April 30: "The Space Pirates" Episodes One & Two

It's been a while, but we've now reached another missing story.  Still, at least this is the last one; everything after The Space Pirates exists in one form or another.  But on the downside, all we have of The Space Pirates is one episode, a handful of clips from episode one, and the soundtracks; no telesnaps were ever taken of this story.

This is particularly unfortunate because, on the basis of the first episode at least, a lot of the appeal of this story was visual.  It seems there was a lot of effects work going on, and those clips mentioned earlier are pretty impressive indeed.  But on the audio it's just a bunch of sound effects while Frazer Hines explains what's going on.  And when we do get dialogue, most of it is basically exposition, telling us what's going on and why.  This may be Robert Holmes's second script, but his flair for dialogue hasn't shown up yet.  Of course, as this story was written in a hurry to replace another script45, it may not be too fair to criticize.

Still, there's a lot of set-up going on with exciting model shots that we can't really see.  And this episode held, until 2011, the dubious distinction of running the longest amount of time before the Doctor appears (with the exception of "Mission to the Unknown", in which he doesn't show up at all).46  And when he does show up, he, Jamie, and Zoe get shot at and sealed inside a small room on one of the beacons being blown to pieces.  So it's not the most exciting time.  But everything else was probably all right, as the space pirates break up some beacons to salvage the precious argonite that they're made of, so maybe we shouldn't be too hard on it.

Madeline Issigri offers General Hermack any help she can give.
(The Space Pirates Episode Two) ©BBC
Episode two is the existing episode, so we can actually see what's going on.  Although almost nothing can prepare you for the sight of Technician Penn's haircut and moustache on what appears to be a military vessel (and then combine it with the hairstyles of General Hermack and Major Warne, none of which appear to belong with each other -- and we haven't even mentioned Madeline Issigri's metal beehive yet).  Still, at least we can see things, so we can see how clearly awkward Donald Gee feels in the role of Major Warne (maybe having to give a cod-American accent is throwing him off).  And we get our first look at Milo Clancy, space pioneer, who adds a bit of color (you know what I mean) to a rather stiff ensemble on Hermack's V41-LO.  Clancy's apparently also been having problems with people stealing argonite, which naturally leads Hermack to suspect Clancy as the ringleader of the pirates.  Er, yes...

Meanwhile, the Doctor, Jamie, and Zoe are still locked inside a tiny room, and the air is running out.  And that's their entire storyline so far.  Honestly, you'd think this was a sixth Doctor plot, the way the regulars are being kept from the action.  Though at the very end Milo Clancy bursts in and guns down Jamie, so there's that.  Which, come to think of it, also feels like an incident in a Colin Baker story.







45 According to Howe-Stammers-Walker in The Handbook: The Second Doctor, this was The Dream Spinner by Paul Wheeler -- although the website Doctor Who: A Brief History of Time (Travel) says that The Dreamspinner [sic] was supposed to be the fourth story of season 6, and when it fell through The Invasion was extended to eight episodes.  In any event, given the problems with The Dream Spinner, The Prison in Space, and The Laird of McCrimmon all falling through, you can see why this story had to be written in a hurry.  And we're not done yet; we'll pick this up again when we get to The War Games.
46 The new record-holder at the time of writing is 2011's "A Good Man Goes to War".

April 29: The Seeds of Death Episodes Five & Six

When we last left Zoe, she was about to be gunned down by an Ice Warrior.  Fortunately Fewsham, at the start of the episode, leaps to her defense, struggling with the Ice Warrior to stop its weapon from being brought to bear.  And what does Zoe do during this struggle?  Just stands there and watches it happen -- doesn't run for cover or try to help Fewsham.  Just stands there.  So when Fewsham is knocked aside and the Ice Warrior redirects its attention toward Zoe, I was half rooting for the Warrior to shoot her.  And I like Zoe.  But man is she dumb in those first minutes of episode five.  It's only the extreme heat knocking out the Ice Warrior that saves her.

And then we move into a new stage for this story.  The Doctor returns to Earth to help solve the problem of the alien blight, while the Ice Warrior who T-Matted down last week is still at large.  "The last sighting was by the Weather Control Bureau there," Professor Eldred states, while pointing at a position on the map different from the one clearly labeled "Weather Control".  But the Doctor discovers that the seed pods are easily destroyed by water -- not quite on the level of the mind-bogglingly stupid alien invasion in the movie Signs, but in the same ballpark.  Still, this does explain why the Ice Warrior headed to Weather Control -- to stop the rain from falling.  So Jamie and Zoe head to Weather Control to make it rain, and the Doctor follows after, venturing through an epic amount of foam (it's almost up to his neck in places) on his way to the door, which is naturally locked.  And there's a seed pod swelling just by the door as well.

The Doctor tells Slaar the Martian fleet is heading into the sun.
(The Seeds of Death Episode Six) ©BBC
Episode six gives us the actual invasion part: once the Earth has been softened up by the seed pods, the Martian fleet will arrive and mop up any resistance.  So Slaar, the leader of the Ice Warriors, makes contact with the Grand Marshal to confirm flight plans.  Having the Grand Marshal not hissing his sibilants in his own atmosphere is a nice touch; giving him sequins and a star filter less so.  But we're into the final episode of this story, so the Doctor works out a plan to trick the Martian fleet into heading toward the sun instead of the moon.  Once the Ice Warriors are doomed and the fungus is being defeated on Earth, the Doctor informs Slaar of what's really been going on.  Slaar angrily tells his fellow Ice Warrior to kill the Doctor, who looks ready to accept his fate -- it's only the timely intervention of Jamie that saves him.  But what's more interesting is how readily the Doctor resorts to violence in this episode, from shooting down a couple Ice Warriors with his portable solar energy emitter to sending an entire fleet into the sun.  Given how we've already seen that the Ice Warriors are intelligent beings that the Doctor seems perfectly happy to kill, it's a bit bloodthirsty.  And to be fair, the script does seem aware of this: "You have destroyed our entire fleet!" Slaar cries.  "You tried to destroy an entire world," the Doctor replies coolly in what appears to be Brian Hayles' (or more likely Terrance Dicks') post hoc justification of his actions.  But it's still rather odd.

The Seeds of Death is Troughton's final "monster" story, one that's part "base under siege" and part "alien invasion".  What's interesting is how each episode seems to introduce a distinct phase of the story: episode one outlines the takeover of the moon base, episode two is about the rocket's journey...  It's not like, say, The Web of Fear, where each episode builds on the previous one but we get the same basic story for most of the six episodes; here instead we get a new emphasis with every installment.  It's a nice change and it certainly keeps things engaging.  Add in some striking direction from Michael Ferguson and we get a solid "monster" story that's sufficiently different from season 5's offerings to stand out on its own.  It's not without its flaws, but the positives outweigh the drawbacks, leaving us an entertaining serial.

April 28: The Seeds of Death Episodes Three & Four

Episode three is when things start going.  Once the rocket lands on the moon, the action shifts to avoiding the Ice Warriors in the moon base while trying to stop them.  Except that doesn't work too well; the Doctor is spotted and avoids death by proclaiming to the Ice Warriors that "Your leader will be angry if you kill me; I'm a genius."  Except he tells them this not self-importantly but with a sense of resignation, which is a wonderful touch from Troughton.  And meanwhile the T-Mat link from the Earth to the moon has been temporarily fixed, so Miss Kelly has gone up to make more extensive repairs, not knowing that this is what the Ice Warriors want (or even that they're there at all).  It's only when the repairs are completed that the Ice Warriors reveal themselves to Miss Kelly and her team.

Once the Doctor is captured, he's brought to the control room, where he talks with Fewsham, the person who's helping the Ice Warriors because he desperately doesn't want to die.  He doesn't convince Fewsham to stop helping the Martians, but he does learn what the seeds of death are, when one of them explodes in his face -- although (probably because of his alien biology) he's only knocked out instead of killed.  And now that T-Mat's ready, the Ice Warriors can start sending these seeds around the world.

An Ice Warrior strides through the seed pod-created foam on
Earth. (The Seeds of Death Episode Four) ©BBC
Episode four maintains the sense of action, even as things move from being a claustrophobic incursion on the moon to a larger-scale invasion of Earth.  Once the seeds arrive, they start propagating quickly, leading to foam-covered exteriors as the planet is attacked by this strange blight.  An Ice Warrior T-Mats down to Earth to enact the second part of the Ice Warriors' plan, which means we get sequences of an Ice Warrior striding menacingly across the countryside, looking quite out-of-place.  This means that these sequences are quite striking, and because they haven't been repeated as often as the "St. Paul's steps" sequence from The Invasion, they retain their power of juxtaposing the familiar with the alien.

