home     sightings     words     music     podcast     images     journal     forum     contact

Wednesday, December 25, 2013

Doctor Who Rewind - The Abominable Snowmen

It might be Christmas Day but the DW Rewind continues apace. We may have just said goodbye to Eleven but I've still got unfinished business with number two...

This then is the Doctors first encounter with the mysterious force that is The Great Intelligence (G.I). We've seen the G.I in Matt Smith's last series. But this was broadcast in 1967 during the fifth season and featuring a bunch of, well, what can only be described as, ginormous furr balls with arms and legs.

In fact, for much of this six parter (of which only one episode remains in the archive) I thought I was watching one of those, It's A Knockout games where the competitors have to dress in a hairy oversized monster costume, with hilarious consequences.

The story is pretty simple really and is strung out over far too much time. The G.I has taken over the body of Padmasambhava (try saying that after too many xmas beers), the master of the monastery, who in fact, the Doctor had visited before some 300 years earlier, when he took, for safe keeping, a Ghanta (a bell and holy Buddhist relic). Wanting to return it, the Doctor finds things are not quite right at the at the temple this time around.

For a start the surrounding hills and caves are awash with the so called Abominable Snowmen. Whom we later find are anything but. They are in fact robots controlled by the GI using some kind of chess board affair.

The Doctor decides to help the Buddhists and tries various methods of trying to gain control over the fury robots, with various success.

We are led to believe that the G.I is conducting some kind of experiment that has got out of control. That Padmasambhava encountered the G.I on the astral plane, while presumably meditating (not a bad idea that) and was taken over.

There are some very eerie scenes in the inner sanctum, of a disembodied voice (Padmasambhava) communing with his followers, though it ain't really him, rather the old G.I pulling a fast one.

Again in the story the Hines/Troughton partnership is wonderfully executed with some great little flourishes of humour. Troughton is great too and methodically works his way around the problems in front of him, eventually realising he's dealing with a greater intelligence than just a Master Buddhist.

My only gripe with the story is it is far to long, but I have to take into account that I was mostly watching B&W stills narrated with audio and subtitles, which can make any twenty five min DW episode seem like an eternity. Where's the TARDIS when you need it!

Next time on Doctor Who Rewind a very Christmassy setting for the first appearance by the revered Warriors in the ice.

Friday, December 13, 2013

Doctor Who Rewind - Tomb Of The Cybermen

Doctor Who Rewind
Tomb Of The Cybermen

At last, with my sanity still intact I reach the fifth season of Doctor Who, and the first complete Troughton story, regarded by fans to be an absolute classic in the canon, featuring one of the Doctor's best loved adversaries, those silver clad cyborgs themselves, The Cybermen.

Joining me again on the sofa, and relishing the thought of continuous moving images, small Treadwell. His companionship through out this journey will now start to become more regular as we move past the lost years of Doctor Who. But let's not get carried away, were not out of the woods yet! We've reached an island retreat from the reconstructions but will still have to endure the odd one or two in the coming weeks.

Anyway, let's get back to Tomb Of The Cybermen. There's a lovely, and very cinematic scene at the top of episode one where the Doctor escorts Victoria into the TARDIS and explains its function. The camera follows the Doctor in and we see exactly what Victoria would see. The TARDIS then dematerialises and we are transported to a dry sun baked planet (actually a quarry in Gerrards Cross Sand and Gravel Pit at Waspey's Woods in Buckinghamshire).

The writers of this story, Kit Pedler and Gerry Davies were highly influenced by Egyptology. The story is set on the planet Telos where an archeological team arrive in search of a lost civilisation.

Fortunately their very unorthodox archeological practice, of blowing the side of a mountain sky high, pays dividends, revealing (almost to neatly) two giant doors.

The TARDIS lands and the expedition is joined by Jamie, Victoria and the Doctor. The team is funded by Kaftan, who is accompanied by her giant manservant Toberman and her colleague Klieg. They are there to try and find the remains of the Cybermen who died five centuries before.

One of the team is electrocuted trying to enter the tomb but with the Doctors help they eventually open the mighty doors revealing the secrets within.

Inside they are greeted by a strange console with many levers and dials, with strange symbols and pictograms of Cybermen all over the place.

The team split up. Victoria and Kaftan end up in a chamber that houses a sarcophagus. Victoria gets trapped inside it after Kaftan pulls a lever and tries to initiate the projector array pointing at it. The Doctor, who suspects nothing manages to free her .

