Tom Baker as Doctor Who

Tom Baker as Doctor Who

Sunday, 25 January 2015

386 The Ark in Space: Part One

EPISODE: The Ark in Space: Part One
OVERALL EPISODE NUMBER: 386
STORY NUMBER: 076
TRANSMITTED: Saturday 25 January 1975
WRITER: Robert Holmes
DIRECTOR: Rodney Bennett
SCRIPT EDITOR: Robert Holmes
PRODUCER: Philip Hinchcliffe
RATINGS: 9.4 million viewers
FORMAT: DVD: Doctor Who: The Ark In Space - Special Edition

"Homo sapiens. What an inventive, invincible species. It's only a few million years since they've crawled up out of the mud and learned to walk. Puny, defenceless bipeds. They've survived flood, famine and plague. They've survived cosmic wars and holocausts, and now here they are amongst the stars, waiting to begin a new life, ready to outsit eternity. They're indomitable. Indomitable!"

On a space station orbiting Earth something opens a chamber containing a slumbering human. The Doctor, Sarah & Harry arrive in the darkened and seemingly deserted space station. Sarah becomes trapped in an adjoining room. When the Doctor & Harry attempt a rescue they are trapped with her and find evidence of malicious damage to the space station. Sarah is transported to another room and put into suspended animation. When the Doctor & Harry restore the oxygen systems the security system also reactivates, attaching them. When the finally deactivate the machine they realise Sarah is missing and search for her finding a slimy trail. The Doctor finds the humans on the station held in suspended animation and deduces that this is all that remains of humanity after some global catastrophe. They find Sarah in suspended animation but while searching for resuscitation equipment Harry finds a giant alien insect.

Essentially "The Doctor, Sarah and Harry poke around a space station" for an episode! Sarah manages to get separated from the others twice in 25 minutes - Deary, deary me! Though to be fair the second time can hardly be blamed on her since it was the Doctor & Harry who laid her on the couch with a teleport device built into it!

vlcsnap-2014-12-02-21h34m19s235 vlcsnap-2014-12-02-21h34m28s83

But Sarah's absence does give the opportunity to cast the spotlight onto Harry and develop his character, emphasising the bungling idiot aspect hinted at in Robot. Firstly he's blamed for their arrival in the far future:

DOCTOR: You're a clumsy, ham fisted idiot.
HARRY: I said I was sorry, didn't I?
DOCTOR: What? Come out! (thud) And don't touch anything.
HARRY: I'm only trying to open the door.
And then for Sarah's first disappearance:
DOCTOR: There must be a remote control. You haven't touched anything have you, Harry?
HARRY: Me?
DOCTOR: Well, there are only two of us here and your name is Harry.
HARRY: Oh, yeah. I did just touch one switch.
Harry then draws attention to his own clumsiness:
HARRY: I've always hated sliding doors, ever since I caught my nose in one in Pompey Barracks.
But by that point we've got the message! When Harry does start to think about his surroundings the Doctor takes all the credit!
DOCTOR: Then pull yourself together, man. This is fascinating! This is a cryogenic repository.
HARRY: Repository? For what?
DOCTOR: Everything. Well, everything they considered worth preserving. Look at this. Microfilm. It's a complete record. Music, history, architecture, literature, engineering. Incredible. The entire body of human thought and achievement.
HARRY: Yes, but what's it all for?
DOCTOR: Posterity? I don't know. Why build all this and send it into space?
HARRY: I say, couldn't be some sort of survival kit, could it?
DOCTOR: Survival?
HARRY: Yes, you know, the sort of thing they shove in lifeboats and things.
DOCTOR: You're improving, Harry.
HARRY: Am I really?
DOCTOR: Yes, your mind is beginning to work. It's entirely due my influence, of course. You mustn't take any credit. Now, what's missing?
HARRY: Missing?
DOCTOR: Yes. If we are to assume that some great cataclysm struck Earth, and that before the end they launched this lifeboat, then the one obvious missing element is man himself. What's happened to the human species, Harry?

The Space Station sets look fabulous, especially the cryogenic chamber containing all the humans in storage.

