Revelation of the Daleks

Revelation of the Daleks - Doctor and Peri

I am known as the Great Healer.  A somewhat flippant title, perhaps, but not without foundation.  I have conquered the diseases that brought their victims here. In every way, I have complied with the wishes of those who came.

Davros

Synopsis

The Doctor and Peri are summoned to the planet of Necros to pay their respects to the Doctor’s friend Arthur Stengos.  What they find is a facility called Tranquil Repose where the rich of the galaxy have their bodies cryogenically frozen until a time when they can be cured of their ailments and the ‘Great Healer’ turns out to Davros, who is creating a new army of Daleks loyal to his cause.

Review

To put it simply, Revelation of the Daleks is one of the high points of Colin Baker’s all too short era and ranks among Eric Saward’s best contributions to the show.  Perhaps what makes it so good is that the story feels quite unusual from the usual Doctor Who fare, but this experimental storyline works quite well.  Typically for a Saward script, there is a high body count, with only two members of the guest cast cast surviving at the end of this story, but with the involvement of Davros and his infamous creations, a high death count feels more appropriate than in other stories he penned.

If I had to pick a flaw with this story, it would be that the Doctor and Peri are largely sidelined.  This is quite a prevalent issue in Colin Baker’s era when Eric Saward was script editor and Saward himself has made no secret that he did not think that Baker was suitable for the part.  The Doctor and Peri do not even arrive at the Tranquil Repose facility until the end of the first part, when a rather cheap looking statue of the Doctor is toppled over in an attempt to kill him.  That said, when Colin Baker does get a chance to take the spotlight, he is pretty good – he has settled into the role and it is a shame that we would never see what the original plans were for his character had the show not been put on hiatus.  The scenes with him and Davros are probably his best work to date and he and Terry Molloy really raise their games in this scene.  When Davros gets taken away by the renegade Daleks, Baker extends his hand to his adversary, which is petty but rather lovely.  Nicola Bryant is good here too, especially in the scenes with the DJ and her scene where she kills the mutant, and Baker and Bryant are particularly good in the scene where they climb the wall.  I’m prepared to accept a reduced role for the Daleks here when it is substituted for nice character moments like these.

Revelation of the Daleks - Doctor and Davros

Terry Molloy gives us a very different Davros here.  Where previously Davros has been seen to rant and rave, he has quieter moments and this is a chance for us to see how truly resourceful and ruthless he is.  While the best of the dead are being used to experiment on to create a Dalek army for Davros, the weaker are turned into food to sell to a famine riddled universe.  On top of that, he sets a trap for anybody looking to stop him, which Orcini and Bostock walk straight into.  We spend most of our time believing Davros to be a swivelling head in a glass bowl, however, after the assassin and his squire blow this setting up, it is revealed that this was just a front and the real Davros has been running things from behind the scenes.  The scene where he instructs Tasambeker to kill Jobel, and as a reward, she will be turned into a Dalek is fantastic because Molloy plays it with almost honeyed tones, if it is possible for Davros to this.  This also benefits from good direction from Graeme Harper, which I will come onto later.  The Daleks could be seen to be window dressing, however, they give the puppet Davros a sense of security and unassailability.  I particularly like the introduction of the white and gold daleks, along with their grey and black originals and the idea of a Dalek Civil War breaking out, with the Renegade faction being led by the Supreme Dalek.

With the Doctor and companion sidelined for the majority of the running time, the focus is largely pulled onto the guest cast.  Saward gives us several pairs of characters: the ruler of Necros, Kara, and her secretary Vogel, Chief Embalmer Jobel and his student Tasambeker, security guards Takis and Lilt, bodysnatchers Grigory and Natasha and assassin Orcini and his squire Bostock.  The majority of these are flawed individuals – take, for example Orcini, portrayed wonderfully by William Gaunt, who is an assassin hired by Kara to kill Davros.  Other stories would paint him with a black brush and write him off as totally evil, however, the story throws us a curve ball.  For the honour of killing the creator of the Daleks, he will give his fee to charity.  Orcini is probably the stand-out of all of these characters, which feature the vain Jobel who is suitably unpleasant, especially towards Tasambeker, but he gives us a parallel to the Sixth Doctor – his arrogance is somehow familiar to the viewer.  The one character who is separated from this is the DJ, who is a character who I feel would not work in any other Doctor Who story, but somehow works here.  Even he is guilty of deception, being revealed not to be an American after all but someone who is guilty of nothing more than enthusiasm towards American DJs and there are nice moments between him and Peri reminscing about Americana.

