (John Tillinger).

Nicholas and Gaston are quickly defined as very different characters.  Nicholas refuses to rise to Duval’s bait and attempts to keep the peace, whilst Gaston delights in taunting his Catholic opponent at every opportunity.  At this early point it’s difficult to know which side is “good” or “bad” (both Gaston and Duval are as arrogant as each other) but Nicholas’ friendly manner (he spies that Steven is a stranger and is welcoming and hospitable) suggests that our sympathies should lie with the Huguenots.

The sudden arrival of a serving wench from the Abbot of Amboise’s kitchen with a strange tale throws Gaston and Nicholas into consternation.  She tells them that the Catholics are planning to crack down on the Huguenot problem – which leads Nicholas to believe that they intend to murder Henri of Navarre, the Protestant prince.   The girl, Anne Chaplet (Annette Robinson), immediately catches Steven’s sympathy, although Gaston – as befits his class and status – treats her with barely disguised contempt.  It’s a pity that Anne has a West County accent (did France have a West Country?!) but there you go.

So within the space of twenty five minutes Lucarotti has deftly established that the Huguenot minority are in danger from the Catholic majority.  The Doctor has, not for the first time, disappeared – but the major shock is reserved for the cliffhanger.  One of the Abbot’s staff, Roger Colbert (Christopher Tranchell) is nervously making his report to him.  Admitting that they have been unable to recapture Anne, the camera tracks up to reveal that the Abbot of Amboise is played by William Hartnell …..

Doctor Who – The Daleks’ Master Plan. Part Twelve – The Destruction of Time

The Destruction of Time is devastating.  Nothing in the story to date, indeed in the series so far, quite prepares you for the cataclysmic events that unfold during these twenty five minutes.  Even with only the soundtrack and a handful of photographs it’s incredibly powerful, so we can only guess what it would look like in motion.  But with Douglas Camfield directing it seems more than likely that the visuals would have been extremely striking.

Mavic Chen meets his well-deserved end.  Kevin Stoney once again sails merrily over the top, but that suits Chen’s character – who by now has lost his last lingering shreds of sanity.  What makes his demise particularly fascinating is the way he’s treated by the Daleks.  They simply ignore him.  This silent treatment is the ultimate humiliation, although he’s still able to rationalise it away by believing that the Daleks will continue to obey him.  Instead they take him out into the corridor and kill him.   For the self-proclaimed ruler of the universe it’s a squalid and ignominious end.

The Doctor suddenly pops up out of nowhere and tells Steven and Sara to return to the TARDIS.  While they’re doing this, he steals the time destructor and also heads back to the ship.  It goes without saying that the Daleks really need to strengthen their security …..

Whilst Steven makes it back to the TARDIS, Sara returns to help the Doctor.  The bitter irony is that there’s nothing at all she can do and her exposure to the time destructor has fatal results.  Although we’re denied any video record of this scene, the photographs we have help to sell the horror of the moment.  This is no quick, easy death but a long, lingering demise.

The Doctor’s also affected, although he manages to quickly rally round.  But when Steven comes to help, Hartnell barks at him in such an unearthly manner that it’s another moment that jars.  We rarely hear the Doctor under such pressure.

And then it’s over.  The time destructor is exhausted, Kembel is now a desert wilderness and Sara and all the Daleks are dead.  Once the Doctor recovers some of his equilibrium he can’t help but crow a little. “Well, my boy, we finally rid this planet of Daleks.”  It’s up to Steven to remind him of the human cost (“Bret, Katarina, Sara”) to which the Doctor belatedly agrees. “What a waste. What a terrible waste.”

When picking out top Doctor/companion pairings, Hartnell and Purves probably wouldn’t be top of many people’s lists, which is a bit of a shame. Peter Purves always accepted that his role was to provide solid support for Hartnell (both on screen and off) and that’s something he always did very well. Maybe if a few more episodes existed then their era might have a higher profile. Are there are more out there? Time will tell I guess ….

The Daleks Master Plan might lurch from comedy to tragedy and all points inbetween, but it still works.  It shouldn’t by rights as it has all the hallmarks of being another (admittedly entertaining) debacle like The Chase.  But thanks to Douglas Camfield’s direction (the three episodes in existence, plus a handful of other clips more than hint at the overall visual quality) the story avoids that fate.  It’s quite a leap from the comic book thrills of the mid part of the story to the final ten minutes of destruction, but this final downbeat tone still packs a punch 55+ years on.

Doctor Who – The Daleks’ Master Plan. Part Eleven – The Abandoned Planet

After a run of light-hearted episodes, there’s a sudden shift of mood in The Abandoned Planet.  Things open normally enough – the Doctor has managed to land the TARDIS on Kembel, although initially he thought he’d failed and apologised to both Steven and Sara.  But when he realised that he’d succeeded after all, he then rounded on Sara and told her to have more faith in him in the future!

This nice little character moment for Hartnell, as well as his inability to say “impulse compass”, is pretty much business as usual – but after this opening scene the Doctor strides off into the jungle and isn’t seen again.  The slowly dawning realisation that the Doctor isn’t coming back is a perturbing one – not only for Steven and Sara, but also for the audience.  The Doctor might not always know exactly what’s going on, but he usually manages to bluff his way through.

Steven and Sara should be more than capable to cope on their own (Steven is a pilot, Sara a space security agent) but without the Doctor to guide them they do seem a little adrift.  But the good thing about his absence is that it forces them to take charge as well as offering Purves and Marsh a chance to move centre-stage for a change.  What Steven and Sara discover is a mystery – Kembel seems abandoned.

The Dalek city is empty.  The Doctor’s nowhere to be seen.  Have the Daleks already left and taken the Doctor?  It seems logical, but if so, where have they gone?

Earlier, we saw Mavic Chen return with the core.  He was naturally jubilant and couldn’t resist rubbing the Black Dalek up the wrong way. “I hope that the Daleks will not suffer any more setbacks which could upset the plans for our conquest of the universe.”  He doesn’t seem to have considered for a moment that now he’s delivered the core his usefulness will be pretty much at an end.

One of the Daleks raises this point, but the Black Dalek disagrees. “No. His arrogance and greed have a further use for us. Alert the council to attend their final conference.” The way that the Black Dalek says “final” shouldn’t leave you in any doubt that their fate is sealed ….

