Friday, 29 April 2011

22: The Massacre (Of St. Bartholomew's Eve) - Trying To Ditch TheDoctor Or Trying Something Different? Either Way Steven Is Running TheShow.

Written by: John Lucarotti & Donald Tosh.
Companions: The Doctor & Steven Taylor.
Monsters/Villains: Catholics, Catherine de Medici.
Brief Synopsis: The TARDIS arrives in Paris in 1572 just in time for the Huguenot massacre.
Rating: 4/10.

Well, that was... interesting.

Perhaps the most notable thing about this story is it's incomprehensible title: The Massacre Of St. Bartholomew's Eve. This is historically a misnomer, as the actual massacre took place on St Bartholomew's Day. Some have noted that as the original French name for the event (Massacre de la Saint-Barthélemy) lacks a day, the title actually refers to the lead up to the massacre itself — however in that case the title should be, the "Eve of the Massacre of St Bartholomew." Let's just call it The Massacre.

When I popped the audio CD in for this one I was excited about another John Lucarotti story. However this was a bit on the disappointing side. There are some good moments but overall The Massacre doesn't live up to Lucarotti's previous stories. It's an oddly obscure and wholly violent period of history in which to set a children's TV serial. I can't imagine an episode of modern Doctor Who being about a religious culling. The Doctor barely appears and has no baring on the proceedings. Perhaps Hartnell had requested to have a go at something different or possibly the producers were starting to test the waters with removing Hartnell from the mix, giving Steven, a companion a chance to run the show.

Joan Young as Catherine de' Medici.
The TARDIS lands Steven and the Doctor in Paris, France 1572. We get no mention of the carnage that took place in The Daleks' Master Plan, (apart from a brief mention of Egypt from Steven) in fact the pair seem quite jolly. They get appropriately dolled up for the age and go to the pub. As in many early Doctor Who stories they decide to separate, the Doctor goes off to visit the famous apothecary Charles Preslin and Steven stays at the Inn where he meets the Huguenot (French Protestant) Admiral de Coligny and a group of his fellows. Steven, along with the Huguenots helps to rescue a young girl, Anne Chaplet, and get their first suspicion of the Catholic Queen Mother, Catherine de' Medici's plot to massacre all of the Huguenots in France. At the end of the first episode we see the Abbot of Amboise who appears to be the Doctor in disguise.

Congrats Wills and Kate.
Ironically there is mention of a recent Royal Wedding. Not between Wills and Kate, but the French Huguenot, Henry Navarre and Margaret of Valois, daughter of the Catholic Catherine de' Medici.

Henry Navarre & Margaret of Valois.
Steven is shocked to learn that the Abbot of Amboise, second in charge of the Catholic church in France is in fact the Doctor in disguise. The Abbot is killed by order of the Queen Mother when his plans to assassinate de Coligny fail; his death is blamed on the Huguenots.

Hartnell as the Abbot of Amboise.
Steven, who believe's the Doctor to be dead is on the run. Believed to be an ally of the Huguenots, he seeks out the help of Anne Chaplet once more to search for the TARDIS key. When the Doctor finally turns up, Steven is relieved to discover that the Abbot was not the Doctor after all, merely his doppleganger. Where exactly has he been all this time? Hartnell's Doctor is always disappearing and never has a real explanation as to where he's been when he returns. I'd like to think that he's gone off to have other adventures on his own or to manipulate events behind the scenes. Sadly I know his absence is due to his  increasing lack of reliability. That, or he's gone on holiday again! Before the TARDIS departs the Doctor sends Anne to her likely death. At this point I can't help but wish we were about to get Annette Robertson as Anne Chaplet as our new companion, but sadly not. Like Reinette in The Girl in The Fireplace, another French companion that never was.

Annette Robertson as Anne Chaplet.
The Doctor and Steven leave as the slaughter begins! 10,000 Huguenots were killed in Paris and the rest of France. Steven blames the Doctor for Anne Chaplet's probable death, and decides it's time to leave. It's unusual in Doctor Who for the Doctor to leave without having saved the day. The whole story builds to a climax and then the TARDIS occupants depart. We then get the best part of the story where Steven chastises the Doctor for his cavalier attitude, his reply is performed with elan.

The Doctor : "My dear Steven, history sometimes gives us a terrible shock, and that is because we don't quite fully understand. Why should we? After all, we're too small to realise its final pattern. Therefore don't try and judge it from where you stand. I was right to do as I did. Yes, that I firmly believe. " [Steven leaves the TARDIS] " Steven... 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. And now, they're all gone. All gone. None of them could understand. Not even my little Susan. Or Vicki. And as for 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..."

