Tuesday, February 24, 2015

"The Sea Devils"

Aired Feb. 26 - Apr. 1, 1972

6 Episodes

Story 62

Written by Malcolm Hulke

Directed by Michael E. Briant


Traveling to England's southern coast, the Doctor and Jo arrive at the maximum-security island prison housing the Master. There they meet the warden, Colonel Trenchard, who informs them that the Master has been a model prisoner. Meanwhile, he also tells them about the mysterious disappearances of several ships off the coast.

Intrigued, the Doctor heads to a nearby naval base to investigate. The commanding officer, Captain Hart, informs him that the incidents have all occurred near a sea fort scheduled for demolition. The Doctor and Jo travel to the fort, and find that the men there have been attacked by what they call Sea Devils, whom the Doctor deduces are an amphibious offshoot of the Silurians.

While the Doctor again tries to find a peaceful solution, his efforts are thwarted by the Master, who has convinced Trenchard to help him steal equipment from the naval base in an attempt to revive the Sea Devils and foster a conflict.

Once the Sea Devils capture the naval base, the Master has them take the Doctor to their undersea control centre to assist him in reviving the rest of their people. When it becomes clear that, due to misunderstandings and the Master's manipulations, peace will not be possible, the Doctor is forced to modify the machine and rig it to explode. The Time Lords manage to escape just as the machine detonates and the base is destroyed. 

The Doctor and the Master are rescued from the sea by the Navy, but in the confusion, the Master escapes to wreak havoc another day.

Monday, February 16, 2015

"The Curse of Peladon"

Aired Jan. 29 - Feb. 19, 1972

4 Episodes

Story 61

Written by Brian Hayles

Directed by Lennie Mayne


Dragging Jo from a date with Mike Yates, the Doctor is successful in getting the TARDIS to dematerialize and travel to the planet Peladon. There, they find themselves embroiled in palace politics when they are mistaken for Earth dignitaries on a committee 
assessing Peladon's application to join the Galactic Federation.

The young King Peladon is eager to join the Federation, seeing it as a great benefit to his people. While his Chancellor, Torbis, supports the effort, his High Priest, Hepesh, is virulently opposed and fears the destruction of Peladon's culture and traditions. Things take a sinister turn following the death of Torbis, seemingly murdered by Pelandon's sacred mythical animal Aggedor. 

The Doctor finds himself part of a tempestuous committee that also includes delegates Arcturus, Alpha Centauri, and Martian Lord Izlyr. The Martian, a member of the Ice Warrior race he has battled before, raises the Doctor's suspicions, a prejudice he finds difficult to overcome. After more suspicious accidents occur, the Doctor becomes convinced someone is deliberately attempting to sabotage the process. Jo, meanwhile, is becoming closer and closer to King Peladon, and attempts to bolster his resolve in the face of Hepesh's assertions that the Curse of Aggedor is responsible for everything.

In the end, the Doctor uncovers that Hepesh, working in conduction with delegate Arcturus, are responsible. Arcturus has played into Hepesh's fears, telling him the Federation will exploit Peladon's mineral resources. This, of course, is what Arcturus' planet plans to do itself. Hepesh has discovered the real Aggedor, or at least an example of the beast's kind, and has been using it to attack others. With the help of the Ice Warriors, the Doctor and Jo manage to expose the plot and Arcturus is killed. However, Hepesh manages to attempt a coup using loyal troops. 

The Doctor has managed to befriend Aggedor, and convinces King Peladon to resist Hepesh, who is killed in the end by the beast he reveres. Jo sadly takes her leave of the King, and as she and the Doctor prepare to return to Earth, the Doctor realizes that his test flight was not of his own doing, he was sent on yet another mission by the Time Lords. His exile, for the time being, continues.

Tuesday, February 10, 2015

"Day of the Daleks"

Aired Jan. 1 - Jan. 22, 1972

4 Episodes

Story 60

Written by Louis Marks

Directed by Paul Bernard


When Sir Reginald Styles, international diplomat, is nearly assassinated by a guerrilla who then vanishes, UNIT is called in to investigate. Styles is preparing for a momentous peace conference in which he will attempt to bring the world back from the brink of WWIII, so tensions are high. When another attempt is made on Styles' life, the Doctor uncovers a rudimentary time travel device has been used to send these soldiers back from two centuries in the future, apparently to murder Sir Reginald.