Revelation of the Daleks - DJ

Given Saward’s propensity towards violence, black humour and high body counts, and Graeme Harper’s enthusiasm for putting machine guns into his stories as much as possible, this would seem to be a match made in heaven.  Saward’s script drips with black humour, especially in Kara’s reaction when the Daleks exterminate Vogel.  Harper does some interesting things in his direction of the Daleks, shooting them from low down and from the middle, which makes them feel more intimidating.  In the scene with Davros and Tasambeker, when he offers to turn her into a Dalek, an eye stalk slowly comes into shot which is a lovely bit of detail.  One of the famous moments from this story is the murder of Jobel by Tasambeker, however, this scene is undercut by the performance of Jenny Tomasin which makes it feel rather stagey.  Harper wanted the scene of the syringe being plunged into Jobel’s chest to be even more graphic, with the viewer seeing Tasambeker depressing the plunger, however, I feel that this would have been far too grim.  Instead, the way that everything falls away from Jobel, including his toupee is really rather well done.

How inconvenient.  Do you know how difficult it is to find good secretaries?

Kara

Verdict: Revelation of the Daleks really shouldn’t work, but manages to pull it off.  It is quite bleak in places and has a high body count, but there are some nice directorial moments from Graeme Harper.  8/10

Cast: Colin Baker (The Doctor), Nicola Bryant (Peri Brown), Terry Molloy (Davros), Eleanor Bron (Kara), Hugh Walters (Vogel), Clive Swift (Jobel), Jenny Tomasin (Tasambeker), Trevor Cooper (Takis), Colin Spaull (Lilt), Alexei Sayle (DJ), William Gaunt (Orcini), John Ogwen (Bostock), Stephen Flynn (Grigory), Bridget Lynch-Blosse (Natasha), Alec Linstead (Head of Arthur Stengos), Penelope Lee (Computer Voice), John Scott Martin, Cy Town, Tony Starr and Toby Byrne (Daleks), Roy Skelton and Royce Mills (Dalek Voices & Ken Barker (Mutant)

Writer: Eric Saward

Director: Graeme Harper

Parts: 2

Behind the Scenes

  • The first story confirm that Davros and the Daleks can levitate, despite it being seen in The Chase.
  • The last full length two-part story until Aliens of London/World War Three.
  • Eric Saward based this story on The Loved One by Evelyn Waugh and several characters are named after characters in the novel.  Despite the parallels to Soylent Green, Saward stated that at the time he wrote the story he had not seen the film.
  • The story was supposed to end with the Doctor announcing that he was taking Peri to Blackpool.  However, before this story was broadcast, it had been announced that the show was going on hiatus for eighteen months.  The original story set to start the next season would have been The Nightmare Fair, set in Blackpool and written by John Nathan-Turner’s predecessor as producer Graham Williams.  The story was later adapted in 2009 by Big Finish.

Cast Notes

  • Eleanor Bron had previously made a cameo in City of Deathand would go on to appear in Loups Garoux.
  • Colin Spaull went on to appear in Rise of the Cybermen/The Age of Steel.
  • Clive Swift later appearaed in Voyage of the Damned.

Best Moment

The scene between Tasambeker and Davros.

Best Quote

But did you bother to tell anyone that they may be eating their own relatives?

Certainly not.  That would have created what I believe is termed consumer resistance.

The Doctor and Davros

Revelation of the Daleks - Kara

Time-Flight

Time-Flight - Doctor

The illusion is always one of normality.

The Doctor

Synopsis

When a Concorde disappears through a crack in time, the Doctor, Nyssa and Tegan take another Concorde to follow, unaware that a mysterious conjuror Kalid is waiting for them.