The conference is a hoot.  All the other delegates are more than a little miffed at the way Chen seems to know more than they do.  He misquotes a little Orwell at them.  “Though we are all equal partners with the Daleks on this great conquest, some of us are more equal than others.” This doesn’t go down well at all.

His moment of triumph over the others is short-lived as the delegates suddenly find themselves trapped in the conference room.  Chen, with his usual self-delusion turned up to eleven, doesn’t seem to realise this means they’re all now prisoners.  The Daleks clearly now have no further use for them – which begs the question as to why they let Chen chair this last meeting.  It served no purpose, so was it simply to humiliate him?

What happens next is slightly odd.  The delegates are taken to a detention room and left there.  Why didn’t the Daleks simply exterminate them?  This allows Steven and Sara to release them and they all head home, promising to warn their respective planets about the imminent Dalek invasion.  Their change of heart is a little hard to swallow, but then if they really thought they’d be equal partners with the Daleks, their judgement wasn’t at all sound to begin with.

Chen is now loopier than ever.  He tells Steven and Sara that soon he’ll be master of the universe.  At gunpoint he leads the two of them underground, where it seems the Daleks (and presumably the Doctor) will be found.

Doctor Who – The Daleks’ Master Plan. Part Ten – Escape Switch

It’s possibly not terribly surprising that the ruthless and deadly Sara Kingdom we saw in her first episode has been somewhat watered down as the serial has progressed (this explains the way she reacts in terror at the sight of a mummy rising from an Egyptian tomb).  Steven, of course, moves protectively in front of her.  It would have been an interesting wrinkle for Sara to be the protective one whilst Steven showed fear, but the series was a little way off such a role reversal.

There’s no need for any panic though, as the mysterious figure is only the Monk (who’s been trussed up in bandages by the Doctor!)  He’s a bit of an imp, this Doctor – it’s a far cry from his original characterisation as an unknowable patrician, but one that Hartnell’s very adept at playing.

The Daleks continue to bumble around.  They’re not as useless as the ones we saw in The Chase, but they’re not the greatest bunch of thinkers either.  We can’t be too harsh on them though, as it’s mostly Dennis Spooner’s fault (and maybe Terry Nation’s too – since Spooner was still apparently scripting from Nation’s original story outlines).

In this Egyptian interlude, the Daleks decide to recruit the Monk as their agent.  Eh?  Why wouldn’t the Monk have simply nipped off in his TARDIS at the first opportunity?  How could the Daleks have guaranteed his co-operation?  And why use him anyway, why didn’t they hunt the Doctor down themselves?  Their desire not to see the core destroyed is the motor that’s driven the story, but even if that happened it would only delay (by about fifty years) their plans, not derail them completely.

The Daleks, now extremely miffed at the way things have gone, finally decide to launch an all-out attack.  Chen’s not pleased about this and shows his displeasure by roughly shoving one of the Dalek’s eyestalks aside.  A scripted moment or something worked out in rehearsal?  Either way it’s a lovely little touch which illustrates just how reckless the Guardian has become.  Few people would dare to show such an open sign of contempt against the Daleks, since we’ve seen time and again how they “reward” such gestures.  It’s another small sign that Chen’s humiliation and fall from grace can’t be far away ….

Steven, Sara and the Monk set out to look for the Doctor.  Steven and Sara shout the Doctor’s name at the top of their voices, whilst the Monk also calls out – but sotto voce.  Possibly a nod back to a similar gag in The Myth Makers, it’s another opportunity for Butterworth add his inimitable comic touch.  When they’re surrounded by the Daleks, the Monk offers up Steven and Sara as hostages – it’s a good plan, as the Doctor would be sure to hand over the core in exchange for the safe of his friends.  A pity that neither Chen or the Daleks thought of it earlier then …..

It’s possible to wonder if Hartnell’s got the week off, as the Doctor’s been absent from proceedings so far.  But ten minutes in he does finally turn up, as the Doctor listens silently to Chen’s demands broadcast from the Dalek ship – hand over the core, or Steven and Sara will die.  Hartnell does little in this very brief scene – he doesn’t utter a word – but the way his eyes dart from side to side and the expression on his face tells an eloquent story.

It’s often been observed that Hartnell – using his years of experience as a film actor – was remarkably comfortable in front of the tv cameras.  During this era of television a great many actors had come to the small screen via the theatre, so their performances tended – initially at least – to be broader.  Hartnell, as befitted a wily old pro, always knew that less was more, and that just a look or a small gesture could speak volumes.  Numerous examples of this are dotted about his episodes and whilst it’s always fun to spot his fluffs and stumbles (and there’s a great one in this episode – “Magic, Mavic Chen”) it shouldn’t be forgotten just how skilled an actor he was.

There’s a classic Doctor/Dalek face-off, with the Doctor seemingly in full control.  The Daleks agree that the handover of the core will take place with just one Dalek present.  Chen later wonders they agreed so readily.  “One Dalek is capable of exterminating all!” is the chilling reply. Thanks to an ominous stab of Tristram Cary’s incidental music and the expression on Chen’s face this is a moment which helps to reemphasise the power of the Daleks.

The Doctor is forced to hand over the core to Chen, but all isn’t lost.  He’s stolen the directional unit from the Monk’s TARDIS, so they’ll be able to travel back to Kembel.  This is a small, but significant, moment.  For those brought up on the new series, it seems inconceivable that the Doctor wouldn’t be able to control the TARDIS, but in the early days every trip was a mystery one.  Personally I think that something was lost when the Doctor gained full control over the TARDIS, but what’s really interesting is that up until this point it’s never been clear whether the TARDIS’ erratic performances was due to the Doctor’s ineptitude or a fault with the ship itself.  Now it’s made clear – with the right components the Doctor can steer the TARDIS anywhere.

As the Doctor and the others set off, the Monk fades away from the story.  This hasn’t been such a good vehicle for Peter Butterworth as The Time Meddler, as the Monk was only a supporting character, not the centre of attention.  Even so, Butterworth was always worth watching and it’s a pity the Monk didn’t return for a third time.

Doctor Who – The Daleks’ Master Plan. Part Nine – Golden Death

The TARDIS turns up next in Ancient Egypt, but what we see is a far cry from the sober historicals of previous years. Here, the backdrop of the pyramids is simply that – a backdrop which provides the Doctor, the Monk, Chen and the Daleks a colourful location to do battle against.

