Sunday, 24 February 2013

The Doctor Who 50-50: Part 11 - 1972

"I reversed the polarity of the neutron flow."
 - The Doctor, saying his catchphrase for the first time, The Sea Devils

On Screen:

They're back!  For the first time in nearly 5 years, the Daleks returned in the opening story of Season 9, the appropriately titled 'Day of the Daleks'.  Producer Barry Letts had wanted something big to kick off the season and what could be bigger than the long awaited return of the series' most popular monsters?

That said, the Daleks appearances here are fairly minimal, at least until the final episode.  This story was originally conceived as a Dalek-less time-twisting story about an alternate future created as a result of a temporal paradox.  It was only later that Letts asked for the Daleks to be added as they took advantage of the time-travel shenanigans to invade Earth for a second time.  So really it's a time-travel story that includes the Daleks rather than a Dalek story that features time-travel.

Having the Daleks in the background actually works to their advantage as there were only three Dalek props used in the story.  Fine when you want a small committee of Daleks ruling over everything.  Not so good when you need an army to use in a big action sequence, as happens at the climax of the story.

It's also worth pointing out here that this is the last we will see of the Brigadier and the rest of UNIT until the end of the season.  Barry Letts and Terrance Dicks were increasingly frustrated at the hindrance of having the Doctor exiled to Earth and it was something that were keen to remove as soon as possible.  Consequently in this season we see the Doctor and Jo travelling the TARDIS in two out of the five stories.

The first of those trips takes place in 'The Curse of Peladon'.  Peladon is a medieval type world that is about to join the Galactic Federation (not to be confused the Federation of Star Trek or the Federation from Blake's 7).  A group of alien delegates is on Peladon to decide whether it will be allowed to join and the Doctor and Jo are mistaken for the Earth delegation.

Jo and King Peladon (played by David Troughton)

This is in essence a sort of whodunnit.  Someone wants to stop Peladon joining the Federation and is prepared to kill to do so. The Doctor is immediately suspicious of the Federation delegates from Mars, a.k.a. the Ice Warriors.  Given what we and the Doctor have seen of the Ice Warriors in their previous appearances  in the series, we're very much of the Doctor's side when he suspects them of causing trouble.  So it comes as a surprise to everyone, not least the Doctor, when it turns out that the Ice Warriors are the good guys here.  That said, given that the Doctor was so willing to give the Silurians the benefit of the doubt two years earlier, it seems strange that he's not a little more open-minded here and willing to do the same for the Ice Warriors.

The delegates from Earth, Alpha Centauri and Mars

I should also briefly mention one other character in this story, who has proven surprisingly popular amongst fans, the delegate from Alpha Centauri, or just Alpha Centauri for short.  Alpha is a brave attempt to create an alien who looks properly 'alien' - in other words they don't look even vaguely humanoid.  And it works for the most part.  Unfortunately, while it does look suitably unearthly, it also resembles a giant penis in a dress.  Which is unfortunate.  Luckily, Alpha's character and personality more than make up for these shortcomings and ensures that the character would return in future sequels.

'The Sea Devils' returns us to Earth and out to sea in 'The Sea Devils'.  This story marks the return of the Master who has imprisoned in a remote island fortress since he was captured at the end of the previous season.  He appears to be a changed  man although possibly his incarceration has started to affect his mind as can be seen here:

Or possibly he's just bored.

Anyway, not surprisingly the Master hasn't really turned over a new leaf and is working to re-awaken the Silurian's aquatic cousins, the Sea Devils.  It up to the Doctor to stop him but rather than bringing in the Brigadier and UNIT for assistance, the Doctor instead turns to Captain Hart of the Royal Navy for help.  And in many of the nautical scenes that really is members of the Navy you can see alongside the Doctor and Jo as the RN were more than happy to help out the production team in order to add some authenticity to proceedings.

