Sunday, 30 June 2013

The Doctor Who 50-50: Part 24 - 1985

On Screen

1985 saw the series return to its traditional Saturday evening slot, with just one episode broadcast each week as opposed to the two episodes that had been broadcast in the previous three seasons. There were a couple of changes though.  Most importantly, the number of episodes was cut from 26 to just 13. However the length of the episodes was increased from 25 minutes to 50.  So in terms of actual screen time, viewers weren't really missing out.

The Sixth Doctor's first season is so full of classic monsters and returning characters that you'd be forgiven for thinking that this was an anniversary year.  Or perhaps John Nathan-Turner feared that this might be the final season of the series and was using everything he could think of think to get people watching.  Whatever the reason, this season is bookended by the series' two most famous monsters - the Cybermen and the Daleks, we get the return of an old Doctor and companion, yet another meeting with the Master and the introduction of two new villains, both of whom would return in the future. 

The first story broadcast of this exciting season was 'Attack of the Cybermen'. This story was intended as a sequel of sorts to the Cybermen's debut, 'The Tenth Planet', as well as Second Doctor story 'Tomb of the Cybermen'.  The story is reasonably straightforward although at the time it was criticised for including a large number of references to the series' past. Cybermen from the future have captured a time machine and travelled from their adopted world of Telos (seen in 'Tomb of the Cybermen') to Earth in 1985 in order to prevent their original home world of Mondas from being destroyed. (as depicted in 'The Tenth Planet').  The Doctor, needless to say, stops them.

As well as the references to the two Cybermen stories mentioned above - neither of which had been repeated - there were also references to 'An Unearthly Child' (the TARDIS lands in the junkyard at Totters Lane for no particular reason) and to 'Resurrection of the Daleks' from the previous season.  Lytton, the mercenary character who was working for the Daleks in that story, reappears here and everyone assumes that he's working now for the Cybermen.  However things aren't quite what they seem and, in the end Lytton dies while helping to defeat the Cybermen, causing the Doctor to reflect that he might have mis-judged Lytton.

If all of this weren't enough we also have a subplot that sees the Doctor trying to fix the chameleon circuit on the TARDIS - and succeeding!  Sort of.  Instead of the familiar police box shape, the TARDIS in this story becomes, at various points, a old stove, a pipe organ and a pair of ornate iron gates.  By the end of the story, though, the circuit is broken again and the TARDIS is back to its usual shape.

The next story, 'Vengance on Varos', is somewhat ahead of its time as it tackles the subject of reality TV taken to extremes.  The people of Varos are poor and hungry and kept in check by something called the Punishment Dome.  Anyone who rebels against the government is thrown into the Dome to suffer and eventually die with the whole thing being screened on TV to the rest of the populace.

The Doctor and Peri arrive on Varos and, not surprisingly, end up in the Punishment Dome with Sean Connery's son.  They manage to escape and uncover one of the main cause's on Varo's poverty -  a slimy slug-like creature called Sil.

Sil is a great character, wonderfully brought to life by actor Nabil Shaban.  He's not really evil just amoral.  He's also a businessman rather than sort of insane megalomaniac that most Doctor Who villians are (see the very next story for proof of this).  Sil's mining company have consistently underpaid the Varosian government for a rare mineral, causing many of the planets current problems.  The Doctor helps the current Governor of Varos (played by King of Radio 4, Martin Jarvis) to turn the tables on Sil.

"Hello, I'm Martin Jarvis"

'Mark of the Rani' is up next, taking us back to the Industrial Revolution and a meeting with George Stephenson.  The story also sees the return of the Master, looking surprisingly well after being miniaturised and then burnt to a crisp in last season's 'Planet of Fire'.  The Master wants to exploit the Industrial Revolution and use it to take control of the Earth.

The Master isn't the only other Time Lord on Earth, however.  As well as the Doctor he also has to contend with the Rani, a female Time Lord who is on Earth conducting experiments on some miners.  Like Sil, the Rani isn't really evil as such.  She's certainly not in the same league as the Master.  The Rani is a scientist and is only interested in her experiments.  The problem is that she doesn't care about the effect that those experiments have on those around her.  For instance her experiments on the miners cause them to go crazy and start smashing machinery for no good reason.

The Rani with the Master

The Rani also has no time for either the Doctor or the Master nor their petty feud with one another.  In fact, she's quite happy to set the two of them at each other's throats while she gets on with her own work.

The Rani also has one of the most impressive TARDIS console rooms ever seen in the series.  At the end of the story she and the Master are trapped in her TARDIS being plagued by a Tyrannosaurus Rex (and if you want to know why, buy the DVD).

From two villainous Time Lords to 'The Two Doctors'.  The Second Doctor and Jamie return and meet up with the Sixth Doctor and Peri in the first multi-Doctor story that isn't an anniversary special. 

This story sees the Sixth Doctor and Peri travelling to Spain in the 1980s to aid the Second Doctor who has kidnapped by the Sontarans and their new allies, the food-obsessed Androgums.  In retrospect it's a bit of a shame that the two Doctors don't spend a great deal of time together, as this was to be Patrick Troughton's last appearance in the series.  As it is, the Sixth Doctor spends much of the story looking for his earlier self.  The few scenes they do spend together though are a lot of fun.