And back on the moon, Jamie, Zoe, Miss Kelly, and a technician named Phipps, who's been stuck on the moon hiding from the Ice Warriors since the crisis began, devise a plan to turn up the heating in the base, since the Ice Warriors are adapted to a cold climate and heat should be intolerable to them.  This leads to a sequence where, after making their way through the ventilation system, Zoe sneaks across the control room to where the heating control is in a most unsneaky fashion -- she doesn't get down on her hands and knees or dodge from cover to cover, but she instead tiptoes across the room, turns the heat up, and then starts to "sneak" back the same way.  And when an Ice Warrior finally spots her and trains its weapon on her, she stands there yelling at Fewsham to help her rather than, you know, running for cover or doing something useful.  Ah well, I guess you can't win them all.

April 27: The Seeds of Death Episodes One & Two

We're on the moon!  In the future!  With instantaneous transportation devices (called T-Mat) that are being run from the moon!   But it doesn't take long (in terms of the episode) for someone to arrive on the moon and mess things up.  And here we get some more first-person shots of the currently unseen menace, threatening the people on the moon with death unless they obey.  These shots aren't quite as wonderful as the ones in The Krotons were because there's no gun constantly in view, but it's still an interesting choice.

We're also treated to Troughton in shirtsleeves inside the TARDIS, as he works out that they've landed inside a space museum.  Two things are immediately apparent: 1) Troughton's shirt is really impressively baggy; 2) He has short sleeves by virtue of having hacked off the ends of the sleeves, rather than rolling them up or just having a short sleeve shirt.

But yes, there's trouble on the moon, and only one man can help before those troubles threaten the entire world (since food and medicine can't be T-Matted across the globe): the owner of that space museum, who's also the only person left on the planet with a working rocket.  And while the controller of T-Mat, Commander Julian Radnor, tries to convince Professor Daniel Eldred, the museum/rocket owner, to help them, the audience learns that the moon has in fact been invaded by Ice Warriors!

Episode two is a little different in tone: the Ice Warriors are on the moon trying to cower the technicians there into fixing T-Mat for their own purposes, while the Doctor, Jamie, and Zoe are being readied to crew this rocket to the moon.  It's interesting seeing the dynamic between Zoe, who's clearly familiar with space travel and all the experiences and risks it entails, and Jamie, who's clearly out of his depth but is determined not to be left behind.  It makes for much more entertaining viewing, it must be said, than Jamie and Victoria's interactions ever were.

But episode two is about preparing for this journey into space and then what that flight will entail; remember, this went out in early 1969, so audiences were used to news stories and shows about this anticipation and what space travel would realistically be like.  Obviously we're in the future, so some of the verisimilitude has been sacrificed in favor of ease ("Switching to automatic gravity control now," Zoe says so that they don't have to simulate weightlessness), but there's still a gesture toward doing things properly.  Of course, we also get the wonderful pop-art sequence at mission control in preparation for lift-off, with everything initially viewed through a circular cutout, and then as Miss Kelly does the countdown the numbers are illuminated on her face in reverse.  It's quite striking -- no wonder it's a clip that tends to get a lot of use in Doctor Who retrospectives and the like.

But disaster strikes, and the rocket loses their homing signal to the moon -- which means there's a real danger that they'll drift off into eternity forever.  And more importantly: it's been two episodes and we still have no idea what the name of the serial means.  Just what are the seeds of death?

April 26: "The Krotons" Episodes Three & Four

Jamie encounters the Krotons. (The Krotons Episode Three) ©BBC
We're barely a minute into episode three and we get our best ever look of the Krotons.  And I have to say, they really are a triumph of design from the waist up.  I love all the lines and angles, and the crystal-shaped "head" is fantastic.  It's too bad that that rubber skirt lets them down (allegedly, this is because a significant miscommunication led to the costumes being made too small; the skirt was the best effort to hide the performers' legs).  I also really like the way those heads spin around when the Dynotrope is under attack; it makes them seem quite alien and less like a man in a bulky suit, in addition to just looking cool.

And in terms of direction, I utterly adore the first person shots of the Kroton wandering the wasteland in search of the Doctor and Zoe.  Obviously there's no way they could know this at the time, but its resemblance to a video game (or, perhaps more pertinently, the first-person shots of the movie Doom, which actually are based on a video game) brings a smile to my face.

This is also the episode where Philip Madoc as Eelek comes to the fore, and he's so wonderfully silky in his delivery that you can't help but be entertained, even in a role like this.  It's a fairly standard "duplicitous power-hungry politician" role, but Madoc makes it that bit more special.  The same can't be said for Richard Ireson as Axus though, who seems so smug all the time that you just want to punch him in the face.  Of course, he's supposed to be an antagonist in this, so I guess that's all right.

Scripting-wise this episode is a bit uneven, though, as Eelek's motivations seem to shift from one scene to the next, and it's never quite clear why the characters are behaving as they are.  Actually, this is probably meant to be intentional, demonstrating Eelek's slipperiness, but it comes across as confused.  And of course, there's the infamous moment where Beta is under the Hall of Learning after having just been left performing chemistry in his lab, but that's a casting issue rather than a scripting one (reassigning a line to someone they're already paying without realizing the issue it would create).

Episode four is little better in this department; Eelek's motivations are much clearer this time (hand over the "high brains" and the Krotons will leave), but everything feels rather perfunctory.  Once the Doctor and Zoe are captured, they're handed over to the Krotons, and then they pour sulfuric acid into the Krotons' life-sustaining slurry tank (along with Jamie and Beta pouring acid on the machine from the outside), destroying the Krotons and saving the Gonds.  And that's about it.  I wish there was more to talk about, but it's a very straightforward episode, other than some clowning from the Doctor as he buys time in the Dynatrope for the acid to take effect.

In many ways this sums up The Krotons as a whole -- it's straightforward.  There aren't any real twists in the tale; the drama comes from getting inside their ship and then working out how to defeat them.  There's little time spent on the Krotons' motivations, and the Gonds are there to either help or hinder the Doctor's progress.  Still, it's competently written and directed, and some of the performances here are quite good -- even a relatively minor part like Beta becomes that little bit more in the hands of James Cairncross.  It's unlikely to be anyone's favorite story, as it's one of those pleasantly average stories that Doctor Who occasionally makes: nothing too striking but nothing too terrible either (and at four episodes it also doesn't outstay its welcome ).  While I'd like to say that Robert Holmes's talent is clear from the outset, the fact is that this is a very workman-like script, with little of the sparkle, charm, or imagination that set his later contributions apart.  The Krotons simply sets out to entertain the audience for four weeks, and at this it succeeds.  It just doesn't have much ambition beyond that.

April 25: "The Krotons" Episodes One & Two

The Krotons is the first story from Doctor Who's most prolific 20th-century writer, Robert Holmes, who'll go on to write some of the most highly acclaimed episodes of the series.  But his first script is an inauspicious one, being as it is a spare script that new script editor Terrance Dicks had set aside in case another script fell through.  Well, another script did fall through (and from just about all accounts -- including the positive ones -- we were spared a horrifyingly sexist "comedy" called Prison in Space, by Dick Sharples), and so this script was promoted to full production.

It's not a bad couple of episodes, and there's certainly some imagination going on, but there's also a sense of unreality.  To be fair, much of this has more to do with the actors than the script itself: the students in particular tend to be rather unconvincing.  The first fight with Jamie is actually rather good for a studio fight, but you get the sense that Jamie should be mopping the floor with him, rather than barely holding his own.  And the mini-"revolution" staged by the students in episode one is also rather stagey (and it doesn't help that some of the bits on the teaching machines are clearly just taped on).  But there's also the way in which the script gets all of its exposition about the planet of the Gonds and their relationship with their Kroton masters out of the way fairly early -- it's pretty blatant, and Holmes will soon be much better at this sort of thing.

So episode one is all about set-up, and episode two is about complications.  It's not actually clear why the Krotons decide the Doctor is the leader of the rebels, but there is the nice touch of announcing he's dead after their killer camera root thing has killed someone else -- the Doctor's thought that since it killed someone it figures it killed the one it was meant to kill being accurate.  If you know what I mean.  But episode two is quite entertaining, particularly the part where the Doctor works with the teaching machine to get a high enough score to be accepted into the Krotons' machine -- his antics with Zoe are very entertaining.  And then we get a look at the Krotons themselves, who are apparently brought into being thanks to the Doctor's and Zoe's high mental energy.  Their design is quite striking -- the problem is that they look unfinished from the waist down, with just a thick rubber skirt for legs.  And unfortunately, one of our first sights of a Kroton is of this skirt.  But then we get other looks at the Krotons, especially after Jamie is let into the machine under the assumption he's also got a lot of mental energy to drain.  And so drain Jamie they do -- except he might not survive the process...

