Skip to content

Tardis Party: Doctor Who episode close-up ~ Doctor Who: The Movie (1996)

October 27, 2013

doctor_who_tardisdoctor_who_tardisdoctor_who_tardisdoctor_who_tardisdoctor_who_tardisdoctor_who_tardisdoctor_who_tardisdoctor_who_tardisdoctor_who_tardisdoctor_who_tardisdoctor_who_tardisdoctor_who_tardis

doctor_who_the_movie_paul_mcgann_and_sylvester_mccoy

doctor_who_tardisdoctor_who_tardisdoctor_who_tardisdoctor_who_tardisdoctor_who_tardisdoctor_who_tardisdoctor_who_tardisdoctor_who_tardisdoctor_who_tardisdoctor_who_tardisdoctor_who_tardisdoctor_who_tardis

The key to time: Seventh Doctor Sylvester McCoy hands over the reins to eighth incarnation Paul McGann for the curate’s egg that’s the one-off Anglo-American Doctor Who TV movie

Yes, the less-than-a-month countdown is finally underway to ‘The Day of the Doctor’, mes amis – the official day of Doctor Who‘s (1963-present) 50th anniversary when its official 50th anniversary special, er, The Day Of The Doctor will be broadcast. And, with the countdown really ramping-up now, what better episode of the show to celebrate (in George’s Journal‘s ongoing celebration of Who) than this one?

Yep, it’s the Who episode that divides Who fans like no other. For it’s the episode from neither the 1960s-’80s ‘Classic’ series nor the hugely successful ‘NuWho’, the one that’s neither unofficial nor entirely canonical, and the one that’s neither royally cool nor total rollox (although admittedly, in many ways, it’s both). Yup, it is – and could only be – Doctor Who: The Movie

.

.

doctor_who_the_eighth_doctor_question_who_75

.

Doctors: Paul McGann (The Eighth Doctor); Sylvester McCoy (The Seventh Doctor)

Companion: Daphne Ashbrook (Dr Grace Holloway)

Villain: Eric Roberts (The Master)

Ally: Yee Jee Tso (Chang Lee)

Writer: Matthew Jacobs

Executive Producers: Philip Segal and Jo Wright

Director: Geoffrey Sax

.

doctor_who_the_movie_paul_mcganndoctor_who_the_movie_daphne_ashbrook

.

.

.

doctor_who_the_eighth_doctor_question_when_75

.

Original broadcast dates: May 12 1996 (Canada)/ May 14 1996 (US)/ May 27 1996 (UK)

Total viewers: 5.6 million (US)/ 9.1 million (UK)

Running time: 85 minutes

Previous serial: Survival (Season 26)

Next episode: Rose (New Season 1)

.

.

.

.

doctor_who_the_eighth_doctor_question_what_75

.

In the guise of his boggly-eyed, Scot-accented and now somewhat pleasantly plump seventh incarnation, The Doctor is sitting in an armchair of his spacious yet homely TARDIS console room, eating jelly babies, reading HG Wells’ The Time Machine (1898), listening to a record on a gramophone and generally behaving rather absent-mindedly. Big mistake. Not least because he’s transporting the remains of arch nemesis and rebel Time Lord The Master – following the latter’s ‘execution’ at the hands of the Daleks on their home-planet Skaro – to his and The Master’s home-planet Gallifrey.

From past experience, we all know how brilliantly sly that Master can be and, lo and behold, a distracted Doctor doesn’t notice the former’s remains – technically a tube of DNA-rich slime – slither out of the box in which it’s supposed to be sealed, across the floor and into the time console itself. The record on the gramophone skips, sparks fly from the console, its mechanism groans and suddenly The Doc discovers his beloved TARDIS is taking an inexplicable detour to Earth – specifically San Francisco on 30 December 1999. However, we’re left in little doubt that this is all The Master’s doing.

Duly materialising the space- and time-machine in a back alley of San Francisco then, The Doc steps out and closes the door – only immediately to be assailed by machine-gun bullets, having accidentally landed right into the middle of a China Town gang fight (see video clip above). Crumpling to the ground, he’s quickly attended to by a survivor of the attack, a youth named Chang Lee, whom doesn’t notice the dying Doc point aghast to the transparent tube of goo escaping through the TARDIS door’s keyhole. Chang Lee – feeling obliged or just for the hell of it? – calls for an ambulance and rides in it along with The Doctor; not knowing his identity, though, he forges an identity for the patient, filling out the latter’s name on paperwork as the first that comes into his head: ‘John Smith’.

On the operating table, The Doc stuns and bemuses the nurses and the just-returned-from-a-night-at-the-opera ace surgeon Dr Grace Holloway by snapping in and out of consciousness and exclaiming they shouldn’t operate on him, as they’ll ‘kill’ him and ensure he can’t regenerate. Eventually, the medical team manage to subdue him, remove the bullets from his body and inexplicably lose their patient – somehow, a disbelieving Grace realises, she has killed the man. But how?

Overnight, however, the Doc does manage to regenerate and takes on the appearance of a handsome, shaggy haired chap, albeit one that, when he escapes from the morgue, has a severe case of amnesia and has no idea who he is. Meanwhile, in the morning, Grace argues with her senior the incident must be investigated, but he’s having none of it and declares the matter will be covered up, forcing the principled surgeon to resign and walk out – not before she’s checked the Doc’s x-ray, though, and discovered that impossibly, yet beyond doubt, he possesses two hearts.

Having stolen from an orderly’s locker and dressed himself in a ‘Wild’ Bill Hicock-style fancy dress outfit (intended for a New Year’s Eve party that night), a still dazed and confused Doc spies Grace leaving and, remembering her as his surgeon, follows her and confronts her in the hospital car-park. Still in a state of disbelief, Grace won’t allow herself to be convinced that this new man is the patient she ‘killed’ the night before, even when he pulls tubes from the operation out of his abdomen and confirms he has two hearts. Driven back to her house, he talks his way in and discovers Grace’s live-in boyfriend has left and taken all his possessions (owing to her over-dedication to her career); all his possessions, that is, apart from a pair of shoes that the Doc tries on and appropriates.

As all this has been going on, The Master’s slippery, slimy, temporary state has entered the body of ambulance driver Bruce, whom immediately returns to the hospital in search of The Doctor (curiously dressed in a leather jacket and shades very reminiscent of Arnie in 1991’s Terminator 2: Judgement Day). Fortunately, he misses his fellow Gallifreyan, but does discover Chang Lee, who’s spent the night there waiting on news of the Doc and snatches the latter’s bag of possessions when informed he’s ‘died’. Following the youth back to the TARDIS, The Master gains entry to the machine when Chang Lee takes the TARDIS key from the bag, unlocks the door and walks in.

The Doctor: I know who I am…!
[He kisses Grace]
The Doctor: … I am The Doctor!
Grace: Good. Now, do that again

Inside, Chang Lee is quickly convinced of the awesome time-travelling and alien nature of the man he accompanied to the hospital and is easily convinced by The Master that the Doc is the evil one of the two; indeed, he claims that the latter stole not only the TARDIS from him but also his body, which is why he ‘had to’ steal the ambulance driver’s body – and, this body being human, won’t last him long, meaning he needs Chang Lee’s help to ‘steal back’ his ‘own’ body.

Back at Grace’s house, the Doc has an instant surge of recollection and realises he is indeed The Doctor, (uncharacteristically?) kissing her in delight. He then swiftly informs her what he believes has happened – The Master has somehow found his way back into the TARDIS and opened the machine’s source of power, the cloister room’s Eye of Harmony (which may or may not be linked to the original Eye of Harmony on Gallifrey) in order to take the Doc’s own body. However, keeping the Eye open for too long will destroy the Earth. Our hero tries to prove this by showing the fabric of Earth’s reality is already starting to destabilise: he steps through a window as if slipping through a thickly-coated bubble.

In order to thwart The Master and close the Eye, the Doc claims he will need an atomic-related device; fortuitously, he and Grace discover via a TV broadcast that an atomic clock will be unveiled at San Francisco’s Institute of Technological Advancement and Research that night as part of the city’s official celebration of the turning-of-the-millennium. This clock, the Doc exclaims, will contain such a device, so as Grace happens to be on the Institute’s board and so should be able to gate-crash the party (and now mostly convinced by the Doc’s protestations), she agrees to take him there.

Unaware of its driver’s true identity (The Master), the pair accept a lift to the Institute in an ambulance – which had turned up at Grace’s house owing to her calling for one earlier to hospitalise the ‘crazy’ Doctor. However, as the Doc twigs their driver is, in fact, his foe, they abandon the ambulance and steal a police motorbike to make it their location in time. Arriving there, they manage to foil the security and steal the gadget from the clock – an integrated circuit chip – and return to the TARDIS.

Yet, on arriving there, installing the chip and closing the Eye, The Doctor realises the Eye has been open too long, thus they somehow must turn back time to prevent Earth’s impending destruction – which, he calculates, will coincide with midnight and the turn-of-the-millenium. However, before he can rewire the TARDIS’s damaged console to do this, The Master appears and, taking control of Grace and Chang Lee’s mind, manages to chain The Doc above the now reopened Eye, with the latter’s own eyes forced open, so he might steal all The Doctor’s remaining lives (having used up all his own).

Owing to Chang Lee finally seeing the light and disobeying The Master, the latter kills him and relinquishes control of Grace (she having now served her purpose for him of helping disable The Doctor). Grace, though, leaps to the task she knows needs doing – she rushes back to the console and rewires it, succeeding in sending the TARDIS into a time-holding pattern just seconds after midnight has struck. She then returns to the cloister room where her attempt to challenge The Master results in him killing her too, but does just enough to help free the Doc and give him the chance to grapple with his nemesis, which sees the latter fall into the Eye and seemingly to his doom. This causes the Eye to close and thus time reverts back to before its reopening (moments before midnight struck), ensuring Grace and Chang Lee are brought back to life.

The trio depart the TARDIS into the now safe San Francisco night. Returning all the Doc’s possessions, Chang Lee bids them farewell, the former’s friendly warning not to be in the city in exactly a year’s time ringing in his ears. Having shared a final kiss with Grace, The Doctor turns down her offer to remain with her; her having already turned down his offer to be his travelling companion. They say goodbye and the Time Lord returns to the TARDIS, dematerialises it and sends it on its travels through time and space once more. Yet, just as he switches on the gramophone and settles in his armchair with The Time Machine once more, the record skips at the exact same point it did at the start of the adventure, forcing him to cry: ‘Oh no, not again…’

.

.

.

doctor_who_the_eighth_doctor_question_why_75

.

The reason why Doctor Who: The Movie is one of the show’s ‘essential’ episodes is because it’s arguably its most unique – and the reason for that is twofold. First, it’s the only on-screen – genuinely canonical – story to have been made in the show’s more-than-a-decade-and-a-half-long ‘wilderness years’ (between the end of the ‘Classic’ Series in 1989 and the start of ‘NuWho’ in 2005) and, second, it’s the only on-screen story ever to properly feature Paul McGann’s Eighth Doctor.

Make no mistake, The Movie is an utter curiosity and controversy among Who fans – derided by some, admired by others; loathed by many, loved by few. It splits opinion surely more than any other episode/ story/ serial – not least because some of its plot-points are so out-there for Who (which non-fans may see as something of an irony in itself) they’re no longer deemed canon. However, without The Movie, there may never have been a new series in 2005; like it or not then and clearly or sometimes merely by default, it very much serves as a bridge between ‘Classic’ Who and ‘NuWho’.