Jamie and Hayden are in another room and activate some kind of test firing range, involving a hypnotic screen and a mocked up Cyberman which springs across the screen. Unfortunately Hayden is shot in the back by the device. It's in this room that Victoria finds a small device, a silver robot mouse. The Doctor explicitly tells her to leave it alone and what does she do? She puts it into her bag! I mean, would you stick a Cybermat into your bag?

Meanwhile Toberman, the man mountain played by Roy Stewart has wondered off. When he returns he informs Kaftan that, it is done.

Captain Hopper returns claiming that the ship they arrived on has been sabotaged and won't be going anywhere till it's repaired. I wonder who did that then?

Finally cracking the code for the hatch to the tombs below, the team descend, leaving Kaftan and Victoria above. Below they find the frozen tombs of the Cyberman, who are iced up in an oversized box of ice pops three stories high.

Kaftan meanwhile drugs Victoria and re-seals the hatch.

Back down below the totally shifty Klieg tells the Doctor he and Kaftan belong to a secret brotherhood who have been plotting to find and wake the Cybermen from their slumber. The Doctor completely knows Klieg is a wrongen' who is as slippery as a pile of frozen poo but humours him into trying to open the hatch back up. Of course Klieg flicks a switch and the Cybermen start to defrost.

So we get to the iconic melting scene of Cyborg units emerging from their cells, which are incidentally covered in cling film. They descended and approach Klieg. The Cyber controller - he with the bigger plant pot on his head than the others - grabs Klieg and twists his arm clearly giving him no thanks at all for awakening him.

Yes, the Cybermen have tricked everyone with their latest plot, to lie in wait until someone intelligent enough to wake them comes along and does just that. And then, convert them into Cybermen as thanks.

Fortunately Capt Hopper arrives up top and works out how to open the Hatch, he tosses a few grenades down enabling the captives to ascend. Toberman unfortunately does not escape and is subjected to partial cyber conversion.

Kaftan and Klieg get hold of x-ray laser cyber gun and manages to re-open the hatch for the Cyber controller to emerge (his cohorts having been ordered back to their cells for re-energising), he is however winding down a bit. Klieg promises to help the controller providing they help him to conquer the earth.

The Doctor tries to trap the controller in the sarcophagus but he breaks loose, picking up the Cybergun, and shooting Kaftan when she tries to block his way.

Toberman regains control over his senses and picks up the Cyber controller - throwing his listless body (that has by this time been swapped for double, a dressed up mannequin) into the control room console.

The Doctor, wanting to make sure the Cybermen are frozen, goes down into the tombs and is followed by Klieg, who takes the Cyber gun. Klieg now has illusions of grandeur, hoping that the remaining Cybermen, will look to him as their leader. He starts the re-energising sequence, and once revitalised one of the Cybermen throttle him from behind. Toberman grabs the Cyberman and several punches later...shaving foam is pouring out of the poor cyberman's chest to great effect.

The Doctor throws a switch and the Cybermen once again freeze up in there cocoons. The Doctor re-electrifies the doors and everyone makes to leave. Just then the controller, refusing to die gets up and starts approaching. As a last act of defiance against those that have converted him, Tobermen sacrifices himself by closing the doors to the tomb. He is killed by the voltage.

The Doctor, Victoria and Jamie leave for the TARDIS with the others returning to their repaired ship.

Is this the last of the Cybermen, well maybe not, a lone Cybermat has escaped and is left outside of the Tomb! With nobody noticing it, it is free to escape and start rebooting the entire Cyber race!

What a joy to watch a full story of Troughton then, and both he and Jamie have got their parts and relationship down to a fine art. As an example, there's funny little little moment just before they enter the tomb for the first time, where they accidentally hold each others hands thinking it's Victoria's. Apparently they'd worked out the skit before the cameras rolled as the director would never have aloud it.

What a brilliant performance to by George Pastell (a very well known actor in his day for manny Hammer Horror films) as Klieg, a man who wants to find union with the Cybermen. The characters ego grows throughout the story until he himself thinks he can direct the mighty metal giants. He even considers bringing the Doctor into his little plan when Troughton humours him, telling him how clever and brainy he is.

Of note to are the wonderful sets that were created. Again with little budget I bet. The sequence where the Cybermen wake from there Tombs, looks great even today, as a piece of vintage film.

All in all I can see why this story is revered so much by fans, and why it helped to secure the future of the Cybermen in Doctor Who.

Next time on Doctor Who Rewind we encounter some rather cute cuddly giants in the hills of Tibet.