April 24: "The Invasion" Episodes Seven & Eight

The Cybermen have invaded London, and the entire world is asleep as a result of their Cyber control.  Things are looking dire indeed, but fortunately our small band of plucky heroes is still awake and ready to put up some resistance.  So they're regrouping and fending off an attack from Vaughn's guards (there to recapture Professor Watkins) before splitting up to deal with the invading Cybermen.

And Jamie's been shot!  Oh my goodness!  He's been shot, apparently in the back, as he's fleeing Watkins' house.  And this paragraph shows far more concern about his well being than the show does.  Yes, it turns out this is just a way to give Frazer Hines a couple weeks off, so some comments about it only being a "slight flesh wound" and he's off at the hospital, safely out of camera range for the next two episodes.

The Brigadier and the Doctor discuss their next move. (The
Invasion
Episode Seven) ©BBC
You can feel the tension being ratcheted up in this episode, as it's a race against time to stop the rest of the invasion fleet from arriving on Earth.  So Jimmy Turner goes off to Russia to have them send a rocket up to destroy the mothership (in a trip described as taking "two hours" -- apparently this really is the future if they get to (presumably) Baikonur in that short time), the Doctor heads back to Vaughn's London headquarters to try and talk him out of this plan (and buy some time along the way), and the Brigadier and Zoe head to Henlow Downs to wake up the missile crew so they can shoot down the incoming fleet of spaceships.  Most of the action subsequently takes place here, as they get the missiles ready to fire (using the same sequence of stock footage twice in the same episode).  And Zoe, recalling her "genius" characterization from The Wheel in Space, quickly calculates how to aim the missiles to take out all the ships.  To do this, she rushes around the base getting numbers for her figures.  And yes, it's been commented on before, but there's still something entertainingly marvelous about watching more than one squaddie react by looking at her face quizzically before casting their gaze down to her posterior.

But yes, Zoe saves the day by blowing up the fleet -- except now the Cybermen feel Vaughn has betrayed them, and so they're going to send a Cyber-megatron bomb at the planet to wipe out all life on Earth.  (It's not clear what a "Cyber-megatron" bomb actually is, unless they're sending a Cyber-converted Decepticon at the planet.)  Interestingly, the cliffhanger for episode seven seems to hinge on Vaughn's decision.  "Is this what you wanted?" the Doctor cries.  "To be the ruler of a dead world?"  And we're uncertain as to whether Vaughn will join forces with the Doctor or not.

A Cyberman approaches Vaughn and the Doctor. (The
Invasion
Episode Eight) ©BBC
Episode eight does in fact see Vaughn decide to fight the Cybermen alongside the Doctor, but his reasoning is exquisite: "Think of the millions of people on earth who are about to die!" the Doctor cries.  "Appealing to my better nature?" Vaughn replies wryly.  "No.  If I help you it'll be because I hate them... They destroyed my dream."  And so Vaughn and the Doctor fight their way to where the radio beam is guiding the bomb in and switch it off, but not before Vaughn is killed.

But there are still five minutes to fill, so naturally the Cybership comes in closer to drop the bomb off manually.  But Henlow Downs shoots the bomb out of the sky (using that sequence of stock footage a third time), and the Russians' rocket takes care of the ship itself.  The planet is safe from invasion.

In some ways this is deliberately pitched as the definitive invasion story (in case you couldn't tell from the title), but it's really a game of two halves: the first four episodes are all about Vaughn's machinations, while the last four deal with the actual threat of the Cybermen.  If this story succeeds, it's because of Kevin Stoney.  He's so good as Tobias Vaughn that he elevates everything around him.  This may be called The Invasion and ultimately be about the Cybermen invading, but it's really about Vaughn, as he moves from being in supreme control of the situation to helplessness at the hands of the Cybermen.  This is his story, made no clearer than by the fact that the final cliffhanger comes down to his decision, rather than the Doctor being in danger or the world about end (both of which are true at this point, but that's not how it's pitched).

None of this is to say that anyone else lets the side down: it's only his second story as Lethbridge-Stewart, but Nicholas Courtney is already giving a confident, self-assured performance as the head of UNIT.  And everyone else does a fine job as well (with the possssible exception of Sally Faulkner as Isobel, who's often rather broad in her portrayal -- but on the other hand, that's clearly how the script wants her to be).  And it's always good to have a firm hand like Douglas Camfield as director, who keeps everything moving interestingly and excitingly.  Yes, The Invasion is a nicely entertaining story, but when you come right down to it, it's squarely because of Vaughn.  Everything else is secondary to Stoney's masterful performance.

April 23: "The Invasion" Episodes Five & Six

Now we know that the Cybermen are involved in this intended invasion, we can see what they're up to.  Although at this point the answer is "not much."  Vaughn's people have been reviving them and sending them to lurk in the sewers until they're needed.

This is a "holding" episode in multiple ways.  The Brigadier attempts to get the Ministry of Defence to investigate Vaughn's facilities, but as Vaughn has gotten to the minister first, he doesn't have much luck.  He can go over Major General Rutlidge's head to UNIT HQ in Geneva, but that will still take a couple days.  (Except it does make Vaughn nervous, so he decides to bring the invasion plans forward.)  Meanwhile the Doctor's trying to work out what the extra circuits in all of IE's equipment do, but he's not having much luck either.  So all that's available is a lot of reports and hearsay but no physical proof.  Thus it's left to Isobel and Zoe (accompanied by a reluctant Jamie) to go down into the sewers and get photographic evidence that the Cybermen are in fact here.  And that's really about it.  Now, that said, the scenes between the Brigadier and Rutlidge are quite entertaining, and Vaughn remains as watchable as ever -- particularly when he gleefully orders that a half-revived Cyberman be hooked up to Watkins' Cerebraton Machine and made to experience fear -- but this is an episode in which little happens to advance the plot.  Cybermen are in the sewers and the invasion is being brought forward, and that's all you need to know.

Episode six, on the other hand, has quite a bit of action.  There are the scenes at the beginning, where a few UNIT soldiers fight a couple Cybermen in the sewers with grenades (and one grabs Jamie as he's climbing out the sewer in a scene reminiscent of a similar one in The Tomb of the Cybermen).  There's also the quite worrying scene in Vaughn's office where Watkins is goaded by Vaughn into shooting him: Vaughn hands him a gun and tells him to fire, and when he doesn't immediately do so he slaps him hard across the face, leading to Watkins firing the gun three times.  The sight of three smoking holes in Vaughn's chest, while Vaughn himself simply laughs, is rather disturbing and memorably effective.  Of course, all this and Professor Watkins' rescue still happens offscreen by "at least thirty" UNIT men (indeed, this seems so abrupt that for years there were rumors that this part of the episode had been edited out).

The Cybermen begin their invasion. (The Invasion Episode Six) ©BBC
But really this episode has been building up to the cliffhanger, with the beginning of the invasion.  The Doctor has worked out that the extra circuits are designed to put everyone on the planet under Cyber-hypnosis, to make their takeover of the planet easy.  There's a wonderful moment of calm in the early morning.  "Do you think the Doctor could be wrong this time?" Jimmy asks.  "I mean about the invasion." "... Yeah, I know what you mean," Isobel replies.  "... Looking at all that peace out there, it's so difficult to imagine."  And at that moment the signal is broadcast.  We see people in the streets collapsing (excitingly, as this is really the first time we've seen anything like this happening out in the city, other than a man being attacked by a War Machine) -- and the Doctor succumbs too, his special anti-Cyber-signal gizmo having fallen off his neck.  And then, most memorably of all, the Cybermen burst out of hiding, throwing aside manhole covers and stalking the streets of London.  The invasion has begun, and it seems that everyone but the Doctor's small group has succumbed to the hypnotic signal...

April 22: "The Invasion" Episodes Three & Four

Has there been a better villain than Tobias Vaughn?  Episode three is a showcase for him.  From his oh-so-smooth manner at the top of the episode ("So here you are again.  You really are beginning to try our patience, you know," Vaughn tells the Doctor and Jamie in the most charming manner possible) to his fit of anger, when he learns that Packer has once again failed to catch the Doctor and Jamie ("You're a stupid incompetent!  I want that Doctor!  Put the whole compound on alert!  Have every available guard on the job!  Find him, Packer, find him!"), Kevin Stoney puts in a tour-de-force performance.  How can you not love what he does?