The good things about The Movie are undoubtedly good – and there’s a fair number of them. Top of the list has to be McGann’s interpretation of the several centuries-old Time Lord. Starting off an amnesiac (and, thus, in the eyes of nearest human contact Grace, a highly eccentric charlie whose delusions of grandeur should see him committed), as the plot develops and the action ramps0up, this Doc realises who he is and becomes a finely realised, very likeable protagonist. His boyish good looks, hairy mane, Old West/ Victorian-esque togs, flirtatious nature and propensity for wide-eyed wonder and excitement all make him more than reminiscent of the literary romantic hero. He’s rather Byron-esque is The Eighth Doctor (without all the booze-fuelled shagging and capering, of course).

One may argue then he’s the most ‘human’ Doctor to date (not least because of his lip-locking tendencies – more on that below), but this isn’t necessarily a bad thing; indeed, it arguably foreshadows the hugely popular 21st Century Docs that would be David Tennant‘s Tenth (whom falls for his first companion Rose, of course) and Matt Smith‘s Eleventh (whom develops an incurable, familial bond for companions Amy and Rory and even marries his love interest River Song).

Also in the credit column is the fact that despite this being a TV movie made as much for a North American audience as for a genned-up British one (and thus a bit of a Who re-boot), it observes the show’s tradition of inviting back the existing Doctor actor to pass on the reins to the next via a regeneration scene. And, although feeling very much old news by the mid-’90s, it’s comforting then that things kick-off with Sylvester McCoy’s comfy Seventh Doctor before we segue into McGann’s all-new ’90s-friendly ‘New Man’ version. Moreover, the regeneration sequence itself is a real doozy (see video clip below); interspersed, as it is, not only with The Master’s occupying a human’s body (and thus being reborn himself), but also nattily with a morgue orderly watching Frankenstein’s monster come to life in James Whale’s classic 1931 film version of the story.

Credit for that scene and for the The Movie as a whole then should also go to helmer Geoffrey Sax, a Brit TV veteran who was at the time plying his trade in the States. His direction is smart, imaginative, witty and pacy (often just about papering over the cracks in the plot) – and again then a foreshadowing of the sort of modern cinematic-friendly direction ‘NuWho’ would enjoy. Additionally, The Movie‘s production values impress. Always a victim of relatively low budgets, the ‘Classic’ series forever had to make do with wobbly cardboard-esque sets and charming if not the most credible-looking monsters, but thanks to American money there’s none of that in sight here.

Doctor Who: The TV Movie won the 1996 Saturn (Academy of Science Fiction, Fantasy & Horror Films) Award for Best Television Presentation

The location shooting in Vancouver (standing in for San Francisco; albeit not that convincingly if you’ve visited either city) gives the thing an American sheen and dynamism, while the extravagant motorbike chase on the highway really packs an action punch (again a sign of things to come in the show’s future) and most eye-catching of all is the TARDIS set; the console room alone seems to fill an entire studio and contains more archaic props than you can shake a stick at – even if, because of all that, it maybe doesn’t really feel very Who.

That inevitably then leads us on to some of The Movie‘s glaringly unusual and more disagreeable aspects. As mentioned, the plot isn’t all that tight (exactly why the Doc must purloin a small part from the atomic clock is glossed over and seems a bit of an excuse for the motorbike chase and an impromptu heist by the leads, while Chang Lee’s motivations for believing, let alone following, the clearly devious Master instead of believing in the Doc aren’t convincing, as is The Master’s cheery befriending/ pseudo-adoption of the boy – why doesn’t he just kill him once he’s used him to get inside the TARDIS?). Eric Roberts’ casting as the classic nemesis/ negative of the Gallifreyan hero is questionable too (but there’s an understandable reason why it happened – see below); although Julia’s brother and Emma’s dad clearly enjoys hamming it up like a good ‘un – and who can blame him?

But most precarious of all, of course, are those controversial ‘changes’ that the story throws into the Who mix. First, we have The Doctor kissing (not just once, but twice) his otherwise very fitting, amusing and refreshingly age-appropriate companion Grace. At the time, this was a huge curve-ball for ‘Whovians'; the Doc had always seemed to be an asexual being. Yet this is a new incarnation and with his youthful, romantic demeanour it does rather fit and, as mentioned, it maybe helped make amorous future Docs more palatable for die-hard fans.

Elsewhere, the portrayal of the body-less Master as a CGI-ed Abyss-like water snake and then full-on Voldermort-esque cobra is a little peculiar to my mind (why would he choose the form of a creature from a planet he despises for his non-humanoid state?). Yet the most contentious and, yes, dodgy thing of all has to be the revelation two-thirds of the way through that The Doc himself is half-human. Frankly, the idea smacks of the US backers wanting to make the character more accessible to a US audience (‘Why should the hero be entirely alien? Make him snog the girl so the viewers and advertisers like him more’, you can imagine them clamouring). It feels all wrong and, given The Movie was a one-off and the idea utterly ignored in ‘NuWho’, has been proved to be pretty much pointless. An awkward mis-step.

Still, accepting its less than successful elements, there’s much to admire and enjoy about The Movie. In an era of slick, US dominated sci-fi TV – in particular The X-Files (1993-2002) and all those Star Trek series – it proved not only could a pacier, more expensive-looking version of the show work, but that it was still relevant. And, thus, of course, it – maybe unwittingly, but hey – paved the way for the Doctor Who we know and love today.

.

doctor_who_the_movie_the_tardisdoctor_who_the_movie_eric_roberts

.

.

.

doctor_who_the_eighth_doctor_question_how_75

.

Whenever it comes to this final section of these close-ups/ reviews, I always seem to be saying such-and-such an episode had a  torturous journey to the screen – but truly none had it rougher than The Movie. Not least because its journey was seven eccerin’ years long. The Movie was the brainchild of ex-pat Who-nut Philip Segal, whom by the end of the ’80s had established himself as a mover and shaker in the LA world of US network TV. Realising  the ‘Classic’ series was on its last legs and there was no appetite within the Beeb to carry on with it in the near future, he began to plague the corporation’s newly established commercial wing BBC Enterprises (nowadays known as BBC Worldwide) with constant transatlantic phone calls over the possibility of reviving it as an Anglo-American, but US-based one-off TV movie-cum-pilot or (if he could secure a deal) a fully-fledged series.

For a long time, it all came to naught. A fly in the ointment was a rival US project to get Who back on the big screen (following the Peter Cushing-headlined Doctor Who And The Daleks and Dalek Invasion Earth: 2150 AD of the mid-’60s), which loftily aimed to land Donald Sutherland for the lead role. Until this project’s lease on the commodity that is Who dwindled in the early ’90s, Segal’s efforts proved to be fruitless; indeed, he eventually scuppered his rivals entirely by informing Sutherland that the project’s backers only planned to film the bare minimum necessary – instead of actually start a filming shoot proper – right before the date their lease was up in order to extend the lease. Another problem for Segal was the BBC’s umming-and-ahhing over a potential The Five Doctors-style (1983) special for the show’s 30th anniversary in the autumn of ’93. Plans were drawn up and ideas tossed about, but despite the hoohah, nothing happened apart from the Dimensions In Time (1993) effort for that November’s Children In Need appeal, which saw four previous Docs and many companions interact with characters from EastEnders (1985-present) in a witless, execrable 3D embarrassment.

Eventually though, once he’d moved on from the TV arm of Steven Spielberg‘s Amblin Entertainment (where he’d made a name for himself working on 1993-96’s seaQuest DSV and 1993-96’s The Young Indiana Jones Chronicles), Segal managed to broker a deal to get a TV movie up and running which, the agreement was, would be jointly back-rolled by Universal Television and the BBC and broadcast on the Fox network in the States. It would be a one-off, but also effectively serve as a pilot for a brand new US-produced series should it prove successful enough. Positioning himself as a centrepiece between all the project’s interested parties – Universal, Fox and co-executive producer at the BBC Jo Wright – Segal forever found himself being pulled in opposing directions as he tried to please everyone, whom inevitably all wanted different things out of the project. In which case, it’s a wonder The Movie turned out the (generally) satisfying slice of entertainment it did; moreover, it’s obvious too then why it contains so many Who-centric aberrations and things that plain don’t work.

Script-wise, Segal initially (back in his Amblin days) enlisted Universal-contracted scribe John Leekley. Viewing hours upon hours of Doctor Who episodes, Leekley became enamoured with both Gallifrey’s Time Lord society and the WWII-echoing tone of The Third Doctor/ UNIT stories. Thus, his stab featured the notion of the Doc learning that he deserves to inherit Gallifrey’s Lord President role, as well as the fact that his mother was human and The Master is his half-brother, plus the second-half of the adventure would have been set in the war-torn Blighty of the 1940s (indeed, check out Paul McGann’s fascinating audition for the role – it’s clearly taken from this script). In the end, Amblin chief Spielberg both nixed this screenplay and the entire project, declaring rightly that the whole thing had become too much like his own Indiana Jones (and with, to my mind, strong Star Wars undertones too).

Once away from Amblin, Segal looked to The Young Indiana Jones Chronicles writer – and fellow Brit – Matthew Jacobs as a scribe. The latter’s first attempt dumped practically everything in Leekley’s effort apart from the half-human Doc element (which seemed a necessary inclusion for the US backers). Jacobs wasn’t just familiar with Doctor Who, but had fond memories of the show, as his father Anthony Jacobs had played Doc Holliday in William Hartnell-era serial The Gunfighters (1965); indeed, during the shoot of which the actor had brought the young Jacobs to the set as a birthday treat. With a good feel for the material then, the writer not only brought in the character of the Seventh Doctor for a hand-over regeneration, but also grounded the story in modern-day America with the notion of The Master attempting to steal the Doc’s body for his own. From this, the eventual plot of The Movie slowly and eventually formed…

As Jon Pertwee, the hugely popular Third Doctor, sadly passed away in the days between Doctor Who: The Movie‘s US and UK broadcasts, the titles of the UK broadcast included an epitaph to the legendary thesp

Apparently, the notion to cast McGann as the new Doc was first suggested – perhaps unsurprisingly – by the Beeb, with Jo Wright being a champion. Once he auditioned, first around ’93-’94, McGann became a favourite for Segal, but given his lack of name recognition in the States, the US backers were far from sure. They favoured much more familiar names, including Michael Crawford (Segal’s first favourite), Eric Idle, Michael Palin, Billy Connolly, Jonathan Pryce, Trevor Eve, Tim Curry and Rowan Atkinson (whom would go on to portray one of the Doctors in the Steven Moffat-penned, 1999 Comic Relief spoof The Curse Of The Fatal Death).

By coincidence, as well as John Sessions, Tim McInnery, Anthony Head, Robert Lindsay, Liam Cunningham and Nathaniel Parker, an early auditionee was another of the McGann acting clan, Paul’s brother Mark. Later on, of course, Head would appear as chief villain in the Tennant-era story School Reunion (2006) and Cunningham as a Soviet sub captain in the latest series’ Cold War (2013). As for the casting of just-about-medium-weight Hollywood star Eric Roberts as The Master, it was a stipulation of the US backers that an actor genuinely recognisable to US audiences filled out the antagonist role opposite the lesser known (and, eventually in the case of McGann, actually practically unknown) Brit thesp in the protagonist role.

Contrary to popular belief, The Movie was a ratings hit in both the UK (where it was broadcast on the evening of 1996’s Spring Bank Holiday Monday, capturing a mightily impressive 9.1 million viewers – the largest audience for a TV drama in its week) and the land of of its filming Canada (where it debuted on Edmonton, Alberta’s CITV-TV channel two days ahead of its US screening). However, as is widely known, it was far from a success when broadcast in the States, drawing a disappointing 5.6 million viewers. Yet blame can perhaps be apportioned to the fact it was up against the (then expected) last ever episode of monstrously successful sitcom Roseanne (1988-97) – it seems the gallivanting Gallifreyan has always found negotiating female Earthlings tricky.