HARRY: Just a minute, Doctor. Are you trying to tell that this is where it's all going to end? In here?
DOCTOR: Not end, Harry, just a pause.
HARRY: But there's only a few hundred corpses, er, bodies in here. I mean, what's happened to the rest of humanity? Some global catastrophe?
DOCTOR: Yes, and they saw it coming, and made provision for it as best they could. Don't forget, it's something for you to be proud of.
vlcsnap-2014-12-02-21h55m04s144 vlcsnap-2014-12-02-21h56m29s248

It makes a superb setting for one of the Fourth Doctor's great speeches on the subject of Humanity:

DOCTOR: Homo sapiens. What an inventive, invincible species. It's only a few million years since they've crawled up out of the mud and learned to walk. Puny, defenceless bipeds. They've survived flood, famine and plague. They've survived cosmic wars and holocausts, and now here they are amongst the stars, waiting to begin a new life, ready to outsit eternity. They're indomitable. Indomitable!
Unfortunately while Harry is examining one of the chambers, the extra in it's near neighbour decides to turn round for a look!

vlcsnap-2014-12-02-22h00m11s162 vlcsnap-2014-12-02-21h59m57s237

The exterior of the Ark isn't too shabby either for effects generated in 1974/5.

vlcsnap-2014-12-02-21h28m21s254 vlcsnap-2014-12-02-21h29m17s47

For the DVD of the story there's the option to watch this story with new CGI sequences replacing the model shots.

vlcsnap-2014-12-02-22h03m53s69 vlcsnap-2014-12-02-22h04m12s2

Some of the sets for this story are reused later on in this season during Revenge of the Cybermen which is set in the same location in an earlier point in time. The most obvious one is the ring corridor with the windows, used prominently in both tales.

vlcsnap-2014-12-02-21h50m25s174 vlcsnap-2014-12-02-21h50m11s44

And I think I can see the UFO moonbase computer banks again, previously seen in The Green Death, Time Warrior, Invasion of the Dinosaurs & Monster of Peladon! They look rather odd here as their curved shapes are set into a straight wall and turned round so the longest & curved edge runs top to bottom.

vlcsnap-2014-12-02-21h31m55s95 vlcsnap-2014-12-02-21h32m48s107

One of my abiding memories of this episode is of the Doctor and Harry hunched up under the table attempting to evade the security system which is hunting for organic matter. Good Job it isn't the Cybermen's turn to invade this week!

vlcsnap-2014-12-02-21h46m27s109 vlcsnap-2014-12-02-21h48m14s136
HARRY: Bad luck. Jolly good try, though.
DOCTOR: It isn't a game of cricket, Harry.
HARRY: Sorry. Mind you, if I had a cricket ball, I'd jolly soon knock that switch.
DOCTOR: Will this do?
Interestingly the Doctor never showed any interest in cricket while he was marooned on Earth during his third incarnation. The First Doctor briefly visited a game in Dalek Masterplan episode 7: Volcano, and the Second, like the fourth, occasionally carried a ball in his pockets. Perhaps one day the Brigadier said to the Third Doctor "Fancy a trip to Lords tomorrow for the test?" and off they went together leading to the Doctor appreciating the sport. The Fourth Doctor mentions the game from time to time but by the time the Fifth appears he's evidentially played a bit, claiming to have taken five wickets bowling Left Arm Chinamen for New South Wales in Four to Doomsday part 4 but at the same time bowling right arm in Black Orchid!
DOCTOR: Pity about the scarf. Madame Nostradamus made it for me. A witty little knitter. All right, Sarah, you can come out now. Never get another one like it.
We've all heard Tom Baker's story about how the scarf was knitted for the Doctor by a lady named Begonia Pope. Here we find out it's fictional origins.

vlcsnap-2014-12-02-21h39m24s222

And speaking of clothes....

Sarah spends most of this episode wearing the same blue flowery dress she had on in the closing moments of Robot, helping to cement in the mind that these two tales occur consecutively.

It does however cause her problems at one stage though when Harry & the Doctor are carrying her! You expect this from Jo Grant but Sarah?

She's still wearing it as she's put into suspended animation. However when Harry finds her in the chamber she's now wearing something in white with a high collar just like the other sleeping crew members!

vlcsnap-2014-12-02-21h44m50s133 vlcsnap-2014-12-02-22h00m33s123

We'll be charitable and say her clothes were changed by teleport when she was moved to the suspended animation chamber!