Wednesday, December 11, 2013

Doctor Who Rewind - The Evil Of The Daleks

Just one recon away from the first complete Troughton story, but first small Treadwell sits in and manages to endure six, yes six CGI filled reconstructions and one glittering original.

Small Treadwell's interest in watching the classic doctors has never wavered, but I never wanted to subject him to the black hole of missing stories I have just endured over the past few months. I fear we both would have lost touch with reality. But a succession of deliveries from the mailman, revealing several DW DVD's (the next few in Troughton's treasury) ignite a desire in him and I'm not the man to put it out. I tell him I need to watch another story before watching the DVDs and he eagerly joins me on the sofa to start the adventure...

We start where the last story ended, Gatick airport 1966, where the TARDIS has been taken away in the back of a lorry. With a bit of detective work and some help from some dark forces they end up at an antique shop run by Edward Waterfield, which is full of curious items which seem brand new.

The Doctor and Jamie come across a secret panel while snooping around the shop which reveals a strange room full of futuristic equipment. Waterfield is in league with the Daleks and traps the Doctor and Jamie in the room which is filled with gas. The machine is activated and they are transported through time to a Victorian house a hundred years earlier, owned by Theodore Maxtible, Waterfield's partner.

At this point we reach live action Troughton and things get really good. The Doctor learns that both Waterfield and Maxtible had haphazardly invented a time machine using only mirrors and static electricity, as you do.

The Daleks came through the time machine and took Waterfields daughter, Victoria hostage, demanding he travel forward in time to lure the Doctor into a trap by taking the TARDIS.

The Daleks need the Doctor to conduct experiments to isolate what they call, the human factor. Certain characteristics imbedded in the human psyche that have allowed humans to resist and defeat the Daleks. The Daleks want to combine these attributes with their own to create a super Dalek.

The Daleks want to test Jamie, by subjecting him to a test to bring out those qualities they want to take. The task will be to rescue Victoria, who is being held in another part of the house. As Jamie isn't to know the real reason for the test, the Doctor willing agrees to persuade him.

During his rescue attempt Jamie meets the huge mute man-tower Kemel, who has been instructed to protect Victoria at all costs. After a lengthy fight, Jamie saves Kemel's life when he is dangling from the roof. The two become friends and help each other to eventually find Victoria.

Meanwhile the Doctor manages to extract the human factor and place it into three young Daleks who become very child like in nature. It's a little off putting to say the least to see these Daleks acting like giggling minors, they take the Doctor for a ride, and then start dancing, Dalek Dancing!

So Troughton, the clever sod has imbued the creatures with human qualities which will make them friendly to humans. He names them Alpha, Beta and Omega. Soon the three metal softies are ordered to return through the time machine to Skaro.

Waterfield discovers that Maxtible has bargained with the Daleks for the secret of the Alchemical process to turn metal into gold. Maxtible follows the Daleks through the time machine. But the Daleks torture him, for not bringing the Doctor through with him.

The Daleks plant a bomb in Maxtible's house, Jamie, Waterfield and the Doctor manage to escape to Skaro using one of the Daleks time machines.

Once in the Dalek city they are taken to the Emperor Dalek, who reveals the real reason they had the Doctor isolate the human factor, to also highlight the Dalek factor! Bloody hell, I hope they don't want the X Factor.

As if that's not enough the psychopathic tin pots want the Doctor to spread the Dalek factor through human history, converting humans to Daleks.

Maxtible is tricked into walking through a conversion arch which turns him into a Dalek human, rendering him completely mad. Meanwhile, the Doctor also is forced to walk through, but the conversion doesn't work on him (probably as he is not human) but he pretends to be converted to fool the Daleks.

The Doctor plants a device in the conversion arch so that it will infuse Daleks with the human factor. He recommends to the emperor that all Daleks go through it. As they do they are converted to human Daleks and rebel against the emperor.

There begins a battle between human Daleks and the evil emperor's black Daleks. Waterfield sacrifices himself to save the Doctor from being exterminated by throwing himself in front of a black Dalek. Before Waterfield dies, the Doctor promises to take care of Victoria for him.

The emperor is attacked and exterminated by the human Daleks while Maxtible goes completely OTT exclaiming the glory of the Daleks as the city goes up in flames.

The Doctor, Jamie and Victoria flee to the TARDIS and watch the city burning before going inside and dematerialising.