Then, a girl comes into the TARDIS looking for help, this is Dodo. Steven returns and tells the Doctor he has to leave right away, two policemen are coming towards the TARDIS. Dodo has unwittingly joined the crew. She's an orphan (again), she looks like Susan (again), her grandfather was french and her surname is Chaplet. So we are meant to believe that Anne survived and Dodo is one of her descendants. However if Dodo is meant to be related to Ann Chaplet why is her surname the same? The name would have certainly changed through marriage, unless Anne happened to marry a man with the same name. Dodo's appearance doesn't prove Anne wasn't killed!

Jackie Lane as Dorothea "Dodo" Chaplet.
It's an odd choice to have the Abbot as the physical double of the Doctor. It's never explained and Hartnell doesn't appear anywhere near enough in the story to play one character never mind two. It's great to see Peter Purves as Steven get a chance to be the leading man. It's a shame he doesn't get a better story to prove himself, however he does a great job at believably portraying a man stuck in time. Seeing Hartnell play Amboise helps us to appreciate his characterisation of the Doctor, but that really is the only positive.

There are a lot of odd choices made in The Massacre, but the lack of music is not one. It gives each moment of suspense and the gradual build in tension the gravitas they deserve. As the video doesn't exist you really notice the lack of music.

Well, Steven survived The Massacre and we've got a new addition to the TARDIS crew, I wonder how she'll work out?? As the Doctor might say, "Hmmm?"

Join me next time for a story we can actually watch, The Ark.

Wednesday, 27 April 2011


Dear Blogland,

I thought you might like to know a bit more about the boy behind the blog. So I’m going to share with you one of my favourite Doctor Who memories:

Jon Pertwee (1919-1996)
I've had many wonderful experiences vis a vis Doctor Who. My favourite story of all is thanks to my parents, who are both myth and legend authors and sci-fi enthusiasts. They were talking at a convention in a hotel in Heathrow and while they were busy, doing one of their panels, I was left alone. Being a lonely only child at the ripe old age of 10 with only a helium balloon for company I had to try and find something to occupy myself.

Jon Pertwee, the Doctor himself was also a guest at the convention so where else would I go. I took a seat right in the front. It was wonderful to see the man himself right there, for real, in front of me, the Doctor. And although now I consider myself very lucky to have met him before he sadly passed away, at the time he wasn't the Doctor! He was just a man. A man called Jon Pertwee. He didn't mention Daleks. He wasn't wearing his crushed velvet jacket, and billowy ruffled shirt. He wasn't fighting monsters or saving Jo Grant. He was just talking. And I, with the famously short attention span of a 10-year-old, got bored. Fortunately for me, but perhaps unfortunately for everyone else who had paid their money with the intention of actually listening to what Jon Pertwee had to say, and indeed for Jon Pertwee himself, I was not alone. I had my sole compadre, my helium balloon; which I had just happened to discover made a really great noise if you firmly rubbed it. Not more than a minute of this agony could have passed before the Doctor had had enough.
"Boy. Will you stop that?"
I couldn't move. I couldn't believe it. It wasn't just a man any more, it was THE DOCTOR, and he was scolding me, he was telling me off in that wonderfully avuncular way he did.
"Look, why don't you come and sit up here with me so I can keep an eye on you."
I was frozen, I genuinely couldn't believe what was happening. I had just been passively observing events until now.
"Well, come on!"
My balloon might as well have popped, or dematerialised as I totally lost interest in it. I moved up to the stage, walked up the stairs and sat down next to the Doctor.
"And I don't want to hear a peep out of you."
I sat silently hanging on to every word he said until he was finished. After everyone applauded and began to disperse Jon turned to leave the room. I was still sat in my seat quiet and waiting. Just when I thought he was about to leave, he turned back and winked at me and smiled. I didn't need a brother or a sister. I didn't need my helium balloon. I had the best friend anyone could ever have: The Doctor in the TARDIS.

Monday, 25 April 2011

21: The Daleks Master Plan - A Race Through Time & Space For A Tin Can Filled With Uranus Or A Recipe For Disaster.

Written by: Terry Nation & Dennis Spooner.
Companions: The Doctor, Steven Taylor, Katarina, Bret Vyon, Sara Kingdom.
Monsters/Villains: The Daleks, The Monk.
Brief synopsis: The Doctor joins forces with Space Security agents Bret Vyon and Sara Kingdom to stop the Daleks from constructing their time destructor.
Rating: 5/10.

Well, that was a struggle.

