The Doctor's MonstersBookmark and Share

Tuesday, 28 August 2012 - Reviewed by Chuck Foster

Written by Graham Sleight
UK Release - 30 August 2012
Available to purchase from Amazon UK
For a show that revels in them, it is perhaps surprising that there haven't been as many books dedicated about the monsters of Doctor Who as one might expect. In the past, 'oldies' amongst us can look fondly upon our battered copies of the 1970s The Doctor Who Monster Book from Uncle Terrance, or more recently with 2005's Monsters and Villains by Justin Richards, but with several more years of 'monstrous' adventures to explore here we are presenting with a new tome from Graham Sleight.

However, those looking for a nice "A-Z" type book are likely to be disappointed, as the aim of this book is somewhat different, as the back cover explains:
This book takes a new look at the monsters and asks what inspired them and lies behind them. Why are we so scared of monsters? Why so they look and act the way they do? How do they reflect the time and place that the series is broadcast in?
Such a description immediately conjures up an image of in-depth analyses of monsters and their environment, and how contemporary socio-political influences affected the way in which they were realised - fortunately, we don't have to worry about the redundancy of auxiliary performance codes, however, as Sleight presents his arguments in clear, concise prose, and in a reader-friendly manner.

The Book

On opening the book, the first thing you notice is what appears to be a very strange ordering of monsters within the Contents. The Autons ... check ... The Weeping Angels ... check ... Kroll ... erm, okay ... The Primords ... pardon ... The Borad ... WTF? There is method in Sleight's madness, of course, as his intention is to show how the different monsters relate to one another. Thus, Kroll in couched within terms of its being a force of nature like the Angels; after the Primords, the Borad is compared with Stahlman from their story in a "Faustian overreacher" role. The next chapter deals with the Axons and a theme of beauty and ugliness formulated from Timelash. And so on. Building an ongoing narrative between chapters is a great idea, but is hard to maintain, becoming absent in a number of chapters later in the book.

All the big-bads are there of course, with the two major monsters split into 'eras' (four for the Daleks and three for the Cybermen). The coverage does seem a little 'random' at times (eg. the Mandrells), but as Sleight points out, the book can't be completely comprehensive and everybody has their favourites that might not be covered (what, no Zygons?!!). However, there is a handy Glossary at the back that does provide a brief A-Z of monsters in the show.

I also found that the story synopses tended to be quite lengthy; whilst I can appreciate that some readers may not be familiar with the stories in question, such information is readily available elsewhere so a simple summary would suffice and we can get into the monster nitty-gritty. There was also a tendency to slip into 'series politics' which obscured the monstrous discussion that I actually expected. This reached its nadir in "The Cybermen II", which concerned itself more with why the Cybermen stories epitomised what was wrong with eighties rather than the creatures themselves - indeed, with Attack of the Cybermen I thought the depictions of how the Cyber-conversion process depersonalised humanity and the mental affects of partial conversion had on the Telos workforce would be more worthy of exploration than the interminable debate over who actually wrote the story!

However, in many ways I found the book a little too light for my tastes, and for me it was hard to judge who was the intended audience for the book. It clearly isn't for children or the casual reader, but neither is it for those fans who love to delve into heady intellectual debate or critique. Instead, the chapters tended to paint broad strokes over the various monsters covered, and I often wondered what point was being made.

All the standard themes are covered, so oil-drilling in the North Sea is debated for Inferno, the European Union and Miner's Strikes in for Peladon, etc.

Marshmen - not Solonians?


The book sets out to look into the meaning of the monstrous, and certainly covers a variety of the creatures that populate the series

and falls firmly into same style of related non-fiction from IB Tauris (like Booy's Love and Monsters published earlier this year).