Review

After the explosive climax to Earthshock, the conclusion to Peter Davison’s first season as the Doctor is difficult to describe as anything other than a letdown.  Time-Flight has a reputation that certainly precedes it – I was certainly aware that this was not a great story before watching this story – and it is frustrating to see Davison’s Doctor hampered by stories like this and Black Orchid.

This is certainly an example of the show having ambition well in advance of its meagre budget.  Aspects like the landscape of pre-historic Earth and the prop Concorde landing gear look laughable and very much like a set in front of a matt painting.  Additionally, filming onboard Concorde itself seems to, like a lot of the John Nathan-Turner era, have been done for reasons of generating publicity rather than considering the practicalities of it.  The scenes shot in the cabin and the flight deck of Concorde look very claustrophobic and not easy to work in – there is one scene with the Doctor talking to the flight crew which feels as though the camera is literally right behind Peter Davison.  The one thing that does look like money has been spent on it is the Master’s disguise as Kalid, which does look rather impressive, even though it is only used for the first two parts.  Given the scope of the story and the cast and production team’s seeming antipathy towards this serial, it is perhaps surprising that one of the script editors or John Nathan-Turner suggested holding it over to the next season in order to do this story full justice.

Time-Flight Kalid and the TARDIS

Peter Grimwade’s story is certainly ambitious, however, it is safe to say that his writing is not as good as his direction, and the narrative is full of characters that feel superfluous.  I do feel that this is not entirely his fault though, as this story is unfortunate to follow Earthshock and doesn’t entirely deal with the death of Adric satisfactorily.  This isn’t a problem exclusive to Doctor Who.  For those of you unfamiliar with your James Bond films, Blofeld kills Bond’s new bride in the closing minutes of On Her Majesty’s Secret Service, yet when James Bond returned in Diamonds Are Forever, he acts as though the worst thing Blofeld has ever done is park in his space.  The story does certainly start with a sombre tone, picking up straight after the Doctor has dropped off the survivors of the encounter with the Cybermen, but this does get quite rapidly dropped as a plot element.  I’ve heard that the Master originally was not supposed to feature and was a late addition and this certainly makes quite a lot of sense.  His appearance here does seem quite derivative of his earlier appearance in Castrovalva, especially considering that he spent most of his time in disguise in that story too.  Grimwade’s story does have some interesting ideas, like the Xeraphin and the Jekyll and Hyde style relationship that seems to dog their race, however, there are too many other things going on here to go into it in further details.

There is quite a large cast here but a lot of them aren’t given an awful lot to do, with the Master mind-controlling the majority of the passengers and crew of the first Concorde, and Nyssa and Tegan largely sidelined.  However, there are four standout performances that mean that this story isn’t absolutely dreadful.  The first is Peter Davison, who really throws himself into the story despite his personal feelings towards the story.  The second is Anthony Ainley, who, though the Master doesn’t really need to be in this story, brings a suitable sense of pantomime menace to proceedings.  The third and fourth are Richard Easton and Nigel Stock as Captain Stapley and Professor Hayter.  Richard Easton portrays such a likable character who falls completely under the spell of this energetic and youthful Doctor and is eager to help as evidenced in the scenes where he attempts to thwart the Master taking parts of the Doctor’s TARDIS.  Nigel Stock brings some cynicism and some wonderful barbs into the episode which does not really give the actors very much to work with.

Verdict: Time-Flight brings Davison’s first season as the Doctor to a somewhat lacklustre conclusion.  An ambitious story which should perhaps have been refused on grounds of practicalities, however, it does feature some good performances from Davison, Ainley, Easton and Stock. 2/10

Cast: Peter Davison (The Doctor), Sarah Sutton (Nyssa), Janet Fielding (Tegan Jovanka), Anthony Ainley (Khalid/The Master), Richard Easton (Captain Stapley), Keith Drinkel (Flight Engineer Scobie), Michael Cashman (First Officer Bilton), Peter Dahlsen (Horton), Brian McDermott (Sheard), John Flint (Captain Urquhart), Peter Cellier (Andrews), Judith Byfield (Angela Clifford), Nigel Stock (Professor Hayter), Matthew Waterhouse (Adric), Hugh Hayes (Anithon) & André Winterton (Zarak).