Here is the recipe for The Daleks' Master Plan:


1 x Encouraging Prequel.
12 x Episodes (only 2, 5 and 10 exist in their entirety)
3 x TARDISes. (one of which is constantly breaking or being sabotaged while the crew try to find a quiet place to fix it)
1 x Taranium Core.
1 x Fake Taranium Core.
1 x Return of an Old Enemy.
3 x Companions Killed.
1 x Momentary Collapse Of The Fourth Wall. (Oops)
1 x Bonkers Christmas Episode.
Loads x Of Daleks.
A Whole Host x Of Random Alien Delegates.
1 x Power Mad Guardian of The Solar System.
2 x Steven and Sara razzling various people.
1 x Doctor. (who likes to wander off a lot)
1 x Time Destructor (that we never get explained)

Prepare the prequel to as an appetiser. Combine all ingredients in a mixing bowl. Separately prepare the bonkers Christmas episode. Only let the fourth wall collapse for a few seconds, or all fans will be lost from the final meal. Slaughter the three companions evenly through the process. Try not to loose the Taranium core in the mixture. Drop in the returning enemy, but burry it deep in the mixture to make sure to keep it a surprise. Allow the Guardian of The Solar System to simmer until totally insane. Cook for 5 hours! Allow extra time to fix any broken TARDISes. Sprinkle with random aliens, and serve in a Dalek dish, placing the Doctor on top holding the Time Destructor and leave to cool for 46 years. Appetising? I don't think so...

You could describe The Daleks' Master Plan as a twelve-part space-war epic, or as I prefer: A chase through time and space for a tin can full of Uranus. This was really hard to get through. It took me four days with breaks to watch it all. It kicks off with Steven still injured from the battle in Troy (god that feels like an age ago). He's worrying about Vicki, who stayed to become a famous romantic archetype who will be written about by Homer and Shakespeare. Lucky her, I don't think she'd have stood much of a chance in The Daleks' Master Plan; hardly anyone else does. The First episode is called The Nightmare Begins, and indeed it does. It actually starts off really well, and there's Nicholas Courtney as Bret Vyon - yay!!! He's investigating Marc Cory's disappearance. I still can't believe he's gone, what a wonderful chap. He of course goes on to play the Brigadier in later years to come.

Nicholas Courtney's first appearance in Doctor Who as Bret Vyon. 
Then we meet Mavic Chen, who has the all encompassing, vast, and somewhat awesome title: Guardian of the Solar System, but he's going on holiday? What kind of a guardian of anything takes holidays? Especially something as big as the Solar System? Stoney is wonderful as Chen. There's a pretty funny scene where where we see a couple arguing over what to watch. The husband wants to watch the mars vs. venus game, whereas the wife wants to watch Mavic Chen's holiday report. The wife wins out and we hear Mavic Chen mention the 3975 Non-aggression Pact, and saying that "we have had 25 years of peace." Making it the year 4000.

Mavic Chen Guardian of The Solar System. 
The TARDIS arrives on Kembel, where the Doctor, Steven and Katarina meet Bret Vyon. Initially they clash, but Vyon helps Steven to recover and they quickly form an alliance. We learn that Mavic Chen, Guardian of The Solar System, is in fact not on holiday, but has allied himself with the Daleks and the other delegates of the outer galaxies. The Doctor and Co go to the Dalek City and clobber Zephon, Master of the Fifth Galaxy. The Doctor plans to dress in Zephon's robes and to go to the meeting of the delegates. All is going well so far, I'm enjoying the reconstructions and the story is absorbing, then the Doctor manages to steal the Taranium Core; and it's all up hill from here. Steep. Very steep.

The Doctor and Co mesmerised by the Taranium Core. 
The Taranium core is a small metal canister filled with a full M of Taranium; a rare mineral found only on the planet Uranus. It has taken 50 years to mine just a very small amount. The Daleks need it to power their ultimate weapon, The Time Destructor. I must admit even after watching the whole thing I'm still not exactly sure what it does. I kept expecting a scene or a reveal where I find out what it does, but it never comes.

The Dalek base on Kembel.
Bret, Steven and Katarina steal Mavic Chen, Guardian of The Solar System's ship and leave with the Doctor. The Daleks force the ship to land on the prison planet, Desperus. This is the first of many desperate and unnecessary tangents we'll be forced to go on. Katarina really gets a raw deal, she get's treated so badly by everyone. She has no idea where she is or what's going on, and whenever she tries to ask, the Doctor fobs her off, with I'll explain later, etc. 

They manage to escape the prison planet but Kirksen, a convict, has stowed away on board. He emerges and grabs Katarina. He forces Bret to change the ships course from Earth back to Kembel. Kirksen takes Katarina into the air-lock. Bret wants to send them both out into space but the Doctor and Steven stop him. Then, bravely or perhaps totally by accident Katarina opens the outer doors, ejecting herself and Kirksen into space, and to their deaths. The Doctor's response to this is "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. We shall always remember her as one of the daughters of the gods. Yes, as one of the daughters of the gods." She didn't understand because you didn't explain and hopefully you won't remember her as one of the daughters of Dogs, eh Doctor, hmmm? So that's one companion down, two to go.

Bye Katarina. We literally hardly knew you.
By this point I'm starting to wonder, why dont they just destroy the Taranium? Surely if they did that it's problem solved. I always get the feeling with Hartnell that he knows exactly what's going to happen because he's read the script. This gives the Doctor a kind of know-it-all quality. I wonder if maybe this error induced future actors who played the Doctor to do the same.