Sending Styles away for his own protection, Jo and the Doctor keep vigil at his estate, along with Capt. Yates and UNIT soldiers. Once again, the guerrillas attack. While the Doctor convinces them to at least explain their actions, one of the guerrillas is separated from the others. Things go from bas to worse when Jo accidentally activates one of the time devices and is hurled into the 22nd Century. The Doctor and the guerrillas go after her, but their missing soldier, Shura, remains in the 20th Century. 

Jo encounters alien mercenaries called Ogrons, who appear to be working for a man named the Controller, a high-level government official. Charmed by the Controller's cooperative and friendly attitude, Jo begins to trust him. Unbeknownst to her, the 22nd Century is a world decimated by war and ruled by the Daleks. The Controller is their quisling, and the Ogrons are their henchmen. 

The Doctor explores this world briefly, seeing the deprivation and brutality inflicted on the survivors before he is captured and reunited with Jo. He manages to convince her of the Controller's true nature, and they manage to escape with the help of the guerrillas.

At their secret base, the guerrillas explain to the Doctor that they travelled back in tim because they believe Styles detonated an explosion at the peace conference, setting off global war that left Earth vulnerable to conquest at the hands of the Daleks. Realizing that Shura is still back in the 20th Century, and that he will undoubtedly try to complete their mission, the Doctor tells them that their actions will lead to the very explosion they're trying to prevent; they created their own future.

With help from the Controller, who sacrifices himself in an attempt at redemption, the Doctor and Jo return to the 20th Century, where they manage to evacuate the house just as the Daleks and Ogrons arrive. The invaders are killed when Shura sacrifices himself and detonates the bomb, though the future is seemingly spared. 

Thursday, February 5, 2015

Season 8 Overview

From L to R: Roger Delgado, Katy Manning, Jon Pertwee,
Nicholas Courtney
The success of the previous season had secured Doctor Who's future for the time being. The management at the BBC were now positive about the programme, feeling that Jon Pertwee and the production team of Barry Letts and Terrance Dicks were steering the series in the right direction.

As for Letts and Dicks themselves, Season 8 represented a chance for them to fully enact their vision for the series, free from the intentions of their predecessors. Though they both disliked the exile storyline, they couldn't get rid of that aspect yet. The contemporary setting offered too many budgetary advantages. However, they were able to plan to set one serial off-planet. They wanted to lighten the tone slightly, to bring the series back to a more family-friendly feel without sacrificing the high-stakes and jeopardy that brought the thrills and chills to the series. For the first time, they were free to make Doctor Who into the show they wanted it to be, and the close camaraderie between producer, director and star resulted in a warmer tone overall. Letts and Dicks were also making an attempt to inject a social conscience and message to each story. At times, this message would be obvious, and it was always earnest, but the use of allegory and metaphor  was welcome and certainly needed after the two-dimensional qualities of the late Troughton era.

Dicks and Letts also were eager to find a "hook" for the season, an overarching element that would unite the serials into something close to a cohesive whole. They settled on the idea of creating a Moriarty to the Doctor's Holmes, a formidable and equally brilliant adversary that could feature in every story of the season. They decided to call their archenemy the Master, as that was a level of academic achievement just below a doctorate. 

With their foe in place, they turned their attention towards creating a new companion for the Doctor. They had been dissatisfied with the character of Liz Shaw in Season 7, and took the opportunity to create one more in keeping with their ideal. Jo Grant would be naive, a novice agent who was more flighty and scatter-brained than the sensible Liz. To Letts and Dicks, and to Pertwee himself, the companion should be someone the Doctor needed to protect, who could ask the necessary expository questions the audience needed answered. 

Richard Franklin as Capt. Mike Yates
To compliment Jo, and to finally give UNIT some much-needed definition, John Levene's Sgt. Benton would take on a greater role, while the new character of Captain Mike Yates would give the Brig an executive officer as well as provide a possible romantic interest for Jo. These supporting characters also served a structural purpose as well. Letts and Dicks were well aware how much the workload of carrying all of the action of the stories had weighed on Patrick Troughton. They felt that a strong supporting cast would lighten the burden on Pertwee. 