Writer: Peter Grimwade

Director: Ron Jones

Parts: 4

Behind the Scenes

  • The first part of this story was the most successful in terms of viewing figures of John Nathan-Turner’s entire era as producer.
  • Adric’s appearance served not only to fulfill Matthew Waterhouse’s contract but also to mean that his name would have to appear in the Radio Times, thus not spoiling the character’s death at the end of Earthshock.
  • This story was the first television program permitted to film at Heathrow Airport and the first to film on Concorde.
  • Although Janet Fielding leaves at the end of this story, there was never any intention to make this a permanent departure, and she reappears in Arc of Infinity.
  • Peter Davison labels this story as his most disappointing experience.
  • Anthony Ainley is credited as Leon Ny Taiy for the first episode.

Cast Notes

  • Keith Drinkel would go on to appear in the audio drama Catch-1782.

Best Moment

The scenes in Part One with the Doctor, Nyssa and Tegan at Heathrow Airport are good – I especially like how quick the Doctor is to be accepted by the authorities after namedropping UNIT and the Brigadier.

Best Quote

I thought you were going with the Doctor.

So did I…

Captain Stapley and Tegan Jovanka

Kill the Moon

Kill the Moon

Hello, hello.  Hello Earth.  We have a terrible decision to make.  It’s an uncertain decision, and we don’t have a lot of time.  The man who normally helps, he’s gone.  Maybe he’s not coming back.  In fact, I really think he is.  We’re on our own.  So, an innocent life versus the future of all mankind.  We have forty-five minutes to decide.

Clara Oswald

Synopsis

The Doctor, Clara and Courtney visit the Moon in 2049, where they discover the Earth’s constant companion is more than another mere celestial body.

Review

I’m not going to deny that this is a very divisive episode of Doctor Who – if you read reviews from professional critics, you’d come away believing that this was a masterpiece, whilst reading reviews written by fans you might be forgiven for believing that it is one of the worst.  I sit somewhere in the middle of all this.  Whilst there are some questionable bits of science and Courtney Woods, I enjoy large portions of this episode.  This story makes me think what my decision would be if I was asked to vote on the fate of a creature that may well destroy the Earth, and the opening 20 minutes have quite a lot of creepy moments.

Kill the Moon Courtney

I’ll start with the negatives.  Courtney Woods is possibly rivalling the Maitland children from Nightmare in Silver for the most annoying child character to feature in the show.  I understand why they bring children into the guest cast for Doctor Who, to appeal to children who, ultimately, are the core audience of the show.  However, a misstep is to make them so mind-bogglingly ambivalent about the situations they are experiencing.  Here, Courtney goes from making quips about the antibacterial spray killing 99% of all germs to wanting to go home.  Equally, the fact that we are told by Clara that the Doctor told Courtney that she is not special rather than shown it is frustrating and feels as though something was cut from the previous episode. If we had been shown the reasoning behind this declaration from the Doctor, it would make us care a lot more about this character.  As it is, she is just there for a lot of the story and I can’t really think of many moments that would have been drastically changed if she hadn’t been included in the story at all.

I know that a lot of criticism is equally laid at the door of the story’s big reveal that the Moon is in fact an egg which is hatching.  This is something that doesn’t bother me too much as I don’t come to Doctor Who for serious scientific ideas, however, this certainly does border on the side of the more comical bits of pseudo-science we have had in the history of the show.  The fact that the creature, once hatched, is able to lay an egg of equal size to replace the now destroyed first moon does border on the ludicrous.

In the mid-twenty first century, humankind starts creeping off into the stars, spreads its way through the galaxy to the very edges of the universe.  And it endures until the end of time.  And it does all that because one day in the year 2049, when it had stopped thinking about going to the stars, something occured that made it look up, not down.  It looked out there into the blackness and it saw something beautiful, something wonderful, that for once it didn’t want to destroy.  And in that one moment, the whole course of history was changed.