Despite being mostly static pictures and some very well executed CGI, not to mention using stand in actors, the Loose Cannon recon managed to hold both me and young Max's attention throughout. This is mostly down to the story. Which, while being a bit thin in places (I mean, a time machine built out of mirrors!!) still had excitement, action and the downright bizarre.

All the performances were excellent but particularly Marius Goring as the power crazed Maxtible. He really brought out the self obsessed side of the character as he realises he's dealing with a power to great to handle.

I must say that of all the assistants so far Frazer Hines as Jamie has to be one if my favourites, probably on the same par as Ian Chesterton. Him and Troughton really make a great team and you can see that they are really enjoying themselves. There is a comical very laid back quality to Jamie that really appeals. And he never seems to get spooked by anything he comes up against, taking everything in his stride.

Troughton however really excels in this story, and we really start to see him getting into his stride as the Doctor. He's funny, clever, completely confident, and a little mad. All qualities that we have come to love in the Doctor.

In the bits that we see live action, he really gives the performance his all and when he starts shouting at the Daleks that he won't carry out their evil plan you really believe he won't. I think this story, and the next one, have really convinced me that he was the right man to take over from Hartnell.

It's a shame that this story doesn't fully exist (at this time anyway), because it would be even better to see it in all it's glory. Some of the finale, the battle between the good and bad Daleks does exist though, and it really does look like they have wiped themselves out at the end.

Of course, we all know better don't we!

Next time on Doctor Who Rewind an absolute Who classic, and the third outing for the silver nemesis's themselves, The Cybermen.

Sunday, December 08, 2013

Doctor Who Rewind - The Faceless Ones

I've reached the top of the recon hill and I'm about to free wheel down, smiling in the knowledge that I've just two serials to go before I reach the next completely existing one, The Tomb Of The Cybermen.

That bad news is there are six and severn parts to them respectively. Oh brother!

So, The Faceless ones is all about a race of alien chameleons who are trying to replace the identities of 50,000 of there people who were destroyed in a catastrophe. Replace them of course with human counterparts.

All the action centres around modern day (1960's) Gatwick airport where the aliens have set up an airway called Chameleon Tours. They have taken over the bodies of two airport personnel, Spencer and Captain Blade, and are arranging to fly plane loads of young passengers up to an orbiting spaceship where they are miniaturised and stored.

It is Polly who initially alerts the Doctor that something is up when she witnesses Spencer murder a man, with a strange ray gun, inside the Chameleon Tours hangar.

The Doctor tries in vain to report the incident to the authorities but the airport commandant is reluctant to hear the Doctors wild claims.

Jamie does some investigating around Chameleon Tours and meets up with Liverpudlian Samantha Briggs (played by non other than Pauline Collins - Shirley Valentine) who is looking for her brother who has gone missing on one if the flights to Rome. She received a post card from him, but later discovers it was a faked.

The Doctor discovers that both Ben and Holly have been put into suspended animation in a cabinet and narrowly avoids being frozen by Spencer himself.

The Doctor meets DI Crossland who is investigating the missing Chameleon Tours passengers, it was his partner DI Gascoine that was the first victim Polly saw get shot.

The airport commandant gives the Doctor twelve hours to find out what has happened.

Jamie takes Samantha's ticket and boards a Chameleon flight to find out what is happening to the passengers. While he's in the toilet Blade destroys a pursuing RAF fighter and the plane docks with the spaceship. When Jamie emerges from the toilet he finds all the passengers have been miniaturised, and stored in draws. He is captured by Blade's assistant and put in a room with to aliens.

The Doctor threatens to remove the life support armband of alien air traffic controller Meadows, and learns the truth about why the Chameleons are stealing humans.

The doctor pretends to be alien Meadows and boards a flight to the ship. When there he seizes an opportunity to fool the aliens when one of them disintegrates, it's original having been found by Samantha in a car parked in the airport car park. Blade and Spencer kill the Director and the fake Jamie, whose originals revive. Crossland stays behind when the Doctor, Jamie and return with the freed humans.

In the airport, Samantha kisses Jamie goodbye (despite being asked to be the Doctors next assistant she turned the job down). Polly and Ben learn that the date, 20th July 1966 is the exact date that their adventure with the doctor started (remember The War Machines and WOTAN at the top of the Telecom tower).

They decide they have had enough of travelling with the Doctor and want to remain in their own time. The Doctor sympathises with them, having never returned to his home world himself.

With Ben and Polly gone, the Doctor reveals that the TARDIS has been released from airport security and is missing. The story ends with them both leaving to try and locate it.

