Tom Baker as Doctor Who

Tom Baker as Doctor Who

Sunday, 27 September 2015

406 Planet of Evil: Part One

EPISODE: Planet of Evil: Part One
OVERALL EPISODE NUMBER: 406
STORY NUMBER: 081
TRANSMITTED: Saturday 27 September 1975
WRITER: Louis Marks
DIRECTOR: David Maloney
SCRIPT EDITOR: Robert Holmes
PRODUCER: Philip Hinchcliffe
RATINGS: 10.4 million viewers
FORMAT: DVD: Doctor Who - Planet Of Evil

"We lost it. The vein vanished. This damned planet took it back. It's alive, you know, Baldwin. It watches every move we make. I won't be beaten again."

On the planet Zeta-Minor Braun plants a grave marker for a fallen comrades while another two men gather samples in a cave. Braun radios to call them back to base before night falls but Professor Sorenson wants to stay to pursue a rich seam. Baldwin leaves Sorenson behind but back at their base a creature comes for Braun who disintegrates. Baldwin too is caught and killed when he returns to base. The Doctor & Sarah come out of the Time Vortex 30,000 years too late and hearing the distress call materialise in the jungles of Zeta-Minor. A spaceship approaches Zeta-Minor where Vishinsky describes it as the last planet in the known universe. Controller Salamar tells Vishinsky to head up the landing party even though they don't have enough fuel to survey the planet first. The Doctor & Sarah find the graves and the seemingly deserted base. The Doctor wonders where they are theorising that the expedition was killed before help arrived. Sarah returns to the Tardis for some equipment and while she is gone the Doctor finds Baldwin's body. As Sarah enters the Tardis, it's found by the landing party. They have the Tardis transferred to the probe by transmat. The landing party find Sorenson who tells them he has made a vital discovery. Vishinsky quizzes him on the expedition's losses but he is evasive. They find the Doctor at the base. Sarah exits the Tardis finding herself on the Morestran spaceship and a prisoner of Salamar who interrogates her. In the cave where the samples were found a sound comes from the black pit in the middle. Salamar opts to land on the planet. Sorenson relates the story of how the members of his expedition were killed. Salamar, convinced the Doctor is responsible, has him taken for interrogation. But once reunited with Sarah they escape encountering an all but invisible monster surrounded by red energy....

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Essentially at this stage the Doctor is the number one suspect in the eyes of Salamar, the commander of the Morestran forces. It's only at the end that the creature stands revealed before us and even then we have no idea what it is!

Confession time: I've never been a huge Planet of Evil fan, but I'll try to approach the story with an open mind. This episode wasn't bad at all, but the base and the jungle reminded me somewhat of Planet of the Daleks, a previous story directed by David Maloney: in particular the door to the base not looking unlike the back of the Thal shuttle.

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The opening of the story presents us with a graveyard outside the base: this is a mission that obviously hasn't gone well, as Sorenson later relates:

SORENSON: We'd only been working a few weeks when Lorenzo went. After that, Gura and then Summers. And then for a while, it stopped. We thought that we were safe, that whatever it was had decided to leave us in peace, but it wasn't to be.
VISHINSKY: The killings always happened at night?
SORENSON: Oh, yes. The nights are the worst.
In addition to Lorenzo, Gura & Summers, we see Lumb's grave marker being planted here. There appears to be three other grave markers at the burial site, one of which, on the right, appears to be the aforementioned Summers. We then see Baldwin and Braun meet their ends which indicates a party of seven including Sorenson, the sole survivor.

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It's Nearly 6 minutes into the episode before the Doctor and Sarah appear but when they do we're given our first look at the inside of the Tardis for quite some time. We haven't seen the Tardis interior since Death to the Daleks which means it was missing for all of season 12. It's not the first time the interior has skipped an entire season though: we didn't get to see it at all during season 7, Jon Pertwee's first, either!

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SARAH: How long have we been travelling?
DOCTOR: Hmm? What did you say?
SARAH: You promised me we'd be back in London five minutes before leaving Loch Ness.
DOCTOR: Did I?
This exchange indicates the Tardis has been travelling for some time. It's certainly long enough for Sarah to change from the pale green clothes she was wearing at the end of Terror of the Zygons, but it's safe to assume this is pretty soon after.

