Doctor Who – The Caves of Androzani

The Caves of Androzani

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Story 135
Written by Robert Holmes, directed by Graham Harper
Transmitted: 8–16 March 1984

“You have the mouth of a prattling jackanapes, but your eyes tell a different story.”

Doctor Who had been running for 21 years in 1984. The program had been many things; comedic, historical, dramatic and strange… but rarely was it as dramatic and action-oriented as it was in The Caves of Androzani. The story is something of a worst case scenario. Each week, viewers had traditionally seen the Doctor and his companion(s) arrive in a situation, get captured, escape, and foil the villain. In this story the setting is far more violent and the villains outside the ability of the Doctor’s powers to stop them. This is not a tale about alien invasion or mad scientists. This is a story about corrupt business and government involved in a never-ending drug war. Seldom had Doctor Who attempted to tell such an important story, translating current events through its unique lens of science fiction. But this story used a script by one of the all time great authors of Doctor Who, Robert Holmes (Spearhead from Space, Carnival of Monsters, The Time Warrior, The Ark in Space, Pyramids of Mars, The Brain of Morbius Talons of Weng Chiang, etc) in perhaps his best form. It was also directed by Graeme Harper, a young somewhat newcomer to the role who would go on to direct some of the most striking Who stories ever (even into the new program when he returned for Rise of the Cybermen/The Age of Steel, Doomsday, 42 and more.

Peter Davison had signed on for three years as the Doctor when he was asked to take on the part by John Nathan-Turner. During the program’s 20th series, Davison’s second, he became increasingly frustrated and decided to stick to this plan. He later regretted this decision as his final year was a vast improvement (and it shows in his performance that he was far happier with the material as well), but we will never know what a fourth year of Davison as the Doctor would be like. Yet, if you are going to go out… there are few swan songs better than Caves of Androzani.

Looking for some sand for an off-screen repair job, the Doctor lands on desolate Androzani Minor. When Peri points out that they are surrounded by sand, the Doctor points out that he requires specific sand for his glass blowing, a technique that he learned in a monastery long ago. All of this dialog is lost on screen, but contained in the script which develops the interplay of the Doctor and Peri, something that will become more important as the plot unfolds. The Doctor is famous for walking blindly into dangerous situations, but here Peri vocally asks herself it is wise to just wander into some dank caves on an alien world.

Soon, Peri has become infected with a fungus unknown to the Doctor and they have become embroiled in a private war between troops from Androzani Major and some mercenary gun-runners supplying arms to  the rebel Sharaz Jek.  Mis-identified s criminals, the Doctor and Peri are executed by firing squad.

The powerful Trau Morgus watches the events unfold from Androzani Major, where he brokers deals with the government to prolong the war indefinitely. Unfortunately, the President of the local government has decided to bow to the public’s need for spectrox, a unique miracle drug that can more than double one’s life form, a material found only on Androzani Minor which is under control of Sharaz Jak and his army of androids.

While it appears that they are dead, Peri and the Doctor were actually replaced by android replicas at the last minute and abducted by Jak. They find that their savior is somewhat mad and driven by a vengeful blood food with Trau Morgus that goes back many years when Morgus left Jak for dead in a mud flow. It becomes clear early on that the Doctor is stuck in a dire complicated situation that he must extricate himself from before he and/or Peri are killed. Then he discover that the fungal infection is terminal. The odds have seldom been so against the Doctor and rather than vanquish evil, he must instead dig deep if he hopes to survive this time.

Using his wits, the Doctor escapes captivity only to become captured by Stotz and headed back to Androzani Major to meet his employer, Trau Morgus. Yes, Morgus is playing both sides of the war on drugs and profiting quite well. Somewhat madly, the Doctor breaks his restraints, gains control of the ship and crashes it back on Androzani Minor. Dodging bullets fired by the mercenaries and explosion of scalding mud shooting from the center of the planet, he desperately attempts to find a cure to spetrox toxemia… this in turn leads to a quest into the bowels on the planet to draw milk from the giant vampire bats.

Not an easy day for the Doctor. I am puzzled if there is a single story in which he must undertake a more demanding quest that challenges him to the limit of his abilities.

Peter Davison in The Caves of Androzani

Peter Davison in The Caves of Androzani

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Target mock-up of The Caves of Androzani (click to visit the artist’s Etsy shop)

The performances of the guest cast are phenomenal from John Normington as the conniving Morgus (who strangely delivers monologues directly to the audience) to Maurice Roëves as the gun-runner Stotz. However the real star here is ex-ballet dancer turned actor Christopher Gable as Sharaz Jek. There is a fine line between going over the top and delivering a solid performance as a villain in Doctor Who and Gable hit the mark dead center. Largely covered head-to-toe in leather, his Phantom of the Opera-like Jek creepily fondles Peri every chance he gets and exchanges barbs with the Doctor that indicate his intelligence and scarred psyche. He is one of the absolute best and most tragic of Who villains.

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The Doctor confronts the villainous Sharaz Jek

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Peri is terrorized by Sharaz Jek

While Holmes’ script and Harper’s direction are stunning and it cannot be argued that this is Davison’s strongest performance as the Doctor, it is difficult to talk about this story without bring up the ending. Previous regeneration stories (Tenth Planet, The War Games, Planet of the Spiders and Logopolis) approached the notion of one era ending and another beginning in their own way. Harper, however, had his own vision. Late at night, the director later recalled, he had been listening to the Beatles’s A Day in the Life and was inspired by the ending of the song in which a symphonic cacophony builds to a veritable explosion. He got the idea that regeneration was similar, as the Doctor’s previous life flashed before him and he was blinded by a steadily building eruption of cellular rebirth.

The moment remains the finest depiction of regeneration, even by the standards of the current program which is no doubt inspired by Harper’s vision. In Logopolis, we had seen the Fourth Doctor haunted by images of his old travelling companions and vicious foes urging him to accept death, giving the impression that it was a personal struggle to push this change into motion. In Caves of Androzani, this is amped up as an argument takes place between his companions who encourage the Doctor to live on only to be countered by an overwhelming image of the Master who all but commands the Doctor to die. It’s a very emotional moment, made all the more poignant by the appearance of young Adric, whom the Doctor had failed to save.

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The Fifth Doctor meets his final end

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Peter Davison’s finest hour is upstaged by… Nicola Bryant’s cleavage

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“Change, my dear… and not a moment too soon.”- the new Doctor arrives

The resultant arrival of Colin Baker, looking more lively and vibrant than ever, is almost disturbing. There is no touch of hopeful rejuvenation or of beating back death. This Doctor is a stranger who is far more alien than any other incarnation to date (but that’s another story…).

As classic stories go, The Caves of Androzani has a massive reputation for being one of best alongside Genesis of The Daleks, Carnival of Monsters and Talons of Weng Chiang. The non-stop action, unusual direction and superb guest cast make this story stand out on its own. It is thrilling to watch the development of the Fifth Doctor, who had traditionally remained on the sidelines, spring forth to rescue his companion in the end. Fans of the modern program are less likely to be surprised by this, but at the time it was startling to see such a strong focus on saving Peri, a companion that he hardly knew. This is of course more of a reaction to the Doctor’s guilt over Adric’s death and how he has steadily witnessed the universe around him darken into a violent place (as seen in Warriors of the Deep, Resurrection of the Daleks and Frontios). I bring this up because Classic Doctor Who was so much a serialized program that lacked the resources to develop a character, yet if one looks closely that is what happened with the Fifth incarnation, building toward this moment in which he realizes that to save just one life, he is willing to sacrifice his own.