Ultimately then, Segal and the Beeb’s gamble didn’t pay off; the regenerated, revitalised Doctor Who hadn’t ‘found an audience’ in the States (as per its requirement) and remained stillborn, ensuring no new series followed and McGann’s one, solid crack at playing the Doc was his last… well, at least on TV. For in the realms of audio adventures, novels and comic strips (not least the much-loved strip in the official Doctor Who Magazine), McGann’s Eighth Doctor became a bona fide hit with fans, happily and undoubtedly fulfilling the potential his incarnation had shown in its single on-screen appearance.

Moreover, as mentioned many times here, in the long-run Who itself gained greatly from The Movie; Russell T Davies clearly having noted that in the faster, more sci-fi fashionable turn-of-the-millennium-era the appetite for Who at least in Blighty was back, thus his decision to properly bring the show back to the BBC could well pay off. But what of the man who’d tried – and somewhat succeeded – in bringing the Doc back in The Movie? Well, in recent years Philip Segal has found great success as the man behind culty shows such as Ice Road Truckers (2007-present). For which channel? That’s right… the History Channel. The Doctor would be so proud…

.

.

george's_journal_motif

.

Next time: Rose (New Season 1/ 2005)

.

Previous close-ups/ reviews:

The Caves Of Androzani (Season 21/ 1984/ Doctor: Peter Davison)

The Five Doctors (Special/ 1983/ Main Doctor: Peter Davison)

City Of Death (Season 17/ 1979/ Doctor: Tom Baker)

The Talons Of Weng-Chiang (Season 15/ 1977/ Doctor: Tom Baker)

The Deadly Assassin (Season 14/ 1976/ Doctor: Tom Baker)

Pyramids Of Mars (Season 13/ 1975/ Doctor: Tom Baker)

Genesis Of The Daleks (Season 12/ 1975/ Doctor: Tom Baker)

The Ark In Space (Season 12/ 1975/ Doctor: Tom Baker)

The Dæmons (Season 8/ 1971/ Doctor: Jon Pertwee)

Inferno (Season 7/ 1970/ Doctor: Jon Pertwee)

The War Games (Season 6/ 1969/ Doctor: Patrick Troughton)

An Unearthly Child (Season 1/ 1963/ Doctor: William Hartnell)

.

Tardis Party: Doctor Who serial close-up ~ The Caves Of Androzani (1984)

October 17, 2013

doctor_who_tardisdoctor_who_tardisdoctor_who_tardisdoctor_who_tardisdoctor_who_tardisdoctor_who_tardisdoctor_who_tardisdoctor_who_tardisdoctor_who_tardisdoctor_who_tardisdoctor_who_tardisdoctor_who_tardisdoctor_who_tardis

doctor_who_the_caves_of_androzani

doctor_who_tardisdoctor_who_tardisdoctor_who_tardisdoctor_who_tardisdoctor_who_tardisdoctor_who_tardisdoctor_who_tardisdoctor_who_tardisdoctor_who_tardisdoctor_who_tardisdoctor_who_tardisdoctor_who_tardisdoctor_who_tardis

Fivey finds his mojo: “Taunt her again with that ‘it-all-turns-to-crap-as-soon-as-Davison’s-gone’ talk, and during the next tea break I’ll spike your cuppa with unrefined spectrox…”

So, with us now being little more than five weeks away from the actual date of Doctor Who‘s (1963-present) 50th anniversary – and its multi-Doctor-featuring celebratory special, of course – it’s time for George’s Journal to celebrate the fantastic finale to The Fifth Doctor’s tenure in the role, the sensational serial that’s The Caves Of Androzani.

However, Caves doesn’t just mark the end (more or less) for Peter Davison, but – as far as this blog’s golden anniversary-marking glut of Who-related posts this year is concerned – the end of the 27-year-long original series’ run. Yes, folks, it’s time finally then to embark on our last close-up/ review of an essential story from the ‘Classic’ series of Who. Who’da thunk it, eh…?

.

.

doctor_who_the_fifth_doctor_question_who_75%_red

.

Doctors: Peter Davison (The Fifth Doctor); Colin Baker (The Sixth Doctor)

Companion: Nicola Bryant (Perpugilliam ‘Peri’ Brown)

Villains: Christopher Gable (Sharaz Jek); John Normington (Trau Morgus); Robert Glenister (Salateen); Martin Cochrane (Chellak); Maurice Roëves (Stotz)

Writer: Robert Holmes

Script editor: Eric Saward

Producer: John Nathan-Turner

Director: Graeme Harper

.

doctor_who_the_caves_of_androzani_peter_davison_and_nicola_bryantdoctor_who_the_caves_of_androzani_john_normington

.

.

.

doctor_who_the_fifth_doctor_question_when_75%_red

.

Season: 21 (sixth of seven serials – four 25-minute-long episodes)

Original broadcast dates: March 8-16 1984 (twice weekly)

Total average viewers: 7.3 milion

Previous serial: Planet Of Fire

Next serial: The Twin Dilemma

.

.

.

.

doctor_who_the_fifth_doctor_question_what_75%_red

.

Having landed the TARDIS on the surface of the planet Androzani Minor, the fifth incarnation of The Doctor steps out with his very new companion Perpugilliam Brown (‘Peri’ for short), an American botany student, into a desolate, rather hostile-looking landscape. Following the tracks of a buggy, the pair discover a nearby blast-hole and decide to investigate. They enter a man-made cave, their descent of which sees Peri catch her foot in a giant egg that spreads a sticky substance on her leg; The Doctor wipes it off with his hand and claims it’s probably harmless. Quickly they discover a hoard of weapons, which leads to their being surrounded by a squad of human soldiers, whom escort them to a General Chellak.

The latter and his second-in-command, Major Salateen, are highly suspicious of these oddly dressed new arrivals and – when contacted via holographic communication by Trau Morgus, the chairman of the Sirius conglomerate based on Androzani Minor’s larger and densely populated sister planet Androzani Major – conclude with him that they must be in cahoots with gunrunners working for enemy of the corporation (and so the enemy of Chellak’s army, which is working on behalf of Androzani Major’s government via Morgus’s leadership). Thus, Morgus dismissively gives the order for The Doctor and Peri to be executed.

Elsewhere in the caves, its location unknown to Chellak, is the hideout of Sharaz Jek, the aforementioned enemy who’s a genius in android technology and whose army in the war he’s waging with Morgus’s corporation is made up of his well-developed but still very robotic-looking androids. A masked madman, he began the war to disrupt and reduce the flow of a substance called spectrox, which is produced deep in the caves by bats, mined by Morgus’s company and sold to Androzani Major’s population whose ageing it’s supposed to defy. Via his surveillance of all that goes on in Chellak’s HQ, Jek discovers the existence of The Doc and Peri – and becomes enamoured with the latter. However, hiding away as he is, he can do nothing to prevent the latter pair’s execution, as they’re stood up against a wall, covered with red face-covering hooded gowns and shot to death by a line of soldiers.

Or can he? As Chellak and Salateen examine the dead bodies, they discover they’re in fact android duplicates – brilliant duplicates, at that, as they look exactly like the real thing. They immediately decide Sharaz Jek has duped them and thus saved the pair of ‘gunrunners’. Jek has indeed saved The Doc and Peri’s lives and has had them brought to his hideout in order to make them companions in his exile – although it quickly becomes apparent he’s far more interested in Peri for her beauty than he is in The Doc for his smart conversation. When Peri asks Jek why he wears his mask, he explains that he’d once been a partner with Morgus, but he was caught in an accident when one of Androzani Minor’s mud-bursts occurred and left to die. Thus, horribly scarred and driven mad with hate, he swore revenge on Morgus and started the war.

Peri: Doctor, why do you wear a stick of celery in your lapel?
The Doctor: Does it offend you?
Peri: No, just curious.
The Doctor: Safety precaution. I’m allergic to certain gases in the Praxis range of the spectrum.
Peri: Well, how does the celery help?
The Doctor: If the gas is present, the celery turns purple.
Peri: And then what do you do?
The Doctor: I eat the celery. If nothing else, I’m sure it’s good for my teeth.

While effectively incarcerated by Jek, the travellers discover another prisoner… Salateen. The latter explains that he was captured months ago and replaced with an android duplicate ‘under’ Chellak’s command that reports back to Jek, ensuring that (in addition to his surveillance techniques) the latter learns all that Chellak’s army plans to do before it does it. This explains why the war has been going on for so long; why Chellak’s force has never been able to locate and get the better of Jek’s. Then, having been told by The Doctor and Peri they’re feeling pain from rashes that have developed on her leg and his hand following their encounter with the egg’s substance, Salateen darkly laughs, informing them they’re dying – what they came into contact with was unrefined spectrox, which is fatal. The only antidote is milk from the queen bat that since the mining began has resided deep in the caves where there’s very limited oxygen.

Meanwhile, Jek has been negotiating with the gunrunners for weapons in exchange for spectrox. The gunrunners under the leadership of the sly Stotz, though, decide they can successfully rush Jek’s android guards and steal all his spectrox supplies, thus becoming enormously wealthy on their return to Androzani Major. A gun battle takes place then between the gunrunners and the androids, just as The Doc engineers an escape for Peri, Salateen and himself, which inevitably sees them caught up in the battle. In the confusion, Salateen grabs Peri and drags her back to Chellak’s HQ, leaving The Doctor (whom doesn’t know where she’s gone) to return to Jek’s hideout looking for her, avoiding a dragon-like magma beast as he does so, which attacks the gunrunners (see video clip above).

Having returned to Chellak’s HQ (with Peri), Salateen manages to persuade the former he’s the ‘real Salateen’ and the one that’s been at Chellak’s side for so long is Jek’s android duplicate. The two thus cook up a scheme to attack Jek’s base (as Salateen can remember the way back through the caves) and attempt to bring the war to an end, while supplying the fake Salateen with false tactics, which in turn will be supplied to Jek. Peri, however, is starting to feel genuinely ill from spectrox toxaemia. Indeed, The Doctor is beginning to suffer from it too when he discovers Jek and Stotz in discussion; under duress, he admits to Jek that Peri is now most likely at Chellak’s HQ. The rebel orders Stotz to return to Androzani Major with the Doc to find out whether he’s a government spy.

In orbit aboard his ship, Stotz communicates with Morgus and it becomes clear the latter is Stotz’s employer, thus he’s responsible for supplying weapons to Jek that are being used against his/ the government’s own army in order to keep the war going, and therefore the spectrox supplies limited and the price of spectrox high. However, as the two are talking, Morgus notices on his screen The Doctor standing behind Stotz. This instantly troubles the businessman. For, like Jek, he concludes the Doc may well be a government spy and, if that’s so, the government most likely has found out what he’s up to and will look to remove him imminently. Therefore, he invites the government’s President to his high-rise office and pushes him to his death down an empty lift-shaft – he informs his second-in-command Timmin to have the lift maintenance engineer shot, adding he will travel to Androzani Minor himself to maintain control.

Morgus: Jek, where’s the Spectrox?
Sharaz Jek: Morgus!
Morgus: Take one more step and we shoot!
Sharaz Jek: Do you think bullets could stop me now? You stinking offal, Morgus, look at me!

Meanwhile, having been foolishly left alone on the ship’s bridge, The Doctor breaks free of his binds and manages to pilot it back to Androzani Minor, claiming Stotz’s promise to kill him once the latter’s broken through the sealed door carries little threat because he’s going to do die from spectrox toxaemia anyway, but not before he’s somehow saved his friend Peri from a similar fate. Escaping the ship, the Doc runs across the planet’s surface but, energy-sapped by spectrox toxaemia, he can’t escape the gunrunners under Stotz’s lead. However, just as they’re about to kill him, a mud-burst from below explodes; the gunrunners flee and the Time Lord descends into the caves once more to find Peri.

