Looking at the next episode coming up in the UKTV Drama Doctor Who episodes I was expecting part one of Genesis of the Daleks – but tonight they seem to be skipping straight to part one of Revenge of the Cybermen… Strange decision to drop the Dalek story, as it’s always been regarded as one of the classics and looking at the upcoming episode list they are showing all the subsequent stories in order, unless of course it’s a repeat of the problems with the Terry Nation estate again that nearly scuppered the return of the monsters in the new series…
It is perhaps an indication of the renewed popularity of Doctor Who, that UKTV Drama has kicked off a new year with a daily teatime showing of some of the classic shows not in the omnibus format in which they used to show the programme at weekends, but as it was originally made in 25 minute episodes.
The one difference though is that whereas in the past they always started at the start of the colour era, with Jon Pertwee stories, this time they’re kicking off with Robot, Terrance Dicks reworking of King Kong – probably most obvious in the final episode – that marked the beginning of Tom Baker in the title role.
Although there are some really obvious bits of model work at times, it’s still quite an entertaining watch, including some classic bits of script that mark it out as very British, such as the conversation between the Brigadier and the Doctor about how Great Britain was the only possible choice as the country to hold the nuclear secrets of the superpowers…
First off is The Sontaran Experiment – monsters who are going to appear again in the next season of the new Doctor Who. Then we get the classic and fan favourite Genesis of the Daleks where the Doctor is sent back in time to destroy the Daleks before they are even created – where Terry Nation makes absolutely no attempt to hide who he based the creatures on – and where the Doctor makes a fateful decision. After that we have the Revenge of the Cybermen, which it has to be said, isn’t regarded by a classic by a lot of fans, and finally that season finished off with the first and only appearance of the Zygons – favourite monster of the current occupier of the TARDIS, David Tennant.
So compared to the modern series it may have some really dodgy special effects, and wobbly sets, but this was the era that was enough to inspire most of the current production team, and of course David Tennant himself, to the extent that more than a decade after it’s demise they brought back the series that is so successful now. If alternatively you’re only interested in â€œnu Whoâ€? as SFX christened it, you’ve only got a couple of weeks to wait before Torchwood returns on 16th January – this time with a pre-watershed re-edit to help in those homes where the content of the show was ruled unsuitable for the younger Who obsessives and they were banned from watching – and Doctor Who itself is due to return for a fourth series in the now familiar late spring/early summer run.
Sad news today for the forty-fourth anniversary of the first episode of Doctor Who, with the news that Verity Lambert, the first producer of the series, has passed away aged 71. When she got the job back in 1963 she was the youngest, and only female producer at the BBC. Known for standing up to her superiors, and one of the people most often credited with the early success of the programme, probably the best example is when she introduced the Daleks, despite being specifically advised not to by Donald Wilson, head of serials. One of the great unanswered questions – would Doctor Who still be so well known forty-four years later had she done what she was told?
Lets be clear, in Utopia the apparent main plot, about the last of humankind trying to escape a dying planet on a rocket was really an irrelevance. This episode was about one thing, and one thing only – bringing back the Master.
The rumours had already let slip key facts, that John Simm was going to be the Master, and that Derek Jacobi was playing a character who could be a Timelord – possibly the Master, however tonight was when all the pieces were put together. Rolled into the mix was the return of Captain Jack who quite literally jumped onto the TARDIS for the ride.
Having picked up Captain Jack the TARDIS is sent hurtling into the future where they find a group of humans barricaded in a rocket silo, hunted by ‘Futurekind’ the de-evolution of humans to savages. Inside the silo kindly Professor Yana is struggling to build working rocket to take the humans to Utopia, a legendary place believed to be a colony of humans.
The Doctor and Professor Yana quickly build a rapport, as the Doctor helps the professor fix the problems with the rocket. The professor drifts away into his thoughts at times, and says he hears the sound of drums, but has done since childhood. He does not know his origin, aside from being found as an orphan on the home planet of the Face of Boe – the creature who told the Doctor he was not alone back in Gridlock.
The Doctor asks to have the TARDIS retrieved and brought into the silo, which the humans do, but this produces a strange reaction in the professor. It seems some how familiar – he starts hearing voices (voices that would certainly be familiar to fans of Doctor Who…) but is still confused as to what is happening. Then Martha sees that he has a pocket watch – a watch that is identical to the watch used by The Doctor to become human to hide from the Family of Blood. She tells Professor Yana enough to get him to examine the watch, and then Yana starts hearing another voice insisting that he open the watch. Martha runs to tell the Doctor, and whilst she is telling him of the watch, Yana gives in to the voices and opens the watch. Gone is the kindly personality, and the Master is released. As the effects of the Chameleon Arch are reversed the Doctor senses that he is no longer alone – another Timelord now exists.