For Doctor Who fans at the time who had quickly grown to love Peter Davison as the youthful and often confused yet brave Doctor, this was a very powerful moment that has yet to be topped in the program’s history. There was an opportunity in Tennant’s reign to similarly address this but it all got very self-serving in the end, didn’t it? ‘I don’t want to go’ indeed. Yuck.

Highly recommended and available n Netflix.

Also recommended :

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

Doctor Who the Handbook: The Fifth Doctor

Doctor Who: Kinda

Doctor Who: Resurrection Of The Daleks

Doctor Who: The Doctors Revisited 5-8

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Doctor Who – Earthshock

‘Earthshock’

Doctor_Who__EarthshockStory 121
Written by Eric Saward, directed by Peter Grimwade
Transmitted: 8 – 16 March 1982

The TARDIS has become far too uncomfortable and the Doctor needs space to think. Adric has impertinently insisted on charting a path home through the CVE to the dimension of his origin, something that could rip the craft apart, and he refuses to listen to reason. Finding solace in a cave rife with dinosaur bones, the Doctor attempts to find some peace, but becomes a suspect in the grisly murder of an archaeological survey team. Trapped by investigating military, the Doctor tries to explain himself, but is interrupted by a pair of faceless androids firing death rays from their palms. There is much more to the strange situation that the Doctor can guess, and he will soon realize that the planet Earth is the target of a deadly attack from a very familiar foe from his past.

The nineteenth season of Doctor Who was a reinvention of the program, a much needed jab in the arm from the seven year stretch of Tom Baker. Yet the year to date was riddled with production problems regarding scripts, rotating script editors and more. John Nathan-Turner had lost Christopher H. Bidmead and Antony Read in short order, but gained Eric Saward who was massaging the script ‘The Enemy Within’ by Christopher Priest which would have involved the Doctor facing off against a weird creature that lived in the heart of the TARDIS. It would have also seen the departure of Adric, a character intended as an Artful Dodger-type who had fallen rather flat. Yet the script failed to come together and with nothing else planned, Saward swooped in with ‘Sentinel,’ a story that would eventually morph into Earthshock, the story that brought sufficient impact to the nineteenth season for new fans and old and brought a beloved monster out of cold storage.

The opening episode is among the best in the program’s history as it starts off normal as you like with the TARDIS bicker fest and the Doctor landing in an unknown situation. But the supporting cast of characters searching through the caves adds tension. The Doctor has inadvertently wandered into a crime scene, one in which the killers are still in residence. As he approaches the danger, so does the rescue party who are being systematically picked off as they descend deeper into the labyrinth.

The innocuous title of the story leaves the identity of the killers a mystery to the viewer as well as the Doctor. So determined was John Nathan-Turner to keep the reveal of the Cybermen a secret that he refused a Radio Times cover featuring the newly redesigned Cybermen and blocked off the viewing gallery. He was also determined to keep Matthew Waterhouse’s departure a secret by including him in the following story as a flashback.

What a cunning guy!

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Peter Davison’s first year was very unusual. The opening conclusion to Logopolis, Castrovalva, was a mind-bender, and Christopher Bailey’s Kinda too far ahead of its time for some. The more traditional Four to Doomsday and the Visitation served as steadier ground, but there was something missing from the program that had been absent for some time. In many ways, Doctor Who goes through periods of introspection and reinvention, looking to its past for inspiration. In this case, Earthshock was not just a return of the Cybermen, but a hearkening back to the Troughton era when monsters lurked in shadows and lumbered toward the viewer, hands out-stretched in horrifying deadly purpose. Likewise the Doctor himself had become more flawed, not at all the flippant Superman Tom Baker had portrayed who laughed in the face of danger and offered sweets to glowing skulls.

In his first year as the Doctor. Davison was given little direction on how to portray the character other than ‘not Tom Baker.’ His performance can often come off as overwhelmed and breathless, but if you look deeper there is a lot going on there. This Doctor is a somewhat reluctant adventurer who inherited the laundry of his past. He seems more drawn toward tranquil pass times such as cricket and drinking tea than fighting evil. Yet when he encounters evil forces or insidious plots, he is more likely to assimilate the situation and only comes to the rescue in the eleventh hour. This was Davison’s justification behind the all beige costume with red piping that visually subdued his presence rather than popping out as Tom Baker and Jon Pertwee had.

At only 30, Davison was a celebrated TV actor at the time and looked at the role of the Doctor as too good of an opportunity to pass up. More attuned to playing roles that are informed by background, it is impressive to see an unusual version of the Doctor that is both charming and socially awkward all at once. Surrounded by companions, he continually disappoints them in the face of adversity! It’s no wonder that the phrase ‘Brave heart, Tegan,’ was coined by this incarnation to plead for courage and optimism when facing insurmountable odds (a line improvised by Davison on the spot).

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Peter Davison’s Doctor was a genius (evidenced is in the fact that he defuses the Cyber-bomb and turns the hatch leading to the bridge into an unstable substance trapping the invading Cybermen), yet his mind is frazzled. He can be seen calculating and plotting outcomes at several points through the story, but in the end he is just a man who is unusually adept with mechanics. It is his technical skill and nerves of steel that lead to the destruction of the androids and the defusing of the bomb they are guarding. But the mystery remains, what was the bomb for and who put it there?

In deep space, an old enemy has been battling him at every move, frustrated by this stranger’s intelligence. The Cybermen have yet to show their hand, but are unmasked to the viewer in a truly shocking climax.

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After the Cybermen are revealed as the main threat, Saward wisely reminds the audience just who they are. This is clever as the Cybermen had not been seen since 1974 and before that not since 1968!

A beloved monster second only to the Daleks in popularity, the Cybermen were mostly a 1960’s craze along with the Yeti and Ice Warriors. But through the use of rarely seen flashback footage, we are reminded that these creeps have fought the Doctor many times before. This is a big deal in an age when repeats were rare, the internet non-existent and most of the episodes lost.

As some fans put it, this short sequence in which the Cyber Leader recounts the identity of the Doctor and his race’s many encounters with him in the past creates a connection all the way back to the beginning of Doctor Who, making it feel like one ongoing story (for the first time in easily ten years).

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The Doctor tracks the signal to the bomb to a freighter in deep space where another mystery waits. Again, the Doctor wanders around and is again a prime suspect for murder as he is found next to a pair of corpses in the freighter’s hold. But there is more going on than anyone suspects. The captain is more concerned with her pay for delivering the cargo and her twitchy security officer Ringway is making her life miserable. Power failures run rampant through the ship and a heightened level of security surrounding Earth means more delays. Little does she know that she is carrying an army of Cybermen to Earth to attack a special meeting of Earth forces. It’s an impressive twist on a contemporary plot idea in which terrorists commandeer a plane for safe passage to their target.

Whereas in previous stories the Cybermen are shown as cunning and cruel creatures ruled by logic, they are downright ruthless here, even stating that the Doctor must ‘suffer’ for his past actions. Saward has come under for for giving emotions to an emotionless race, but I think that is a misunderstanding of the Cybermen. They do not possess a full spectrum of emotions, but they are driven toward their goal, much like a predator is compelled to kill out of instinct. The Cyber Leader toys with the Doctor by threatening to kill his companions not because he enjoys watching the Doctor squirm but to remind his enemy of the weakness of emotion and attachment.