Below the surface, all hell has broken loose as the mud-burst complicates the battle between Chellak and Salateen’s men and Jek’s androids (which have wiped out Salateen and the troops, owing to the army making a tactical error). Chellak, however, reaches Jek’s hideout and struggles with him. As he does so he pulls off Jek’s mask and, so horrified by the sight of Jek’s disfigured face is he, the latter gains the advantage and pushes him to his death into an advancing mud-flow. Having followed the troops’ movements, a desperately ill Peri has found her way to Jek’s base too and is similarly horrified by his true appearance. However, the increasingly insane Jek still has enough about him to agree to help the Doc save Peri’s life, as the latter arrives at the hideout. He supplies The Doctor with directions and additional oxygen so he might be able to descend deep into the caves and retrieve the queen bat’s milk.

Meanwhile, Morgus arrives on Androzani Minor and instantly finds out from Timmin that the government is aware he murdered the President and knows of all his profiteering and double-dealings because she’s been a genuine government spy and has now replaced him as chairman of Sirius. Dismayed but convinced he’s not beaten, Morgus turns to Stotz and makes a deal with him to steal from Jek’s hideout all the supplies of Spectrox. Finding the hideout easily because Jek has switched on its extractor fans to keep Peri cool, Morgus and Stotz confront the former, which drives him wild; as he tussles with his nemesis, Jek pulls off his mask to reveal what Morgus ‘has done to him’. However, as he throttles Morgus, Stotz opens fire on him, only for the Salateen android to appear and shoot Stotz dead. Riddled with bullets then, Jek pushes Morgus into an extractor fan, killing him, and orders the android to hold him as he slumps in its arms and dies.

Making it back to the burning hideout (thanks to all the gunfire), the Doc is just in time to haul Peri away and to the surface before, together with mud-bursts, the hideout explodes, fireballs ripping through the planet’s surface behind them as they flee to the TARDIS. The Doc drops half of the bat milk he’s collected but he makes it into the TARDIS, safely demateralises the machine and feeds Peri all the remaining milk before he crumples to the console room floor. Recovering quickly, Peri shrinks away as she watches the Time Lord’s face change – from the blonde, floppy-haired, kindly fellow into a blond, curly-haired man wearing an unskakably sure almost proud expression – he has regenerated. ‘What’s happened?’ asks Peri; to which the new Doctor answers: ‘Change, my dear, and it seems not a moment too soon…’

.

.

.

doctor_who_the_fifth_doctor_question_why_75%_red

.

If you’re a fan of smart, serious, lugubrious modern sci-fi like Battlestar Galactica (2004-09) or modern, hard-nosed TV thriller dramas like 24 (2001-present) and Homeland (2011-present), then The Caves Of Androzani is definitely the ‘Classic Who’ serial for you. When you break it down, it’s truly just as smart, serious, lugubrious, hard-nosed and thrilling as anything today’s ‘new Hollywood’ (i.e. quality modern US TV drama) has cooked up. And it’s more besides – it’s unrelentingly fast-paced, actually quite violent and, well, absolutely Doctor Who at the same time.

Fundamentally, there are two reasons – or to be precise, two men responsible for – why it’s so damn good: Robert Holmes and Graeme Harper. As he had in writing fellow all-time classic Who stories The Ark In Space (1975), The Deadly Assassin (1976) and The Talons Of Weng-Chiang (1977) back when he was the show’s script editor, Holmes came up with an absolute stonker of a script for Caves, filled with political intrigue and corruption, lamentable, inglorious warfare and small-scale petty squabbles that blow up in the face of every participant come the end and brimming, as it also is, with tension, suspense, surprises, anger and lashings of action.

With its backdrop of a manipulated war borne out of disagreements over mining a commodity on which a planet’s entire population has become hooked, the set-up for Caves‘ plot is, if anything, most reminiscent of some sort of dirty drug-derived and -driven war in a barbaric corner of Africa that many a Westerner would like to ignore. The story then offers up humanity at its very heart, but unlike many a lighter, ultimately sunnier Who story, this is humanity at its deepest, darkest, most animalistic worst. Of all the characters we meet on Androzani Major and Minor (not just the main ones like Morgus, Sharaz Jek, Salateen and Stotz), none have enough about them to be genuinely redeemable. None get close to becoming allies for The Doctor and Peri; they all have underhand, ulterior, self-serving motives that come the last few minutes of the final episode – save for the power grab of Barbara Kinghorn’s Timmin – seal or have already sealed their deserved downfall. No wonder all The Doc and his companion want to do is find the antidote and escape in the TARDIS; they’ve accidentally wandered into a whirlwind that, for once, is too much for our hero to resolve and this time will even lead to his death.

Indeed, although Jek shows some redeemable behaviour come the end (combining with The Doc to try and save Peri) he’s only doing so because he’s fallen in lust with her and much of his empathy anyway stems from his fall; he’s lost the war and like the masked, haunted, in-subterranean-hiding protagonist of The Phantom Of The Opera  (which may’ve been an influence on his creation, just as it was on Talons‘ villain Magnus Greel in that Holmes story), he’ll lose the girl too. The Doctor’s acceptance that he’ll have to sacrifice himself (or at least his incarnation) to save his – only relatively recently acquired – companion because he’s responsible for getting her into this mess, is the only truly heroic and positive example of human behaviour in the entire serial. But it’s the greatest, bravest and most courageous behaviour one can imagine – and he’s not even human! Caves‘ writing is indeed bleak but brilliant then. And highly satisfying.

Like Holmes, Harper’s contribution to Caves‘ greatness is hard to overstate; unlike Holmes though, he came to it as a rookie – yet hit it out of the ballpark on his first at-bat. Much of the energy, urgency and intensity on-screen is probably attributable to his ever enthusing, chivvying and harrying directing-style (he spent much of his time explaining things to cast and crew on the studio floor, instead of overseeing everything and relaying instructions to the floor from the technicians’ gallery, as was the norm on the show). Moreover, his just-go-for-it deployment of in-the-thick-of-it action (no sophisticated laser weapons here, just gritty rapid-fire mini Uzi-like guns) and intense two-hander scenes (shot with both players looking just off-camera and not at each other) were a revelation for ‘Classic Who’, if employed pretty much because Harper was inexperienced and so didn’t follow the norm.

The overall effect, though, is dramatic; Caves plays like a human tragedy, almost in a Shakespearian manner. One’s reminded of Kenneth Branagh’s approach to his outstanding adaptation of Hamlet (1996); he wanted it to come across as a Shakespeare tragedy ‘done as a thriller’ – to my mind, Caves does something of a comparable thing for Doctor Who. And not least because of, for me, its very best moments: Normington’s soliloquies in Episodes Two and Three, which he delivered directly to-camera, thus breaking the fourth wall, because he’d misunderstood Harper’s direction, but which the latter kept in when he realised how über-dramatic, unusual and therefore effective they were.

There’s more still, though, that it offers. No question, deserving too of comment are John Normington and Christopher Gable’s performances as chief antagonists Morgus and Jek respectively. Both are utterly engaging; the former quietly menacing, the latter overt and anguished. There’s also an incongruously charming ’80s aesthetic to this story (like many of the Nathan-Turner era, admittedly); with its so-crap-they’re-great cardboard army HQs and pastel-hued business offices and, of course, the marvellously garish shellsuit-like fatigues Chellak, Salateen and their grunts sport. Plus, lest we forget, come the very finish we get that regeneration. Every one of The Doctor’s regenerations is dramatic, but this one perhaps more so… it indeed ‘feels different this time’. Maybe because it culminates in Colin Baker‘s first appearance that drips with (albeit nicely ironic) foreboding.

.

doctor_who_the_caves_of_androzani_christopher_gabledoctor_who_the_caves_of_androzani_colin_baker

.

.

.

doctor_who_the_fifth_doctor_question_how_75%_red

.

Despite nowadays being considered the defining and certainly best story of Peter Davison‘s Who run, ironically Caves, it could be said, started out as something of a black sheep. Rightly feeling that Davison should go out with a bang, the show’s then script editor Eric Saward reached out to arguably Who‘s greatest and definitely its most prolific writer to come up with a script for the Fifth Doc’s send-off, namely Robert Holmes. Yet, knowing that ’80s producer John Nathan-Turner had a problem with Holmes (i.e. he was intimidated by him – the same issue had arisen in pre-production for 1983’s The Five Doctors), Saward had to pursue Holmes clandestinely. Fortunately, however, it worked; Holmes said yes and eventually came up with a dark, riveting, fast-paced script (his motive for writing it apparently being to put Davison ‘through hell’, feeling his Doc’s escapades had thus far been too light).

The script’s working title was Chain Reaction, but was ultimately altered to the more exotic – and better – The Caves Of Androzani, going before the cameras in late ’83 and, after a Christmas break (owing to an industrial action interruption at the Beeb), in January ’84 when the regeneration scene was hastily filmed in one evening, squeezed in before the plugs were pulled on the BBC TV Centre studio’s electricity at 10pm sharp, as was the strict, usual practice for many years.

Cast-wise, Christopher Gable was chosen for Sharaz Jek (a character whose thesp would require unique qualities – someone who looked and moved well and memorably despite wearing a skin-tight suit and a mask for the vast majority of his screen-time); the reason being he’d previously been a soloist with the Royal Ballet before becoming a film actor in The Boyfriend (1971), The Slipper And The Rose (1976) and later Ken Russell’s The Rainbow (1989). Other figures ambitiously considered for Jek were David Bowie, Mick Jagger, Roger Daltrey and Tim Curry. Cast in the particularly challenging double role of Salateen and his eerily severe android duplicate was Robert Glennister, who’d previously appeared in the sitcom Sink Or Swim (1980-82) as the brother of its star, one Peter Davison. Glennister would later achieve fame as a regular in the grifter comedy-drama Hustle (2004-12) and is notable for being the older brother of Philip Glennister, aka Gene Hunt in Life On Mars (2006-07) and Ashes To Ashes (2008-10).

Containing the Davison-into-Baker regeneration, of course, Caves also features very brief cameos from the thesps whom had played the Fifth Doc’s previous companions: Janet Fielding (Tegan), Sarah Sutton (Nyssa), Matthew Waterhouse (Adric), Mark Strickson (Turlough), Gerald Flood (voice of robot Kamelion) and even Anthony Ainley, whom had portrayed nemesis The Master throughout this era. All appear in the Doc’s sub-conscious, swirling around his head with encouragements not to die (or the opposite in The Master’s case) as he regenerates; the scene’s psychedelic visual- and (definitely) sound-effects being strongly influenced by the ever rising final chord to The Beatles‘ masterpiece A Day In The Life (1967). It’s some regeneration, all right, even if in fan circles it’s notorious for (thanks, no doubt, to Davison’s oft made assertion) him being completely overshadowed by Nicola Bryant‘s ample decolletage (see video clip below).

For their part, the future held different fortunes for Robert Holmes and Graeme Harper. The latter returned to helm Revelation Of The Daleks (1985), but his biggest contribution to the show has come with ‘NuWho’, having directed several well received episodes in the Russell T Davies/ David Tennant era including Utopia (2007), Turn Left and The Stolen Planet/ Journey’s End (all 2008). Holmes would only write for Who twice again, the Sixth/ Second Doctor multi-story The Two Doctors (1985) and the ’86 story The Mysterious Planet, part of the show’s heavily arced 23rd season (subtitled The Trial Of A Timelord); it was while writing more for this particular season that he’d sadly die aged just 60.