Whilst the Doctor repairs the lock of the TARDIS, Steven and Sara set off to find the Monk – but run into Chen and the Daleks instead. The Daleks then tangle with the Egyptians (no surprises for guessing who comes out on top).

One of Douglas Camfield’s favourite actors, Walter Randall, turns up as Hyksos, whilst the presence of Derek Ware as Tuthmos implies that some action took place (although the lack of pictures makes it hard to know exactly how athletic the Egyptians’ deaths were).

To be honest, the Egyptians are rather pallidly portrayed. Even though they have a fair amount of screentime in this episode and the next, we never get much of a sense that they’re individuals. Instead they come across as little more than cannon-fodder for the Daleks (and it’s notable how the Doctor has zero interest in their fate).

The first meeting between the Monk and the Daleks is amusing. “Good morning my son” says the Monk cheerily to the Daleks, before attempting to beat a hasty retreat. But he reluctantly finds himself forced to serve the Dalek cause.

Hartnell and Butterworth share another entertaining scene, which is one of the highlights of the episode. Although we’ll have to wait until the next episode to discover exactly what fate was meted out by the Doctor to his fellow time-traveller.

There’s nothing particularly wrong with Golden Death. It’s diverting enough, but ultimately it’s also a little forgettable as well as being a good example of twenty-five minutes of running on the spot.

Doctor Who – The Daleks’ Master Plan. Part Eight – Volcano

The delegates are back! And they’re giving Chen a hard time. One interesting revelation to come out of their discussion is Chen’s statement that the Daleks know the Doctor is a time-traveller. This presumably means this story carries on chronologically from The Chase, although if that’s the case why didn’t the Daleks identify the Doctor previously?

This also opens another can of worms – if these Daleks have access to time-travel technology then why don’t they simply nip ahead to Uranus fifty years in the future and collect another supply of taranium for the Time Destructor? It would have them saved ten episodes of running about ….

It doesn’t take long before the Daleks realise that the taranium core given to them by the Doctor is useless – which puts the pressure on Chen. They also continue to exterminate their former allies for no good reason, other than the fact it’s what they like to do. Spiky Trantis is the latest to bite the dust and the fact that it happens in front of Chen must be a clear signal to him that he’s on increasingly shaky ground.

The first eight minutes of the story have been pretty much business as usual, but when the TARDIS materialises in the middle of a cricket pitch (to the bemusement of the commentators) it’s obvious that the story is lurching into an off-beat mode. Eek! It’s become The Chase II 

The TARDIS then lands in an inhospitable, volcanic location. The last person you’d also expect to see there would be the Meddling Monk (Peter Butterworth) but there he is. Unexpected though the Monk’s appearance is, it’s also very welcome. Butterworth was excellent value during The Time Meddler and with Spooner now on scripting duties there promises to be more fun to come.

The Monk seems to have tracked down the Doctor purely in order to immobilise his TARDIS and strand him in one time and location (as the Doctor did to the Monk previously). But whatever the Monk did to the TARDIS’ lock, the Doctor – with his ring and the help of the sun! – still manages to get into the ship. Which makes this section of the story a little pointless really.

Never mind, as we’re soon off again – but this time the Doctor will be pursued by both the Monk and the Daleks. Once again the TARDIS heads back to present-day Britain (which is odd, since it’s the one place and time that the Doctor was rarely able to find for Ian and Barbara).

Doctor Who – The Daleks’ Master Plan. Part Seven – The Feast of Steven

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: Scottish?
DOCTOR: 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 …..

Doctor Who – The Daleks’ Master Plan. Part Six – Coronas of the Sun

The Black Dalek is having a bad day.  In an earlier episode we saw how he dealt with failure from some of his hapless Dalek subordinates (he permanently puts them out of his misery).  He’s still in a foul mood and Mavic Chen is now in his sights.

Chen’s not prepared to go down without a fight though and manages to turn the argument around by claiming he diverted the Doctor to Mira on purpose.  “You make your failure sound like an achievement” rasps the Black Dalek ironically.

Chen is unable to stifle a smile when he learns that the Doctor and his friends have stolen the Dalek ship on Mira.  Naturally, this sends the Black Dalek into another tizzy!

The Black Dalek in Coronas of the Sun is probably the most sharply drawn Dalek we’ve seen since their debut story.  He’s not content to simply bark out orders, there’s a touch of character and individuality about him.

Was this due to Dennis Spooner’s input? This was the first of his six scripts for DMP (although it was based on a Nation story outline).  Nation famously hated the way David Whitaker later wrote for the Daleks in Power and Evil (somewhat missing the point by believing that the Daleks in Power were too subservient) so that does make me lean towards the probability that Nation wouldn’t have made the Black Dalek so individual – he tended to depict the Daleks as much more of a homogeneous collective.

Although Spooner takes over scripting duties for the remainder of the serial (with the exception of the next episode) there’s no sudden tonal shift.  That’ll happen next time with Nation’s bizarre Christmas episode before Spooner starts to have some fun over the next few episodes (and it’s fair to say that Spooner was a better comedy writer than Nation) before everything gets serious again for the final two installments.

As for the Doctor, he has some nice confrontational scenes with the Daleks on Mira (it’s pleasing that the Daleks still don’t know who he is – all that “Doctor Who is our greatest enemy” in The Chase was rather tiresome) and later somberly leads Steven and Sara out to meet the Daleks on Kembel.  It’s a pity we can’t see this scene as Hartnell is uncharacteristically subdued to begin with.

Thanks to the Doctor whipping up a fake core he’s able to get the TARDIS back.  There’s another whacking plot contrivance – Steven manages to inadvertently create a forcefield around himself (!) which means he can hand over the fake core and withstand being exterminated by the Daleks before nipping back into the TARDIS.

Although compared to the events of the next episode that seems quite sensible ….

Doctor Who – The Daleks’ Master Plan. Part Five – Counter Plot

Back in the 1990’s I didn’t have a particularly high opinion of The Daleks’ Master Plan – which wasn’t really surprising as I only had access to the (then) two existing episodes (Counter Plot and Escape Switch) courtesy of Daleks – The Early Years on VHS.

Jumping into the story cold with Counter Plot is a strange experience, as the horror and tension of the previous episode, The Traitors, is completely absent.  Counter Plot hits the reset switch by transmitting the Doctor, Steven and Sara to the jungle planet of Mira.