Yes, there are other things happening in this episode (for instance, we finally meet Professor Watkins, who's working on a special kind of teaching machine), but really, this episode does belong to Tobias Vaughn.  Everything the Doctor and Jamie do, whether it's talking with Watkins or escaping up a lift shaft, is in reaction to something Vaughn does.  Although let's take a moment to note the lovely business near the beginning of the episode, when Vaughn offers to take them to the factory out in the countryside, where Jamie climbs in the back set of Vaughn's car, goes out the other side, and gets into the front passenger seat before looking innocently at Packer, who was apparently going to sit there.  Oh, and the sheer cheek of pointing out that Vaughn's office in his factory complex is the same set as the one in his London building.  "It's exactly the same as your office in London," Jamie says.  So there are other things happening in this episode, but when it comes down to it, this one is all about Vaughn.

The Doctor makes his way up the rope ladder to the UNIT
helicopter. (The Invasion Episode Four animation) ©BBC
Worldwide
Episode four is action-packed, with a daring helicopter rescue from the roof of one of Vaughn's buildings.  It's a bit of a pity, then, that this is the other episode missing from this story.  Still, the animation does a good job of making up the difference (even if the shot of the Doctor dodging bullet fire on the roof is clearly based on a move from episode eight), and it remains a suitably exciting set piece.  The bits with Jamie climbing down to where Zoe and Isobel are being held captive and having them all climb up to the roof and then into the helicopter are quite thrilling, and one wonders if the helicopter really did start to fly away with Jamie still dangling from the rope ladder -- it certainly sounds that way at least.

Then we get a bit of intrigue as Captain Jimmy Turner brings up the matter of UFOs that seem to disappear around Vaughn's factory.  We know that Vaughn is planning an invasion with an alien ally, but we don't know who that ally is.  So the Doctor and Jamie decide to infiltrate Vaughn's London complex once again (this time via canoe) to find out more information.  And we learn that those alien allies are in fact the Cybermen!

Well, except it was already revealed that the Cybermen were returning in the Radio Times listing for episode one.  So maybe it was more a case of "Finally!" than "Oh my word!"  But in any case.

April 21: "The Invasion" Episodes One & Two

Episode one of The Invasion is the first season 6 episode to no longer exist.  And there are no telesnaps either (nor for any season 6 episodes after The Mind Robber episode 3).  But fortunately we have an animated version from Cosgrove Hall (makers of Danger Mouse, you know) on the DVD to enjoy, and it's definitely done well.

We open with roughly two lines of dialogue acknowledging the events of last time ("Hey Doctor, it's all right, it worked!" Jamie says) and then it's off to the new adventure, as a missile is fired at the TARDIS from the dark side of the moon.  One quick move later and we're on Earth, albeit with a faulty visual stabilizer circuit that renders the TARDIS invisible.  So it's off to look up Professor Travers again, to get some help repairing the circuit.  Well, after escaping from International Electromatics' secretive compound in a lorry being driven by a man who's later shot and killed by IE guards.

But this isn't another follow-up to The Web of Fear (though it was intended as such at some stage), as Professor Travers is in America and letting his place out to a man named Professor Watkins, who happens to be working for IE.  The Doctor and Jamie go to IE to find him while Zoe stays behind with Watkins' niece Isobel.  We don't meet Watkins, but we do encounter the head of IE, Tobias Vaughn -- played by the marvelous Kevin Stoney.  Here's a villain (and he's largely portrayed as a villain from the outset) who's charming, sophisticated, and thoroughly likeable, which means we can see how he became a success.  So many of these people in charge are such ranting lunatics that it's a wonder anyone ever gave them anything.  Vaughn, by contrast, is so slick that you can't help but be charmed.  Even if he blinks too slowly and seems to be working with some sort of alien machine.

Episode two is present in all its glory, so we can see things like the business where the Doctor and Jamie are trapped in an alley and the Doctor starts dealing out cards, including to the men there to take him away.  But then a jaunty theme from composer Don Harper suggests that maybe these men aren't in fact the bad guys, a fact which is confirmed when they're taken to a mobile HQ inside an airplane which is being led by none other than The Web of Fear's Lethbridge-Stewart, now promoted to Brigadier and the head of the United Nations Intelligence Taskforce, or UNIT -- an organization designed to investigate strange happenings that was set up after the Yeti incident.  UNIT has been watching IE with concern, as people have been going in and either coming out different or not coming out at all.  Nicholas Courtney does a fine job in this role, making him enough like his last appearance to be recognizably the same character while still having undergone a metamorphosis for the better (he's noticeably less fatalistic and helpless here than he was in The Web of Fear).  Oh, and we get our first good look at Benton (played by John Levene, who was also in The Web of Fear -- albeit as a Yeti), who will also return next year.  (All right, he's actually in episode one as well, but here we can see him.)

All this and intrigue too.  Zoe and Isobel go to IE after the Doctor and Jamie and end up wrecking a computer -- which, wonderfully, makes Vaughn laugh with delight rather than rage with anger.  And so the Doctor and Jamie go after them, snooping around the IE building in search of them.  But they're soon caught by Vaughn's guards, including his henchman Packer.  "Like rats in a trap!" Packer proclaims triumphantly as the credits roll.  Trapped indeed.

April 20: The Mind Robber Episodes 4 & 5

Episode 4 has a few more flaws than the earlier episodes.  For some reason Zoe insists on believing that Medusa is real, even though a logically trained mind such as hers must know it's not (and she didn't have any problem denying the existence of the unicorn charging at her at the top of episode 3).  There's also a moment where, after having cautiously stepped over a photoelectric cell that alerts the Master to their presence inside his citadel (as Jamie discovered when he tripped it near the start of the episode), Zoe has a panic attack and crosses all the way to the other side of the room to trip the beam, just so the three of them can be captured by the White Robots from episode 1.  (We will, sadly, see this character trait again in season 8.)  And Zoe is also the winner of a decidedly unconvincing fight versus a comic strip character from 2000 called the Karkus (who the Doctor can't deny the existence of because he's never heard of him).  There are a number of falls and flips from the Karkus as Zoe enthusiastically throws him around -- that's the idea, at least, but what we actually get is a lot of Wendy Padbury grabbing Christopher Robbie's arm, followed by Robbie doing a somersault each time.

But the love of language and literature continues to shine through in this episode, so even though it's not a very long installment, it still maintains its drive.  We're finally introduced to the Master himself, who turns out to be a rather kindly old English writer from 1926 who was kidnapped and brought to this place.  ("Oh, but that's a long story," he says on how he arrived.)  Now he's old, and the Master Brain controlling him wants to replace him with the Doctor.  The way the Master switches between a gentlemanly demeanor and a harsher, clearly under-alien-control persona is very effective.  And the final cliffhanger, in which Jamie and Zoe are turned into fictional characters (you know what I mean) by the visual conceit of being literally trapped inside the pages of a book, is a fabulous image.

The Doctor is linked into the Master Brain. (The Mind
Robber
Episode 5) ©BBC
Episode 5 sees the Doctor finally engage directly in a battle of wits against the Master.  Of course, first he's tricked by fictional Jamie and Zoe into an equally fictional TARDIS, which is actually a direct link with the Master Brain -- which means the Doctor can now write the stories at the speed of thought.  This means that we start getting additional classic characters added into the mix, as Cyrano de Bergerac engages in a swordfight with D'Artagnan (a much more exciting fight, it must be said, than Zoe's tussle with the Karkus last time), who then fights Bluebeard, who then confronts Lancelot in full armor -- thanks to the Doctor and the Master fighting it out with the power of words.  And, somehow, the Doctor convinces Jamie and Zoe to free themselves from the book they've been trapped in as they push their way out.  But he can't work out how to get himself free without turning into a fictional character himself (you know what I mean).  Fortunately, Zoe and Jamie overhear a snatch of conversation from the Master and they overload the Master Brain's circuits, destroying it and the realm they've found themselves in.  As the place disappears, they disappear too, back to where they came from, as the TARDIS reforms -- and that's that.  (And, somewhat frustratingly, the events of this story are never explained or even touched upon again -- there are about two lines of dialogue next week and that's it.  And The Mind Robber episode 5 is, at 18'00", the shortest ever episode of Doctor Who's original run, so it's not like they couldn't spare the time.)

The Mind Robber is a very imaginative story, and there's enough incident to keep things entertaining.  After the impressive first episode (doubly impressive when the pressure it was made under is taken into consideration) we're treated to a tale where storybook logic beats "real world" logic, where Gulliver and Rapunzel can inhabit the same world and interact with each other.  There's a sense of joy underlying all this, so that even the somewhat repetitive nature of some of the problems confronted by the TARDIS crew (a fictional character attacks but then is defeated when the Doctor and Jamie and/or Zoe deny its existence) isn't nearly the issue it was in The Dominators.  It also helps that there's a definite sense of style here, with both the camera and staging doing an excellent job of selling this somewhat surreal tale (and here one can't help but note that this story marks David Maloney's directorial debut on Doctor Who), so that it all feels like part of the same world.  This is a triumph of imagination, both in the script and on screen, and is easily one of the standouts of Troughton's time on the show.  It's hard to believe this is the story that followed The Dominators.