FILTER: - Books - Factual

Doctor Who: The Wheel of IceBookmark and Share

Friday, 17 August 2012 - Reviewed by Matt Hills
Written by Stephen Baxter
BBC Books
UK Release - 17 August 2012
Available to purchase from Amazon UK
This review contains plot spoilers

As you might expect from SF luminary Stephen Baxter, one of the great strengths of this novel is its vivid creation of worlds and environments. The Wheel – a mining operation out at Saturn – and its frontier society are sharply delineated. Saturn’s rings also become a key part of the narrative, and Baxter has fun extrapolating from technologies such as “matter printing” and waste recyling. Overall, there’s a sense of vastness to this Doctor Who story, and not just because it deals with our solar system, but also thanks to the way it covers an epic sweep of time, going all the way back to the ‘Silurian’ era of Earth’s history. Appropriate Who technologies are also drawn upon, as Baxter deftly works in some crucial T-Mat action. The Doctor’s previous adventures are seen to have unintended consequences and unexpected outcomes over time, bringing them into the panoramic vista of Stephen Baxter’s work. Even UNIT get a few important mentions.

But perhaps this publication will always be remembered as a double event: firstly, it’s the return of ‘Past Doctor Adventures’ given that it features the second Doctor, Jamie and Zoe, and secondly it’s another novel that, like The Coming of the Terraphiles, brings a “name” SF author to the franchise. And whilst it certainly carries those historical lures for the reader, reducing The Wheel of Ice to milestones or markers does the book a bit of a disservice. Baxter’s affection for the show’s lead characters shines through, and he cleverly makes use of Zoe’s eidetic memory, for example, as well as finding a crafty way of making the artificial intelligence/service robot MMAC relevant to Jamie’s sense of identity. Furthermore, Zoe’s experiences from ‘The Wheel in Space’ and ‘The Mind Robber’ are variously tapped into, and Baxter exploits the gaps in her life experience when she’s confronted with a set of tasks that logic and scientific training can’t quite prepare her for. Both McCrimmon and Heriot are very well served throughout, without their subplots feeling too forced or too overly designed for them.

Baxter intersperses his linear adventure with “Interludes” which focus on different characters’ points of view and fill in moments of back story. For me, these were some of the most intriguing sequences of the novel, allowing Baxter to flashback through history (and weave in some great continuity references to Tom Baker and Peter Davison TV stories). One interlude offers a wonderful few pages tackling the emergence of consciousness itself: there’s no shortage of ambition to these set pieces, and their literary tangents greatly enrich the whole.

If Jamie and Zoe get plenty to do, then what of the second Doctor himself? On the whole, Troughton’s incarnation breezes playfully through situations, although sometimes he displays an angst which seems more in keeping with the parameters of ‘new Who’. He almost seems affronted to have encountered a mind bigger than his own, and the story’s eventual resolution calls for greater commitment than even a Time Lord can offer. Baxter preserves the Doctor’s essential mystery, but shows how his perspective on events differs crucially from all those around him, particularly when it comes to trying to communicate with alien artefacts or races.

In fact, communication emerges as a major theme. The Doctor is keen to speak to the strange blue beings who threaten the Wheel’s human colonists, and the entity known in Gallifreyan libraries as ‘Arkive’ is also seeking to communicate with others from its past. And even MMAC, the ‘cute robot’ character, unexpectedly discovers the value of communication. For all its ‘harder-than-usual’ SF stylings, epic scale, and scientific learning, The Wheel of Ice turns out to be about the emotional importance of being in touch. It may seem a rather cerebral read at times, but the head and the heart are both firmly and poetically in play here.

The book’s cover announces: “Resilience. Remembrance. Resolution. Whatever the cost.” Yet curiously the three words ritualistically recounted by the protagonist facing the Doctor are given as “Resilience. Remembrance. Restoration” as soon as one actually starts reading. In fact, these are the opening three words of the Prologue on page seven, and so can hardly be taken to constitute huge spoilers. Quite why “Restoration” has been substituted for “Resolution” remains unclear, especially as the latter doesn’t seem any more threatening or dramatic as a piece of book jacket self-promotion.