Fans of Blake's 7 will want to look out for Jacqueline Pearce in a guest role.  In Blake's 7 she played the somewhat OTT villainess Servalan.  Here she plays the slightly less OTT villainess Chessene, whose finest moment is getting on her hands and knees and licking the Doctor's blood (again, if you want to know why, get the DVD)

At this point I should mention 'A Fix with Sontarans'.  For those who don't know, this was a short scene specially filmed and shown during an edition of  a (now sadly infamous) TV show called 'Jim'll Fix It'.  One young boy called Gareth Jenkins wrote into this programme and said that he would love to play the Doctor in his own special Doctor Who story.  'A Fix with Sontarans' was the result. 

It was shown after episode 2 of 'The Two Doctors' and featured the Sixth Doctor, Tegan (Nicola Bryant was unavailable) and young Gareth (in a home-made Sixth Doctor costume) taking on two Sontarans, played by the same actors who played them in 'The Two Doctors'.  Sadly, thanks to the unsavoury actions of its presenter, 'Jim'll is a programme that most people prefer to forget.  But this scene is rather nice and worth checking out if you can find it.  

The Sixth Doctor and the Sixth and a half Doctor

'Timelash' is the penultimate story of the season and it's a story that is somewhat unpopular amongst many fans.  I think it's telling that even the Doctor Who official You Tube page, which has uploaded clips from every Sixth Doctor story, couldn't be bothered to include anything for Timelash. 

In this story, the Doctor and Peri visit the planet Karfel which is under the control of a creature called the Borad and where those who rebel are sentenced to the Timelash.  The Timelash sends people down a time corridor to hideous end.  Or, as it turns out, nineteenth century Scotland. 

Darrow in Timelash
Baker in Blake's 7
There are a couple of things worth watching this story for.  One is Paul Darrow - the second former Blake's Seben cast member in as many stories. Darrow played lead chracter Avon in Blake's 7 and Colin Baker was a guest in an episode of 'Blake's 7' back in 1980, playing a leather-clad psychopath called Bayban the Butcher.  Baker's performance in that episode was not exactly what you might call subtle.  Allegedly, when Paul Darrow was cast in 'Timelash', he decided to give a somewhat over the top performance of his own as a way of getting some payback for Baker's OTT performance on 'Blake's 7'. Whatever the reason, Darrow's performance in 'Timelash' is certainly worth watching. 

Also worth looking out for is the character of Hubert, whom the Doctor meets in nineteenth century Scotland when he travels down the Timelash.  Hubert is a writer and he travels back to Karfel with the Doctor and helps to defeat the Borad.  We don't learn Hubert's full name until the end of the story but given the he's travelled in a time machine and helped to stop a war of the worlds, it probably doesn't take a genius to work out that his name is H G Wells and that his adventure with the Doctor is the inspiration for some of his most famous novels. 

As promised, the season is rounded out by Daleks, specifically 'Revelation of the Daleks'.  In actual fact the Daleks stay very much in the background here, it's Davros who takes centre stage.  He's set himself up on the planet Necros as the Great Healer, the controller of Tranquil Repose, a funeral home for the very best in the galaxy.  What few people realise is that Davros is experimenting on the dead bodies and changing them into a new breed of Daleks.  The Doctor teams with a mercenary (yes, another one) to stop Davros and then some other Daleks turn up and arrest Davros for crimes against Dalek-kind.

Things to look out for here are guest appearances from Alexi Sayle as a DJ and Clive Swift, who in a few years time would go on to play Richard Bucket (pronounced 'Bouquet') in Keeping Up Appearances.  Also look out for the moment where Davros gets his hand shot off.  In a nice bit of continuity, when Davros appears in the 2008 episodes 'The Stolen Earth' and 'Journey's End' he has a new robotic hand as a replacement.

As the season ends the Doctor promises Peri a holiday.  But just as he's about to reveal the location the screen freezes and we launch into the end titles.  There was a reason for this.  The Doctor was to say 'Blackpool' which would have led into the opening story of the next season that would indeed have been set in Blackpool.  However, BBC 1 Controller Michael Grade had decided that the series needed a rest and put the series on 'hiatus'.  With no idea when the next series would air, plans for the next season were scrapped and the word 'Blackpool' was erased. 

On video, classic Tom Baker story 'Pyramids of Mars', Second Doctor and Ice Warriors adventure  'The Seeds of Death' and  Anniversary special The Five Doctors were all released.
In addition, the series of Myth Makers interview tapes continued with tapes featuring interviews with Nicholas Courtney (the Brigiadier), Carole Ann Ford (Susan), Janet Fielding (Tegan) and Nicola Bryant (Peri).

On Audio

With the programme being placed on hiatus and possibly facing the threat of cancellation, a group of fans decided to do something about it.  Seemingly inspired by Band Aid, a group of minor 80s pop stars and Doctor Who actors (including Colin Baker and Nicola Bryant) were brought together to record a song called 'Doctor in Distress'.  The song was a potted history of the series as well as a call for it to return.

It is completely awful.  The BBC refused to play it because of its poor quality and even it's co-writer and producer, Ian Levine, would later admit that it was terrible.