This, as mentioned, was of course Davison’s swansong and, reputedly, he much enjoyed it, specifically for the energy and quality that Holmes and Harper brought to it, somewhat lamenting the rest of his time on the show hadn’t produced similar results. To this day, it remains his favourite Who story on which he worked, a sentiment shared with many fans, whom have always placed it very highly in polls ranking Who stories; indeed, it topped a mega poll conducted by Doctor Who Magazine in 2009 (ironically, the very next serial The Twin Dilemma – Colin Baker’s first proper one – perennially finishes bottom in such polls).

Sadly, the future for ‘Classic Who’ wouldn’t be rosy; Davies has suggested that it was with The Twin Dilemma that ‘everything started to go wrong’ – and that may be fair to say. The Caves Of Androzani then, until Davies’s ressurrection of the show, was its last great story, a glittering rough diamond of spectrox-fuelled ever-lasting excellence that, despite the (less than) average serials that surrounded it, to this day is still a shining beacon of brilliance of ’80s Doctor Who.

.

.

george's_journal_motif

.

Next time: Doctor Who: The Movie (1996)

.

Previous close-ups/ reviews:

The Five Doctors (Special/ 1983/ Main Doctor: Peter Davison)

City Of Death (Season 17/ 1979/ Doctor: Tom Baker)

The Talons Of Weng-Chiang (Season 15/ 1977/ Doctor: Tom Baker)

The Deadly Assassin (Season 14/ 1976/ Doctor: Tom Baker)

Pyramids Of Mars (Season 13/ 1975/ Doctor: Tom Baker)

Genesis Of The Daleks (Season 12/ 1975/ Doctor: Tom Baker)

The Ark In Space (Season 12/ 1975/ Doctor: Tom Baker)

The Dæmons (Season 8/ 1971/ Doctor: Jon Pertwee)

Inferno (Season 7/ 1970/ Doctor: Jon Pertwee)

The War Games (Season 6/ 1969/ Doctor: Patrick Troughton)

An Unearthly Child (Season 1/ 1963/ Doctor: William Hartnell)

.

Tardis Party: Doctor Who episode close-up ~ The Five Doctors (Special/ 1983)

October 10, 2013

doctor_who_tardisdoctor_who_tardisdoctor_who_tardisdoctor_who_tardisdoctor_who_tardisdoctor_who_tardisdoctor_who_tardisdoctor_who_tardisdoctor_who_tardisdoctor_who_tardisdoctor_who_tardisdoctor_who_tardisdoctor_who_tardis

doctor_who_the_five_doctors

doctor_who_tardisdoctor_who_tardisdoctor_who_tardisdoctor_who_tardisdoctor_who_tardisdoctor_who_tardisdoctor_who_tardisdoctor_who_tardisdoctor_who_tardisdoctor_who_tardisdoctor_who_tardisdoctor_who_tardisdoctor_who_tardis

Five minus one: “Hey look, it’s Tom Baker’s waxwork again – how the hell did it get up there…?”

So, as we’re now less than 50 days away from Doctor Who‘s (1963-present) 50th anniversary-celebrating special The Day Of The Doctor, why not take a look back at the last (proper) ‘multi-Doctor’ episode cooked up to mark a milestone in the show’s history? Why not, indeed? Here it is then, peeps, the latest post in George’s Journal‘s wee, little celebration of Who‘s golden anniversary – a close-up/ review of The Five Doctors, the November ’83 special that brought together the First, Second, Third, Fourth and Fifth Doctors. Oh, and Pudsey Bear. Yes, that’s right, Pudsey Bear…

.

.

doctor_who_the_fifth_doctor_question_who_75%

.

Doctors: Peter Davison (The Fifth Doctor); Jon Pertwee (The Third Doctor); Patrick Troughton (The Second Doctor); Richard Hurndall (The First Doctor); Tom Baker (The Fourth Doctor)

Companions: Janet Fielding (Tegan Jovanka); Elisabeth Sladen (Sarah Jane Smith); Carole Ann Ford (Susan Foreman); Nicholas Courtney (Brigadier Lethbridge-Stewart); Mark Strickson (Vislor Turlough); Lalla Ward (Romana II)

Villains/ Monsters: Philip Latham (Lord President Borusa); Anthony Ainley (The Master);  John Scott Martin (Dalek – voice: Roy Skelton); David Banks, Mark Hardy and William Kenton (Cybermen); Raston Robot (Keith Hodiak)

Ally: Dinah Sheridan (Chancellor Flavia)

Writer: Terrance Dicks

Script editor: Eric Sawad

Producer: John Nathan-Turner

Directors: Peter Moffatt and (uncredited) John Nathan-Turner

.

doctor_who_the_five_doctors_william_hurndall_and_carole_ann_forddoctor_who_the_five_doctors_patrick_troughton_and_nicholas_courtneydoctor_who_the_five_doctors_jon_pertwee_and_elisabeth_sladen

.

.

.

doctor_who_the_fifth_doctor_question_when_75%

.

Season: 90-minute-long special (between the 20th and 21st seasons)

Original broadcast dates: November 23 1983 (US)/ November 25 1983 (UK)

Total viewers: 7.7 million (UK)

Preceding serial: The King’s Demons (Season 20)

Next serial: Warriors Of The Deep (Season 21)

.

.

.

.

doctor_who_the_fifth_doctor_question_what_75%

.

Enjoying a rare, peaceful sojourn on the Eye of Orion (known the universe-wide as one of its most tranquil spots; although, must be said, it looks a great deal like the British countryside), the youthful, fair-haired and beige-cricket-themed-outfit-sporting fifth incarnation of The Doctor is suddenly struck by one of the most devastatingly debilitating afflictions he’s ever experienced – he can feel all four of his former selves being snatched out of their own natural times; the sensation seems to be like they’re being removed from time altogether. Worried, his present companions, Australian air stewardess Tegan Jovanka and previously duplicitous alien-cum-public-schollboy Vislor Turlough, are powerless to help him so carry the prone Time Lord back to his TARDIS, tending to him as he lies stricken on the console room floor.

Meanwhile, we witness his four other other selves indeed being scooped up by a menacing floating triangular whirlwind and out of the times and places they happen to be occupying. The First Doctor is taken from a rose garden; a giant, furry coat-wearing Second from the grounds of UNIT’s HQ with a 1980s’ Brigadier Lethbridge-Stewart, whom the former’s visiting on his retirement from UNIT; the Third while driving along in his beloved pseudo-vintage sportscar Bessie; and the Fourth and companion Romana as he punts her along in a boat on the River Cam beside a Cambridge college. The first three – as well as the Fifth and his companions in his TARDIS, but not the Fourth and Romana, whom get stuck in the Time Vortex – end up on the barren, foreboding landscape of an unknown planet – none of them aware the others are also there. But who has snatched them and plonked them down there? And why?

Whomever it is and their purpose, it has the Inner Council of the Time Lords worried. And as they discuss the fact the Doctors’ displacements from their correct times is draining the all-important Eye of Harmony (the source of the Time Lords’ time- and space-travel energy, which is located at the heart of the Capitol of their planet Gallifrey), we learn that it’s actually down on the surface of Gallifrey that the Doctors have all been placed. Not just there, though, specifically-speaking, they’re all in the über-hostile ‘The Death Zone’ –  a fatally dangerous environment that surrounds the Dark Tower, the tomb of the founder of Time Lord society, the great Rassilon. The Death Zone was apparently created way back in the ‘Dark Time’ by the Time Lords’ ancestors, whom cruelly devised it for their own sport – they would time-scoop aliens from different times and spaces and put them in The Death Zone to fight it out to the death. Nice.

As the Second Doc gets his bearings and passes on the bad news to the Brig, they’re suddenly chased by a squad of the ultimate cyborg killers, the Cybermen (also moved to The Death Zone it seems). For his part, the First Doctor finds he’s in a hall of mirrors and runs into Susan Foreman, his very first companion and, in fact, his grand-daughter (presumably she’s been time-scooped too), and quickly the pair have to escape from a, yes, time-scooped Dalek. Meanwhile, the Third Doctor – still driving along in Bessie – spies a young woman needing help after falling down a steep hill-face. Rescuing her, he immediately recognises her and she him, for the woman is Sarah Jane Smith, his and the Fourth Doctor’s journalist companion, whom we witnessed time-scooped herself from outside her London home just after being warned of danger by super robotic dog K-9 (she’d received him as a gift from The Doc in 1981’s one-off, Doctor-less Christmas special K-9 And Company).

The Inner Council – made up of Lord President Borusa, Chancellor Flavia and security chief the Castellan – now welcome into their midst the man who’s their very dodgy roll of the dice to aid the Docs’ escape from The Death Zone and put a stop to the Eye of Harmony’s drainage… The Master, The Doctor’s nemesis – the skunk to his mongoose. They suggest to him his sly, devious yet brilliant mind may just be the tonic for the Docs, if he can be trusted; they successfully bribe him into taking on the mission by promising a pardon for all his past crimes and a new cycle of regenerations (him having used up all his previous ones). Accepting, he is furnished with a transmat-recall device and is sent into The Death Zone.

Tegan: Doctor, what is it?
The Fifth Doctor: It’s fading. It’s all fading…
Turlough: What’s fading?
The Fifth Doctor: Great chunks of my past, detaching themselves like melting icebergs

His mission gets off to a sticky start, however, as when he comes across the Third Doctor and Sarah they instantly dismiss his claims he’s there to help and move on – so he then seems to seek an alliance with the squad of Cybermen. Meanwhile, the First Doc and Susan spy on the horizon the Fifth’s TARDIS and set off for it. Gaining entry into the machine (because, well, effectively it’s his), the First meets his Fifth incarnation and, learning the TARDIS can get no nearer to the Dark Tower owing to a forcefield, grudgingly agrees to form an alliance with the Fifth to gain entry to the tower – like both the Second and the Third, the two Docs have deduced the key to returning to their correct times must lie in the tower. Owing to the First’s elderly state, the Fifth suggests the former ought to remain behind in the TARDIS while he seeks a way into the tower; he’s accompanied by both Tegan and Susan. However, quickly the trio are surrounded by Cybermen – with their new ‘ally’ The Master in their wake. The latter, however, hasn’t allied himself with the Cybermen at all and is knocked out by a cybergun blast, dropping as he falls to the ground his transmat-recall, which the Fifth picks up, recognises and depresses to escape.

Materialising before the Inner Circle in the Capitol, the Fifth Doc realises he’s misjudged The Master and figures that the Cybermen found them both too easily – it’s as if someone was controlling or communicating with them. He examines The Master’s transmat-recall and discovers it contains a homer (which had presumably attracted the Cybermen to them both). It’s revealed that the Castelan had supplied The Master the transmat device, thus he is arrested; the assumption being he placed in it a homer and is the Inner Circle insider manipulating events. Furthermore, items that apparently contain secrets from the Dark Times are found in a search of his quarters, seemingly incriminating him beyond doubt. As he’s taken away to be interrogated via ‘the mind probe’, The Doctor, Borusa and Flavia hear a shot and a cry – a guard claims the Castellan was shot trying to escape, but the Doc has grave doubts about what’s going on…

Outside in The Death Zone, the Third Doctor and Sarah manage to gain entrance into the tower having got past ‘the most perfect killing machine ever devised’ the Raston Robot, when the latter attacks and one-by-one easily eliminates a number of Cybermen. The Second and the Brig too get inside after, journeying through subterranean caves, they escape  the clutches of an alien-devised robotic Yeti monster (the like of which the’d previously encountered together on Earth). Furthermore, on Tegan and Susan’s return to the TARDIS to inform the First Doctor of the Fifth’s plight, The First decides he must venture out himself, with Tegan in tow, and the pair eventually reach and enter the tower – through the front door, in fact, which seems far too straightforward.

