For the 60th Anniversary of Doctor Who we revisit the story of Doctor Who, the occasional series written for the 50th Anniversary, explaining the origins of the programme.

Episode 31 - An Unearthly Series - The Origins of a TV Legend: First published 23 Nov 2013

The War GamesBookmark and Share

Saturday, 5 July 2003 - Reviewed by Paul Clarke

At this point in Doctor Who’s history, ‘The Daleks’ Master Plan’ is the longest story to date, and ‘The War Games’ almost rivals it at only two episodes shorter. ‘The Daleks’ Master Plan’ is in my opinion a true classic and maintains interest throughout its considerable length by switching locations and bringing in new characters throughout. ‘The War Games’ on the other hand limits itself to (for the first nine episodes) a single planet, albeit featuring different time zones and locations, and a relatively consistent cast. I would not describe ‘The War Games’ as a classic and it certainly isn’t the same league as ‘The Daleks’ Master Plan’, but it nevertheless manages to maintain an interesting narrative as it builds slowly towards an unforgettable climax. 

The basic premise of ‘The War Games’ is slightly strange, but essentially it works; the Aliens (who are never referred to as anything else) bring large numbers of humans from out of Earth’s history and by a process of survival of the fittest, attempt to whittle them down to an elite fighting force, with which they intend to conquer the galaxy. It’s not entirely plausible, and I can’t help wondering why, if so many of the humans are so disposable anyway, they don’t just brainwash the lot and send them into battle, but it makes for a surprisingly engaging story. The various wartime eras are quite well presented, with generally good sets and costumes, something the BBC has a reputation for. The large cast is generally good, with one or two exceptions that I’ll come to shortly, and despite the length of the story it manages to avoid feeling padded, with the possible exception of the Private Moore scenes, which is a very trivial criticism. This is in spite of the large number of escapes and recaptures throughout, as the Doctor and his friends variously get captured by Smythe’s men, escape, get recaptured, escape again with Carstairs and Lady Jennifer, get split up, arrive at the Aliens’ base, get captured, escape again, meet up with Jamie again, get captured again, etc etc etc. Because each escape and capture results in a progression of the plot, this never actually seems repetitive; for example their initial capture and subsequent court-martial arose the Doctor’s suspicions that all is not what it seems, and his subsequent escape into an entirely different war obviously serves to confirm this. 

Once the truth of the situation begins to emerge, the pace quickens even more, as the action shifts to the Alien base and also the resistance forces enter the fray. It is here that my first major criticism of the story arises. In the 1917 zone, when Lieutenant Lucke sees a demonstration of the Doctor’s sonic screwdriver, he is very quick to accept that the Doctor has been telling the truth. Now I realize that the irony of my argument is that the Doctor is telling the truth, I just think that Lucke accepts it too easily; after all, in his position, I would assume that the Doctor is an amateur magician before I’d believe that he is an alien. And this is my problem; many of the human characters seem to accept what is really going on very easily. I can just about convince myself that this is because the processing is flawed and that they are already subconsciously realize that something is wrong, but it still never quite seems convincing. Fortunately, after the first four episodes, this distracting trivial issue becomes irrelevant. Once events move to the Aliens’ base, two things of significance happen; firstly, we start to get satisfying answers to the mounting questions, coupled with the political wrangling between the War Chief and the Security Chief; this not only advances the plot, but also adds new intrigue, as it becomes clear that all is not well amongst the ranks of the villains. Secondly, and most importantly, we get that almost shocking moment when the Doctor’s and the war Chief’s eyes meet, and a clear flash of recognition passes between them. This signposts the start of the increasing tension evident in the Doctor as he starts to realize that he is facing a problem that he cannot solve alone, and that his only recourse will be to ask his own people for help. 

This unfolding and massively important subplot is partially dependent for its success on Edward Brayshaw’s excellent portrayal of the War Chief. We have seen the Doctor face a renegade member of his own race before, in ‘The Time Meddler’ and ‘The Daleks’ Master Plan’, but there the emphasis was more on humour. Here, the full significance of what this can mean for the Doctor comes to light; he is clearly terrified when he sees the War Chief, presumably suspecting that, since the Aliens’ SIDRATs are based on TARDIS technology, his own people are rather involved. He visibly calms down in later episodes as he realises that the War Chief is a lone renegade helping the War Lord’s people, but this relief is short-lived once he finally accepts that he needs help to get everybody home. The Doctor’s conversations with the War Chief are fascinating; they clearly know each other, and both discuss their decisions to leave their own world. For the first time in the series entire history we start to learn about the Doctor’s past, and I’ve never found it so captivating as I have whilst watching the series in order. The revelation that the Doctor stole his TARDIS is surprising enough in itself, but this is as nothing compared to the sheer terror that he and the War Chief exhibit as the need to summon the Time Lords becomes clear. Time Lords. It’s so easy to take for granted now that the Doctor is a Time Lord, but hearing the War Chief use the phrase for the first time also has enormous impact; for the first time, we learn what the Doctor really is, and it sounds impressive, mysterious, and foreboding. It is to the Doctor’s credit that in spite of his obvious fear (he is even prepared to let Villar shoot him rather than staying to wait for his own people), he summons help for the sake of the humans present. In contrast, the War Chief is just terrified and bolts as soon as the Doctor assembles his communication cube. Brayshaw imbues his performance with tremendous charisma and energy, and his own barely controlled panic is almost as impressive as the Doctor’s far more openly fraught anxiety.