And here it is for your enjoyment:

Fortunately, there were some good things to come from Doctor Who's enforced absence from TV.  One of those things was 'Slipback', a radio drama starring Colin Baker and Nicola Bryant.  It was broadcast on Radio 4 in six 10-minute episodes during the Summer of 1985.

The story sees the Doctor and Peri arrive on board a spaceship where the ship's computer has a split personality that endangers everyone on board.  It's main guest star is Valentine Dyall (formerly the Black Guardian) who plays the ship's captain.  This was his last acting performance as he died in June 1985, shortly after recording the play and a month before it was aired on the radio.

Also, in 1985,Doctor Who the Music Volume II was released.  A sequel to 'The Music, released in 1983, this album included incidental music from the 1983 and 1984 TV stories.

In Print

The ongoing series of novelisations continued with books for 5 out of the 6 Doctors.  For the first Doctor, we had novelisations of two historicals: Marco Polo and The Myth Makers, both written by their original authors, John Lucarotti and Donald Cotton respectively.  Cotton's book is particularly noteworthy as it's the first book since 'The Daleks' to be written entirely in the first person.  It's narrated by Homer (the Greek poet not the Simpson) and it's also incredibly funny.

Second Doctor fans were treated to novelisations of The Invasion by Ian Marter and The Krotons by Terrance Dicks.  Dicks also novelised Third Doctor story The Mind of Evil and the final Fifth Doctor story, Caves of Androzani.  The other Fifth Doctor stories novelised this year were Planet of Fire and The Awakening.  Again both were written by the authors of the original TV stories, Peter Grimwade and Eric Pringle. 

The final novelisation of the year was 'The Two Doctors', written by Robert Holmes.  Not only was this the one and only novelisation written by Holmes it was also the 100th novelisation in the series.  One hundred down, only another 60 or so to go...

While on the subject of fiction, I should mention a unofficial novel written by Jean Airey called 'The Doctor and the Enterprise'.  This is, in case you didn't guess, a crossover between Doctor Who and Star Trek and sees the Fourth Doctor encountering Kirk, Spock et al.  

The Doctor Who Role-Playing Game was released in 1985. Or rather, the first attempt at a Doctor Who roleplaying game as there will be several over the years.  Various game books were released to tie in with this. 

There were a number of non-fiction books published this year.  There was a quiz book, the Doctor Who Cookbook  (including various Doctor Who themed recipes), as well as a Book of Science and a Book of Space.

The TARDIS Inside Out was written by John Nathan Turner and gave an overview of each of the Doctors, the actors who played them and the making of the series.  Nathan-Turner, having worked on the series in one role or another for many years included a number of his own personal anecdotes on making the programme. 

Also published this year was 'Timeview'.  This book focused on the artwork of Frank Bellamy.  Bellamy, amongst many other things, produced a lot of Doctor Who related artwork for the Radio Times during the 1970s.  His artwork was collected in this book with comments from his son, David.  And yes, that was David Bellamy, the famous botanist with the big beard who was on TV a lot during the 1980s.

Finally, we have the end of an era - at least for a while.  The final Doctor Who Annual was published this year, bringing a two decade tradition to an end.

In Comics and Magazines

The year began with the final part of 'Polly the Glot' in the Doctor Who Magazine comic strip.

 Previously in this story,we had discovered that the mad Time Lord Astrolabus was the President of the Save the Zyglot Foundation, a organisation that the Doctor was trying to help.  In this final part it emerges that Astrolabus is also controlling the people who are capturing the Zyglots in the first place.  Why?  That's not made entirely clear.  Perhaps it's just to attract the Doctor's attention.

Whatever the reason, when the Doctor and Frobisher confront him, Astrolabus kidnaps Frobisher and jumps into a 'magical cabinet'.  The Doctor takes off in hot pursuit leading into the next story, 'Once Upon a Time Lord'.

In this story, the Doctor tracks Frobisher down to a strange land where storybook characters seem to come to life.  It's very similar to the Land of Fiction seen on TV in 1968's 'The Mind Robber'  although it's not, as far as I can tell supposed to be the same place.

One thing I do like about this story is that it makes good use of the medium that it's published in.  Several pages for example are in the style of children's comics from the early 20th Century - using rhyming captions beneath the illustrations.

Having finally caught up Astrolabus, the Doctor discovers that the star charts that Voyager had ordered him to find (in last year's 'Voyager' strip you may remember) are actually tattooed all over Astrolabus's body.  With the star charts found, Voyager himself arrives, kills Astrolabus and sets the Doctor free.

The conclusion of 'Once Upon a Time Lord' also marks the end of Steve Parkhouse's time as writer of the Doctor Who comic strip.  After four years as writer and many acclaimed stories to his name, Parkhouse was going to difficult to follow.  Fortunately his replacement, Alan Mackenzie seemed to be up to the task.

The 100th issue of Doctor Who Magazine included the first part of the first Mackenzie-written comic strip story, 'War-Game'.  In this story, the Doctor and Frobisher land on a primitive world and make the acquaitance of an elderly Draconian called Kaon who crash landed on the planet.  They help him to rescue his daughter who has been kidnapped by a barbarian lord but Kaon is killed in the process.

