Friday, 30 January 2015

056 The Romans Episode 3: Conspiracy

EPISODE: The Romans Episode 3: Conspiracy
TRANSMITTED: Saturday 30 January 1965
WRITER: Dennis Spooner
DIRECTOR: Christopher Barry
SCRIPT EDITOR: Dennis Spooner
PRODUCER: Verity Lambert
RATINGS: 10 million viewers
FORMAT: DVD: Doctor Who: The Rescue & The Romans

"Close your eyes and Nero will give you a big surprise!"

The Doctor is summoned by Tavius who tells him, still mistaking him for Maximus Pettulian, to put his plan into effect. The Doctor decides to figure out the conspiracy. Nero talks with his wife Poppaea about Pettulian playing: Poppaea suggests a banquet in his honour. Nero is very taken with Poppaea's new British slave, Barbara, which doesn't impress Poppaea! While clearing the food away she is "approached" by Nero who chases her round the palace, one thing on his mind, with Barbara narrowly missing meeting first Vicki and then the Doctor who are unaware she's there! Vicki stumbles into the chamber occupied by the official poisoner and chats to her about her role. Barbara returns to Poppaea's chambers but Nero corners her. She hides and narrowly misses the Doctor who knocks on the door. Nero is caught by his wife who isn't impressed, while Nero claims Barbara is chasing him! At the arena the female prisoner hears Ian's name and recognises it as the person Barbara was talking about during her stay. She tells Ian that Barbara was sold.

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The Doctor and Nero enjoy a sauna together until a slave accidentally spills water on Nero. The Doctor asks Nero about the intrigue in the palace but Nero says he knows of none. Nero tells The Doctor that he is to play at the banquet that night. Poppaea visits the poisoner and orders a poison for Barbara, but Vicki overhears and swaps it for the drink destined for Nero. Nero give Barbara a present of a gold bracelet. The Doctor saves Nero's life who gives the drink to Tigellinus, his hapless slave who's been bungling all episode who keels over the moment he tastes it. Poppaea has the poisoner taken to the arena. At the banquet the Doctor has to play for Nero and the court. The Doctor pretends to play a new composition claiming the music is so soft and delicate that only those with keen perceptive hearing will be able to hear it. And of course no one can, they just pretend to have heard it. Nero claims it's alright but not that good! Nero feels he's been made a fool of and goes to the Gladiatorial school taking Barbara. Ian is forced to fight against his former shipmate and now cellmate Delos for Nero's entertainment. Nero talks to the arena master and says he wants Maximus Pettulian, who feels he has humiliated him, to play at the arena and then have the lions set on him mid act! Ian, recognised by Barbara, fights for the emperor but is easily beaten. Nero bids Ian's adversary Delos to slay him....

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The bulk of the episode is more farcical comedy with characters narrowly missing each other and the Doctor, acknowledging as much on screen, re-enacting the Emperor's new clothes with the Lyre playing. We get poisoned cups being passed around missing their intended victim before killing the hapless Tigellinus and some form intrigue involving Tavius' plan for "Maximus Pettulian" but the end of the episode, with Ian being forced to fight his friend Delos and the Emperor ordering Delos to slay Ian, adds a darker tone to proceedings.

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Nero, Derek Francis, is a fantastic comedy figure with distinct echoes of Frankie Howerds's characters in Up Pompei! and it's stage predecessor A Funny Thing Happened on the Way to the Forum which also starred future Doctor Who Jon Pertwee. Nero's scenes with Tigellinus are amusing as is his pursuit of Barbara through the palace corridors.

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The Emperor Nero was born 15 December AD37 so that makes him just 26 during this story, which is set in July AD68 - we can date the next episode very accurately! He died, aged 30, in AD68 when he was deposed in a rebellion. By contrast Derek Francis, who played him, was 42 when this episode was recorded!

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Nero isn't the only documented historical figure in this production though. Tigellinus was a little bit more than a cupbearer in real life: he was a prefect of the Praetorian Guard from 62AD until 68AD. He deserted Nero in AD68 for the new emperor Galba who had him killed 6 months later.

