Doctor Who and The Green Death

The Green Death

article-2283542-007243BB00000258-768_306x423Story 069
Written by Robert Sloman (and Barry Letts), directed by Michael E. Briant
Transmitted:19 May 1973 – 23 June 1973

“So… the fledgling has flown the coop.”

There are deaths occurring in the abandoned coal mines of Llanfairfach in South Wales where out of work miners are straining to get by. Enticed by Global Chemicals with a new standard of living, they have little choice but to accept an offer that will nonetheless poison their land. A lone crusader has created a society of drop out geniuses to not only strike back at Global Chemicals and demand a better way of living but think up new less-destructive ways to live. For once, the Doctor is the odd man out and only reluctantly launches into action after his companion Jo is in danger.

When I was first watching Doctor Who, the Pertwee era held no interest for me. Dated and far too action oriented with soldiers and make believe karate, it was far removed from the Gothic horror of the Baker era or the hard science of the 80’s. It took me many years to understand and accept the Pertwee era and learn the genius and novelty of what Barry Letts and Terrance Dicks had created. While his first year (a landmark golden series) is very much influenced by Quatermass, it is the three years that followed that saw a foray into fantasy and the kind of high adventure more commonly seen in comic strips.

The Third Doctor was an anti-establishment character working hand-in-hand with the government out of necessity. Time and again, the Brigadier had to struggle to accept the Doctor’s holistic and more universal view and the Doctor in his turn met the immovable might of military bureaucracy. I had long misunderstood this era as the Doctor (a character I had long thought of as a pacifist) working with the military as going against everything the program stood for. But contrary to my misunderstanding, this era is all about finding a middle ground, about working amid differences.

Given that producer Barry Letts was a follower of Buddhism and Terrance Docks was a conservative who seemed more interested in contemporary science, it is no wonder that this five year period was so inventive and full of importance.
Doctor_Who_and_the_Green_Death
While the Tom Baker years are more commonly remembered as being the most popular time for Doctor Who, it was the Pertwee years that made it a household name. Green Death’s opening episode alone saw viewing figures over 11 million! The mixture of the fantastic and the every day with Pertwee as the lead actor was a magical combination.

It is clear in the Green Death that there is something more dangerous than simple radioactive waste causing the deaths. As the Doctor and the Brigadier attempt to free Jo from the mines, it becomes clear that some less traditional methods are called for. By collaborating on a bit of piracy, Professor Jones and the Doctor manage to find a way in, only to encounter the true horror of the impact that the waste is having, piloting a discarded railway car through tunnels of sludge filled with giant maggots. Meanwhile the Brigadier finds that he can do nothing against Global Chemicals even while the audience can see the villainous acts of the executive staff, seemingly under the control of the master computer called B.O.S.S. The United Nations, under pressure to find cheap alternative fuel sources are reluctant to look too deeply into how Global Chemicals operates, even as the monsters escape the mines and strike out at the countryside.

Alongside the high drama and outlandish horror of the maggots and the evil computer, Professor Jones seems to have the answer, a slow path to progress using natural means. It is by no means a quick or easy solution as Global Chemicals (and in fact, the British Government) want, but it is a noble one. A far-reaching and bold move against the odds, the Doctor cannot help but be impressed by Jones’ fortitude. The Doctor once more plays the hero against the weird creepy monsters that made such an impact that it stuck with viewers for years as ‘the one with the maggots,’ but the deeper message was far more important. Our world is headed toward self-destruction and it may be that only forward thinking dreamers may hold the solutions.

For all of its soap boxing on environmentalism and the dangers of big business dehumanizing the planet, this is a story about the end of an era… and it’s a pretty major one. The Doctor started his exile in Earth as a reluctant member of U.N.I.T. After the arrival of Jo Grant, he softened, growing quite fond of the human race and his place in it. Moreover, despite her bravery, forthrightedness and resourcefulness, Jo Grant was a bumbling dingbat, constantly requiring the Doctor’s help in getting her out of trouble. This greatly fed the Doctor’s ego, making him every bit the wizard that he appeared to be. The Brigadier respected the Doctor, but Jo seemed to need him to cross a busy street.

From the beginning, we see Dr Jones as an angry young man who is not complacent to stand and watch the world go down the tubes. A brilliant scientist and charismatic leader, Jones uses his scientific skills not to fight weird alien invaders but to make the world a better place. It’s no wonder that Jo is attracted to him and that a romance blossoms (she’d had several near-romances leading up to Green Death), but I refuse to view Jones as a replacement for the Doctor because it is not romance that causes Jo to leave the Doctor, it’s maturity.

At the opening of The Green Death, the Doctor is engrossed with the prospect of traveling to Metebelis 3 where beauty and wonder await. Yet he fails to hear Jo’s equally string desire to visit the ‘Nut Hatch’ and join in Professor Jones’ movement. Frivolous adventure no longer appeals to her, she wants to make a contribution and that is the heart of this story. Maturity winning out over the juvenile joy of action and fantasy.