Indeed, it is. Inside they meet the cunning Master, whom points out all they have to do venture into the tower proper is to cross a grid that resembles a chess board. The grid is booby-trapped, however, which the now arrived remainder of the Cyber squad is not aware of. Luring them across, The Master leads them to obliteration-by-laser. Yet, latching on to a cryptic clue made by The Master, the smarter-than-the-average-Time-Lord Doc quickly deduces that to cross the grid safely one must make calculations involving the mathematical Pi equation. Therefore, he and Tegan safely make it across the grid after the now disappeared Master.

On their way through the tower, the Second and Third Doctors too face obstacles; this time in the guise of previous companions: Scots Highland soldier Jamie McCrimmon and 21st-Century scientsist Zoe Heriot (for the Second) and UNIT alumni Dr Liz Shaw and Captain Mike Yates (for The Third). Soon enough, though, both Docs realises these are just spectres conjured up by the will of the long-since-departed Rassilon to – like the grid – prevent intruders gaining entry to his tomb. Denying their respective companion-spectres then, both Docs and their real companions are able to continue and, like the First Doc and Tegan, eventually find their way into the tomb, at which point everyone becomes (re)acquainted.

The Fifth Doctor: I’m certainly not the man I was. Thank goodness!

Having deciphered from ‘Old High Gallifreyan’ an inscription, the three Doctors find out that, before his death, the all-powerful Rassilon had discovered the secret to immortality and was apparently prepared to share it with any Time Lord whom might overcome the obstacles in the Dark Tower and gain entry to his tomb (see video clip above). Just then – and right on cue – The Master reappears and announces he’s arrived to claim said immortality (something he’s ventured to Gallifrey for before now); amusingly defeated by a spot of human brute force, he’s knocked out by the Brig and tied up by Sarah and Tegan. Manipulating controls in the tomb, the Docs now disable the forcefield preventing the TARDIS entry to the tower, allowing Susan and Turlough to pilot it into the tomb and join the others.

Meanwhile, left alone in the Inner Council’s chamber, the Fifth Doc’s attempts to discover who’s behind everything hit a breakthrough when he realises Borusa has disappeared, discovers the chamber’s transmat machine is disabled and is informed nobody’s got past the guards and so departed the Capitol. The Lord President must have left the chamber via some sort of secret door then. Eventually, the Doc works out a code that might open such a door and low and behold a concealed door opens – into a darkened room where he finds… Lord President Borusa. Using a Rassilon-related item of great power, the latter overpowers the Doc and forces him to obey his commands, informing him that, like the other three Doctors, he too had discovered Rassilon’s harnessing of immortality and grew to desire it so he might rule Gallifrey forever not just until he dies a natural death at the end of his regeneration cycle. Thus, he’d conceived a plan to bring all the Doctors to The Death Zone to gain entry to Rassilon’s tomb in order to get past the obstacles and make it far easier for him to gain entry by merely following them.

Thus, easily transmatting himself and the Fifth Doc to the tomb, Borusa now – via the controlled will of the Fifth – attempts to control the minds of the other three Doctors as well. This he accomplishes, but by combining their will, the latter trio and the Fifth manage to break his grip on them. Now, though, the voice of Rassilon booms around the tomb demanding to know whom wishes to gain immortality. Borusa takes his cue and claims he does; together, the Doctors step forward to try to prevent the inevitable, but the First holds them back. Borusa takes the ring from the finger of the prone body of Rassilon, only to be frozen still and his body transferred on to the side of the latter’s sepulchre – he has immortality, but it’s a living death for him and, like we see next to him, other Time Lords whom over the eons have successfully sought the same.

As Rassilon frees the Fourth Doctor and Romana from the Time Vortex and returns them to their correct time and space, he also sends away The Master (‘his sins will find their punishment in due time’). Smugly, the First Doc explains to the others that another part of the inscription they’d deciphered said ‘to lose is to win and he who wins shall lose’. From this he’d thus deduced that taking Borusa’s offer of immortality was an ingenious trap left by the great Time Lord to wheedle out and remove far too ambitious, nay evil, future descendants, so all that had been needed was for Borusa to seal his own fate.

Upon saying their farewells and – in the Doctors’ cases – insulting each other one last time, group-by-group the time-travellers step into the TARDIS and, via the latter separating into multiple TARDISes, return to their respective times and spaces, leaving only the Fifth Doc, Tegan and Turlough behind. After all they’ve been through, however, there’s another hurdle to jump – Chancellor Flavia appears on the scene with guards, claiming The Doctor must now take control as the rightful Lord Chancellor (him having assumed the position in a previous time of crisis and Borusa having essentially only inherited it on the Doc’s last departure from Gallifrey). Anxiously, The Doctor whispers to his companions to scarper into the TARDIS and, claiming he’ll follow Flavia back to the Capitol in the machine, he does likewise. Once inside, he explains to his bemused friends that he (and in turn they) are now on the run from Gallifrey – in fact, just as he always has been since the very beginning…

.

.

.

doctor_who_the_fifth_doctor_question_why_75%

.

Fair dues, The Five Doctors is a pretty long way short of being the best Who serial/ episode ever made, yet for the simple reason it’s (so far) the ultimate ‘multi-Doctor’ story, it is unquestionably an essential serial/ episode in Who history. Intentionally produced and broadcast as a standalone special to mark the show’s 20th anniversary, it followed 10 years – and a few months – on the heels of the first decade-marking The Three Doctors (1973) special, which boasted then current Doc Jon Pertwee and the two previous incarnations of the character, William Hartnell and Patrick Troughton (although the former of those two didn’t actually appear on-screen in it with the other two, owing to poor health; sadly he’d die just two years later).

Yet, while The Three Doctors was certainly well received in its time (it also introduced splendid Time Lord villain Omega, after all), The Five Doctors would fundamentally trump it in two significant areas. First up, in spite of it not ‘properly’ featuring Tom Baker as The Fourth Doctor (see reasons below) and the obvious lack of Hartnell, it nonetheless offered its only-too-eager early ’80s Who-dience a quintet of Docs – Davison’s then current Fifth, Pertwee’s Third, Troughton’s Second, Baker’s Fourth (sort of then) and filling in as the First, an excellent impersonation from seasoned thesp William Hurndall. Moreover, aside from Baker’s, all four of them appear on-screen together.

The other area where it stands head and shoulders above its anniversary-celebrating predecessor special is in just how many companions it features. Understandably, the Fifth Doc’s entourage of the time, Janet Fielding’s Tegan ‘The Mouth on Legs’ Jovanka and Mark Strickson’s Turlough feature prominently (although both are far from great), but we’re spoilt with reappearances from Elisabeth Sladen‘s rightly adored Sarah Jane, Nicholas Courtney’s ever popular Brig and, surely best and most surprising of all, Carole Ann Ford’s Susan, The Doc’s grandaughter and his very first companion. There’s even cameos from Troughton era associates Frazer Hines’ Jamie and Wendy Padbury’s Zoe (not seen since their sad farewell in 1969’s The War Games), Richard Franklin’s Mike Yates and Caroline John’s Liz Shaw from the Pertwee era (the latter not seen since 1970’s Inferno) and we also get the briefest of moments from Baker-era companion Lalla Ward‘s Romana II and that Doc’s faithful friend K-9. Plus, lest we forget, there’s Anthony Ainley’s then current version of The Master too – this time, though, intriguingly taking on a would-be Iago role instead of out-and-out villain duties.

All the same, The Five Doctors does have its drawbacks – mostly to do with the script. On the surface, there’s little really wrong with Terrance Dicks’ writing (as Who serials/ episodes go, it’s solid enough; certainly by the time of the ’80s when the quality dipped in general), but measured against the best, the dialogue lacks spark and there’s plot problems (The Death Zone isn’t exactly original – it’s effectively a retread of the plot conceit in The War Games, which was way more compelling) and incongruities (why do the first three Docs and their companions seemingly all leave in their own TARDISes at the end when only one TARDIS – the Fifth’s – actually travelled to Gallifrey?). Mind you, the revelation of Borusa as the villain ain’t bad – while maybe predictable, it’s conceivable and interesting to witness a twice previously featured lofty, by-the-book Time Lord (1977’s The Deadly Assassin and 1983’s Arc Of Infinity) become drunk with power – and it’s nice finally to meet Rassilon (albeit his Jor-El-like, echo-from-the-past face) and the Raston Robot is a fine idea for a monster that generates some genuine tension; pity it’s not more imaginatively deployed, mind.

Overall, though, the best thing about The Five Doctors is, well, what was also best about The Three Doctors: the interaction of all the Docs themselves. As mentioned, William Hurndall does something of a remarkable job of bringing the stubborn, high-minded First Doctor back to life, while watching the Second and the Third bickering once more is a delight (the former, when they depart, insulting the latter as ‘fancy pants’ and the latter calling the former ‘scarecrow’). Plus, even Davison’s Fifth version irritates the others by proclaiming of all of them he’s ‘the most agreeable'; a sign The Doc has always thought a great deal of himself, despite however modest he likes to be – at times. Indeed, let’s not forget too, the latter’s dash away to his TARDIS at the very end, evading fulfilling his duties as Gallifrey’s rightly appointed Lord President (which references what took place in 1978’s The Invasion Of Time) and echoes ‘how it all began’ in the first place – his running away from his planet in a stolen space- and time-machine. All said then, The Five Doctors is an episode that, despite its faults, is a highly continuity-friendly and jolly, smile-inducing love letter to the show for surely every Who fan.

.

doctor_who_the_five_doctors_peter_davison_and_janet_fieldingdoctor_who_the_five_doctors_anthony_ainleydoctor_who_the_five_doctors_fraser_hines_and_wendy_padbury

.

.

.

doctor_who_the_fifth_doctor_question_how_75%

.

For right or wrong, The Five Doctors‘ journey to the screen was almost as torturous as that of the five Doctors themselves through The Death Zone to old Rassilon’s tomb. Then producer John Nathan-Turner had been intending a Three Doctors-style special to celebrate the show’s 20th anniversary from an early stage and planned to get the thing in place so it could be shot at the end of the 20th Season’s final filming block (which, with its focus on returning villains/ monsters from the show’s past, had already been something of a consciously celebratory season anyway).

And everything went swimmingly until script editor extraordinaire of ’70s Who Robert Holmes was brought on board to write it. To begin with, Nathan-Turner had apparently had to be coaxed into giving Holmes the job – on the advice of turning to a very safe pair of hands for such a prestigious episode’s scripting – because he was always rather intimidated when working with previous ‘big beasts’ of the show. Not that that would have mattered as it turned out, as Holmes had trouble with the script right the way along. Originally he proposed entitling the episode The Six Doctors and having The First Doctor character (and Susan) turning out to be cyborg impersonators. This being deemed far too radical and thus thrown out, his other idea was to have The Doc experience peril by regressing through his five incarnations, meaning the episode would have begun with the Fifth and reached its climax with the First. Although this would undoubtedly have been interesting, it too was vetoed, presumably on account of the fact that current Doc Davison would have been out of the story very early on. Eventually, full of frustration, Holmes decided he wasn’t getting anywhere and walked, leaving Terrance Dicks, the man he’d previously replaced as the show’s script editor, to take his place.

Mind you, it wasn’t plain sailing for Dicks either, as he was asked to come up with a hasty 11th-hour rewrite of his final draft because one of the episode’s stars had decided to u-turn on his earlier decision to appear in it. Yes, that would be Tom Baker, of course. In two minds throughout (albeit amiable) negotiations with Nathan-Turner to appear, the last Doctor but one seemingly decided that starring alongside all the other Docs – and especially his replacement – would be too raw an experience for him. Or his ego simply told him he was above it all (knowing full well he was perceived by the public as ‘The Doc of Docs’, after all).