Oh good, another jungle!  Following Kembel and Desperus we now end up on Mira, which looks spookily similar to the previous jungles.  No surprises for guessing that since this was an extra long story they had to stretch the budget as far as possible – reusing the same sets was an obvious money-saving move.

The Doctor’s jaunt to Mira is another clumsy part of plotting.  The Doctor and Steven just happen to stumble into a room where a time experiment is being carried out (and they enter at exactly the right time too, which stretches credibility even further).  And then Sara (also somewhat randomly) joins them.  There’s little time for any discussion though, as all three (plus some white mice!) are then transported far far away.

Cue various camera effects by Douglas Camfield to sell the illusion of matter transmission.  Most entertainingly, this involves Peter Purves and Jean Marsh bouncing up and down on a (hidden) trampoline.  It’s an eternal regret that William Hartnell also wasn’t present at Ealing for this filming, although it’s no real surprise that he wasn’t.  Can you imagine the conversation?  “Bill, we’d like you to get on this trampoline”  Cue various expletives ….

There’s a wonderfully revealing scene between Karlton and Mavic Chen.  Chen seems hesitant, unaware of how to proceed.  Karlton suggests he tells the Daleks that they sent the Doctor and the Core to Mira on purpose (since it’s only a stone’s throw away from Kembel – gosh, another coincidence!).  After a few seconds Chen sees the logic in this and launches into a highly dramatic monologue. “Without me, their plan cannot completely work. Without me, they are but nothing. Nothing! When I am next to the Daleks, only they stand between me and the highest position in the universe. Then will be the time for me to take complete control!”

As he raises his arms to take the applause of an imaginary crowd we cut to Karlton. He’s staring silently at Chen, giving the clear impression that he’s only just realised that his boss is completely mad. And Chen’s reaction to Karlton is also interesting, as he seems to acknowledge that he’s gone too far. It’s a telling few moments that, in non-verbal terms, speaks volumes and it again makes me regret that Karlton shortly fades away from the story.

I love the Doctor’s opening line to Sara. “Pull yourself together, madam. I want to ask you a few questions.” Sara might be under the mistaken apprehension that she’s in control but the Doctor soon puts her right! Although it’s another slight weakness that Sara changes so quickly from an icy killer to the Doctor’s friend (and why does she accept Steven’s story at face value?).

It’s a nice scene for Peter Purves nonetheless, with Hartnell popping up at the end to sadly confirm the truth.  Also of interest during the Mira scenes is the moment when the Doctor tangles with the invisible Visians (like many Terry Nation creations, there’s a clue in their name!).  Billy waves his walking stick around furiously in an attempt to beat them off.  And despite the fact they’re apparently eight feet tall he succeeds.  This moment, played dead seriously by Hartnell, never fails to raise a smile.

There’s a cracking cliffhanger too, as the Doctor, Steven and Sara find themselves surrounded by the Daleks.  The Doctor tells them that “I’m afraid, my friends, the Daleks have won.”

Doctor Who – The Daleks’ Master Plan. Part Four – The Traitors

Katarina’s death is a bit of a shocker.  The last few episodes have suggested that she’s now firmly a regular, so her sudden demise (sucked out of the airlock with Kirksen) certainly helps to reinforce the impression that the stakes in this story are higher than usual (as we’ll see, other allies will also perish before we reach episode twelve).

But the nature of this type of adventure serial means that it’s impossible to dwell on her fate for too long.  Steven sounds upset and the Doctor delivers a nice little tribute (“She didn’t understand. She couldn’t understand. She wanted to save our lives and perhaps the lives of all the other beings of the Solar System. I hope she’s found her Perfection. Oh, how I shall always remember her as one of the Daughters of the Gods. Yes, as one of the Daughters of the Gods”) but once that’s done they press on and she’s only mentioned again at the end of the final episode as Steven counts the human cost of their victory.

Although the story seems set to be a re-run of The Chase (the Dalek pursuit ship wasn’t able to intercept the Doctor on Desperus, so you assume it’ll carry on following them) at present it takes a different tack.  The Black Dalek orders the pursuit ship to be destroyed as he doesn’t tolerate failure (another sign that the Daleks are back to their ruthless, single-minded best) and then contacts Chen – telling him that he’ll be the one to regain the core and exterminate the Doctor and his friends.  This is another sign that the Daleks are thinking – it would have been impossible for them to travel to Earth and not attract attention, so using their human agents is the logical course of action.

Every good megalomaniac needs a confidant and Chen has Karlton (Maurice Browning).  Browning is wonderfully smooth and his performance gives us the impression that Karlton is well aware of his worth.  It’s a pity that he doesn’t stick around longer as he would have served as a good sounding board for Chen’s various plots and dreams.

The Traitors has an increasing vice-like feel, as the Doctor, Steven and Bret (now back on Earth) find it difficult to know who they can trust.  Bret contacts Daxtar (Roger Avon) but he’s part of the conspiracy and Bret shoots him dead.  The Doctor is appalled by this, but as he was powerless to intercede it’s another sign that the Doctor isn’t in control – at present he’s being buffeted along by events whilst others (both enemies and allies) hold the upper hand.

This episode introduces us to Sara Kingdom (Jean Marsh).  Chen initially refers to her by her surname and sums up her character.  “Ruthless, hard, efficient. And does exactly as ordered.”  This scene is another mis-direct, as no doubt the audience is supposed to be surprised when this top agent is revealed not to be a man but a woman.  Sara, like the troopers later seen in Blakes 7, is a product of her training.  Once she has her orders then she’ll carry them out without question.  It’s not difficult to imagine that Terry Nation was again drawing on his memories of WW2 when crafting this character.

If Katarina’s death at the start of this episode was a jolt, then so is Bret’s demise at the end.  He’s shot dead by Sara which spells trouble for the Doctor and Steven as she’ll now be gunning for them …..

Doctor Who – The Daleks’ Master Plan. Part Three – Devil’s Planet

After being little more than comic relief during The Chase, it’s good to see the Daleks regaining their ruthless streak – highlighted when they question the hapless Zephon.

Zephon’s arrogance won’t permit him to admit he was in any way culpable for the Doctor’s theft of the taranium core (although you do have to agree with him that the Daleks’ security was rather lax).  When the Black Dalek tells him it’s been agreed that he’s guilty of negligence, it’s not clear who’s agreed this.  The Black Dalek by himself maybe?  This would seem to be the most likely option and if so it’s a clear demonstration to the other delegates that the Daleks can and will operate unilaterally.