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By the close of the Green Death, the supporting cast of the Nut Hatch and U.N.I.T. have become so closely knit that they are having a small party celebrating their success. Jo has a real life ahead of herself and no longer needs to be protected by the Doctor. He serves no real purpose in her life now that the allure of his wizard-like personality has become familiar. But the real sadness is that the Doctor is forever the outsider. He cannot join in the party. No matter how much he has become comfortable among humanity… he is not human at all. He is a fantastic adventurer and cannot have a pedestrian life. It is his curse and his strength. In the following story, the Time Warrior, this is explored (briefly) as he reclaims his status as the man of action and magical solutions against a threat from the stars striking from the past.

But the closing moments of The Green Death featuring the Doctor driving off into the early night alone are rather sobering and a harsh reminder that while he may be the eternal champion of the good and the just, he is also a wanderer in the space and time, and any companions that may accompany him on this journey are temporary, He is adrift in the cosmos, a solitary traveler and defender of the innocent, without a home.

DrWho_TheGreenDeath_Farewell

Recommended:

Doctor Who: The Green Death (Story 69) Special Edition

Doctor Who: Spearhead from Space (Story 51) Blu-ray Edition

Doctor Who: The Doctors Revisited 1-4

OUTSIDE IN: 160 New Perspectives on 160 Classic Doctor Who Stories by 160 Writers

Doctor Who – Inferno

‘Inferno’

Story 054
Written by Don Houghton, directed by Christopher Barry (and Barry Letts)
Transmitted 9 May – 20 June 1970

As fossil fuels dwindle, the human race of the near future finds itself in dire need of alternate fuel resources. Professor Stahlman has found a nearly unlimited and untapped source of power hidden just underneath the planet’s crust that he has dubbed ‘Stahlman’s gas.’ The British government theorizes that it could provide the country with independence from foreign oil and set the nation as a world power once more, Unfortunately for all, the forces that Stahlman is tapping into are far more than anyone realizes and threaten to reduce the planet to atoms after reducing the population into mindless monsters.

Project Inferno falls under the protection of U.N.I.T. and the Doctor has been especially called in for his expert opinion, much to Stahlman’s displeasure. He seems to be inundated with a sea of specialists and advisers who cannot understand that this is his project to run as he pleases. Stahlman happens to be running it like a labor camp and refuses to listen to an expert pulled from an oil rig in Kuwait, the hard-nosed Greg Sutton, when it is pointed out that at the rate it is running, the rig will explode from shear stress.

The Doctor, anxious to get his TARDIS working again, is leeching off some of the installation’s power to run a few tests on the console which he has somehow removed from the TARDIS interior. The tests prove eventful but dangerous, as the Doctor finds himself traveling not in time and space, but into another dimension. In this other realm, things are similar yet completely different. Project Inferno exists in the parallel world, but is far more advanced thanks to the precision of a Fascist regime overlooking the entire country.

Not only must the Doctor get back to his own reality, he must attempt to save not one world but two from total annihilation.


Inferno falls at the tail end of the eventful seventh series of Doctor Who that saw the program endure several changes and narrowly escape from the jaws of cancellation. The arrival of a new actor in the title role, comedic actor Jon Pertwee was accompanied with vibrant color and a new status quot hearkening back to one of the biggest inspirations on Doctor Who, the Quatermass Experiment. Exiled on Earth, the Doctor defended the population from strange threats alongside a branch of the military called U.N.I.T. No longer was the Doctor a cosmic hobo, he was transformed into a daring and dashing adventurer. The stories were more sophisticated and the dangers less fantastic. It was a new age for Doctor Who.

As a finale, Inferno often gets overlooked in favor of other stories such as Spearhead from Space (one of my all time faves) and the Silurians. As series seven consists almost entirely of seven part stories, it is a hard slog to get through for a modern viewer, but I cannot stress enough how vital this period is for the program. Inferno is commonly viewed as an alternate reality story with Nazis and werewolves but there’s a lot to love about this adventure that make it a classic not to be missed.

For one thing, the stunt work, cinematography and music are amazing. The tune that plays while the Doctor narrowly steers Bessie away from a hail of gunfire in the alternate reality is just incredible. The shots acquired on top of the oil refinery and along its exterior alleys are very good and present a solid world for the story to take place in rather than a quarry or sound stage. Finally, the climactic death scene of a primord plummeting to his death is stunning even by today’s standards, especially when one realizes that a few cardboard boxes were the only things breaking the fall!

At this point on the program, Jon Pertwee and Caroline John had developed a strong rapport. As his assistant Liz Shaw, John was clever, courageous and not afraid to speak her mind when she knew better. In many ways she grounded the Doctor and called him out as the tinkerer that he often was. For instance, with the knowledge of time travel removed from his mind, the Doctor might as well have been randomly pressing buttons on the TARDIS console, and Liz suspected that this was the case.