Throughout the episode the mystery of what's going on is being played out. At the opening of the episode we from the point of view of something approaching a body lying in suspended animation. The same shot is repeated later, but with The Doctor & Harry being spied on.

vlcsnap-2014-12-02-21h29m06s196 vlcsnap-2014-12-02-21h37m46s6
Then the Doctor discovers some sabotage....
DOCTOR: I'll just repair some of those cables.
HARRY: Sheared, you said.
DOCTOR: Or bitten.
HARRY: What?
DOCTOR: There's a mystery here, Harry. Something happened a long time ago.
HARRY: Bitten?
DOCTOR: It looks like it. The interesting question is why? Clearly deliberate, therefore done for a purpose. Therefore, whatever it was had a reasoning intelligence.
HARRY: And very large teeth.
Harry then spots "something" shuffling away in the corridor before the big reveal as the giant insect (See also: Planet of Giants, Web Planet & The Mutants) falls on him ending the episode!

vlcsnap-2014-12-02-21h51m21s235 vlcsnap-2014-12-02-22h01m01s115

The title sequence for this episode is a little odd: there's a pinkish tinge to it which isn't usually there!

vlcsnap-2014-12-02-21h27m31s252 vlcsnap-2014-11-10-14h06m50s118 vlcsnap-2014-12-02-21h27m50s189 vlcsnap-2014-11-10-14h07m32s30

Essentially this episode is a three hander between the main cast but also heard during it is Peter Tuddenham who does the initial voices that speaks to Sarah. He'll be back in The Masque of Mandragora and Time and the Rani providing a similar role but he's most famous for providing the voices of Zen, Orac and Slave in Blake's 7. He's the second regular member of the Blake's cast to be in Doctor Who after Paul Darrow (Avon) in the Silurians. So as promised then we're going to look at the first season of Blake's 7 and see which of it's cast had been in Doctor Who. All of the show's first season was written by Terry Nation of Dalek fame, script edited by Chris Boucher, who we'll see writing Face of Evil, Robots of Death and Image of the Fendahl shortly, and produced by David Maloney who directed many a Doctor Who story.


EPISODE: A1 The Way Back
DIRECTED BY: Michael E. Briant Colony in Space, The Sea Devils, The Green Death, Death to the Daleks, Revenge of the Cybermen & The Robots of Death
BROADCAST ON: 02/01/1978

Robert Beatty (Bran Foster) General Cutler in the Tenth Planet
Jeremy Wilkin (Dev Tarrant) Kellman in the Revenge of the Cybermen (directed by Michael E. Briant)
Robert James (Ven Glynd) Lesterson in Power of the Daleks & High Priest in Masque of Mandragora
Gillian Bailey (Ravella) is the current head of Drama at Royal Holloway College, where I did my degree.
Margaret John (Arbiter) Megan Jones in Fury from the Deep
Nigel Lambert (Computer operator) Hardin in The Leisure Hive, but is probably best known for being the narrator of the superb first series of Look Around You. If you've not seen it by the DVD. Trust me.


EPISODE: A2 Space Fall
DIRECTED BY: Pennant Roberts The Face of Evil, The Sun Makers, The Pirate Planet, Shada, Warriors of the Deep and Timelash
BROADCAST ON: 09/01/1978

Glyn Owen (Leylan) Rohm-Dutt in The Power of Kroll
Leslie Schofield (Raiker) Leroy in War Games Calib in Face of Evil
Norman Tipton (Artix) Idas in the Underworld


EPISODE: A3 Cygnus Alpha
DIRECTED BY: Vere Lorimer (No Doctor Who directing credits)
BROADCAST ON: 16/01/1978

Brian Blessed (Vargas) King Yrcanos in Trial of a Timelord
Pamela Salem (Kara) one of the many voices of Xoanon in The Face of Evil, Toos in The Robots of Death and Professor Rachel Jensen in Remembrance of the Daleks.
Peter Childs (Arco) Jack Ward in Mark of the Rani


EPISODE: A4 Time Squad
DIRECTED BY: Pennant Robert (see A2 above)
BROADCAST ON: 23/01/1978

No Doctor Who cast members involved


EPISODE: A5 The Web
DIRECTED BY: Michael E. Briant (see A1 Above)
BROADCAST ON: 30/01/1978

Richard Beale (Saymon) Refusian Voice in the Ark, Bat Masterson in the Gunfighters, Broadcaster in Macra Terror and Minister of Ecology in The Green Death (directed by Michael E. Briant)
Miles Fothergill (Novara) SV7 in The Robots of Death (directed by Michael E. Briant)
Deep Roy (Decimas) Mr Sin in The Talons of Weng Chiang and all the Oompa Loompas in Tim Burton's version of Charlie & the Chocolate Factory.