The next story, 'Fun House' sees the TARDIS land inside what appears to be a living house that feeds off emotions.  After trying to scare the Doctor and Frobisher with illusions, the House then tries to use the TARDIS to turn itself into a time machine. The Doctor manages to turn back time and the TARDIS escapes the house.

This story sees the first appearance of Peri in the strip (and, indeed, the first appearance of any TV companion in the strip since K9).  Admittedly her appearance is only fleeting and she only appears as an illusion to trick the Doctor and Frobisher but it does pave the way for future appearances as a regular character.

The final full story of the year was a 4-part tale with each part given an individual title: 'Kane's Story', 'Abel's Story', 'The Warrior's Story' and 'Frobisher's Story'.

The story (or stories, depending on how you look at it) sees the a group of six being recruited to save the galaxy from the evil invading Skeletoids.The Doctor, Frobisher and Peri (who the Doctor picks up from Earth) are three members of this group.  The other three team members are scientist Professor Kane, Abel Ganz who is an expert in alchemy and has the power turn his body into any element and the Draconian Kaon whom the Doctor and Frobisher met in 'War-Game'.  The Kaon they meet here though is a younger version of the person they met previously, such is the way with time-travel. 

The final strip of the year was called 'Exodus'.  It was the first part of the 3-part story and this opening part acts as a prologue of sorts to the main story.  It sees the Doctor and his friends assisting a group of refugees from an alien world.  At the end of the strip, the Doctor decides to travel to the refugees' home world to investigate the situation there. 

Saturday, 15 June 2013

The Doctor Who 50-50: Part 23 - 1984

"I am the Doctor.  Whether you like it or not."
 - The Sixth Doctor, The Twin Dilemma

On Screen

Peter Davison's final season was once again shown twice-weekly.  It kicked off with 'Warriors of the Deep which saw the return of both the Silurians and the Sea Devils, last seen during the Pertwee era.  Set on an underwater sea base 100 years in the future, the Doctor, Tegan and Turlough have to help the crew of the sea base to defeat the Silurians and Sea Devils who are trying to start a nuclear war that will wipe out the human race.

 It's fair to say that 'Warriors of the Deep' is not a well-loved story, either by fans or those who worked on it.  By all accounts time was very tight during filming, even more so than normal.  A lot of the scenes had to be recorded in one take which made things rather fraught.  And then there's the Myrka.  

The Myrka was supposed to be a fearsome undersea monster, unleashed by the Sea Devils on the crew of the sea base.  In reality, it looked like a pantomime horse (and was, in fact operated, by the same men who operated Dobbin the pantomime horse in Rentaghost), the costume still had wet paint on it, which rubbed off on the set and the scent of the glue used to put the costume together was so strong that one of the operators almost got high from the smell of it. Overall not a great success. 

Fortunately, the next story 'The Awakening' was rather more successful.  The TARDIS crew travel to a small English village called Little Hodcombe to visit Tegan's grandfather.  They find a series of English Civil War  re-enactments taking place which is not really that unusual.  However those behind the re-enactments are under the mental control of a giant alien creature called the Malus.  The Malus crashed down to Earth hundreds of years earlier and was trapped beneath the village church. 

One of the highlights of the story, and an enduring image from when I first watched this as a youngster, is the sight of the giant head of the Malus trying to break out of the wall of the church.  

After defeating the Malus and spending some quality time with Tegan's grandfather, the TARDIS travels to the far future and a remote Earth colony called 'Frontios'.   As is implied by the title, Frontios is a frontier world where the colonists are struggling to survive.  They're not helped by the fact that they are under attack from giant woodlice-like creatures called Tractators who are able to control gravity.  

One of the enduring moments from this story is at the climax of episode 1 where the TARDIS is apparently destroyed leaving nothing but the hatstand left.  That in itself is unusual but stranger is to come as bits of the TARDIS are later found embedded within the underground caverns beneath the planets surface.  All of this is apparently the work of the Tractators but I have to confess that I'm not entirely clear as to how they did it, or indeed why.  Fortunately the Doctor is able to pull everything back together and the TARDIS is on its way once more...

...straight into a Dalek time corridor.  Yes, the Daleks are back in their first full story since 1979's 'Destiny of the Daleks'.  Rather appropriately the story is entitled 'Resurrection of the Daleks' although strictly speaking it should probably be called 'Resurrection of Davros'.  

A sequel of sorts to 'Destiny of the Daleks', 'Resurrection sees the Daleks attacking the prison ship that holds Davros and freeing him from imprisonment.  They want Davros to help create the cure to virus that is killing the Daleks.  Davros has other ideas though and instead creates his own little army of Daleks loyal to him rather than the Supreme Dalek that rescued him.  

The story ends with a big battle on present day Earth between two different factions of Daleks with the Doctor and his companions caught in the middle.  In the aftermath of the bloody battle, with both Daleks and Davros apparently disposed of, Tegan decides to stay on Earth having decided that travelling with the Doctor has stopped being fun. 

Two things to look out for in this story: the first is an early TV appearance by Leslie Grantham, who in a year's time would become famous as Dirty Den Watts in EastEnders.  Secondly, this story introduces us to the character of Lytton, an alien mercenary who is working for the Daleks.  He spends much of the story posing as a police officer on Earth alongside two silent but deadly henchmen disguised as constables.  These three men are the only characters other than the Doctor and his companions, to come out of this story alive and they will appear again. 