April 19: The Mind Robber Episodes 2 & 3

The imagination continues here.  After the console and the Doctor spin away into the void, they all find themselves in a strange forest.  Jamie is attacked by a Redcoat who turns him into a photograph, Zoe is trapped inside a building and then a jar (as part of a riddle), and the Doctor is confronted by, er, some schoolchildren.  Well, they don't all have to be dangerous.  He also encounters an odd English gentleman from 1699, who seems to also talk in obscurities and riddles.  And this is all being watched over by someone who the Englishman (and the credits) both call the Master -- but don't get excited, it's not that one.

The Doctor puts the wrong face on Jamie. (The Mind Robber
Episode 2) ©BBC
This is a story which relies on imagery and story logic.  The best part is when the Doctor has to reconstruct photograph Jamie's face and gets it wrong, which means Hamish Wilson is playing the part of Jamie this week.43  He does a good job, and it's definitely unsettling to see someone unfamiliar playing such a familiar part, particularly because the Doctor simply accepts that Jamie looks a little different right now.  (And this is the reason why a different Jamie is unsettling in a television show that changes lead actor every few years -- in almost every case regarding the Doctor there's a degree of uncertainty when the change happens, and each one has a degree of build-up, to let the audience know something's coming44; here it's brought up briefly and then treated as normal.)  There's also a nice moment where, after Jamie sees that the forest they're in is actually a forest of printed words, the three of them attempt to hide from the toy soldiers that are searching for them, while telling the Englishman not to give them away.  Except the Englishman apparently can't see the soldiers, so he inadvertently does give them away by addressing them: "I could not forebear smiling, sir.  What you told me is mistaken.  There was no army here."  So the soldiers lead them away to be run down by a unicorn.

Episode 3 is more of the same.  The unicorn problem is solved by the Doctor having Jamie and Zoe insist that the unicorn isn't real; once they do, it turns into a statue (well, a photograph blowup, but the Doctor calls it a statue later).  It seems that belief is a powerful force in this realm.  Jamie is once again turned into a photograph, but with Zoe's help (who's very funny by the way when she works out why Jamie's face looked different: "You got it all wrong!") they bring Jamie's proper face back.

After this most of the action occurs inside a labyrinth underground, complete with a ball of string to help guide them.  The Doctor and Zoe go ahead to confront the Minotaur, which the Doctor once again insists isn't real (he'll change his mind when we get to The Time Monster) and thus isn't a danger to them.  Jamie manages to outwit and escape from a toy soldier, and climbs up a cliff via a convenient rope which turns out to be Rapunzel's hair.  Except Jamie finds himself inside not a medieval tower but a more futuristic library, which happens to be printing out a new story: the one that the Doctor and Zoe are currently experiencing.  After encountering the Englishman again, who the Doctor works out is in fact Lemuel Gulliver from Jonathan Swift's novel, they head back to the center of the labyrinth where the minotaur was, only to find Medusa confronting them...

These two episodes are different in style from episode 1, but the same sense of story logic and hidden danger is present here, which means that even though we've moved from a white void and robots to a fairytale place and toy soldiers, the underlying threat is still the same.  Let's hope they can keep this up for the last two episodes.







43 The real world reason: Frazer Hines has chickenpox this week.  Fortunately they're doing a strange surreal story at the moment, so they can use this to their advantage.
44 With the obvious exception of Time and the Rani, for reasons we'll no doubt come to when we reach that particular story.

April 18: The Dominators Episode 5 / The Mind Robber Episode 1

Yep, you guessed it: the cliffhanger was resolved by Rago coming in and yelling at Toba for wasting time and energy on hunting and killing "primitives" rather than on the all-important drilling.

Episode 5 is probably the best of the lot, because things are actually happening.  Toba's no longer running around the island trying to hunt down our heroes, which means there's a greater sense of urgency at play here.  And the Doctor has worked out what the Dominators' plan is: they're going to turn the planet into a giant radioactive mass that their fleet can suck up and use as fuel.  In order to stop them they decide to dig a tunnel from the bomb shelter where they're all hiding to the central bore, where the seed bomb that will start the process is going to be dropped, and catch the bomb on the way down.  Meanwhile Jamie and Cully are running around the island blowing up Quarks (thanks to a homemade bomb made by the Doctor) in an effort to distract the Dominators and slow down the drilling.  As I said, this is a much more exciting episode (and consider the fact that it was apparently episodes 5 and 6 that were condensed down into a single episode -- contemplate what those episodes must have originally been like and shudder), and thankfully it's not the same actions being repeated over and over again.  And so they complete the tunnel, catch the bomb, and return it to the Dominators -- which means that Dulkis is saved, and there will only be a local volcanic eruption.  Except that volcano is erupting right where the TARDIS is.

There's nothing inherently wrong with the idea behind The Dominators.  The problem lies in the actual scripts and the execution.  This might have worked as a four-parter, with a number of repetitive scenes (particularly most of the arguments among the Dulcian council, which tend to stop the story dead in its tracks) removed.  But as it is we get the same stuff over and over again, with only minor variations, and (worse) that same stuff isn't particularly interesting to begin with, and we've seen it done better in previous stories.  There might have been a spark to make this work before script editor Derrick Sherwin removed it (though, as mentioned before, the consensus seems to be that there wasn't), but it's not present in the finished product.  As a story designed to fulfill five episodes The Dominators is a success (which, as we'll see, is an accomplishment in itself for season 6), but by any other standard this is a dull and plodding tale.

So, they've cut down The Dominators from six episodes down to five, which means now they have an extra episode to fill and no one around to write it.  It's too late for Peter Ling to write an extra episode, and nothing else is ready, so script editor Derrick Sherwin is forced to mark time for an episode (and note that this episode has no writer credit).  The result is episode 1 of The Mind Robber.

It starts out fairly normally -- the TARDIS is having issues in the wake of the volcanic eruption from the end of the last episode, so the Doctor is forced to use the emergency unit to get the TARDIS out of danger.  But the emergency unit takes the TARDIS completely out of time and space, to "nowhere", as the Doctor puts it.  "Nowhere" is realized as a white void -- a decidedly striking image -- and it seems the TARDIS isn't the only thing out there.

Jamie and Zoe are surrounded by White Robots. (The Mind
Robber
Episode 1) ©BBC
What follows is a battle of wits, as Jamie and Zoe are both lured outside the TARDIS and into the void by images purporting to be their home.  This leads to them wandering the white void, unable to find the TARDIS again, and confronted by strange creatures (known in fandom as White Robots, even though they look more grey) which seem to hypnotize them and make them look like whitened-out versions of themselves.  The Doctor is forced to go out after them, stepping out of a white TARDIS into the void (another great image) and ushering them back into the TARDIS.  Whoever is out in nowhere luring Jamie and Zoe outside dislikes this, and assaults the time travellers inside the TARDIS.  Unable to withstand the assault, we get another striking image of the police box exterior of the TARDIS breaking apart, leaving Jamie and Zoe clinging to the console while the Doctor spins off on his own into another void, but black this time.  And then everything fades out of sight.

It may be an episode written under immense pressure and with no money (and note that this is the second-shortest episode yet, at 21'27"42), but this episode is impressive, full of striking, memorable images and with some fascinating mind games being played.  If the rest of the story is this good, The Mind Robber will be one of the standouts of Troughton's run.







42 The shortest being Fury from the Deep Episode 3, which clocks in at 20'29" -- though subsequent episodes of The Mind Robber will break this record.

April 17: The Dominators - the third episode & Episode 4

For some reason, the third episode of The Dominators is missing the "Episode 3" caption -- hence the rather odd labeling I've gone with...

Cully and Zoe are watched over by a Quark. (The Dominators
[Episode 3]) ©BBC
So let's see: this time around it's the Doctor and Jamie who argue with the Dulcian planetary council and Zoe and Cully who are captured by the Dominators; the opposite of episode 2.  Although Zoe and Cully are put to work alongside Balan and his two students, Kando and Teel, to help clear away rubble for a drilling site, so you could argue they've got it worse than the Doctor and Jamie did.  Toba attempts to destroy and Rago yells at him, and really not much has changed since episode 2.  Oh!  But at least Cully has destroyed a Quark with an antique laser gun.  And you can sort of tell that Troughton and Hines think this story isn't up to snuff and are therefore doing their best to make things as entertaining as possible (e.g., their scenes inside the travel capsule).  Admittedly it works to an extent; the Doctor and Jamie's interplay is easily the most watchable part of this entire serial.  But they can only do so much to distract from the same things happening over and over.  Although I've worked out that it's not so much that the episodes are badly edited (though they're not error-free on this part) as that almost no effort has been made to match the studio scenes with the location filming -- which is particularly a problem when the two are supposed to be identical.  This seems to be the main reason why Toba and the Quarks seem to leap about the island, rather than shoddy editing.