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The actual first meeting between the Doctor and the Cyber Leader is very impressive. Actor David Banks towers over Davison and clad as he is in a modified flight suit, appears strangely alien and bizarre. The Doctor attempts to find some kind of emotional connection with the Cybermen which is laughable since they are so INhuman, yet he tries out of sheer desperation. All of this heightens the drama as he is no longer the man with all the answers, just a man determined to fight the good fight as best as he can. From this moment on, the Doctor is clutching at straws and his options are rapidly slipping away. When he must finally surrender his TARDIS to the Cybermen and leave Adric behind on the freighter, he is overcome with anxiety, dumbfounded with impotence.

Again, portraying the Doctor as being this powerless (without later saving the day) would never happen today.

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So desperate is the Doctor that he at one point raises a gun at a Cyberman (an image that was weirdly reproduced for posters that year). Saward’s script shows just how remarkably smart and resourceful the Doctor is, but in the end, the Cybermen have prepared for every eventuality, through the use of the androids, the bomb, the mole on the freighter and finally by taking control of the ship’s computer with technology that cannot be hacked without sufficient time. The Doctor has lost. This is such an important moment that it carries over into Davison’s final year when he chooses to kill Davros and later the Master! He finally realizes the stakes of the game he has been playing and how lucky he had been up to Adric’s death.

Earthshock is full of amazing images and while the cast complained that director Peter Grimwade was a taskmaster one cannot argue with the final result, a spine-tingling thriller that would be remembered for generations. It brought back the Cybermen in a big way in much the same way that Resurrection of the Daleks brought menace back to the Daleks two years later. Sadly, the Cybermen would become rather boring and lose their impact in subsequent outings, but Earthshock saw them at their menacing best!

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The soundtrack by Malcolm Clarke of the BBC Radiophonic Workshop is nothing short of stunning. Yes, the same madman behind the atmospheric and odd Sea Devils soundtrack provided the moody audio landscape for this one. After some of the strange incidental music by Paddy Kingsland which was mainly evocative of synthesized flutes, it was something else entirely to hear throbbing beats, metallic clangs and strained warbling mechanical wailing. The alien atmosphere and sense of dread is evident through all four parts from the dark and mysterious caves to the claustrophobic confines of the star freighter. Topping this all off is a signature tune of the Cybermen, an eerily threatening march that clearly announced a classic monster had returned.

‘Cyber Strength’ by Malcom Clarke

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Of course one of the main impacts of Earthshock is the loss of Adric which was played incredibly well all things considered. Given that the companions of modern Who are constantly portrayed as the most special people who have ever lived, it is an interesting choice to have the Doctor and Adric at odds with each other throughout their relationship rather than have Adric raised to some kind of near-mythical importance. In fact, most fans despised Adric and still do. It’s the age old case of a too clever audience refusing to take the bait of accepting a smart kid as being ‘just like them.’

Throughout Earthshock, it becomes clear that the stakes are higher than usual and that the Doctor is out of his depths, wandering into a mystery beginning with a slaughtering of innocents to a devastating bomb to an entire space craft full of kill crazy robots. THEN things get really bad when the Cybermen turn the craft into a time traveling explosive aimed at the planet Earth! As became the usual trend in later Eric Saward scripts, the death toll is rather high. However, in difference to his later work such as Resurrection of the Daleks and Revelation of the Daleks, the sacrifice by Adric in Earthshock is a noble one. Granted, Adric was hamstrung by fate, but he bravely faces his fate rather than pleading for rescue. It’s quite touching (and something we would not see today, I wager). Tegan and Nyssa plead with the Doctor to save him, but sadly, this is one point in which he cannot intervene. The Web of Time is resolute and irrefutable, making Adric’s death part of a landmark in history.

As a return to form for a classic baddie, Earthshock gets top marks. The Cybermen are creepy, lurk in the shadows and attack en masse. They cause high levels of destruction, but humanity survives by a hair’s breadth. What strikes me as particularly chilling is the mocking laughter of the Cyberman as he fires his rifle at the ship computer Adric had been working on.

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The first death of a companion since the 1960’s, Earthshock was unnerving and rattled viewers who suddenly wrote in to defend the previously unloved character. The ratings soared which is unfortunate due to the lackluster finale of the season, Timeflight.

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To celebrate the return of the Cybermen and continue the exploration of the classic series, Earthshock will be shown this Sunday, May 26th, at 8:00 pm ET/PT as part of the Doctor Who: The Doctors Revisited – The Fifth Doctor on BBC America.

I have been paying some attention to BBC America scheduling of these classic stories and am pleased with the choices they have made (though personally I would not have gone for the Aztecs for Hartnell). This weekend is a special thrill as the Cybermen will be returning in Nightmare in Silver.

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Doctor Who Cybermen Masterpiece bust is available exclusively from Forbidden Planet

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The Doctor Who Davison Masterpiece statue is available for pre-order from Forbidden Planet

Also recommended:

Doctor Who: Earthshock

Doctor Who: Spare Parts

Doctor Who the Handbook: The Fifth Doctor

Doctor Who: The Eighties

Doctor Who Cybermen

Doctor Who and the Planet of Fire

‘Planet of Fire’

DrWho_5th_DavisonStory 134
Written by Peter Grimwade (and Eric Saward)
Directed by Fiona Cumming
Transmitted 23 February–2 March 1984

“Little silver puppet dancing on a string! String cut!”

After freeing the chameleonic android Kamelion from the Master’s control, the Doctor may not have realized that he had taken in a liability. That said, he also welcomed an assassin into the TARDIS for no reason other than the belief that Turlough could change his ways. It should come as no surprise that these decisions would have negative repercussions, but at the same time? It is surely unlikely but when the Master regains control of Kamelion and pilots the TARDIS to Spain… it is even less likely that this would lead to anything damaging. Even so, this set in motion a confrontation between the Master and the Doctor on the planet Sarn… where coincidentally Turlough’s brother acts as the unlikely ruler of a primitive population.

Kamelion was meant to be an exciting new companion using state of the art technology. A real working robot, Kamelion was the creation of Mike Power, who proposed his marvel as a walking talking character. Thrilled by the prospect of having an actual robot on Doctor Who, Nathan-Turner jumped at the chance before realizing that the construction could barely function at all and barely even moved. The only man who could accurately program Kamelion, Power died shortly before filming began on the robot’s first appearance, the King’s Demons. The cast and crew were infuriated by how unpredictable Kamelion was. Peter Davison especially pointed out that it was practically impossible to film a scene with the thing.

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Peter Davison and Kamelion (the most frustrating prop ever made)

Nevertheless, Kamelion was a companion and therefore required a final story writing him out (let’s just ignore the fact that he had disappeared from the program since his first showing). Exactly how/why the Master waited to gain control of Kamelion until Planet of Fire is unclear, but so is whatever the robot was doing all that time in the TARDIS.

Arriving on Lanzarote, the Doctor and Turlough attempt to decipher a distress beacon that is emanating from an alien artifact fished up from the ocean floor. In the course of their investigations, Turlough rescues young American student Peri from drowning. Bringing her into the TARDIS has a strong effect on Kamelion who is influenced by psycho-emotional control. Distraught over her step father Harold, Peri unwittingly challenges the Master’s manipulation of Kamelion. Following the call back to its source, the TARDIS lands on the desolate volcanic planet Sarn and… that’s pretty much where things stop making any sense.