Either way, he blinked at the last minute, thus the production team came up with the ruse of using never-before-seen footage from the ill-fated, unfinished serial Shada (1980) for his and Lalla Ward’s involvement in the episode (hence why Dicks wrote in the explanation of why they didn’t make it to Gallifrey like everyone else; in fact, Baker’s Doc had been intended to be accompanied by Elisabeth Sladen’s Sarah Jane). But this potential calamity actually proved a blessing in disguise; years later Dicks admitted he’d originally made Baker’s Fourth Doc the one whom meets the dignitaries in the Capitol and discovers Borusa’s plot, but Baker’s withdrawal saw Dicks shift this role to Davison’s Fifth Doc, a fortunate change as it ensured the then current Doctor would fittingly play the dominant role in the story.

After the palaver of its writing, the episode’s shooting proved relatively smooth. This was despite ‘actors’ director’ Peter Moffat (whose existence had years before forced Peter Davison for performer-union-purposes to adopt the ‘stage’ surname ‘Davison’ in place of his real surname – yes, ‘Moffat’) being far more comfortable with helming the drama as opposed to the action, thus ensuring Nathan-Turner eagerly stepped in to direct the Raston Robot action sequence.

Indeed, to ensure things remained smooth, Nathan-Turner had also arranged that, as much as possible, Davison, Pertwee and Troughton were kept apart during filming until they were actually shooting their shared scenes in the climax. Yet, this turned out to be over-cautious, as ego clashes were far from the agenda when they eventually worked together. So much so that during a later photo-call in which they all appeared with other guest-stars (including K-9), they seemed to enjoy themselves greatly – at the absent Tom Baker’s expense, that is. As the latter had declined to turn up for filming, but (sort of) appeared in the episode, Nathan-Turner had slyly hired the thesp’s genuinely lifelike Madame Tussaud’s waxwork to fill in for these group photos. This would actually have worked rather well, had the other Doc actors not larked about around ‘Baker’ (even carrying ‘him’ about at one point), very much drawing attention to the fact this wasn’t the real Tom. Apparently, Elisabeth Sladen was rather put out by their antics, deeming them disrespectful, but the trio clearly had great fun (for images of the event – see here).

In a first for the show, The Five Doctors was actually broadcast in the States before it was in the UK, going out, as it did, on US screens on the evening of Who‘s 20th anniversary (November 23 ’83), while UK fans had to wait two days longer to see it (no illegal streaming back then, of course). The reason for this was the old Beeb had cannily held it back to form the centrepiece of that year’s Children In Need appeal (see video clip below), necessitating then it being broadcast on the last Friday evening of November (when the highly successful telefon has traditionally always been broadcast) rather than two nights before to coincide perfectly with Who‘s anniversary. Admittedly, no ‘Whovians’ in Blighty seemed particularly miffed at this; after all if it was good enough for Pudsey, then surely it was good enough for the rest of us, Who-nuts or not.

.

.

george's_journal_motif

.

Next time: The Caves Of Androzani (Season 21/ 1984)

.

Previous close-ups/ reviews:

City Of Death (Season 17/ 1979/ Doctor: Tom Baker)

The Talons Of Weng-Chiang (Season 15/ 1977/ Doctor: Tom Baker)

The Deadly Assassin (Season 14/ 1976/ Doctor: Tom Baker)

Pyramids Of Mars (Season 13/ 1975/ Doctor: Tom Baker)

Genesis Of The Daleks (Season 12/ 1975/ Doctor: Tom Baker)

The Ark In Space (Season 12/ 1975/ Doctor: Tom Baker)

The Dæmons (Season 8/ 1971/ Doctor: Jon Pertwee)

Inferno (Season 7/ 1970/ Doctor: Jon Pertwee)

The War Games (Season 6/ 1969/ Doctor: Patrick Troughton)

An Unearthly Child (Season 1/ 1963/ Doctor: William Hartnell)

.

Tardis Party: Sandra Dickinson/ Liza Goddard ~ The Doctors’ Wives

October 7, 2013

doctor_who_tardisdoctor_who_tardisdoctor_who_tardisdoctor_who_tardisdoctor_who_tardisdoctor_who_tardisdoctor_who_tardis

sandra_dickinson_in_pilot_for_uncomissioned_itv_sitcom_honey liza_goddard_skippy_the_bush_kangroo_orange_shirt

doctor_who_tardisdoctor_who_tardisdoctor_who_tardisdoctor_who_tardisdoctor_who_tardisdoctor_who_tardisdoctor_who_tardis

Talent…

.

… These are the lovely ladies and gorgeous girls of eras gone by whose beauty, ability, electricity and all-round x-appeal deserve celebration and – ahem – salivation here at George’s Journal

.

There’s two distinct similarities between Sandra Dickinson and Liza Goddard. First, at one time they were both married to fellow thesps whom became household names by playing the magnificent protagonist in Doctor Who (1963-present) and, second, they’re both terrifically talented, glorious lovelies who graced our TV screens in the ’70s and ’80s – and without a shadow of a doubt then are the more than deserving latest entries in this blog’s Talent corner
.

Profiles

Names: Sandra Searles (stage name: Sandra Dickinson)/ Liza Goddard

Nationalities: American/ English

Professions: Actress/ Actress and TV personality

Born: October 20 1948, Washington D.C./ January 20 1950, Smethwick, West Midlands

Known for: Sandra – playing the  small screen incarnation (to be followed by Zooey Deschanel‘s big screen version) of Tricia ‘Trillian’ McMillan, female protagonist in the BBC TV adaptation (1981) of Douglas Adams’ iconic satirical sci-fi radio serial The Hitch-Hiker’s Guide To The Galaxy (1978). By this time, she had already established herself in the UK (to where she had emigrated for acting training at London’s Central School of Speech of Drama) as a consummate comedy actress, often in the guise of a dumb platinum blonde with a high-pitched voice, not least in ’70s TV ads for St. Bruno tobacco and Birdseye foods. A perennial stage performer, she’s also often appeared on-screen since Hitch-Hiker’s, notably in family adventure drama The Tomorrow People (1973-79), Cover (1981), sitcoms 2point4children (1991-99) and White Van Man (2011-12) and on the big-screen courtesy of cameos in both Superman III (1983) and Supergirl (1984). In 1978 she married second husband Peter Davison, whom three years later would assume lead duties in Doctor Who. Together, they appeared in well received stage productions of plays The Owl And The Pussycat and Barefoot In The Park and in a Christmas ’83 version of pantomime Cinderella, which was overseen by Who producer John Nathan-Turner and broadcast by ITV. They divorced in 1994, but their daughter Georgia Moffet is a successful actress herself whom in 2008 also appeared in Who (fittingly as The Doc’s daughter in, er, The Doctor’s Daughter) and subsequently married ‘her Doctor’ David Tennant.

Liza – the sexiest thing to come out of the Black Country since, well, forever, Liza’s been a hugely familiar face on the British gogglebox for decades. She first made a name for herself as a tomboy teenager in the unforgettable Australian children’s drama Skippy The Bush Kangaroo (1966-68), her family having moved Down Under when she was 15. On her return to Blighty, she was quickly cast as a lead in the BBC drama Take Three Girls (1969-71) and played the same character in its sequel series Take Three Women (1982). In between, she featured in the comedy flick Ooh… You Are Awful (1972), sitcom Yes, Honestly (1976-77) and The Brothers (1972-76), a popular Sunday-night BBC drama in which she played the wife of later Doctor Who star Colin Baker, whom – life imitating art-like – she later married. In the ’80s, Liza appeared in an episode of Minder (1979-93), Hitch-Hiker’s-like children’s sci-fi quiz show The Adventure Game (1980-86), the Doctor Who episode Terminus (1983),  ITV sitcom That’s Love (1988-92) and most notably as femme fatale Phillipa ‘The Ice Maiden’ Vale in Bergerac (1981-91) and as a team captain on ITV’s unforgettable panel show Give Us A Clue (1979-92). Her last prominent role came as the teacher of a child whom inexplicably transforms into a dog in the popular ITV children’s comedy drama Woof! (1989-97), produced by her now husband David Cobham.

Strange but true: Along with then husband Peter Davison, Sandra wrote and performed the theme tune to ITV’s memorable puppet show Button Moon (1980-88)/ following her divorce from Colin Baker, Liza was briefly married to ’70s glam rocker Alvin Stardust.

Peak of fitness: Sandra – in her introductory scenes from Hitch-Hikers’, (under)dressed in that appealing and revealing, bright red, low-cut leotard number/ Liza – emerging from the sea to John Nettles’ great embarrassment in the Christmas ’83 special of Bergerac (Ice Maiden) owing to her being completely in the nuddy.

.

CLICK on images for full-size

.

sandra_dickinson_posing_as_marilyn_monroe_for_a_role_in_1974 liza_goddard_legs

.

sandra_dickinson_birdseye_beef_burgers_uk_advert_1970

.

96/44/1-6/3/14 C

.

liza_goddard_looking_at_skippy_the_bush_kangaroo

.

sandra_dickinson_psychedelic_top

.

liza_goddard_legs_sitting_on_a_chest

,

sandra_dickinson_a_big_star_in_hollywood_autographed_album_cover

.

liza_goddard_young_in_leather_jacket  liza_goddard_angela_down_and_susan_jameson_in_take_three_girls

.

sandra_dickinson_and_peter_davison_portrait_roll

.

sandra_dickinson_and_peter_davison_drinking_coffee

.

liza_goddard_and_colin_baker_in_bbc_drama_the_brothers_1976

.

liza_goddard_and_colin_baker_kissing

.

sandra_dickinson_the_hitchhiker's_guide_to_the_galaxy_close-up

.

sandra_dickinson_the_hitchhiker's_guide_to_the_galaxy

.

sandra_dickinson_the_hitchhiker's_guide_to_the_galaxy_back

.

sandra_dickinson_the_hitchhiker's_guide_to_the_galaxy_with_marvin_the_robot

.

sandra_dickinson_the_hitchhiker's_guide_to_the_galaxy_legs

.

liza_goddard_in_doctor_who_terminus

.

liza_goddard_doctor_who_terminus

.

sandra_dickinson_and_peter_davison_in_a_recording_studio Alvin Stardust and Liza Goddard

.

liza_goddard_bergerac

.

liza_goddard_bergerac_from_behind

.

sandra_dickinson_and_peter_davison_as_cinderella_and_buttons

.

sandra_dickinson_and_peter_davison_as_cinderella_and_buttons_2

.

sandra_dickinson_and_peter_davison_as_cinderella_and_buttons_3

.

liza_goddard_give_us_a_clue

.

liza_goddard_give_us_a_clue_4

.

liza_goddard_give_us_a_clue_3

.

liza_goddard_give_us_a_clue_2

.

liza_goddard_dressed_as_wonder_woman

.

sandra_dickinson_on_blankety_blank

.

ITV ARCHIVE  liza_goddard_woof!

.

liza_goddard_mature sandra_dickinson_mature

.

liza_goddard_today

.

george's_journal_motif

The spy who’s come in from the cold? Solo ~ William Boyd (Review)

October 4, 2013

??????????????????????????????????????????????

Good morning, Mr Bond: Solo’s opening chapter features Ian Fleming’s hero enjoying a fine breakfast at The Dorchester hotel – but does the novel satisfy like the perfect petit déjeuner?

.

Author: William Boyd

Year: 2013

Publisher: Jonathan Cape (Vintage Publishing/ Random House)

ISBN-9780062223128/ ISBN-10:006222312

.