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SARAH: So, what are we going to do?
DOCTOR: So, let's go back to the Tardis and fetch my spectromixer, and I'll fix our position by that star. Then I'll repair this power cell and try and make contact.
SARAH: Well, you can get on with that now. I'll fetch the spectromixer.
DOCTOR: Good idea. Would you do that?
SARAH: Why not? I know the way.
DOCTOR: Good thinking. What are you waiting for?
SARAH: The key.
Sarah should have been with the Doctor long enough to know that splitting up is always a very bad idea. And so it proves here: she gets locked in the Tardis and then captured by Salamar and his crew!
SALAMAR: Do you have any idea where Zeta Minor is situated?
SARAH: No, not exactly.
SALAMAR: It's beyond Cygnus A. It's as distant again from Ortoro galaxy as that galaxy is from the Anterades.
Useless goobledegook!
SALAMAR: It's on the very edge of the known universe. You just happened to be passing when you received this distress call?
SARAH: Well, no, no, no, we were on our way to London, to Earth.
Much more like it. Thank you Salamar, we know where we are now!

Speaking of Salamar his ship looks rather familiar. Turn it the other way up and ....

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.... essentially it's Star Trek's USS Enterprise. In fact the design here is quite close to that used for the Galaxy and Ambassador class vessels seen in Star Trek: The Next Generation.

"Character Development" is a high priority in this story so let's get most of the cast out the way before they start leaving us as the story progresses. Lead guest is Frederick Jaeger playing Professor Sorenson. Previously he was Jano in The Savages and will return as Professor Marius in The Invisible Enemy.

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Also in The Savages, as Chal, was Ewen Solon who plays Vishinsky in this story.

Salamar is played by Prentis Hancock, a veteran of the aforementioned Planet of the Daleks, where he was Vaber. He was also in Spearhead from Space as a reporter and returns in The Ribos Operation as the Shrieve Captain. We'll look at his most famous role outside of Doctor Who tomorrow. You can hear him interviewed in Toby Hadoke's Who's Round #129.

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Louis Mahoney plays Ponti, returning to Doctor Who after being the newscaster in Frontier in Space. He also has a modern Doctor Who appearance to his name: he was the older Billy Shipton in Blink. He's got two appearances in The Professionals as a Doctor in both Black Out and the controversial and unbroadcast Klansmen.

Ponti's comrade De Haan is played by Graham Weston who was Russell in The War Games, a previous story directed by David Maloney. Also in the War Games was Tony McEwan, as a Redcoat, who here briefly plays Baldwin.

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Also appearing briefly is Terence Brook as Braun. He'll return, uncredited, in The King's Demons: Part One as a Servant and Frontios: Part One as a Retrograde. He's also in the Blake's 7 episode Power as an Hommik Warrior.

Series regular stuntmen Max Faulkner & Terry Walsh both appear as Crew Members Crew Members. See blog entries passim for their credits! David Rolfe also appears as a Crew Member: he was an Exxilon in Death to the Daleks parts one to three and a Guard in The Monster of Peladon part one. He's back as a Guard in The Masque of Mandragora part one. Appearing as a Morestran, so probably yet another Crewmember, is Julian Hudson who was a Audience member / Meditator in Planet of the Spiders part one and an Extra in Genesis of the Daleks parts one and four. He's back as an Extra in The Invasion of Time part four and a Seabase Guard in Warriors of the Deep parts one to three.

Sunday, 20 September 2015

405 Terror of the Zygons: Part Four

EPISODE: Terror of the Zygons: Part Four
OVERALL EPISODE NUMBER: 405
STORY NUMBER: 080
TRANSMITTED: Saturday 20 September 1975
WRITER: Robert Banks-Stewart
DIRECTOR: Douglas Camfield
SCRIPT EDITOR: Robert Holmes
PRODUCER: Philip Hinchcliffe
RATINGS: 7.2 million viewers
FORMAT: DVD: Doctor Who - Terror of the Zygons

"You can't rule a world in hiding. You've got to come out onto the balcony sometimes and wave a tentacle, if you'll pardon the expression."

The Zygons hide themselves from human monitoring

BROTON: The humans will be following our course by their radar. Transmit a jamming signal.
ZYGON: Immediately, Commander.
DOCTOR: You've been hiding too long, Broton. It's become a habit.
BROTON: What do you mean?
DOCTOR: I thought the plan was to conquer the world.
BROTON: The plan has not changed.
DOCTOR: But you can't rule a world in hiding. You've got to come out onto the balcony sometimes and wave a tentacle, if you'll pardon the expression.
BROTON: In a few hours there will be no further need of secrecy. Have no doubt, Doctor.