The War Chief is a great villain. He looks and sounds impressive (yes, even with those sideburns) and is a commanding figure. During the middle of the story, his rivalry with the Security Chief makes him seem like a man in control, easily manipulating a petty and rather stupid subordinate. This is doubly fortunate, given that James Bree provides one of the most diabolically bad performances of any actor in Doctor Who up until, this point. The Security Chief seems to be heavily inspired by Gestapo officers, but just seems constipated for the most part. Nevertheless, Brayshaw’s commanding performance counter-balances this acting atrocity, much to the overall benefit of the story. What is more interesting however, is how the War Chief behaves once the War Lord arrives. Suddenly, he is not as in control as he would like people around to believe, he is just another subordinate and one perhaps out of his death. The War Lord’s withering scorn shows no favouritism for either War Chief or Security Chief, belittling both as and when necessary. From the moment that the War Chief explains his intention to take complete control to the Doctor, there is a sudden feeling that he is woefully out of his depth, and his death at the ends of the War Lord’s guards has a certain inevitability. Philip Madok’s second performance of the season is even better than his first; the ruthless, sneering War Lord is so distinct from the oleaginous Eelek in ‘The Krotons’ that it is easy to forget that they are played by the same actor. If the War Chief is a commanding villain, the War Lord makes him look like a sniveling worm, so utterly cold and compassionless is he. His beaming smile, as he listens to the Doctor’s transparent flattery, is terrifying. 

There is almost the effect of a “food chain” in ‘The War Games’, with a “bigger fish” always around the corner. The Security Chief is a nasty little man, but is outranked by the far more impressive War Chief. He in turn seems far less impressive next to the War Lord. And at the top of the chain are the Time Lords. Knowing in retrospect how the Time Lords change throughout the series, it is interesting to see how they are handled here. The Doctor talks of their great power, and they are portrayed as powerful and mysterious, easily sending the captured humans home and dealing with the War Lord, despite his ill-fated escape attempt. Despite their aloofness however, they also seem compassionate; they talk of not wanting to inflict pain, of not wanting innocents to be hurt, and the Time Lord who collects Jamie and Zoe seems genuinely touched by their attachment to the Doctor. On the other hand, they are also willing to mete out justice as they see fit; they not only dematerialize the War Lord, they also effectively kill off one of the Doctor’s lives. Perhaps the best comparison is that of strict parents; the Doctor, cowed and guilty looking, seems almost like a naughty schoolboy in episode ten, next to the Time Lords who place him on trial; they grow patiently listen to his defense and indeed seem to accept it, but they refuse to indulge him when he takes time to choose a new appearance, quickly deciding to choose one for him. And then there is what they do to Jamie and Zoe. 

My major criticism of ‘The War Games’ is the fate of the Doctor’s companions. From a story point of view, I can appreciate it, but as a viewer I feel cheated. In ‘The Wheel in Space’, Zoe was precocious and irritating, but during her travels with the Doctor her character developed dramatically and she became a likeable companion, clearly enjoying her travels. Suddenly, at the end of ‘The War Games’, all of that is effectively undone, as she is returned to her own time and her memory of her travels with the Doctor erased. With Jamie it is even more painful, since he’s been with the Doctor for even longer and has undergone even greater development, becoming one of the Doctor’s most enduring companions. It is almost painful to see all of that taken away, and whilst I realize that this is the point, it is still all too infuriating. At least both Wendy Padbury and Frazer Hines get plenty to do in their final story, after being wasted in ‘The Space Pirates’; both Zoe and Jamie play important roles in defeating the Aliens, and at least they get a truly touching final scene with the Doctor as they say goodbye.

Troughton’s final performance is better than ever. He gets some great comic moments early on, especially when he bluffs his way into the military prison in search of Jamie, and later gets to display an even greater range, as he angrily confronts the War Chief over his role in the war games, and becomes increasingly nervous and afraid as he realizes what must be done. He is quite superb in the last two episodes, seeming almost on the verge of tears as he sends the box to the Time Lords and frantically makes his escape. His explanation of his past in episode ten is probably my favourite moment from the entire story, as he explains that the wanted to explore time and space and so fled his own planet. It is an unforgettable moment in the series’ history. It is also quite shocking to see the Doctor resigned to his fate in episode ten, as he finally convinces Jamie and Zoe that there is no escape. He becomes his old self again in the trial room as sentence is passed, but of course, for the last time…

Production wise, ‘The War Games’ is generally very good. The minimalist sets of the Alien base work surprisingly well, as do the gimp costumes worn by the guards. The strange cardboard spectacles however, look utterly ridiculous. My other big criticism of ‘The War Games’ is the incidental score, which is pompous and overblown. This is appropriate in episode ten, but for the rest of the story is monumentally irritating, especially the annoying “sinister” theme that kicks in intrusively whenever an Alien dons a pair of special glasses. I’m quite capable of realizing that something strange is going on, without unsubtle musical cues hammering the point home every single time. 

There are other things about ‘The War Games’ that annoy me too; there are, inevitably, some very stereotypical characters on display, most notably Arturo Villar. I also never cease to find it unintentionally hilarious when von Weich first appears, complete with bald head, monocle, and dueling scar. Possibly the aliens have been watching Blackadder Goes Forth… Overall, there are too many shortcomings of ‘The War Games’ to allow it be considered a classic in my eyes, but there aren’t enough for it be considered a turkey either. Considering its length, and the unforgettable final episode, I think it achieves its aims very well. 

