Sunday, 28 April 2013

The Tenth Planet

The Doctor and Polly get rugged up for the South Pole.

And the biggest change comes over the series in this serial since the programme began. This is Hartnell’s  final story as the Doctor, and it must be said as he was too ill to make it to the filming of episode three it probably was time to move on. He seemed to be absent for a number of episodes in the third season – with the exception of ‘The War Machines’ where he had to take on a heavier than normal workload.


‘The Smugglers’ saw him featured heavily throughout the four episodes, and in some way that felt quite different to the way the character had been used before. ‘The Tenth Planet’ is his last story, as he leaves the programme for health reasons. I can only imagine the schedule was murder on him as they filmed an episode a week for most of the year. Even in his final story he required a week off because of illness, and he is not in the third episode. This, like an episode (3?) in ‘The Dalek Invasion of Earth’, was an unplanned absence so Gerry Davis, script editor and co-writer would have had his hands full doing a rewrite and many of the characters must have been given more lines.
The final episode was only a reconstruction, and now that I am in the Troughton years the episodes really dry up – so many are missing. It’s not going to be easy. As for ‘The Tenth Planet’, it’s a solid story but something about it doesn’t quite sit right for me. It just doesn’t quite click as a piece of television in my humble opinion.
We have astronauts in space, but with the limited... space in the studio their capsule is the bare minimum always shot on close up. The absence of exterior/model shots for the capsule is notable too, they would have helped. A shot looking out of the capsule is poor - it's hard to make out what you are looking at.
The story line itself is pretty linear and un-explosive, even if the Cybermen to make an immediate ‘big-time’ impact. Planet appears. Kills astronauts. Cybermen arrive, are killed, arrive again, are killed again, planet melts away incredibly fast.
Barclay to the rescue!
I guess the conclusion – just waiting for the planet to melt away, is quite disappointing. The cast is solid enough, only a few accents are really ludicrous. General Cutler (Robert Beatty) is the main protagonist amongst the humans, and I found the character and the characterisation very odd to be honest. He’s very gun-ho, and there’s something very stupid about the bomb entitled ‘the Z-bomb’. He explodes in peoples’ faces for not agreeing with him. He is over the top, but not in a sending it up sort of way. The script is centred around him for the first three parts and you think he will change and be the hero in the end, but then he’s killed off way before the end. Luckily, the very British character of Barclay (David Dodimead) balances things a little. Nice to see a show where the insane guy is the American! ;) That's for all the British villains in American shows!
Radiation kills the Cybermen – at least in this story. I have heard of the Cybermen and had no ideas that small amounts of radiation could do them in. I liked the lilted up and down way they spoke, I thought it was very original and clever, although in close up sometimes they look a tad ridiculous and I’m sure at times the costumes weren't on properly. I have been told they will reappear but as in this story they draw their power from Mondas, their planet with disintegrates by the end of the tale, that seems highly unlikely!
Michael Craze and Anneke Wills.
Hartnell is rather good in this story again, until he collapses in episode three and is passed out for the whole episode. Michael Craze has to carry a lot of the story and there are moments when he has to motivate those working on the Antarctic base to try and stop the Cybermen. I've never seen so many characters so hell bent on not trying! They appeared to have given up! It was hard to believe.
It is a base-under-siege type story, one that you’d think would work well with the show and its limited budget. And it gets a pass mark, but so many characters were stereo-types and all characters were purely functional. 

Just what is going on in Geneva?
Not to mention the crazy accents! Well, not so many of them, but we do keep cutting back to Geneva where a strange guy with an accent is trying to come to terms with the Cybermen invasion. On top of this character are a couple of men in traditional African dress which is really odd. The two astronauts also gain accents - one is Australian, the other I am not sure.
Then we have the final scene where Hartnell morphs into Troughton. Am I the only who thinks that it’s very hard to tell the difference in the two faces? People may have been confused at what had happened because it’s not very clear.
It’s a different sort of science fiction story, more grown up in many ways yet simplistic and linear, helpful for kids watching who were and are the primary audience. I think in that respect they hit a good balance. But I found it a hard story to concentrate on with a lot of loud characters.It's all a bit bizarre I think, I spent half the time wondering what was in the author's mind!