Given Baxter’s final flourish – a tribute to the always ongoing narratives of Doctor Who – I hope we hear more from him and this TARDIS crew. In short, this is a beautiful, artful novel that knowingly throws its characters into a range of scenarios which 1960s' television drama could never have brought to the screen. I found myself thinking more than a few times, “Jamie just did what?” Transcending TV budgets and special effects, The Wheel of Ice generates a true sense of wonder at the marvels of the universe, and the treasures of the Whoniverse.

FILTER: - Books - Second Doctor - 184990183X

FrontiosBookmark and Share

Wednesday, 8 August 2012 - Reviewed by Chuck Foster

>"The Earth Is Hungry"

Back in ye ancient days of 1984, there was I with my shiny video tapes that I could just afford in order to record a mere three stories of the new season just about to start. Of course back then we didn't really know that these would all be available on VHS let alone shiny DVD as now, so it was crucial to decide what to go for. Having pored over the descriptions of what to expect from the Anniversary Special, I ended up with "the dalek story", "the regeneration story" and "the new doctor story". With hindsight, I would actually have recorded Resurrection and Androzani as before, but my other choice would have been Frontios!

The story still stands up well today as one of the better stories of the Davison era. With Chris Bidmead at the helm the script was going to be sound, Paddy Kingsland to provide his usual atmospheric scores, a competent director in Ron Jones, and great design by David Buckingham, what could go wrong. Well, all-in-all, nothing at all - if anything its the confines of the studio that perhaps let it down, with cave-setting always quite tricky to realise - Androzani had similar issues - but in both cases lighting was actually used to great advantage, but one wonders how it might have seen in real caves on film ...

This is also one of those rare stories that enabled Mark Strickson to act and Turlough to have some measure of character. It was a real shame he hadn't been used better during his tenure on the show, and it's only his creator Peter Grimwade and Bidmead that really brought Turlough to life. The scenes of his dribbling race-memory-recall are excellent, though it's a bit handy that his home planet just happens to be one that the Tractators invaded in the past!

Ah, yes, the Tractators ... why is it the "monster" can make and break a story, in spite of how great a script it has. Fortunately they don't get too much "in the way" in the story, and it's a shame that in a typical lack of communication between departments we have dancers contracted to move the "lithe" creatures, and the designers created an "intractable" (ahem) costume that fails to provide any grace whatsoever!

The Gravis was an interesting idea, but its threats did seem a little easy to ignore -the novelisation does much to address this so you could really feel the unease of whether he'd grasp that Tegan was not a Gallifreyan serving machine after all. Hmm, actually, he is a bit thick not to realise the Doctor's little tricks even down to his eventual defeat by his own hands!

Also, the minimal visual effects used do seem a little basic, and it's a shame that the DVD producers didn't take the time (or rather, given the budget) to upgrade the effects to a more modern look rather than fuzzy red blurs illustrating the Tractator kinetic abilities. Not that this detracts from the story itself.

"The TARDIS has been destroyed"

Even back at broadcast I thought it strange that the Doctor would be going on about his hatstand, not knowing how much of a mcguffin that would be (or even what the word meant back then :)). It's later poingnancy as being the only remaining part of the ship was a real impact back then, even if I knew we had several more stories to go so the TARDIS couldn't really be gone. Actually, at the time I suspected the chameleon circuit had worked ... but no it was actually dispelled into separate components within our own natural dimensions instead and providing a magical moment when Tegan comes across roundels in the tunnels - still highly effective even now!

Still not sure how the Gravis knew of the Doctor by reputation, TARDISes and Time Lords when this was meant to be so far into the future they weren't meant to be there - if he were just a legend by then I'd have thought there'd be more excitement over him being there (a Tractator equivalent of an autograph wanted?!!). But then as we established earlier he is thick, and can't add up too well either - he'd been stranded for millennia but was on Frontios 500 years ... [actually a deleted scene clarifies this so maybe I should cut him some slack :)]

"The people of my planet"

As I said earlier, Turlough is used well in the story, but it seems weird now how he goes on about his planet without actually saying it. Unknown at this time, of course, but Trion is mentioned just three weeks later!