EPISODE: A6 Seek-Locate-Destroy
DIRECTED BY: Vere Lorimer
BROADCAST ON: 01/02/1978

Peter Miles (Rontane) Dr. Lawrence in the Silurians, Professor Whitaker in Invasion of the Dinosaurs & Nyder in Genesis of the Daleks
John Bryans (Bercol) Torvin in The Creature from the Pit
Peter Craze (Prell) Dako in the Space Museum, DuPont in The War Games & Costa in Nightmare of Eden
Ian Cullen (Escon) Izta in the Aztecs


EPISODE: A7 Mission to Destiny
DIRECTED BY: Pennant Roberts (see A2 above)
BROADCAST ON: 13/02/1978

Barry Jackson (Kendall) Ascarius in the Romans, Jeff Garvey in Mission to the Unknown and Drax in the Armageddon Factor. He's best known as Doctor George Bullard in Midsomer Murders.
Nigel Humphreys (Sonheim) Bulic in The Warriors of the Deep (directed by Pennant Roberts)
John Leeson (Pasco) K-9 voice
Carl Forgione (Grovane) Land in Planet of Spiders, Nimrod in Ghost Light
Stuart Fell (Dortmunn) The Curse of Peladon (as Alpha Centauri), The Monster of Peladon (as Alpha Centauri), Planet of the Spiders (as a tramp), The Ark in Space (as a Wirrn), The Android Invasion (as a Kraal), The Brain of Morbius (as Morbius Monster), The Masque of Mandragora (as an entertainer), The Invasion of Time (as a Sontaran) and State of Decay (as Roga)


EPISODE: A8 Duel
DIRECTED BY: Douglas Camfield (directed The Crusade, The Time Meddler, The Daleks' Master Plan, The Web of Fear, The Invasion, Inferno, Terror of the Zygons & The Seeds of Doom)
BROADCAST ON: 20/02/1978

Isla Blair (Sinofar) Isabella in The King's Demons
Patsy Smart (Giroc) Ghoul in The Talons of Weng Chiang


EPISODE: A9 Project Avalon
DIRECTED BY: Michael E. Briant (see A1 Above)
BROADCAST ON: 27/02/1978

David Bailie (Chevner) Dask in Robots of Death (directed by Michael Briant)
John Rolfe (Terloc) Captain in The War Machines, Sam in the Moonbase and Fell in The Green Death (also directed bt Michael Briant)

This episode also features Glynis Barber (Mutoid) years before her regular appearances in Blake's 7 as Soolin


EPISODE: A10 Breakdown
DIRECTED BY: Vere Lorrimer
BROADCAST ON: 06/03/1978

Julian Glover (Kayn) King Richard in The Crusade & Count Scarloni/Scaroth in City of Death


EPISODE: A11 Bounty
DIRECTED BY: Pennant Roberts (see A2 above)
BROADCAST ON: 13/03/1978

T. P. McKenna (Sarkoff) Captain Cook in The Greatest Show in the Galaxy


EPISODE: A12 Deliverance
DIRECTED BY: Michael E. Briant (see A1 Above)
BROADCAST ON: 20/03/1978

Tony Caunter (Ensor) The Crusade (Thatcher), Colony in Space (Morgan - directed by Michael Briant) and Enlightenment (Jackson)


EPISODE: A13 Orac
DIRECTED BY: Vere Lorrimer
BROADCAST ON: 27/03/2011

No Doctor Who cast members involved.

That's it for Series 1. Join us in Robots of Death where we'll cover second season Blake's 7 cast members who've been in Doctor Who!

Saturday, 17 January 2015

385 Robot: Part Four

EPISODE: Robot: Part Four
OVERALL EPISODE NUMBER: 385
STORY NUMBER: 075
TRANSMITTED: Saturday 18 January 1975
WRITER: Terrance Dicks
DIRECTOR: Christopher Barry
SCRIPT EDITOR: Robert Holmes
PRODUCER: Barry Letts
RATINGS: 9 million viewers
FORMAT: DVD: Doctor Who – Robot

"Would you like a Jelly Baby?"