I’m now up to a new Doctor, which is very exciting, and the return of the Daleks.

Friday, 26 April 2013

The Smugglers

Well, both Andrew and myself sat down to watch another full four-part reconstruction with little idea about this story. Andrew told me he had never watched the full reconstruction and didn’t know a lot about the story. So it began.
Hartnell, Craze and Wills in episode one of 'The Smugglers'

And what followed was quite a cracking tale. Yes, there are smugglers in the story, but it’s not about smuggling. It’s about pirates and treasure. A great subject for a historical Doctor Who story! And it’s quite enjoyable too. It’s  nicely paced, especially after the first episode which is mostly about Ben and Polly, recently joined companions, realising what’s going on. It’s a very different dynamic than we’ve had before, mainly because Ben is a very different sort of male companion. He’s much younger than Ian or Steven and a little more niave, and indeed probably more head strong.
The idea appears to have been to give William Hartnell a couple of younger, more ‘hip’ companions. Polly as well – it’s a totally different relationship. With Susan and Vicki, and to a lesser extent Dodo, the Doctor was quite paternalistic. Polly is a little older than those three, presumably early twenties, so a very different feel is created.
Michael Godfrey as Captain Pike.
Back to the story though. It’s a hunt for Every’s treasure, a pirate back in the 17th century. The Doctor and his companions head to a church to get their bearings and discover when and where they are (Cornwall, 17th century). The priest, Longfoot (Terence De Marney) directs them to the inn, but not before he has left a baffling clue with the doctor – four people’s names.
Longfoot is then killed by a bald-headed chap called Cherub, played by George A. Cooper. The Doctor and his companions are soon embroiled in the whole plot involving Captain Pike, very well played by Michael Godfrey, the Squire (Paul Whitsun-Jones) and other ruffians, all after the treasure. It’s a very bloody story, which may be my only major critiscm of it. For kids, I think they probably did go a bit far. There’s plenty of blood and violence though if it takes your fancy. A few clips exist because they were censored for the content.
Cherub threatens the Doctor. His bald cap is showing!
Pike and Jamaica
The finale is extremely bloody indeed, with most people dying, including Pike and all the pirates. The cast is good, with Paul Whitsun-Jones giving perhaps a somewhat predictable performance as the squire (just see some his other work and you’ll understand) however, the character mellows by the final episode, and unlike most character he plays, he sees the error of his ways. John Ringham returns to Doctor Who (he previously appeared in ‘The Aztecs’) as Josiah Blake, on the side of good this time. He is forced to wear one of the worst wigs ever to appear on television. This is rivalled by George A. Cooper’s bald cap, as he plays Cherub.

John Righam acts well despite the worst wig in TV history.
I enjoyed the story, written by Brian Hayles, who came up with the original idea for ‘The Celestial Toymaker before it was totally changed. Twice. It’s got good pace, a bit of action, and a fair bit of fun until the bloodbath occurs. There could have been a tendency to go very silly and ramp up the humour, but unlike ‘The Gunfighters’ and ‘The Romans’, they didn’t go down this path. The story is probably the stronger for it.
All in all, a nice little piece. William Hartnell was very good in this, Craze and Wills were good foils. I look forward to many more William Hartnell adventures after this one!


PS. My friend Andrew, who watches all the episodes with me, also writes a blog. A travel blog. Still, he hasn't been to half the places I have! However, today he wrote a blog about a Doctor Who convention. Whatever that might be. He also mentioned his friend Rob Lloyd who does a Doctor Who show called 'Who, Me.' A one-man stage show. I hear he is very good. So here are the links for ye:

Next time you join me, I will be talking about what has turned out to be William Hartnell's final Doctor Who story - 'The Tenth Planet'. Expect it up in the next 24-48 hours!

Thursday, 25 April 2013

The War Machines

Looking forward this appears to be the last complete story for quite a while. I have two seasons that follow with only one complete story I see. It’s going to be difficult that’s for sure. This is the last story of the third season as it aired but there wasn’t a record break after it – I am unsure when that occurred.