The Doctor

One thing the story does well, however, is produce an incredibly dark atmosphere, especially in the opening twenty minutes or so.  The direction, and especially the lighting, are really well done to create this, and it is helped by the spider-like creatures that inhabit the Moon’s surface.  I’ve stated before on this blog that I do not like spiders, and these ones are especially creepy.  This all helps to generate a feeling of unease , which is complemented by Peter Capaldi’s performance.  The story certainly does lose some of this once the egg reveal is made, but it certainly sets out what the production team intended.  I like the fact that this is set in a time where humanity has lost their interest in space travel – the idea of Lundvik and her crew being third-hand astronauts crewing a second-hand spacecraft – and this event is suitably monumental to make humanity wake up and take notice.  I feel that the countdown could have been more dynamic whilst humanity makes its decision though.

Kill the Moon Lundvik Clara Doctor

The story ultimately hinges on the relationship between the Doctor and Clara, which is helped greatly by the chemistry shared by Peter Capaldi and Jenna Coleman. The Doctor deciding to put the decision into the hands of Clara, Lundvik and Courtney is shocking and it is difficult to imagine any of the other Doctors ever doing this.  Capaldi’s Doctor puts his faith in humanity and more specifically Clara, which ultimately leads to the breakdown of their relationship in the conclusion.  We completely buy Clara’s anger and her feeling that her best friend has abandoned her and we are on her side when she storms out of the TARDIS at the end of the story.  Equally, this arguably marks a turning point in the Twelfth Doctor’s run, as he does begin to soften from this point onwards.  I think that Hermione Norris puts in a decent performance as the jaded astronaut Lundvik as well, and she acted well as a counter to Clara when they are trying to make a decision about how to proceed.

Verdict

Cast: Peter Capaldi (The Doctor), Jenna Coleman (Clara Oswald), Samuel Anderson (Danny Pink), Ellis George (Courtney Woods), Hermione Norris (Lundvik), Tony Osoba (Duke), Phil Nice (Henry) & Christopher Dane (McKean).

Writer: Peter Harness

Director: Paul Wilmshurst

Behind the Scenes

  • Peter Harness originally wrote this story in 2011, so it had to be adapted for a new Doctor.
  • Kill the Moon was the first time since Planet of Fire that the show had filmed in Lanzarote.

Cast Notes

  • Tony Osoba previously appeared in Destiny of the Daleks and Dragonfire.

Best Moment

The argument between the Doctor and Clara at the end of the episode is a really powerful moment between the two actors, punctuated by a lack of score for the most part.

Best Quote

Don’t you ever tell me to mind my language, don’t you ever tell me to take the stablilisers off my bike, and don’t you dare lump me in with the rest of all the little humans you think are so tiny and silly and predictable.  You walk our Earth, Doctor.  You breathe our air.  You make us your friend and that is your Moon too.  And you can damned well help us when we need it.

I was helping.

What, by clearing off?

Yes.

Yeah, well clear off!  Go on!  You can clear off.  Get back in your lonely…your lonely bloody TARDIS and you don’t come back.

Clara.  Clara!

You go away. Okay?  You go a long way away.

Clara Oswald and the Doctor

Podcasts

If you’d asked me ten years ago a boom that I did not understand, it would have been the still quite fledgling podcast world.  Now I can’t imagine not having something to listen to.  When the world was ‘normal’, I relied on them to keep me company on my commute to work.  When I started working night shifts, they were the one thing that kept me sane.

Now the world seems to have flipped upside down, they are more vital than ever.  In the light of the COVID-19 crisis, they are now keeping me entertained through social distancing and beyond.  So I thought I would put together a list of recommendations (of both Doctor Who and non-Doctor Who-related podcasts for you to check out.  All of these shows have been going on for several years now, so have extensive back catalogues to dip in and out of as you so wish.  So, in no particular order, here we go!

1 – Radio Free Skaro

Radio Free Skaro

Radio Free Skaro was my first delve into the world of Doctor Who podcasts many years ago.  Hosted by three Canadian fans, Steven, Warren and Chris, they probably have forgotten more about Doctor Who than I will ever know.  Listening to this podcast has taught me a lot about the show including the most valuable lesson – Doctor Who has no real canon.  They are also quite interested in the behind the camera side of things on the show – best reflected by the type of guests that they get on their Gallifrey One Live Shows.