Dalek technology is shown to be rather advanced, as they’re able to remote land Chen’s craft (carrying the Doctor, Steven, Katarina and Bret) onto the prison planet Desperus.  They then launch a pursuit craft to intercept them and regain the core – although you have to wonder why they didn’t launch the pursuit ship earlier (that way it could have maintained a watching brief a safe distance behind).

It may not surprise you to know that Desperus is an inhospitable prison planet.  There’s no guards and the prisoners are left to fend for themselves (echos of Cygnus Alpha from Blakes 7).  Alas we never find out if Desperus was named after it became a prison planet or if it always had that name and someone decided it sounded just the gloomy sort of place to establish a penal colony!

It’s another jungle planet, no doubt reusing the Kembel sets.  We’re quickly introduced to three very hairy convicts, Bors (Dallas Cavell), Garge (Geoffrey Cheshire) and Kirksen (Douglas Sheldon).  The pecking order is established during their first scene – Bors is leader, Garge wants to be the leader but Bors (at present) is too strong which leaves Kirksen as the third wheel.

Terry Nation seems to be deliberately wrong-footing us, since everything suggests that Bors will be the main threat.  But after the Doctor is able to repair the ship and they take off again, it’s Kirksen who sneaks aboard and grabs Katarina …..

Doctor Who – The Daleks’ Master Plan. Part Two – Day of Armageddon

Moving pictures!  It’s nice to be able to watch Day of Armageddon for several reasons, not least because it gives us an opportunity to see Nicholas Courtney (Bret Vyon) and Adrienne Hill (Katarina) in action.

We open with the Doctor skulking around the jungle.  At one point he’s on his hands and knees, which is a tad unusual (and undignified) for this Doctor.  A little later he meets up with Steven, Katarina and Bret and is forced to admit that Bret is a decent sort after all.

The Doctor, naturally enough, takes control of the situation (or at least attempts to).  But both Steven and Bret also have their points of view and it’s fair to say that the exchanges between the three of them are frank.  Bret doesn’t hold back when attempting to bring the Doctor into line. “Sir! Will you shut up!” It’s a lovely scene which helps to strengthen Steven’s character (he’s had previous experience of the Daleks and so isn’t prepared to blindly follow the Doctor’s lead) as well as Bret’s.

Rather oddly, the Doctor tells Bret that the Daleks can be defeated if they look at their history books. “You must tell Earth to look back in the history of the year 2157, and that the Daleks are going to attack again. History will show how to deal with them.” Eh? Unless the Daleks plan to steal the Earth’s Core for a second time I’m not sure how that’s going to work.

Another plus point about having this episode back in the archives is that it’s a good showcase for Mavic Chen.  Douglas Camfield obviously knew a good actor when he saw one, as he later cast Kevin Stoney as the not totally dissimilar Tobias Vaughn in The Invasion.

Indeed, there’s not a lot to choose between the two characters – both ally themselves with one of the Doctor’s bitterest enemies and both fail to spot all the warning signs that they’re becoming surplus to requirements.  Also, both Chen and Vaughn have a mocking, sardonic sense of humour which marks them out from your run-of-the-mill villains.  Chen wears a lot more make-up than Vaughn though ….

We get a good insight into Chen’s character during his discussion with one of the delegates, Zephon (Julian Sherrier).  We’ve already seen the Daleks vow to dispose of all their allies as soon as their usefulness is at an end, but both Chen and Zephon obviously don’t believe this could happen to them.

When Chen suggests they join the meeting, Zephon retorts that “they will not start the meeting without me.” Chen’s insincere bowing and his amused attitude gives the very strong impression that he considers Zephon to be nothing more than a pawn in the game (Chen clearly views himself as something very different).  Let’s check back in about ten episodes time to see how that works out for him.

The Doctor suggests that Bret steals Chen’s ship – with it, they could make their way back to Earth and warn the authorities. But first the Doctor elects to take Zephon’s place in the meeting (luckily, Zephon wears a big cloak, so after knocking him out it’s a simple disguise).  All the delegates gather, but annoyingly we’re not told most of their names (which has been the cue for more than fifty years of debate!) Only one of them (apart from Chen) has a speaking role, Trantis (Roy Evans). It doesn’t seem right for Roy Evans not to be playing in a miner if he’s in Doctor Who ….

When the delegates arrive, each walks into the conference room in a very strange way – let’s be kind and say none of them were used to that level of gravity.  As they don’t speak, they have to show their approval by banging on the table – each has a different way of banging, which is rather sweet.  Chen has to be different of course, when the others are thumping the table he elects to clap his hands.  Another sign that he sets himself apart from the others.

Chen proudly displays the core of the Time Destructor.  It’s taken fifty years to mine enough taranium to make it work, so it’s precious beyond belief.  When Zephon manages to escape and sound the alarm it’s a little surprising that neither the Daleks or the delegates bother to pick the Time Destructor up.  Instead, all the delegates run around like headless chickens whilst the crafty old Doctor grabs it and makes his escape.  This is another clumsy piece of plotting – the Daleks’ scheme depends on a device which the Doctor has very fortunately managed to acquire.

As the episode draws to a close, Bret is keen to take off.  The Doctor hasn’t turned up, so Bret tells Steven and Katarina he’ll have to go without him.  Will the Doctor make it in time?  Hmm, I wonder.

Doctor Who – The Daleks’ Master Plan. Part One – The Nightmare Begins

The Daleks’ Master Plan has often been described as a sprawling epic, which is a reasonable enough summation.  But in truth it’s not really one story – rather it’s several different ones bolted together.

The early episodes have a nice downbeat feel (at times it feels like Nation was writing Blakes 7 a decade early).  It then turns (god forbid) into The Chase II, although we can take comfort from the fact that Douglas Camfield is directing rather than Richard Martin.  But after the mid-story comedy high-jinks the tone once again turns dark – not least in the final few moments of part twelve.

Rewiding back to The Nightmare Begins, one moment which impresses me is the scene between Roald (Philip Anthony) and Lizan (Pamela Greer).  Their job is to monitor Kembel for news of Bret Vyon (Nicholas Courtney) and Kert Gantrey (Brian Cant), who are investigating Marc Cory’s disappearance  (viewers with fairly long memories will remember that he met rather a sticky fate).