Mavin Chen, Guardian of The Solar System returns to earth and has his people alert the public that Vyon is a traitor and recalls all SSS agents to earth. The Doctor and co get to Earth and call on the services of Daxter a 'friend' of Vyon. However he tries to betray the Doctor and Bret. He let's slip that he knows about them having the Taranium so Bret kills him. People always seem to do that in early Doctor Who, betray themselves by admitting  some piece of knowledge they couldn't have if they weren't guilty.

TRAITOR: Oops, I shouldn't know that.

HERO: He must be a traitor!

Sara Kingdom, She's a bad-ass.
Then we meet Sara Kingdom, played by the returning Jean Marsh, who also played Princess Joanna in The Crusade. She is sent to apprehend Vyon, the Doctor and Steven. Sara kills Bret, who it turns out is her brother and heads off to kill the Doctor and Steven. That's two down one to go! Bye Bret. Sara finds the Doctor and Steven, and along with some rather cute, unsuspecting lab mice they get caught in a molecular dissemination experiment and transmitted through space to a strange planet called Mira. And here's tangent number two. At first they actually think the Mice might have taken them. This all feels very Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy suddenly. Steven even comes out with, "the mice couldn't have done that?" The Daleks arrive too late and in frustration exterminate the mice. 

A Visian being exterminated.
Sara learns that Mavic Chen, Guardian of The Solar System, is a traitor and joins up with the Doctor and Steven. So she killed her brother and then replaced him as assistant? That's pretty cut-throat. The Daleks find the Doctor and Co but won't exterminate them because they're carrying the Taranium. The invisible Visians, the sole inhabitants of Mira attack the Daleks, and the Doctor, Steven and Sara steal the Dalek Ship and escape back to Kembel. 

The Doctor makes a copy of the Taranium Core. Again, I'm thinking just destroy it. That would slow them down a bit for another 50 years until they mine some more. Steven energises the fake Taranium using gravity (Okay?) but nocks himself unconscious. The Doctor agrees to had over the 'Taranium' to the Daleks and Mavic Chen, Guardian of The Solar System, but only outside his TARDIS. Steven gives them the fake Taranium. The Daleks try to exterminate Steven, but he is unharmed. He has a sort of gravity force-field from when he energised the fake taranium. (Right?) They leave and the TARDIS materialises on a planet with a poisonous atmosphere. We then take a brief detour away from The Daleks' Master Plan and sanity for the single most bizarre episode of Doctor Who ever! Yes, even weirder than The Edge of Destruction. It's so odd I'm going to give it a different font to separate it from the rest of the blog. 

I give you, in courier new: The Feast of Steven.

The TARDIS is not on a planet with a poisonous atmosphere after all but has landed on Earth in the 1960's at Christmas. Just in case we haven't worked this out for ourselves two policemen are singing Good King Wenceslas and the whole thing is rather creepily underscored with unseen children singing Christmas carols. We are treated to such wonders as a policeman asking "It wouldn't be Father Christmas, would it?" When the Doctor is arrested. An odd cameo from Reg Pritchard as Man in Macintosh who has come to complain that "They keep moving my house. My Green House. It's the rebels!" When the Doctor sees this man he says, "Have't I seen your face before? That's it. The market place at Jaffa." Reg Pritchard previously played Ben Daheer in the Crusade, but why bring this up on screen? Steven ventures out of the TARDIS to look for the Doctor and dresses as a Policeman to attempt to free him. Sara comes out too and fixes the faulty scanner. Steven and the Doctor escape the police, and grab Sara and dematerialise. Steven asks "Is the Taranium safe?" (They still haven't destroyed it, fools!) to which Sara replies, "Oh yes, I'd forgotten about the Daleks." I'm not surprised love. As if this wasn't mad enough it gets worse. The TARDIS then arrives just at the climax of a girl being murdered by a crazed man with an electric hack saw. Oh no wait! They're actually on the set of a Hollywood movie at the early stages of film. 

Steven and Sara inexplicably rumble with the camera crew. There is also an Arabian Nights scene being filmed. Steven gets dragged off, mistaken for an actor. Sara is mistaken for a harem girl in the 'wrong' costume. The Doctor is mistaken for an expert in arabian custom and discovers Sara hiding in a chest on the set. The three get reunited and Steven aks, "Sara, where have you been?" To which she replies "I don't know. But a strange man kept telling me to take my clothes off." As is this wasn't crazy enough the Doctor adds "This is a mad house, it's all full of arabs!!"

The trio run through both sets again before escaping back to the TARDIS. It's clearly a comment on what Nation and Spooner thought of Cinema that the film crew in this episode are scarier than the Daleks. The Doctor gets out some wine to celebrate! It's Christmas after all. And the fourth wall comes tumbling down as the Doctor makes a toast. "Happy Christmas. Incidentally, Happy Christmas to all of you at home."