Oh, and look, episode 3 ends the same way episode 2 ended, except Toba's destroying the atomic museum instead of the survey unit.  Unfortunately for Cully, he ends up trapped in both buildings...

Episode 4 opens with Rago yelling at Toba (again) and Toba being sulky (again).  We get a minimum of plot advancement as the Doctor and Zoe are taken aboard the Dominators' ship and left there under Quark guard, which lets them work out that the Dominators are drilling for fuel in an area where the crust of Dulkis is thin, and that the fuel they're looking for needs to be radioactive.  And now it's Rago's turn to visit the Dulcian council -- although instead of having the same arguments with them as the others, he just has a Quark shoot one of them dead (and to be perfectly honest, it's rather hard not to be on Rago's side at this moment).

The most exciting part of the episode comes when Jamie taunts a Quark by throwing rocks at it, luring it into a trap whereby Cully rolls a giant boulder down at it, crushing it.  It's a nice bit of action from a story that sorely needs it.  Of course, this upsets Toba, who rounds up all the prisoners and demands to know where Jamie is hiding.  When they refuse to tell him, he has a Quark kill Balan (so something new actually happened!) -- and if no one speaks up, the Doctor will be next...

April 16: The Dominators Episodes 1 & 2

With only seven episodes missing, season 6 bears the distinction of the second-most complete season of the 1960s (after season 2, which is only missing two episodes).  This means that we can start watching a lot more consistently than the past two seasons.  And what better way to begin season 6 than with The Dominators?  Well...

Actually, episode 1 isn't all that bad.  There are certainly some nice moments -- the Doctor, Jamie, and Zoe exploring the war museum feels a lot like a Hartnell, as a brief discussion about atom bombs gives things that old "educational" feel.  And the design of the Dominators' spaceship is quite good (even if it's translucent during the landing shots).  Plus the decision to only have first-person perspectives for the Quarks, the new robots for this story, is nice.

But the problems set in early.  We get our first look at the Dominators and the relationship between the two is quickly established: Rago is in charge and wants to use the planet as a fuel source, while Toba wants to go around destroying everything he can.  Through this conversation we learn that the Dominators have already absorbed all the radiation on this atomic test island.  All well and good, except then all the other characters have long conversations wondering where all the radiation has gone, a mystery that might have been more interesting if we hadn't already had it answered for us in the first two minutes.

There's also the matter of the young people running about.  The ones Cully brings to the island are an awfully dreary lot, with an oddly stilted delivery.  Still, they're wiped out pretty quickly, so I guess we can't complain too much.  And then, as the Doctor and Jamie go to check on the TARDIS, they're spotted by Toba and the Quarks, and we can see the robots that caused so many problems behind the scenes.41

Episode 2 sees the problems get a little worse.  The main issue is that no one believes anything Cully says (the result of crying "wolf" too often, it seems), which means that we get lots of arguing and nothing happening as a result.  The Dulcians refuse to believe anything that they haven't personally witnessed, it seems, and they have a decided lack of curiosity regarding the things they have.  "Oh, I dare say our atomic experts could provide a reason," Supervisor Balan says regarding the disappearance of the radiation, "but it seems pointless to spend time searching for reasons to prove facts."  So they're not just pacifists; they have no thirst for knowledge either.  One wonders why they're even out there collecting data in the first place.

It seems edited rather badly as well; we go from the cliffhanger reprise, with the Quarks asking in a creepy girly voice, "Shall we destroy?" to them suddenly inside the Dominators' spaceship.  (That said, the Doctor/Jamie interplay here is quite good, with them trying to convince the Dominators that they're very stupid and thus no threat to the Dominators, even with some odd directorial moments: "Oh, if only I could get away from this wall!" Jamie says while clearly not standing against the wall the Dominators have attached them to -- did a camera need to get in behind them?)  And Toba sure does like to destroy things, doesn't he?  Rago has to continually tell him no, which is entertaining, but probably not in the way intended.  Toba also seems to jump around the island, from inside the survey unit to well outside it, ordering the Quarks to destroy the building -- with Zoe and Cully still inside...

But really, the problem is that this episode is very uninvolving.  The Doctor and Jamie's clowning aside, it feels rather pointless, and little is done to make the viewer care about what's happening, as if the Quarks should be sufficient.  In some ways this is where the approach from season 5 falls down: the assumption is that the monsters will be interesting enough to keep the viewers engaged, and the fact that they're not doesn't seem to have occurred to anyone.







41 We might as well get this out of the way now.  Mervyn Haisman and Henry Lincoln submitted this story after The Web of Fear, but rather than write yet another monster story they decided to write a polemic about the dangers of the hippie movement and pacifism (hey, it worked in The Daleks).  Script editor Derrick Sherwin got these scripts and rewrote them (not because he was pro-hippie, but rather because the arguments Haisman and Lincoln had included (mainly old men standing around arguing pointlessly) reportedly weren't very interesting -- director Morris Barry backs up this version of events), truncating the story from six episodes to five in the process.  The story goes that he neglected to tell Haisman and Lincoln that he was doing this to their story, and so, deciding this wasn't really their story anymore, they chose to send it out under a pseudonym -- hence the credited writer "Norman Ashby".  It seems this wasn't a deal-breaker though, and Haisman and Lincoln began work on "The Laird of McCrimmon", a third Yeti story that would write Jamie out of the series.  However, in the meantime both the BBC and Haisman/Lincoln had set up merchandizing deals regarding the Quarks, which both parties figured would be the next big monster (no, really).  Apparently there was some confusion as to who actually owned the copyright to the Quarks.  The result of this was that Haisman and Lincoln threatened to sue to prevent The Dominators from being transmitted.  Eventually an agreement was reached (the details of which are unknown), but the fallout from this was that Haisman and Lincoln no longer wanted to work on the series, and so "The Laird of McCrimmon" was dropped.  And now you know why The Web of Fear seems to set up a third Intelligence story that never happened.

April 15: The Wheel in Space Episodes 5 & 6

Episode 5 sounds so good that it's a real shame this one doesn't exist -- one suspects that if it did it would improve the reputation of this story (which isn't terribly high) no end.  There's a lot of action going on: Cybermats attacking the Doctor and Jamie, a brawl between crewman Finnegan and two Cyber-controlled men, a swarm of meteors threatening the station (but up close this time, rather than the somewhat abstract threat they've been up to this point), and finally, tragically, the death of Gemma Corwyn, who's shot down by a Cyberman at the end of the episode.  This is the episode where things move the way they should, where the Cybermen feel like a serious threat that the crew of the Wheel is helpless to defeat, as they plan to kill the crew of the Wheel and use it for their own purposes.  (Even if the Doctor's explanation of this is a bit strange: "They have an over-riding ambition to invade the Earth, plunder its mineral wealth," he says, which hasn't really been the Cybermen's priority in any previously-seen adventure (even allowing for a generous interpretation of The Tenth Planet).  But, to jump ahead, the next Cyberman story will refer to an unseen adventure with the Doctor and Jamie on Planet 14 -- was this the moment when they decided they wanted Earth's resources?)  It's a tense, gripping episode, even on audio.

The Cybermen confront the Doctor. (The Wheel in Space
Episode 6) ©BBC
Episode 6 does exist (hooray!), so we can see Jamie and Zoe threatened by meteors during their spacewalk to the Silver Carrier to get the time vector generator (a key component of the TARDIS that was removed during episode 1 and accidentally left on the Silver Carrier) in what's not a bad scene at all, even if it's clear Frazer Hines and Wendy Padbury are simply suspended on wires that don't move at all.  And yes, this is the episode where Troughton tells Ryan to switch over to "sexual air supply" so that the Cybermen don't poison the air (he means "sectional"; entertainingly, Ryan's response is, "What are you talking about?").

