‘There is no such thing as Macra! Macra do not exist! There are no Macra!’ This is a statement which exists at the core of the 1967 Doctor Who story The Macra Terror in more ways than one – being a deception central to the narrative of The Macra Terror on one hand, while in reality it’s also one of the many missing or incomplete stories from the 2nd Doctor’s era. Now that a new animated version of The Macra Terror has been released on DVD and Blu-Ray there’s never been a better time to reflect on this lost Doctor Who story from the 1960’s.
Having seen the image of a giant claw on the TARDIS time scanner, the Doctor, Polly, Ben, and Jamie arrive on an unknown planet in the future where they visit a human colony. They encounter Medok a crazed colonist, who is quickly arrested by Ola, the Chief of Police. The colony seems to be a happy place and is run just like a giant holiday camp. However, the Doctor is uneasy, despite the assurances of the Colony Pilot and the message of greeting from the mysterious Colony Controller who appears on a screen to welcome them.
The colony has in fact been secretly taken over by grotesque crab-like creatures known as the Macra, who have brainwashed the citizens and forced them to mine a gas for them, one toxic to humans, but essential for the Macra’s survival. Ben also succumbs to Macra’s influence and turns against the Doctor and his friends. Fortunately he manages to recover in time and helps the Doctor destroy the gas pumping equipment to kill the Macra. The colonists want the Doctor to be their new Pilot. Appalled by such a prospect, the Doctor quickly guides his companions away, dancing past the celebrating colonists as they depart.
The seventh story of Doctor Who’s fourth season, The Macra Terror (1967) is Patrick Troughton’s fifth story as the Doctor. While initially appearing to be just another straightforward adventure, with aliens taking control of a human colony, there is a wealth of underlying themes here. Written by Ian Stuart Black, The Macra Terror draws on a number of influences, particularly George Orwell’s classic Nineteen Eighty Four, while splicing its themes of subjugation to authority with the iconic imagery of many a 1950’s bug movie to great effect. While the more serious aspects of the story are undoubtedly overshadowed by the inclusion of the Macra creatures themselves, the good performances and dramatic scenes make this a very intriguing adventure.
Patrick Troughton is on fine form here as the Doctor. Indeed this second incarnation of the Time Lord, with his quiet manner and anti-authoritarian stance, seems perfectly at home here, rallying against the totalitarian regime the Macra have created. The Macra Terror is the absolute antithesis of everything Troughton’s Doctor stands for. The moment where the Doctor’s appearance is spruced up by a machine, and he promptly jumps into another machine to get all messes up again, while fun, illustrates how quickly the Doctor has grasped the situation, and is already rebelling against the regime that has been established to control the colony.
This is another great story for the Doctor’s companions as well. Anneke Wills is right at the heart of the action as Polly, getting confronted by the Macra creatures on several occasions, she also has some great scenes with the Doctor, and I love the moment where he warns Polly about the brainwashing – advising her not to just be obedient and to always make up her own mind. Frazer Hines also get a lot more to do as Jamie in this story, he’s really becoming an integral part of the TARDIS crew now, and Jamie even finds time to do the Highland Fling at one point to evade his pursuers. However, it is Michael Craze as Ben Jackson that really impresses in this story. Of all the Doctor’s companions, Ben is perhaps the most down-to-earth, so when he succumbs to the Macra’s insidious influence, it makes it all the more shocking when he turns against his friends like he does, and Michael Craze’s performance is utterly convincing – especially when he is struggling to regain control again.
Created by Shawcraft, the company that built many of the most memorable monsters seen in Doctor Who during the 1960’s, the Macra are certainly one of the series most striking creations. These giant, crab-like creatures are actually quite effective. While they may not be the most well characterised monster ever seen in Doctor Who, the very concept of what the Macra are capable of doing is quite unsettling. They feature in some genuinely creepy scenes, especially in the early episodes, where director John Davies swathes them in shadows and mist to heighten the suspense. The moment were Ben and Polly are cornered by the Macra are particularly chilling, as they cower together in horror, the sheer terror that Annike Wills manages to convey in her performance is almost palpable and in turn this makes the imposing threat of the Macra entirely convincing.
The supporting cast are also very good, with some great performances that really bring an added depth to the characters. Peter Jeffery’s is excellent as the colonies Pilot, while Graham Leman is great as the Controller. Terence Lodge also gives a good performance as Medok, who is singled out by the authorities because he claims to have seen the crab creatures, and he remains determined to fight the system that has brainwashed his fellow colonists. Unusually, the role of Chiki ended up being played by two different actresses, Sandra Bryant appeared in Episode One, and the role was subsequently recast with Karol Keys in Episode Four.
While sadly no episodes of The Macra Terror exist in the BBC Archives, we still have the audio soundtrack to enjoy. Originally released on audio cassette (1992) and then on CD (2000), with linking narration by Colin Baker, the soundtrack was later re-released again on CD in The Lost TV Episodes Collection (2012), this time featuring new narration by Anneke Wills. Telesnaps also exist to document these missing episodes (Reprinted in the brilliant Doctor Who Missing Episodes Special Edition: The Second Doctor Vol I) and the stories few surviving clips were released on The Lost in Time DVD set (2004).
Although not the best story on audio, it’s still a good adventure to listen too, and together with the telesnaps and clips, it offers us some impression of the tone and atmosphere of the story. Ken Sharp’s sets look extremely good, the Macra seem very menacing, especially in the first two episodes, and the clips that exist offer further insight into what these episodes wouldhave been like. Then we have the Target novelisation of The Macra Terror (1987), written by Ian Stuart Black, which is also a very good adaptation of the television story – as is BBC’s The Macra Terror audiobook (beautifully read by Anneke Wills) which also brings a whole new dimension to enjoying this classic Target novelisation.
The release of the new animated version of The Macra Terror on DVD and Blu-Ray, brought to us by Charles Norton and his skilled team of animators, has had just as much care and attention lavished upon it as previous animated released The Power of the Daleks and Shada. While this animated version of The Macra Terror is not an exact reconstruction of the original story (the omission of the Doctor‘s makeover in the “rough and tumble machine” might irk purists for example), it still offers us a fresh insight into what this story might have been like.
The hand drawn reconstructions look extremely impressive, the Doctor and his companions are convincingly rendered, everything has been carefully lip-synched with the original 1967 audio recording, the animation for the Macra is particularly effective, and furthermore the animation can be viewed in either colour or black and white. This release also boast a wealth of impressive extra features: including an extensive animation gallery, a behind the scenes film, surviving footage, an audio commentary, episode reconstructions, and much, much more besides to make this animated DVD / Blu-Ray release about as extensive a version of The Macra Terror as we are every probably ever going to have in our collections.
Incidentally, The Macra Terror also featured the first episodes to use the new title sequence designed by Bernard Lodge and realised by Ben Palmer, one which incorporated the image of Patrick Troughton’s face in the titles. The foam machine, soon to become a staple element of many a Troughton story, was also used for the first time in this adventure.
In many respects The Macra Terror is full of good ideas, some are more effective than others, but as a whole the story actually holds together pretty well, and it’s only really the ending where it falls a little flat. However, the Macra did indeed eventually return to Doctor Who in Gridlock (2007), and it was a nice surprise to see these classic monsters again, even if it was only fleetingly. The Macra Terror, while not exactly a classic, is still a fine addition to Season Four. Together with the strong performances from Troughton, Craze, Wills, and Hines, good design, and effective use of the Macra themselves; The Macra Terror is certainly a story that provides an intriguing insight into this period of Doctor Who during the 1960’s.
The TARDIS materialises on an extinct volcanic island, where the Doctor (Patrick Troughton), Polly (Anneke Wills), Ben (Michael Craze), and Jamie (Frazer Hines) are soon captured and taken below the surface of the Earth, where they discover a hidden civilisation and the lost city of Atlantis! In their culture, the Atlanteans worship the goddess Amdo, they also use Fish People – civilians who have been surgically altered to enable them to breath under the sea and farm their plankton-based food source. The crazed scientist Professor Zaroff (Joseph Furst) has convinced everyone that he can raise Atlantis from the sea, but he also secretly plans to drain the ocean into the Earth’s molten core, where the extreme superheated steam subsequently generated by his cataclysmic scheme will cause the entire world to explode!
The TARDIS crew meet two shipwreck survivors, Sean (P.G. Stephens) and Jacko (Paul Anil), and they get the fish people to revolt and stop working, but can the Doctor find a way to foil Zaroff’s mad plot in time?
The Underwater Menace is the 1967 four-part adventure from Season Four of the classic series, Directed by Julia Smith, it was also the third story to feature Patrick Troughton as the Doctor, together with Anneke Wills as Polly, Michael Craze as Ben Jackson, and Frazer Hines as Jamie as the Doctor’s travelling companions. The last known prints of this story – all save Episode 3 – were destroyed in 1974, but in 2011 the news broke that Episode 2 has been returned to the BBC by a private collector (Terry Burnett), and preparations commenced to release the Under Water Menace on DVD in early 2013. Sadly the Doctor’s old enemy of cancellation struck again – due to a number of circumstances – and the stories release on DVD didn’t take place. But, with fan pressure building, together with a petition of 2,761 signatures, BBC Worldwide eventually reversed its decision and The Underwater Menace is now finally available on DVD, with a wealth of extra features, documentaries, and commentaries to bring the Doctor Who DVD classic range to a close in fine style.
The opening TARDIS scene is a wonderful moment, where we hear Polly, Ben, and the Doctor “thinking” about where they would like to arrive next – done by prerecording the actors’ voices and playing them back while making the episode. Patrick Troughton, in only his third adventure as the Doctor, is still finding his way in the lead role, some of the early eccentricities of his incarnation, particularly the 2nd Doctor’s initial trait for disguises and hats (He’s also the first to wear Ray Bans too!) feature prominently during this story, he also intriguingly sings himself as “Dr W” on the note he sends to Zaroff, but overall Troughton’s performance is still excellent. Ben and Jamie don’t initially get a great lot to do in this story; perhaps as a result of it having being rewritten because of the last minute inclusion of new companion Jamie who joined the TARDIS crew at the end of The Highlanders (1966-7), and Frazer Hines proves a great addition to the cast as Jamie. Michael Craze and Frazer Hines do have some good scenes, Anneke Wills is also good as Polly, but its a great shame that Polly is reduced to just screaming, crying, and whimpering for much of the story though.
The Underwater Menace was a story originally rejected for Season Four, but then eventually made as an emergency measure because its replacement – The Imps by William Emms – fell though. Geoffrey Orme’s scripts do feel a little cluttered at times, which is probably why the Doctor’s companions don’t get that well served by the story, but he does give the characters in his scripts some fun lines of dialogue. The Underwater Menace had some good location scenes filmed in Winspit on the Dorset coast for the opening and closing scenes of the story, the music by Dudley Simpson is quite effective, the costumes by Sandra Reid, Juanita Waterson, and make up by Gillian Games are also good, and Jack Robinson’s sets are fairly impressive in scale given the budget.
However, it’s the crazily over-the-top performance of the Austrian born film and TV actor Joseph Furst as Professor Zaroff, that really makes The Underwater Menace so memorable – and Zaroff even has a pet octopus! Zaroff’s madcap scheme is totally bonkers, the Doctor tentatively asks him at one point why he wants to blow up the world, to which the maniac replies: “The achievement my dear Doctor. The destruction of the world! The scientist’s dream of supreme power!” As bizarre as it sounds, Furst’s performance is pitched perfectly, and it’s insanely hilarious as well. The only problem is having such a maniacal pantomime villain causes the stories underlying themes of science vs. religion to be completely overshadowed by Zaroff’s hackneyed dialogue, and even the Doctor’s plan to defeat Zaroff – by flooding the lower levels of Atlantis – seems just as equally OTT when compared to the threat he’s trying to vanquish.
The Fish People are a peculiar monster to say the least. Doctor Who has always done body horror very effectively, the Fish People are civilians that have been operated on to enable them to breath underwater, and the whole idea of people being transformed into one of them is actually quite unsettling. As we see when Polly is taken to the lab where Damon (Colin Jeavons) menacingly approaches her with a syringe to begin her “operation”, and we pan over to a monitor where one of the Fish People slowly drifts into view on the screen. Fortunately, Ara (Catherine Howe) is around to warn the Doctor and help Polly escape. In many ways the Fish People are a tragically horrific creation; their humanity has been stripped away, leaving them condemned to a life of complete servitude. While not the most memorable or exciting monster to ever appear in Doctor Who, the Fish People are relatively well realised on screen, especially considering the shoestring budget, and their strange underwater “ballet” in Episode 3 is quite haunting – if a little superfluous.
The Underwater Menace also features Colin Jeavons, who is excellent – if somewhat underused – in the role of Damon, Tom Watson appears as Ramo, who has always instinctively mistrusted Professor Zaroff, and King Thous is played by Noel Johnson, also well known as the voice of Dick Barton in the famous radio serial Dick Barton: Special Agent, and he would later play Grover the Season 11 story Invasion of the Dinosaurs.