What I especially like about this moment is the way Nation uses the pair to pass judgement on Mavic Chen (Kevin Stoney), the Guardian of the Solar System.  Some twenty years later we’d see Arak and Etta in Vengeance on Varos perform a similar function as they debated the merits of the Governor.  This aspect of Philip Martin’s script was applauded as rather post-modern and picked up some praise.  Alas, Terry Nation did pretty much the same thing twenty years earlier and it seemed to have gone unnoticed.  Possibly this was because it’s in an episode that’s missing, or maybe it’s just that you don’t expect post-modernism in a Terry Nation script …

Like the pair on Varos, Roald and Lizan have sharply opposing views about the man in charge – Lizan likes him, Roald doesn’t.  It’s slightly disturbing that they both decide to watch television rather than keep an eye out for Bret’s distress signal, but this seems to be another satirical Nation touch.  It also helps to make them more rounded as characters – in plot terms they’re not terribly important, but their interaction with each other lets the viewer quickly know what the man and woman on the street thinks about the Guardian of the Solar System.

Bret and Kert are in rather dire straights on Kembel.  Kert (an impressively bearded Cant) doesn’t last long as he loses his nerve, rushes off into the jungle and is exterminated by a Dalek (for once a Dalek appears well before the end of part one cliffhanger).  This sequence was shot on film and it’s one of a number of film clips to have been preserved.  It’s only short, but it shows how adept Camfield was at ramping up the tension.

Up until this point in the series’ history, most stories have been written from the Doctor’s viewpoint.  So part one would open with the TARDIS landing somewhere, the Doctor and his friends then leave the ship, explore and are drawn into the story.  The Nightmare Begins takes a different tack (one which be used time and again in the future).

The world-building begins before the Doctor becomes involved in the plot properly – we see Bret and Kert on Kembel, are introduced to Chen, etc.  One side-effect of this form of storytelling is that it inevitably diminishes the central role that up until now the Doctor has tended to enjoy.  When a story’s ticking over so nicely with the guest characters, if the writer isn’t careful then the Doctor can be rather sidelined (see Eric Saward’s scripts for some good examples of this).

Steven, still suffering from the injuries sustained at the end of the last story, needs urgent medical help.  Rather surprisingly, the Doctor has nothing aboard the TARDIS which will do the trick so he’s forced to seek help elsewhere.  And so he lands on Kembel.

Quite why he’d think that the dense jungle planet of Kembel would be the place to visit is a bit of a mystery (one look and most people would have tried somewhere else!)  In plot terms, Steven’s injuries are nothing more than an excuse to get the Doctor on Kembel at the same time as the Daleks and Mavic Chen.

This is an undeniably crude piece of plotting – the Doctor spots some Daleks, decides to follow them and overhears Mavic Chen and the Daleks eagerly planning to take over the Earth and the rest of the Solar System.  With twelve episodes to play with it would have been nice to integrate the Doctor into the plot a little more subtly.

The Nightmare Begins sees the Doctor Who debut of Nicholas Courtney, or at least it would if we could actually see him.  We can hear him though and despite the fact that Bret’s painted rather broadly here as a single-minded man of action, Courtney still manages to make him seem fairly likeable.

Doctor Who – The Myth Makers. Part Four – Horse of Destruction

The massacre begins and the humour disappears. Probably one of the reasons why this feels especially jarring is the way the audience has been invited to feel comfortable in the presence of both Priam and Paris.

If the Greeks (Agamemnon, Odysseus, Achilles) have been depicted as single-minded warriors, then the Trojans were allowed a little more personality.  This makes their brutal demise all the more shocking.

Donald Cotton later concludes The Gunfighters in a similar orgy of violence, but since the Clantons were positioned throughout that story as “bad” and the likes of Earp, Holliday and Masterton were depicted as “good” it doesn’t have nearly the same impact.

There are some who view the sudden gear-change in Horse of Destruction from comedy to tragedy as a weakness, but to me it’s a clear strength – The Myth Makers shows us that there’s not always a “good” or “bad” side.

Similar themes had been explored in previous historicals, for example The Crusade.  David Whitaker’s script may have been much more straight-laced, but it had a similar sense of ambiguity about which side the viewer should support.

The use of comedy by Donald Cotton throughout this story is revealed in Horse of Destruction to be a dramatic device, designed to lure us into a false sense of security.  It’s a common trick, but not common in Doctor Who, which makes it noteworthy.

Another interesting aspect about the ending of The Myth Makers is just how downbeat it is.  This began a trend (although you could also say that it really started in Galaxy 4, with the Doctor leaving the Drahvins to their fate) which then continued in both The Daleks’ Master Plan and The Massacre.

Normally Doctor Who stories end on an optimistic note – although there’s often been a tremendous loss of life, it’s accepted that the ends justify the means.  Tyranny has been overthrown and the survivors can begin the task of rebuilding their world.

The Myth Makers offers no such comfort as destruction still rages. Steven is injured and Vicki elects to stay in this uncertain world with Trolius, the man she loves.  Possibly the relationship between Vicki and Trolius is the one positive thing we can take from the story (if they can somehow survive).

Vicki, like Susan before her and many companions to come, is shown to have completed a journey by the time she leaves the TARDIS.

When the girl joined the TARDIS crew in The Rescue, her awkwardness with people and her single-minded devotion to the Doctor meant that she spends the next few stories (The RomansThe Web PlanetThe Crusade) virtually glued to his side.

The Space Museum was key in the way that it showed a much more independent Vicki, happy to organise a planet-wide revolution!  After that she seemed much more comfortable by herself or outside of the Doctor’s orbit – which meant that, like Susan before her, she’s now made the transition from child to adult.

The Doctor and Vicki only share a single scene (apart from a few lines in episode one, it’s the only time they talk).  It’s noteworthy that it stops just at the point when Vicki’s preparing to tell the Doctor that she wishes to stay.

Given how both The Dalek Invasion of Earth and some later companion departures would milk the moment of leaving, it’s an odd choice which does leave the audience feeling slightly short-changed.

Whatever Vicki said, it must have been a powerful argument since the Doctor is happy for her to head off alone into the city to try and find Troilus.  This seems uncharacteristic in the extreme, but if writing out Maureen O’Brien was an eleventh hour decision then the options were limited.