They feature some interesting content on here – alongside the usual reviews, they do commentaries on the episodes usually with guests, interviews with Doctor Who cast and crew and Fluid Links, a section where they try to answer listener’s questions.

2 – Kermode and Mayo’s Film Review

Kermode and Mayo

Whilst Radio Free Skaro was my first delve into Doctor Who podcasts, Kermode and Mayo’s Film Review was the first podcast I ever subscribed to.  In pre-coronavirus times, the show revolves around reviewing the latest releases that week and an interview with actors or directors about upcoming releases.  In these times, the focus has changed to films available on demand and streaming.

Hosted by radio veteran Simon Mayo and ably contributed to by arguably Britain’s leading film critic, Mark Kermode, the show dubbed ‘Wittertainment’ is full of in-jokes and amusing bickering between the two men.  I went to see a live recording of their show several years ago and they were absolutely great.

Hello to Jason Isaacs!

3 – Verity!

Verity!

Named after the show’s first producer, Verity Lambert, Verity! is hosted by six very witty and clever women and their podcasts feature varying line ups of Deborah Stanish, Erika Ensign, Katrina Griffiths, Lizbeth Myles, Lynne Thomas and Tansy Roberts.  Again, they review episodes of the show and have a theme that runs through the rest of the year.  I particularly enjoyed last year’s “Seven” theme.  They also have bonus episodes that feature games that are released around the holidays, which are great fun.

Verity! has certainly made me think about certain episodes and eras of Doctor Who more critically than I would have done previously.  In addition, I really like their ‘Happy Things’ section at the beginning of most of their weekly podcasts, which recommend checking out new things related to Doctor Who and its extended universe.

4 – No Such Thing As A Fish

No Such Thing As A Fish

No Such Thing As A Fish is a podcast made by elves.  By which of course, I mean the researchers for the BBC panel show, QI.  The four hosts are Dan Schreiber, Andrew Hunter Murray, James Harkin and Anna Ptaszynsky and the podcast consists of them presenting weird and wonderful facts that they have discovered during the week.  These can lead down some quite weird and wonderful tangents and all four hosts are very engaging.  Dan’s facts are generally quite out there and not always fully researched, but that just makes them all the better.

Again, I have seen these guys live on their book launch for The Book of the Year 2019 and met them afterwards.  If you get a chance to see them, I’d fully recommend it!

As a side note, this starts a mini-sublist of podcasts with the following two of having theme music that you will get stuck in your head.

5 – Who Back When

Who Back When

This is my most recently discovered Doctor Who themed podcast (or Doc-Past!), and I absolutely love it.  Unlike the previous two on the list, the hosts of the show seem much more like casual fans who have some recollection of past episodes and events, and this means that they aren’t quite as afraid to tear down some perceived ‘great’ episodes down a peg or two.

There are rotating hosts here again, and currently shows are presented by any combination of Leon (or Ponken, not entirely sure why), Drew (Drew Back When, excellent branding), Marie and Jim, and they are going through Doctor Who episode by episode, alternating between Classic, New and The Eighth Doctor and Lucie Miller Big Finish adventures and providing reviews.  I seriously cannot recommend this podcast enough, it is great fun!

6 – You’re Dead To Me

You're Dead to Me

As a lover of history from a young age and someone who holds a History degree, You’re Dead to Me might not usually appeal as it is targeted towards those who “don’t like history, or at least forgot to learn any at school”.  However, as it focuses on subjects that aren’t commonly taught in schools it really interests me.  It is hosted by Greg Jenner, who is a consultant historian on the Horrible Histories books and incredibly successful TV show, and he is joined by an academic and a comedian to discuss history.

Interestingly for Doctor Who fans, there are podcasts focussed on Lord Byron, the Aztecs and more recently Mary Shelley, which have been enlightening.  Sadly production has been delayed on the second series of podcasts, but the first series and a bit are more than enough to sink your teeth into.