Of course, it is Episode 2, the oldest surviving episode from Patrick Troughton’s era of Doctor Who that is the star attraction of this release, and what a delight it is to finally enjoy this episode in all its glory on DVD! Nothing, absolutely nothing, can beat the great thrill of seeing a long-lost episode of Doctor Who. The Underwater Menace might not be one of the best adventures from Season Four, but to actually watch Episode 2 at last on DVD is a truly magical moment to savour and enjoy, it’s actually a really good episode as well, and it provides us with the opportunity to form a more rounded impression of the story as a whole.
“Nothing in the world can stop me now!” or you for that matter, enjoying the wealth of extras on this DVD release. Unlike previous incomplete classic Doctor Who releases, The Underwater Menace doesn’t use animation techniques to recreate its missing episodes. Instead Episode 1 and 4 are represented by telesnap montages; together with the restored audio soundtrack, to give us a fair approximation of what these episodes might’ve been like. These reconstructions have been handled by producer John Kelly, a contributor to the Doctor Who DVD’s since 2001, he also used a similar method for the recreation of The Web of Fear Episode 3 for its DVD release in 2014, and his work on The Underwater Menace reconstructed episodes makes them seem every bit as good as if they’d been animated. It is little disappointing there’s no full opening titles or credits for these partial reconstructions of Episodes 1 and 4, as it does spoil the effect somewhat, but at least the brief surviving footage from those episodes – censored clips which were edited out for broadcast in Australia – are still included as part of the extra features on the DVD.
There are two specially made documentaries as well. A Fishy Tale offers a delightful look back at the making of The Underwater Menace, narrated by Peter Davison, it features actors Frazer Hines, Anneke Wills, and Catherine Howe, assistant floor manager Gareth Gwenlan, production assistant Berry Butler, and Dalek (2005) writer Robert Shearman. The Television Centre of the Universe Part 2 – nostalgically looks back at the studios where Doctor Who was made, and features Peter Davison, Janet Fielding, Mark Strickson, with Sue Hedden (AFM), Jane Ashford (Production Assistant), Alec Wheal (Senior Camera Operator), former Blue Peter producer Richard Marson, Bob Richardson (Exhibitions Assistant), and Simon Anthony (VT Engineer), and is presented by Yvette Fielding.
The audio commentaries are another big highlight of this DVD release: the commentary for Episode 1 features Patrick Troughton’s son Michael, Episodes 2 and 3 are covered by Anneke Wills, Frazer Hines, and Catherine Howe (ARA), Floor Assistant Quentin Mann and Special Sounds Supervisor Brian Hodgson, there’s also a superb archive commentary track featuring the late actor Patrick Troughton on Episode 4, which also features directors Julia Smith and Hugh David, and producer Innes Lloyd. The commentaries are all presented and moderated by Toby Hadoke. These commentaries make The Underwater Menace DVD seem even more special, and they are busting with wonderful anecdotes and nostalgic stories about the series.
The Doctor finally defeats Zaroff, but only after the sea walls have to be broken down and the city flooded. Zaroff drowns in the flood, but everyone else manages to escape. The Doctor, Polly, Ben, and Jamie are reunited on the surface and return to the TARDIS. Later, when Jamie asks the Doctor if its true that he cannot really control the TARDIS, the Doctor says he can, he’s just never wanted to, and as the Doctor attempts to prove it by choosing their next destination – the planet Mars – the TARDIS suddenly goes out of control…
Although its clichéd plot makes it one of the weaker stories from the 2nd Doctor’s era, The Underwater Menace is still a fascinating glimpse into the transitional period of Doctor Who in the 60’s following the change of lead actor from William Hartnell to Patrick Troughton as the Doctor, there are glimmers of the greatness to come, and you can see how Troughton is beginning to refine his performance during his early scenes with Furst’s Professor Zaroff – by gradually toning down the 2nd Doctor’s eccentricities. If anything, the unashamedly low-budget B-Movie feel actually feels entirely appropriate for this story. Indeed, while it might be one of the most madcap Doctor Who stories ever made – the whole scene were the Doctor and his companions suspended over a shark pit is unashamedly ludicrous – there’s still a lot to enjoy here, Patrick Troughton, Anneke Wills, Michael Craze, and Frazer Hines make a terrific TARDIS team, it’s wonderful to see Episode 2 at long last, and the great extra features make it a worthy addition to the DVD range.
Seeing how no more incomplete classic stories are planned for release, The Underwater Menace will indeed bring the Classic Doctor Who DVD range to an end. Although there are still other partially existing stories such as The Crusaders (1965) and The Wheel in Space (1968), it seems doubtful they will get individual releases – especially as their surviving episodes are already available on the Lost In Time DVD (2004). Still, it would have been nice to have seen them released in some form individually; perhaps if The Underwater Menace sells well, maybe those final incomplete stories could get released as well one day?
Well, every surviving Classic Doctor Who episode known to exist has been released, and now we reach the final end… The Underwater Menace has got its well deserved place in our DVD collections at last! With its great cast, the inclusion Episode 2, along with a host of extra features to enjoy, The Underwater Menace concludes the excellent Doctor Who Classic Series DVD range – which itself has become a benchmark in terms of restoration, picture quality, and excellent special features – on a far happier note than we might otherwise have had without it, and we are left with a legacy of classic adventures that we can all enjoy forevermore.
When the TARDIS lands in a top secret naval base by the Northumberland coast towards the end of the Second World War, the Doctor and Ace meet Dr Judson – a crippled scientist who has built a new computer to crack German codes. However, the base’s Commander Millington intends to allow a Russian commando unit steal Judson’s Ultima Machine, which has been booby trapped with a deadly nerve agent that has been developed.
Dr Judson is also researching some ancient runes in the crypt of the St Judes church, using the Ultima Machine to translate the symbols on the walls. This unleashes an ancient evil called Fenric, a being who the Doctor met in third-century Constantinople, where the Time Lord defeated him at chess and imprisoned him in a shadow dimension – sealing his essence inside a flask that was eventually brought to England by the Vikings in the ninth century. One survivor of this doomed voyage settled here, spawning generations of ‘wolves’ that bore the genetic code of Fenric Now the Curse of Fenric is about to be unleashed, having manipulated these descendants to engineer one last game of chess with the Doctor, where Ace will discover she is also a pawn in Fenric’s grand design.
As the Russian commando team, led by Captain Sorin, arrive at the beach some of his troops go missing, and strange things begin to happen as night falls. One of them is found on the beach the next morning, his body drained of blood; soon the Haemovores rise up from the sea, undead humans who have been transformed into horrifying vampires by the Ancient Haemovore. This creature is the last survivor from a future Earth, where the world has been destroyed by pollution, has also been brought back in time by Fenric.
With all the pieces in place on the board the Haemovores turn two young evacuees, Jean and Phyllis, into vampires, and together they lead the attack on St Judes. While Ace fights the Haemovoers on the roof, Rev Wainwright and the Doctor are attacked inside the church. Captain Sorin leads his men in helping them, while the Doctor uses his faith to repel the Haemovores, giving them time to escape back through the secret tunnel to the base. Rev Wainwright tries to buy them more time, but his faith falters, and he is killed by the Haemovores. They are too late to stop Fenric possessing Dr Judson, but when Fenric faces the Doctor to complete the chess game, Judson’s fail body begins to deteriorate.
Ace inadvertently tells Fenric the solution to the chess game, unaware that Fenric has now possessed Captain Sorin, and it uses the younger man’s strength to complete the game. The Doctor and Ace are trapped by Fenric and the Ancient Haemovore. Fenric taunts them as Sorin, revealing how Judson, Millington, Wainright, Sorin, and even Ace have all been used as pawns in his conflict with the Doctor, and how he plans to unleash the deadly toxin stored at the base – which was discovered seeping from the stones beneath St Judes Church – to destroy the world.
In order to defeat Fenric the Doctor must break Ace’s faith in him; he succeeds and manages to turn the Ancient Haemovore against Fenric, who drags Sorin into the chamber to destroy Fenric’s host body and sacrifices itself in the process. The Doctor and Ace go to the beach as they prepare to leave, with Ace finally coming to terms her relationship with her mother, after learning that the woman she saved from the Haemovores – Kathleen and her baby daughter Audrey – was actually her grandmother. Ace dives into the water, no longer afraid, and ready to embrace the future.
The Curse of Fenric (1989) is the penultimate episode of Season Twenty Six, and this story in particular is one of the highlights of Sylvester McCoy’s third year. In a season full of exceptionally good stories, writer Ian Briggs’ tale is rich with Norse mythology and vampire legends that fully embrace script editor Andrew Cartmel’s new ethos for the programme. Nicholas Mallett’s superb direction also makes this a thoroughly atmospheric adventure, with the discovery of a lost artefact, an ancient evil rises from the mist shrouded waters of Madien’s Point, and the Haemovores assault of St Judes church all recall similar elements from John Carpernter’s 1979 horror film: The Fog. This is not the first time Doctor Who has drawn on themes from horror films, some of its best stories have been rooted in the genre, and The Curse of Fenric is all the more enjoyable for it.
Sylvester McCoy gives one of his finest performances as the Doctor in The Curse of Fenric. He breezes into the story with an air of authority, walking straight into the naval base, and there is a great moment where he types his letter of authorisation – showing he is ambidextrous as he forges the signature of the Head of the Secret Services and the Prime Minister simultaneously with two pens. It seems that the Doctor has been aware of Fenric’s plan, even before he met Ace, and it is here that the 7th Doctor’s darker, more manipulative side is played to great effect by McCoy as events force him into shattering the faith of his loyal companion Ace to defeat Fenric.
The development of Ace is one of the major factors that make Season Twenty Six so entertaining to watch. Sophie Aldred brings such depth and sensitivity to Ace’s performance in The Curse of Fenric, her characters story arc reaches a defining moment in this story, as Ace not only faces up to the inner demons that have haunted her for so long, but she also shows just how much she has grown as an individual in her own right. Ace is now more mature, enjoying the thrill of adventures, but wise enough to heed the Doctor’s warning about Maidens’ Point, when she refuses to join Jean and Phyllis for a swim. Her flirtation with the sergeant during the third episode, to give the Doctor the chance to free Captain Sorin, shows Ace as a confident young woman, one far removed from the troubled tomboy who we first encountered in Dragonfire (1987). Ian Briggs was the writer who created Ace and he does a great job of developing her character in The Curse of Fenric. Ace is bold enough to stand up for herself now, even challenging the way the Doctor manipulates people, and the closing scene at the beach where she confidently dives into the water perfectly concludes this excellent story.
The Curse of Fenric has a terrific guest cast: with Alfred Lynch as the base’s Commander Millington, along with Dinsadle Landen as the crippled Dr Judson who gives a great performance as the cantankerous scientist, before becoming cold and sinister after he is possessed by Fenric. The Russian troops are led by Commander Sorin, played by Tomek Bork, and he also gets to show both aspects of his character as well after he is also possessed by Fenric.
One of the pivotal moments in The Curse of Fenric comes as the church is attacked by the Haemovores, led by the newly transformed vampires, Jean and Phyllis, who spearhead the assault on the building. These scenes are brilliantly staged by director Nicholas Mallett, with Ace and the Russian soldiers fighting back the Haemovores on the roof, while the Doctor and Rev Wainwright are trapped inside. When they are overwhelmed and the Haemovores break in, the Doctor uses his faith in his companions to repel them, reciting the names of his companions to drive the creatures away. Captain Sorin uses a similar method to escape as well, using his belief in the revolution to make a path through the bloodthirsty ranks of the Haemovores.
Joann Bell and Joann Kenny are wonderfully creepy as the evacuees, Jean and Phyllis, who are transformed into vampires after swimming in the waters. They entice another of Sorin’s men to his doom, luring him into the water, before the Haemovores arise to claim him. Jean and Phyllis also take their revenge on Miss Hardaker (Janet Henfrey), before attempting to claim Rev Wainwright. There are some really striking underwater scenes in The Curse of Fenric, which all help to build up the suspense, leading up to the moment where the Haemovores rise form the sea to attack in force.
Nicholas Parsons is superb as the Vicar of St Judes. He has some great scenes with the Doctor and Ace, and plays a pivotal role in the story. The moment where he is confronted by Jean and Phyllis in the graveyard is chillingly surreal. His faith isn’t enough to repel them and the Doctor and Ace save him, and when the Haemovores attack the church he is powerless to stop them. His doubts about the war have given Wainwright cause to question his faith, and when he bravely decides to stand his ground against the Haemovores his belief crumbles and ultimately proves to be his undoing.
The Curse of Fenric is a highly evocative story, offsetting the morality of warfare against some stark ecological issues, whilst skilfully juxtaposing it with the faith of all the characters involved in this adventure. Even though the Doctor’s actions seem deceptively enigmatic, events quickly begin to escalate according to his design, until the time is right for the Time Lord to face Fenric again and play one last game of chess. Fenric is another example of a disembodied force, or ideal, against which this 7th incarnation seems perfectly tailored to counteract.