Delegate Celation/ Mr. Nerf.
Back to reality. Very slow. Long? Drawn out? It must be reality. There's an interesting scene in which Mavic Chen, Guardian of The Solar System, has a discussion with two of the other delegates. Celation, who looks likes he's covered in nerf balls and the less outrageous Trantis discuss time travel and the Doctor. Trantis' people are referenced as being on the edge of discovering the secrets of time travel, but Celation and Mavic Chen, G.O.T.S.S, aren't even close yet. They tell us that only the Daleks have mastered time travel. The Daleks and the Doctor. This could be disregarded as a pointless scene, but it adds to the Doctor's mystique, and raises his status. The Daleks begin to show disregard for their 'allies' and decide to test the Time Destructor on Trantis. Maybe now they'll tell us what it is? Nope. With the fake core it fails and then Trantis is exterminated. Whilst I was watching this Katie was listening in the background and she laughed so much at the following interchange between the Dalek Supreme and Mavic Chen, G.O.T.S.S, delivered with total sincerity by the marvelous Kevin Stoney:

DALEK SUPREME: The core is worthless! 

MAVIC CHEN: No, it can't be. It came from Uranus, I know it did! 

Trantis, the first delegate to kick the bucket.
Almost as a nod back to the insanity of the previous episode the TARDIS materialises in front of the score board of a cricket match and we get two commentators witnessing it. This is pretty funny but they don't seem too fussed when they see a police box appear and disappear before their eyes. The TARDIS is being chased, and we are meant to assume it's by the Daleks. The TARDIS is drawn to another planet, Tigus and materialises right by a Volcano. A door opens in a large rock and out steps none others than Peter Butterworth a.k.a the Meddling Monk. Meanwhile Mavic Chen, G.O.T.S.S, and some Daleks set off to find the Doctor. The Monk and the Doctor greet each other very politely; this is something that will continue when we later meet the War Chief and indeed the Master. The Monk wants revenge on the Doctor for trapping him in 1066, and to do this he... changes the lock on the TARDIS. Ohhhh too harsh maybe? 

The Monk's back. So that's good!
But not to fear the Doctor uses his ring to reflect the sun of Tigus onto the lock and uses his key and hey presto... this has worked... for some reason! And the TARDIS is off again and shows up on Earth again, this time outside the Houses of Parliament. We're only here long enough to hear the chimes of Big Ben, ringing in the new year before we're off again this time to the Pyramids of Ancient Egypt.

The Daleks finally catch up with the Doctor, but are attacked by the Egyptians. Then the monk shows up too and bumps into the the Daleks and Mavic Chen, G.O.T.S.S, and agrees to help them in return for his life. The Doctor gets inside the Monks TARDIS and changes it's shape until it too looks like a police telephone box. Steven and Sara inexplicably razzle Egyptians and then come across the Monk all wrapped up in bandages. He tricks them right into the sucker arms of the Daleks.

Once again the Doctor says he will hand over the Taranium if the Daleks free steven, Sara and the Monk, at the agreed location. The Doctor gives M.C.G.O.T.S.S, the real Taranium core, and escapes whilst the Daleks are attacked by the Egyptians again before returning to Kembel. Basically, exactly the same thing that happened before, except in Egypt on Earth, with Egyptians, and it's the real core, instead of Visians on Mira, and a fake one. 'Cause that idea was so good it was worth using twice. In the same bloody story. The Doctor steals the Monk's directional unit and the Monk ends up on a planet of ice, stuck wandering through time and space just like the Doctor. Steven takes the risk and activates the TARDIS controls, using the Monk's directional unit to get them to Kembel to stop the Daleks. It works, but the directional unit burns out. Shame.

The Doctor wanders off again.

The Daleks use M.C.G.O.T.S.S, to distract the delegates, who rebel against him, he even kills delegate Gearon. We then learn unsurprisingly that the Daleks plan to kill all the delegates. Instead they get imprisoned. It seems like the only reason the Daleks have formed this union is to stop the delegates from attacking them and to get the Taranium from Uranus.

Some of the Daleks 'Allies.'
Steven and Sara free the delegates and they all depart for their home planets to form a force against the Daleks, all except for M.C.G.O.T.S.S, who's ship explodes. Steven and Sara follow a lone Dalek to a metal door in a cave. 

We quickly learn that our mate Chen isn't dead and he forces Steven and Sara in to the cave. M.C.G.O.T.S.S is for some reason still loyal to the Daleks; what a fool. He's clearly in denial. He can't except it; The Daleks have ditched him, their alliance has ended. He tries to kill the Dalek Supreme, but his gun has no effect. The Daleks are ordered to take him away to exterminate him, but he runs leaving Steven and Sara alone with the Dalek Supreme. The Doctor is lurking in the shadows. Mavic Chen, Guardian of The Solar System is finally exterminated. Awwe. Sad face. In the confusion the Doctor activates the Time Destructor, stalemate again because the Daleks won't fire at him. The Doctor and Co exit using a Dalek as a shield. The Doctor forces Steven and Sara to return to the TARDIS. Steven does so, but Sara goes back for the Doctor, and boy is she gonna regret that!