'Planet of Fire' sees the departure of two companions and the introduction of a new one.  "Two companions?" I hear you say, "but surely Tegan left in the last story?"  Indeed she did but you may have forgotten that Kamelion joined the TARDIS crew last year.  Certainly it seems like the production team did as this is his first, and indeed last, appearance since 'The King's Demons'.  
Kamelion is once again under the control of the Master who has inadvertently managed to miniaturise himself and needs Kamelion to restore him to his normal size.  Kamelion takes the TARDIS to the planet of Sarn to restore the Master.  Also along for the ride is a young American called Perpugilliam Brown. fortunately she goes by 'Peri' for short.

Meanwhile we learn something of Turlough's mysterious past.  He is from a planet called Trion and his family were apparently involved in some sort of rebellion against the leaders of that world.  Turlough was exiled to Earth while the rest of his family were sent to Sarn.  Here Turlough is reunited with his brother and decides to return home to face up to his actions.  Meanwhile, Kamelion is destroyed in a final confrontation with the Master.  
With Turlough and Kamelion both gone, Peri chooses to continue travelling with the Doctor.  But they have barely got to know each other before they head off to the planet Androzani Minor for Peter Davison's final story, 'The Caves of Androzani'.  


This story is classed as one of the best Doctor Who stories ever.  It's certainly the best regeneration story.  Less than five minutes in to the story both the Doctor and Peri are poisoned and it becomes a race against time to save their lives.  They two of them are thrust into the midst of a war between the Androzani military, who want access to a rare drug mined in the caves, and the android army of Sharez Jek, a physically and mentally scarred genius who wants to keep the drug to himself. 

For once, the Doctor has no interest in aiding either one side or the other.  Though drawn into their struggle, his only interest is finding a cure and saving both himself and Peri.  Of all the other characters the Doctor encounters in this story, only the mad Sharez Jek has any interest in aiding the Doctor and that's only because Jek is attracted to Peri. 

The Doctor does eventually find an antidote to the poison that is killing himself and Peri but there's only enough of it for one.  Giving the antidote to Peri, the Doctor waits for the inevitable...

Ordinarily a regeneration story would mark the end of the current season, however for only the second time in the series' history the Doctor regenerates part-way through the season.  The only other time this had occurred was back in 1966 when William Hartnell changed into Patrick Troughton.  

This meant that we had one full story with the Sixth Doctor to round out the season.  That story was 'The Twin Dilemma' and, in pretty much every way you can think of (including fan appreciation) is about as far from 'Caves of Androzani' as you can get.

The story sees the Doctor and Peri investigating the abduction of genius twin brothers, Romulus and Remus, whose intellect is being used for nefarious.  But to be honest the story is best remembered for two reasons.  First of all, we get the first on-screen appearance of the Sixth Doctor's infamous costume which, once seen is impossible to forget.  More importantly this is the story that the sees the newly-regenerated Doctor attempt to kill his companion.  

The picture says it all: the Doctor strangles Peri and although his mental instability is explained as being a result of the regeneration, the whole thing is still inexcusable and  does the character no favours at all.  In fact, the Sixth Doctor is only marginally more likable at the end of the story than he was at the start (a deliberate choice by the production team) and it probably left a number of viewers less than enthusiastic about the next season.  

Meanwhile, on video, Revenge of the Cybermen was given a re-release, this time with the correct Cyberman on the cover.  Another Fourth Doctor story,  'The Brain of Morbius' was also released but there were concerns about it being too horrific so about half an hour of the story was edited out.  It was also released on LaserDisc.

Also released in 1984 were the first two videos in a fan-produced series called 'Mythmakers'  The 'Mythmakers' were a  long-running series of interview videos which would feature an extensive interview with those who made Doctor Who: from the actors to writers and directors.  The first two subjects to be interviewed were Michael Wisher (the actor who first played Davros) and John Leeson, the voice of K9.

On Audio

Nothing at all, as far I know, this year.

In Print

The novelisations once again focused heavily on the Fifth Doctor but there were also books for the first three Doctors published.  For the Fifth Doctor, 'Mawdryn Undead', 'Kinda', 'Snakedance', 'Enlightenment', 'Warriors of the Deep' and 'Frontios' all received the novelisation treatment.  Of these, Terrance Dicks novelised 'Kinda', 'Snakedance' and 'Warriors of the Deep' while the others were written by their original television authors.  For the other Doctors, John Lucarotti novelised his scripts for First Doctor story 'The Aztecs' while Gerry Davies did the same for the Second Doctor's 'The Highlanders'.  Ian Marter novelised another Second Doctor story, 'The Dominators' and Terrance Dicks novelised Third Doctor story 'Inferno' in what was one of his best books in years. 

The follow-up to 1983's successful 'A Celebration' was published.  Again written by Peter Haining, 'The Key to Time', like it predecessor, covered the history of the programme, this time focusing on key dates from the series' production.

Moon Boots & Dinner Suits - Jon Pertwee became the first of the Doctors to release an autobiography.  The intriguingly named 'Moon Boots and Dinner Suits' focused on Pertwee's early life and career prior to Doctor Who and was highly acclaimed at the time.  It's been out of print for many years but in 2013 was republished for the first time.  By all accounts this was intended to be just the first volume of Pertwee's life but a sequel wouldn't be seen for many years.