Winters has Kettlewell start the countdown to missile launch, but while Winters is checking the food stores Sarah & Harry escape overpowering Jellicoe and allowing Kettlewell to pauses the sequence and the three of them to escape. Kettlewell is accidentally slain by his robot who, having killed it's creator, collapses. UNIT storm the bunker and the Doctor cancels the missile launch that Winters restarted. The recovered Robot takes Sarah hostage. Benton reminds the Doctor of Kettlewell's living metal virus and the Doctor & Harry search Kettlewell's lab for it. The robot restarts the missile sequence and announces it plans to build more machines like itself. The Doctor has the Brigadier get the world powers to operate their fail safe procedures forcing the count down to abort. The robot emerges from the Bunker and the Brigadier attacks it with the Disintigrator gun. However the robot absorbs the energy and uses it to grow to giant size. It places Sarah on the roof of the Thinktank building then attacks the UNIT troops. The Doctor & Harry arrive with the metal eating virus which the Doctor throws over the robot causing it to shrink, rust and disintegrate. Sarah is sad following the robot's death, but the Doctor persuades her to come for another trip in the Tardis but as they're about to leave Harry enters the lab. He doubts the Doctor's claims about the Tardis and is tempted inside.....

You can't really go wrong with a countdown to add a little tension to a story but stopping it and then restarting it TWICE ? That's a little much.

vlcsnap-2014-11-11-10h12m32s241 vlcsnap-2014-11-11-10h12m38s59

Kettlewell seems genuinely horrified that winters plans to go through with her plan. Expecting them to surrender when their bluff was called does seem a little naive. Mind you there's signs Winters hasn't thought everything through either

HILDA: What about food and water? How long can we hold out if the worst happens?
JELLICOE: I'm not really sure.
HILDA: Then you should be. Take me to the food storage. We must make a proper check. Keep your eye on our friends outside, Professor.
What on earth is Winters doing checking their food stores five minutes before the start of a nuclear war? It's a bit late then to go nipping down to Sainsburys to stock up so I can only assume she's got OCD of the highest order!

You actually feel as if the Brigadier has a reasonable number of men in this episode as there's lots of UNIT troops on display here when attacking the robot. In amongst them is Ray Knight, possibly the soldier the robot encounters in the Bunker, making his uncredited Who début before returning as the Sorenson Monster in Planet of Evil Part Four, a Coven Member in Image of the Fendahl Part Three & Four, a Mentiad in The Pirate Planet Parts One, Three and Four, Lexa's Deon in Meglos Part One, the Policeman with Bike in Logopolis Part One, a Trion in Planet of Fire Part Four and a Member of Giltiz's Crew in Dragonfire Parts One and Two. He's got Blake's 7 on his CV as a Federation Trooper Countdown, a Rebel in the superb Rumours of Death and a Federation Trooper in Warlord. Neither program ever credits him!

vlcsnap-2014-11-11-10h39m06s44 vlcsnap-2014-11-11-10h38m29s199

When the Robot grows to giant size, and plonks Sarah on a nearby roof, the episode's King Kong roots come to light. It's not clear if writer Terrance Dicks, writing his first solo Doctor Who script, or new script editor Robert Holmes came up with this element but Holmes obviously liked it because he spends a good proportion of the next few years, once he's cleared the backlog of scripts commissioned by Barry Letts & Terrance Dicks, doing homages to various old horror films.

Of course Doctor Who doing giant things has been a staple of the program for many years with Planet of the Giants, where the Tardis crew are shrunk, The Web Planet, insect people, Macra Terror, giant crabs and The Green Death, giant maggots & flies just a few examples.

Another old classic makes an appearance as the robot slays Kettlewell:

ROBOT: I have killed the one who created me.
Oh dear.

Then when looking for the Robot the Doctor points out a flaw in their plan:

DOCTOR: There is just one teeny weeny little thing.
BRIGADIER: What's that?
DOCTOR: Something else you haven't thought of. What are we going to do with it when we find it?
BRIGADIER: Yes. You know, just once I'd like to meet an alien menace that wasn't immune to bullets.
The soloution is provided onscreen by Mr Benton, who obviously was listening carefully in the previous episode, and by Terrance Dicks raiding the Third Doctor's back catalogue one more time: The scene of the Doctor slopping the virus from a bucket in the back of Bessie is very similar to Benton throwing the fungus at the Maggots, again from the back of Bessie, in the Green Death.

vlcsnap-2014-11-11-10h42m54s26 vlcsnap-2014-11-11-10h43m44s30

And a huge cheer please for the début of yet another Fourth Doctor staple towards the end of the episode:

vlcsnap-2014-11-11-10h45m43s186 vlcsnap-2014-11-11-10h49m20s42

"Would you like a Jelly Baby?"