A Sea Devil

The penultimate story of the season, 'The Mutants' sees the Doctor and Jo sent on another  mission for the Time Lords.  This time they're sent to the planet Solos to aid the indigenous population who going through strange mutations.  A nameless Marshall from Earth wants to remove these mutants and colonise the planet and the Doctor and Jo have to stop him from doing so.

A Mutant

Finally, we come to 'The Time Monster' which features the return of UNIT and the return of the Master who, in another of his cunning disguises is conducting time experiments in order to capture a powerful being called Kronos who feeds off time.

The Doctor and Jo look at the face of Kronos

It's difficult to sum up this story in a few words.  We have strange time experiments that cause people and objects from the past to be appear in the present and for Sergant Benton to be temporarily turned into a baby; two TARDISES materialising inside each other and the legends of the Minotaur and Atlantis all squeezed into six episodes.  It also has one of the worst looking TARDIS interiors in the history of the series and the story (and indeed the season) ends on a slightly surreal shot of a naked Benton.  So really the whole story has to be seen to be believed. 

The TARDIS's new pudding bowl theme

Perhaps fortunately, naked Benton wasn't the last that we saw of Doctor Who in 1972.  On 30th December the series returned for its tenth season and, by way of celebration, the opening story of that season was 'The Three Doctors'.  Only the first episode was shown in 1972 so I'll say nothing more until next time.

Benton - the final shot of Season 9

On Audio:  

1972 was that the year that the Doctor (or at least Jon Pertwee) entered the pop world.  Backed by the Doctor Who theme, Pertwee "does a Shatner" for his effort entitled 'Who is the Doctor'.  Or, to put it another way, he doesn't so much sing as speaks the lyrics.

And what lyrics they are!  This isn't your typical cheesy pop song that's for sure.  There's a lot of evocative imagery here with references to travelling 'the void beyond the mind' and using the 'sword of truth' to fight the 'Satanic power of the night'.  And, according to a recent Doctor Who Magazine article, the last verse seems to imply that the Doctor is in fact God.  Food for thought.

Incidentally, the video above is my favourite of the many that I've seen on You Tube which have been created to accompany the song.  I can't claim any credit for it though and must give due credit to Nintenpelican

In Print:

Besides the regular Annual, which made its return after a year's break, there was one other book of interest published in 1972 - 'The Making of Doctor Who' written by script editor Terrance Dicks and regular script writer Malcolm Hulke. Generally considered to be the first 'behind-the-scenes' book about the series (and I've no reason to doubt that) Dicks and Hulke do just that, with a particular focus on the making of 'The Sea Devils'.

In Comics: 

Countdown  decided to cash in on the return of the Daleks by producing back to back Dalek stories in the comic strip.  The first of these, 'Sub Zero', had the Daleks based at the South Pole, where they have been for hundreds of years, waiting for a suitable Earth weapon to be developed that they can use against the humans.  Why the Daleks should want to use human weapons rather than just invading using their own superior technology is a bit of a mystery, nevertheless they do end up in control of a nuclear submarine and use it to blow up Sydney, or at least the harbour bridge.  Fortunately the Doctor stops them before they can blow up any more landmarks.

By way of revenge the Daleks capture the Doctor and take him to the ' The Planet of the Daleks' (presumably Skaro, though its never named) where they attempt to turn him into a human Dalek.  Naturally they fail.

One thing to note in particular was that, part way through this story, Countdown underwent something of a transformation as it was renamed TV Action + Countdown.  What this meant for the comic strip is that it gained an extra page, namely the front cover.  Each week the main picture of the strip would be painted rather than simply drawn and inked.  This resulted in some quite impressive pieces of artwork from artist Gerry Haylock such as the following:

Of the other strip stories published in 1972, I must make reference to 'The Ugrakks'.  This is particulary notable because the Ugrakks themselves are the creation of TV Action reader Ian Fairington, who won a competition to design a new monster for the strip.  Such design-a-monster competitions had been done before, on Blue Peter back in the late Sixties but this was the first time the winner of such a competition would have their creation appear in an actual Doctor Who story.    

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