Amongst the miscellaneous book released in 1984 were a book of Brain Teasers & Mind-Benders and the Doctor Who Patten Book, a collection of knitting and sewing patterns of all sorts of Who related items including knitted figures and a Fifth Doctor cricket jumper. Finally, as ever, the latest Doctor Who Annual was published, the first to include the Sixth Doctor on the cover

In Comics

The Fifth Doctor's era came to an end in the comic strip at around the same time as it did on TV.  The final comic strip story was called 'The Moderator' and introduced a character would return a few times over the years to plague the Doctor. His name is Josiah Dogbolter, giant alien frog and ruthless businessman.  

Dogbolter is clearly influenced by Baron Greenback from Dangermouse (his address is even given as being in Greenback Bay, at one point)  but is not the comedy villain that Greenback is.  When the Doctor and Gus disrupt one of mining operations, which is using slave labour, Dogbolter sends a bounty hunter (the Moderator of the title) to kill them.  However, Gus sacrifices himself to save the Doctor's life

This storyline carries over to the first of the Sixth Doctor strips, titled 'The Shape Shifter'.  Incidentally, this issue of the Doctor Who Magazine (issue 88) was also the first to feature Colin Baker on the cover, complete with the tag line 'Colin Baker is the Doctor'.  

'The Shape Shifter' not only sees the return of Josiah Dogbolter, whom the Doctor is looking to teach a lesson to, but also introduces us to a new companion, quite unlike any the Doctor has had before. Frosisher is the shape-shifter of the title.  He also happens to be a private eye who ends up teaming with the Doctor to steal a large amount of money from Dogbolter.  Mission accomplished, Frobisher chooses to stick around for a while.  

The next story, 'Voyager' sees the Doctor and Frobisher (who has chosen to stay in the form of a penguin "for personal reasons") encounter another renegade Time Lord called Astrolabus.  He's completely mad and very, very eccentric.  He's also on the run after stealing some ancient star charts from a powerful, almost god-like being called Voyager.  Voyager gives the Doctor the task of finding Astrolabus and returning his missing star charts.  This is a story arc that will continue over the next couple of stories.


The final strips published in 1984 were the first two parts of 'Polly the Glot', which saw the return of Professor Ivan Asimoff, last seen in Fourth Doctor strip 'The Free-fall Warriors'.  'Polly the Glot' is a humorous tale which sees the Doctor and Frobisher help the Professor to save an endangered species from being hunted down by the dullest alien race in the galaxy.  But things take a darker turn when it appears that Astrolabus is posing as the President of the charity that's trying to save the endangered species.

Tuesday, 4 June 2013

The Doctor Who 50-50: Part 22 - 1983

"You mean you're deliberately choosing to go on the run from your own people, in a rackety old TARDIS?"
 "Why not?  After all, that's how it all started."
 - Tegan and the Doctor, The Five Doctors

On Screen

The 20th Anniversary was here!  The new season of the series began in January and was again shown twice weekly rather than in its usual Saturday slot.  Being the 20th season, John Nathan Turner had decided that each story of the season should include some element of the Doctor's past.

The first story, 'Arc of Infinity' saw the return of 10th Anniversary villain Omega who was once again trying to break back into our Universe.  He succeeds too, creating a new body for himself that resembles the Doctor.  However his body breaks down after being chased  through Amsterdam and he's sent back where he came from.

Two Doctors?
Another return from the more recent past is Tegan who turns up in Amsterdam, having lost her job.  There she meets up again with the Doctor and Nyssa and rejoins the TARDIS crew.  One other appearance of note is a guest performance by one Colin Baker, playing a Gallifreyan guard captain who ends up shooting the Doctor.  Colin, who later in 1983, was officially announced as Peter Davison's replacement has often remarked in interviews that is the only actor who played the Doctor that appeared previously in the series in a different role.  He was also the only Doctor actor who ever got the chance to shoot his predecessor!

Tegan returns just in time for the next story 'Snakedance', which sees not only the return of the Mara (last seen in 'Kinda') but an early TV appearance for Martin Clunes, whose rather sinister performance is somewhat undermined by his very 80s, not-so-sinister appearance.

Martin Clunes - not at all camp

Following 'Snakedance' comes a trilogy of stories that have been retrospectively referred to as 'The Black Guardian Trilogy'.  Perhaps not surprisingly, this trilogy features the return of the Black Guardian who, if you recall, had been trying to hunt the Doctor down since the end of the Key to Time Season in 1979.

As the Guardians don't get physically involved with events, the Black Guardian enlists the aid of someone to kill the Doctor.  That someone is the enigmatic and not entirely trustworthy Turlough, a young alien who has been sent to Earth for reason as yet unclear.  Turlough agrees to help the Guardian kill the Doctor in return for being able to return home.

As we discover in the first story of this trilogy, 'Mawdryn Undead', Turlough is also a student at a private boy's school where one of the teachers in none other than Brigadier Lethbridge Stewart, now retired from UNIT.  However the Brigadier is suffering from amnesia and can remember nothing of the time he spent with the Doctor fighting monsters.  Fortunately the Doctor, with the aid of a clip montage, is able to jog the Brigadier's memory.