Locusta was indeed a poisoner who was put to death by Nero's successor Galba in AD68.

Poppaea Sabina was the Roman Empress as the second wife of the Emperor Nero. She had previously been married to the future Emperor Otho who succeeded Galba in AD69. She died in AD65, either kicked by Nero while pregnant or poisoned depending on which source you believe.

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Anne Tirard, who played Locusta returns as The Seeker in Ribos Operation episodes 3 & 4.

Kay Patrick, Poppaea Sabina, returns as Flower in Savages episodes 1 & 2 before going on to direct & produce for Emmerdale, Holby City & Coronation Street.

Friday, 23 January 2015

055 The Romans Episode 2: All Roads Lead to Rome

EPISODE: The Romans Episode 2: All Roads Lead to Rome
TRANSMITTED: Saturday 23 January 1965
WRITER: Dennis Spooner
DIRECTOR: Christopher Barry
SCRIPT EDITOR: Dennis Spooner
PRODUCER: Verity Lambert
RATINGS: 11.5 million viewers
FORMAT: DVD: Doctor Who: The Rescue & The Romans

"Me, curious? Huh, nonsense."

Ascarius enters the Doctor's room and they struggle. Vicki enters threatening him with a vase and he accidentally tumbles out the window! The Doctor boasts how he enjoyed their fight. Barbara has arrived in Rome where she is locked up in a cell. She wonders where Ian is: he's found himself rowing on a Roman galley. The galley master tells them bad weather is expected. A slave buyer has taken an interest in Barbara: the bald Tavius. He asks the traders if he can buy her but they insist she will be sold at auction. The boat Ian is on has met the promised bad weather and sinks. Vicki ^ The Doctor have also now arrived in Rome and narrowly miss seeing Barbara being sold at the auction: They believe she's still at the villa with Ian. Tavius wins the auction with a huge bid. Ian has been washed up on the shore with another prisoner, Delos, who frees him from his chains. Ian intends to make for Rome to find Barbara. Tavius tells Barbara he was impressed with her actions in caring for another prisoner: He has brought her to Nero's house where she will be a servant for Nero's wife Poppaea. They are interrupted by a servant who tells Tavius that Maximus Pettulian (who we know is the Doctor) is here to see Nero: after first wanting to summon him here, Tavius leaves to meet him with Barbara narrowly missing the Doctor again. During their audience Nero arrives. The Doctor bluffs to try to avoid playing the lyre for him. Ian too has arrived in Rome with Delos. The Doctor & Vicki find the body of the murdered centurion and wonder what has happened. Ian has been captured and delivered to the same slave traders who sold him earlier, where he is noticed by the girl Barbara cared for earlier. He is destined to fight in the arena as a gladiator against the lions!

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This episode drew a smile as the comedic elements started to show: the narrow misses between The Doctor & Vicki and Barbara, first at the slave auction ...

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... and then when they're brought to Nero's Court:

MESSENGER: Maximus Pettulian from Corinth has arrived, sire, and with a small girl. He requests an audience with Caesar Nero.
TAVIUS: Pettulian? Very well, ask him to come in.
TAVIUS: No, wait. On second thoughts, perhaps it would be better if I came out to see him.
Then we have the rather camp Emperor Nero and the antics with the lute & stool and Ian ending back with the same slave traders that captured him in the first place! Hartnell, as in the Spooner's previous story the Reign of Terror, seems to be having some fun here with the comedic elements.

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The main guest star for this serial is Derek Francis playing Nero. He was at the time a major actor, probably the biggest guest star the series had attracted so far, possibly in no small part down to him being friends with Barbara actress Jacqueline Hill and her husband Alvin Rakoff.

I've not seen Michael Peake, Nero's slave master Tavius, in anything else but he appears to have died the year after this episode is broadcast.

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Brian Proudfoot is Tigellinus, Nero's cupbearer. He doubled for Hartnell previously in the location sequences in Reign of Terror, where he also played, uncredited, a Parisian citizen, before doubling again for Hartnell in The Space Museum then appearing as an Aridian in The Chase.