7 – The Big Finish Podcast

Nick Briggs and Benji Clifford host a podcast about the latest releases from Big Finish!  What more is there to say?  They feature interviews with the stars of their dramas, as well as trailers and recommendations of past stories.

8 – The Football Ramble

Football Ramble

Yes, sorry folks, I quite enjoy football.  Where are you going? No, wait, come back!

The Football Ramble is a rather irrelevant podcast which is very entertaining, even if it has an unhealthy obsession with Kevin Keegan.  The hosts are Marcus Speller, Jim Campbell, Luke Moore and Pete Donaldson, and the show is anarchically entertaining even with the suspension of the football season.  This is great for people who love the ‘beautiful game’ but don’t take it too seriously.

9 – David Tennant Does A Podcast With…

The title really says it all.  Doctor Who, Good Omens and Harry Potter star David Tennant interviews fellow actors and celebrities, including but not limited to Thirteenth Doctor Jodie Whittaker and other Doctor Who alumni such as Olivia Coleman and Michael Sheen.

This is probably the podcast with the fewest episodes on this list, but the interviews are all well worth a listen.  Jodie Whittaker’s is interesting because she does talk a little bit about the backlash to her casting as the Doctor.

10 – Fake Doctors, Real Friends with Zach and Donald

The newest addition to my list of podcasts, Fake Doctors, Real Friends is a rewatch podcasts for the US sitcom Scrubs, hosted by stars Zach Braff (J.D) and Donald Faison (Turk).  They started this quite early in the whole lockdown period and have started dropping two episodes per week as they go through the show from the beginning, reminscing and exchanging stories about their time on and off set.

They do have guests on, and so far they have had creator Bill Lawrence, John C McGinley (Dr. Cox), Judy Reyes (Carla) and Sarah Chalke (Elliott) on to talk about various episodes.  It is really entertaining and is another show which has a fantastic theme tune.

 

Planet of Evil

Planet of Evil - Forest

You and I are scientists, Professor.  We buy our privilege to experiment at the cost of total responsibility.

The Doctor

Synopsis

Picking up a distress call from the edge of the known universe, the Doctor and Sarah Jane find themselves on Zeta Minor, where a geological team have been nearly wiped out.

Review

Planet of Evil is a story that arguably suffers from being flanked by better known and iconic serials in Series 13 and I was certainly pleasantly surprised on watching it.  Whilst it certainly wears its influences on its sleeves, it benefits from some amazing set design by Roger Murray-Leach and direction by David Maloney, along with strong performances from Tom Baker and Elisabeth Sladen and most of the guest cast.

Planet of Evil - Doctor and Sarah, TARDIS

The story is perhaps most clearly influenced by The Strange Case of Doctor Jekyll and Mister Hyde by Robert Louis Stevenson, with both the titular planet and Sorenson from the third part onwards having multiple personalities.  It also takes ideas from Forbidden Planet, the team from Monestra coming to investigate a missing team and the design of the id creature.  The story itself is relatively simple but it is quite compelling and certainly kept me gripped for its run time, and even has a decent cliffhanger at the end of Part 3 (albeit with a naff resolution) that sees the Doctor and Sarah seemingly being ejected out into space.  Writer Louis Marks brought the anti-matter element into the story and it is interesting to note how different this use of it is to The Three Doctors and Arc of Infinity.  It is also enormously to the story’s benefit that it doesn’t feel tedious when the ship is unable to leave Zeta Minor and the crew are refusing to listen to the Doctor and Sarah.  Something that did really stand out to me is that the story goes to the effort to show that the Monestrans have funeral traditions in a brief scene in Part 3, which really makes them feel more fleshed out than a simple humanoid race.   The conclusion is underwhelming, however, and I understand that it was a late change to have Sorenson survive the story at the request of Philip Hinchcliffe.  Regardless of whether the character survived the events of the story or not, it doesn’t change the fact that he was ultimately a tragic character.

We’re stationary.  Suspended in space.

It’s crazy.  The thrusters are at full power.

The answer’s really very simple.  You’ve come to the end of your piece of elastic.