It’s strange to think that Doctor Who went through its first three years and the final story of those three years was the only story to be set in the present (1966). I understand that future adventures may well return to the present more often, or the very near future. Again this was penned by Ian Stuart Black, who wrote two stories in a row, something quite rare. It’s a very different beast to ‘The Savages’ and not blessed with the political thoughtfulness of the previous story. The ideas were passed to Black from Davis as the person originally down to write this story wasn't able.
A War Machine on the London streets.

However, it’s a pretty enjoyable tale, nicely paced with again a lot of location shooting. It features the London Post Office Tower, which had just been completed around the time of filming, as central to the plot. A nice touch, in a story with ideas that resonate today, in a plot line that has been done so many times. What if computers developed a mind of their own and turned on humanity? Of course, in 1966 this was probably a very new and scary concept.

Polly and Dodo at the 'Inferno' disco.

We see a disco in this story which feels very out of place in Doctor Who, at least at this time. There’s something very ‘clunky’ about the production. Maybe it’s because the War Machines themselves, tools and weapons of the evil computer WOTAN, are clunky. They appear to be large cardboard boxes with a couple of pipes and lights added. There are slow and very easy to outrun. The dialogue is clunky too and not delivered with precision at times. William Hartnell struggles at points and is rather marvellous at others.
The Doctor gets serious!

He is the focus of the show this time and has a tough workload – they had almost given him a holiday in ‘The Savages’, where he was unconscious for most of episode three. He’d had two weeks off a couple of stories earlier as well in ‘The Celestial Toymaker’. The strain and workload is really starting to show.
As for clunky dialogue, well lines like ‘C-Day, that’s computer Day’ is an example. WOTAN hisses out lines such as ‘Doctor Who is required’, but despite that faux pas, the biggest issue is the lines being very hard to understand, especially in the final episode.
Ben and Polly follow the Doctor into the TARDIS.

The rest of the cast is an interesting mix. Professor Brent is played by John Harvey and I have to say, as a key player he was poorly cast. He struggles to remember his lines and always looks as if he’s searching his mind for them. They get delivered in a very stilted way and I just don’t believe the performance sadly. We are introduced to Ben (Michael Craze) and Polly (Anneke Wills) in this story, who end up leaving in the TARDIS.
Polly meets Ben when she takes Dodo (Jackie Lane) to the ‘Inferno Nightclub’, the hottest spot in town. Lane has a very clunky line when she says ‘what I’d really like is to go to the hottest nightclub in town’. It is not to be a happy story for Dodo. She was written in at the end of one episode, and written out after only half a story. Why the producer didn’t have the decency to extend the contract for 2 more episodes I don’t know. Dodo was a decent, bubbly companion who suffered for little back story and the production team not caring much about the character. I think she was very hard done by.
In the background, Dodo in on of her last scenes.

‘The War Machines’ features a lot of different locations both exterior and in the studio. They even managed to get a taxi in the studio. There is a very bizarre sequence featuring a tramp (again given some clunky lines: ‘it’s bloomin’ paradise to what I’ve been used to!’) who is killed by the War Machines in a somewhat shocking sequence. I liked the pacing of the story, the use of locations and other elements, yet on the other hand it almost felt like a pilot episode for a new series and everyone didn’t quite know what they were supposed to be doing or where to pitch their performances.
Announcing 'C' day.


Sunday, 21 April 2013

The Savages

New writer to the series, Ian Stuart Black, wrote this story, and it’s a very interesting one too. Since ‘The Daleks Masterplan’ every Doctor Who story has been four parts, and the series really is really benefiting from shorter stories and a regular pattern and pace. ‘The Savages’ starts with a lot of location work, and it continues throughout the story. This was something I really noticed, and it occurred to me that to this point the amount of location shooting  throughout the series had been extremely limited.