As the Doctor races back to the professor’s lab, the reawakened Master tries to block his way by shutting down the doors, and letting in the Futurekind. Confused as to what is happening, the professor’s assistant pulls a gun on the Master, but is murdered by the Master by electrocution. The Doctor reaches the lab in time to see the Master shot by his former assistant with her dying breath, and stagger into the TARDIS and lock the door.
Inside the TARDIS the Master regenerates, and taunts the Doctor over the intercom. The Doctor begs him, telling him that they are the last of their race and to put their old battles behind them – Martha says that she recognises his new voice. However despite the best efforts of the Doctor to stop him, the Master takes off in the TARDIS leaving the Doctor and his companions stranded at the end of the universe.
All in all it was a fantastic ending. Despite the spoilers, the production team had managed to keep enough secret that even though you knew the Master was returning, the kindly Professor Yana threw you off the scent, and the rest of the action kicked along enough that you didn’t get a chance to think back until the pocket watch is revealed. You were also thrown off somewhat by the return of Captain Jack and the need to resolve issues left over from The Parting of the Ways.
In terms of the return of the Master, there are some unresolved questions. One of the memories that Professor Yana hears from the pocket watch before he opens it is of the final battle between the Master and the Eighth Doctor, at the conclusion of which the Master is sucked into the core of the TARDIS, having survived the death of his Timelord body at the hands of the Daleks using a creature that has allowed him to possess a human body. How did he escape the TARDIS? Perhaps during the events of The Parting of the Ways – but that still doesn’t quite explain how he has returned as a Timelord with a renewed power to regenerate (the goal he was seeking over many of his previous appearances) and with access to a Chameleon Arch. Perhaps all will be explained in what now transpires to be parts two and three of the final three part story, The Sound of Drums, and The Last of the Timelords.
So there we have it, the hybrid Dalek is no more, ousted by the original Daleks who now regard it as impure. Those who were grumbling about why the Daleks created pig men when in previous stories they have created Robomen got their wish, with the ‘final experiment’ mentioned in the previous episode which I, like I guess most viewers assumed was the hybrid Dalek proving to be somewhat more extensive, with thousands of humans kept in stasis until a solar flare causes enough gamma radiation to merge human and Dalek DNA. Unfortunately the Doctor gets in the way, and what are produced are human/Dalek/Time Lord hybrids who won’t obey orders. Then of course at the end we have the customary escape scene with the last Dalek shifting away to give the opportunity for another Dalek encounter.
Although it was fairly predictable, it was none the less an entertaining episode – lots of chases including some funky Dalek shots as they chase the escaping Doctor through the sewers. We also get some aerial destruction as Daleks attack Hooverville. It also includes Solomon, one of the main characters from the first episode getting ruthlessly despatched. He tries to reason with the Daleks, saying that they are outcasts, just like the people in Hooverville, giving a grand stirring speech. There is a pause, just long enough for you to think that maybe they will agree, before the reply comes, and Solomon is dead. The rapidly changing hybrid Dalek, still in charge at this point steps in and saves the Doctor, but that action leads to the other Daleks questioning his position even further, before ultimately they push him aside.
So, whilst it was good to see a scheming Dalek plot-line, perhaps it is time to give the Daleks. Although the title of the episode was Evolution of the Daleks, perhaps there needs to be some evolution of the plot-lines to do something original with the creatures from Skaro before they next appear…
Incidentally, I mentioned in my posting last week that none of the actors got a trip across the pond – whilst the producer Phil Collinson joined the special effects team when they were putting together background shots. Doctor Who Confidential featured the filming of the actors for the Statue of Liberty scenes – in the car park of Penarth Leisure Centre. During a piece interviewing Phil Collinson, where the sequence is doing some self-congratulation about having found a suitable bit of wall that matches, David Tennant comes over to grumble about the fact that the producer, and even the Doctor Who Confidential crew got a trip across the pond, but he didn’t. Probably fair as even in the cash strapped days of the old series Tom Baker got a trip to Paris, and Peter Davison was taken to Lanzarote. I guess he thought that if they could afford to send the producer, they could have done a few shots of their star in front of New York sights!