The Curse of Fenric deals with plot thread that stretch right back to Ace’s debut story, Dragonfire, as Fenric delights in revealing how it was the one who was responsible for the Time Storm that brought her to Iceworld. From the moment the Doctor saw the chess set in Lady Peinforte’s house in Silver Nemesis (1988), the Time Lord was aware of Fenric’s involvement. There might also be some connection with the Gods of Ragnarok, who the Doctor encountered in The Greatest Show in the Galaxy (1987), although they appeared to exist in another dimension. The Curse of Fenric was released on DVD in 2003 in a special two-disk set that featured the original episodes, along with a number of extra features and commentaries, as well a re-edited Special Edition with extra footage and added special effects.
The Curse of Fenric is one of the best stories from the 7th Doctor’s era. It illustrates the full potential that McCoy’s darker incarnation of the Doctor had to offer, and Sophie Aldred’s journey as Ace is unique in the shows original run. Few companions ever enjoyed as much character development as this. The McCoy years were over before we realised what we had, its only now, with the power of hindsight that we understand just what could have been. The Curse of Fenric is my favourite 7th Doctor story, it’s a thrilling adventure, and a great example of this era of Doctor Who.
Hi, I’m Paul Bowler, blogger and reviewer of films, TV shows, and comic books. I’m a Sci-Fi geek, a big fan of Doctor Who, Star Trek, movies, Sci-Fi, Horror, Comic Books, and all things PS4.You can follow me on Twitter @paul_bowler,or at my website, Sci-Fi Jubilee, and on YouTube and Facebook
The Doctor (Colin Baker) and Peri (Nicola Bryant) arrive at Tranquil Repose on the planet Necros, where a facility run by Mr Jobel (Clive Swift) is used by some of the wealthiest people in the galaxy to cryogenically freeze their remains, until a time where the aliments that caused their deaths can be cured. The Doctor wants to pay his last respects to his old friend, Professor Stengos (Hugh Walters). However, when they are attacked by a horrific mutant (Ken Barker), the Doctor’s suspicions about Stengos’ death are confirmed.
When they arrive at Tranquil Repose the Doctor is almost crushed by a huge memorial that has been fashioned in his own likeness. Once inside Tranquil Repose the Doctor is captured by a new breed of white and gold Daleks that have been created by Davros (Terry Molloy). The creator of the Daleks has adopted the identity of the Great Healer so he can use the frozen bodies stored at Tranquil Repose to secretly build a new Dalek army.
Davros runs his operation from deep in the catacombs. His head is stored in a tank, which now acts as his life support system, and he can monitor everything that happens on a sophisticated bank of computer screens. When Jobel openly challenges his authority, Davros has the chief embalmers assistant, Tasambeker (Jenny Tomasin), brought to him. Davros manipulates Tasambeker into helping him, using her infatuation with Jobel get her to kill him.
Peri manages to avoid Jobel’s lecherous advances by making friends with the facilities resident DJ (Alexi Sayle). The Doctor finds himself imprisoned with Stengos’ daughter, Natasha (Bridget Lynch Blosse), and her friend Gregory (Stephen Flynn), who broke into Tranquil Repose so Natasha could find out what really happened to her fathers body. After finding his cryogenic chamber was empty, they later discovered his severed head growing inside a transparent Dalek casing. In a moment of lucidity, Stengos begs his daughter to kill him, rather than let himself become a Dalek. Natasha used her gun to vaporise her fathers head, but afterwards she was captured along with Gregory, and tortured by Takis (Trevor Cooper) and Lilt (Colin Spaull).
It would seem that Davros has made some great enemies during his stay on Necros. Having invented a food substitute to eliminate famine throughout the galaxy, by processing the corpses frozen in Tranquil Repose, the Great Healer forged an alliance with Kara (Eleanor Bron) and her assistant Vogel (Hugh Walters) to manufacture the food paste in her factory complex. But she has grown tired of Davros’ demands, and decides to kill him. Kara hires an assassin from The Grand Order of Oberon, Orcini (William Gaunt), and his squire Bostock (John Ogwen), and gives him a bomb to destroy the Great Healer and Tranquil Repose.
Kara’s plan is quickly discovered by Davros, he sends a squad of Dales to bring her to him, killing Vogel when he resists. After defeating a patrolling Dalek Orcini breaks into the facility, freeing the Doctor, who leaves Natasha and Gregory to destroy the incubation room – but they become trapped and are killed by a Dalek. Peri and the DJ try and hold off the attacking Daleks, but the DJ is killed and Peri is captured by the Daleks.
Orcini and Bostock attack Davros in his lair, but the head in the tank is actually a decoy, and the real Davros is hovering behind him. The Daleks attack Bostock and shoots off Orcini’s artificial leg, leaving Davros to swoop in and blast Orcini with bolts of energy from his hand. The Doctor and Peri are brought before Davros, who gloats about his imminent victory, Kara’s treachery is also revealed and Orcini stabs her in the heart. Bostock manages to shoot off Davros’ hand before he can activate his Dalek army. The Daleks kill Bostock and rush to protect Davros. Chaos ensues as a squad of Daleks arrive from Skaro, having been called by Takis and Lilt, and it transpires that the Dalek Supreme wants Davros taken alive so he can be punished for his crimes.
The Daleks from Skaro overpower Davros’ new Dalek force and capture their creator. As the Daleks escort Davros back to their ship, Orcini stays with Bostock’s body in the catacombs, giving the others just enough time to get away before he uses the bomb to destroy Davros’ Daleks. Although they were unable to prevent the Dalek ship leaving with Davros, the Doctor and Peri manage to escape. Before he leaves the Doctor suggests that the survivors cultivate one of the planets flowers, which are rich in protein, and process it as a replacement for The Great Healers gruesome food supplement. As they leave the Doctor decides it time he took Peri on a holiday, and he knows just the place to go…
Season Twenty Two was Colin Baker’s first full season as the 6th Doctor. His new Doctor was initially quite unstable, and constantly at odds with his travelling companion Peri, but by the time of Revelation of the Daleks (1985) they are getting along much better. Colin Baker and Nicola Bryant give terrific performances here, there is a touching moment where the Doctor is confronted by his own gravestone, and Peri proves to be just as resourceful as the Doctor when they are separated at Tranquil Repose. The Doctor also has a great confrontation with Davros, where the Time Lord is visibly disgusted by what lengths Davros has gone to build his new Dalek Empire.
Eric Saward’s script for Revelation of the Daleks contains elements of Evelyn Waugh’s The Loved One, a satirical novel about a funeral business. Revelation of the Daleks is also bleak and full of graphic horror. The scene where Natasha and Gregory discover Stegnos’ head growing inside the transparent Dalek are some of the most horrific in the shows history. Add to this the morbid setting of Tranquil Repose, the unsettling way Jobel behaves towards his staff, and the horrific practice of corpses being used to create Dalek mutants and processed food in Kara’s factory, it becomes clear why Season Twenty Two was heavily criticised for its excessive levels of violence. Much as I enjoy the grittier stories in Doctor Who, sadly this trend of increasingly dark stories also led to the show being put on hiatus by the BBC at the end of the season, so we lost the stories already in development for Season Twenty Three – they were replaced by The Trail of a Time Lord when Doctor Who returned in 1986.
Revelation of the Daleks has an impressive guest cast, many of whom play a pivotal role in the action. Tassambeker’s unrequited love for the slimy Jobel is quite unsettling, and Jenny Tomasin and Clive Swift really hold our attention as their macabre relationship is manipulated like a plaything by Davros in his lair. Elanore Bron is supremely elegant as the scheming Kara, whose plan to kill Davros takes up most of the story, and ultimately leads to her being killed by the very assassin she hired to do her dirty work for her. William Gaunt steals the show from everyone as Orcini, a Knight of the Grand Order of Oberon, who, along with John Ogwen as his faithful squire Bostock, accept Kara’s mission for the honour of killing Davros.
Terry Molloy is simply magnificent as Davros in Revelation of the Daleks. When we first see the decoy in the tank, it would appear that this is all that remains of the Daleks creator. It’s quite chilling to observe him as he watches events unfold around him, with Davros sitting in the middle of events like a great spider in a web, slowly drawing his victims to their doom. Admittedly, his plan to lure the Doctor into his trap does seem somewhat extravagant, but having worked in secret for so long it would seem that Davros has become even more deranged. He cackles maniacally, spitting orders as his head swivels in its tank, manipulating everyone around him. Of course this is all a ruse, the head is just a decoy for the assassins bullet, and when Davros is revealed his chair can now float and he can shoot bolts of energy from his hands and sensor array. Molloy exudes pure evil as Davros, especially in his exchanges with the Doctor, and it seems he has been monitoring the Time Lord for some time. Even after he loses his remaining hand, Davros refuses to give up, ranting at the Daleks loyal to the Supreme Dalek, telling them that he can make them all supreme Daleks if he so desires.
The forty five minute formant adopted for this season really plays to the strengths of Revelation of the Daleks, there is virtually no padding in this story, and the plot thunders towards its epic climax in the second episode. A sudden snowfall meant that the location scenes were filmed in the snow, which really helps build an eerie atmosphere, and it makes the Doctor and Peri’s encounter with the Mutant even more terrifying. The Doctor and Peri also wear striking blue cloaks for the early stages of the story. Once we reach tranquil repose the interior sets are also impressive, especially Davros’ lair deep in the lower levels of the catacombs. The action set-pieces where both factions of Daleks are fighting are brilliantly choreographed by director Graeme Harper; you really get the sense that you are in the thick of the action, and the body count it shockingly high.
Although it takes a whole episode for the Doctor and Peri to get involved in the story, this is still one of their best adventures, and it really gives Colin Baker and Nicola Bryant a chance to shine as they battle against the Daleks. Eric Saward’s story is full of fantastic characters, all trying to outwit and deceive each other, yet ironically nearly all of them end up being killed. The new white and gold Daleks look really good as well, although their voices are strangely muffled. Graeme Harper often films them close up, making them seem even more menacing, especially when they glide around inside Davros lair.
Revelation of the Daleks is my favourite 6th Doctor story, it’s an incredibly dark and violent adventure, and it should have paved the way for another great season. As it is we will never know what could have been. Soon the show would face a long hiatus, production difficulties would disrupt The Trial of a Time Lord, ultimately leading to the recasting of the Doctor. I think it’s a real shame that Colin Baker’s tenure ended so abruptly, as it would have been great to see the 6th Doctor battling the Celestial Toymaker and the Ice Warriors. Fortunately the Big Finish audio adventures have given us the chance to enjoy Colin Baker’s Doctor once more, with scores of memorable stories; they have helped create the legacy that the 6th Doctor so rightly deserves.
Following Salamander’s demise and narrowly escaping from a giant web in space, the TARDIS materialises in the London Underground, where the tunnels have become infested with pulsating webs and the Great Intelligence’s fearsome robotic Yeti. The Doctor (Patrick Troughton), Jamie, (Frazer Hines), and Victoria (Deborah Watling) are reunited with Professor Travers (Jack Watling), who they met forty years ago in the Himalayas. They discover Travers’ experiments with a control sphere must have accidentally reactivated the Yeti he brought back from Tibet in 1935, providing the Great Intelligence with another chance to invade Earth.
As the web-fungus begins to fill the underground tunnels the Doctor joins forces with the Army, led by Captain Knight (Ralph Watson), and then later Colonel Lethbridge-Stewart (Nicholas Courtney), to fight the Yeti – unaware that someone in their midst has been possessed by the Intelligence. The Doctor and his friends are captured by the Yeti and taken to the Great Intelligence’s lair, where the Intelligence plans to drain all of the Doctor’s knowledge from his mind.
The Doctor manages to sabotage the device so it will enable him to drain Intelligence’s mind instead, but before he can implement his plan, the Doctor’s companion’s rescue him and the Great Intelligence is sent screaming back into the dark void from whence it came. After saying their farewells, the Doctor, Jamie, and Victoria are heading back to the Covent Garden station, when the Doctor suddenly remembers the trains could start running again soon, so they all quickly hurry off down the tunnel to reach the TARDIS…
The Web of Fear (1968) is the fifth story from Season Five, written by Mervyn Haisman and Henry Lincoln, this adventure features Patrick Troughton at the height of his tenure as the Doctor. The announcement in October 2013 that four of the five missing episodes from The Web of Fear – together with The Enemy of the World – had been discovered by Philip Morris in Nigeria, with their subsequent return to the BBC and immediate release on iTunes, made the 50th Anniversary celebrations of Doctor Who even more special. This new DVD release from BBC Worldwide is one that few of us could ever have dreamed of owning back when the range was launched fifteen years ago, so it is perhaps fitting then that such a revered classic from Season Five as The Web of Fear should become the final regular release from the Doctor Who DVD range – before the range itself concludes on October 26th 2015 with the long-awaited release of The Underwater Menace.
Needless to say, Patrick Troughton is magnificent in The Web of Fear. In a performance that shifts effortlessly between the lighter, more comic moments, and brooding intensity as the Doctor contemplates the Intelligence’s plans, Troughton’s presence seems to permeate nearly every aspect of the story – even when he is absent during second episode, only featuring momentarily in the reprise for the previous episode, his Doctor presides over this web of intrigue; causing subtle ripples that spread outwards to influence everything around him.