For the record Sarah is the first person he offers a Jelly Baby to followed by Harry in a fab routine with Harry being tricked into the Tardis to round off the whole story:

HARRY: Hello. Well, what are you two up to now, eh?
DOCTOR: We're just going on a little trip. Would you like a jelly baby?
HARRY: Little trip? What, in that old police box?
DOCTOR: Yes, as a matter of fact, in that old police box.
HARRY: Oh, come along now, Doctor. We're both reasonable men. Now, we both know that police boxes don't go careering around all over the place.
DOCTOR: Do we?
HARRY: Of course we do. The whole idea's absurd.
DOCTOR: Is it? You wouldn't like to step inside a moment? Just to demonstrate that it is all an illusion.
HARRY: Well, if you think it'll do any good.
DOCTOR: Oh, yes, it'll make me feel a lot better.
SARAH: Doctor.
DOCTOR: In you go.
HARRY: Right-o..... Oh, I say!
Which leaves the Brigadier, seaking the Doctor to force him to attend a number of celebratory function, absoloutely exasperated at yet another absence from his friend.

Scarf, Hat, Jelly Babies, voice, wild staring eyes. All present and correct. We're all set up and good to go for the next Seven years. As an introductory story Robot does it's job: here's the new Doctor but look there's lots of old and familiar things round him, so that's OK, it's still the same show and I say that new chap is really rather good isn't he?

The end of Robot sees the final regular appearance of Bessie, the Doctor's yellow Edwardian roadster used on Earth throughout the Third Doctor's era. It'll be back though, with the Third Doctor in Five Doctors before making it's last appearance in Battlefield.

vlcsnap-2014-11-11-10h40m47s34 vlcsnap-2014-11-11-10h50m14s62

It's also the last appearance of the Unit Lab. Numerous labs have been seen since the Doctor's arrival on Earth in Spearhead from Space but this one, which made it's début in The Three Doctors before returning in The Green Death & Planet of Spiders is probably the most commonly shown. UNIT HQ appears again in Terror of the Zygons but it's just an office/radio room which we see then.

Robot is also the start of a four season long package of stories which was syndicated to television stations in the USA. Although Doctor Who had been shown previously these stories, frequently edited together to form compilations, were repeated an nauseum and were what really cracked the US for the show. Even more than the British the American image of Doctor Who is scarf wearing & jelly baby eating!

Robot is the last story produced by Barry Letts. As well as returning to directing, helming Android Invasion, he became producer for the Sunday evening Classic Serial and almost immediately roped Terrance Dicks into help first as his script editor and then as his replacement! He executive produced Doctor who season 18 before writing a number of books and radio plays about Doctor Who as well as contributing to a large number of DVD commentaries. His book Who And Me is essential reading to anyone interested in the earlier half of the Pertwee era. It's a shame a sequel covering the later years was never forthcoming: I hope that one day Terrance Dicks might be persuaded to write a book covering his time on the show and covering this portion. Having fought cancer for a time and been recently widowed Barry Letts died on 9 October 2009 aged 84.

Terrance Dicks novelised his script for Robot, with the name being modified to the more dramatic sounding The Giant Robot. It was the first Target Book I ever read, being picked off the paperback shelf in my local library at around the point I first saw Logopolis in 1981. In retrospect it probably has a lot to answer for as the books played a vital part in cementing me as a Doctor Who fan and in the process encouraged a love of reading in me. I have a lot to thank and blame in for and one day I'd like to meet him and tell him just that! For many years Giant Robot only existed in paperback, a hardback edition not being released until 1986. A junior edition of Giant Robot, one of only two junior Doctor Who books, was released in 1980. Robot was released on video in January 1992 alongside Caves of Androzani, the Fifth Doctor's final story. BBC Video had obviously gone regeneration crazy because two months later they released Logopolis & Castrovalva, the Fourth & Fifth Doctors last & first stories respectively, and then in May 1992 released The Twin Dilemma as a Woolworths exclusive. Robot was released on DVD on 4th June 2007.