Apart from ‘The Dalek Invasion of Earth’ and ‘The Myth Makers’, location shooting had only been the occasional linking shot or something like that. Nearly the end of the third season, ‘The Savages’ provides us with the first alien planet shot outdoors – in a quarry naturally! There is a fair bit of outside stuff shot on film for this one, possibly the most to date. It represents a shift in the way the show is produced – now with Innes Llyod at the helm and script editor Gerry Davis. I thought the previous team of Wiles and Tosh were doing some very interesting things with the series, but from watching Donald Tosh interviewed on ‘The Gunfighters’ DVD I see that Lloyd’s ideas for the show were quite different from Tosh and Wiles’, who didn’t have a good crack at the series in all fairness to them. Not all of their stories hit the mark but they were always trying to do something different.
William Hartnell gets all scientific as savages watch on.

Lloyd and Davis took over from ‘The Celestial Toymaker’, however I think this was the first story they commissioned and really had their mark on. And it’s a good start! Sadly, not existing at all in the archives, I realise now that the next couple of seasons’ worth of stories will be hard to get through as there will be a lot of reconstructions. My friend Andrew told me he had never watched the full reconstruction of this one before. He has now!
It’s very much a (well executed) ‘ideas’ story. The concept is interesting, and political too. I’m not sure if it was inspired by apartheid or colonialism in general, but the theme is taking things off others to make you strong. The elders take the life force from ‘the savages’ on this world. They have found a way to take this life force from the savages making them smarter and healthier, whilst the savages are left to live in caves and run around in skin. Perhaps the story is representing the concept of the poor making rich people rich?
Presumably this world is some sort of human colony far in the future, but it wasn’t 100% clear to me. It is mentioned that the savages are the same as the elders – they are both the same race in other words. It’s quite an horrific idea really, and a very adult concept for the show to deal with. I wonder what the children watching back in the day would have made of it.
It's a sad farewell to Steven
and Peter Purves
It is also Peter Purves’ final story as Steven Taylor. Lloyd and Davis had decided to move on both companions as soon as they could, and wasted little time in moving on Peter Purves sadly. At least it was a decent story to go out on for Steven, staying behind to help rebuild a society that couldn’t see that what they were doing was wrong. The leader of the Elders, Jano, is well played by  Frederick Jaeger.

The Doctor and Jano

It’s a nice twist to the plot and the character of Jano when they drain the Doctor of his essence and transfer it to Jano. He can suddenly see that what they have been doing is wrong. Destroying the machines may have been an effective way to stop the plundering of innocent people, but I’m not sure it would have effectively changed the planet. Most of the Elders were far from convinced that what they were doing was wrong.
It’s a good little story. It has a good look to it, with effective use of location work and some nifty looking corridors. Broadcast in 1966 it would have been the sort of story to get people thinking. Also the first story to abandon individual titles for each episode and just have a title for the whole story. An effectively told, interesting story.

Saturday, 20 April 2013

The Gunfighters

I have been led to believe from my good friend Andrew that ‘The Gunfighters’ has a bad reputation. Some of it based on supposedly the lowest ratings to that point – which is not true, several episodes before ‘The Gunfighters’ rated lower (such as ‘The Ark’). It did have the lowest, to the time, audience appreciation score. Apparently this is one of the reasons that the new production team decided to cut the historical stories.
The Doctor meets Wyatt Earp. Or is that 'Mr Wearp'?

Anyhoo, ‘The Gunfighters’ is a refreshingly enjoyable Doctor Who tale after the previous two which were rather hard work. There’s a light-hearted feel to the piece, filled with a talented guest cast and an outstanding performance from William Hartnell. He knew exactly where to pitch this performance, which he generally does, however, there’s barely a slip of the tongue in this story from our beloved Doctor. The same can’t be said for Anthony Jacobs who took on the role of Doc Holliday. He stumbles and repeats several lines, and looks about 50 whereas Holliday was supposed to be around 30 at the time, and indeed died at 36. However, he is well cast apart from those two minor quibbles.