The camaraderie between this TARDIS crew is a joy to behold. Jamie is as resourceful as ever, helping close the TARDIS doors to save the Doctor and Victoria from suffering the same fate as Salamander, and being sucked into the time vortex. Following this exciting opening there is a wonderful scene were Jamie and Victoria tease the Doctor about his ability to control the TARDIS. Once they escape the web in space and materialise in Covent Garden tube station we are treated to a typical exchange between the Doctor and Victoria, where she asks if it’s safe to venture outside, to which the Doctor assures her wryly that he shouldn’t think so for a moment.
Frazer Hines has some great scenes in this story, Jamie’s previous encounter with the Great Intelligence proves extremely useful, he knows about Intelligence’s pyramid devices, helps the soldiers when they confront the Yeti in the tunnels, and looks after Victoria when the Doctor goes missing following the explosion at Charing Cross. Deborah Watling has plenty to do as well, in this, her penultimate adventure as Victoria Waterfield; her character has become a little more accustomed to her adventures in time and space by this story, with Victoria bravely wandering into the tunnels alone at one point in search of the Doctor and Jamie.
The Web of Fear is a near perfect fusion of storytelling and direction. With its dark and foreboding tunnels, eerie, web shrouded atmosphere, and the sure knowledge that something terrible is lurking in the darkness, ready to strike at any moment, certainly makes The Web of Fear one of the most suspenseful stories of this era. With this sequel to The Abominable Snowmen (1967), writers Mervyn Haisman and Henry Lincoln ensure the Yeti make triumphant return in The Web of Fear, cleverly moving the Yeti from the bleak wilderness of the Himalayas and placing them in the more familiar setting of the London Underground, Haisman and Lincoln instantly made the creatures seem even more menacing than ever before.
The Yeti have also been given an upgrade of sorts for their second appearance, slimmer, and with the addition of two bright glowing eyes, they now wield guns that fire lethal streams of webbing, and each attack is accompanied by a distinctive roar that is both terrifying and primal in its intensity. The effectiveness of these lumbering monsters is enhanced even further by the incredible sets, designed by David Myersough-Jones, whose stunning replicas of the stations and tunnels were so good that London Underground apparently complained to the BBC – mistakenly thinking they had filmed there without permission.
Deborah Watling’s father, Jack Watling, also returns as Professor Travers, heavily made up to look much older, his portrayal of the short tempered Professor is brilliant. It’s great to see Travers’ reaction when he is reunited with Jamie and Victoria, some forty years after their last adventure in the Himalayas and their observations about how he has aged is priceless. On his arrival at the armies Goodge Street underground HQ, the elderly Professor is confronted by the smarmy reporter Harold Chorley (Jon Rollason), and he promptly gives Chorley a suitably blunt and no-nonsense assessment of the crisis that has engulfed London when the journalist attempts to interview him. Tina Packer plays Travers’ daughter, Anne Travers, who arrives to help after the Yeti control sphere goes missing. Anne is an accomplished scientist in her own right, she doesn’t suffer fools lightly either, deftly subverting Captain Knight’s preconceptions of her by explaining her reasons for becoming a scientist with a cool sarcasm, and she is also swift to put Chorley in his place as well; making it clear in no uncertain terms that she has no time whatsoever for his “style” of reporting.
The Web of Fear is also something of a precursor to more contemporary Earth-based stories, with the Doctor working alongside the army as a scientific advisor, leading to the introduction of UNIT in The Invasion (1968), before the concept was fully embraced by the production team when the Doctor began his exile on Earth at the start of Season Seven – a format that would form the cornerstone of the 3rd Doctor’s era.
The soldiers we meet in The Web of Fear are initially led by Captain Knight, played by Ralph Watson, then we have Staff Sgt. Arnold (Jack Wollgar), along with Corporal Lane (Rod Beacham), Corporal Blake (Richardson Morgan), Craftsman Weams (Stephen Whittaker), and Derek Pollitt as faint-hearted Driver Evans. This story also features John Levene’s second appearance in the series, this time as one of the Yeti. John Levene would of course eventually go on to play the role of Benton during the UNIT stories.
The Web of Fear also marks Nicholas Courtney’s first appearance as the Doctor’s long time friend Lethbridge-Stewart. Nicholas Courtney had previously appeared as Space Security Service Agent Bret Vyon in The Dalek Master Plan (1965) with William Hartnell. Its great to see Nicholas Courtney working with Patrick Troughton in this story, here as Colonel Lethbridge-Stewart, Courtney’s character appears midway through the story, in episode three, although his boots are actually seen in episode two (played by the unaccredited Maurice Brooks), and he quickly assumes command at Goodge Street HQ. The Colonel would soon be promoted to Brigadier for his next story, The Invasion, but here we get to see the genesis of his friendship with the Doctor. While Captain Knight is openly sceptical about the Doctor’s claims and his ability to travel in time and space, it’s fascinating to see how readily the Colonel accepts the Doctor’s explanation about the TARDIS, as well as the Time Lords hypothesis about the true nature of the Great Intelligence itself.
This atmospheric direction by Douglas Camfield is nothing short of superb; every exciting moment of suspense from the scripts is accentuated further by the impressive sets and the cast’s excellent performances. There are some brilliant Hammeresque touches as well, especially in the first episode, when the Yeti returns to life in Julius Silverstein’s (Frederick Schrecker) museum, where Camfield’s use of stock music composed by Bela Bartock elevates this scene into a sublime moment of gothic horror. The Web of Fear is one of those Doctor Who stories where everything seems to magically gel together, creating a seamless blend of sci-fi and horror. The effects of the web-fungus and the Yeti web guns are also chilling to behold, as soldiers fall screaming to the ground, their faces smothered by the deadly webbing, tunnels fill up with the bubbling web, and the fungus even creeps across the closing credits (except for episode six) in a writhing, pulsating mass of tendrils just like in the episodes themselves.
The Yeti attack at Covent Garden in episode four is another great highlight Douglas Camfield’s direction in The Web of Fear, were the Yeti strike (accompanied by the same incidental stock music used for the Cybemen) as Colonel Lethbridge-Stewart leads his men in a mission to acquire the TARDIS. As they fight back against the impossible odds above ground, unaware Staff Sgt. Arnold and Corporal Lane have already succumbed to the web while trying to push the baggage trolley through the tunnel, they find themselves locked in a bitter fight for survival as Yeti advance and mercilessly kill everyone on sight. Camfield makes the Yeti seem just as frightening in these daylight scenes as they are in the darkness of the underground tunnels, bullets, grenades, not even a bazooka seems to slow them down. Colonel Lethrbridge-Stewart is the only survivor from the massacre; he makes it back to Goodge Street HQ where he is horrified to learn that one of the missing Yeti models used to summon the creatures had secretly been planted in his pocket all along.
The chilling scenes with Professor Travers possessed by the Great Intelligence, flanked by Yeti guards, as it uses the Professors voice to confront the Doctor and the survivors, reveals the full extent of the Intelligence’s plans. After their previous encounter in Tibet, the Intelligence has observed the Doctor’s travels and set this trap so it can use a machine to drain the Doctor’s mind of all his knowledge. The fifth episode is extremely tense, with almost everyone now under suspicion as the Great Intelligence’s duplicitous servant, Victoria is taken hostage by the Yeti, then Staff Sgt. Arnold returns unexpectedly, and the fungus continues to close in on Goodge Street HQ as the Doctor and Anne race against time to complete the control box to use against the Yeti.
Although most of the story was originally wiped by the BBC, with only the first episode remaining in the BBC Archive, it would be many years before fans would get the chance to see this only surviving episode. While the novelisation of The Web of Fear by Terrance Dicks, published in 1976, vividly brought the story to life, it was only this, and the subsequent broadcast of episode one as part of BSB’s Dr Who Weekend (1990) followed by the telesnaps printed in Doctor Who Magazine, that served to provide any real impression of this classic story. The audio soundtrack (narrated by Frazer Hines) on the BBC Audio CD (2000) also gave more insight to this story. Episode one of The Web of Fear was finally released as part of The Reign of Terror Box Set on VHS (2003), and the episode debuted later on DVD as part of the Lost in Time Set (2005) along with a selection of clips from the missing episodes cut by the New Zealand Broadcasting Cooperation, yielding a tantalizing glimpse of the battle from episode four and the moment Anne Travers was surprised by a Yeti.
Just as with The Enemy of the World DVD, there are no extra features on The Web of Fear DVD, however the sheer quality of the restoration and the joy of seeing these classic episodes again more than make up for any lack of bonus features. The same collection of images and telesnaps used to reconstruct episode three for its iTunes release has also been employed to complete the story. Although I would have liked to have seen the missing third episode reconstructed with animation like the other incomplete stories previously released on DVD, the telesnaps and audio are more than adequate. Its just a shame Nicholas Courtney’s first onscreen appearance as Colonel Lethbridge-Stewart is in this missing episode, while the telesnaps and audio document this scene well enough, it would have been a magical moment to actually witness the debut of this much-loved character and his historic first encounter with Patrick Troughton’s Doctor.
The final episode of The Web of Fear rattles along at a cracking pace. Travers, now released from the Intelligence’s control, is rounded up along with all the others by the Yeti and taken to the Piccadilly Circus station, where the true host of the alien Intelligence is finally revealed as Staff Sgt. Arnold. Unaware the Doctor has secretly reprogrammed one of the Yetis, the Intelligence believes it has won, but before the pyramid device can drain the Doctor’s mind Jamie orders the controlled Yeti to attack and pulls him free. The Doctor is livid, having sabotaged the helmet to drain the Intelligence into his own mind, he is robbed of a decisive victory and the action packed final moments culminate with the Great Intelligence being sent back into space. It is only during this last episode that The Web of Fear comes unstuck a little. The Intelligence’s control over Staff Sgt. Arnold’s lacks the sinister menace of Padmasambhava’s possession in The Abominable Snowmen, where the Intelligence spoke in a chilling whisper, and though the conclusion is exciting it does feels a little rushed – however these are only minor quibbles in what is otherwise a near flawless production.
The legacy of The Web of Fear has now encompassed the 11th Doctor’s (Matt Smith) era as well, with the Great Intelligence featuring in the 2012 Christmas Special: The Snowmen, voiced by Sir Ian McKellen, with Richard E Grant as the evil Dr Simeon, and Grant later returned as the intelligence in The Bells of St John (2013) and The Name of the Doctor (2013). Although the Yeti did not appear in these stories, the discovery of The Web of Fear showed how good they were, and it would be fantastic to see these classic monsters return again in the new series.l
The Web of Fear DVD is a fantastic example of Patrick Troughton’s era, and I’m sure this classic story will take pride of place in many collections. Season Five is often held in the highest regard as one of the very best, if not finest, seasons of Doctor Who ever made. The Web of Fear exemplifies the best qualities of the base under siege format that became so synonymous of this era of monsters, with exciting scripts, and excellent direction; it also featured some of the highest levels of quality and design ever seen in Doctor Who during the sixties. Season Five also heralded significant changes in the production team (With the departure of Innes Lloyd, Peter Bryant would become the new Producer on Doctor Who, and Derrick Sherwin joined as Story Editor) and it is perhaps testament to this smooth transition behind the scenes, together with Troughton, Hines, and Watling’s endearing performances, that all contributed towards The Web of Fear, and Season Five as a whole, achieving such a high standard in both terms of quality and production that it would become one of the programmes most distinctive and memorable seasons of all time.
When the Doctor (Peter Davison), Tegan (Janet Fielding), and Turlough (Mark Strickson) receive a dire warning from the White Guardian the TARDIS lands on board the SS Shadow, an Edwardian sailing yacht, which they discover is really a spaceship that is taking part in a race against other sailing vessels. The crew of the ship are Eternals, beings who exist outside of time, and they are racing each other across the Solar System to claim the most treasured prize in the universe – Enlightenment.
The Doctor tries to keep the TARDIS secret from Captain Striker (Keith Barron), but the Eternal learns of the time machine with his telepathic powers and prevents the Time Lord and his companions from escaping. When other ships in the race are mysteriously destroyed the Doctor begins to suspect foul play. Tormented by his secret pact with the Black Guardian (Valentine Dyall), Turlough jumps overboard, only to be rescued by a pirate ship, the Buccaneer, where he is taken to meet Captain Wrack (Lynda Baron).
Turlough discovers that Captain Wrack is secretly in league with the Black Guardian and has a deadly weapon on her ship that concentrates mental energy. Captain Wrack invites the crew of the SS Shadow to a dinner on board the Buccaneer, where he hypnotises Tegan, placing a focusing crystal in her tiara that will destroy Striker’s ship. Later when Captain Wrack is defeated the Doctor and Turlough steer the ship towards the gleaming crystal structure that is Enlightenment, winning the race, and defeating the Eternals.