The Doctor and the Brig reunited
Turlough aids the Doctor and the Brigadier in dealing with a spaceship full of 'undead' aliens who want to take the Doctor's regeneration energies and use it so that they themselves can finally die.  In the process, the Brigadier meets himself from 6 years in the past (it's all a bit complicated to explain), a meeting which results in the 'younger' Brigadier suffering the amnesia that his older counterpart was suffering from when the Doctor encountered him.  Like I said, it's complicated.

Having impressed the Doctor, Turlough joins the TARDIS crew (much to disappointment of Nyssa and Tegan who don't trust him), still with the intention of killing the Doctor.  Unluckily for him, he doesn't much of a chance to follow through in the next story, 'Terminus'.  On the Black Guardian's orders, he tries to destroy the TARDIS only to cause it to land on a spaceship full of sick people suffering from a deadly disease.  He and Tegan then spend much of the story trapped beneath the floors of the ship, doing very little. 

Nyssa, on the other hand, contracts the disease that is killing everyone else on the ship and, once she has found a cure, chooses to stay behind to help those that are still suffering.

Nyssa decides to leave

The final part of the 'Black Guardian' trilogy, 'Enlightenment', takes the Doctor, Tegan and Turlough to what appears to be an Edwardian sailing ship.  The truth is revealed is what is one of my favourite episode cliffhangers.

The 'ships' are all crewed by Eternals who are immortal beings who seems to have nothing better to do than to come with entertaining diversions like racing each other across space.  One of their number is, like Turlough, an agent of the Black Guardian and it's at this point that Turlough realises the error of his ways.  He turns on the Black Guardian and finally sides with the Doctor.

With the Guardian finally defeated, the TARDIS travels to 13th Century England and the court of King John in the final story of the season, 'The King's Demons'.  Here, the blast from the past in none other than the Master, once again in one of his pointless disguises.  Here's he trying to prevent the signing of the Magna Carta, for no particular reason.  To do this he is using a robot called Kamelion, which is capable of changing shape, to impersonate King John and generally cause trouble.

What's interesting about Kamelion is that, rather than being played by a man in a robot suit, Kamelion is in fact a genuine remote controlled robot -  a more sophisticated version of K9.  For some reason John Nathan Turner thought it would be a good idea to make Kamelion a companion.  So, in this story, the Doctor breaks the Master's hold over Kamelion and takes him off in the TARDIS along with Tegan and Turlough.

Unfortunately, Kamelion was very limited in what he could do.  He couldn't for example walk at all.  So although he officially joins the TARDIS crew here don't expect to see much of him in the future.

That was it for Season 20 but not for the 20th Anniversary.  In November of 1983 came the anniversary story against which all seem to be judged: 'The Five Doctors'.  Or 'Three Doctors, one stand-in and a no-show'.

The intention was to bring all five Doctors together for one big showdown on Gallifrey but with William Hartnell no longer with us, the First Doctor had to be re-cast.  Richard Hurndall puts on a great performance but he's no William Hartnell.  Furthermore, Tom Baker had chosen not to appear although he did appear briefly in scenes that were originally filmed for the aborted story, 'Shada'.

Those Doctors who did appear were all teamed up with various companions from the past (Susan, the Brigadier, Sarah Jane and of course Tegan and Turlough) and made face off against the various monsters and traps in Gallifrey's Death Zone before travelling to the tomb of Time Lord founder Rassilon where misguided President Borusa is trying to claim immortality for himself.

Packed full of Doctors, companions, monsters and other nods to the past, 'The Five Doctors' doesn't really stand up to much scrutiny as a story but is a still a lot of nostalgic fun.  Anniversary stories don't come much more fun than this.

On the video front, 1983 saw the first video release of a Doctor Who TV story.  They story chosen for the debut release was the 1975 Tom Baker story: 'Revenge of the Cybermen'.  Notably the cover of this video included a photograph of the wrong type of Cyberman.  Rather than depicting a Cyberman that actually appeared in the story, the cover instead shows the more modern Cyberman as seen in 'Earthshock'.  Later editions of the video would have a new cover featuring the correct type of Cyberman.

As well as being the first official video release, 'Revenge of the Cybermen' also had the honour of being the first Doctor Who LaserDisc release.  For those too young to remember, a LaserDisc was like a larger version of a DVD.  LaserDisc players first appeared commercially in the late 1970s but never really took off in a big way.  That said, LaserDiscs were still available up to around 2000 and 'Revenge..' was the first of several Doctor Who releases throughout the 80s and 90s.


On Audio

The main release of note was 'Doctor Who: The Music'.  This album featured incidental music from throughout the series's 20 year history. That said, most of the music actually comes from the late Tom Baker and Peter Davison eras (in other words: the 1980s) and virtually nothing from the 1960s and 1970s at all.

Also released (or rather re-released) in 1983 was Jon Pertwee's 1970s classic 'Who is the Doctor.'