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Davison is finally free of the cricket sweater, just in time for Spanish weather

The penultimate adventure of Peter Davison’s era, Planet of Fire is a hot mess, but it is nice to look at (for various reasons). Director Peter Grimwade’s third script for the program, Planet of Fire was initially set in Greece. In fact, Grimwade studied the import/export business of the area for his plotting. However, producer John Nathan-Turner changed the location to Lanzarote… and introduce new companion Peri… and see off both Kamelion and Turlough. Finally, Grimwade had enough and dropped the script in Eric Saward’s lap.

Planet of Fire is such a mess of plotting and meaning that even the extended re-cut version only makes matters worse. An additional scene newly filmed showing the arrival of the Trion craft on Sarn is not only poorly shot but it also stands out like a sore thumb from the original story and it adds nothing of any worth to the story. There are just far too many subplots spinning around and the lost Trion ship is the worst of them. Adding more focus to why Peri would have nightmares about her stepfather would have actually added more to the story, but I could honestly care less. Planet of Fire is a painstakingly well-shot muddled disaster. Also, the special edition adds awful computer generated flames to random scenes that are distracting and removed much of the soundtrack as well.

Kamelion acts as a hot potato, at once under the Master’s control, at other times influenced by Peri, causing him to appear as a silver-skinned image of her step father (less said on that, the better). Gaining control of the TARDIS, it seems that Kamelion’s chief goal is to get the Master into the blue flames of Sarn so that he can undo the damage of his TCE experiments. Along the way, the people of Sarn are preyed upon liker puppets. The Doctor of course wants to free the Sarns from the Master and Kamelion ass well… but neither of those plans go over very well.

I have mixed feelings about the Fifth Doctor/Master era as it seems that the two are often set up against each other for no good reason. Yet Ainley and Davison square off against each other very well, especially since Davison is so restrained and Ainley is an outright lunatic hamming it up and laughing to himself like the devil at every opportunity.

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The Master (using Kamelion) takes control


All that said, it’s a wonder that Planet of Fire is watchable at all, yet the camera work, stunning scenery, guest cast and malevolent turn of Anthony Ainley in what was intended as his final outing make this at least entertaining.

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Anthony Ainley as the Master

Taking up the mantle of the Master in Keeper of Traken/Logopolis, Anthony Ainley positively simmers as the devilish villain. His version of the Master appeared several times during the Davison era, returning a part of the program’s mythology in much the same way that the revival of the Cyberman had. Planet of Fire should have been Ainley’s final turn as the Master and it was a doozey. Sure, there is practically no reason for the Master to be in Sarn, but the image of the miniaturized Time Lord scorning Peri from his tiny control room is iconic. The man manages to do so much with so little. Given that his next appearance in Mark of the Rani is a glorified guest star/fluffer for the Rani, maybe he would have been better off dying on Sarn.

Of course the most bizarre moment of Planet of Fire comes when the Master is using the bizarre gas of Sarn to heal his broken body and the Doctor instead burns his foe to a crisp (after killing his former companion Kamelion… what is his deal??). In that event, the Master mutters ‘how could you do this to your own – ‘ and is cut off before he is extinguished. When director Fiona Cumming asked JNT what the rest of the line was, he simply answered that the two are brothers. As the line wasn’t included, this is of course not part of Doctor Who continuity, but it is not only difficult to finish the line with another word but having the Doctor and the Master as brothers makes more sense than anything else. I mean, they are clearly more than just classmates, right?

Moving on…

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Peter Wyngarde and Anthony Ainley devour the scenery

Anthony Ainley may not have much story to work with, but he does act opposite another TV personality too big for the small screen, former Jason King star Peter Wyngarde. I am a big fan of Wyngarde for his work on the Prisoner, Department S and the aforementioned spin-off as well as the golden helmed villain in Flash Gordon. Here, Wyngarde is sadly under-used and comes off as a slightly camp delusional religious fanatic, devoted to a god of fire who guides the people of Sarn.

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That is the sound of a million viewers turning to Dr Who

Planet of Fire is also remarkable for the breathtaking introduction of Nicola Bryant as Peri. Appearing in a revealing bikini, she stops the program cold as she launches into the water. It is a beautiful thing. She may not have as strong of a following as other companions such as Leela, Ian or Ace, but Peri is a tough customer it must be said and lasted three years on the screen (kinda).

Bryant manages to weave her way through the convoluted script and adds a certain quality against Davison’s youthful Doctor (oo-er). Later fans would get far more of Peri and the Fifth Doctor in audio format, but on TV, she was given a very short period of time to make any impact. The Fifth Doctor had appeared to be a bit lost and doddering at times (the whole ‘old man in a young man’s body’ thing) but courageous at other times (such as the sword fight with the Master in King’s Demons). Peri may have kept the Doctor on his toes, but he also appeared to be far more knowledgeable than he usually was. I mean, his outright stupidity led to his own death and nearly killed her as well on Androzani!

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All together now!


Sure, Planet of Fire falls to pieces at the most cursory of examinations, but like the other stories of series 21 (Warriors of the Deep, Awakening, Frontios, Ressurection of the Daleks), it makes up for in visuals. This is a really splendid looking program, just don’t try to figure out what is going on.

Even Peter Davison, ordinarily so adept at figuring out the plots of his Doctor’s era, admits to having no idea why Kamelion appears as three people throughout the story.

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Turlough is spent after rescuing a surprisingly spry Peri

The real casualty of Planet of Fire is Turlough. Mark Strickson is a fine actor, but beyond his first three stories he had nothing to do whatsoever. Davison refers to Turlough as a dead end idea as the character was sent to kill the Doctor, fails to do so then just… hangs around. Like most fans, I like Turlough a lot and feel that he added a healthy amount of variation to the TARDIS crew, even when he was just locked in a cupboard.

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One last adventure…

One of the more thrown together stories of the 1980’s, Planet of Fire is usually skipped over by fans; neither loved nor hated. It is difficult to say if this is a fair assessment, but if you are in the mood and watching the surrounding stories any way, you may as well see this one too.

Doctor Who and the Arc of Infinity

Arc of Infinity

Story 123 Written by Johnny Byrne, directed by Ron Jones
Transmitted: 3 – 12 January 1983

The High Council of Time Lords sits in judgement over all existence, an all-powerful society devoted to guarding the frail web of time and the sanctity of the space-time continuum, the price of their great power came at a price. The brilliant Time Lord scientist Omega discovered unlimited energy by harnessing a dying star that became known as the Eye of Harmony. In the process, Omega plummeted into the black hole and was thought lost forever. Determined to escape from his exile, Omega has found a fellow conspirator in the high council of Gallifrey who sympathizes with the mythical figure’s plight. Formed by anti-matter, Omega can only return to the positively charged universe by harnessing the Arc of Infinity, a source of quad radiation that would shield his form. The Doctor is chosen as the ideal basis on which to create a stable host body, at the cost of his very life.

For the 20th anniversary of Doctor Who, John Nathan-Turner had the notion that each adventure would hearken back to the mythology of the series’ past. Starting with a story that brought back the connection to Gallifrey and the Time Lords, Arc of Infinity also sees the return of now Lord President Borusa (seen in both Deadly Assassin and Invasion of Time) and of course Omega, the villain introduced in the Three Doctors, Arc of Infinity should be a glossy event of a story… but it is rather dull. It’s also quizzically weird in plot ideas.