Sara rapidly ageing.
The Doctor is still carrying the Time Destructor which somehow causes Sara to age, and the jungle of Kembel starts to decay. The pair reach the Tardis but the Doctor is ageing too, he drops the Time Destructor. Sara tries to get to it but ages too much, falls and turns to dust. And that's three, another one bites the dust, or rather turns in to it. Steven runs out to get them. Kembel has turned into a desert wilderness. The Time Destructor is apparently running time forward, until Steven presses a button and it starts to run backwards. He helps the Doctor inside the TARDIS. The Daleks show up and try to shoot the Time Destructor, but they have no effect and the Dalek creatures fall from their casings, returning to embryonic form and eventually also turn to dust.

A while later the Doctor and Steven exit the TARDIS to discover that the core has burnt out. The Doctor says that Sara helped to destroy the Daleks, and without her this wouldn't have happened. Steven simply laments, "Bret. Katarina! Sara!" 

And it's over. 5 hours later. Wasn't that delicious. Well, mostly, no! In the heart of The Daleks Master Plan is a half descent story, shame it's muddled up with another chase motif al a The Chase. The length of this story should make it feel epic, should make it feel like a lot of time passes to really show the audience a whole war. But it doesn't. It just feels so bloody long. I spent the whole time wondering why they didn't just destroy the Taranium. The answer is, because if they did, the story would only be a four parter. There are some delectable highlights and some sumptuous moments, but I can't help but think this could have been a fairly alright story had it been a five parter instead of twelve; and what a bloodbath. In the whole history of Doctor Who only four of the Doctor's companion characters have been killed and three of those are in this story!

I hope you've enjoyed reading this blog it took about a day to write. I hope it doesn't take as long to read. I wish anyone luck who attempts The Daleks' Master Plan recipe, but I must warn you it certainly is a recipe for disaster.

Ironically, join me next time for a more jolly tale, The Massacre. Steven watch out mate, you don't stand a chance...

Tuesday, 19 April 2011


My fingers are actually shaking as I write this, and I am so sorry to announce that the actress, wife and mother, Elisabeth Sladen who played Sarah Jane Smith has died aged 63. She had been battling with cancer for some time. Our thoughts are with her husband and daughter. She is the most quintessential companion and she shall be sorely missed Here are so pictures commemorating her time on Doctor Who:

Liz's first appearance as Sarah Jane Smith with the Doctor Jon Pertwee.
With her second Doctor Tom Baker.
In her last adventure, The Hand of Fear.
With her trusty companion in K9 and Company.
With the cast of The Five Doctors.
With David Tennant, making a return to Doctor Who in School Reunion.
With the cast of her very own show The Sarah Jane Adventures.
With Matt Smith and fellow ex-companion Katy Manning as Jo Grant.
Elisabeth Sladen was a wonderful person and she will never be forgotten.

Thursday, 14 April 2011

20: The Myth Makers - A Landmark Story & Hilarious Historical.

Written by: Donald Cotton.
Companions: The Doctor, Vicki, Steven Taylor.
Monsters/Villains: Cassandra.
Brief Synopsis: The TARDIS lands in Ancient Greece during the Trojan War.
Rating: 9/10.

This story is packed to the eyeteeth with memorable moments, hilarious high jinks, a fond farewell, and a not so contemporary companion. We have a truly classic story, wonderful comic performances by Barrie Ingham and Francis de Wolff, we bid adieu to Vicki and welcome a new companion, Katarina. I have to say that so far this story has to be the biggest loss of the gaps in the archives. Only eleven 8 mm film clip recordings made by fans off-air still exist; they were made available on the Lost in Time DVD boxset release. The Myth Makers really takes the comedy element of Doctor Who and cranks it to factor 11. 

The Doctor or Zeus?
Our story kicks off in the fields of Asia Minor, not far from the besieged city of Troy where we discover Hector of Troy battling the Grecian warrior Achilles. The TARDIS arrives unnoticed in the background and out steps the Doctor just at the right time to distract Hector, giving Achilles the upper hand. After besting Hector, Achilles mistakes the Doctor for "the father of the Gods and ruler of the world" Zeus, and he doesn't deny it. Even after all that stuff in The Aztecs telling Barbara that it was wrong to impersonate a deity, here he is doing exactly that. Then, Odysseus arrives and questions the Doctor's god status demanding that he come to the camp of Agamemnon. Steven follows him. Francis de Wolff is excellent as Agamemnon with Jack Melford as his insidious brother Menelaus. De Wolff here makes his second appearance in Doctor Who after previously appearing as the horny trapper Vasor in The Keys of Marinus. It has been commented that the modern equivalent of De Wolff would be Brian Blessed, and I must say I agree. At the camp the Doctor admits that he is in fact mortal, and a time traveller; he is then given just two days to concoct a plan to seize Troy. He returns to the field where the TARDIS landed to discover that it is gone!