Overall, Season Six is not up to the quality of Season Five, but is generally strong and in some respects shows Troughton at his best. The ending of ‘The War Games’ heralds massive change. I noted when I reviewed ‘The Tenth Planet’ that whilst watching the series in order for the first time I felt a real emotional impact when Hartnell left. Having got just as used to Troughton, I felt the same effect, but the change is even more pronounced. Not only is this goodbye to Patrick Troughton, but also it’s goodbye to the black and white era, and signifies an enormous change in the style of the show. Doctor Who would never be the same again…

FILTER: - Television - Second Doctor - Series 6

The KrotonsBookmark and Share

Saturday, 5 July 2003 - Reviewed by Paul Clarke

I absolutely love ‘The Krotons’, but I’m not one hundred percent certain as to why. The design and production are mediocre at best; the Krotons themselves look great from the waist up, but when the camera moves back too far their silly rubber skirts are all too visible. The interior of the Dynatrope is rubbish, although the hexagonal doors in and out both look quite good, as do the sets of the Gonds’ buildings. The model work is dire; the Gonds’ village looks atrocious, and the Dynatrope model is passable but, as The Television Companion points out, the perspective shown of it in no way matches the sets and is impossible to see from where the characters who point at it in episode four are standing. Notoriously, the first shot is of a hatch refusing to open properly. 

In spite of all these shortcomings, ‘The Krotons’ is hugely entertaining. The crystalline Krotons, with their Brummie accents, make for novel monsters, and seem rather alien in comparison with some of the series’ more humanoid monsters. This is not just because of their appearance, but also because their alien nature is emphasized by the by script; for example, they talk of exhausting rather than dying. These little details add up to an intriguing whole. In addition, they have a major weakness, exploited by the Doctor, in their dependence on their nutrient tank. They are also blind. Most Doctor Who monsters have an exploitable weakness, most notably the Cybermen and the Ice Warriors, but very rarely are they approached in such a matter-of-fact way, with the monsters in questions visibly compensating for them. 

The Gonds are potentially as dull as the Dulcians and seem to consist entirely of one small village, raising the question of how sparsely populated the planet as a whole is. Nevertheless, they work far better than the Dulcians, thanks to Robert Holmes’ trademark gift for characterisation. Vana and the slightly wooden Selris both serve their purpose well enough, but stealing the show are Beta, Eelek, and Thara. As Thara, Gilbert Wynne manages to portray an angry young man whilst still managing to make the character likeable, in large part because he talks a great deal of sense and is quite right to be suspicious of the fate of the companions of the Krotons from the beginning. James Cairncross, in his second Doctor Who role (his first was in ‘The Reign of Terror’) is highly entertaining as the obstreperous scientist Beta who relishes the chance to play with acids (incidentally, having received a sulphuric acid burn myself in the past, I would strongly advise against sticking a finger into it to see if it is ready!). Most memorably, Phillip Madok in his first role in the series plays the odious Eelek to perfection, presenting a truly loathsome character. 

The regulars do just as well out of the script. The ever-resourceful Jamie fends for himself against the Krotons whilst in the Dynatrope, and proves once again that whilst uneducated, he is not stupid, as he works out how to use the Doctor’s piece of mica to escape. For a change, Zoe gets to team up with the Doctor more than Jamie, resulting in some sparkling dialogue during the scenes with the learning machines. Troughton’s clowning here is, as usual, delightful and the entire scene is a hidden gem in the story. Even the TARDIS gets to show off a new trick, as the HADS make its sole appearance in the series. 

In short, ‘The Krotons’ is just plain good fun. At a mere four episodes, it is also makes for a refreshing change amongst the longer stories surrounding it. Frankly, it simply manages to be more than the sum of its parts.

FILTER: - Television - Second Doctor - Series 6

The War GamesBookmark and Share

Saturday, 5 July 2003 - Reviewed by Douglas Westwood

It is ironic that one of the few Patrick Troughton stories to exist in its entirety, The War Games, could actually do with being trimmed down an episode or two. An excellent story but, alas, a tad long with many gratuitous scenes that could be cut. As long as all the scenes with the chillingly malicious General Smythe, the dry Von Weich, pompous Security Chief, charismatic War Chief and, most of all, the sneering, soft-spoken War Lord, could all be retained. Cut out some of the escape/getting recaptured scenes perhaps?

This story has always had a fascination for me. I was actually born on the year it came out (1968) so the first I knew of it was when the target book by Malcolm Hulke came out in...oh dear. 1981? Normally I had no interest in Dr Who books other than the ones being televised at that time, but what I knew about this story had an increasing fascination for me. It wasn't a typical DW story by any means, something apparently was to happen to the second Doctor by the end of the book to make him regenerate, the time lords were to be involved for the first time curiosity so got the better of me that I bought the novel and was thoroughly captivated. Malcolm Hulke's dialogue was as sharp as ever, yet there is absolutely no description at all of the War Lord. He just appears two thirds into the book. My young mind pictured him as a tall, dramatic figure in long, flowing robes! Imagine then some months later in a DW magazine there is a photo of the character...I was flabbergasted! This short, dapper figure with the beard, thick glasses and high forehead: this was the War Lord? And yet this character who seldom spoke above a murmur even when threatening someone with death is easily the most evil 'human' villain in DW's history.