Turlough is presented with a gleaming crystal. The White Guardian (Cyrl Luckham) offers Turlough a chance of Enlightenment while the Black Guardian offers him untold riches and demands he gives him the Doctor. Turlough chooses Enlightenment, grabbing the glowing crystal, he throws it at the Black Guardian – who bursts into flames and fades away. As the White Guardian departs the Doctor and Tegan acknowledge that Turlough is now free of the Black Guardian’s influence, and realise that Enlightenment was not the crystal, but the choice Turlough made.
Enlightenment is one of the highlights of the twentieth season. This is a great story by Barbara Clegg that brings the Black Guardian Trilogy to a satisfying conclusion. Right from the opening moments in the TARDIS, which look really spooky with the dark lighting, as the action shifts to the Edwardian yacht the claustrophobic atmosphere of the story continues to build. The attention to period detail is remarkable and the costumes are brilliant, director Fiona Cumming really makes you believe you are a on a sailing ship, perfectly building up to the astonishing reveal at the end of episode one. The model sailing ships are also of a really high standard, as are the scenes where they skim close to the planets and the final port of call at Enlightenment itself.
The Eternals are beings who exist outside linear time, dwelling within eternity itself, they fill the emptiness of their existence by feeding off the thoughts of their human crew – who they have kidnapped and brainwashed to do their bidding. Captain Striker is a cold and calculating adversary for the Doctor, but it is his first officer Mariner (Christopher Brown), who develops a creepy fixation on Tegan, that really illustrates how parasitic the Eternals really are. Janet Fielding is really good in Enlightenment, she gets plenty to do in the story, and she really conveys Tegan’s disgust when she turns on Mariner and blocks her thoughts so he cannot read them.
The Black Guardian has another ally in this story, Captain Wrack, and Lynda Baron gives a marvellously over-the-top performance as the evil Pirate Captain. It’s also good to see Valentine Dyall and Cyril Luckham return as the Guardians from the Key to Time saga, and Valentine Dyall is brilliant as the chillingly evil Black Guardian… This story also brings Turlough’s story full circle, with Mark Strickson giving one of his best performances as the character. There are some quite shocking moments in Enlightenment as Turlough has to come to terms with his actions. His deal with the Black Guardian rapidly begins to sour, sensing that he is doomed; he desperately tries to commit suicide by jumping from the deck of the SS Shadow. After being rescued by Captain Wrack his loyalty to the Doctor is challenged again, until he finally chooses Enlightenment at the end of the story – finding his own redemption and defeating the Black Guardian.
Enlightenment is one of my favourite stories from Peter Davison’s tenure as the 5th Doctor. He gives a very understated performance in this story, often acting as a quiet observer, particularly towards the end of the story as Turlough has to make his choice. The 5th Doctor is always right at the heart of the action, quietly guiding his companions, and always managing to stay just one set ahead of the Eternals and the Black Guardian’s plan. He even acquires a new stick of celery on the Buccaneer, which is strange as everything created by the Eternals is not actually real, but it is still on the Doctor’s lapel at the end of the story. Enlightenment is a fascinating story, full of great performances and special effects, and is a real jewel in the crown of the programmes twentieth anniversary year.
The TARDIS is thrown off course and makes a bumpy landing on the Moon in 2070 where the Doctor (Patrick Troughton) and companions Jamie (Frazer Hines), Ben (Michael Craze) and Polly (Anneke Wills) discover a weather control station where a mysterious plague has broken out. Jamie has been injured exploring the lunar surface, while he recovers the Doctor offers to help Hobson (Patrick Barr) deal with the epidemic. The Doctor discovers the illness was caused by an alien poison the Cybermen have used to contaminate the food stores after secretly entering the base.
After taking over the Moonbase and seizing control of the Gravaton with crewmembers they’ve converted into slaves, the Cybermen prepare to use the weather controlling gravity beam to destroy all life on Earth. Polly and her friends manage to destroy the Cybermen in the base using a cocktail of chemicals sprayed from the fire extinguishers, which dissolves their plastic chest units. As more Cybermen begin advancing across the lunar surface, the Doctor gets Hobson to use the Gravaton against them, blasting them and their ships into space with the gravity beam. The Doctor and his companions return to the TARDIS where the Doctor activates the Time Scanner – a device that can show a glimpse of the future – and the image of a giant claw suddenly fills the screen…
The Moonbase (1967) is the sixth story from Season Four, written by Kitt Pedler; it was the fourth story to feature Patrick Troughton as the Doctor. This latest DVD release from BBC Worldwide features the second appearance of the Cybermen in the series, having made their debut in William Hartnell’s final story The Tenth Planet (1966), they return with a completely new look. Patrick Troughton is also settling into the role of the Doctor, with the eccentricities seen in The Highlanders (1966/67) and The Underwater Menace (1966) giving way to a somewhat darker and more refined performance that would make Troughton’s second incarnation of the Time Lord so endearing for generations to come.
Whilst there are indeed some striking similarities with The Tenth Planet, the Antarctic setting is transferred to the Moon, General Cutler and the Moonbase’s commander Hobson both run facilities with a diverse multi-national crew, and each story has subplots (The former involving a space capsule in peril and the latter a strange plague debilitating the crew) that are instrumental in facilitating the arrival of the Cybermen. However, it is the subtle changes which The Moonbase heralds that are so compelling, and the brilliantly redesigned Cybermen would go on to become one of the programmes most popular recurring monsters.
Seeing how Jamie spends the majority of the story in the medical unit, Ben, and especially Polly, really impress in this story. Having encountered the Cybermen before, Polly recognises them instantly, Ben also recalls the events of the Tenth Planet and how Mondas was destroyed, but Hobson is not as easily convinced that the Cybermen have returned. Polly has some great scenes in this story: confident and resourceful, she helps tend the patients in the medical unit, later asking the Doctor about his medical qualifications as he investigates the cause of the plague, which she inadvertently helps solve with an impromptu coffee break, and she also devises a way to defeat the Cybermen using a special cocktail of chemicals to melt their chest units.
As the Doctor notes, there are dark corners of the universe which have bred the most terrible things, things that must be fought, and it is here, in this single moment of dialogue, together with the grave sincerity of Troughton’s performance, that virtually redefines the series in a heartbeat and effectively paves the way for one of the finest seasons in the programmes history – season five.
For their return the Cybermen received a brand new look, the cloth faces, bizarre voices, and cumbersome costume of their first appearance is superseded by an altogether sleeker and more imposing form than their predecessors. These mark II Cybermen are now encased in a gleaming one-piece silver outfit, their chest unit is far more compact, a smooth metal helmet gives them a chillingly emotionless countenance, the Cybermen’s hands now just have three silver digits, and they can also fire bolts of electricity from their wrists. The new voices for the Cybermen, created by Peter Hawkins, are also very different, replacing the sing-song tones used in the Tenth Planet with some distinctly cold and highly effective electronic tones, which make the Cybermen seem even more emotionless and threatening than their predecessors.
Though the Cybermen do not feature much in the first two episodes of the Moonbase, they certainly make their presence felt, creeping into the food stores to infect the sugar supplies with a neurotropic virus, there is a frightening scene were a Cybermen appears from the shadows and attacks Ralph (Mark Heath). Believing he is near death, Jamie wakes to find a Cyberman towering over him, and deliriously thinks he has seen the Phantom Piper as the Cybermen carries another sick crewmember away to its hidden spaceship. There is also a particularly eerie scene in episode two, where the Cybermen stalk and attack two crewmembers on the lunar surface. Together with some excellent lighting and stock music, director Morris Barry gradually heightens the tension, leaving the way clear for the Cybermen to dominate the last two suspense filled episodes, culminating in some impressive scenes where they march across the lunar surface to attack the Moonbase.
This story was especially topical at the time, it was the height of the space race, and producer Innes Lloyd wanted a story set on the moon. The Moonbase is also notable for featuring Victor Pemberton – Story Editor on The Tomb of the Cybermen (1967) and scriptwriter of Fury From The Deep (1968) as one of the crewmembers, and John Levene, who would go on to play the role of Benton, also appears as a Cyberman extra in this story. Incidentally, the novelisation of this story (Doctor Who and the Cybermen) was penned by the unaccredited co-writer of The Moonbase, Gerry Davis.
Unfortunately only episodes 2 & 4 of The Moonbase currently resided in the BBC archive, so for this special DVD release Planet 55 studios in Australia have used the same animation techniques employed on their restoration of The Reign of Terror and 10th Planet DVD’s, together with the surviving soundtrack, to recreate episodes 1 & 3 of The Moonbase so this four part story can be finally enjoyed again. The animation of these episodes is nothing short of phenomenal, the care and attention to detail makes this story come alive in a way that the audio soundtrack alone never could. The first episodes includes some great scenes of the TARDIS crew jumping around on the lunar surface in their spacesuits, and we also see the Cyberman attacking Ralph, but it is the third episode that is really special. We get to see the Doctor confronting the Cybermen, as well as Polly and the others devising their plan to fight back, the scene where the second Doctor seems to debate with himself about the Cybermen is brilliant, and the build up to the big reveal of the Cyber-Army is dramatically recreated.
This feature packed release contains some excellent special features, including a commentary for episodes 2 & 4 by actors Anneke Wills (Polly), Frazer Hines (Jamie), Edward Philips (Scientist), and Brian Hodgson (Special Sounds Creator), with episodes 1 & 3 accompanied by interviews with Kitt Peddler’s daughters, Lucy Pedller and Carol Topolski, Lovett Bickford (Assistant Floor Manager), Cybermen actors Barry Nobel, Derek Chaffer, and Reg Whitehead, and the archive interview with producer Innes Lloyd. The commentaries are moderated and linked by Toby Hadoke. The standout extra on this disk though is Lunar Landings, a fantastic look back at the making of The Moonbase, featuring interviews with Anneke Wills, Frazer Hines, Reg Whitehead, and production assistant Desmond McCarthy. I really enjoyed hearing their memories about this story, Anneke Wills account of filming at Ealing for the weightless sequences on the Moon were fun to hear, as well as the story about Patrick Troughton’s lucky escape when part of the Gravaton set collapsed, and of course the DVD also includes a photo gallery, the superb production information subtitles, Radio Times PDF, and a coming soon trailer.
While not exactly perfect, The Moonbase stands up fairly well, despite some padding in places and that ludicrous scene with the tea tray. Patrick Troughton is excellent as the Doctor, the regular cast have plenty to do, and the redesigned Cybermen are really impressive. The way they initially strike from the shadows is highly effective, stalking the base and kidnapping some of the crew, who are then subjected to a conversion process that reanimates them as Zombie-like slaves. Only the ending is a little disappointing when the Cybermen and their spaceships are rather unceremoniously dispatched. The Moonbase effectively sets the stage for the base under siege format that became so synonymous with the Troughton era, a template that would ultimately be honed to perfection the following year, in Season Five. However, there is still plenty to enjoy here, especially with Patrick Troughton’s great performance and Planet 55’s exemplarily work on the animated episodes, which makes The Moonbase DVD a welcome return to the early years of Doctor Who.
The TARDIS returns the Doctor (Jon Pertwee) and Sarah Jane (Elisabeth Sladen) to Earth, materialising in a strangely deserted London, where the military are struggling to cope with attacks by dinosaurs that have suddenly begun appearing all over the capitol. After being mistaken for looters and arrested by the military, following a close encounter with a pterodactyl, the sudden appearance of a tyrannosaurus rex gives the Doctor and Sarah a chance to escape. Taking refuge from their pursuers, the Doctor and Sarah encounter a Peasant (James Marcus) who has been displaced by a time eddy. Thinking the Doctor is a wizard, the Peasant moves to attacks him, but suddenly vanishes. Afterwards they are found by the Brigadier (Nicholas Courtney) and return to the base UNIT has set up in a school, where they learn more about the dinosaur invasion.
When the Doctor’s attempt to capture a dinosaur is sabotaged he begins to suspect there might be a traitor at UNIT. That traitor is in fact Captain Mike Yates (Richard Franklin), who has teamed up with two scientists, Professor Whitaker (Peter Miles) and Butler (Martin Jarvis), who have been experimenting with a time travel, using dinosaurs from the past to cause panic so the city would be evacuated. Sarah Jane investigates while the Doctor is busy and discovers that General Finch (John Bernnett) and Sir Charles Grover (Noel Johnson) are also involved in the conspiracy, only to be captured herself and taken to a secret underground bunker beneath the city streets, where she later wakes up on board a spaceship bound for a distant planet.
Sarah Jane quickly realizes that the spaceship is a fake. She manages to convince the colonists they have been deceived, that they are not heading for a new “golden age” on a planet free of pollution, and leads them through the air lock and back into the underground base just as the Doctor and the Brigadier attack the secret headquarters. Sir Charles Grover tries to use the time travel device to transport London back to prehistoric times, but the Doctor has altered the controls, and instead it sends Grover and Whitaker back to the time of the dinosaurs. With the crisis over the Brigadier oversees Captain Yates resignation from UNIT, while the Doctor tries to persuade Sarah to go on another adventure in the TARDIS and visit the planet Florana.