The TARDIS is ensnared in the Arc of Infinity where the Doctor is singled out and attacked by a unique energy called quad radiation. He is then recalled to Gallifrey where he is imprisoned for reasons he can’t understand. Tegan’s cousin Colin and his bachelor pal Robin are stumbling through Amsterdam without passports. Uh… what do these things have to do with each other??? Using the imprint taken from the Doctor’s passing through the quad radiation, Omega materializes in Amsterdam… where Robin and Colin just happen to have camped… and he kidnaps Colin. Robin freaks out and wanders around like a crazy person until he manages to talk Colin’s cousin (who just happens to be Tegan) into believing him.

What??!

This story is often cited as significant for the first appearance of Colin Baker (later to be the Sixth incarnation of the Doctor). Baker comes off as a jackbooted thug, under-playing his signature ‘bigger than life’ persona that he would be known for later. Colin Baker had desperately wanted to plat the part of the Doctor when the Fourth Doctor Tom Baker ended his run, but had to wait a few years to make his debut. Jokingly, the actor has referred to this initial casting as the man who shoots the Doctor as the ideal way to have gotten his job, by killing the competition.

The ‘murder-mystery’ style plot is knee-capped by techno jargon and the aforementioned switching in locations and laughably lucky coincidences. The reliance on the audience understanding concepts that have not been seen in almost a decade such as Gallifrey, Omega and the Matrix is also unfortunate as none of them are explained well enough to have the impact that they should have. For even the most devoted fan at the time, these things would only be knowable from Target novelizations as the home video market was in its infancy and repeats were rare.

The actions switch between mind-numbing Gallifrey (without Robert Holmes’ writing to make use of this idea by making it into a corrupt civilization, a visit to the Doctor’s home is a snooze-fest) and Amsterdam where Tegan and Robin investigate Colin’s disappearance like junior detectives. It is unclear what is going on as Omega’s scheme is interrupted by the obsession with location filming. The action picks up in the final part when the Doctor and Omega come face to face and the chase sequence that has been stretched over four installments earns its much-needed reason for being.

Peter Davison seems to be one of the few actors interested in the drama of the situation that surrounds the return of Omega, but the fact that so many characters are left mumbling plot details makes him appear over-anxious. Once again, the Doctor screams the facts that no one will listen to, is kept from solving the problem by the authority figures and swans in at the eleventh hour to save the day. This was essentially Peter Davison’s idea of how he would play the Doctor and the justification behind the all beige costume that he wore. He would hover in the background gathering details and only take action in the end.

When the Doctor is executed and secretly imprisoned into the Matrix by Omega and his secret conspirator, things get interesting but the real action picks up when the Doctor is given a free hand in stopping Omega leading to the moving confrontation with, well, himself, after Omega obtains the Doctor’s form.

The Davison era is riddled with high concept stories such as Kinda and Enlightenment and raygun-toting action such as Earthshock and Resurrection of the Daleks. Each has its pluses and minuses (in my opinion Frontios perfectly combines the two), but in many cases the story buckles under the weight of the concepts rather than being supported by it. Arc of Infinity is a prime example of this when many scenes fail to make an impression because I have no idea what is going on.

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Arc of Infinity is one of those stories that was written from a shopping list of demands assembled by John Nathan-Turner including Amsterdam, Gallifrey, the return of Omega and Tegan rejoining the cast. Therefore it may come as no surprise that it comes off as a comedy of errors. The TARDIS just happens to pass through a pathway straight into Omega’s domain, Tegan’s cousin just happens to be in Amsterdam and just happens to stumble into the same crypt that Omega materializes into… etc. None of it makes a lick of sense.

Interviewed for the DVD release, writer Johnny Byrne explained the meaning that he found in the setting of Amsterdam; all that power laying beneath the city fit in with the needs of Omega, for instance. Additionally the author of the Big Finish audio play Omega Nev Fountain has lots to say about the character of the ‘villain’ and his decaying sense of self in each appearance. In The Three Doctors, Omega was a power mad angry God-like being, but in Arc of Infinity he is a shattered visage, desperate for existence. In the audio play he encounters the legacy that he has left behind and is horrified to learn that he is without a home. All of this is inspired and interesting, but it fails to change the end result – a garbled mess of a story.

Even so, there is a lot to like about Arc of Infinity. Peter Davison is in great form and his double-act as Omega wearing the Doctor’s form is tragic and touching. Fans often point to the moment in which Omega watches the calliope as one of the more impressive scenes in his work on the program. The pairing of the Doctor and Nyssa works quite well and Davison often points to his interaction with Sarah Sutton as his favorite Doctor-Companion match. Yet there is so little for Nyssa to that she eventually disappears into the sub plot. Janet Fielding is once again in superb shape as Tegan and keeps the Doctor on his toes at all times, but one has to ask that after an entire year’s worth of adventures in which she demanded to be brought back home that ended with a bum’s rush out of the TARDIS, why would she be so eager to come back??

The chicken monster gets a lot of flack, but the costumes of Arc of Infinity and creature designs are actually very good. Sadly, the production value fluctuates so much that Omega has a squeaky wooden cupboard door in his TARDIS and Gallifrey looks less like a perfect civilization and more like a furniture showroom in which sofas and glass topped coffee tables are placed in every hallway… hallways that presumably lead nowhere! So much of Arc of Infinity is made up of running up and down the same hallway dressed up differently that the change in location to Amsterdam is just another place to run around in. I wager that if one removed the running scenes from Arc of Infinity, it would be a one part story in which the Doctor dies (twice), Omega goes site-seeing and is killed and Tegan squeezes through the TARDIS doors.

But… you’ve got to laugh, don’t you? Arc of Infinity was the first of a celebration of Doctor Who’s 20th year on TV. Something of a mis-step, it is nevertheless a step back to the Pertwee era when Time Lords, celestial phenomena and power-mad god-like villains were argued with reason and compassion. Of course since this was in the Eric Saward era, the bad guy got zapped in the end.

Davison, Sutton and Fielding had planned to swap out the ray gun prop used to disperse Omega with a ‘personal massage device’ but the ever demanding filming schedule prevented the prank.

Who knew Davo was so naughty?

Recommended:

Click to order Dr Who Peter Davison Bust

 

Doctor Who: Arc of Infinity on DVD

Doctor Who the Handbook: The Fifth Doctor

Doctor Who: A Celebration; Two Decades Through Time and Space

Dr. Who: The Best Of Doctor Who, Volume 1: The Five Doctors

Doctor Who and The Visitation

‘The Visitation’


Story 119
By Eric Saward
Transmitted from 15-23 February, 1982

‘War is honourable, Doctor. Even on this planet it is considered so.’
‘Oh, I know. But, by your admission these people are still primitive. What’s your excuse?’

The Doctor is anxious to return his traveling companion Tegan Jovanka to Heathrow Airport (and who can blame him?). However, his attempt to land the TARDIS in 20th Century London goes astray and instead he finds that while the location may be correct, the time period is off by almost 300 years! The nation is suffering from the pangs of bubonic plague, but is also prey to the manipulations of a malevolent alien race… one which the Doctor must deal with in order to protect humanity once again.

This was the third story that the Fifth Doctor appeared in on screen, but it was actually the second to go into production. Script editor Christopher H Bidmead who had made such a strong impact in Tom Baker’s final season was ready to leave. John Nathan-Turner’s transition into the role of producer was not a smooth one and put a hefty amount of pressure on Bidmead who found himself struggling to get the scripts lined up for the 19th series which would introduce a new Doctor. The premier story was abandoned. Project Zeta-Sigma by the writing duo John Flanagan and Andrew McCulloch who had already contributed Meglos was found to be unworkable, throwing the production schedule into disarray.