The strongest of the guest cast is John Alderson as Wyatt Earp, he plays straight man to the Doctor who keeps calling him ‘Mr Wearp’ brilliantly. This joke is brilliantly expanded on when Steven accidently calls him ‘Mr Wearp’ and corrects himself in embarrassment. I liked Peter Purves’ performance as well in this story, although the actor did not. Steven is very weak and ignorant of the surround he is in, which is fair enough as he comes from the far future. It works wonderfully well I think. And Jackie Lane shines as Dodo in her best story thus far, with wonderful interactions with Jacobs.
Americans don’t tend to do British that well (and don’t get me started on their Australian accents!) but it’s fair to say that the British aren’t that great at American accents either. There’s a real mix in this story of good and bad accents. The guys playing the Clantons are not very convincing, and fade in and out and sometimes go a bit British. David Graham gives a great performance as Charlie the barman, however his accent is rather stagey – by that I mean it’s reminiscent of an American accent used by non-Americans on stage. It seems a little too strong, a little too ‘worked on’ perhaps. Generally, the main characters are very good. Reed De Rouen as Pa Clanton probably had the best accent.
Kate sings 'The Ballad of the Last Chance Saloon'

This story probably can’t be reviewed without at least mentioning ‘The Ballad of the Last Chance Saloon’ – a song that does appear far too frequently in the production. It was written for the production, but why they couldn’t write a couple of other tunes I don’t know. It fits in well with the piece, but it just pops up all the time. On top of that it is sung as part of the story as well as being used as the soundtrack which is mighty confusing. The latter verses of the soundtrack version tells the story as it’s being played out, which I liked. I think they needed to have Kate, Steven and Dodo singing a different tune though. They could have checked the later verses and seen what was going to happen!
The shoot out in the final episode.
The sets are great for ‘The Gunfighters’. The stuff shot on film (mostly just the shootout) looks wonderful in the bigger studio with wider streets and a less claustrophobic feel. Everything looks quite authentic and much of the set seems to be interconnected to itself. They managed to put sand on the ground so we didn’t see a shiny black studio floor too which really helps. Very well done.

Dodo is is held hostage by Johnny Ringo

One last nod to the cast – Laurence Payne as Johnny Ringo. Wonderful casting, played him very dark and his introduction to the third episode changes the mood of the entire piece leading up to the shootout. In reality he wasn’t at the shootout, Pa Clanton was already dead and many other things didn’t happen as they did in this piece. But never let the facts get in the way of a good story. And despite what others may say, this is a good story.

Wednesday, 17 April 2013

The Celestial Toymaker

Dodo and Steven are confronted by dancing dolls.

This story starts off with the Doctor disappearing. Then reappearing. Then disappearing again. Whew, confusing! Back in to recon territory for the first three episodes of this story, I was surprised to find this very similar to my own journeys in some ways, especially my earlier stories. I would often be disappearing and appearing, as do many characters in my adventures. And ‘The Celestial Toymaker’ reminded me distinctly of a particular adventure of mine ‘The Game Master’ – where I battle a villain called, strangely enough, the Game Master. My friend Andrew, who has documented many of my adventures, tells me with regret this story is not on Youtube.

‘The Celestial Toymaker’ is though, and its reconstruction is marvellous. Like ‘The Game-Master’, ‘The Celestial Toymaker’ is a story about games. In this instance, Steven and Dodo have to play a series of games against the Toymaker’s toys. ‘Blind Man’s Bluff’, ‘Which chair won’t kill me?’, and a dice game where you go from square to square.  The Doctor has to play the ‘Trilogic Hame’, where he needs to move a pyramid of pieces across a board in exactly 1023 moves.
Steven, Clara and Joey
William Hartnell gets two weeks off in parts two and three where we only see his hand and occasionally hear his pre-recorded voice. It was interesting to watch a DVD feature a little time after I watched this story to see the production team were going to write him out altogether in this one, and when he reappeared in part four he would be played by a different actor. As a Time Lord I am appalled because that’s simply not how regeneration works! Get your facts right Mr John Wiles!
Although by now Wiles had moved on too by the time the story was in full production. Interesting it was written three times too, by Brian Hayles, then Donald Tosh and finally by Gerry Davis. I gather it was a very very different story from what I have heard originally. In the end it’s quite plotless to be fair. There are no interesting characters bar the Toymaker himself, who could have been given a lot more to do, but instead we just watch Steven and Dodo playing games, dancing and coming up against dolls and playing cards brought to life. It’s frankly quite a dull piece, but perhaps one the kids would enjoy. Maybe. Did little for me. To me it was a simple idea stretched to four parts.
Carmen Silvera and Campbell Singer
On the plus side visually quite interesting I guess, and containing some good acting performances. Who doesn’t love ‘Allo’ Allo’’s Carmen Silvera? She has three roles in this one! The clowns are quite good in episode one. She is then the Queen of Hearts and Mrs Wiggs. She is paired with Campbell Singer who’s ‘Joey’ the clown is wonderful. Peter Stephens supports and comes into his own as Cyril the strangely old plump school boy in Part Four. Michael Gough is perfect casting as the Toymaker.
Then we have the regulars. Hartnell hasn’t a lot to do until the second part of the final episode, and Purves and Lane give good performances but I would suggest the material was not a stretch for them at all. I rather liked elements of this story, episodes one and three are rather decent but at the end of the day its 100 minutes of Steven and Dodo playing games.
I hope it appealed to the younger viewers because it simply and sadly didn’t appeal to me.