Plenty of bits to catch the eye in the story, but quite a lot cut out too it seems (which you can see in the deleted scenes bit). I must say the episode pace is pretty good so the extra to-ing and fro-ing cut helps the broadcast version keep running well. And it wasn't until just now watching it that I realised that episode three is essentially just "running around corridors!". Speaking of which, a good "revere-lation" (sorry!) at the end of the ep with Ron Jones choosing not to use a "crash-in to the Doctor's face" for once - hoorah! - especially with the nasty-looking excavation machine turning up (which again the novelisation makes even nastier than on screen).

Always good to see the Doctor's glasses in use (another Bidmeadism).

The restored picture looks great and some great camerawork (like looking up out of the tunnels to the ship), but the clean-up does also show up the Tractators a bit, and also where the scene was speeded up in order to make them look like they could move faster! There's also the unintentionally funny scene of the guards beating up a Tractator with their battons to watch out for!

The production notes also point out some of the inevitable continuity errors: I clearly remember the incident with the metal bar blocking the doors "moving" higher to enable the escape back at broadcast, but never noticed things like Turlough's blazer switching from buttoned up to open, Norna crouching to look in the tunnel (from below) but then standing (from above), or a boom shadow (though this doesn't detract and looks 'natural' anyway).

"A risk shared is a risk doubled"

All in all, a great story and also a great cliffhanger ending too, harking back to the old Hartnell story-telling days (not that I knew this at the time) - it's a shame they didn't retain the Resurrection trailer that immediately followed the end titles when it was broadcast just to maintain that flow :)

FILTER: - Television - Series 21 - Fifth Doctor

The Tomb of the CybermenBookmark and Share

Tuesday, 7 August 2012 - Reviewed by Chuck Foster

>‎"50 pounds to the first person to open those doors"

Those who remember the days of video-craving that the documentary "Cheque Lies and Videotape" depicts would probably not be surprised to be offered £50 back then if they could open their door and produce "Tomb of the Cybermen". The 1980s were rife with rumours about this particular story still existing, fuelled by the audio soundtrack doing the fan rounds that sounded like it was off a badly tracked video recording! Enter 1991 and some naughty fans (ahem) tried a social experiment about how a rumour of how Season Five had been recovered and would be released one story at a time starting off with Tomb the following year ... only to have it announced that Tomb had been recovered and would be out that following year ...

I think one of the problems with Tomb was that is ended up being an extremely hyped story. Those who had been fortunate to see it on broadcast raved about how great it was, the novelisation was a reasonable effort by Davis, and the soundtrack was atmospheric so we were all geared up for it's release when announced. I remember sitting there at the Tombwatch premiere (now sadly removed from the Special Edition version) and still wondering if this was really real until after those titles ended and the action began (curiously I don't remember the opening scene with Victoria's introduction only from the Telos landscape but it must have been shown!). The anticipation of the audience was electric and it was great to watch ...

That first time. When I came to rewatch it on the video it seemed more lacking in some ways. Suddenly scenes seemed to be much slower, and the Cybermen didn't really seem to actually do anything. Quite boring really, in comparison to The Moonbase before it, and certainly not as good as Evil of the Daleks and The Web Of Fear looked. Fan attitudes were variable too, and of course emphasis shifted to wanting another "undoubted classic" to be recovered - Fury From The Deep. [this has of course not occured - yet - but would we lose our reverence for that too if seen again in all it's onscreen 'glory'?]

But that was the 20th Century. It's now some two decades since those heady days and we have a new fresh remastered DVD version to enjoy. And, as with many of the earlier stories (The Web Planet excepted), these adventures have a lot going for them. The atmosphere perceived on the old soundtrack *is* there on screen, the Cybermen *are* menacing even in their minimal participation in the tale, and the acting is very competent. I still wouldn't rate it a "classic", but it is a strong tale.

"I love to see the experts at work, don't you?"