Invasion of the Dinosaurs (1974) offers an intriguing slant on the ecological concepts that often featured strongly throughout Barry Letts time as producer of Doctor Who. This six part story is written by Malcolm Hulke, and forms part of Jon Pertwee’s final season as the Doctor. After the tragic death of Roger Delgado and Katy Manning;’s departure as Jo Grant, the UNIT family was slowly beginning to go their separate ways.
Season Eleven was indeed the end of an era, script editor Terrance Dicks and producer Barry Letts were ready to move on, along with Jon Pertwee, who had also decided to leave the show. Needless to say, Pertwee is on fine form during Invasion of the Dinosaurs, but it is Elisabeth Sladen who really gets a chance to shine here as new companion Sarah Jane Smith, and her skills as a journalists are well used to drive the plot. Sgt Benton (John Levene) is also around to help out; being one of the few officers trusted to remain by the Brigadier’s side; he even lets the Doctor knock him unconscious so he can escape from custody after General Finch frames him for the Dinosaur attacks. We also get to see the Doctor’s new car, the futuristic Whomobile, as it glides around the deserted streets of London. Jon Pertwee had the car specially built for the show, and while it may not be quite as memorable as Bessie, it’s still a very impressive vehicle.
One of the best aspects of Invasion of the Dinosaurs is how Captain Mike Yates turns out to be the traitor who has been working against them. Richard Franklin has some great scenes in this story, even though Mike Yates betrays the Doctor and UNIT, he still rushes in to help the Doctor when his act of sabotage leaves him at the mercy of a tyrannosaurus rex. His desire to help build a better world for mankind is admirable but his loyalty to his friends proves to be his undoing, which is perhaps why the Brigadier affords Yates the chance to resign from UNIT.
Sadly the weakest aspect of Invasion of the Dinosaurs are the dinosaurs themselves. Having been convinced by freelance effects designer, Clifford Culley that he could produce highly realistic model dinosaurs, Barry Letts and Terrance Dicks went ahead and commissioned the story. Unfortunately Westbury Design and Optical Ltd were unable to realize the demands of Malcolm Hulke’s scripts, leaving the production team stuck with some truly woeful special effects. By then it was too late to do anything about it, although it has to be said that the model backgrounds are highly effective, and the CSO used to overlay them into each scene is quite impressive, it’s just when the dinosaurs arrive that the illusion is completely shattered.
Throughout the course of this story the Doctor and Sarah Jane encounter a number of prehistoric monsters: including a tyrannosaurus rex, triceratops, stegosaurs, brontosaurus, and even a pterodactyl, but it is the tyrannosaurus rex that often earns the most scathing criticism. This puppet is actually far too cute to even be remotely frightening, bobbing around the model sets and flapping his tail, the T-Rex roars at everything and anything – it even seems to say “ROAAARRRR” rather than roaring properly! When the T-Rex is caught and chained up in a disused building, Sarah Jane sneaks in to take some photographs, but the flash on her camera wakes the creature up. This leads to one of the finniest scenes ever in Dr Who as T-Rex goes on the rampage. Well, he does manage to smash a window after a couple of wallops from his tail, and head buts a couple of polystyrene girders, before finally popping his head through a wobbly cardboard wall with a hearty “ROAAAARRRRR” as the Doctor and Sarah escape in a jeep.
Invasion of the Dinosaurs may be beset by awful special effects but director Paddy Russell more than makes up for these shortcomings, particularly with some great location filming to portray the eerily deserted streets of London. Unfortunately only the black and white version of the first episode of Invasion of the Dinosaurs is currently exists in the BBC Archives, with the rest of the story in colour, this startlingly atmospheric first episode is a real gem. Seeing the Doctor and Sarah Jane return to the evacuated London is quite unnerving: stray dogs roam the streets, a football rests untouched in a children’s playground, a looter gets horribly killed when his car encounters a dinosaur, and the brutal way martial law is enforced is quite unlike anything we have seen before in Doctor Who. The first episode also included a terrifying encounter with a pterodactyl as the Doctor and Sara try to escape in a jeep. It’s a fantastic scene, laced with a real sense of horror as the creature swoops in to attack, smashing through the driver’s window before the Doctor drives the jeep through the lockups doors to escape.
This first episode was digitally remastered and coloured for its DVD release in 2012, although the footage could not be fully restored, so the colours do look a little washed out and unnatural. I prefer the black and white version of this episode (you have the option to watch either version on DVD), Paddy Russell’s direction is superb, and her brilliantly filmed location scenes really enhance the story.
Invasion of the Dinosaurs is a classic case of Doctor Who punching well above its weight and being let down by some truly abysmal special effects. However, it’s funny to think how nearly four decades later Dinosaurs on a Spaceship (2012) would see the 11th Doctor (Matt Smith) facing incredible CGI dinosaurs, albeit in a story that makes the 3rd Doctor’s first encounter with the prehistoric creatures in Invasion of the Dinosaurs look like a masterpiece in comparison. Invasion of the Dinosaurs is a worthy addition to any Dr Who fans DVD collection, the two disk set is packed with extra features, and proves how a good story can outshine the glossy sheen of CGI any day of the week.
When the TARDIS emerges from the time vortex 30,000 years in the future, the Doctor (Tom Baker) and Sarah (Elisabeth Sladen) respond to a distress signal from the planet Zeta Minor, where a Morestran geological expedition led by Professor Sorenson (Frederick Jaeger) has come under attack by unknown forces. The Doctor and Sarah arrive and explore the strange alien jungle as a military rescue vessel from Morestra also lands on the planet, it appears that Sorenson is the only survivor from the doomed expedition, and after the TARDIS is transported to the Morestran ship the Doctor and Sarah are caught and blamed for the demise of Sorenson’s team.
The Planet of Evil (1975) marks the first solo outing for Tom Baker and Elisabeth Sladen as the Doctor and Sarah Jane Smith following Harry Sullivan’s (Ian Marter) decision to remain on Earth after they’d defeated the Zygons. It is clear from the moment we join them inside the TARDIS that Sarah’s relationship with the 4th Doctor is far more light-hearted than with his previous incarnation. The Doctor treats Sarah more as an equal partner in their adventures, she’s independent, resourceful, and he trusts her implicitly to be there for him when he needs her the most. Its marvellous to see Sarah teasing the Doctor about his ability to control the TARDIS at the start of the story, her practical thinking enables the Doctor to continue his work while she returns to the TARDIS for him to fetch some equipment to pinpoint Zeta Minor’s position in space, and she even braves the jungle to rescue the Doctor after he miraculously survives falling into the blackness of antimatter pit.
It is from this black pit, where the delicate balance between two universes has been disturbed by the Morestran expedition to find a new renewable power source for their people, that Sorenson’s experiments to refine the antimatter crystals around the edge of the pit have incurred the wrath of the terrifying antimatter creature that dwells within its inky depths. The Planet of Evil is also our first clear example of how Season Thirteen was beginning to encapsulate the new direction that script editor Robert Holmes and producer Philip Hinchcliffe had envisaged for the series. The shimmering red antimatter creature seen in The Planet of Evil is no doubt inspired by the Sci-Fi classic Forbidden Planet (1956), writer Louis Marks clever script plays to the strengths of this premise, and with the adaptation of many more classic themes from Sci-Fi & Horror Films, these transposed elements of Gothic Horror would go on to become one of the defining factors of the Hinchliffe and Holmes era of Doctor Who.
The incredible jungle sets created for The Planet of Evil by Robert Murray-Leach at Ealing are truly remarkable. Never before had such a diverse alien environment been created for Doctor Who, portions of the set are even flooded to create a small stream. These filmed inserts as incredibly atmospheric, particularly in the first and second episodes as the expedition team succumbs to the transparent antimatter monster, and then later as the Doctor and Sarah explore the forbidding depths of the alien jungle. Zeta Minor seems to alter drastically in the hours of darkness, becoming even more oppressive and menacing, as the antimatter creature sweeps through the jungle like a crackling portent of doom. The alien vegetation is like nothing we have ever seen before, the slimy looking trees and dangling creepers have a putrid quality about them, almost as if Zeta Minor has become a corrupted reflection of the dark forces contained within the antimatter pit itself.
After the Morestran ship comes under attack by the antimatter creature the Doctor realizes that Sorenson’s work has potentially damaged the very fabric of the universe, unleashing primal forces beyond anything he has encountered before. He takes a small sample of Sorenson’s refined antimatter crystals with him in a tin, hoping it will protect him from the creature, which proves a wise move as the phantom-like monster rises from the pit and overwhelms him – sending the Doctor tumbling into the abyss as Sarah and the Morestran crew watch in horror as the images are relayed by their mobile oculiod scanner.
Its unclear quite what the Doctor experiences in the bizarre realm the antimatter creature seem to inhabit between the two universes, but his stature as a Time Lord seems enough to grant him an audience with this entity, enabling him to convince it to leave the ship alone so long as all of Sorenson’s antimatter samples are returned to the pit. While the ships captain, the indecisive Salamar (Prentis Hancock), argues with his more experienced first officer, Vishinskey (Ewen Solon), Sarah manages to slip away to see if she can help the Doctor. She arrives back at the pit and is relieved when the Doctor finally emerges from its sable depths, and with Vishinskey’s help, they return to the ship as it prepares to leave the planet.
The interiors of the Morestran spaceship provide a marked contrast to the alien jungle of Zeta Minor, with its sparsely furnished rooms and corridors, director David Maloney still succeeds in creating a palpable sense of dread as the ship begins to be pulled back towards the planet – especially when a savage creature begins to prey on the crew when the vessel is plunged into darkness. While the Morestran blindly follow every order Salamar issues, even standing their ground to defend the ship as the antimatter creature slaughters them, it falls to Vishinskey to ultimately provide the voice of reason. He quickly realizes that the Doctor and Sara are not responsible for the unexplained deaths. He openly defies Salamar on a number of occasions, demanding that he follows the Doctor’s advice to link the force field to the atomic accelerator to save the crew from the antimatter monster, and even leads a team to help Sarah retrieve the Doctor’s unconscious body from the pit before the ship departs.
Although his experience makes him a natural leader, Vishinskey’s many years of service has obviously left him battled hardened and chillingly efficient. When he oversees the funeral of a crewmember the first officer calmly explains to Sarah that while they may have to play the last rites, they don’t have to listen to them, before ejecting his fallen comrade into the silent void of deep space – to drift forever on a sea of perpetual darkness. Sarah may find the whole process deeply unsettling but Vishinskey reminds her that it is simply clean and efficient. He is from a future where the natural resources have begun to run out, possibly even a veteran of many conflicts, and is a prime example of how alien even our humanity might become one day in the face of such an ecological apocalypse.
It is perhaps ironic then, when Vishinskey saves the Doctor and Sarah from suffering a similar fate when Salamar tries to eject them into space – blaming them for all the deaths on board the ship. The Doctor has already deduced that Professor Sorenson has become monstrously hybridised by his experiments, causing him to mutate into a bestial creature that feeds on life energies to sustain it. Until now the Professor has been able to stabilize his condition with drugs, but when his supply is lost Sorenson is unable to stop himself from transforming into a grotesque anti-man and feeding on the life force of the Morestran crewmembers – draining them until all that is lefts is a withered husk.
This uncanny take on Robert Louis Stevenson’s The Strange Case of Dr Jeckyll and Mr Hyde (1886) may not offer quite such a startling metamorphosis, but it highlights the savage nature of the primal forces at work on Zeta Minor, and mirrors them in Sorenson’s gradual transformation into a salivating mockery of humanity. He has become consumed by his work, so obsessed with his goal to find a new energy source that he ignored the obvious risks to himself and his team, and the cost is his having to watch his own intellect slowly crumbling away as he gazes in horror at the molten fire that now burns inside his own eyes.
Tom Baker gives one of his finest performances as the Doctor in The Planet of Evil. Here we see how even the Doctor is weary of tampering with the forces Sorenson has unwittingly unleashed on Zeta Minor. When the Doctor confronts Sorenson in his cabin about the consequences of his actions, he reminds him that as scientists their privilege to experiment comes as the cost of total responsibility. The Professor tries to commit suicide by ejecting himself into space, but he is unable to control his bestial side, and transforms back into his savage self again.
With the ship being dragged back to the planet, Vishinskey assumes command of the vessel, but in a desperate bid to prove his worth Salamar takes the atomic accelerator and uses it to attack Sorenson in the ships hold. By using the accelerator on Sorenson in his unstable state Salamar not only signs his own death warrant, but also causes the professors body to divide and multiply, unleashing an army of rampaging antimatter creatures that attack the crew. In a last ditch attempt to advert disaster the Doctor leaves Sarah and Vishinskey in the relative safety of the command deck to find Sorenson. He uses a pistol to stun the rabid creature that Sorenson has become, before dragging him inside the TARDIS and returning to Zeta Minor.