But there are some nice touches that are only obvious on video; the giant lava lamps in the oxygen supply room are quite nifty, and the way that the Doctor's eyeline changes when he's looking out of a monitor to address different people is utterly wonderful.  Of course, we also have photographic inserts of Corwyn lying dead (presumably to avoid paying Anne Ridler for another episode), so it's not all great.  Similarly, the sight of Cybermen spaceprancing (there's no other word for it) toward the Wheel isn't the impressive shot one assumes they were going for.  And the death of Jarvis Bennett, as he sees Gemma dead and decides to go out and attack the Cybermen, comes across as a way of getting rid of the character rather than the tragedy it's presumably intended to be.  But this episode, while not as good as the last one, is still pretty good, even with these occasional misfires.  It does end a bit perfunctorily though, as the Cybermen's spaceship is blown up and the Cybermen are repelled by a forcefield.  But we still have a bit of time for Zoe to decide to stow away aboard the TARDIS -- the implication is that she feels she doesn't fit in with the Wheel anymore and she wants to see more of the universe and expand her horizons (and she's also more than a little curious about their craft).  But the Doctor wants to warn her before she decides to come aboard, so he prepares a mental projection of their most recent adventure with the Daleks -- in other words, a scripted lead-in to a repeat airing of The Evil of the Daleks.  It's a bit tempting to go back and listen to that story again, the way it was intended, but I'll resist the urge.40

The Wheel in Space is rather better than its reputation would suggest.  Although it's not up to David Whitaker's usual standards, and its placement as a "base-under-siege" story at the end of a series of "base-under-siege" stories (which, The Enemy of the World aside, have made up the entirety of this season) does mean there's an unwelcome sense of familiarity, of "oh, this again?", there's still quite a bit to like about this serial.  If you can ignore the whacking great scientific errors, then there's more than a little enjoyment to be had here, and for once the Cybermen's plans actually make a sort of sense (again, allowing for the science and ignoring the fact that there's such an elaborate plan involved to capture a space station by a race that can apparently destroy stars).  It's a pleasingly average story; it's not perfect by any means, but it does enough right to be able to forgive its flaws.

And that brings us to the end of season 5, often referred to in fandom as the "monster season".  Although most of the stories this season are reasonably well executed, viewed as a whole there is a sense of repetition, of "this worked before, let's do it again in a different setting".  In this regard we're on the same path as season 4 was, with the same lack of ambition beyond entertaining the kiddies and making a show that they could sell more easily abroad (ironic, then, that there were far fewer sales of the Troughton stories overseas than there were of seasons 1 and 2) .  But even if they're repeating the same tricks, they've gotten good enough at it to make each story a success, with each story being sufficiently entertaining even as the same plot beats are repeated from serial to serial.  Still, it seems unlikely that the show could continue on this path indefinitely, but now that both Innes Lloyd and Gerry Davis have left, the time is right for Doctor Who to head off in a new direction with Peter Bryant ready to take full control with freshly commissioned scripts, rather than just working with what his predecessor left him.

Of course, as they say, be careful what you wish for, lest you end up with The Dominators...







40 I did listen to the first couple minutes of the repeat though, with a voiceover from the Doctor and Zoe at the beginning -- this can be found at the end of the Evil of the Daleks soundtrack, for those interested.

April 14: The Wheel in Space Episodes 3 & 4

Episode 3 exists, which means that we can actually see the cliffhanger reprise this time, with the humanoid figure fairly clearly resolving itself into a Cyberman (looking a little different from their last appearance, most noticeably in the face) before it punches out of its egg -- something that wasn't as clear from the telesnaps.  There are also some nice directorial touches which aren't evident from the telesnaps, such as when the Doctor tries to remember "some warning, some menace" from before he received his concussion, and Tristan de Vere Cole dissolves from the Doctor's face to a Cyberman's in the same position.

But this episode is also the one where the science, which looked like it might be pleasingly accurate last episode, goes out the window.  Stars going nova 250,000 light years away divert meteor showers into the path of the Wheel, apparently.  There's also some confusion about how travel in space works.  And the odd moments don't end there.  Crewman Bill Duggan finds a strange new space bug (in reality a Cybermat) which he then promptly fails to report, resulting in it consuming all the stocks of bernalium, the (fictional) power source for the x-ray laser, aboard the Wheel and killing one of the crew.  Bennett has Duggan relieved from duty and confined to quarters for this, even though he doesn't believe Duggan's story about a space bug.  Er...then why is he being punished exactly, if not for failure to report a new lifeform on board?  Does Bennett think Duggan destroyed all the bernalium?

The Cybermen appear.  (The Wheel in Space Episode 3) ©BBC
We also get some more discussion of Zoe's machine-like qualities, as Leo Ryan angrily yells at her lack of emotion when she states that the x-ray laser needs to be repaired or they'll all be killed by meteors: "It's all a problem in solid geometry to you, isn't it?"  And to contrast with that we have the continuation of the Cybermen's plan, when two crew members from the Wheel head to the Silver Carrier to retrieve some bernalium (good thing Jamie sabotaged the x-ray laser so that it wasn't blown up then) and are taken over by Cybermen, whose new speech effect is virtually unintelligible -- I had to turn on the subtitles to figure out what they were saying.

Episode 4 begins with a reenactment of the cliffhanger rather than a replay, and in the meantime someone's fiddled with the Cybermen's voice effect, so they're much more understandable now.  The Cybermen are brought aboard the Wheel, free to wreak havoc on the station.  Except they don't.  This episode is another tense waiting game, as the Doctor tries to convince the members of the crew that the Cybermen are around and a palpable threat to the well-being of everyone on the station.  The Cybermen barely figure into things here, content to let their mind-controlled slaves do their bidding and cut off the Wheel's contact with the outside.  And Jarvis Bennett appears to have gone off the deep end, as he cheerfully wanders about declaring everything to be fine, when just last episode he was yelling at everyone for letting things fall apart.  All that and some more stuff about Zoe's lack of emotion ("I don't want to be thought of as a freak," Zoe says.  "I want to feel things as well").  And, well, that's about all that happens.  But we get another Cyberman in this cliffhanger too -- this one apparently advancing on the Doctor and Jamie...

April 13: The Wheel in Space Episodes 1 & 2

It's almost like an exercise in contrasting styles: Fury from the Deep reached its length of six episodes by having the same arguments with Robson repeatedly; The Wheel in Space, on the other hand, chooses to go about it at a slow and deliberate pace.

The advantage that this first episode has over Fury from the Deep's one is that at no point do you get upset with any of the supporting cast, since this episode only has the Doctor, Jamie, and a robot for the majority of it.  We see (or rather hear) some exploration of a spaceship called the Silver Carrier, much of it conducted in virtual silence -- which is a bit of a problem for an episode that only exists in audio format.  But you get a sense of tension and calm at the same time (if that makes sense) as the episode indicates that things are slowly but surely going to go wrong.  And with the (somewhat) menacing presence of the Servo Robot and the sudden course correction leading to the Doctor getting a pretty severe concussion, the stakes get even higher, as there's a sense of helplessness pervading the situation.  It's an effective feeling -- so much so that it feels like a violation when in the last few minutes we cut to the crew of a space station, the eponymous Wheel in Space.  But even then we're introduced to danger, as the crew believes that no one's on board and it's a hazard, so they're going to blow it up with an x-ray laser.

Episode 2 gives us a more proper introduction to the Wheel's personnel, and it appears to be your standard international crew manning an isolated base.  The Doctor's still unconscious for this episode (Troughton's on vacation again), so Jamie has to try and bluff his way through the situation -- except he's not very good at it.  But look! it's the first use of "John Smith" as an alias for the Doctor -- a name which Jamie spies on a piece of medical equipment.  There's also some nice attention to detail in this scene and the following, as Doctor Gemma Corwyn reports the oddities of Jamie's behavior to the base's commander, Jarvis Bennett -- his blood pressure suggesting he hasn't been in space long, and his abandonment of a glass of water showing he hasn't been trained to be in space both being nice, reasonably scientific-feeling touches (the irony of this will become apparent in later episodes).  And we also get our first introduction to Zoe, described as the Wheel's librarian, but interestingly she's shown to be somewhat unlikeable, with a computer-like characterization implying a lack of understanding of humanity and pragmatic cues.  Or, as Jamie puts it, "just you watch your lip or I'll put you across my knee and larrup you."  ("Oh, this is going to be fun!  I shall learn a lot from you," Zoe replies.)

We also have the mystery of the floating eggs that we saw leave the Silver Carrier last episode, which seemed to penetrate the hull of the Wheel.  Bennett (who's a bit gruff and paranoid, but not nearly as one-note as Robson was), is alarmed enough by small drops in pressure and similar incidents to order that the Silver Carrier be destroyed anyway -- which is a bit of a problem for Jamie, as the TARDIS is still on board it.  And while that's going on, those eggs appear to be getting bigger, revealing a humanoid figure inside, one of which punches out of one of the eggs with a silver fist...

April 12: Fury from the Deep Episodes 5 & 6

These two episodes are a definite improvement over the others.  Megan Jones is certainly a much more agreeable character than Robson, and she seems more willing to listen to the Doctor.  And this episode does a good job of developing the tension, as the Doctor tries to work out how to deal with the weed.  And with the foam and weed bursting into the refinery, we do get a sense of time running out.  Even if not much actually happens, we get some good moments where Megan tries to talk to Robson, to convince him to fight the weed's hold on him.