Monday, 15 April 2013

The Ark

A curious story is this one. It’s very enjoyable for one main reason – it exists! All episodes exist! I didn’t have to watch a reconstruction! So naturally I was happy about that. The story starts off really well and seems to fall slowly from there. The first episode is clearly the best written, acted and directed. We open with elephants, lizards and tropical birds in the amazing Ark set which apparently was made with mostly potted plants. The scale is incredibly impressive, like nothing we’re seen in a previous episodes.

Many Monoids
The Monoids are, as I have heard many found, a disappointment. Elements of the costume are good, the skin looks great, but the costumes are too loose fittings, the wigs stupid and they don’t have a mouth. However, they work well in the first two episodes as friends of the humans. The humans, who have left Earth for the final time before the planet explodes, are journeying for thousands of years to find a new home – Refusis Two. They have taken new friends the Monoids with them.

The Doctor, Steven and new companion Dodo arrive in the jungle area of ‘the Ark’. It would have been nice to get one or two exterior shots of the Ark moving through space. It was supposed to be spherical, like a planet and thusly shouldn’t have been too hard or expensive to do. However, arriving in the jungle with the steel sky is a nice start to the piece, and the director (who was apparently fired just before episode four was shot) Michael Imison really does a great job getting different angles and concealing the extremities of the set. He deserves a lot of credit for his work.
Jackie Lane has a word or two to say to the Monoid
I want to return to the character Dodo. As her accent slowly changes and morphs, I can’t help but feel the addition of her character is very disappointing in so much as we don’t learn anything about her, she runs aboard the TARDIS in the previous story, right at the end, and now it’s like she’s been travelling with the Doctor for a while. I like Dodo, played by Jackie Lane, as a companion. She proves to be bubbly and curious and in her first story is the crux of the plot in her first two episodes as she brings a virus on board that threatens to kill everyone. They are so far in the future they have no resistance to the virus. It’s a great idea, as is the Ark, wonderful science fiction ideas brought to life in the script by Paul Erickson.

Courtroom drama or courtroom farce?
However, episode two descends into a very poorly written and played out courtroom drama. It seems Erickson had no other ideas and needed to fill the 25 minutes somehow. One character, Zentos, is determined to bring down the Doctor and his companions, where as  the controller (Eric Elliot) is fully supportive of the Doctor watching sick through a monitor uttering poorly scripted lines. In the end the Doctor finds a cure and they are released. It’s all a bit ho-hum. They leave the Ark, but then return, 700 years later. They look up at a statue that was to be finished by this time, and instead of a human it has a Monoid head. A truly wonderful cliff-hanger, the best episode ending the series has produced to this point.
The Doctor, Dodo and Steven are thrown into... the SECURITY KITCHEN!
Unfortunately, the story now plummets to pure farce. The Monoids have taken over, but worse than that – they have become stereotypical stupid villains with ridiculous voices. They keep a few humans prisoner, working for them, in the ‘Security Kitchen’. They are bombastic and egotistical and when they travel to Refusis II and encounter the invisible Refusians, are soon defeated. It’s really embarrassing, cheap writing to be honest. The ideas of episode one which impressed me are totally undone by turning the Monoids into atypical stupid monsters.
Hello I'm an evil Monoid making crazy plots. And I find eating very difficulr.