Once the TARDIS materialises on the planet Sorenson breaks free of his bonds and attacks the Doctor. They race out of the TARDIS where they fight on the edge of the antimatter creature’s domain, but Sorenson loses his balance and tumbles helplessly into the bottomless pit. The Doctor throws the rest of Sorenson’s antimatter samples into the black void, honouring his side of the bargain with the antimatter monster, and when Sorenson is released unharmed the pair of them escape in the TARDIS as the creature slowly begins to rise from the pit.
The Planet of Evil is one of the best adventures from the 4th Doctor’s era. Tom Baker’s incredible persona imbues this incarnation with an indomitable charisma, effortlessly contemplating the fragile boundaries between the known universes one moment, then casually telling Sarah Jane how he met Shakespeare as they search the jungle, finally offering Sorenson the astonishing concept of harnessing the kinetic energy of planets in a discreetly mumbled afterthought before he departs with Sarah in the TARDIS for their next adventure. As the TARDIS spins away into space we look to the future, and are left marvelling at the wonderful adventure still to come.
Season Twelve would prove to be a time of great change for Doctor Who. After the gradual fragmentation of the UNIT family during the Eleventh Season it fell to the incoming creative team of Robert Holmes and Philip Hinchcliffe to take the helm and usher in their gothic vision of Doctor Who, a regeneration of sorts; which would go on to be regarded as one of the most successful periods in the programmes history.
With the transitional comedy of Robot out of the way, Hinchcliffe and Holmes could at last cast away the trappings of Season Eleven and finally get to work on developing scripts more akin to their new direction for the programme. Coming in at only twenty episodes, Season Twelve was shaping up to be, up to that point, one of the shortest seasons of Doctor Who ever produced. This led to some extremely clever budget saving ideas; allowing sets to be re-cycled for two of the stories as they were set in the same location, albeit in different time zones, as well some extensive location shooting. Another unique feature was the linking theme which ran from The Ark In Space to Revenge Of The Cybermen, which created an intriguing, and tightly plotted, narrative between episodes. However, there is one story which rests firmly at the heart of this aforementioned mini-trilogy that has become as synonymous with Doctor Who as the TARDIS itself – Genesis Of The Daleks.
Genesis Of The Daleks sees the Doctor (Tom Baker) and his companions, intrepid reporter Sarah Jane Smith (Elizabeth Sladen) and the dependable Harry Sullivan (Ian Marter), whisked off by the Time Lords on a mission to prevent the creation of the Daleks – having foreseen a time where the Daleks might one day become a threat to the entire universe. The Doctor is given a Time Ring to transport them back to the TARDIS once their mission is complete, then they are cast back through time to the planet Skaro, arriving in the barren wastelands at the most critical juncture in the Thal/Kaled War of attrition.
With the war falling into an unyielding stalemate, and natural resources on both sides almost exhausted, the Kaled’s turn to their revered scientist Davros (Michael Wisher) to turn the tide of the conflict in their favour. Entrusted with developing a weapon which will help the Kaled’s achieve victory over the Thals, Davros begins his heinous work. After decades of radioactive fallout from the nuclear war many Kaled’s have begun to exhibit horrific mutations; providing perfect fodder for Davros’ experiments to accelerate the Kaled race into it’s final mutated form. Where his own people to know the full extent of his work, they would probably have looked on Davros as a butcher rather than a saviour. Until now the reasoning behind the atrocities breeding in Davros’ underground bunker have gone unchallenged, with any threat of descent quickly quelled by Davros’ ruthless right-hand man Nyder (Peter Miles). This stringent regime is suddenly threatened when the Doctor manages to convince senior ranking Kaled officials to investigate the experiments being carried out in the bunker.
Furious that his research has been halted by his own people’s reluctance to accept their destiny, Davros conspires with the Thals to bring about the demise of the spineless officials who conspire against him, leading to the Thals launching a devastating nuclear strike on the Kaled dome. Only those chosen by Davros survive, taking shelter in the bunker beneath the city. With no one left to oppose him Davros unleashes the Daleks on the unsuspecting Thals. The ensuing massacre inside the Thal dome decimates the Thal population almost to the point of extinction.
Having found himself unable to complete his mission for the Time Lords, and commit genocide by destroying the Daleks incubating chamber, the Doctor and his companions join forces with a small band of Thal survivors and manage to blow up the entrance to Davros’ bunker. Entombed beneath the ruins of the Kaled city, the Daleks turn on the Kaled scientists and exterminate them. Too his horror, Davros realizes he is no longer able to control his creations, and is powerless to save himself from their wrath.
As Davros’ screams are drowned out by the sound of Daleks extermination rays, the Doctor, Sarah and Harry use the Time Ring to re-join the TARDIS back on the Nerva Beacon. The Doctor solemnly reflects that their actions may not have stopped the creation of the Daleks, but it would have perhaps slowed their development by at least a thousand years.
With such a rich storyline and memorable characters, there are few who could dispute that Genesis Of The Daleks is one of Terry Nation’s finest Dalek stories. Some of his scripts for his creations in previous seasons had adhered to a more familiar format: Planet Of The Daleks (1973) plays like a virtual re-enactment of the Daleks debut story in 1963, although the enticingly titled Death To The Daleks (1974) did provide a highly enjoyable Dalek story with a neat twist – making their weaponry as powerless as the humans and the native savages on Exxilon.
Like many of Terry Nation’s scripts, Genesis Of The Daleks is heavily imbued with the writer’s fascination of the more horrific aspects of warfare – in particular themes dealing with nuclear Armageddon and military dictatorships. While previous Dalek stories drowned under the weight of such heavy-handed moralizing; here these keynotes serve only as a disquieting backdrop, allowing a far greater story to play out. Terry Nation successfully uses Genesis Of The Daleks to ram home the horrific fate of the Kaled’s and Thals, a fate that is wholly of their own making; fermented from all the worst qualities the Kaled race has to offer.
The war which shaped Skaro’s destiny has only barely been touched upon in the past; few could have imagined the terrible price paid by the people of Skaro when the TARDIS first materialised there in The Daleks (1963). When the Doctor returns to the planet in Genesis Of The Daleks he finds a world entrenched in the squalid turmoil of trench warfare. Each race has fortified themselves in the relative safety of huge domed cities, both facing each other across a barren wasteland shrouded in the bleak haze of a nuclear winter. Nothing can survive on the surface of Skaro for long, and those who are forced to live in this hellish place are horribly mutated by the radiation; pathetic shambling things who were once human – now outcasts from their own people. With the planets natural resources running low and civilization suffering a retrogressive decline, the Kaled’s and the Thals have found themselves locked in an uneasy stalemate.
Much has been made of the Nazi undertones associated with the depiction of the Kaled people in Genesis Of The Daleks, so much so that it seems almost trite to indulge in such well evaluated territory – suffice it to say that the Kaled people seem to be an innate fascist society like no other ever seen before in the annuls of Doctor Who. For all their sadistic ways, the Kaled’s are, after all, not the only participants in this conflict. The Thals, it would seem, are not as whiter than white as previous continuity might have led us to believe. Those captured by the Thals are forced into slave labour on the Thals enormous rocket, working with hardly any rest or food, until they either collapse or die from the radiation leaking from the missiles warhead.
When Sarah Jane and her Muto friend Sevrin are captured by the Thals, they too find themselves forced to work on the deadly super-weapon. Sarah rallies the prisoners to try to escape, but their flight to freedom proves to be short lived. As they frantically climb the scaffolding around the missile the Thal soldiers pick them off one by one with sniper fire. For all their efforts, Sevrin and Sarah are re-captured before they can reach the summit of the dome, where a Thal soldier callously threatens to drop Sarah to her death from the top of the rocket gantry for little more, it would seem, than his own twisted amusement. Even when they obtain the secret formulae to breach the impervious Kaled dome from the treacherous Davros, the Thals make no attempt at negotiating a peaceful resolution to the conflict. Instead the Thal government seize their opportunity to decisively win the war, and fire their missile at the weakened Kaled dome, blasting their enemies from the surface of Skaro forever… Terry Nation’s previous Dalek stories may have painted the Thals as peacemakers, but here we see that they would seem to have been cut from the same cloth as the Daleks themselves; their actions in Genesis Of The Daleks casting them in a very different light indeed.
With the multiple threads weaving throughout the plot of its six episodes, Genesis Of The Daleks could easily have swamped Tom Baker’s fledgling presence beneath the sheer weight of its epic narrative. Right from the fog-bound opening with his fellow Time Lord, Tom Baker’s indomitable persona is already beginning to make it’s presence felt: with Baker’s trademark thundering inflections; passionate speeches, pockets filled with useless clutter, and manic surges of action all clearly defined here, giving us a tantalizing glimpse of the bohemian eccentric that the fourth Doctor would soon become.
His mission for the Time Lords may seem to have the Doctor working more independently than usual, yet his first priority is always the safety of his companions. Even though he skilfully manages to play the political game of cat and mouse – an unusual feat for this most anti-establishment of all the Doctor’s incarnations – with each of Skaro’s opposing factions, the Doctor doesn’t hesitate to attempt to rescue Sarah from the Thal dome or help Harry escape the jaws of a giant clam, even though it may mean jeopardising their mission. Such selfless acts, though, are perceived by Davros as a weakness he can exploit. He lures the Doctor and his companions into a trap, where he demands that the Doctor disclose his secrets or he will be forced to witness Sarah and Harry subjected to agonising torture. Torn between his mission for the Time Lords and watching his friends suffer, the Doctor makes the only choice he can…
Following this dramatic cliff-hanger the Doctor divulges the reason for every future Dalek defeat to Davros, giving the Kaled scientist everything he needs to know to change the course of their destiny. With Sarah and Harry carried back to their cells, Davros decides to continue his deliberations with the Doctor – alone. Here we are treated to probably one of the most riveting confrontations ever filmed in Doctor Who; the celebrated ‘glass vial’ scene, where the Doctor offers a sinister point of conjecture to Davros by comparing the Daleks to a deadly virus that will kill any life-form exposed to it. For a moment, social and political analogies aside, you could almost forget you were watching a children’s programme. Michael Wisher and Tom Baker both deliver a totally captivating performance, creating one of Doctor Who’s rare moments of flawless brilliance where you can blissfully forget the programmes minor flaws and bask in the glory of the scenes grand sublimity.
Genesis Of The Daleks is also one of the unique instances where little seems to come of the Doctor’s actions; because he doesn’t actually achieve any real sense of victory. Long time viewers would by now be all too familiar with the fact that travelling with the Doctor can sometimes be fraught with risks; some that even the Doctor himself is powerless to prevent: The Massacre (1966), The Dalek Master Plan (1965-1966), Power Of The Daleks (1966), and Inferno (1970) have all placed the Doctor in impossible no-win scenarios, some of which have even cost the lives of his travelling companions.
In many ways we hold a highly idealized view of the Doctor’s adventures, so that when he does fail it hits home all the more because we know the reverence he holds for all forms of life. This passionate zeal makes any loss, however insignificant it may seem, almost impossible for him to bear. For all his extraordinary power and technology even the Doctor has his limits, there are some things that are beyond even his influence, and Genesis Of The Daleks serves to clarify this most frustratingly cruel aspect of time travel.
The first Doctor once stated in The Aztecs (1964): “But you can’t rewrite history! Not one line!” a case in point which often proves to be a bitter pill to swallow. In Genesis of the Daleks the 4th Doctor is forced to comply with his own omniscient mandate. Just as in many of the early William Hartnell historical stories, the Doctor and his companions are simply swept along with the tide of events which occur in Genesis Of The Daleks; unable to make any real headway against the raging torrent of fate that is Skaro’s inevitable destiny.
With much of Genesis Of The Daleks centred around the Doctor and Davros it is perhaps inevitable that some characters are pushed to the sidelines, unfortunately one such person to suffer this fate is the newest member of the TARDIS crew – Harry Sullivan. It’s a great pity that the early potential Ian Marter displayed as Harry in the seasons second story – The Ark In Space – is almost completely overlooked by the frenetic pace of the plot; with little time really given to developing the character, which seems strange given Harry’s military background. It is painfully clear, even at this early stage, that the casting of the ardent Tom Baker has made the role of Harry Sullivan’s bumbling medical officer fundamentally obsolete.
Fortunately Sarah Jane Smith does not suffer the supernumerary fate that befalls poor Harry. In fact she positively blossoms in this story; recovering from the rapid dilution her spirited character suffered towards the end of Season Eleven, allowing Elizabeth Sladen to really shine in her role as companion.
True, Sarah does spend most of her time in Genesis Of The Daleks flailing from one peril to another, but it is because of the newfound camaraderie she now shares with the Doctor and Harry that makes her plight all the more genuine. This story shows Sarah like we have never really seen her before: hopelessly lost in the wastelands of Skaro, witnessing firsthand the horrific realities of war, and forced to overcome her own initial revulsion of Sevrin’s physical deformities if she is to stand any chance of surviving the nightmare she has suddenly been forced to live through.
Even when Sarah and Sevrin are captured by the Thals and forced to work on the highly radioactive rocket warhead, Sarah Jane refuses to accept her fate, bravely rallying her fellow prisoners to mount a bold escape attempt.