Which point brings me to the video, seen years later. These aliens with their war games are evil and without compassion, excellent baddies, but to look at they are middle aged, balding, short, bespectacled...utterly unremarkable, but this is all the more chilling. Evil is not just looking like an Ice Warrior, a Cyberman or even a Dominator...the alien race in the War Games have the evil in their souls.

The plot was easy for my young mind to grasp also, being fairly simplistic in concept unlike, say, Logopolis which at the time I confess to being baffled about plotwise until the book came out several years later. The War Games is highly dramatic, not least of all for the shock ending. The little Doctor and his companions for once do not win through at the end, and its all the more shocking because right till the end one is rooting for them, thinking they might make it. And as for Jamie and Zoe...was there ever a more poignant scene than the one at the end when they are forced to depart due to the time lords' intervention?

On a lighter note, fans of Blackadder Goes Forth will see very definite similarities between that and episodes 1-3 of the War Games.....the château, the trenches, the captain, the general, the adjutant with his form obsession....I guess Ben Elton was a DW fan as a child.

Absolutely brilliant. 10 out of 10!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

FILTER: - Television - Second Doctor - Series 6

The Ice WarriorsBookmark and Share

Friday, 4 July 2003 - Reviewed by Paul Clarke

‘The Ice Warriors’ is a story with which I am surprisingly unfamiliar, due purely to its archive status; whilst I obtained bootleg recordings of many missing episodes some years ago, including most of Season Five, I only had audio recordings of the two missing episodes of ‘The Ice Warriors’ and only saw the surviving episodes when they were released on video fairly recently. I’d read the novelisation a couple of times in the past, but however good some of them are they are rarely an adequate substitute. This may be why I love ‘The Ice Warriors’ so much; it was unseen Troughton and having reached it during my ongoing series-watching odyssey, I was watching it for only the second time. In terms of availability, it rivals ‘The Tomb of the Cybermen’ for my affections, since two-thirds of it are happily in existence in their original form, allowing us an all-too infrequent chance to experience Troughton’s performance as the Doctor complete with facial expressions. More importantly, in terms of plot, acting and production, it more than holds its own.

‘The Ice Warriors’ benefits from excellent production values. The snow-bound sets are extremely convincing and seldom look artificial, unlike the similar sets in ‘The Tenth Planet’; the ice cliffs and the various blocks that fall whenever the glacier advances manage to avoid looking like polystyrene. The scenes in which Penley hauls Jamie across the ice are well done and look like they are actually shot outside; the footage of the Bear helps to create this illusion. The Ice Base also looks effective, probably because it has been built within a converted mansion, and the BBC have always been good at period set pieces; in addition, the juxtaposition of the advanced technology of the ioniser controls and the wood-paneled wall is rather memorable. The only slightly disappointing set is the interior of the Ice Warrior spaceship, which is minimalist to the point of being dull although I probably wouldn’t have noticed so much if it weren’t for the recent impressive sets of the Dalek city on Skaro (‘The Evil of the Daleks’) and the Cybertombs on Telos (‘The Tomb of the Cybermen’). Such are the bizarre side effects of watching the series in broadcast order… The costumes of the guest cast are also effective; I’ll discuss the Warriors themselves below, but it’s worth mentioning that the futuristic costumes worn by the base personnel, although clearly products of the sixties, manage not to look absurd, which is of course not always the case with humans from the future in the series. In addition, Penley and Storr look authentically scruffy. I also feel that the unusual opening sequences of each episode are of note.

The chilling unearthly wailing of the incidental score over shots of icy tundra nicely sets the tone at the start of each episode. 

The Ice Warriors themselves are hugely impressive. The costumes are distinctive and memorable, and the use of large actors coupled with this makes them physically imposing. I gather that Brian Hayles’s description of them in his script was vaguely similar to that of the Cybermen, but the decision to make them reptilian instead was a good one. Their bulbous armoured torsos, clamp-like hands and the copious tufts of hair at their joints combine to achieve a great visual effect. The fact that they are essentially armour plated also avoids the need for entirely flexible rubber costumes for the actors, which seldom look entirely convincing, since they tend to obviously crease at the joints. The Warriors also look and sound convincingly alien and this is helped considerably by the make-up around the actors mouths; Terrance Dicks’ stock description for Ice Warrior mouths in his novelisations of ‘The Seeds of Death’ and ‘The Monster of Peladon’ is “lipless slit”, and here it is certainly true. In close up, Varga’s mouth has no definition, it is simply a lopsided gash in his face, which is strangely disturbing and makes him seem truly non-human. 