An ailing Steven is back in the TARDIS, being tended by Cassandra’s handmaiden Katarina (Adrienne Hill).  The savvy viewer will know by now that as one door closes, another opens – so Katarina must be Vicki’s replacement …..

Doctor Who – The Myth Makers. Part Three – Death of a Spy

When Steven is brought into Vicki’s presence it spells trouble for both of them.  How can Vicki know Steven (alias Diomede) if he’s a Greek warrior?  Cassandra’s convinced that she’s a spy and orders her immediate execution, but the order is countermanded by Paris.  “I will not tolerate interference from a fortune-teller of notorious unreliability.”

Barrie Ingham continues to be the recipient of some first-class lines – Paris then tells his sister to “get back to your temple before you give us all galloping religious mania.”

Priam’s in a quandary.  He likes Vicki, but can’t ignore the fact that she could, as Cassandra says, be a spy.  So he gives her an ultimatum.  “Now if you are what you really say you are, as a pledge of good faith to us, you must either give me information that will lead to our speedy victory, or use your supernatural powers to turn the tide of battle in our favour.”

For all the humour we’ve seen (or rather heard) so far, this is the point in the story where the approaching darkness begins to take hold.  Steven and Vicki are prisoners in the city – locked in the dungeons – with Vicki only given a day to produce a miracle which will bring an end to the ten-year war.  Meanwhile the Doctor, outside the city walls with the Greeks, has been forced to provide a similar solution for them.

Whilst Vicki still has an air of unflappability, Steven can see how perilous their current situation is.  He’s been a member of the TARDIS crew long enough to know that if the Doctor comes up with a successful plan it’ll mean the death of everybody inside the city.

Hartnell’s more centre-stage in this episode, as the Doctor outlines several schemes to Agamemnon.  The first – gliders launched with catapults – is completely ridiculous, but Agamemnon appears to consider it.  He takes the wind out of the Doctor’s sails when he tells him that he (the Doctor) will be the first test pilot!  This is another moment where it’s a pity that Hartnell’s reaction is lost to us.

In desperation the Doctor turns to the wooden horse.  Earlier he’d declared that the horse was a myth (another inspiration for the story title?) invented by Homer, but with time running out he casually mentions to Agamemnon that a hollow wooden horse filled with Greek soldiers should do the trick.

Agamemnon agrees and very quickly it’s built.  Indeed, considering it’s size, it does seem remarkable that it was constructed in a matter of hours.  The Greeks were clearly fast builders.

Apart from the war preparations, another key part of this episode is the relationship between Trolius and Vicki.  As Trolius, James Lynn had a fairly thankless role.  Most of the guest cast were gifted sparkling bon mots, but Trolius was written as young, earnest and a little dull.  However it’s made clear right from the start that he and Vicki are kindred spirits.

VICKI: Well, you’re not in the war, are you? You’re far too young.
TROILUS: I’m seventeen next birthday!
VICKI: That’s hardly any older than me. You shouldn’t be killing people at your age.
TROILUS: Well, between you and me, I don’t honestly enjoy killing at all. But I love adventure.
VICKI: Yes. I know what you mean.

Since all the Greek soldiers appear to have left the plains, Priam is delighted and orders Vicki’s release.  She’s nonplussed, but when Paris pops up to tell them that he’s found the Great Horse of Asia outside, all becomes clear.  Cassandra’s still (correctly) forecasting their doom, which gives Paris my favourite line in the story (the final one below).

CASSANDRA: Yes, ask her! Go on, ask her! She knows what it is. It’s our doom! It’s the death of Troy, brought upon us by that cursed witch!
PARIS: Now understand me, Cassandra. I will not have one word said against that horse.
TROILUS: And neither will I against Cressida.
CASSANDRA: Will you not? Then woe to the House of Priam. Woe to the Trojans.
PARIS: I’m afraid you’re a bit late to say ‘whoa’ to the horse. I’ve just given instructions to have it brought into the city.

Doctor Who – The Myth Makers. Part Two – Small Prophet, Quick Return

The Myth Makers is far removed from the sober, earnest historical stories of season one such as John Lucarotti’s Marco Polo and The Aztecs.  There, historical accuracy was key – with the Doctor content to be merely an observer.  Here, the characters often speak in modern (i.e. 1960’s) idioms with the Doctor merrily changing the course of history as he bumbles along.

But one of the strengths of the third season is that there was room for both The Myth Makers and The Massacre (Lucorotti’s final script for the series) which was bleak in the extreme.  This variety is a strong reason why John Wiles’ time as producer has come to be celebrated by a certain section of Doctor Who fandom.

Conversely, the next producer, Innes Lloyd, has seen his stock fall over the years.  The argument runs that if Wiles favoured innovation then Lloyd (with a reliance on “base under siege” stories and monsters) constricted Doctor Who’s format and curtailed its creativity.  It’s a reasonable point, but it’s also worth wondering exactly what the target audience at this time – mainly made up of children – would have made of The Myth Makers.

It’s packed full of witty wordplay, but most of that would presumably have sailed over their heads.  Any adults watching, or fans in the decades to come, will no doubt derive considerable pleasure from Donald Cotton’s scripts, but it’s easy to imagine that the kids at the time were sighing and waiting for the Daleks to turn up.

So although Lloyd might have tightly formatted the series, he did so because of concerns that the ratings were slipping (it’s all very well being innovative and experimental, but if nobody’s watching then you’ve got a bit of a problem).

Having met the Greeks in episode one, we now run into some of the main Trojans.  Barrie Ingham, as Paris, is a delight – Paris is depicted as a handsome and feckless warrior who’s keen to avoid bloodshed at almost any costs.

Sent out by his father, King Priam (Max Adrian) to avenge the death of his brother Hector, he has to report back that he was unable to challenge Achilles (“I sought Achilles, father, even to the Grecian lines, but he skulked within his tent. He feared to face me”).  At face value this dialogue seems straightforward enough, but it’s played in such a way as to suggest that Paris didn’t try very hard at all.

Priam is less than sympathetic. “Well go back and wait until he gets his courage up. Upon my soul, what sort of brother are you? Furthermore, what sort of son?” But Paris hasn’t come back empty-handed, he proudly reveals his prize – the TARDIS – to a less than impressed Priam.