As the situation deteriorates in Project Inferno with Stahlman refusing to observe safety precautions, a strange liquid infects one of the staff, transforming him into a primeval beast intent on killing and destroying anything it comes across. The setting of the oil refinery is absolutely splendid and grants a certain kind of legitimate danger and thrill to the production. While he is famous for his love of action and military background, Pertwee was deathly afraid of heights, yet he dared filming scenes in nail-biting altitudes in order to maintain believability.

Just four stories into to the third Doctor’s era, the character in this story is still very much an outsider who would jump at the first chance to escape his life on Earth. When Stahlman refuses to listen to his warnings, he dismisses the matter out of pique and decides instead to tinker with his machinery. This is rather surprising since one would expect the Doctor to halt any attempt to bring about Armageddon, but he seems content to give up and let Stahlman prove how wrong he is. After all, this is not his race, time or planet. As such, it is necessary for the Doctor to travel to a similar yet different reality to learn the importance of human life and the role that he plays in defending it.

The Doctor endures a series of humiliations as he mistakes individuals that he knew as friends only to find that in this parallel world they are enemies. By today’s standards the execution is a bit too pat, with the ‘evil’ Professor Stahlman wearing sunglasses and a high collared white uniform like some missing Bond villain, but you can’t deny the dramatic impact that the situation has on the Doctor.

Ordinarily it’s the Doctor who holds all the answers and is relied upon to save the day, but in this case he is called out as a crackpot and ignored until it is too late and the world goes up in flames. So great is the horror of this experience, that he later relives it in the Mind of Evil when confronted with his greatest fears.

The parallel world is filled with jack-booted soldiers marching along to a totalitarian government where one is a cog in a grander machine rather than an individual. This is a common enough theme that pops up in other classic stories such as Genesis of the Daleks, but it is the fact that familiar characters are twisted into this world that makes it so effective. Seeing the Brigadier transformed not just into a eye-patch wearing baddie but a devious cowardly bully is both sad and terrifying. When the evil Brigade Leader learns that his planet actually is going to be over-run by primeval creatures then explode, he nearly collapses into a child with a gun, threatening everyone in hopes that he can somehow survive.

In sharp contrast, both the alternate Liz Shaw and Greg Sutton rise to the occasion and help the Doctor escape to warn the alternate Earth, even though it means that they will still die in the conflagration. The story seems to be saying something about strength of character, but I shudder to think what this could mean for Lethbridge-Stewart. Is he just an eye patch and false mustache away from becoming a maniac??

Once the Doctor arrives back in his true reality, the story kind of circles around waiting to conclude. It’s an unfortunate side-effect of telling the same story from different angles. We know that the Doctor will succeed and we already know what he is up against, so there is some drop in dramatic tension there. As director Douglas Camfield fell ill from heart troubles, Barry Letts was called in to take over for the remainder which mainly features lots of dry ice and green-skinned irradiated werewolves.

That said, it actually does get dicey when the installation is over-run with beasties and the klaxons are blaring a warning that is far too late. The Doctor defuses the situation and, with Sutton’s help, stops the drilling thereby saving humanity.


The following year would see still more change as a new companion, recurring villain and change in pace arrived, making Doctor Who into more of a comic book superhero than a daring adventurer. This meant that the Cambridge-educated Liz Shaw had to go, a loss that is still grieved by many fans as she was finally a voice of reason and intelligence (albeit dressed on jackboots and a mini-skirt). As it happens, Caroline John was pregnant during the period and could not have returned in any case, but she still bears a grudge for being called ‘too clever by half’ by script editor Terrance Dicks.

Nevertheless, Inferno marked the end of an era when the Doctor was an alien among humans, working to save a people that he didn’t relate to, defending the entire planet from doom with nothing more than a vintage roadster and nerves of steel (and a sonic screwdriver). I have the fondest regards for the seventh series and think of it as one of the many Golden Eras of the program. Next year will see the release of the Ambassadors of Death and the series will be complete, allowing fans to finally re-live a time when Doctor Who was struggling back to its place as a national institution watched by families everywhere, either alongside each other or from behind the sofa.

Buy Doctor Who: Spearhead from Space

Buy Doctor Who and The Silurians from Amazon

Buy Doctor Who: Inferno from Amazon

I Am the Doctor: Jon Pertwee's Final Memoir

Try the Doctor Who- Jon Pertwee jigsaw

Assemble the pieces of the dashing dandy of space and time, the Third Doctor. Pertwee is one of my favorites (though there are very few Doctors that I dislike), so I was quite happy to work on this one.

Via TardisNewsroom:

Click to begin!

My own time was 45 minutes.

Give it a go yourself at Jigsaw Planet!