In terms of characterisation, the Ice Warriors are made sufficiently distinct, despite the fact that only Varga and Zondall have many lines. It has become common to criticize Season Five for using the same basic “base-under-siege” plotline, and whilst this is to an extent true, it is also slightly unfair. So far this season, ‘The Abominable Snowmen’ is one such story whilst ‘The Tomb of the Cybermen’ is not really. I’ll discuss the recurrence of this plot type again when I get to other such stories, but for now I simply want to contrast ‘The Ice Warriors’ with its immediate predecessor. In ‘The Abominable Snowmen’, the base in question is Det-Sen monastery. It is indeed under siege from a powerful threat that is already establishing itself outside by the time the Doctor arrives, is motivated entirely by a desire for conquest, and secretly lurks within the base itself. In ‘The Ice Warriors’, the base is the Ice Base (the name is a real giveaway), and it is under siege, but primarily from the glacier. The Ice Warriors themselves have very different motivations from the Great Intelligence, and it is this that, for me, makes this story distinct, rather than just another base-under-siege story. The Ice Warriors are desperate; their ship is trapped in ice and needs power, there are only a handful of them, and they need to survive. True, Varga talks of conquering Earth if returning to Mars is not a viable option, but his immediate priority is to save his warriors and his ship. Only once, in episode five, do they actually attack the base, and this is in an attempt to obtain mercury isotopes for their reactor. For the most part, the threat they represent to the base is the danger of their reactor exploding if the ioniser is used at full strength, and the threat of the glaciers if the ioniser is consequently not used. It is worth noting of course, that although survival is the motivation, they are hardly sympathetic, and it is this more than their appearance that casts them as “monsters”. Varga is not only ruthless, but also a bully; he seems to take grim satisfaction in picking on Victoria especially, and his brutal, out-of-hand slaying of Storr is utterly callous. Storr presents no threat to the Ice Warriors; he is merely of no use to them. Zondall is even worse than his leader, and is positively sadistic, most notably when he tells Victoria that she will have cause to cry when Varga returns. This then, is why I think that the Ice Warriors work so well as monsters in this story; they look great, they have a logical motivation, and they are decidedly villainous. 

The Ice Warriors are not the sole reason for the success of this story however; the rest of the guest cast is uniformly excellent. Worthy of particular note are Peter Barkworth as Clent, and Peter Sallis as Penley. Clent is a superb character and very well acted. Another criticism of the Troughton era is that it is filled with unstable base commanders; in fact, I can only think of two and they are Robson (‘Fury From the Deep’) and Jarvis Bennett (‘The Wheel in Space’). Hobson (‘The Moonbase’) hardly qualifies as unstable, and neither I submit, does Clent. It is established in episode one that he hasn’t slept for nearly two days, and throughout the story he is placed under tremendous strain, the entire safety of human civilization literally in his hands, since the success of the ionization programme overall depends on every single base. Moreover, the only solutions which either the Doctor or Penley can come up with (and which eventually work) contradict the orders of World Control, who he is let us remember supposed to obey. In fact, the worst that Clent does is near the verge of panic in episode six; aside from that he is tense and irritable, but understandably so. In addition, he listens to reason; although he finds dealing with Penley especially difficult, he is won over by the Doctor’s arguments several times and it is worth noting that in episode five he realises, despite the objections of Miss Garrett, that the computer cannot help them with the situation they face. Ultimately, he allows Penley to use the ioniser at full strength in episode six, take the risk of destroying them all, and ultimately save the base from both the Ice Warriors and the glacier. He’s proud, arrogant, stubborn and bad-tempered, and spends the entire story under enormous stress, but I don’t agree that he’s unstable. And his finest moment is when he apologizes to Penley at the end. 

Peter Sallis puts in an impressive performance as Penley. He is of course crucial to the story because he represents the rebellious side of human nature; he is basically a decent human being and an excellent scientist, but he abandons the Ice Base because when he can no longer cope with the authority and regulations represented by Clent. He is also a likeable and sympathetic character, having formed a friendship with the otherwise scientist-hating Storr and also easily befriending both Jamie and the Doctor, the latter of whom is in many ways a kindred spirit. He is motivated largely by conscience; he helps Jamie because he is wounded, despite Storr’s protestations at bringing a stranger back to the cave, and he helps against the Ice Warriors because he has seen that they are killers. This presents him with a problem; by abandoning the base, which is in desperate need of his expertise, he not only leaves the base personnel at the mercy of the glaciers, but also threatens the entire world programme. Even when Miss Garrett tries to convince him to return to the base by reminding him of this, his aversion to Clent’s authority prevents him from agreeing, although his suggestion that the Doctor should use his notes on the Omega Factor allows him to solve all the problems of actually running the ioniser. Eventually, he is drawn into the plight of the base and plays a key role in the story’s denouement; which Clent and Miss Garrett unable to make a decision in the absence of advice from the computer, it is Penley who makes it for them, takes a risk and activates the ioniser, melting the glaciers and destroying the Ice Warriors. 

It is occasionally suggested that ‘The Ice Warriors’ carries an anti-science message; it doesn’t. It does admittedly promote a cautionary attitude; the current ice age has been caused by the use of science to remove carbon dioxide from the atmosphere and humanity is dependent on science to try and reverse the process. But what Hayles’ primary message is that of the importance of individuality, and thus it is the disaffected Penley who is portrayed as the most sympathetic character, refusing to blindly obey rules and regulations and determined not to be governed by machines. Nevertheless, Penley remains a scientist. The Doctor is also used to warn of the dangers of being enslaved by computers, as in episode one when Miss Garrett tells him that the base is computer controlled and he relies “well, never mind”. However, one character alone makes it plain that this message is distinct from an unspecific anti-science message, and this character is Storr. Storr is a complete technophobe and he is not presented in a flattering light; his attitude to science manifests itself as an almost superstitious fear and in short Hayles’ portrays him as a fool. He strides confidently to his death, because he knows that the Ice Warriors killed Arden, a scientist, and therefore assumes that they are against scientists, even though he knows that they are extra-terrestrial and have a spaceship, a product of scientific technology. 