The Doctor of Production Block Four is witty, intelligent, perceptive, and at times downright dangerous. This had been highlighted in the previous serial Evil of the Daleks as he manipulates his companion to achieve his (benevolent of course) aims [long before the 7th Doctor did so to some fan complaints!], and continues here as he deftly manipulates Parry's team into, well, doing his dirty work for him! A little hint here, a flick of a switch there, and they all progress further into the Tomb's mysterious depths. As he says, they couldn't leave as soon as "Cybermen" are mentioned, but then again if he hadn't have surrepticiously assisted then would there ever have been a threat (or indeed the death of most of the team by the end).

Similarly, the Block Four Jamie is still an intelligent of out-of-his-league Scots lad, perceptive enough to realise the Doctor's line about skirt lengths to reassure Victoria. Victoria herself demonstrates her own strengths: a particular exchange comes to mind when, as Hopper head into the caverns she remarks "Who'd be a woman?" and he responds "How would you know?", but later she gets to give him a cutting response in ""its comforting to know they we've got your superior stength to call on should we need it"!

The main cast excel throughout. Even though she's the new girl, Debbie Watling seems to settle in with the Pat'n'Frazer duo quickly, and they display a genuine affection to each other throughout the serial. As for the supporting cast, generally the acting is okay, if the accents are a little 'eccentric' at times. Also, a little consistency in pronunciation would be handy, e.g. Telos and Teelos, CYBERman and CyberMAN! (Ah well, Matthew Sweet doesn't do much better in the Cybermen documentary on disk two so should we worry?!).

Of particular note is Roy Stewart, who does wonders with Toberman considering the character is mainly treated as "the heavy" and gets about three lines in the entire story(!) - it seems at times that the Doctor is using subtle manipulation upon him (opening the Tomb doors, the Kaftan death aftermath), but there's a certain nuance that suggests there's more to him than meets the eye - quite literally later on with his cyber-arm! And let's not forget it's his sacrifice that wins the day (even if it was him opening the doors that caused the kerfuffle in the first place!).

Of the others, Shirley Cooklin and George Pastell play the Logician fanatics Kaftan and Klieg well, though their character's motivations seems a little woolly at times (why does Kaftan play with the cyberchamber controls, and why is Klieg's logic over the Cybermen's intentions so completely flawed?!?!). The others are unfortunately less memorable, though they have their moments.

"Symbolic logic"

Logic, in theory, is a matter of taking a particular pattern of event and being able to realiably predict what will occur next in that sequence, A will go to B will go to C etc. Here, we have the interesting discourse between the Doctor and the Cybercontroller over the latter knowing all about the former, and then he deducing what the latter was up to. It's quite a revelation to find out that the trap was for him, with the Cyber race logically concluding he'd eventually come to Telos and release them. Was the Doctor really so unwitting? If this was the 7th Doctor, of course, then we'd know it was all a collosal "chess game" of manipulation to achieve the desired result - but here it seems the 2nd was just as good at the game ... or was he? Things could have gone badly wrong if it hadn't been for his companions ... or did he know they would pull through for him? A debate for another time, perhaps!

In principle logic should have no alignment, but Tomb's event do suggest that it is more likely to lead you down the dark path than stay neutral. Being the opener for this series, it's quite poignant that the subject of logic returns in the finale with Zoe's slavish consideration of it in The Wheel in Space - and of course the Doctor's gentle mockery of her over that - how to be wrong with authority indeed!

But where does logic state you should let your enemy get into a recharger, activate it yourself and then wonder why a fully fit version then proceeds to trample over your apparent plan ...

"Now I know you are mad, I just wanted to make sure"

Of course in a production made "as-live" a number of mistakes can creep through. There are lines that would make the First Doctor proud: "curiously lacking in curiousity" and "open that opening mechanism" come to mind. The usual array of boom mike shadows and inadvertent crew in shot crop up (you can see someone inside the closed hatch at one point, though the production notes pointed that out to me!).

The "cyber-chatter" could be a little grating at times, too, making it difficult to understand what they are saying at times.

"Keeping my eyes open and my mouth shut"

It seems sometimes characters can hear the TARDIS arriving and other times they can't - guess it depends on what serves the story best!