Doctor Who – Day of the Daleks DVD extras confirmed


Written by Guy Leopold, Day of the Daleks was the triumphant return of the Doctor’s most dreaded foes who had been unseen since 1968’s Evil of the Daleks starring Patrick Troughton. The 1972 stunner featured time traveling terrorists, ape-like henchmen armed with ray guns and plenty of chase scenes. It was also a bit of a rush job and therefore suffered some set backs such as less than impressive special effects, poor voice acting for the Daleks and only three of the creatures were ever seen! Granted, some fans do not enjoy this adventure, but for me, this is one of the better Dalek stories of the 70’s, even if it is simply because it is so unusual.

Next month, the folks at 2|entertain will amend these flaws with a special edition using CGi to create a future over-run by Daleks, new explosions and other fine tweaks. For posterity, the original version will also be included, of course.

(Click here to read my review)

Here are the DVD extras, as confirmed by the fine folks at Eye of Horus- click here for their early review of the DVD

DVD EXTRA Disc 1

4 x 25 mins approx colour episodes with mono audio (Original Version).

Commentary – stereo. With actors Anna Barry and Jim Winston, producer Barry Letts, script editor Terrance Dicks and vision mixer Mike Catherwood.

Blasting the Past (dur. 30’ 30”) – cast and crew look back on the making of this story. With actors Katy Manning, Jimmy Winston and, Anna Barry, producer Barry Letts, script editor Terrance Dicks, monster maker John Friedlander, Dalek operator Ricky Newby, Dalek voice artiste Nicholas Briggs, classic series writer Ben Aaronovitch, new series writer Paul Cornell and Doctor Who Magazine writer Dave Owen.

A View from the Gallery – producer Barry Letts and vision mixer Mike Catherwood talk about the art of vision mixing on a multi-camera studio show like Doctor Who.
Nationwide – a report from a primary school on the day they took delivery of a Dalek, first prize in a Radio Times competition.

Blue Peter – presenter Peter Purves remembers his time as a companion to William Hartnell’s Doctor and is joined in the studio by a trio of Daleks.

Photo Gallery – production, design and publicity photos from the story.

DVD EXTRA Disc 2

4 x 25 mins approx colour episodes with mono audio (Special Edition).

The Making of Day of the Daleks – Special Edition – producer Steve Broster guides us through the creation of his Special Edition of this story. With voice artiste Nicholas Briggs, audio engineer Mark Ayres, cameraman John Kelly, Dalek builder Toby Chamberlain, UNIT soldier Kevan Looseley and Ogron Nick Nicholson.

Now and Then – the latest instalment of our long-running series revisits the locations used in Day of the Daleks to see how much or little they have changed over the years. Narrated by Toby Hadoke.

The UNIT Family – Part Two – the second instalment of our series looking at the Doctor’s years on Earth as scientific advisor to the United Nations Intelligence Taskforce and the strong family bonds created during that time. With Katy Manning, Barry Letts, Terrance Dicks, actors Nicholas Courtney, John Levene, Richard Franklin and Fernanda Marlowe, stuntman Derek Ware.

The UNIT Dating Conundrum – over the years, many fans have tried to rationalise the chronological setting of the UNIT stories from clues within the narrative, despite the obstacles seemingly put in their way by the production team. Narrator Toby Hadoke explains why dating the stories is so difficult, assisted by Terrance Dicks, Dave Owen, Nicholas Briggs and Ben Aaronovitch.
The Cheating Memory – Special Edition producer Steve Broster tries to discover why the reality of Day of the Daleks doesn’t quite live up to the memory he has of first seeing it, aged six. With psychologist Dr. Sarita Robinson, Nicholas Briggs and Ben Aaronovitch.

Doctor Who action figures -The Third Doctor

Doctor Who action figure reviews – The Third Doctor (Jon Pertwee)

Perhaps the most popular of the classic Doctors after Tom Baker is Jon Pertwee. Reigning in the role of the time traveling hero for five successful years, Pertwee’s Doctor was a departure from the character as depicted by his predecessors William Hartnell and Patrick Troughton. When actor Jon Pertwee was hired to play the Doctor he was most familiar to the British public for being a song and dance man and comedian, equally talented with a guitar and making silly voices. But after he first appeared as the dashing dandy on screen, all of that changed.

Despite its praises today for being one of the best periods of the program’s history, the three year run of Patrick Troughton saw a devastating crash in viewing figures with around 4 million tuning in for the last few parts of his last story, the War Games. The BBC figured that Doctor Who had enjoyed a good run but was finally finished. This led to plans for a follow up program to fill its slot, presumably something in the vein of Nigel Kneale’s Quatermass series. When Kneale was approached by Doctor Who producer and former script editor Derrick Sherwin, however, it became apparent that this was not in the cards. Nevertheless, Sherwin was a big fan of Kneale’s work and took on board that influence in reshaping Doctor who for a new generation (and far cheaper than the previous three years).

Revived in full color with a new leading man and supporting cast, Doctor Who was a terrific hit with viewers, regaining its place in the top viewed programs at the time. Exiled to the Earth, the Doctor was the scientific adviser to U.N.I.T., a special group assembled to deal with unusual threats to the planet such as Cybermen.