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Sarah & Harry search the castle for a clue to Broton's plans discovering that the Duke is the president of the Scottish Energy Commission.
HARRY: Any news of the spacecraft, sir?
BRIGADIER: It was last reported heading south over Leicestershire, and then they lost it. We've also had a report of a large underwater object travelling south at high speed.
SARAH: Guess what.
The Zygon craft touches down in a quarry near London.

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The Zygon ship looks fabulous this episode, better than when it rose from the lake in episode 3!
The Skarasen is tracked travelling towards London. Broton explains the Zygons' plan to the Doctor:
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DOCTOR: Social call?
BROTON: You admire our technology, human?
DOCTOR: Well, I'm not human, and I've seen better.
BROTON: Better than this?

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DOCTOR: Very good, very good. Almost impressive. But why bother?
FORGILL: It is necessary to activate a body print every few hours, otherwise the original pattern dies and cannot be used again.
DOCTOR: Ah. So you still have a use for the real Duke.
FORGILL: One.
DOCTOR: Formal occasion?
FORGILL: Perhaps.
DOCTOR: I gather we've landed. Where are we?
FORGILL: You like asking questions.
DOCTOR: Well, it's the only way to learn. When does this great operation begin, this conquest of the world?
FORGILL: Phase one is already complete.
DOCTOR: And what are you going to do with it when you've got it? Isn't it a bit large for just about six of you?
FORGILL: Other Zygons are on their way. When our planet was destroyed in a recent catastrophe, a great refugee fleet was assembled.
DOCTOR: Hmm. And they're coming here at your invitation.
FORGILL: Exactly, Doctor. It will be many centuries before the fleet arrives. In that time, the whole of this Earth must be restructured.
DOCTOR: I'll say one thing for you, Broton. You think big.
FORGILL: Polar icecaps must go, the mean temperature raised several degrees, thousand of lakes with the right mineral elements constructed. I shall recreate my own planet here on Earth.
DOCTOR: Using forced labour.
FORGILL: That is my intention. Human labour and Zygon technology. The task is challenging, but not impossible.
DOCTOR: You're underestimating human beings, Broton.
FORGILL: We shall see. Tomorrow I demonstrate my ultimate power.

The Brigadier is contacted by the Prime Minister about what action he should take.
SARAH: Any news?
BRIGADIER: Nothing on the spaceship, but we've had another report on that underwater object. It's been sighted off the coast. The Navy are sending some frigates from Chatham.
BENTON: UNIT Headquarters. Who? Oh, yes, he's here. Just a moment, please. It's for you, sir. The Prime Minister.
BRIGADIER: Lethbridge Stewart speaking. Oh, absolutely understood, madam. No public announcement. Yes, madam. Discreet action. Discreet but resolute.

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A crucial bit of Doctor who predicting the future!

At the point this story was made & broadcast in 1975 Harold Wilson was serving his second term as Prime Minister. He was succeeded in 1976 by James Callaghan who was in turn succeeded in 1979 by the UK's first female Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher, then the newly elected leader of the Conservative Party. She is the obvious candidate for the female Prime Minister in question but the superb Doctor Who Discontinuity Guide posits a scenario in the Doctor Who universe where world events conspire to bring Shirley Williams to power.

The Doctor interferes with the Zygon equipment broadcasting a signal from the Zygon ship that gives away it's position to UNIT.
BENTON: Well, I've checked the triangulations, sir, and I make it about, about here.
BRIGADIER: Just beyond Brentford. A disused quarry. We've got them, Mister Benton!

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The episode may claim the quarry is in Brentford but just like the Scotland locations in the story it's in Sussex.

The Zygons believe the Doctor has been killed as the Duke leaves
FORGILL: Excellent. It is time for me to place the activator on the target. Humanity is at our feet.

FORGILL: In two minutes, close down dyastetic transmission and maintain monitor contact.
ZYGON: Understood. Commander.
FORGILL: Open the escape hatch. When phase two is completed, I shall broadcast my demands to the world.