Forget the poor design, these creatures would have held up better if they had kept their friendship with the humans. It was a breath of fresh air to see they weren’t treated in the typical way in the first half, but the last two episodes? Aye aye aye aye.


Thursday, 11 April 2013

The Massacre

Well, the recons keep coming. This is the first story I have had to review solely on its reconstruction. I’m not sure if I can do them all this way when some missing stories are a full six parts. However, I did get through ‘The Massacre’, the third and final Doctor Who story written by John Lucarotti.

This story feels like no other story so far. It’s written in a very adult way, and apparently mostly by script editor Donald Tosh. Episode Two had a huge rewrite because William Hartnell was given a holiday with no notice given to Lucarotti. I was told it is famous for Hartnell’s performance as a second character, The Abbot of Amboise, however for those who haven’t seen the recon I must set something straight, the Abbot is hardly in the thing! He has a couple of scenes in episode three, appears for a fleeting moment at the end of episode one, and as a pre-filmed insert in episode two as Steven watches him chatting from afar.
This is a VERY straight and serious story, and after twelve Dalek episodes the audience must have been a bit shocked really. It’s an historical story where the Doctor and his companion are very much at the periphery of the action and story. We watch as history takes place.  
16th century France was clearly a very dark place and time to live. The events of ‘The Massacre’ detail the lead up to a massacre sanctioned by King Charles IX and pressed for by his mother of the Huguenots – protestants, because of a fear that they would take power in France. Barry Justice’s King Charles is played as being quite mad, and indeed there are many interesting characters in this story. It’s a very good piece of historical drama.
However, as a Doctor Who story it is decidedly odd. The action is somewhat followed through the eyes of Steven, as the Doctor doesn’t appear from half way through episode one to midway through episode four. We have the Abbot as the Doctor’s doppelganger, but this is not used effectively other than to suggest to Steven that the Doctor is dead when he sees the Abbot’s body in episode three. We never see the Doctor and the Abbot together, hard to do in the 60s but not impossible.
Steven is oblivious, as was this viewer, to the actual history of the story. He didn’t know the characters or that it was all leading to the massacre of over 10,000 Huguenots. If you removed the Doctor and Steven from the story you would have a fine piece of historical drama.
Episode Four is even odder than the first three. The Doctor reappears and for some reason has no qualms about letting Anne Chaplet, new friend to Steven and Huguenot back onto the streets hours before the massacre takes place. He DID know what was about to happen. The Doctor comes to Paris, chats to scientist Presslin, disappears, reappears and takes Steven back to the TARDIS. That’s all he does in four parts.
Steven is fed up, and I guess this is another lesson from Doctor Who about not being able to interfere in history. Then they land on Wimbledon common, and a Miss Dorothea Chaplet runs on board the TARDIS. She wants to call for help, but when Steven spies policemen heading in the direction of the TARDIS, the Doctor takes off with Dorothea, or ‘Dodo’ on board. She says she hasn’t any parents and that’s she’s fine with being whipped off into time and space.

It’s all a bit ‘make-do’ really. We have no background for Dodo, no proper introduction. Perhaps in the next story (with four fully existing parts!) we’ll learn a bit? The final episode does include a wonderful sad speech by the Doctor about everybody leaving him. Hartnell is excellent in this story, as is the entire cast. Steven is very strong, the guest cast perfect.

It doesn’t feel like any other Doctor Who episode thus far. I can’t imagine it’s one that children would enjoy, and the viewing figures did taper off after episode one. It’s brave, confronting, sad and hopeful at the same time. It shows that Doctor Who can be about anything I guess.