The look of the Third Doctor was originally going to be a very staid affair as proposed by Pertwee with a simple grey business suit as his costume. But when the actor appeared for his first photo call in an outlandish frilly shirt, bow tie and Inverness cape, the production team realized that they had found their ideal design. Based in part on the costume of Adam Adamant, the look would hint at a dashing and heroic character as well as possessing a magical quality.

A much taller man and grander actor that his predecessor, Patrick Troughton, Pertwee was encouraged to draw from his own personality and heighten specific elements for his incarnation of the Doctor. Thus the Third Doctor was charming, eccentric, a bit forceful and over-bearing at times with a love for fine wine, fast cars and gadgets. Even in the 1980’s, Pertwee’s version of The Doctor had retained a very strong following from the general public.

Character Options has (to date) released five different versions of the Third Doctor in action figure form. I have also purchased an excellent custom figure from a talented designer on ebay, bringing my own collection to six distinct versions of the character.

The first two releases of the Third Doctor were released in 2009 as exclusive products through  sold exclusively at Forbidden Planet stores in the UK and premiered at the San Diego Comic Con in the US  through Underground Toys.

Based on his appearance on the Sea Devils, the Doctor is dressed in a dark blue crushed velvet coat, a scarlet-lined Inverness cape draped over his shoulders. Packaged with his sonic screwdriver and a Sea Devil, this could be my absolute favorite version of the character in toy form as it maintains a kind of dignity along with an air of eccentricity. The sculpt is re-used throughout the remaining six variants with minor tweaks. Pertwee’s curly locks are wonderfully sculpted as is his distinctive facial features.

The Death to the Daleks set was of course more popular as it came packaged with the silver and black version of the Dalek sculpted with the redesigned gun arm used in that story. A much darker suit is accented with red piping and a dicky bow tie. A dark pair of boots worn over the Doctor’s slacks was far more sensible for the story set in the muddy quarry and is recreated excellently here. For most fans of classic Doctor Who, these first two releases remain the best for presenting the most iconic version of the Third Doctor and including two memorable monsters.

Pertwee as he appeared in the Sea Devils and Death to the Daleks

The next release of the Third Doctor was what is called a ‘kit bash’ of the first two releases, combining the slacks from the Sea Devils figure with the jacket and dicky bow tie from the Death to the Daleks design to recreate the Doctor’s look from the Green Death. A very conservative look for the normally fashionable dandy, this is also a very nice look for the character.

Packaged with a set of three giant maggots from the Green Death, this version of the Doctor was another exclusive sold through Forbidden Planet in the UK and at the San Diego Comic Con in the US via Underground Toys.

The fourth release of the Third Doctor was a more colorful design as seen in the classic story Carnival of Monsters.

The reviewer Batmanmarch has pointed out that numerous sculpting issues prevented the previous three releases from being 100% screen accurate which were finally resolved here. The design used for the basic sculpt of the jacket, shirt and bow tie was based on the Third Doctor’s appearance as seen in Carnival of Monsters. The cut of the jacket collar and the trim matches the outfit worn in this story perfectly. The odd greenish blue shirt, sage green jacket and red-lined brown Inverness cape along with the already seen high boots make this the most unusual and outlandish of all the Third Doctor action figures.

Pertwee as he appeared in the Green Death and Carnival of Monsters

The latest official release of the Third Doctor comes from 1974’s Time Warrior. The same sage green jacket is paired with a solid white dress shirt and dark dicky bow tie. The slacks and shoes have been strangely muddied as part of Character Options’ artistic license (similar to the grass staining on the Fourth Doctor’s overcoat from Logopolis in the Fifth Doctor regeneration figure). I have to admit to being a bit let down from this variant as it was less visually interesting than many of the other possibilities and also failed to really capture the earthy look of the costume from this story.

Pertwee as he appeared in the Mutants and the Time Warrior

The final action figure of the Third Doctor in my collection is a one of a kind custom based on the character’s appearance from The Mutants. I was hesitant to purchase this figure as I was unsure how it would look on the shelf but in the end I am very glad that I took the risk. The dark red jacket along with the lighter red neckerchief and purple-lined Inverness cape is complimented by a pair of black driving gloves and tall boots. An outstanding paint job even depicted the slim black piping on Pertwee’s jacket from this story.

Pertwee as he appeared in The Mutants (custom)

Even though five variants have been released, there are so many more versions of the Third Doctor yet to be released in action figure form. The Third Doctor wore so many uniquely hued suit jackets that the possibilities are varied as to what could be released next.

The red jacket and blue-trimmed Inverness cape from the Three Doctors is a strong contender.

The white shirt (sans bow tie) and red jacket along with the tartan designed Inverness cape from Day of the Daleks (due for DVD release in September) is another favorite.

The blue crushed velvet jacket with matching shirt and dicky bow tie from Planet of the Spiders is another possibility… but there are so many more.