In Print

The novelisations were dominated by Fifth Doctor releases in 1983.  Indeed, the only non-Fifth Doctor book was 'Meglos', written by Terrance Dicks.  The other releases this year were: 'Time-Flight' (by Peter Grimwade), 'Castrovalva' (written by Christopher H Bidmead), 'Earthshock' (written by Ian Marter), 'Terminius' (by original TV writer Stephen Gallagher writing under the pseudonym John Lydecker), and 'Four to Doomsday', 'Arc of Infinity' and 'The Five Doctors' all novelised by Terrance Dicks.

'The Five Doctors' is somewhat special in that it is the first novelisation of a TV story to be released before said story is actually shown on TV.  The book was released two weeks early meaning that fans who couldn't wait to see it on TV could pick it up in their local WH Smiths and read the whole thing.  It's perhaps just as well there was no Internet in those days or we's have had spoilers all over the place.

The big anniversary book was the appropriately titled 'A Celebration', written by Peter Haining.  This large hardcover book was indeed a celebration of the entire series, detailing the history of the programme up to the end of Season 20, and including contributions from many of those involved with the making of the series.  So well did this book sell, that Peter Haining would end up writing another three such books over the next few years.

 Two of the more intriguing books of the year were 'The Doctor Who Who Technical Manual' and 'The Unfolding Text'.  The former was essentially a collection of blueprints and illustrations of many of the devices and robots that appeared in the series, including the TARDIS, K9 and the recently departed sonic screwdriver.  We also got see what the inside of a Dalek really looks like. 'The Unfolding Text', is a very different book.  Written by two university lecturers, Professor John Tulloch and Manuel Alverado, this was the first serious academic study of the programme.   Probably not a book for the average fan at the time.

In other book news, Target realeased a number of new Quiz books, there was the latest Annual and Peter Davison lent his face and name to another book of non-Doctor Who related short stories, this time one about Alien Planets.  

In Comics & Magazines 

Just as it had done in 1973, the Radio Times released a 20th Anniversary Special magazine.  This provided an overview of the series, the Doctors, the companions and the monsters.  It also included a short story, 'Birth of a Renegade', written by script editor Eric SawardIt featured the Fifth Doctor, Tegan and Turlough going up against the Cybermen and the Master and being reunited with Susan.  It also purports to give an explanation for the Doctor's decision to leave Gallifrey and provides a back story for Susan - albeit one that has been contradicted since then.

For Doctor Who Monthly, it was pretty much business as usual in 1983.  The magazine managed to obtain interviews with, amongst others, Patrick Troughton and the elusive Jackie Lane, who had played companion Dodo in the Sixties.  In issue 83 (dated December 1983, published November) they ran an interview with Heather Hartnell, the widow of the late William.

The magazine also played a somewhat cruel April Fool's joke on it readers.  The magazine ran an article in its May issue (published in April, of course) stating that John Nathan Turner had discovered footage from a partially filmed but never completed William Hartnell Doctor Who story.  JNT apparently was going to use this old footage and combine it with new specially filmed scenes featuring Peter Davision to create a brand new story featuring the First and Fifth Doctors.  Filming, it was said, was due to commence on 1 April...Needless to say, it was all a load of rubbish although people still wrote into DWM years later asking about what had happened with this story.

The comic strip saw the return of Time Lord agent Shayde in the second half of 'The Stockbridge Horror' as he assists the Doctor in defeating the Elemental creature.  The Doctor is then taken prisoner by his fellow Time Lords and is put on trial as it transpires that the very existance of the Elemental creature is his own fault.

Having successfully defended himself, the Doctor takes his leave of Stockbridge and travels to a remote island in the Pacific Ocean for some fishing in the next story, 'Lunar Lagoon.'  There he finds himself captured by a Japanese soldier and caught up in a raid by the US Airforce.  The story introduces a new companion for the Doctor, American fighter pilot Gus who was shot down over the island.  With no other way to leave he island he agrees to travel with the Doctor.

What's interesting about this story is that, despite the fact that it appears the Doctor has landed in the midst of World War Two, it transpires that he's arrived in 1963 in an alternate timeline where the War didn't end in 1945.  This is further expanded upon the next story, '4-Dimensional Vistas'.  This story sees the Doctor and Gus encounter the Meddling Monk (last seen on TV way back in 1967 if you recall) who is helping the Ice Warriors to build a huge sonic weapon.  It's the Monk that has caused the time anomalies.  The Doctor puts a stop to both the Monk and the Ice Warriors by shunting them into another dimension.


I haven't really mentioned Doctor Who conventions in this overview, mostly because there have been so many over the years that it would be near impossible to list them all.  The 20th Anniversary Convention in Longleat, though, is worth a mention not least because it was one of the biggest Doctor Who events to take place in the UK.

I was too young to attend the event myself but from what I've read of those who did attend, the Longleat event was to Doctor Who what Woodstock was to music.  But presumably with less drug taking.

The event was expected to draw 50,000 people over the two days but 37,000 turned up on the first day alone.  Many people had to be turned away and the roads around Longleat were apparently brought to a standstill.

Those who did get there got to experience, props and costume display, including whole sets from the recently filmed 'Five Doctors', screenings of classic stories, loads of merchandise to be bought and, of course the talks and signing sessions from a wide variety of guests.  All four surviving Doctors were there - even Tom Baker - and many of the companions and other guest actors were present as well.

Though there have been many, many Doctor Who conventions over the years, none has been bigger than the Longleat event.