Another member of the cast to double for the Doctor during his career is well known Stuntman Peter Diamond making his first Doctor Who appearance as Delos, Ian's fellow prisoner. He'll be back in The Space Museum episodes 2-4 as Morok Technicians and Guards, The Highlanders episode 2-4 as a Sailor, The Ice Warriors episode 1 as the ill fated Davis, as an extra in the first episode of The Enemy of the World before returning in the sixth to double for both the Doctor and Salamander. His last Who appearances are in The War Games where he's a Confederate Horseman in episode 4 and an Alien Guard in episode 9, both uncredited. He served as a fight arranger on several episodes and his long career takes in about everything you can think of including the Star Wars films and Indiana Jones movies.

Gertan Klauber, here as the Galley Master, returns in The Macra Terror as Ola. In the same story is John Caesar, one of the Men in Market. He appears in The Dalek Masterplan 10 : Golden Death as an Egyptian Warrior, The Ark 4: The Bomb as Monoid Four, The Gunfighters as a cowboy, a Guard in Macra Terror, a Pirate in episode 1, 3 & 4 of the Space Pirates, The Sea Devils: Episode Six as C.P.O. Myers and Invasion of the Dinosaurs part 1 as the R / T Soldier. The other Man in the Market, Ernest Jennings has just a peasent in The State of Decay 1 and an Aged Rebel in The Trial of a Time Lord: Part 5 to his name.

Friday, 16 January 2015

054 The Romans Episode 1: The Slave Traders

EPISODE: The Romans Episode 1: The Slave Traders
TRANSMITTED: Saturday 16 January 1965
WRITER: Dennis Spooner
DIRECTOR: Christopher Barry
SCRIPT EDITOR: Dennis Spooner
PRODUCER: Verity Lambert
RATINGS: 13 million viewers
FORMAT: DVD: Doctor Who: The Rescue & The Romans

"Where are you going, Doctor?"
"To Rome, my child!"

The Tardis lies at the foot of the cliff covered in undergrowth to disguise it's presence. In a Roman villa Ian is reclining asleep as the Doctor arrives. Both are in Roman clothing. Barbara and Vicki have gone to the village to buy food. Vicki is disappointed that in the month they've been there she's not had any of the adventure she was promised. A figure, Ascarius, hides in the bushes sharpening his sword. In the market, as the famous lyre player Maximus Pettulian plays, Didius and Sevcheria discuss the lack of slaves for their trade. They ask a cloth trade, who Barbara & Vicki have spoken with, about the travellers and are pleased to learn they are Britons. Maximus Pettulian makes his way along the road and is set upon by Ascarius who kills him. The travellers dine at the Villa they are using where the Doctor is enjoying his meal, but seems to have decided to go away for a few days. He packs a bag of provisions for his trip to Rome, agreeing to take Vicki with him. Didius and Sevcheria have fed their small group of poor looking slaves and prepare to gain some more. While Ian & Barbara are relaxing in the villa they hear a noise. The two slave traders arrive at the villa, and thanks to Barbara accidentally knocking Ian out with a vase, capture them. The Doctor & Vicki stumble on Maximus Pettulian's body. The Doctor picks the lyre up, just as a Roman Soldier arrives searching the bushes. He's looking for Maximus Pettulian and mistakes the Doctor for him! He is expected in Rome by the Emperor Nero. The Doctor decides to pose as Pettulian in order to meet Nero. Ian is sold on by the traders leaving Barbara to be taken with them to be sold in Rome. The Roman soldier meets Ascarius, who was paid to kill Pettulian, and instructs him to complete the job. He goes upstairs to where the Doctor is staying.....

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Oh for a working Chameleon Circuit to disguise the Tardis! Even before the market trader reveals that they arrived a month ago it's obvious the Tardis crew have been there some while, have settled into their surroundings and are very much at home. This episode is very much a set-up episode, starting from that position it serves to split the regular cast up with Ian & Barbara separately enslaved and The Doctor & Vicki involved in a case of mistaken identity/the Doctor pretending to be someone else again, following his spell impersonating an official in The Reign of Terror.