Personally I am hoping for the custom cut-away coat that Pertwee wore in Planet of the Daleks to be released. This would require a re-sculpt of the character, the first real redesign since 2009.

What would you like to see Character Options release for their next Third Doctor action figure?

Doctor Who – Time Warrior set announced

Finally announced formally by Character Options is the action figure set based on Robert Holmes’ classic adventure, the Time Warrior.

A serial released in December 1974, Time Warrior was the series opener for the last year Jon Pertwee played the enigmatic Time Lord. After the death of Roger Delgado and the announced departures of script editor Terrance Dicks and producer Barry Letts, Pertwee had decided that it was time to move on. His era had seen many landmarks in the program’s history, Despite his current acceptance as the finest actor to play the role, predecessor Patrick Troughton’s era had ended with not only a whimper but also the threat of cancellation. The only reason that we have Doctor Who on the air past the Troughtron era is that the BBC failed to ramp up a replacement program in time. In its place was the last gasp of Doctor Who, this time stranded on Earth in an attempt to save money and appeal to viewers, a decision made by the previous production team.

When Doctor Who returned in 1970, it was in colour and with a new leading man. Song and dance man Jon Pertwee played against type as the wizardly Time Lord, battling enemies from the stars and from beneath the planet’s crust. The experiment was a roaring success and the viewing figures soared. After four years as the guardian of the human race, Pertwee decided to move on (especially as head of serials Shaun Sutton denied him a raise, as Pertwee tells it). His final series was in this reviewers opinion, a return to greatness and it all started with the Time Warrior.

Replacing the doe-eyed companion Jo Grant was the sly modern and sophisticated journalist Sarah Jane Smith. When scientists start disappearing throughout England, U.N.I.T. is called in to discover the reason why. The Brigadier places the Doctor on the case just as a clever young journalist decides to get the inside story by masquerading as her scientifically-inclined aunt. This do Sarah Jane and the Doctor meet, just as they are carried back to the middle ages where a lone Sontaran, separated from his comrades, attempts to fix his craft by bringing learned men from the future back to the dark ages.

The Time Warrior is one of my favorite stories. It is the first to feature the ‘slit scan’ opening credits sequence (the best version was the ’74 rendition) and a high quality script. The mixture of an historical and science fiction drama is inspired as is the Doctor being viewed as a turncoat and a suspicious character (by Sarah Jane Smith before she learns of the Doctor’s true personage).


Finally announced in a formal fashion, the Time Warrior set consists of a repaint/resculpt of the Sontaran previously seen in the Sontaran Experiment set and another variant of the Third Doctor, this time in his green velvet smoking jacket.

The Time Warrior set can be pre-ordered in the UK from Forbidden Planet.

No word on a retailer on this side of the pond. Keep your eyes peeled on Mike’s Comics, however, for this much wanted item.

Doctor Who – Day of the Daleks special edition trailer

The trailer for this special edition was released last year but somehow escaped my notice until I read a comment on the 3-part Revisitations 2 review over at DVDActive.com. In case it missed the attention of any of my readers, I am posting this.

Day of the Daleks was the triumphant return of the devilish pepper-pots after a four yeare during which Terry Nation failed to sell his creations overseas.

Day of the Daleks is rarely mentioned as a favorite Doctor Who story or even a favorite Dalek story (though I quite like it), causing many to wonder why it is receiving the five star treatment with new special effects and enhanced Dalek voices. One glance at the trailer spotlighting the hard work that 2entertain have accomplished should put those queries to rest. A so-so story now looks magnificent.

Day of the Daleks – Special Edition
Starring Jon Pertwee as the Doctor
Day of the Daleks by Guy Leopold is a time travel story in which events from the future are trapped in a loop with the past creating a paradox leading to a dark world where Earth is ruled by the Daleks. This story was produced without Terry Nation’s approval as Terrance Dicks and Barry Letts had not thought to ask the writer for his permission and just thought that a series opener with the Daleks would be fun.

(Read my article here)

Extra features
Blasting Past Documentary
Blue Peter
Cheating Memory; Documentary
Nationwide – Win a Dalek
UNIT: Dating Conundrum
View from the Gallery
Teaser

Doctor Who – Day of the Daleks special edition is scheduled for release later in the year, based on the current schedule possibly Summer.

New Doctor Who DVD promotional material to come

Rumor has it (via TardisNewsroom) two Doctor Who DVD trailers are on their way from the 2 Entertain crew.

The selections couldn’t be more diverse than the second 7th Doctor adventure Paradise Towers and the final Third Doctor story, Planet of the Spiders.

In Paradise Towers, the Doctor and Mel arrive at a legendary high rise in space only to find that it has become overwhelmed by cannibalistic old ladies, gangs of young hoodlums and killer cleaning machines. Stephen Wyatt’s script is outstanding and the set design inspired, but the camp guest cast coupled with the hilarious ‘killer cleaning machines’ and murderous pool ‘bot leave me wondering what the intention was. One of the finest choices as the Doctor, McCoy rises above it all and delivers his first in a series of excellent performances.