Not to say that the mantle of ‘new James Bond continuation author’ is a poisoned chalice, but it’s certainly not been as snug a fit for its recent owners as that iconic shoulder holster always has been for 007. Since the publication of Devil May Care (2008) and Carte Blanche (2011), both Sebastian Faulks and Jeffrey Deaver have received their fair share of flak from Fleming die-hards for their respective novels – and noticeably neither’s received the call-back for a sequel from Ian Fleming Publications, purveyors of the literary Bond brand.

In fact, IFP have a new torchbearer, acclaimed author William Boyd, and he’s given us Solo, an adventure that sees 007 trying to end ‘a dirty little’ African civil war in the whirlwind of change that was the late 1960s. Credit where it’s due though, of this modern trio of Ian Fleming-wannabes, Boyd has definitely managed in Solo to bring readers the closest to the original Bond. Is that the best thing that can be said of Solo, though? Probably, yes; but coming after Faulks’ and Deaver’s efforts, it’s certainly not something to be scoffed at either.

Indeed, owing to his hearty stab at ‘Fleming faithfulness’, there’s much to like about Boyd’s novel. Firstly, to this reader’s mind, Boyd gets right both that Fleming-esque terse but vibrant, journalistic writing style and the Bond character. Not only is Bond replete with those wiles and that wit, that danger and that brutality, and that classiness and that stubbornness which so delight Fleming fans, but the author also builds on the 007 of the later Fleming novels by showing flashes of him starting to reflect on and accept middle-age – not only that well publicised 45th-birthday breakfast at The Dorchester in the first chapter, but also a grown-up mutual attraction with an equally confident, mature woman.

Boyd too delivers the requisite thrills, spills and violence, as well as pitch-perfectly Bond’s ex-CIA agent chum Felix Leiter and curmudgeon boss M. Moreover, the minutiae of Bond’s London home life are given the full treatment, which is rather unexpectedly refreshing. And, rest assured, there’s also much attention paid to Bond’s delectations: food and drink (among them Boyd’s own recipes for a vodka Martini and a salad dressing); cars (here Jensens); cigarettes, clothes and weaponry. All vices very much intact then.

.

solo_william_boyd_james_bond_book_review_king's_road_1960s

Chelsea not lately: James Bond’s stomping ground that’s the King’s Road cameos more than once in Solo, but the late ’60s, socially liberated version – what would Fleming make of it…?

But – and it’s a big but – Solo is less satisfying in two critical areas: the locations and the literary Bond’s glamour/ surreality. There’s nothing inherently wrong with sending our man to Africa and the fictitious war-ravaged country of Zanzarim (doing the latter allows the author artistic leg-room), but as the single setting for a long middle section of a Bond novel it’s pretty bleak stuff – starving kids even pop up. And, owing to this undiluted realistic setting, the villains our hero’s up against aren’t exactly the most electric – African warlords and savage white mercenary soldiers may be just as evil and physically threatening as an Auric Goldfinger or an Ernst Stavro Blofeld, but they’re less fantastic and fun, so ultimately less memorable.

Additionally, when we’re done in Africa, Bond, yes, ‘goes solo’ and travels to Washington D.C. His going AWOL in the films may be controversial (1989’s Licence to Kill, 2002’s Die Another Day and 2008’s Quantum of Solace), but Boyd knows what he’s doing with his admittedly convoluted plotting here, never allowing Bond to go full-Liam Neeson-in-Taken mode. Instead, it’s the use of Washington as the book’s secondary location that misses the mark.

Effectively a political capital with a dirty 1960s’ underbelly, Washington D.C.’s just rather dull for the Bondiverse. At times we get glimpses of the more exotic aspects of late ’60s Americana (assertive black women in afros and flares and red Mustang sportscars), but these are fleeting, surprisingly bringing to mind the cinematic Live and Let Die (1973) and Diamonds are Forever (1971) and thus making one ponder why Boyd didn’t go the whole hog and just send Bond to the then equally dirty but far more colourful and interesting New York City?

Ultimately, it feels a little unfair comparing a Bond continuation author’s effort to those of Fleming as surely no-one’s really going to deliver the genuine article again, but it’s both inevitable and necessary to do so. After all, as said, in significant areas Boyd is damn near spot on in Solo. So, will he succeed where Faulks and Deaver failed and get a second stab at the gig? Who knows. But there’s certainly a lot of promise here; his middle-aged 007 entering the ’70s could be intriguing (especially given the novel’s agreeable end coda), if only he could throw a little more of that Fleming glamour, dynamism and surreal magic into the mix.

.

This article was originally published on mi6-hq.com

.

Further reading:

williamboyd.co.uk

ianfleming.com

Jonathan Cape online

.

george's_journal_motif

Playlist: Listen, my friends! ~ October 2013

October 1, 2013

.

In the words of Moby Grape… listen, my friends! Yes, it’s the (hopefully) monthly playlist presented by George’s Journal just for you good people.

There may be one or two classics to be found here dotted in among different tunes you’re unfamiliar with or have never heard before – or, of course, you may’ve heard them all before. All the same, why not sit back, listen away and enjoy…

.

CLICK on the song titles to hear them

.

Pierre Barouh and Nicole Croisille ~ Un Homme Et Une Femme (1965)1

1-2-3 ~ America (1967)2

The Bonzo Dog Doo-Dah Band ~ I’m The Urban Spaceman (1968)

The Jeff Beck Group ~ Rock My Plimsoul/ Ol’ Man River (1968)

Chris Clark ~ Good Morning Sunshine (1969)

The Rotary Connection ~ I Am The Black Gold Of The Sun (1971)

Focus ~ Sylvia/ Hocus Pocus (1972)

Johnny Hawksworth ~ Theme from Roobarb And Custard (1974)

The Michael Zager Band ~ Let’s All Chant (1978)

Stevie Nicks ~ Edge Of Seventeen (Just Like The White Winged Dove) (1981)

The Bluebells ~ Young At Heart (1984)3

Simply Red ~ Money’s Too Tight To Mention (1985)

Roger Daltrey ~ The Price Of Love (1987)4

.

1 Composer Francis ‘Love Story (1970)’ Lai’s instantly recognisable theme from the classic 1965 Claude Lelouch film of the same name

2 Later adopting the name Clouds, Scottish rockers 1-2-3 were actually the first outfit to perform and record Paul Simon’s now iconic America, having picked up the tune in a UK studio he’d recently vacated to return to the States. This version of the song was captured for posterity at a ’67 performance at London’s legendary venue the Marquee Club; Simon & Garfunkel would record the song a year later – and the rest would be history… 

Written by the band along with Siobhan Fahey (then of Bananarama, later Shakespeare’s Sister) and Bobby Valentino, the violinist on its recording; originally a UK chart hit (#8) back in ’84, the tune got a new lease of life when it featured in a popular ‘celebrating divorce’ VW car commercial in ’93 and re-entered the charts, hitting the top spot and staying there for four weeks – for which the band reformed in order to perform it on Top Of The Pops

4 As featured in the Michael J Fox-headlined, ’80s big-business hit comedy The Secret Of My Success (1987)

.

george's_journal_motif

Breakfast with Boyd: the launch of new James Bond continuation novel Solo (September 25/ The Dorchester, London)

September 27, 2013

solo_william_boyd_and_flight_attendant

Boyd, William Boyd: The new 007 author poses with BA brand ambassador Helena Flynn

If it’s good enough for James Bond then it’s surely good enough for representatives of the world’s press. William Boyd’s Solo opens with James Bond enjoying breakfast on his 45th birthday at The Dorchester, and so it was that journalists and photographers (including yours truly) crammed on Wednesday at 9am into the exclusive Park Lane hotel’s The Grill room to listen to what the latest 007 continuation author had to say at the launch of his bringing back Ian Fleming’s literary hero.

As revealed in the novel From Russia with Love (1957), breakfast is Bond’s favourite meal of the day, Lucy Fleming (his creator’s niece and board member of Ian Fleming Publications) reminded the gathered throng in introducing Boyd – and they were to enjoy a hearty morning with the author as he explained his love for the character and his approach to writing Solo before posing for the obligatory photographs.

His first encounter with Bond – as with so many 007 fans, no doubt – dates back to school, in his case Scotland’s Gordonstoun, where after lights-out he and his friends would read to each other (again) From Russia with Love as a “a kind of illicit thrill”. He was eager to stress he’s enjoyed several brushes with ‘Bondiana’ prior to this, having written films starring Sean Connery and Pierce Brosnan, directing Daniel Craig on-screen himself and even making Ian Fleming a character in his acclaimed novel Any Human Heart (2002). Although he’s always felt Daniel Day-Lewis would probably play a Fleming-faithful version of 007 best.

“It was a great experience and tremendous fun”, he said of this project. “I’ve always been extremely interested in Ian Fleming himself, the man. I re-read all the Fleming novels in chronological order, pen in hand, taking notes and learnt an enormous amount about Fleming’s achievement”.

.

All present and correct: the British Airways brand ambassadors and the Jensen Motor Club members (beside their cars) await the nod to start their very important missions…

Solo, he attested, will certainly adhere to the literary series’ tried and tested aspects. M, Felix Leiter and Moneypenny will all be present and correct, while there’ll be “a lot of eating and drinking, a lot of interest in clothes – Bond’s a sensualist – a certain amount of weaponry, automobiles and of course two beautiful women”. When questioned on the old-fashioned attitudes of Fleming’s hero, though, he teased his 007 may have moved with the times a little – the book is set at the height of the Vietnam War and protest movement in 1969 – and preferred to suggest that Bond enjoys “relationships with women” rather than the novels featuring “Bond Girls”. Yet, the hero will still drink and smoke and do “everything you would expect of the classic Bond”.

The year of the book’s setting also informed Boyd’s choice of locations. Having grown up in Africa himself, he was eager to send 007 to the continent (something Fleming only did once and briefly in 1956’s Diamonds are Forever) and the civil war into which Bond’s thrown in Solo’s fictitious African nation deliberately echoes Nigeria’s which was raging in 1969. The author also felt the fact he’s written two espionage novels was good preparation: “I certainly tackled this with confidence, in that I know how to construct a highly complex plot – I knew how to put the rhythms of suspense and complexity into the novel”.

And with that William Boyd was gone, off to cruise London on a publicity blitz in the model of Jensen car (an FF Mark I) that Bond drives in his novel. But not before he’d signed seven copies of Solo in front of the cameras, each of which was then sealed in a white Perspex box and handed over to a British Airways flight attendant (‘another great British brand’) whom would be whizzed away with it in one of seven handy Jensens parked outside The Dorchester to Heathrow’s Terminal 5 and on to flights bound for the Fleming and/ or Boyd-related international cities Amsterdam, Cape Town, Delhi, Edinburgh, Los Angeles, Sydney and Zurich. Sixty years after his first novel Casino Royale was published by Jonathan Cape, Fleming himself would surely have approved and maybe been amused by all the glamour, pomp and circumstance.

Indeed, Lucy Fleming commented on the symmetry of Solo being published by Jonathan Cape, for this was “the [publishing] house that produced those soft-paged, ink-smelling editions with the Richard Chopping covers that for so many people were their first introduction to James Bond”.

She added that Ian Fleming Publications were “flattered that not only an author as fine as Will should take up the baton of Bond, but that he should have done so with such panache. Solo is an excellent novel and one of which Ian would have approved heartily”.

.

This article was originally published on mi6-hq.com

.

Further reading:

williamboyd.co.uk

ianfleming.com

Jonathan Cape online

.

.

george's_journal_motif

.

Follow

Get every new post delivered to your Inbox.

Join 56 other followers