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This jumped out at me: as Broton is leaving the Zygon ship he puts his bowler hat on casually like he's going off to work for the day.

Class.

The Doctor's alien physiology allows him to survive and free the other prisoners of the Zygons.
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DOCTOR: His Grace the Duke of Forgill, I presume?
DUKE: Yes. Where the blazes am I? DOCTOR: On a spaceship.
DUKE: Spaceship?

This is the first time we've met the actual Duke, it's been Broton posing as him throughout the story so far. he does however show exactly the same attitudes as his impersonator did in the previous episode!

The Doctor simulates a fire alert which summons the Zygon crew allowing them to escape. The Doctor sets the ship to self destruct as they leave .
DOCTOR: Come along, quick. Break that vacuum mechanism to jam the door.
CABER: This one?
DOCTOR: Yes, that one, man. Get on with it.
CABER: Is that broken enough?

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DOCTOR: It's more than enough.
DOCTOR: Right, let's see what other damage we can do. Anybody know what this is?
DUKE: I haven't the faintest idea.
LAMONT: You tell us.
DOCTOR: I will. It's a self-destructor, and it works like this.
DOCTOR: Right, we've got about sixty seconds before the whole ship blows up.

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This is also the first time we've met the real versions of both Sister Lamont and Caber and they seem much more friendly as humans compared to their harsher Zygon impersonators.

The Zygon ship explodes as the Brigadier & UNIT arrive.

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DOCTOR: Was that bang big enough for you, Brigadier?
HARRY: Nicely done, Doctor. That's the end of the Zygons, eh?
DOCTOR: Not entirely. Broton escaped and he still has control of the monster.

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Lovely bang to destroy the ship but such a shame to see such a nice model get blown to pieces!

The Brigadier & Sarah recall some information that allows them to pinpoint Broton's target
DOCTOR: He plans to attack some target in London.
SARAH: Close to the Thames, huh?
DOCTOR: Exactly. And this time it'll be something really spectacular.
BRIGADIER: I've just remembered. When I spoke to the PM earlier, she was about to leave for Stanbridge House. And that's on the river.
DOCTOR: What's happening there?
DUKE: The Fourth International Energy Conference. The place'll be full of VIPs from all over the world. It's a meeting of crucial importance.
DOCTOR: Ah. That could be it, Brigadier.
BRIGADIER: Yes, but he'd need a pass to get in. The security's very tight.
SARAH: But he'll have a pass. The Duke, the real Duke, is President of the Scottish Energy Commission.
DUKE: That's right, I am.
DOCTOR: Well, come on. Let's get to London.

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Now here's a thing: we've already seen that the Duke shares his counterparts incredulity with their being aliens, does he also oppose the Oil Company? And if so does that raise the possibility that the real Duke is an environmentalist and supporter of alternative energy?

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Stanbridge House is on the Thames in London albeit in it's guise as Millbank Tower, previously seen as the International Electromatics headquarters in The Invasion, a story also directed by Douglas Camfield

Broton plants the activator in the cellar.
As the seventh Doctor will say:

"Great place to hide things in cellars"

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Benton reports the monster has been sighted again.
And that's the last time we see UNIT HQ till it's reappearance in the Five Doctors!
The Doctor, Sarah & UNIT search the building....
DOCTOR: Not much light.
SARAH: Maybe somebody should tell the Energy Congress.
....but are found by Broton.
BROTON: I thought you were dead.
DOCTOR: Loose thinking, Broton.
BROTON: This time, I shall make certain.
DOCTOR (to Sarah): Get the Brigadier.

But of course she doesn't which means she gets grabbed by Broton! What is it about companions that they can't follow instructions?

Broton and the Doctor struggle but Broton is shot & killed by the Brigadier. The Doctor finds the signalling device and throws it into the Thames where it is caught and eaten by the Skarasen which then retreats up the river to the sea.
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SARAH: It's huge! Where's the signal device?
DOCTOR: He's chewing it.
SARAH: It's going back under the surface.
DOCTOR: He'll go home now he's eaten the device.
HARRY: Home?
DOCTOR: Loch Ness, Harry. The only home he knows.

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The Skarasen effects are a tinsy bit ropey in places here but have a look at that shot of the Doctor throwing it the tracking device: There's three separate elements to it: the London skyline background, with the Skarasen monster in front of it, and the in studio Doctor and set in the foreground all composited together. It's a very ambitious shot because the varying quality of the differing elements draws attention to it's limitations. Even having just the Skarasen against a filmed location background exposes the limits of what they were trying to do!