Vishinsky, Salamar and The Doctor

The story benefits from high production values, especially with the design of the forest of Zeta Minor designed by Roger Murray-Leach.  The sinister and foreboding design makes the planet feel like a character in itself and the extensive work that doubtlessly went into the planning and making of the forest cannot be understated.  It certainly looks as real a world now as it would have done at the time of broadcast and made me for one feel as though it went on beyond the limits of the set.  The direction certainly helps the eerieness of the forest – there is so little distinction between day and night on this planet that means that there is almost a constant sense of uneasiness whenever the characters are on the planet.  Additionally, the spacecraft sets are quite effectively used and the effects used to make Sorenson’s eyes glow and the id creature are really rather effective.

Planet of Evil - Sorensen

The performances of Tom Baker and Elisabeth Sladen are exemplary here, and it is easy to see why they are regarded by many as the quintessential Doctor and companion pairing.  There is no Harry Sullivan shaped hole in this story which is to the story’s credit – as much as I like Harry, there would not have been enough for him to do here.  The Doctor is suitably incredulous and full of wide-eyed wonder throughout and he feels completely comfortable in this role.  Sladen, on the other hand, is sold rather short by the story, reduced a simple role as a messenger for the Doctor for large parts of the story, but equally, she has come to grips with Sarah.  Sladen’s reduced role is potentially worse because she is also the only female character in the production.  Amongst the guest cast, Sorenson and Vishinsky stand out as positives, with Frederick Jaeger convincingly capturing the emotional trauma of the experiences his character has been through on Zeta Minor.  Ewen Solon is likable as Vishinsky and performs admirably against a variable Prentis Hancock who seems to be largely wooden for most of the story and potentially a better performance would have increased my interest in their power struggle.

Verdict:  A solid if unspectacular story, Planet of Evil benefits from some amazing production design and solid performances.  7/10

Cast: Tom Baker (The Doctor), Elisabeth Sladen (Sarah Jane Smith), Ewen Solon (Vishinsky), Frederick Jaeger (Sorenson), Prentis Hancock (Salamar), Michael Wisher (Morelli), Graham Weston (De Haan), Louis Mahoney (Ponti), Terence Brook (Braun), Tony McEwan (Baldwin), Haydn Wood (O’Hara) & Melvyn Bedford (Reig).

Writer: Louis Marks

Director: David Maloney

Parts: 4

Behind the Scenes

  • The jungle was a set designed by Roger Murray-Leach.  It was so impressive that the BBC used it as an example of fine set design for a long time after production concluded.
  • The first appearance of a new TARDIS console, and additionally, the first appearance of the TARDIS interior since Death to the Daleks.
  • This is the first story commissioned by Phillip Hinchcliffe – every previous story had been commissioned by his predecessors, Barry Letts and Terrance Dicks.  The story was conceived as a mash-up between Forbidden Planet and The Strange Case of Doctor Jekyll and Mr Hyde.
  • The ship’s main cabin set would be reused in Robots of Death.

Cast Notes

  • The final appearance of Michael Wisher in Doctor Who.  Despite being the original actor to portray Davros, regular theatre commitments would mean that he would be unable to reprise the role.
  • Prentis Hancock previously appeared in Spearhead from Space and Planet of the Daleks and would go on to reappear in The Ribos Operation.
  • Frederick Jaeger and Ewen Solon were in The Savages.
  • Louis Mahoney was in Frontier in Space and would go on to be in Blink.
  • Graham Western previously appeared in The War Games.

Best Moment

Sarah’s walk through the forest is very atmospheric and creepy as she goes to look for the Doctor in Part Two.

Honourable Mentions

The closing shot of the TARDIS spinning away into space at the end of Part 4 is beautiful.

Best Quote

Here on Zeta Minor is the boundary between existence as you know it and the other universe which you just don’t understand.  From the beginning of time it has existed side by side with the known universe.  Each is the antithesis of the other.  You call it “nothing”, a word to cover ignorance.  And centuries ago scientists invented another word for it.  “Antimatter”, they called it.  And you, by coming here, have crossed the boundary into that other universe to plunder it.  Dangerous…

The Doctor

Planet of Evil - ID creature