The Cybermen look great in the story, even towering above the massive Toberman. I guess casting shorter actors/actresses helped immensely with that, but it is still awe-inspiring, especially with some of the camera angles employed by Morris Barry.

I don't know about you, but I feel the old classic Cybermen used to have some great quotable lines; you could imagine the chants around playgrounds as kids try out their monotone reproductions of "Now You Belong To Us", "We Will Survive" and "You Will Be Like Us" - no namby pamby "DELETE" going on here!

Why was the Cybercontroller doing a Brucie pose when his tomb was opened. And just what was the pow-wow between Parry and the other Cybermen about before they went to release the Controller?

What do sleeping Cybermen dream about? Would they be able to?

It's interesting that the Doctor has an entry on cybermats in his 500 Year Diary - when did he find that out being he only encountered them in The Tenth Planet (or did he? The First Doctor did know that the mysterious planet was Mondas ...). It's also a shame that the diary didn't continue beyond this block ... but then it won't be long before the sonic screwdriver arrived and things wouldn't be the same again!

"Archaeologist written all over him"

To conclude, overall the story does stand up well, more so to me now than it did upon it's recovery. Maybe that's because I'm 20 years older and appreciate the subtleties and nuances more than I did back then.

The story has some eminently quotable lines, too; as well as the ones mentioned throughout the review, there are also the lovely moments between the Doctor and Victoria to enjoy, too The bit when they talk about family memories is wonderful: "I have to really want to to bring them back in front of my eyes. the rest of the time they sleep in my mind and I forget". Similarly, when talking about their adventure: "our lives are different to anybody else's - that's the exciting thing, nobody in the universe can do what we're doing".

The Doctor's final comments are interesting, too; when asked about if this is the end of the Cybermen he cautiously adds: "on the other hand, I never like to make predictions" - but didn't he state that it was the final end of the Daleks just a story before? Considering their return later on perhaps he should have considered what he would say about the metal giants a little later (grin).

The final scene was cut, of course: as the TARDIS dematerialises and the lonely cybermat makes its way across the rocky surface, it is suddenly picked up, examined, and commented upon: "hello, sweetie ..."

FILTER: - Television - Second Doctor - Series 5

The Curse of PeladonBookmark and Share

Tuesday, 7 August 2012 - Reviewed by Chuck Foster

Hard to imagine now of course, but us midling-youngsters of the early eighties were well and truly Pertwee-starved, relying on dim and distant memories of the elegant Third Doctor, and of course the ever-increasing chronicles recorded by Target. Then JNT became a hero by bringing three full adventures to our screens! After the previous Five Faces outings for The Three Doctors and Carnival of Monsters, over the summer of 1982 we were then treated to a monster cornucopia in the form of The Curse of Peladon.

In the Black Scrolls of Fandom this story is categorised as "an Ice Warrior story", which - though of course being true - does do an injustice to the other memorable alien races we meet on Peladon. We have the Peladonians themselves with their distinctive hair styles (maybe the Golgafrinchans stopped off here at some point!), the big shaggy beastie Aggedor, the shrill-voiced, green-skinned, semi-phallic hermaphrodite hexapod delegate from Alpha Centauri, and the downright disturbing delegate from Arcturus. Having no memory of the story on original broadcast I had only my battered Target version of events to go by, and whilst Aggedor was perhaps a little more cuddly than intended (he worked well in the shadows), and Centauri overly 'feminine', Arcturus was just as creepy as his literary counterpart - the production team had a field day on that creation! Perhaps the only let-down was his laser weapon, which suffered from its seventies effects legacy (oh no, the red blob of doom again!).

It was my first remembered experience with the Martians, too, and they perhaps didn't come across as huge and looming as I had been led to believe. Having seen The Ice Warriors and The Seeds of Death now I can fully appreciate this image of them, but unfortunately the rather taller cast here kind of dilluted their presence a bit. Plus of course there's the twist in which they turn out to be goodies rather than baddies this time around, though the Doctor was still able to instill a sense of threat about them when relating his previous experiences, and Izlyr or Ssorg can still be intimidating in spite of their relative heights!

