Sunday, 17 February 2013

The Doctor Who 50-50: Part 10 - 1971

"I am usually referred to as the Master...universally."
 - The Master, Terror of the Autons episode 1

On Screen

Season 8, beginning in January 1971 was the Year of the Master.  Played by Roger Delgado, the renegade Time Lord made his debut in the opening story of the season, 'Terror of the Autons' and appeared in every story that season as a recurring villain.

The Producer at the time, Barry Letts, and script editor Terrance Dicks felt that the Doctor needed a nemesis during his enforced stay on Earth.  Certainly, it would provide a reasonable explanation as to why the Earth was being invaded seemingly every other week.  The Master was the end result.  Ruthless, cunning, intelligent and yet there was still something strangely likable about him.  Even though you knew he was going to get beaten over and over again you did sort of want to eventually get one over the Doctor.  And although he does get one or two small victories over the Doctor this season, he still ends up losing the big battles.

The Master isn't the only new arrival this season though.  With Liz Shaw having between seasons, the Doctor is in need of a new assistant.  Or at least the Brigadier thinks he is which is why Jo Grant ends up being seconded to the Doctor.  Jo is about as different from Liz as it's possible to be.  Initially she comes across as an atypical dizzy blonde (despite not actually being blonde) who makes mistakes and generally gets in the way.  But of course there is more to Jo than that and, through the course of her first story we learn that she is brave, resourceful and loyal - in short everything a Doctor Who companion should be.

The Master, the Doctor, Jo and the Brigadier

The Brigadier gets new companion as well, or at least a second in command - Captain Mike Yates.  Alongside Sergeant Benton, who had appeared previously in a few episodes of Season 7 as well as 'The Invasion' back in 1968, the regular cast for the next two or three years was now complete.

The Doctor with Mike Yates and Jo

'Terror of the Autons' as its title suggests also saw the return of those plastic monsters along with the Nestene Consciousness.  The Master is working with them to help their second invasion succeed but when he realises that the Nestene will destroy him just as they destroy everything else, he ends up siding with the Doctor to stop them and save his own skin - something that will happen regularly during this season.

Take, for example, the next story 'The Mind of Evil'.  Here, the Master has obtained an alien mind parasite that can suck 'evil impulses' out of people.  But when it gets out of control and starts killing people with abandon, the Master has to get the Doctor to assist him in bringing it back under control.  Or 'The Claws of Axos', where the Master is already in trouble before the story even starts.  As that story opens, the Master has been captured by a giant sentient being called Axos that wants to suck worlds dry.  Naturally the Master sends them off to Earth.  One suspects that at least part of his reasoning is that once they reach Earth the Doctor will be able to help him escape.  Which indeed he does.

The Master is absent for the first half of 'Colony in Space'.  As indeed is the Brigadier (aside from a brief appearance) and the rest of UNIT.  For this story marks the first occasion in two years when the Doctor manages to get the TARDIS working.  However, it's only working because the Time Lords have temporarily allowed the Doctor to travel to an Earth colony in the future to undertake a mission for them.  The files on a so-called 'Doomsday Weapon' have been stolen from the Time Lords and they want the Doctor to

Of course it's the Master who has stolen the files and he appears halfway through the story to try and gain possession of the weapon in question.  As ever the Master comes of second best again although, to be fair to the guy, he probably didn't expect to see the Doctor there given that he's supposed to be trapped on Earth.

It's back to Earth for the final story of the season, 'The Daemons' which seems to be the Doctor Who equivalent of a school outing.  A good chunk of this story was filmed on location in the Wiltshire village of Aldbourne and the cast really do seem to enjoy the change of scenery.

Here, the Master, in the not-entirely-convincing disguise of the Reverend Magister, is attempting to re-awaken the Daemon Azal who has been asleep for thousands of years.  Despite devilish allusions, Azal is an alien rather than Satan himself, albeit an alien with almost godlike powers.      At the end of the story, the Master is finally captured by UNIT and taken in custody.  We'll find out what happen to the Master next year but, for a while at least, he won't be around to menace the Doctor. 

On Audio

 Once again, nothing was produced in the audio medium. 

In Print

For the first time since 1964 there was no Annual published!  Indeed there were no Doctor Who books at all published in 1971

In Comics 

1971 was a big year for the comic strip as, in February, it moved from TV Comic to a brand new title, Countdown.  Countdown was aimed at an older age group than TV Comic had been, something which is readily apparent in the more sophisticated stories that appeared in the strip. In addition, the new look strip was written by someone who had a good understanding of the series and the character - Dennis Hooper who was also Countdown's editor. The artwork was also much improved and, for much of the year was in full colour.

Initially at least the Doctor was still stranded on Earth, as on TV, but here he seems to abandoned UNIT in favour of renting a small holiday cottage in Wales so that he can work on repairing the TARDIS. In the first strip, 'The Gemini Plan', the Doctor believes that he has finally repaired the TARDIS but it only takes him as far as Australia where he's just in time to stop a mad scientist from trying to blast Venus out of its orbit and closer to Earth.

The next story, 'Timebenders', sees the Doctor finally travelling in time again.  However on this occasion his travels are the result of a French scientist from 1942 who inadvertently creates a time machine that accidentally transports the Doctor back to World War Two.  This, of course, brings the Doctor into conflict with Nazi soldiers who want to use the time machine for their own evil ends.

In 'The Vogan Slaves', the Doctor finally succeeds in  repairing the TARDIS, thereby massively contradicting the TV series where he'll still be stranded on Earth for a good while yet.  His first trip in the TARDIS is to an  alien space ship carrying slaves for the villainous Vogans, a group of blue-skinned aliens who look suspiciously like the Mekon from the Dan Dare comic strip.  I'm sure that it can't be a coincidence:

Speaking of artistic influences, the next story 'The Celluloid Midas' is clearly very heavily influenced by recently televised Doctor Who - most specifically 'The Daemons'.  Like 'The Daemons', this story is set in small country village where a number of the villagers are under the influence of a sinister individual who looks a little like the Master.  However it isn't the Master this time but one Professor Midas who has created a ray that turns people into a living plastic which he can mentally control.

This is one of the best stories of the strip to date and no doubt the influence of the TV series plays a large part in that.  It probably helped that writer Dennis Hooper was invited the village of Albourne when the Daemons was being recorded and go to meet with the cast and crew.  The experience was clearly a positive one as can be seen from this strip.

'Backtime' is interesting as it's one of the few pure historical stories, with no science fiction elements, that appears in the comic strip.  If you remember this type of story had been phased out on television back in 1966 with 'The Highlanders' so having such a story appear in the comic strip at this time makes it even more of an oddity.

I admit that I'm not as well up on my 19th Century history as I should be but, from what I remember, it seems that both the writer and artist have a good understanding of the period.  The Doctor takes a London pick-pocket from London in 1863 to America in order that the boy can start a new life.  However they arrive in the midst of the American Civil War and encounter individuals from both sides of the conflict, including Abraham Lincoln.

The final story of the year, 'The Eternal Present', sees the Doctor captured and taken to far future of Earth where he encounters a fellow time traveller.  No, not the Master, but the time traveller from 'The Time Machine' who, at the conclusion of the story returns to his own time to tell his friend H.G. Wells all about his adventures.

Overall then a strong start for the Doctor in pages of Countdown.  Things were about to change for the comic but, as far as the strip was concerned, it was going from strength to strength.

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