This led to Davison recording Four to Doomsday, Kinda and The Visitation before his first story, the mind-boggling Castrovalva. John Nathan-Turner felt that this was a wise decision as it would allow Davison time to settlle into the role of the Doctor. It also meant that The Visitation was not written for the Fifth Doctor at all. In fact, it was developed during Tom Baker’s reign when Bidmead approached Saward for a script based on his success in radio. Never mind the fact that an undecided new Doctor would be featured in The Visitation, it would also include three companions, requiring extensive rewrites by Anthony Root after Bidmead’s departure. Surprisingly, this is one of the few adventures that puts good use of the larger supporting cast.

Crowded House: Adric, Tegan, Nyssa and the Doctor

To that end, I should note that only Janet Fielding comes off favorably in this story. Poor Sarah Sutton is incredibly wooden and the less said about Matthew Waterhouse, the better. It is still amusing to me that Waterhouse was apparently ‘giving pointers’ to experienced actor Richard Todd during the filming of Kinda. Portrayed as he was originally envisioned, a sci-fi version of the Artful Dodger, Adric works quite well. But when he starts spewing out technobabble to Nyssa or whinging on, he is insufferable. Luckily, Davison makes the most of the situation and manages some friction between the Doctor and Adric that translates well. The Doctor clearly resents Adric’s intelligence, but is frustrated by the young man’s emotionally erratic moods and reacts to them in kind. Even so, the Doctor tries to mend bridges and remind Adric that he is fond him, if only in an awkward way. It’s very touching and adds to Davison’s performance.

An already accomplished television actor, Davison settled into the role of the Doctor very well. His dry wit and tetchy, nervous behavior marked him as an ‘old man in a young man’s body.’ He positively shines in The Visitation, showing a youthful exuberance and sharp deductive mind joined by frazzled anxious nerves. Unsettled by Tegan and Adric, the Doctor is shown to be flawed at the opening of this story, unable to control his TARDIS or, it would seem, his emotions. As the story unfolds, this new Doctor exhibits brilliance and bravery in equal parts.

The Doctor converses with a Terileptil

Finding themselves in a sylvan glade, the Doctor urges Tegan to make the most of the opportunity to experience history. After encountering some violent locals, the adventure proves to be more dangerous, but luckily they are rescued by an extravagant actor-turned-highwayman, Richard Mace. Mace leads the Doctor to a nearby deserted manor house formerly inhabited by the local miller. The house is vacant, but the Doctor discovers an alien presence in the cellar, one which is busy manipulating human history for its own ends. Backed by an army of mind-controlled villagers and an android, the stranded Terileptils seek to exterminate the human race by taking advantage of the plague. The Doctor attempts to stop them, but in the course of his actions puts his companions, and himself in terrible danger.

Branded a ‘traditional’ Doctor Who story, The Visitation is often overlooked which I view as an error. Saward’s first outing win Doctor Who (he would go on to become the script editor through the remainder of the Davison era and into Colin Baker’s reign), the plot and concept are inspired. The combination of a period setting and a new alien race is ingenious and plays to the strengths of the program. I often find that Doctor Who works very well when it is set in the past as it allows the various departments to utilize previously used concepts and material. In this case, that extends to wonderful location filming in Buckinghamshire, despite the interference of air traffic.

The Visitation is also a visually impressive story with great camera work and the first use of animatronics in the program’s history. Fans of the current series are all too used to seeing Cybermen, Weeping Angels and Daleks marched before the screen to imagine a time when Doctor Who aspired to create new ‘monsters.’ The Terileptils are a noble attempt at introducing a new alien race, one that is both technologically advanced and culturally different from anything that had been seen before. Saward’s script efficiently develops the Terilptils on screen as sophisticated, skilled and deadly while refraining from transforming them into a stock monster.

The Doctor discharges a power pack

Actor Peter Davison was intent on making his Doctor less of a magician by utilizing household items to accomplish his goals, such as the length of string used to identify the false holographic door. This of course led to the landmark destruction of the sonic screwdriver, the device created on the spot by Patrick Troughton in 1969 during Fury From the Deep. The Doctor, in the opinion of many members of the production crew, had become far too powerful, aided by his mind, robot dog, genius assistant and multipurpose universal tool that not only opened doors but solved nearly any problem he encountered. The ‘new’ Doctor would be flawed and forced to work harder at solutions than before, so the sonic screwdriver was destroyed and struck from Doctor Who until a brief re-appearance in the 1996 TV Movie.

Davison’s muted beige uniform of the Doctor fit with his notion of the character remaining in the background, appearing benign until the eleventh hour when he would snap into action. The Visitation also sees the nature of the compassionate side of the Doctor, eager to find a peaceful solution with the Terilptils rather than destroying them outright. In many ways, this hearkens back to the Doctor’s insistence of co-existence with the Siluriuans in his Third incarnation. But in this case, the Terileptils are already working toward the genocide of the human race, using rats to spread the bubonic plague throughout the civilized world, leaving them with the spoils. Even so, the Doctor can empathize with the aliens, being an alien himself, and attempts to appeal to the Terileptils’ better nature in embracing what may appear as a lesser race of beings as equals. But it is obviously far too late for that.

The Doctor, Nyssa and Richard Mace explore the alien craft

Finding his companions trapped by the Terileptils and himself nearly executed as a witch, the Doctor is forced into action. He destroys the Terileptil’s crashed space craft, disables the mind control devices and his companion Nyssa makes quick work of the android. Rescuing Tegan and Adric from the Terileptil base, he tracks the stranded Terileptils to their hideout in London where he witnesses their master plan in motion. Desperate to talk sense into the aliens, the Doctor attempts to talk reason into the creatures but has little luck. Far too proud for their own good, the Terileptils are immune to the Doctor’s charms and a conflagration erupts. Disgusted at the unnecessary loss of life, the Doctor finds to his pleasure, that he has participated in an historic event, the beginning of The Great Fire of London which was key in the eradication of the plague in England.

The Doctor confronts the stranded Terileptils

One of the earliest stories of the Fifth Doctor, the Visitation is a solid story with a strong script and high production values. It also has plenty of activity for the over-crowded TARDIS (at least until the third part) and introduces a new alien race, one that is not merely a dastardly world-destroying race of baddies but members of a complex and truly alien culture. This was a period when Doctor Who was looking to reinvent itself, stretching away from the realm of fantasy and high comedy and back into sci-fi adventure. For all that, it is a marvelous success.

The Visitation is available on DVD and can also be found streaming on Netflix. It comes highly recommended for a Saturday afternoon accompanied by a dry white wine, fresh fruit and flat bread (or a crusty local loaf).

Available on Amazon:

Buy Doctor Who: The Visitation from Amazon

Doctor Who the Handbook: The Fifth Doctor

Doctor Who: A Celebration; Two Decades Through Time and Space

Dr. Who: The Best Of Doctor Who, Volume 1: The Five Doctors

Doctor Who and the Caves of Androzani collectibles

It’s difficult to explain to a fan of the modern program who is unfamiliar with the classic series the kind of impact that the Davison era had on my generation. After years of only seeing Tom Baker, the opening credits, logo and face of Doctor Who radically changed. The youngest actor at the time to play the role, Peter Davison took Doctor Who into the 1980’s, a decade that saw the program expand its fanbase into America.