The Daleks' Masterplan

I've been busy as a bee, I admit, but one of the main reasons the blog has slowed right down is this twelve-part behemoth I've had to get through, with nine episodes of it reconstructed. The decision, apparently prompted by the head of drama, to make a 12-part Dalek story was one that will always be questioned. Did it work? Well, yes and no.
Mavic Chen's ship arrives, Episode One. 
The plot is not that different, in all honesty, from that of ‘The Chase’, a six-part run around with the Daleks after the Doctor. This time, the Doctor has the core of the Daleks’ Time Destructor, a weapon that will force the Universe to bow to the Daleks. The Daleks have been assisted by creatures from many galaxies, including Mavic Chen (Kevin Stoney), the Master of the Solar System. The production team came up with a wonderful array of strange beings from different worlds, one of the highlights of this story.

Butterworth, Marsh and Purves.
The first six episodes are the best, and episodes 11 and 12 are rather decent two. Episodes 7-10 are more reminiscent of ‘The Chase’ and drag and go circular too much for my liking. Terry Nation wrote the first five as well as ‘The Feast of Steven’ – a somewhat comical Christmas episode with no Daleks and even less point. He outlined the rest I believe which Dennis Spooner then wrote to his guidelines. This saw the return of the Meddling Monk (played by the wonderful Peter Butterworth again) who appears in three episodes. ‘Volcano’ is another ‘nothing’ episode (part 8) and parts nine and ten are set in Egypt. However, the Monk does provide some amusing parts and humour. 
Brett Vyon and Steven.
The other notable cast member is Nicholas Courtney who appears in the first four episodes as Bret Vyon. I am told he will reappear in other episodes of Doctor Who as a different character, so that will be interesting I guess. He dies at the end of episode four, making that particular episode a very bloody one. (Katarina already dying mid-way through it).

The main planet of the story is Kembel, featured in the first four episodes and the last two. It also featured in ‘Mission to the Unknown’. However, we don’t see the very interesting Varga plants really at all in ‘The Daleks Masterplan’.
Adrienne Hill as the short-lived Katarina
The production team found they had made a mistake in adding the Trojan ‘Katarina’ (Adrienne Hill) to the TARDIS crew and promptly had her gone by episode four in a dramatic scene where she plunges herself and a desperate criminal into space by opening the airlock of Mavic Chen’s spaceship. They felt that the character understood too little of the worlds she would visit and explanations would therefore be too long and hinder the stories. I’m not so sure. It's a pity Adrienne Hill didn't have the chance to develop the character further. Also a great pity we only have one episode existing that she features in, plus a clip of her demise.

Dubious make-up for Kevin Stoney as Mavic Chen.
Jean Marsh then plays an important companion-like role for the rest of the story as Sara Kingdom, who gets a great dramatic death in episode twelve. Most of the story is played pretty straight, bar episodes 7-10 when things take a deliberately comic turn. The straight appears to work better than the comic in this story. Kevin Stoney must be mentioned for playing the evil Mavic Chen. It's an excellent performance under what appears to be a mask to give him a dark tan, and a white wig. It's the first time we've seen the Daleks really partnered up with anybody, and he sticks with them even after the Daleks turn on Chen and the delegates from the other galaxies in episode eleven.
The Doctor, Steven and Brett in Episode Four.

As for William Hartnell, well, apart from his mispronunciation of 'relevant' ('revalent') in Episode Two he is a tour de force across the twelve episodes, ably and strongly supported as always by Peter Purves whose Steven is an excellent character. Hartnell takes no holidays in this story, although he has a lighter load in episodes 9 and 10. It must have been exhausting for the aging star of the show, but he comes through it with flying colours.
The character Kert Gantry, Episode One on Kembel.

Stylistically, I think the team did really well. They portray Kembel, Mira (which look very similar) well, Egypt is well done too. There are a lot of bald heads and strange creatures throughout the story and it has a great look about it. Douglas Camfield ran a tight ship and that is evident across the 12 parts. It is dramatic and well paced, although it lags in the second-half of the story but with 12 episodes what could the viewer expect? I think if they could find a couple more episodes, preferably part 12, maybe 6 and 1, a DVD release could bring the whole thing back to life.
I rate it pretty highly and think it would have made a cracking eight part adventure. Twelve is simply too much though.
Also, if you are daring enough to plunge into Doctor Who reconstructed episodes, the best place on Youtube is a channel by El Doctorio. He has put up all the Loose Cannon reconstructions in pristine condition.