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The mute Ascarius is played by Barry Jackson. For years Jackson was a jobbing actor and occasional stuntman whose CV included an appearance in the Doctorless episode Mission to the Unknown and another Doctor Who role as the Doctor's classmate Drax in the Armageddon Factor. He found a measure of fame late in life as Pathologist Doctor George Bullard in Midsomer Murders. Interestingly while Doctor Bullard is absent during the 2nd & 3rd series of Midsomer Murders he's replaced in four episodes by pathologist Dan Peterson who's played by Toby Jones who we now know as The Dream Lord from Amy's Choice!

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Elsewhere in the cast of this episode Nicholas Evans, on the far left, plays Didius: He was a Dalek & Slyther in The Dalek Invasion of Earth.

Dennis Edwards, the Centurion, later appears as Lord Gomer in the first three episodes of Invasion of Time.

Edward Kelsey, on the right, is the Slave Buyer. He returns as Resno in Power of the Daleks 1 & 2 and Edu in Creature from the Pit, both of which were directed by Christopher Barry who also directed the first episode of the second season of The Tripods in which he appeared as Professor Bernstein. Kelsey is best known to my generation for voicing Colonel K / Baron Silas Greenback in Dangermouse.

Friday, 9 January 2015

053 The Rescue Episode 2: Desperate Measures

EPISODE: The Rescue Episode 2: Desperate Measures
TRANSMITTED: Saturday 09 January 1965
WRITER: David Whitaker
DIRECTOR: Christopher Barry
SCRIPT EDITOR: Dennis Spooner
PRODUCER: Verity Lambert
RATINGS: 13 million viewers
FORMAT: DVD: Doctor Who: The Rescue & The Romans

"We can travel anywhere and everywhere in that old box as you call it. Regardless of space and time. "

The Doctor helps Ian to escape the spikes. Vicki & Barbara are looking after Bennet who's collapsed. They want to set a trap for Koquillion but Bennet isn't keen. Vicki fetches water for their meal leaving Barbara by herself. Seeing a beast on the monitor screen she attacks & kills it with a flare gun it but it turns out it was Vicki's native pet Sandy. The Doctor & Ian, as they escape the tunnel, hear the noise and find their way to the Spaceship, Vicki & Barbara. The Doctor goes to see Bennet, and is told, like Koquillion in the previous episode, that he can't come in. Vicki tells the travellers she left Earth in 2493: they tell her they came from 1963 and that The Doctor is a time traveller. The Doctor forces his way into Bennet's room and finds it empty: a tape recording provided the voice and equipment in their monitors Vicki's room. The Doctor finds a trapdoor in the floor and explores down the shaft underneath, closing the trapdoor behind him so that when the others follow him they can't find where he's gone. The Doctor finds himself in a temple like structure. Koquillion arrives in the "temple", which the Doctor remembers as being the Didonian People's Hall of Judgement. He unmasks Koquillion as Bennet. He had killed a crew member on the journey and was arrested, but when the arrived on Dido he killed the crew. Vicki knew none of this and would have supported the story that Bennet had made up. He and the Doctor fight but two figures, native Didonians, step out the shadows and walk towards Bennet. He flees falling down a chasm. The Doctor passes out, waking in the Tardis. Ian & Barbara found him outside where the Didonians left him. The Doctor explains what happened to Vicki who now feels as if she's got nobody. The Doctor invites her to travel with them. She, like Ian & Barbara before her, is astonished at the inside of the Tardis and leaves with them. The radio on the ship picks up a transmission from the rescue ship: seeking not to be disturbed the Didonians smash the radio. The Tardis materialises on a cliff top and falls over the edge.

A bit more oomph to this episode than the first part, but it's transparently obvious who Koquillion is quite early on in proceedings which rather takes any element of mystery away the confrontation between Bennet and the Doctor is good as is the surprising appearance of the native Didonians.