His sister Cassandra (Frances White) is equally unimpressed – and then prophecies that this strange object will spell their disaster.  It’s an unspoken irony that although nobody ever pays attention to Cassandra’s numerous warnings of doom, she proves to be completely right!

Vicki emerges from the TARDIS to enchant Priam. Maureen O’Brien would be the first companion to find herself written out of the series at short notice – something which would happen several more times over the next few years as incoming producers decided to be the broom that swept clean.

This was a pity, as O’Brien (even if she had little to work with on many occassions) always gave Vicki a questing, mischievous air. And since it can’t really be claimed that her short-term replacements (Katarina, Dodo) were any sort of improvement, I’ll certainly miss her.

When Priam renames her Cressida and she catches the eye of his younger son, Troilus, a section of the audience would probably have been able to guess what was going to happen. But would the child viewers have (excuse the pun) cottoned on, or is this another example of a literary joke that was only accessible to a minority of the audience?

Steven, learning that Vicki is somewhere within the Trojan city, elects to be captured as a Greek prisoner so that he can find her. He does so via a witty scene with Paris.

Paris is stalking the plains, urging Achilles to face him in single combat, but the sense that he isn’t terribly keen for a confrontation is made obvious after he decides to only quietly shout out Achilles’ name! A lovely moment, as is the banter between Paris and Steven.

PARIS: Achilles! (quietly) Achilles! Come out and fight, you jackal! Paris, prince of Troy, brother of Hector, seeks revenge. Do you not dare to face me?
STEVEN: I dare to face you, Paris. Turn and draw your sword.
PARIS: Ah. No, you’re not Achilles. Are you?
STEVEN: I am Diomede, friend of Odysseus.
PARIS: Oh, Diomede, I do not want your blood. It’s Achilles I seek.
STEVEN: And must my Lord Achilles be roused to undertake your death, adulterer?
PARIS: Yes, well, I’m prepared to overlook that for the moment. I assure you I have no quarrel with you.
STEVEN: I’m Greek, you’re Trojan. Is not that quarrel enough?
PARIS: Yes, well personally, I think this whole business has been carried just a little bit too far. I mean, that Helen thing was just a misunderstanding.

Barrie Ingham’s performance punctures the heroic myth of his character and helps to further push the story into being a very ironic retelling of familiar stories.

What of the Doctor though?  He’s about, although he does very little in this episode.  This will be a continuing trend during season three, as Hartnell tends to be moved more to the sidelines.  Was this because of concerns about his increasing ill health?  Possibly, although there are some who maintain that Wiles (and later Lloyd) were planning to gently ease him out of the series – and downplaying his role was the first step.

Doctor Who – The Myth Makers. Part One – Temple of Secrets

John Wiles’ stint as producer was fairly brief and, by all accounts, rather unhappy. His thorny relationship with William Hartnell was a major issue and he was also frustrated that he inherited several scripts (especially The Daleks’ Master Plan) which he would never have commissioned.

The Myth Makers would have been another script commissioned by the previous production team, but it does seem to fit the Wiles mould – since it’s doing something a little different.  We’ve had comedy historicals before – most notably The Romans – but The Myth Makers cranks up the comedy to a higher level.  And then, after three weeks of hi-jinks, everything turns very dark ….

Sadly, John Wiles doesn’t seem to have placed any value in John Cura’s telesnaps as none were taken for the episodes he produced. This is a particular problem for stories like the The Myth Makers as we only have a handful of publicity photographs available to try and conjure up the visual aspects of the serial.

The Loose Cannon recon – complete with numerous photo montages – is a noble effort, but since Donald Cotton’s script is so dialogue heavy (as opposed to say, Galaxy 4, which had long sections of silence punctuated by the beeping of the Chumblies) I don’t find any real hardship in just listening to the audio for this one.

In order to enjoy The Myth Makers you have to accept one basic premise – the Doctor has turned into a buffoon. For anyone who has issues with the more comedic Doctor of the late seventies this may be an issue, but if you can go with the flow then you’ll be able to enjoy one of Hartnell’s best comedy performances.

The Doctor’s startling lack of judgement is shown right from the start, after he observes two warriors fighting an intense battle. He decides to blithely pop his head out of the TARDIS and ask them the way!  When Steven wonders why they’re fighting, the Doctor tells him that he hasn’t “the remotest idea, my boy. No doubt their reasons will be entirely adequate. Yes, I think perhaps I’d better go and ask them where we are.”

The distracting arrival of the TARDIS enables Achilles (Cavan Kendall) to strike down his opponent, Hector (Alan Haywood). Achilles treats the materialisation of the TARDIS as a divine intervention, so it’s plain to him that the Doctor must be Zeus, father of the gods.The

In a script packed with sparkling lines, I love this one from Achilles as he explains his thoughts to the Doctor.  “To Europa, you appeared as a bull. To Leda, as a swan. To me, in the guise of an old beggar.”  It’s just a shame that we have to imagine Hartnell’s offended reaction!

The comedy continues when Odysseus (Ivor Salter) turns up. He treats Achilles with a mocking contempt, demonstrated best after he finds it impossible to believe that Achilles could have defeated Hector in a fair fight.

ODYSSEUS: But what a year is this for plague. Even the strongest might fall! Prince Hector, that he should come to this. You met him here, you say, as he lay dying?
ACHILLES: I met him, Odysseus, in single combat.
DOCTOR: Oh yes, it’s true!
ODYSSEUS: And raced him round the walls till down he fell exhausted. A famous victory!

With the Doctor now in the tender care of Odysseus, who’s not yet sure if he’s a god or a spy, we next meet Menelaus (Jack Melford) and Agamemmon (Francis De Wolff). Menelaus is the reason for this whole expedition, since it was his wife, Helen, who was abducted ten years ago.

Menelaus doesn’t seem terribly bothered about the whole thing though. “It wasn’t the first time she’s allowed herself to be abducted. I can’t keep on going off to the ends of the Earth to get her back. It makes me a laughing stock.”

The wonderful dialogue continues throughout the rest of the episode and Francis De Wolff (who had previously played the much less impressive role of Vasor in The Keys of Marinus) seems, like Ivor Salter, to be having a ball.

Steven heads out in search of the Doctor and finds himself in trouble, whilst the Doctor learns that his temple (i.e. the TARDIS) has, in true cliffhanger fashion, disappeared …..