Some great ideas and performances in this story. Even better to have a couple of episodes where everything moves and we get to see Troughton in full flow.

Incidentally there's a great moment when one of the alien copies enters the Chameleon Tours office, when he grabs the door handle it clearly comes off in his hand. Being the pro he is the actor simply places the handle on the shelf inside the door and carries on regardless.

Also of note, when the Doctor starts messing with the Chameleons equipment in episode four, he does so with a screwdriver! Perhaps not a sonic one that we've come to associate with him, but none the less one all the same. So this must be the first time we see him with the implement.

Seeing all those passenger miniatures too, I think the BBC have missed a trick in marketing an entire miniature Chameleon passenger set, or perhaps they did?

Next time on Doctor Who Rewind, the Doctor and Jamie try and find the TARDIS, and run into a bit of time travel trouble.

Thursday, December 05, 2013

Doctor Who Rewind - The Macra Terror

Another completely missing story and thanks to the four gloriously reconstructed episodes from Loose Cannon (available on youtube) we can get a flavour of what the end product turned out like.

The story is set on a planet in Earths future and in a society that is a cross between Orwell's 1984 and TV's The Prisoner. The residents of this colony seem happy enough, they dance and they sing and are generally content.

The Doctor is highly suspicious though, of a society which is ruled over by the elusive Controller, who pops up every now and again (announced by an annoying fanfare) on a large TV screen, issuing all kinds of orders and demands.

The population are policed by Pilot and Ola who enforce the bidding of the Controller. When the Doctor and his companions arrive they run into Medok, who is on the run, he is arrested and paraded before the people before being taken away to prison. He tries to warn the people of hideous creatures who roam the colony at night. The Doctor goes to see Medok and sets him free. Medok runs off and the Doctor is charged by Pilot and Ola with aiding his escape. As a result the Doctor and friends are expected to do some hard labour in a nearby mine.

The Doctor finds Medok who tells him about the giant crab like creatures who roam the streets. He advices the Doctor that others who have seen the creatures are apparently brainwashed to believe they are not real.

As Medok and the Doctor explore the colony, night falls. Pretty soon, they soon come across a giant clawed creature, the so called Macra.

After being captured again they are brought before Pilot, who is told by Medok that the Doctor was only trying to bring him in. The Doctor is released but the Controller later tells Pilot to hypnotise the Doctors companions so they can think like them.

Polly and Jamie both resist the mind control, but Ben doesn't, and is set to do the biding of the Controller.

Later, when Polly is captured
by a Marca and screams for help, Ben realises that he has to help and momentarily snaps out of his hypnotic state.

Pilot grows continually worried that the Doctor will have a negative influence on the colony and calls on the Controller for assistance. But on the screen, he see's a frail old man who is dragged off by a giant claw.

The Doctor, Polly and Jamie are re-captured and sent to the Danger Gang, a particularly hard and dangerous part of the mine. The Doctor stays on the surface while the others venture deep into the mine. They join Medok there, who is eventually attacked by a Macra and killed. Jamie is also attacked and surrounded by the creatures who have been revived by a deadly gas.

Polly reaches the surface and joins the Doctor, who has worked out that he can reverse the flow of the gas and help Jamie. As oxygen re-enters the atmosphere the Macra are weakened and Jamie escapes.

The Doctor finds that the Macra have invaded the control area, and that the deadly gas is vital for there survival. In fact the entire colony is nothing more than a front for the production of gas supplies for the Macra.

When Pilot realises this he and the Doctor decide to gain entry to the Control. There they find the Macra, and Pilots conditioning is finally broken.

The voice of Control has Ola put the Doctor, Pilot, Polly and Jamie into a part of the mine which is sealed off and then flood it with gas.

Ben races to their rescue and eventually manages to stop the gas and free the Doctor. However some gas is directed to the control centre and combusts, killing the Marca.

On the whole, this is not a bad story and it's a shame that it has been lost. Yes, I admit that the creatures look a bit silly, but the ideas of mind control, and subversion to keep the populous happy and disengaged from what is really going on have many similarities with the modern world we live in and how we engage or not, with the likes of television, computer games and so on.

Some nice moments from Troughton. For instance, when they all arrive at the colony they are subjected to a kind of beauty treatment, but after the process the Doctor ends up looking even more scruffy than when he started!

If this story miraculously turned up in someone's attic I'd quite happily watch it.

Next time on Doctor Who Rewind, a partially lost story involving commercial airplanes and a race of shape shifting aliens.