Mr Quill attempts to overpower Jamie. (Fury from the Deep Episode
5 - from Doctor Who Photonovels: Fury from the Deep - Episode
Five
) ©BBC
The stuff with Victoria being kidnapped by Robson is also pretty good, primarily because it means that Jamie and the Doctor have to go after her to one of the rigs at sea (in what looks like a pretty impressive model shot), which is just covered in foam.  And the cliffhanger's nice too, as Robson emerges from all the foam and announces that they've been waiting for him.

Episode 6 is also entertaining, especially towards the climax, as the Weed Creature launches its assault on the refinery.  The clips and telesnaps make it look like it was quite impressive, with copious amounts of foam on display as the weed creature thrashes about -- it's rather less successful on audio, but we can imagine what it might have been like.  And the tension is well developed (other than the extended sequence of faffing about with a helicopter), so that the final climax feels worthwhile.  And there's still enough time for a proper goodbye for Victoria, as she decides to stay behind.  She's clearly had enough danger and she wants to be somewhere peaceful.  And there's a very touching scene with Jamie, who clearly doesn't want her to go, on the Harrises' patio, complete with what sounds like a kiss.  And so Victoria (a character who started reasonably well in The Tomb of the Cybermen and The Abominable Snowmen before becoming little more than a terrified screamer for the rest of her stories) says farewell, as she watches the TARDIS disappear (up into the sky like a rocket, it seems).

So by the end of this story you can see why Fury from the Deep has the reputation that it does -- it would appear based on the evidence that the Weed Creature was well realized, and the sense of tension created by the last two-and-a-half episodes was effective.  Yet this doesn't quite make up for the fact that the first half of this story is fairly slow and tedious, with the wrong sort of character conflict on display.  And the other problem is that we've just had a more effective version of this sort of thing in The Web of Fear, and in many ways Fury from the Deep feels like a step back, with an unhinged leader like General Cutler in The Tenth Planet prominently foregrounded for the first part.  Fury from the Deep may succeed in its finale, with an entertaining attack and a strong leaving scene for Victoria, but this success is despite the first half, not because of it.

April 11: Fury from the Deep Episodes 3 & 4

Alas, episode 3 isn't much better.  It's yet more Robson-versus-the-rest-of-the-staff arguing, and while Robson seems to be getting increasingly unhinged, it's somewhat difficult to care as he hardly started out as a sympathetic character.

But we've reached another milestone! Fury from the Deep Episode 3 is the 200th episode of Doctor Who.  It's just a shame it's not more interesting.  Part of the problem, one suspects, is that giant masses of foam with seaweed tendrils thrashing about is an awfully visual conceit, and so the effectiveness of these sequences (such as the extended one in the Harrises' apartment) are reduced fairly significantly.  Certainly the little clips we do have are pretty effective.  But on audio all we get are sounds and screams and Frazer Hines's narration of the events (at least, on the BBC release we get narration).

It's not a total loss, though; the scenes set in the TARDIS to analyze the seaweed are rather nice (and rather unprecedented in this era: we haven't returned to the TARDIS mid-story since The Savages at the end of season 3), with Victoria showing off some science skills and an interesting use of an old book demonstrating that this thing has been around for a while -- there's a bit of flavor of "ancient evil" that will become a staple of mid-70s Who and parts of Sylvester McCoy's era.  And we seem to be getting some character development, as Victoria bemoans the fact that they always land somewhere in trouble: "I don't really like being scared out of my wits every second."  And here we note that this is the second story to be produced by Peter Bryant instead of Innes Lloyd, whose producership was marked by abrupt and unexpected companion departures; Victoria at least gets to establish that she's not having fun any more.

The Weed Creature menaces the Doctor and Jamie in the impeller
shaft. (Fury from the Deep Episode 4) ©BBC
Episode 4, it must be said, is something of an improvement, as the weed creature makes a couple suitably exciting attacks down in the impeller shaft, swallowing Van Lutyens up completely and threatening to do the same to the Doctor and Jamie.  And one can't help but notice that Robson's pretty much gone for this episode, and when he does show up he's too busy being possessed by the Weed Creature (who apparently got him in episode 3) to be tediously obstinate this time around.  In his place we have Megan Jones, who's been sent by the board (of Eurogas, presumably) to find out what's going on and why the amount of gas being pumped up from the North Sea has dropped so low that "the southern region receiving stations are working on emergency supplies."  She at least seems much more reasonable than Robson, even if she's not yet completely convinced by Harris's stories of Weed Creatures and such.  At least she's not yelling all the time.

And we get a couple more "why can't we go anywhere nice?" scenes from Victoria -- she seems to be less and less happy with her current lifestyle.  Little wonder, since here she's knocked out by Mr Oak and Mr Quill and left in the pipeline room.  There's a tender scene with Jamie as he discovers her lying on the steps and is worried about her safety: "No, you can't be dead.  Victoria, if anything happened to you, I'd never forgive myself."  It's quickly brushed aside as Victoria regains consciousness, but it's still there.  Still, no time to deal with that now, as they see that the pipes are now full of seething Weed Creature.  "It's begun... the battle of the giants," the Doctor says, somewhat oddly -- what makes the Weed Creature a "giant"?  It doesn't seem any worse at the moment than the Great Intelligence did in the last serial.  Unless we're shooting for that "ancient evil" thing again, with the implication that the older something is the more dangerous it is.  Which might be what the script is getting at, but if so it's become rather muddled in the finished product.

April 10: Fury from the Deep Episodes 1 & 2

Ah well, it was nice while it lasted.  No episodes of Fury from the Deep exist, so it's back to soundtracks and telesnaps.

Fury from the Deep is another highly-regarded season 5 classic, but to be honest, it's a bit difficult to see why.  Episode 1 certainly starts as another fun Troughton runaround, with the three of them playing in the foam on the beach (so not the most exciting thing to listen to, but it was probably all right when watching it).  And then the Doctor investigates a pipe using a sonic screwdriver -- yes, it's the first appearance of the Doctor's trusty tool, here used for what it was designed to do: turn screws.

But after that, when the Doctor, Jamie, and Victoria are tranquilized and taken inside the Eurogas Base (the pipe's bringing in natural gas from the North Sea, see), things really seem to drag.  Robson is the worst kind of boss, one who refuses to listen to anyone else because it might damage his arbitrary reputation.  It might be acceptable if he were pitched as a more reasonable person who happens to have a hang-up over this one thing (that's certainly the way the script seems to generally portray him), but Victor Maddern pitches his performance with a baseline of nastiness and hysteria already in place, so he's unlikeable from the moment we meet him.  And because he's both unreasonable and clearly in the wrong (not to mention the massive inferiority complex he seems to be nursing -- "You'd better have something more than a high flown theory, because if you haven't I'm going to take you and chop you up into little pieces and throw you back to your crummy little university," he says nastily to Harris, his second-in-command), all the scenes of people arguing with him to do the right thing drag on forever.  If they'd had a sensible person in charge of this place, the story would be over by episode 2.  But no, things carry on.  There's a bit of fun with our heroes when they're locked up inside a room, as Jamie scrambles through a ventilation screen while Victoria simply picks the lock, but really, it's not sufficient enough to sustain interest.  Nice cliffhanger though, as a foamy seaweed something tries to get into the room Victoria's currently occupying.

Episode 2's a little better.  Harris's wife Maggie, who was stung by some seaweed last episode, is feeling poorly, and when two men call to look at the gas cooker, they quickly make her day go from bad to worse.  This is Mr Oak and Mr Quill, and the clip of their attack, with their mouths open wide hissing gas at poor Maggie, was deemed too frightening for the Australian audience, and so this sequence exists.  It's certainly creepy, as the sound of gas hissing is accompanied by a soundtrack from Dudley Simpson that prefigures his work in the early 70s.  And we get some more creepiness with the seaweed as well, as it seems to move under its own power and produce a shocking amount of foam -- threatening to engulf the Harrises' patio.

But other than that, it's yet more arguing between Robson and whoever happens to be presenting the reasonable course of action at any given moment, be it Harris, Dutch observer Van Luytens, or the Doctor.  Robson stubbornly refuses to listen, and that's that.  And so when the impeller, the thing which pumps the gas out from the main pipeline at sea, stops working, it's treated as an inevitable consequence of Robson's inaction -- which may be true, but it's not very interesting.  Still, a heartbeat can be heard coming up the shaft as well, so I suppose it's not the worst cliffhanger ever.  It's just not one of the best either.