Davison’s final adventure, the Caves of Androzani, is regarded as a modern classic for many reasons so perhaps it should come as no surprise that there are so many collectibles associated with it (the first Regeneration figure of Colin Baker was based on this story as well). Just announced are two lovely items for your shelves…

Doctor Who Exclusive – Peri and Sharaz Jek – Caves of Androzani

The Fifth Doctor and Peri arrive on Androzani Minor, the source of a life-prolonging drug called spectrox. Production of the drug is controlled by Sharaz Jek, a facially deformed madman in self imposed exile, who blames Morgus, a powerful industrialist on Androzani Major, for all his misfortunes. Jek is fighting Morgus’ troops on a daily basis using his android army.

Jek’s android weapons are supplied by gun-runners employed by Morgus, who then receives payment in refined spectrox. But, Jek becomes infatuated with Peri and saves her and the Doctor from execution by Morgus’ troops only to hold them prisoner himself. They escape Jek but contract spectrox toxaemia, a fatal condition with only one antidote – milk from a giant queen bat.

In a climactic battle, Morgus, Jek and all the soldiers are killed. The Doctor now dying, carries Peri back to the TARDIS, where he gives her the antidote. She recovers, but the Doctor has to regenerate to save his own life.

Contents:
Peri in Blouse
Sharaz Jek with Alternate head
Android Head Accessory

Expected on Friday 09 December, 2011.

Also available:

Doctor Who – Masterpiece Collection Maxi Bust – 5th Doctor

Peter Davison was the fifth actor to portray the Doctor on the BBC’s long-running science-fiction series Doctor Who. Dressed in an off-white Edwardian cricketeer’s outfit, the fifth Doctor was brash and impatient, an old man in a young man’s body. This stunning three-quarter length, 8″ tall maxi-bust brings to life the Time Lord.

Expected on Wednesday 25 April, 2012.

Available in the UK from Forbidden Planet and in the US from Mike’s Comics.

Thanks to TardisNewsroom for the tip!

Doctor Who and Warriors of the Deep

Warriors of the Deep

Story 130
Written by Johnny Byrne
Transmitted: 5 January – 13, 1984

In the near future, two power blocs are engaged in a deadly cold war. Sea bases on either side wait for the call to action with computerised precision and calculated inhumanity. The long sleeping reptilian races that once ruled the planet seek to ignite this situation, forcing the mutual extinction of the human race, making the planet inhabitable for them once more. In order to set things right, the Doctor must convince the Silurians that peaceful coexistence is possible, even though the human race seems determined to kill itself off with nuclear weapons.

For Doctor Who’s 21st series, John Nathan Turner wanted to open with a big bang. He had already received lauded praise for bringing back the Cybermen in 1982’s Earthshock and of course the 20th anniversary story the Five Doctors was a massive success. Again playing to the interest of fans, JNT decided to bring back two old foes for series 21; the Sea Devils and Silurians. Focusing on cold war anxiety, the story was written by former Space: 1999 writer Johnny Byrne, who had already brought back the Master in Keeper of Traken and Omega in Arc of Infinity.

In both of his previous scripts, it is apparent that Johnny Byrne is a very intelligent and sensitive person, infusing his scripts with character and emotion. However, on screen his previous efforts and his third, Warriors of the Deep, lack an impact. In the case of Warriors of the Deep, this can be explained by the production being rushed, resulting in a lackluster end result that no one involved was happy with.

However, there are some good qualities in this story that is almost entirely derided by fans of Doctor Who and used as an indicator of the shabby production values of the program by armchair critics.

Warriors of the Deep by Daryl Joyce http://www.daryljoyce.co.uk/

The second appearance of the Sea Devils and Siluruans in the classic Doctor Who program, the story again relies on the fact that planet Earth was once ruled by a proud reptilian race (dubbed inaccurately as the Silurians) who kept humans as pets. When their scientists predicted a global catastrophe, the Silurians hid in a network of caves, placed in deep hibernation to reduce bodily functions. Due to a miscalculation, the Silurians awoke to find that all traces of their culture had been wiped from history by tectonic migration and the animals once kept as pets had evolved into upright hairless apes that thought of themselves as the dominant species. Furious, the Silurians were determined to exert their power on the surface world and reclaim their birthright. It was only the intervention of a fellow outsider, the Doctor, that caused them to pause and consider that harmony with the humans may be possible. Paranoid that such a path would fail, the United Nations voted to seal up the caves of the Silurians by exploding the passageways to their underground shelter.

In a separate instance, the Master awakened a cousin to the Silurians, dubbed Sea Devils, whom he convinced to attack the human race in an act of self-preservation. The Doctor again interceded and prevented the mutual destruction that could have taken place.

For his third outing, Warriors of the Deep offers a vague situation of two power blocs that are engaged in a prolonged cold war. Arriving in space, the TARDIS is mis-identified as a hostile craft by a hunter-killer satellite, prompting the Doctor to make an emergency landing inside of the undersea base belonging to one of the power blocs. Aboard the sea base, a pair of enemy agents are putting the finishing touches on their mission to take control of the station-designated operator responsible for interfacing with the base computer. For some reason, no one else can interface with the system that controls the launching of the nuclear missiles. When the operator on duty is put out of action, an operator-in-training is relied upon, even though he seems incapable of the job and is clearly on the verge of a nervous breakdown the more he realizes the responsibility placed upon his shoulders.

When the Silurians begin their assault mission by reviving a nest of Sea Devils, it seems that their course of action mirrors that of the enemy spies, to take control of the sea base. The Sea Devils are intended to be SAS-types, very dangerous and trained to kill. On screen they look a bit better than they did in their last appearance, but are more lumbering than deadly. Perhaps the hibernation impacted their mental capacity? The Silurians, once brilliant and sophisticated, are presented here as little more than a replacement for the Cybermen seen in Earthshock. In fact, much of the set up of this story is reminiscent of the 1982 classic. The Silurians seem driven by a thirst for revenge on their previous set backs and are determined to destroy the human race at any cost.

The Sea Devils attack... very... slowly

The design work by Mat Irvine is rather grand with the undersea base looking impressive even today and the Silurian craft appearing definitively organic and spooky. I’m a big fan of Gerry Anderson productions such as Stingray and Thunderbirds, so I could not help but think of the supermarionation programs when the probe was launched from the seabase. While the scenes involving the deep space probe have not aged well, the lighting and photography of the model shots is generally impressive if jarring with the stark white interiors of the base. Likewise, the scenes shot in the Sea Devil nest are very murky and lovely. I imagine that Johnny Byrne and director Pennant Roberts were happy with the results in those shots.

Unfortunately, the production of Warriors of the Deep was beset with problems from the get go. With numerous heavy rewrites demanded by continuity expert Ian Levine and script editor Eric Saward already overworked with the remainder of the series, the production schedule was shortened by a whole two weeks due to an impromptu election. John Nathan Turner reportedly had the option of scrapping the story or going forward with less time than usual and in the end chose the latter option. As such, we should be happy with what we got, given that many scenes were shot with no rehearsal and many effects were finished just before being put on camera.

I have noted this in other articles, but in my opinion Peter Davison really came into his own in his last series. The scripts were far less ambitious than the previous year, but I think that this worked toward the program’s strengths. Essentially a ‘base under siege’ story hearkening back to the Patrick Troughton monster era of 1968, Warriors of the Deep gave ample room for Davison’s Doctor to breath and develop, unhindered by dogs in vests or dueling cosmic deities.

The story features some magnificent stunt work and unusual fight sequences as the Doctor triggers a nuclear meltdown to cover the escape of himself and his companions.