The incomparable Barrie Ingham as Paris. 
The second episode has the wonderful title "Small Prophet, Quick Return." We discover that the TARDIS has been stolen by the Trojans and taken to Troy. Here we get our first portion of the wonderful Barrie Ingham as the brilliantly pusillanimous Paris, who is the one who captured the "Shrine" a.k.a the TARDIS for his father Priam. His sister the prophetess Cassandra played madly by Frances White, correctly prophesies what will happen, but mistakes the TARDIS for the Wooden Horse. 

The Trojans are just about to burn down the TARDIS when out steps Vicki, dressed in full Grecian attire. Vicki claims to be from the future and is mistaken for a prophet. She tells King Priam her name is Vicki, but he disregards it as outlandish and renames her Cressida. Back in the Grecian camp the Doctor rejects the Wooden Horse idea saying that Homer probably dreamt it up as a dramatic conceit. Steven is sent to spy on the Trojans and given the armour of a dead soldier, Diomedes. There's a wonderful scene where Paris is sent to fight Achilles, and instead of calling him out loudly, he whispers his name, "Achilles!" He meets Steven a.k.a Diomedes in battle. Steven purposefully loses and allows himself to be captured, heralding Paris with flattery. Vicki a.k.a Cressida meets Troilus and there is instantly a romantic connection.

King Priam with Cressida (Vicki).
The Doctor tries to best the Wooden Horse idea by getting the Greeks to build flying machines to be fired from catapults.When this idea fails he resorts to saying, "Have you ever thought of a horse?" And the rest as they say is history. The Doctor is forced to ride in the horse along with Odysseus and his Ithacan soldiers. Vicki uses her feminine whiles to get Troilus to free her. Then the news arrives that the Greeks have left and the war is over. Cassandra was right all along and she laments, "Woe to the house of Piam. Woe to the Trojans." To which Paris brilliantly replies, "I think you're a bit late to say woe to the horse, I've just given instructions to have it brought into the city."

The Wooden Horse of Troy.
Vicki sends Troilus to find Diomedes (Steven) so that he won't be in the city when the Greeks attack. Enroute he comes across Achilles. They fight and Achilles is eventually bested, but not before badly wounding Troilus. He credits his recovery with, "I live to love Cressida." The Greeks attack and kill Paris and Priam, keeping Cassandra as a 'gift' for Agamemnon. Vicki and the Doctor reunite, she introduces him to Katarina, one of Cassandra's handmaidens and sends them to find an injured Steven. Katarina helps Steven into the TARDIS. Suddenly Odysseus bursts in and tries to claim the ship but the Doctor escapes. Odysseus ponders whether the Doctor truly was Zeus or not as he and his soldiers watch as the TARDIS dematerialises leaving Vicki, now Cressida, behind to become a part of history.

The new companion Katarina.
Troilus watches from the plains, as Troy burns. Cressida finds him declaiming "I belong here now, with you." Troilus' cousin arrives and Vicki says, "We can build another Troy." The two will go on to be written about as two of the greatest lovers of all time, Troilus and Cressida. Meanwhile in the TARDIS, the Doctor knows Vicki had made her choice to stay. She has also practically gift wrapped the Doctor's unexpected new companion, Katarina (from our point of view our first historical sidekick) as she has explained what will happen to her. Katarina misunderstands and thinks that the Doctor and Steven are Gods and that she will die. She says "This is not Troy; this is not even the world; this is the journey through the beyond."For now the Doctor cannot deny this as he knows that he must land somewhere. My sweetheart pointed out to be that she doesn't like the way that the Doctor looses and acquiers companions in this way. It's funny at this point in the series how a new companion nearly always joins accidentally, whereas fast forward to 2005 and it is always a clear choice. Hartnell has really been on form this whole story but then he makes his most hilarious fluff of all time with, "You must call me Doctor, I'm not a dog... I'm not a god."

I have some very exciting news and something extra-special for you coming soon. As the incomparable Barrie Ingham, who plays Paris in this story, is an old family friend I asked him if he wouldn't mind talking a bit about his time working on The Myth Makers. So tune in at some point for A Conversation With Barrie Ingham.

Barrie Ingham.

Thursday, 7 April 2011

19: Mission To The Unknown - An UnDoctored Episode.

Written by: Terry Nation.
Companions: Marc Cory.
Monsters/Villains: Daleks.
Brief Synopsis: Space Security Service agent Marc Cory is investigating a possible Dalek sighting on the planet Kembel.
Rating: 8/10.

When the Daleks came for the 70 planets in the Ninth Galactic System,
I remained silent;
I was not in the Ninth Galatic System.

When they came for 40 more in the Constellation of Meros,
I did not speak out;
I was not even near the Constellation of Meros.

When they came for me,
there was no one left to speak out.