Finally, the regulars are as always on fine form. Jamie fulfills the same role as he usually does, but as usual he does it well. The scene at the end of episode one when he slyly asks Victoria if she could imagine herself in one of the base personnel’s skin-tight apparently PVC uniforms suggests that even if she can’t he can, and is an amusing bit of character interaction. For much of the story he is usual brave and resourceful self, although his temporary paralysis results in him being largely sidelined during the latter half of the story. Troughton as always really steals the show, and displays marvellous range; with so much of ‘The Ice Warriors’ surviving, we are lucky enough to be able to see the look on his face when Varga depressurizes the airlock at the end of episode four, when he struggles unsuccessfully to unstopper the vial of ammonium sulphides in episode five, and at numerous other times, which inevitably serves to enhance the Second Doctor’s considerable charm, strong enough anyway to survive on audio alone. And then there’s Victoria. I noted when I reviewed ‘The Abominable Snowmen’ that it gave the first hint that the novelty of travelling in the TARDIS was starting to wear off, and this continues here. Victoria is her usual excited and inquisitive self when the TARDIS materialises in episode one, and she also demonstrates her bravery again, as even Varga admits when she uses his communicator to contact the base, but she spends three episodes here absolutely terrified. Taken hostage and bullied by Varga and later trapped by the grip of a dead warrior in an unstable icy tunnel, she is constantly on the verge of tears, frightened for her own safety and also wracked with anguish over Jamie’s possible death. When the Doctor joins her at the ship, she clearly draws a great deal of strength and comfort from him, recovers quickly and helps him overcome Zondall and thus defeat Varga, but it is nevertheless interesting to take heed of the increased strain that her travels with the Doctor and Jamie place her under…

In summary then, ‘The Ice Warriors’ continues to maintain the high quality of Season Five and provides an impressive introduction for one the series’ most popular monsters.

FILTER: - Television - Second Doctor - Series 5

The Edge of DestructionBookmark and Share

Friday, 4 July 2003 - Reviewed by Paul Clarke

I think ‘Inside the Spaceship’ (editor’s note: alternate name for ‘Edge of Destruction’) tends to be overlooked or taken for granted by fans; it’s a two parter shoved between the first Dalek story and the first (and now legendary due its missing status) historical, it was written to use up spare episodes in the season, the TARDIS nearly gets destroyed because a spring gets stuck etc. Despite all this, ‘Inside the Spaceship’ is a crucial story. Since I only saw it for the first time about two years ago, I haven’t had cause to reassess it as I have the first two Doctor Who stories, and I've long been familiar with the story since the novelisation was published, but it still stood up well to a repeated viewing, especially in context. As I've noted previously, the two previous stories have presented us with a selfish Doctor, willing to use others and even kill to get his own way; they have also shown him having to deal with two new reluctant companions and their challenges of his decisions. Here we see the final stage of the Doctor’s early development. When the TARDIS is on the verge of destruction, the Doctor is both paranoid and selfish – he assumes that Ian and Barbara have sabotaged his ship, even though they almost certainly wouldn’t know how and tries to throw them off the ship regardless of what might be outside. He ignores their suggestions and ideas and continues to distrust them even before he suddenly comes to this conclusion, and seems to blame them partly because doing so offers the path of least resistance; it hides the fact that he doesn’t fully understand his ship and allows him to avoid more frightening possibilities such as an alien invader. Despite his closeness with Susan, her defense of the teachers, or at least pleas not to throw them off the ship, go unheeded – he counters her assertion that they can’t be responsible for the events in the TARDIS by patronizing her or brushing off her arguments with a wave of the hand. It is only when the truth of the matter starts to become clear that he realises his mistake, and I think it hits him a lot harder than most people realize; initially, as in the Cave of Skulls and on Skaro, fear makes companions of them all once again, the Doctor even asking Ian to face the end alongside him. The four of them work together in frenzy, desperately piecing together the clues, until they release the Fast Return switch and the central column starts its regular rise and fall. After this, the Doctor is forced to apologize and admit that he his wrong, and whilst Ian accepts this graciously, Barbara, who was instrumental in saving their lives, is less forgiving. Already, the Doctor has been forced to accept that his new companions have been instrumental in saving his life and Susan’s, and he has had to admit to even less knowledge about the TARDIS than his inability to pilot it has already suggested, and I think that despite already having Susan with him, it is story in which he comes to really appreciate the company of others on his travels. But in addition to this, his obvious embarrassment and shame at his treatment of them in this story is brought out by Barbara, who forces him to make a proper apology – the line “as we learn about others, so we learn about ourselves” I think signifies an acceptance of his less noble qualities and a desire to be rid of them. From this story on, the Doctor is increasingly willing to become involved, and most significantly, he increasingly endangers himself to fight evil. This is a result of the trials of the first three stories, and is one of his most enduring character traits – a far cry from his attempt to kill Za or his casual willingness to let the Thals sort their own problems out until he needs their help to retrieve the fluid link. 

Susan, who I have criticized when discussing the two previous stories, does well here – the scene with the scissors is both disturbing and dramatic and is well-acted by Ford; she has never seemed so unearthly. Her paranoia is more unsettling than the Doctor’s, precisely because she has been so trusting of Ian and Barbara up until this point and it is interesting that she seems more sensitive to the TARDIS than he does at this point – possibly part of the same theme developed further in ‘The Keys of Marinus’ and ‘The Sensorites’. She is also generally surprisingly likeable (so perhaps I have, after all, reassessed this story) and is instrumental in cementing this first TARDIS crew together, as the natural link between her grandfather and her teachers (it is she, remember, who prompts the Doctor to apologize properly to Barbara, and he always seems more stung by her disapproval than that of others). Ian and Barbara also get important roles, especially Barbara who proves that she doesn't need Ian to solve a problem – she is the first to realize that the TARDIS is trying to warn them of danger and she sticks to her argument even in the face of withering scorn from the Doctor. 