You can choose for yourself which of the above is most out of place in Doctor Who; the fight sequence or the Doctor triggering a nuclear meltdown just to cover his escape. It’s a bizarre notion that makes little sense but in the end is a gripping piece of drama that stands out as an iconic moment for fans of this era. The sequence of the Doctor swimming in the water tank is also a stand out moment and I’m sure that Davison was grateful for the opportunity to give his Doctor some ‘edge.’

The Fifth Doctor engages in a rare action sequence

Companions Tegan and Turlough are almost less than useless in this story, though Turlough does get to brandish a gun and help the Doctor and Tegan escape the Myrka… more on that later. Turlough does come off as especially catty in this one, snipping at almost everyone throughout the story. I quite like Turlough as he stands out as one of the few companions with any real depth, but he’s reduced to a mincer in this one. Tegan, the bitchy mouth on legs, is quite good here, but mainly runs up and down corridors showing off the aforementioned legs.

Johynny Byrne’s script was intended to be an exploration of a dispossessed people, presenting the Silurians in a sympathetic light. As the Silurians appear comical on screen, this never really comes together, but if you concentrate on the dialog, you can see his intentions. A gifted author, Byrne often shot for the moon in his scripts and sought to develop complex worlds of lush characters, each with his or her own agenda. As the production was rushed and the details of the world that the Warriors of the Deep is set in are so vague, this too falls flat. However, if it is viewed as a nod to the classic days of Doctor Who filtered through an unusually modern and politically influenced script, it almost works.


The guest cast is very strong with Tom Adams as the butch commander and Ian McCulloch and Hammer Horror starlet Ingrid Pitt as the enemy saboteurs. A strong supporter of sci-fi, the dear departed Ingrid Pitt had of course previously appeared on Doctor Who in the Jon Pertwee story the Time Monster. Here she was shoe-horned in place by director Pennant Roberts who merely wished to cast as many actors as he could that he had worked with previously. There’s not much for Pitt to do in her role aside from smolder and make knowing glances (probably a departure from her usual vamp roles), which may explain why she suddenly appears performing martial arts against a rubber monster.

Honestly, there is no other explanation that I can think of for this scene.

How not to fight a Myrka

Watching the DVD (excellently packaged with Silurians and Sea Devils as the ‘Beneath the Surface’ box set), it is interesting that an in-depth documentary was included exploring the creation of the dreaded Myrka. The creature was intended to be the mega weapon of the Silurians, a brutal and terrifying monstrosity that would clear a path for the boarding party. The special effect was created by the amazing Mat Irvine, though he can clearly see that the end result is laughable, mainly due to poor lighting. It’s funny that director Pennant Roberts is convinced that CGi would enhance the monster, overlooking the fact that it is blindingly lit, making it painfully obvious that the creature is a pantomime horse. To add to the failure, the glue was still wet when the actors donned the costume, leading to the operators getting high and woozy. It’s a thoroughly entertaining and informative extra that I highly recommend checking out.

The dreaded Myrka attacks

When I first saw this story as a teenager, I loved it. Davison’s final year on the program saw a progression of downbeat apocalyptic adventures in which everything that could go wrong does. This appealed to me as I had grown tired of viewing the Doctor as a ‘magical mister fix-it’ as Nightmare of Eden described him. This Doctor was brilliant, resourceful and brave, but still could not stop those around him from dying. The Doctor succeeded this time in preventing nuclear war, but at the expense of the base crew and the last surviving member of the Silurian triad that he first met two lifetimes ago. It is still a devastating moment when the shell-shocked Doctor stands amid the bodies of the fallen and (in ghastly silence) mutters ‘there should have been another way.’

There are plenty of problems with Warriors of the Deep that reside in the effects, lighting, direction and acting… but at its heart it is an intensely dramatic parable on the futility of violence and the genuine anxiety that gripped the planet in the days of the Cold War.

Warriors of the Deep also clearly points out that just because a monster looks goofy doesn’t mean that it can’t kill you.

I should point out that this article was drafted at the request of regular reader Matthew Clarke. Please check out his excellent Doctor Who blog Tea With Morbius to see his take on this story and much more.

Read more Peter Davison – Doctor Who reviews at the Daily P.O.P.

Available on DVD:

Doctor Who - Beneath The Surface

Doctor Who: Warriors of the Deep

Peter Davison Video – Opening Ceremonies Gallifrey 22

Video via http://doctorwhotv.co.uk
Taking a moment out of his backstage time at Legally Blonde, Peter Davison records a video for the attendants of the Doctor Who convention Gallifrey 22 only to discover that he has misjudged the date and instead of a week has less than an hour to catch a flight to Los Angeles in the United States.

Missing his plane, he is plagued by vision of his former costars (in sharp contrast to his regeneration scene in Caves of Androzani) who give him grief throughout his long cab ride home. Sarah Sutton, who played Nyssa in numerous adventures, pleads “Is it too late to call Colin Baker?” in Davison’s imagination, further adding to his depression.

Of course former Doctor and son-in-law to Davison, David Tennant, also appears in the short as an angry passenger in the cab. The entire affair ends with Davison finding himself in front of the answer to all of his problems, the newly opened Doctor Who Experience.

Lovely stuff.

The Doctor (Peter Davison) - 1982

Regarded by many Whovians of my generation as a pivotal Doctor, Peter Davison has continued to act as a touchstone to the program’s past. It is heartening to see the actor embrace his cult celebrity status along with a flair for comedy, something that he has much experience in from his time on stage in Monty Python’s Spamalot. As the Doctor, Davison was restricted from injected any humor thanks to producer John Nathan Turner who sought to remove what he thought of over-the-top sophomoric comedy that reigned supreme in the Tom Baker/Graham Williams era.

Currently there are only four stories remaining to be released on DVD from Davison’s time as the Fifth Doctor. Kinda and Snakedance are scheduled as a box set for release next month while Frontios, the Awakening and a special edition of Resurrection of the Daleks with more features and material will also be released later this year.

Resurrection of the Daleks action figure scene recreation

‘Batmanmarch’ as he is known has been creating excellent original Doctor Who adventures using only action figures as his actors. With the entire gamut of monsters and classic Doctors 1-8, the possibilities are only limited by the young creator’s imagination which appears to be endless!

In addition to his original material and reviews (that I always check before purchasing any new Who merch), he has also used his act6ion figures to recreate classic scenes from the original Doctor Who series.

Below is a recreation of a stirring moment between the Doctor and the creator of the Daleks, Davros, from the 1983 adventure Resurrection of the Daleks (image for reference above). At this point in the series, the Doctor had mainly searched for a path of peace and understanding, despising violence as a solution to a difficult situation. After losing a companion to the Cybermen and witnessing the destructive power of the Silurians, the Doctor has come to the realization that while he may strive for a peaceful resolution, the universe does not operate by the same rules. Exhausting his options, he decides to kill Davros and end the threat of the Daleks forever.

You can of course see this classic moment on DVD, or below as recreated by the Character Options series figures (and a Bruce Wayne Kenner figure from Batman Returns hiding in the background!).

The season 21 Fifth Doctor variant, Davros, Supreme Dalek and Soldier Dalek have been released as a special limited edition set from Underground Toys. It’s a superb set that I highly recommend and will review shortly.

Click on the image to order the Resurrection of the Daleks set in the UK

Order in the US from MikesComics (and be sure to mention this article!). They have the best prices around and are also incredibly knowledgeable and courteous to boot!