As my wonderful Wondering companion and sweetheart Katie points out there is a clear connection with Mission To The Unknown/The Daleks Master Plan and The Second World War. The Dalek menace is raging on the edges of the galaxy and Earth is not too fussed until they learn that they too will soon become embroiled in the war, and of course the Daleks are the Nazis.

It's a beautiful day today so it seemed like a perfect day to watch Mission To The Unknown. This single episode story was created to fill in the recording gap left when the earlier episode Planet of The Giants was cut an episode short, from four to three. It also acts as a prelude to the twelve part epic The Daleks Master Plan. Sadly only a few clips of this story remain so we watched johnnyfanboy's youtube recons, and very good they are too, thanks for these great reconstructions.

In the episode we take up from where the cliffhanger left off with Jeff Garvey awaking and chanting 'kill, kill, kill.' He doesn't survive long as Space Security Service agent Marc Cory takes him out, realising he has been poisoned by the thorn of a Varga Plant; an animal-like plant that looks like a giant cactus. If poisoned by one a person develops the urge to kill and eventually transforms into Varga themselves. Katie rightly points out that this is a truly scary concept, turning into something else, and true to form Doctor Who will use this many many times in the future.

Garvey transforming into a Varga Plant.
Cory reveals to the Captain of the mission, Gordon Lowery, his true reasons for coming to Kemble. He is investigating a sighting of a Dalek Spaceship in the area. Marc Cory is clearly based on James Bond, Lowery even says fearfully, "Space Security Service, licensed to kill." Although I really enjoyed this episode it does feel strange going from the Doctor as leading man to 007. The episode is only 25 mins in length and we've gone that long without Hartnell before and we will again. Katie on the other hand, said "it isn't really Doctor Who though, is it? He's not in it so they shouldn't really call it Doctor Who." Katie also pointed out that for the 1965 audience watching this for the first time it must have been very odd that the Doctor just wasn't there, they would have then had to wait 5 weeks before they learnt what reference this episode had to the show they were watching. Even in the new series with Russell T Davies Doctor-lite episodes the Doctor makes some appearance.

Jermy Young as Lowery and Edward De Souza as Cory.
The Sighting of the Varga plants confirms Cory's suspicions, as they are indigenous to just one planet. Skaro. The Daleks discover Cory and Lowery and destroy their ship. Lowery befalls the same fate as Garvey as he too is poisoned by a Varga's thorn and despatched by Cory. 

The Daleks meet with six rather interesting looking aliens, forming an alliance to conquer the galaxy. One of the aliens, Malpha says "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!" So it wasn't incredibly original of Steven Moffat to create an alliance at the end of season 5, Terry Nation did it back in 1965. There is a lot of speculation in this episode as to which alien is which. If you're playing along at home maybe you too would like to play: Name That Alien. The names are: Malpha, Trantis, Sentreal, Beaus, Gearon, and Warrien. See if you can match the name to the alien. Cory doesn't escape this episode either and before he is able to send a distress signal to warn Earth, he too is killed. Exterminated by the Daleks. This story also marks producer Verity Lambert's last episode. She was a wonderful woman and did so much for so many people.

R.I.P Verity Lambert (1935-2007).
And here's what Katie thought in her own words: 

As a newbie Doctor Who fan who only started watching after the new series began in 2005 I thought it might be difficult getting into the classic episodes. However, when you have a boyfriend as well informed and passionate about the Doctor as I do that's really not a problem! Emrys is very generous and does a lot of hand-holding and guiding for me whenever we watch classic Doctor Who, always answering my questions no matter how ridiculous or naive they may be to a seasoned Doctor Who viewer, and this helps a lot. So when he asked me to watch (well, mostly listen) to one of the lost episodes I was up for the challenge, and I actually really enjoyed "Mission To The Unknown". 

I found Cory, Mark Cory (see my 007 licence to kill reference? Good grief I'm witty!) a really strong leading man, even if his speeches often erred towards the dramatic, and the Vargas and their slow killing methods made them good quality villans. And then of course you have the Daleks plotting to take over the world, and with them you can't really go wrong. Although personally I would never form an alliance with a Dalek, I'm sure they would just try and screw me over at a later date... I did miss the Doctor in this episode and I do think there must have been a lot of confusion in the audiences of the 60s as to where this story fitted in to the grand-Doctor-Who-scheme of things, particularly because of the rather pessimistic ending (the Alliance will take over the Solar System! Mwa ha ha ha!) but all in all I enjoyed it, and would give it a solid 8/10. I should watch more of this classic Doctor Who...

Katie and I in The Who Shop in Upton Park.
And a very happy blogging boyfriend smiles a wide smile. Thanks for reading and also make sure to go over to Tachyon TV and check out Adventures With The Wife In Space, a wonderful blog along the same lines as my own, except with the rather wonderful twist of a fan bringing his wife along for the ride. I never miss it. Thanks Sue and Neil, this ones for you.

Join me next time for The Myth Makers.