The TARDIS of course is the final thing worthy of note – despite glimpses in ‘The Dead Planet’, it is here that we first get an idea of just how big it is and of course, that it is far more than just a machine. This idea will of course develop with the series, but seeing for it the first time it does make the old girl even more fantastical and much more than just a vehicle. It is also interesting seeing parts of the TARDIS later disposed of – the food machine pretty much vanishes after this point, as does the fault locator. The console room itself looks better at this stage in the show’s history than at any other, in terms of size, furniture and overall layout, beside which the versions to come in the colour era look positively tiny. 

So overall, 'Inside the Spaceship’ exists simply to complete the development of the TARDIS crew from reluctant strangers into a group of friends with mutual respect for each other. It does it well and is claustrophobically directed, all of which add up to an overlooked but crucial story.

FILTER: - Series 1 - First Doctor - Television

The Enemy of the WorldBookmark and Share

Friday, 4 July 2003 - Reviewed by Paul Clarke

It is often pointed out that ‘The Enemy of the World’ is something of an oddity, possessing an entirely different feel to the other stories in Season Five, and this is certainly true. This is by no means a bad thing however, in a season that some fans consider to be repetitive and formulaic. ‘The Enemy of the World’ makes for a refreshing change from the “monster” stories surrounding it, and carries off its James Bond style storyline with considerable panache.

Firstly, ‘The Enemy of the World’ is interesting for its sense of scale; whereas most Doctor Who stories set on Earth take place in England, this story takes place elsewhere in Europe and in Australia. Exactly how effectively the English location work doubles for Australia is questionable; the only visual record of these scenes is the telesnaps (and thus also the Loose Cannon recon), from which it is hard to tell. Consequently, in this regard is entirely possible that the story benefits from finding a new audience as an audio story, since the scope of the story is perhaps over ambitious. The surviving episode three takes place in the European Zone, and is entirely studio bound, although the occasionally mentioned fact that Denes is kept prisoner in a corridor because “it’s easier to guard him” doesn’t inspire confidence in the production teams ability to fully realize the demands on the script on the budget available. Nonetheless, the studio sets seem decent enough; Denes’ headquarters look convincing enough, and based on the recon so does Salamander’s research station and the underground bunker. The costumes too look reasonable enough, although the helmets worn by the guards look horribly dated. Enough speculation about how the overall production however: what about the story?

‘The Enemy of the World’ is an atypical Doctor Who story in that it is largely a political thriller, with a huge dose of James Bond style world-domination plot thrown in for good measure. During the first three episodes, we see a world of the near future divided into Zones, each with its own controller under the overall control of the World Zones Organisation, which has its own security commanded by Donald Bruce, and which is increasingly coming under the influence of the seemingly benevolent Salamander. Whitaker manages to convey this near future society very well via throwaway lines of dialogue referring to two-hour rocket trips from Australia to Europe, and wheat fields in Siberia (courtesy of Salamander’s technology). Later, the emphasis changes to Salamander’s plan to conquer the world, and although he is engineering natural disasters in order to “predict” them and thus gain political leverage by discrediting those who doubt his scientific abilities, he is essentially a James Bond-esque super villain, with a super weapon that can cause earthquakes, volcanoes, and widespread flooding. In lesser hands, this plot could easily become absurd, and descend into moustache-twirling farce akin to Zaroff’s scheme in ‘The Underwater Menace’, but it doesn’t because Whitaker handles it carefully. The true horror of exactly what Salamander is doing is well conveyed through the plight of Swann’s people, and in addition to this, Troughton manages to play Salamander with admirable restraint. 

As the principle villain, Salamander is crucial to the success or failure of ‘The Enemy of the World’. I must inevitably point out that Troughton adopts a cod Mexican accent, which is not even consistent throughout the story, but whilst this is initially rather distracting, it soon dwindles into unimportance in light of the rest of his performance. In addition, although he’s a villain, at least Whitaker is demonstrating that in this future society, someone who isn’t either British or American can rise to a position of considerable power, which is a rare event in Doctor Who in the sixties (due largely of course to the ethnic backgrounds of most of the actors working in Britain at the time). My main appreciation of Troughton’s performance as Salamander is the character’s restraint. Salamander has a silly accent, wears a costume that makes him seem just as eccentric as the Doctor, and is a megalomaniac psychopath; despite this, he never seems fatuous. From the start, he is clearly ruthless and manipulative, organizing the deaths of anyone who threatens his position, including Denes. He is also very clever, having developed the sun-store and revolutionized farming across the entire world. I mentioned Professor Zaroff earlier, and he serves as a useful comparison, since Salamander could easily have been as much a parody as he was, ranting and raving at every opportunity; yet he does not. One of the most notable things about Salamander, other than the obvious fact that he is a doppelganger of the Doctor, is that he always maintains his calm. Many villains in Doctor Who, from the aforementioned Zaroff to Mavic Chen, are prone to outbursts of rage when their plans go astray; not so Salamander. When he discovers that Jamie and Victoria are working for his enemies, he coolly reprimands them in a stern tone; later, when Fedorin fails to poison Denes, he genially beams at him and tells him “You try, you fail, the moon doesn’t fall out of the sky” – and then kills him. This is an effective technique, as it makes him seem all the more unflappable and therefore secure in his power, but never detracts from the air of quiet menace that he exudes. Most impressively of all, he always clearly remains a distinct character from the Doctor, which is tantamount to Troughton’s acting skills. Which compensates for his inability to adopt a convincing Mexican accent…