(An an aside - these days we have the likes of Dan Starkey and Neve McIntosh creating a consistent look to a race, but back in the classic series this seldom happened - we're introduced to Sontarans being a clone race, but with the Martians we're actually treated to creatures that seem to fit the bill more admirably, thanks to the Alan Bennion cornering the market in Ice Lords.)

"The ancient Curse of Peladon will be fulfilled"

The story itself could almost be a Shakespearian play in its opening moment, with the array of characters paraded in front of us and their roles ascertained, through it soon settles down into the more traditional sci-fi trappings of a Doctor Who story. Torbis and Hepesh sound it off in front of their young King, and then the former apparently falls foul of the "curse" as a sign of displeasure of the mythical beast of Peladon over the decision to join the Federation. Here the "mistaken identity" strategy is used to introduce the Doctor and Jo to events, and it doesn't take long to see how the pretty Earth 'princess' has caught the eye of the King (who seems to quickly forget that she was meant to be on a date with Mike Yates - as Katy says on the commentary, "there's something about a prince that is irresistable!"). Then the Martian delegates turn and up the next couple of episodes are spent trying to convince us (and the Doctor) that they are the good guys, only to turn out that they actually are, hoorah! The real villains turn out to be Arcturus in league with Hepesh, and the ensuing revolution looks set to be victorious until the Doctor turns up proving the mythical Aggedor beasts are real, and its representative in the Citadel promptly shows its displeasure on its 'master' Hepesh. Hmm, actually it could have been written by Shakespeare after all!

"Holy flaming cow!"

Lennie Mayne's directorial debut for the series provides us with a competent traversal through the script, ably maintaining the journey through the layers of intrigue and no dud casting to be seen (or under costume!). David Troughton handles his first leading role well, and Gordon Stothard continues to excel in his non-speaking roles, this time visible on-screen as the mute champion Grun (strangely with a name-change as if the actor didn't want people to realise it was him!); plus with barely a minute on-screen Wendy Danvers makes her formidable presence known as the real Earth delegate Amazonia, who had she arrived when she was supposed to might well have been able to take on Izlyr, Hepesh and Aggedor on her own with the fierceness on display!

The sets are well-designed, too, with the mountainous slopes of Peladon superbly realised at Ealing, seamlessly integrating with the excellent modelwork as the TARDIS seemingly plummets to its destruction early on. Stunt-work is also excellent, but you can still play the "see Terry Walsh as the Doctor" drinking game and have a good chance to get sloshed [and of course the Uncle Terry commentary drinking rules might well send you into a stupor at around 22:55 into episode one :)].

The story has some notable firsts and lasts: it's the first time we're told the TARDIS is indestructible (though that had been suggested in stories like The Chase - but then why would we need the HADS in The Krotons?); it's the first story to be shown out of production order, having swapped with The Sea Devils to make the season flow better (though I've always felt that The Claws of Axos/Colony in Space make better continuity when reversed); it's the first story since The Space Pirates to have no location filming (indeed it and Monster are the only Pertwee stories like that) - Barry Letts said on the commentary that this helped finanically with the location-heavier stories in the season; and it's the last time the TARDIS console room appears in this configuration (perhaps the drop down the mountain did more damage than initially thought!).

Probably the best 'fluff' to watch out for is Pertwee muffling his lines under the TARDIS console as a picture of a naked lady comes into his eyeline (*not* Katy Manning!).

In conclusion, a fun story with lots of intrigue, good acting and great sets, plenty of monsters (the biggest gathering of races since The Daleks' Master Plan!); being a four-parter, there's also little of the sluggishness that can occur in the longer stories of this era).

I'll leave you with this thought: how must poor Peladon have felt, having lost both of his father-figures in the space of a couple of days - one initiated by the other and both by his mythical Royal beast - and then having a beautiful woman first turn down his marriage proposal and then turn out to be an imposter!

FILTER: - Television - Third Doctor - Series 9