Sunday, 11 January 2015

384 Robot: Part Three

EPISODE: Robot: Part Three
OVERALL EPISODE NUMBER: 384
STORY NUMBER: 075
TRANSMITTED: Saturday 11 January 1975
WRITER: Terrance Dicks
DIRECTOR: Christopher Barry
SCRIPT EDITOR: Robert Holmes
PRODUCER: Barry Letts
RATINGS: 10.1 million viewers
FORMAT: DVD: Doctor Who – Robot

"Good evening, everyone. Now please, stay calm. Everyone keep your seat. Now then, what can I do to entertain you till my friend the Brigadier arrives? A little song? A little dance, perhaps? Not just a little dance? Anyone for cards?"

The Doctor is saved by Sarah, who the robot trusts, and Benton who drives the robot off with a machine gun. UNIT troops attempt to contain it but it escapes. They find Kettlewell in the house and bring him to UNIT HQ where he explains the robot is made of a living metal that can grow and that he has a "virus" that can break metal down into a recyclable material. Sarah talks the professor into taking her to a Scientific Reform Society Meeting. The Brigadier admits that Chambers was holding the nuclear codes for a number of countries and that was what was stolen from his house. The holders would be able to set off every atomic missile in the world. The Doctor is angry when he finds out Sarah went with Kettlewell. At the meeting Winters tells the SRS members their scheme is coming to fruition and introduces Kettlewell to the stage with his robot. The Doctor disrupts the meeting but is restrained. The Brigadier raids the meeting but Winters, Jellicoe, Kettlewell and the robot escape with Sarah as a prisoner. Harry is taken hostage at Thinktank. The Brigadier locates Thinktank's bunker but they find it defended by automated machine gun nests. Winters demands that the Brigadier surrender. Harry & Sarah are held prisoner by the robot. Troops deal with the Machine Gun while the Doctor detonates landmines enabling them to approach the bunker where the Doctor starts to open the doors. Winters has Kettlewell start to program the destructor codes. The doors to the bunker open revealing the robot armed with the disintegrator gun, which destroys the tank the Brigadier sends against it.

A mixed bag.

Tom's great throughout, especially during the sequence where he tries to distract the crowd at the scientific reform society gathering. We get a number of first for him again:

There's the début of another Fourth Doctor staple: the Doctor emptying his pockets and all sorts of junk coming out.

vlcsnap-2014-11-10-14h21m58s225 vlcsnap-2014-11-10-14h21m47s118
DOCTOR: Where is that pass? Freedom to the city of Skaro? No. Pilot's licence for the Mars Venus rocket run. Galactic passport. Do you travel much? Honorary member of the Alpha Centauri Table Tennis Club. Very tricky opponents, those chaps. Six arms, and of course six bats. It really keeps you on your toes.
alphacentauri The line about the Doctor being "an honorary member of the Alpha Centauri Table tennis club" is nice reference to the occasional third Doctor character Alpha Centauri, one of the Galactic Federation's representatives to the planet Peladon. This is confirmed by the Doctor's remark about "6 arms and 6 bats" clearly describing the creature seen on screen. Alpha Centauri first appeared in The Curse of Peladon, in 1972, before returning in 1974's The Monster of Peladon, the last but one story which was the penultimate Third Doctor tale.

vlcsnap-2014-11-11-10h52m32s167 vlcsnap-2014-11-11-10h53m43s102

The guard on the doors at the scientific reform society who the Doctor tips his pockets out for is played by regular stuntman Terry Walsh who had doubled for the Third Doctor John Pertwee and would do again for Tom Baker. The reason why a stuntman is cast is quickly revealed as he gets the Doctor's scarf pulled out from under him before jumping at an obviously bending down Doctor on stage and finally manhandling him!

There's also the Fourth Doctor's first use of the sonic screw driver. Initially he uses it to blow up mines, as in the Sea Devils, although at this point it looks more like it's original form of a flashlight pen before he attaches the more traditional top to cut threw the door lock.

vlcsnap-2014-11-10-14h31m26s19 vlcsnap-2014-11-10-14h32m23s75

Against that ......

The episode starts with a substantial reprise from the previous one, from the point where the Doctor enters Kettlewell's home meaning that we don't get any new material till 2m45s into the episode!