Salamander’s cool and collected persona contributes even further to making him a memorable villain when the true extent of his evil becomes clear in episode four. He is not merely a ruthless and murderous politician; he is a monster on a far greater scale. It is hinted in episode two that he is responsible for the eruption of the Eperjet Tokyar Mountains, but it is only confirmed when we discover that he has been keeping a group of people prisoner in an underground bunker beneath his research station. The true of horror of this is palpable; for five years, they have endured a nightmarish existence trapped in their subterranean base, believing that the world above is in the midst of a nuclear war, whilst a man that they trust implicitly manipulates them into wiping out large numbers of the population of the world (who also trust him implicitly) in order to increase his personal power. Tragically, whilst Swann’s group are effectively prisoners, they are kept imprisoned by their trust in Salamander and their belief in his lies, rather than any physically barrier that prevents them from leaving the bunker. The bunker scenes are chillingly effective, thanks partly to the excellent incidental score (courtesy of Bartok), and the plight of its occupants is well conveyed by Colin, who is desperate to see the surface once more, and Swann, whose final betrayal and murder by Salamander is truly pitiful. The sheer anguish in Christopher Burgess’ voice as Swann sees the surface for the first time in five years and realises the extent of Salamander’s betrayal is palpable. 

‘The Enemy of the World’ being a David Whitaker script, the characterisation is excellent from the major characters to the minor ones. The most memorable minor character is Griffin, the garrulous chef at Denes headquarters, whose gloomy utterances provide light relief. Of the major characters, Astrid and Fariah are both effective, as are Denes and the nervous, paranoid Fedorin. Arguably the two best supporting characters however are Donald Bruce and Giles Kent. Both of these are examples of Whitaker’s skill at story telling, as both the viewer’s attitudes to both are first steered in one direction and later confounded. Initially, Colin Douglas’ Donald Bruce is suggested to be a villain; he barges arrogantly into Kent’s offices and is seemingly loyal to Salamander. It gradually becomes clear however that this is not the case; in episode three his orders that Denes be treated with respect whilst under arrest hint that he is both fair and honest, and this is finally confirmed in episode five as the Doctor gains his trust and he proves willing to give them the benefit of the doubt and help to investigate Salamander. His seeming loyalty to Salamander early on is misleading; he is simply determined to do his job properly and to the best of his abilities, and his job is to protect Salamander in the absence of evidence that he has committed a crime. Giles Kent on the other hand, excellently portrayed by Bill Kerr, is the reverse of Bruce in that for most of the story he seems to be on the side of the heroes by virtue of opposing Salamander, until the final episode, where the Doctor tricks him into revealing his part in Salamander’s past schemes by, ironically, employing the very trick that Kent has been trying to persuade him to for most of the story; impersonating Salamander. Kent’s true nature is signposted; early on he arranges for Bruce to call in on him, forcing the Doctor to impersonate Salamander on the spot, which is a risky gambit considering the importance Kent places on the opportunity presented by the Doctor. This suggests that Kent will take desperate measures to achieve his ends. Later, he tries to blackmail the Doctor into executing Salamander in exchange for help saving Jamie and Victoria, a ruthless streak that proves to be his undoing, as it alerts the Doctor to his true nature. This is underplayed however, so that the revelation about Kent’s part in setting up the bunker and his knowledge that Salamander is causing natural disasters is still an effective twist, and this is helped by Benik’s earlier persecution of Kent. 

Benik really deserves a mention. Milton Johns’ portrayal is ludicrously camp, but somehow works. It is perhaps slightly over the top, but Benik is such an unpleasant character that he gets away with it, especially when he threatens to shoot either Jamie or Victoria, to main but not to wound. He so obviously means it that he doesn’t seem remotely amusing, and the same is true when he reacts with obvious frustration to the discovery that someone else has killed Fariah before he could. As Bruce says with disgust at the end, he really is “a nasty little man”. 

The regulars are ever reliable; ironically, Troughton’s dual performance sidelines the Doctor for much of the story, but his staunch refusal to act against Salamander without evidence of a crime contrasts nicely with his ruthless doppelganger. Crucially, he is instrumental in exposing Kent, although he doesn’t actually interfere with Salamander’s plans significantly; it is Swann’s discovery of the newspaper and Astrid’s discovery of Swann that cause his undoing, although Kent’s accidental confession to the Doctor does convince Bruce of Salamander’s crimes. It is fitting that the Doctor and Salamander do get a confrontation, albeit one that is brief and somewhat contrived, tacked on as it is at the very end and in the TARDIS. It does provide a nice cliffhanger into ‘The Web of Fear’ though. Having been terrified by Varga for most of the previous story, Victoria gets something of respite, although being threatened by Benik is undoubtedly unpleasant. Jamie on the other hand gets to play the man of action as he pretends to save Salamander’s life, and the scenes in which he confidentially bluffs his way into Salamander’s employ is a reminder of how useful a companion he is. Overall, ‘The Enemy of the World’ is an oddity, but not an unwelcome one, and Season Five is more than strong enough to cope with an atypical story, especially one as entertaining as this.

FILTER: - Television - Second Doctor - Series 5