More than anything, though, it is Sarah’s blossoming relationship with the new Doctor that will go on to make their partnership one of the most endearing of all. With the Fourth Doctor prone to bemoaning his quintessential alien qualities to justify his behaviour, it often falls to Sarah’s stubborn reasoning to question the Doctor’s actions, tempering his infinite wisdom with her common sense and compassion. In spite of the moral carte blanche the Time Lords have bequeathed him, when the Doctor finally has the chance to destroy the Dalek Incubating Room, he turns to Sarah for help when he finds himself unable to make such a monumental decision. When the Doctor asks her: “Do I have the right?” she of course agrees that he does, but the Doctor is finally able to see the bigger picture. Comparing the opportunity to commit genesis against the Daleks to the foreknowledge of the child who would become Hitler, he asks her: “…could you then kill that child?”
You simply could not imagine the Third Doctor allowing one of his companions to question his judgment in such a direct fashion, Pertwee’s Doctor would have either just dismissed or belittled them into submission. It quickly becomes apparent that the Fourth Doctor is not afraid to learn from his companions, moreover trusting his own perspicacity to let them use their own individual strengths and acumen to help them achieve their full potential.
Any Dalek story is in itself a special event for Doctor Who, none more so than this one. Up until now there had only ever been thee distinct hierarchies controlling the fate of the Dalek race, the all powerful Emperor Dalek, the tyrannical Black Daleks, and the many countenances (Or should that be successors?) of the Supreme Dalek. Terry Nation changed everything we had so far discovered about Dalek hierarchy when he introduced a character who would go on to enjoy nearly as much popularity as the Daleks themselves, their creator Davros.
On his many travels the Doctor has faced countless horrors that lurk in the darkest regions of the universe, but in Davros he encounters a being with probably the blackest soul of all. Although Davros’ past is never explained in Genesis Of The Daleks, it is clear from his physical deformities that he was either a victim of a terrible accident, or a tragic mutation sired in the contaminated twilight of Skaro’s nuclear winter.
Whatever his origins, his crippled body belies his awesome intellect. In fact, the life support systems of his wheelchair are so sophisticated it would lead us to believe that Davros was no mere conscript to the Kaled war machine. Later we learn of a Kaled scientist who was implanted with an artificial heart manufactured by Davros, indicating that perhaps Davros began his career in medicine. His brilliant mind would have pushed forward with anything that would have helped the Kaled race survive the ravages of radioactive contamination, no matter what the cost – ethical or otherwise. This ruthless dedication would have brought Davros to the attention of the Kaled government, the potential his genius could offer the Kaled military would have seemed almost limitless.
Once recruited to the Kaled military Davros found a new ally to his cause, the ruthless Nyder. Both men share the same twisted aim to lead the people of Sakro towards their insidious design for a new, superior, breed of Kaled. The Dalek is much more than a means to exterminate the Thals; it is the pure embodiment of their faith in the Dalek as the ultimate expression of the Kaled’s racial superiority. Whatever the origin behind their sinister alliance it is obvious Davros has a great respect for Nyder, for without him Davros would probably have never achieved his eminent status – granting him unparallel political influence disguised under the banner of the feared agents of Nyder’s Elite.
Indeed they complement each other perfectly, and Peter Miles makes Nyder a truly loathsome character, but it is Michael Wisher’s chilling portrayal of Davros that really makes Genesis Of The Daleks so memorable. The fact that Michael Wisher’s features are totally obscured by the latex mask and his movements are severely restricted by the wheelchair; only able to make the smallest of gestures with one hand, it is all the more remarkable how Wisher manages to convey such an evil presence using only the power of his voice.
Just as Mary Shelley’s Dr Frankenstein is consumed by the ramifications of his heinous work, Davros is also driven to create life; sculpting the horrific Kaled mutations in his laboratory until their humanity is all but erased. Having imbued his monstrous creations with all the qualities he deems necessary for the purity of the Kaled race, all that remained was for Davros to build an armoured war machine in which to house his bubbling seeds of hate. The Dalek is the perfect synthesis of a dream gone mad, blood, flesh and metal dubiously crafted in it’s creators own image.
Davros is initially sceptical about the Doctor’s sudden arrival, quickly sensing there is more behind the Time Lords jovial façade, his every instinct strangely drawing Davros to the Doctor like a moth to flame. This is probably the first time Davros has ever encountered anyone with sufficient intellect to challenge him, and he seems to positively relish every chance he has to intellectually spar with the Doctor. As egos go, the Fourth Doctor’s takes some beating, but even this is almost eclipsed when Davros states that he believes the Doctor’s intellect may almost rival his own! For one so deformed it seems all the more ironic that it is Davros’ own vanity that provides the chink in his armour the Doctor needs to complete his mission.
Though Davros may be a dictator in waiting, even his influence is not without limits. When the Doctor convinces the Kaled government to suspend the Dalek production line, until the full nature of Davros’ experiments can be evaluated, Davros has little choice but to comply with his superiors wishes. Unable to except defeat, Davros sets about a new course of action which will see him forge an alliance with the Thals, one that will effectively sign the death warrant for his own people. It could be argued that it is at this point that the Doctor fails in his mission, as his interference causes Davros to instigate a new course of action that will ultimately assure the Daleks ascension to power. Instead it is this precise moment, pushed by the apparent betrayal of his own people that Davros’ pride in his ghoulish scheme causes his sanity to topple into the bottomless abyss of megalomania.
With their mass extermination of the Thals complete, the Daleks return to the bunker beneath the ruins of the Kaled city. As soon as they are inside the Daleks assume complete control of the facility, initiating the complete automation of the Dalek production line and shepherding all personnel into Davros’ laboratory. Though Davros tries to reason with his creations, he is powerless to stop the Daleks exterminating his entire staff. Too late, Davros realises that by creating the Daleks in his own image, as well as imbuing their very DNA with his own twisted morality, he has also inadvertently made himself surplus to requirements. Unable to reason with the Daleks, Davros makes one last desperate bid to reach the controls of the production line, but his crippled body is too slow and the Daleks exterminate him. After sacrificing his own world to the flames of Armageddon just to insure his egotistical criterion ambitions, it seems ironic that, because of the providence of the Daleks; Davros ultimately suffers the same fate he dealt his own people by the very weapons of the creatures he had fought so hard to conceive.
With the Daleks entombed beneath the ruins of the Kaled dome the Doctor and his companions use the Time Ring to sail off through time to be reunited with the TARDIS. As they dematerialise and begin their journey, the Doctor concedes to Sarah and Harry that he may have failed in his mission to end the Dalek menace once and for all, but he hopes their intervention may have had some significant effect on future events when he solemnly states: “I know that although the Daleks will create havoc and destruction for millions of years. I know also, that out of their evil, must come something good.”
In fact, the Doctor’s simplest wish is really the victory that the Time Lords were secretly hoping for all along. The members of the High Counsel would have instinctively known that the Doctor would be incapable of committing genocide against another sentient race – even one as evil as the Daleks – but they could be assured that the Doctor’s meddling at such a significant period in Skaro’s history would guarantee a major divergence to the Dalek time line – the survival of Davros.
If history had continued along its preordained path the Daleks would have been forced to become even more inventive and ruthless to escape the confines of their barren home world. Stripping Skaro of its natural resources to feed their military might, the Daleks would soon take to the stars and become one of the most feared forces of death and destruction throughout the universe. By the time of The Dalek Master Plan (1965) the Daleks have become so powerful they are on the verge of mastering control of time itself, the consequences of which – no doubt – would have proved the catalyst for the Time Lords intervention.
While the Doctor may feel he has failed his mission, the Time Lords have knowingly set in motion a chain of events that will effectively re-write Dalek history; resulting in far-reaching ramifications for the Daleks time line – simply because Davros survives. Either by fate or design, it seems that Davros’ chair holds his exterminated body in a state of suspended animation, perhaps employing some form of hitherto unknown nano-technology to regenerate his vital organs sufficiently enough to subsist until such a time when his body can be restored.
Whether this remarkable feat of engineering is just a contrivance from a writer desperate to recycle such a remarkable character, or a surreptitious arc planted by Nation to show Davros had simply been extra cautious considering he now has considerable knowledge of the Dalek time line – along with their penchant for treachery – allowing him the prescience to develop such contingency measures should his creations betray him, is difficult to evaluate.
Though the circumstances behind Davros’ miraculous resurrection provides a point for endless conjecture, yet survive he does, so when the Daleks return to Skaro to find their creator in Destiny Of The Daleks (1979) to enlist his help in their war with the Movellan’s his life-support systems revive Davros as the Daleks approach. The centuries spent in suspended animation have done little to dilute Davros’ thirst for power; his desire for universal domination now forever entwined with his creations; a destiny he envisions with himself as their absolute ruler. It is therefore not the Doctor’s interference that will forever condemn the Daleks to the ignominy of defeat, but rather Davros’ insane ambition which will become the oblique onus the Dalek race will be forced to bear.
Genesis Of The Daleks is a true Doctor Who classic. It is also one of those rare instances where hardly any padding is evident to bolster the plot, a common fault in most six part Doctor Who stories. This, aided by extremely high production values, allows David Maloney’s understated direction to captivate the viewer with the nightmarish scenario that the Doctor and his companions have found themselves in. Tom Baker and Elizabeth Sladen are in the early stages of creating what will probably become the most fondly remembered TARDIS crew of all time, while the Daleks make a triumphant return to ruthless form. If there is one fault to be found with the script, it has to be the constants use of that old Terry Nation plot contrivance; the loss of the vital component needed ensure the time travellers escape in the TARDIS – the ubiquitous Time Ring.
Some might say that Davros should never have been resurrected after Genesis Of The Daleks, as the character was gradually diluted with each successive appearance, until the Daleks creator was reduced to little more than a raving madman. There is some degree of truth to this, as many of the Dalek stories during the 80’s often tied themselves up in knots simply to accommodate the Daleks creator – although arguably Resurrection of the Daleks (1984), Revelation of the Daleks (1985), and Remembrance of the Daleks (1988) form a trilogy of superficially entertaining stories that allows Davros the chance to evolve like no other villain in Dr Who‘s history.
Big Finish audios have gone so far as to build on Davros’ immense popularity by delving into the mysteries of the characters origins in the superb audio play – Davros (2004). Here we learn some of the events which led to Davros being crippled during the Kaled/Thal war, and his subsequent descent into maniacal fanaticism. Davros has featured in many more Big Finish audio adventures, and still remains a popular reoccurring adversary for the range.
When the Daleks returned in Russell T Davies new series of Doctor Who in 2005 they were more popular than ever, but it would take the Cult of Skaro’s failed experiments to genetically manipulate their ailing species in Daleks in Manhattan/Evolution of the Daleks (2007) before circumstances would ultimately lead to the return of their creator, Davros, in The Stolen Earth/Journeys End (20008). Julian Bleach played Davros for his triumphant return to the new series. In some ways he is as much a refugee from the Time War as the lone Dalek in Van Statten’s Vault, but Davros is no fool, and there is no way he would ever remain subservient to the Supreme Dalek’s will for long. Although Davros and his Daleks are defeated in this story, the characters penchant for survival does however pose us with the tantalizing question of just how long will we have to wait for a certain Kaled scientist to return? Davros is now inexorably linked with his creations, indeed the Daleks return for the season premier of Doctor Who’s Seventh Season in Asylum of the Daleks was a spectacular episode. We got to see the stunning Dalek Parliament, a new caste of the Dalek hierarchy in the form of the Dalek Prime Minister, some classic Daleks appeared in the dank chambers of the Asylum, and even the surprise debut of new companion Jenna Louise Coleman – who has been transformed into a Dalek! Although the episode was incredibly exciting, offering a wealth of possibilities for the Doctor‘s future companion, as well was the all too brief glimpse of the Special Weapons Dalek, Steven Moffat has finally engineered the return of Davros (Julian Bleach) to do battle with the 12th Doctor (Peter Capaldi) in 2015’s The Magician’s Apprentice and The Witch’s Familiar – the two-part opener of Series 9. The Daleks have ensured that Doctor Who has never been far from the public’s imagination, they were instrumental in helping the new show achieve the many awards and accolades that it so rightly deserves after being abandoned in the wilderness of cancellation for so long. Indeed, with the Daleks return in the 50th Anniversary episode: The Day of the Doctor, the circle is now complete.
When Davros glided from the shadows to test his Mark Three Travel Machine on that fateful Saturday teatime in 1975 and changed the course of history with just a flick of a switch as Sarah Jane watched on in horror, the legacy of that moment redefined Dr Who for generations to come. There can be no doubt that Genesis Of The Daleks rightly deserves it’s “Classic” status as one of the all time greats of Doctor Who, and I still believe the reason for this stories enduring success lies squarely with Michael Wisher’s superb performance as Davros. When all is said and done, Genesis Of The Daleks is really Davros’ story, and for that reason alone we owe it a huge debt of thanks. So it is probably fitting that because of Terry Nation’s extraordinary revision of Dalek continuity, Davros has gone on to become one of the greatest adversaries the Doctor has ever known.