Yup that's a particularly insane plan the Scientific Reform Society have

BRIGADIER: A few months ago, the superpowers, Russia, America and China, decided upon a plan to ensure peace. All three powers have hidden atomic missile sites. All three agreed to give details of those sites plus full operational instructions to another neutral country. In the event of trouble, that country could publish everyone's secrets and so cool things down. Well, naturally enough, the only country that could be trusted with such a role was Great Britain.
DOCTOR: Well, naturally, I mean, the rest were all foreigners.
BRIGADIER: Well, exactly. The destructor codes for firing these missiles were kept in Chambers' house in a special Dynastreem safe. The robot killed Chambers, blasted the safe open with a disintegrator gun and took the codes.
BENTON: So what can they do with them now that they've got them?
BRIGADIER: They could set off every atomic missile in the world, Mister Benton.
DOCTOR: Yes, and start a nuclear holocaust that would turn this little planet of yours into a radioactive cinder suspended in space.
BENTON: You mean he could use the information to blackmail the world? Do things our way or we light the blue touch paper.
DOCTOR: I'm afraid so.
The idea that any one country, let alone person, should be holding the codes for all the world's nuclear weapons is perhaps a conceit too far on the part of the writer and The Brigadier's "and naturally there was only one country that could be trusted" puts the seal on it!

vlcsnap-2014-11-10-15h32m30s54 There's some very dodgy effects in this episode: my word that's a rubbish cardboard bunker that gets blown up by a grenade. And as for the Action Man tank that appears at the end of the episode.... deary me.

BRIGADIER: Well, I've brought along something that will deal with it.
DOCTOR: I very much doubt it, Brigadier.
I'm with the Doctor on this one.

And it very much is an Action Man tank - google Action Man Scorpion Tank if you don't believe me!

It's not helped by a lot of the scenes involving gunfire being afflicted by microphony creating a pattern of horizontal lines across the screen.

The major location in this story is Wood Norton Hall in Evesham, Worcestershire. It previously appeared, both inside and out, in the Third Doctor's début Spearhead from Space. This time the crew were forbidden from filming inside by the official secrets act: The site was a designated emergency broadcasting centre in the event of nuclear war. Why they were allowed in 1969 and not in 1974 remains a mystery. This is the first Doctor Who story to have it's location work recorded using Outside Broadcast video rather than film producing a more consistent look with the studio filmed footage.

This story sees the début of another new opening title sequence, now featuring Tom Baker's face and for the first time the Tardis. It's broadly similar to the title sequence used for the Third Doctor's last season: both use silhouettes and tunnels, albeit different ones, but both use the same logo and ending. As someone who gre up with the Tom Baker titles I'm obviously very fond of them but I do like the start of the Pertwee sequence with the increasing number of streaks forming a circular tunnel. But I'm not fond of the silhouettes, certainly not Pertwee's body and although the Police Box shape is better, the first time The Tardis has been in the titles, the round topped lamp on top of the box has always annoyed me.

vlcsnap-2014-11-10-14h44m43s75 vlcsnap-2014-11-10-14h06m41s31 vlcsnap-2014-11-10-14h44m48s113 vlcsnap-2014-11-10-14h06m50s118 vlcsnap-2014-11-10-14h44m55s181 vlcsnap-2014-11-10-14h06m57s188 vlcsnap-2014-11-10-14h45m06s40 vlcsnap-2014-11-10-14h07m25s224 vlcsnap-2014-11-10-14h45m20s185 vlcsnap-2014-11-10-14h07m32s30

While Pertwee's last season play the end credits over a receding diamond shaped tunnel, the Tom Baker titles feature a round silver tunnel approaching us. These two new title sequences would be used for the next SIX years making them the longest used set of Doctor Who titles. The Doctor Who: Robot DVD has a feature on how all four title sequences to date were achieved.

vlcsnap-2014-11-10-14h45m51s245 vlcsnap-2014-11-10-14h37m32s105

And speaking of the end titles, there's an oddity to be found in these: writer Terrance Dicks gets a credit at the end of the episode as well as the start!

vlcsnap-2014-11-10-14h39m04s4 vlcsnap-2014-11-10-14h38m43s65
Note also how the end of the new titles, with the writer's credit, is the same as the old closing title sequence!

I've seen Robot a fair few times now over the years but one that sticks in my mind was UK Gold showing it the morning of my 30th birthday morning. My wife was making us breakfast and really laying into the effects, especially the tank, as she cooked the bacon sandwiches!