A curious blend of children’s entertainment and absurd science fiction/social commentary, Paradise Towers is from the inventive but commonly derided 24th series.

While we wait for a coming soon trailer, here’s a selection of continuities and TV ads from 1987…

In sharp contrast to Paradise Towers is Planet of the Spiders, the swan song of the Jon Pertwee era, is full of insightful meanings along with hair-raising chase scenes and killer spiders on strings.

A bizarre adventure, it encapsulated so much of the direction that producer Barry Letts had given the series and lead character as both a spiritual and dynamic hero. Much of Pertwee’s era fluctuates wildly in quality, but when it clicked it was a wonderful thing. Letts imbued his Buddhist beliefs into the series while script editor Terrance Dicks masterfully sculpted the stories into finely structured dramas that actor Jon Pertwee injected his own brand of showmanship and action into. The final outing for all three men on the program saw a culmination in these concepts.

Even as a fan of the Third Doctor, Planet of the Spiders has never been one of my favorites, but I am eager to revisit it on DVD as the VHS recording is out of print. This story remains a turning point in the program, heralding a changing of the guard.

Until the new coming soon trailer arrives, here’s a BBC Gold TV ad:

Doctor Who and the Dæmons

Doctor Who and the Dæmons

Story 059
May 22 to June 19, 1971

“Do you know when the last black magic act was repealed in this country? 1951. It’s as alive today as it ever was.”


There are strange goings on at Devil’s End where a televised excavation is arousing trouble from the locals. The weather goes mad, a resident wish warns anyone who will listen that the forces of darkness are being awakened and only the strange new vicar Mister Magister seems perfectly at peace. When Jo Grant tries to get the Doctor interested in the televised event, he gruffly discounts it as nonsense, insisting that there is a rational explanation for anything, no matter how unlikely. He then talks to his souped-up vintage car, Bessie, which promptly appears to respond to his commands with a rebellious nature. Proving his point, Jo assumes that all of this is magic only to be shown that the Doctor had a pocket remote control by which he arranged the whole ‘trick.’

The science vs. magic theme is a strong idea that can be traced through several Doctor Who stories such as Face of Evil, Meglos and others. This story, however, employs the argument on contemporary Earth with a white witch, a masquerading extra-terrestrial villain posing as a priest and our hero, the technological genius practically dressed as a stage magician. When the Doctor arrives in Devil’s End, he is misdirected and manipulated by what appear to be angry spirits determined to see the excavation succeed and dark forces released from captivity.

Upon arriving, the Doctor and Jo are assaulted by what appear to be evil spiritual forces. The Doctor befriends a local witch, the charming Miss Hawthorne (played hilariously by character actress Damaris Hayman) who has been proclaiming doom for ages but discounted as a crank and a lunatic by villagers and strangers alike. Ironically, the Doctor is a sympathetic ear but he akso discounts her beliefs entirely. Their exchange of ‘Magic!’ ‘Science!’ ‘Magic!’ ‘Science!’ is made all the more absurd when the Doctor explains that what they are facing is an aeons-old extra-terrestrial threat that has been guiding the development of humanity using technology that appears magical. In other words, ancient demons with powers beyond our understanding. The difference is almost completely one of semantics.

The Doctor even employs magical means to ward off the Master’s servant, Bok, pointing out that while he does not believe in magic, an animated gargoyle certainly does. The power resides not so much a mystical kind of energy, but in the belief of others in magic as a concept. The Doctor has again and again proven that psychic energy and the like are real and can be used by gifted individuals to shape reality using technological means (such as Castrovalva or even Timeflight). This is another example of such an ability as the Master employs his mental and psychic power to summon a being of immense power, the Daemon known as Azal. Appearing to be the cloven-hoofed Devil of legend, Azal is actually a scientist of an ancient race who has been guiding humanity through its evolution. Unfortunately for the human race, the experiment has been deemed a failure. The planet Earth faces extinction unless the Doctor can win an argument proving that humanity deserves to live.

Quatermass and the Pit - Andrew Keir & James Donald- 1967

Of course it must be noted that the plot is very similar to Nigel Kneale’s Quatermass and the Pit (a story involving the excavation of an ancient artifact that predates man and is connected to both the Devil and the influence of alien beings on the progress on human civilization). Back in the early days of the BBC’s foray into televised entertainment, they shot for the moon with an innovative sci-fi drama that is still relevant today. The Quatermass series strongly influenced Doctor Who in general and the Pertwee era in particular as it mainly dealt with extra-terrestrial threats that were aimed at the planet Earth.

Later adapted by Hammer films, the Quatermass series is available on DVD in the UK as a beautiful multi-disc set that I cannot recommend enough.