Having now watched the entirety of the season, it's clear that the stability generated by these decisions, as well as the more confident and efficient style of Barry Letts and the skill of Terrance Dicks, allowed for a greater consistency for the season as a whole. Even discounting the presence of the regular antagonist (we'll get to the Master in a second), Season 8 feels remarkably of a piece, even though the stories themselves are varied. Dicks would basically do all final drafts of the scripts themselves, which certainly accounts for the feeling of consistency, but Letts was very good at creating efficiencies and streamlining processes, as well as finding a way to squeeze every ounce of value from the budget. The result was season that caused as few production ripples as possible, and felt extremely well-defined.

The experiment of having the Master appear in every story doesn't quite come off, it must be said. There's no surprise to his appearances, and his plans vary wildly in terms of credulity and even more so in quality. The production got immensely lucky in the casting of Roger Delgado, who brilliantly brings a cold menace covered over with wit and charm to the part. His constant defeats do erode the Master's impressiveness, but Delgado's skill ensure that the character never wears out his welcome at all.

The character of Jo is more troubling. As she is written initially, we're told that she is skilled in escapology, and a qualified agent. But the production team's decision to cast Katy Manning, and then tailor the part to some of her more eccentric character traits, results in the feeling that the team thinks women should act like Jo, and therefore be slightly daffy and prone to making foolhardy mistakes and asking ridiculous questions. Manning overcomes this beautifully by instilling Jo with an intrepid spirit and an unwavering faith in the Doctor. Her chemistry with Pertwee is incredible, and even though the character gets off to a shaky start in Terror of the Autons, by The Dæmons, the legendary team of the Doctor and Jo is in place. Even if Jo was never going to be the feminist icon that Liz could have been, that chemistry is so great that it creates a template for many viewers of what the ideal Doctor/Companion relationship should be.

As for Pertwee himself, he makes the choice to play the Doctor abrasively this season, and in my opinion takes that side of the Doctor too far. There are numerous times that he acts in an unlikable manner, and in small meaningless ways that aren't textually explained. Fans have often surmised that he is chafing under his exile, but that's never even hinted at, and if you're going to choose to play your main character this way, a deeper reason needs to be hinted at, not left to viewers to surmise.

In the final analysis, Season 8, while flawed, shows the stability and the inventiveness of the production team leading the series to begin a renaissance of sorts. There are still some rough spots to iron out, certainly, but the pieces are in place to begin a golden age for the program, one that will blossom over the next season.

Jon Pertwee and Katy Manning pose with locals
while filming on location for The Dæmons

Tuesday, February 3, 2015

"The Dæmons"

Aired May 22 - June 19, 1971

5 Episodes

Story 59

Written by Guy Leopold (aka Barry Letts & Robert Sloman)

Directed by Christopher Barry


There's something sinister happening at Devil's End. An archaeological dig excavating an ancient, an reportedly cursed, barrow is occurring on the outskirts of the small town, and while watching the live coverage on TV, the Doctor becomes alarmed and he and Jo race to Devil's End.

The town's new vicar, Mr. Magister, is in fact the Master in disguise. The renegade Time Lord appears to be using black magic and ancient rites to summon the foul demon Azal, and he had used his mesmeric powers to enlist the help of local townspeople. After the Doctor and Jo arrive, they are soon joined by Mike Yates and Sgt. Benton, though before the Brigadier and more UNIT troops can arrive, Devil's End is surrounded by an impenetrable heat barrier.

The Doctor reveals that Azal is not a supernatural being, but a member of ancient and powerful alien race from the planet Dæmos. The Dæmons have guided and experimented on humanity for centuries, becoming part of human myth and folklore in the process. The Doctor fears that, should the Master succeed in awakening Azal, the being will judge their experiments on humanity a failure and destroy the race. Azal will supposedly appear three times, and on on the final appearance, he will decide whether or not to destroy the planet, or transfer his powers to an Earthly custodian.

The Master hopes to become the custodian and receive these powers, and is using the science of the Dæmons to prevent the Doctor and UNIT from interfering. He animates a stone gargoyle, Bok, into a destructive weapon that battles UNIT, and attempts to sacrifice Jo to Azal, but is stopped by the Doctor as the Dæmon makes his final appearance.

The Master makes his case to be the recipient of Azal's power, but the alien selects the Doctor instead. The Doctor, who believes humanity should forge its own destiny, declines. This decision angers Azal, who decides to kill the Doctor. Jo cannot allow the Doctor to be killed and offers to take his place, and Azal cannot comprehend the idea of self-sacrifice and destroys himself. The Master is finally apprehended by UNIT and taken into custody while the Doctor and his friends enjoy the village festivities.