The Doctor, Sarah, Harry & Brigadier return with the Duke to Scotland so the Doctor can find the Tardis. Harry & the Brigadier decide to take the Train home while Sarah is persuaded to travel back in the Tardis....
DUKE: Tell me, I imagine the whole business caused quite a stir.
BRIGADIER: No, the Cabinet's accepted my report and the whole affair's now completely closed.
DUKE: You mean it never happened.
BRIGADIER: Well, a fifty foot monster can't swim up the Thames and attack a large building without some people noticing, but you know what politicians are like.
DUKE: Yes, quite. By the way, I was coming to meet you people. I could swear I caught a glimpse of the monster in the Loch.
SARAH: But you're not sure.
DUKE: The sun was in my eyes.

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DUKE: Now, where is this contraption of yours?
DOCTOR: My contraption, your Grace, is this way. I think. Follow me. Come on.
DUKE: That's the Tardis?
DOCTOR: Yes, that's the Tardis. And I'm going to pilot it all the way to London. I can be there five minutes ago.

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SARAH: Just a minute, Doctor. I thought you couldn't do that.
DOCTOR: Of course I can. Coming?
BRIGADIER: No, thank you.
HARRY: I think I'll stick to InterCity this time, Doctor.

That marks the departure of Ian Marter as companion Harry Sullivan, returned to Earth by the Doctor. He'd be back for UNIT's next appearance in The Android Invasion.
DOCTOR: Sarah?
SARAH: Er.

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DOCTOR: No?
SARAH: All right. Providing we do go straight back to London.
DOCTOR: Oh yes, we will. I promise.

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DUKE: Well, I'll be. Do they have return tickets?
BRIGADIER: Yes, I imagine so.
DUKE: You should have taken them and got your refund, man. I thought you were a Scotsman.

Top, top story. Love it to bits, some superb acting especially from Nicholas Courtney and lead guest star John Woodnutt who's playing both Broton and the Duke of Forgill.

The Zygons are probably the greatest and best remembered "one appearance only" monster in original Doctor Who. One of them nearly had a appearance as a prisoner in Shada, but this, bar another flashback cameo in Logopolis, is their only appearance in the classic series. Their shape shifting ability would you think make them an easy monster to bring back. Indeed they might have worked a lot better instead of the broadly similar Slitheen in the new series. It's somewhat a surprise that it took until 2013 for them to return but when they do they're given a starring role in The Day of the Doctor, the 50th Anniversary Special.

This is the last time we'll see the Brigadier for a good few years: It's unclear why Nicholas Courtney didn't appear in Android Invasion but the extended career summary in Doctor Who Magazine 436 makes it clear that his marriage was collapsing at the time so I suspect that that might be a factor. By the time Seeds of Doom came around at the end of the season Courtney would be performing in a stage show in Canada. He gets a brief flashback appearance in 1981's Logopolis but it wouldn't be until 1983's Mawdryn Undead that Courtney would return to the show as we would see the Brigadier again.

The aforementioned Seeds of Doom in five stories time would be the next jobs on Doctor Who for Terror of the Zygons writer Robert Banks-Stewart and it's director Douglas Camfield. It would also be the last work both men would do on the show.

Terror of the Zygons was novelised by Terrance Dicks and released under the title Doctor Who & The Loch Ness Monster. This might have to draw attention to the famous element of the tale but I suspect also served to distinguish it from the similarly named Terror of the Autons which was already in print. Terror of the Zygons was released as a compilation video in the UK in 1988, but had appeared the year before in Australia. It's not the only story to be released outside the UK first: Deadly Assassin was first released in the USA and Talons of Weng Chiang was released in Australia & the USA before the UK. An episodic video version followed in 1999. In many ways, Terror of the Zygons was the main reason Phil still has a VCR: it was the planned last DVD release for the range, allegedly because the brand manager had a friend who loved it and was holding it back to wind him up! However animated reconstructions and episode recoveries mean the title of last classic Doctor Who DVD is currently held by the similarly Douglas Camfield directed The Web of Fear but should in a few weeks time pass to The Underwater Menace whose episode 2 remains the only existing episode of Doctor Who not yet released on DVD.