 


The Master shares a quality with Azal the dæmon in that he seeks to control and shepherd the humans to meet his own ends. Still posing as the vicar Mister Magister arranges for a town meeting in which he exposes the darkest secrets of the villagers. As the town vicar, he was obviously privy to the townsfolk’s numerous sins, a position that he uses to prey on their insecurities, thereby humbling them into a position of shame and offering them not only a way out but the means to rule the planet. He makes for a strong salesman!

The Master is determined to use Azal and hold the planet in the palm of his hand almost in spite of the Doctor if for no other reason. It’s a startling quality of the Master’s, that he playfully threatens all of creation out of his own character. Just as the Doctor is compelled to meddle in the affairs of others in the name of what he thinks as just and right, the Master is driven to destruction by a similar and opposite compulsion. The man is EVIL incarnate.

Delgado has been described by his fellow actors as a gentle and friendly sort of person, more interested in drinking a nice glass of port by the fire than destroying all of creation. Yet we can witness Delgado’s Master arch an eyebrow and impose his will on the villagers of Devil’s End who attempt to burn the Doctor at the May pole as if his mere voice would leave a frost in the air. It’s a stunning performance.

Steven Thorn (who would later shout his way through the Three Doctors), is absolutely mad as the mad ‘god’ Azal. For all of the horror trappings, the only real fear that I experienced in this 5 parter come from worrying that Thorn has lost his mind as he spouts spittle and foam from his fake fanged face. One of the best moments of the Dæmons is when the Master is awe-struck to face Azal in all of his glory yet still proclaims that he is the more powerful, ‘who in the whole galaxy is not my inferior? There is not one creature!’ The Master is one of the major supervillains of popular fiction, alongside Doctor Doom, Darkseid and Darth Vader (before he became a bowl-haircutted kid).

Along with Azal and the always entertaining Delgado as the Master, there is the gargoyle Bok. I know that Bok gets a lot of stick for being a silly monster but it is also so strange that I can’t help but be taken in by it.

A generous actor, Pertwee often spoke fondly of his time on Doctor Who as being part of a family. This era functions well as an ensemble piece with the Doctor, Jo and the U.N.I.T. crew just as important as the Master is. It’s an odd realization to count a recurring villain as a member of the ensemble and it does cause problems from time to time as Delgado becomes a bit too comfortable as a the mustache-twirling baddie, but it also creates a backdrop and continuity for the program that had not been there before.

Amazing fan trailer

The Daemons - Azal by ~Harnois75

(More art by Harnois75 at http://harnois75.deviantart.com/art/The-Daemons-Azal-126241824)

While the colour prints were mainly lost of this 5 parter, the VHS copy used an off-air American recording to restore the story to an approximation of its original vibrancy. Regarded as a classic by fans, the Dæmons is a time capsule capturing the best qualities of the Earth-bound U.N.I.T. stories. Hardly as intelligent as the Silurians, it is lots of fun and has some excellent performances along with high production value.

Pertwee’s Doctor has its fans and detractors. For years I disliked the dashing dandy with his gadgets and Venusian akido, but as my appreciation of Doctor Who has broadened, I now count the third persona of the Doctor amongst my favorites. Pertwee imbues so much of his showman personality into his incarnation of the Doctor but also plays it with sincerity and conviction. It’s a tough call, but he may have faced some of the goofiest monsters and sock puppets ever in the program’s history yet he acted opposite each one in an entirely straight manner. He believed in the importance of Doctor Who’s fantasy and the responsibility that it had as not just a source of entertainment for children but one of guidance as well.

I know many find Pertwee quite jarring and I can sympathize with those who are not won over by is charisma and derring do. This era is a product of its time and at that means lots of car chases and comic book-ish plots. Doctor Who of the Pertwee’s first year was very sophisticated and exciting, an evolution from the Troughton era. However, the following series was far more action/adventure-oriented with the introduction of the arch nemesis the Master. A strong start was found in Terror of the Autons, but it must be said that the following adventures were of a mixed quality. Nevertheless, it was a reinvention of Doctor Who that had proven successful with fans and is still regarded fondly today. Even with the fluctuating quality, the conclusion to the ‘Master-centric’ series 8 has a remarkable conclusion with the Dæmons.

The Dæmons is also the first Doctor Who story that I saw with a large group of fans. At a Boston Sci-Fi Comic Con, I walked into a private showing of the adventure back when it only existed in B&W. I was confused as the audience belly-laughed out at specific moments as I had revered the series myself and defended it against the claims from others that it was silly nonsense. Imagine my surprise when I discovered it could be both reverential and silly nonsense all at once.

Currently Doctor Who – The Dæmons is set for an undetermined release date on DVD from 2 Entertain. There is a wealth of material available including an excellent documentary return to Devil’s End that reunites the cast and crew at Aldbourne, Wiltshire with Richard Briggs (current Cyberman/Dalek voice actor of the new Doctor Who) interviewing Richard Franklin, John Levene, Nicholas Courtney, Christopher Barry and Jon Pertwee about the filming. I have high hopes that the DVD will be a landmark release that celebrates this incredible period of the program.

Clip from Return to Devil’s End