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As I indicated in the first episode the whole point of the story is to introduce a new young female companion, which they have in Vicki. She doesn't represent much of a risk by the production team and can in some ways be seen as something of a Susan clone adopting a very similar relationship with the Doctor to Susan. There again the Doctor, missing his Granddaughter, is perhaps likely to treat an alone orphaned girl of a similar age to his departed relative in a similar manner. And the Doctor is missing Susan, look at him as they prepare to leave the ship in episode 1:

DOCTOR: No, I do think we ought to step outside and have a look. I will too. Susan, er
BARBARA: Doctor, why don’t you show me how to open the doors?
DOCTOR: Hmm? Yes, yes, yes, my dear. Of course, yes, yes, how silly of me. Yes, number four switch.
We learn a little about Vicki in this episode: her mother died, then she & her Father left Earth in 2493 with him taking a job on the the planet Astra. He survived the ship's crash but died when Bennet killed the crew and the natives. And that's about all we ever learn of her background!

But Vicki does drop an interesting hint while talking to Ian and Barbara:

VICKI: They didn’t have time machines in 1963, they didn’t know anything then.
So has mankind discovered time travel by the late 25th century?

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The action on Dido concludes with the natives wrecking the ship's communications system to protect their privacy. I wonder if, perhaps, they were responsible for bringing the ship down in the first place? Or was that another part of Bennet's mad plan?

This is the first 2 part Doctor Who story, and the last until 1975's Sontaran Experiment. Three two parters are made in the fifth Doctor's era: Black Orchid, King's Demons and The Awakening, plus you can argue that the final two parts of Trial of a Timelord are a 2 part story in themselves. You can make a good case for it being a story length that the old series never quite masters, though I am quite fond of Black Orchid and The Awakening. Of course two old Doctor Who episodes are all but the equivalent of 45 minute new one!

The Rescue was the last Doctor Who book to be written by Ian Marter, an actor (who we will hear more from later) turned writer, who died of a heart attack at the early age of 46. He wrote nine Target novels, second behind only Terrance Dicks. The Rescue's novel was released in August 1987 in Hardback and the following January in Paperback. The Rescue was released on video, paired with the following story the Romans, in March 1995. I always thought it would have made more sense to pair it with Dalek Invasion of Earth giving people two 4 episode tapes like Sontaran Experiment/Genesis of the Daleks. It was released on DVD paired with the Romans again in February 2009.

Friday, 2 January 2015

052 The Rescue Episode 1: The Powerful Enemy

EPISODE: The Rescue Episode 1: The Powerful Enemy
TRANSMITTED: Saturday 02 January 1965
WRITER: David Whitaker
DIRECTOR: Christopher Barry
SCRIPT EDITOR: Dennis Spooner
PRODUCER: Verity Lambert
RATINGS: 12 million viewers
FORMAT: DVD: Doctor Who: The Rescue & The Romans

"Vicki, watch out for Koquillion!"

The Tardis materialises in a cave. Nearby lies a crashed and badly damaged United Kingdom rocket ship. It's radar picks up the Tardis landing: young Vicki, hears the radar and assumes it's the rescue ship they're expecting. She runs to tell Bennet, her friend who is injured and confined to bed. He warns her to beware of Koquillion. She contacts the Rescue Ship who tell her they are seventeen hours away yet: Vicki wonders who it is who's landed. In the Tardis the Doctor has slept through the landing. The Doctor calls for Susan, forgetting she is no longer there. Ian & Barbara explore while the Doctor returns to the Tardis for a nap. As they leave a strange spiked alien figure approaches the Tardis. Ian & Barbara see the Spaceship, they are approached by the alien who questions them: he wishes to meet the Doctor. Ian returns to the Tardis but Barbara is attacked by the alien and falls off the ledge at the cave mouth. The Doctor works out that he's on the planet Dido which he has visited before and remembers the people who live there. The alien aims a device at the cave mouth causing a rock fall which seals it, with the Doctor & Ian within. The Doctor tells Ian he remembers the people, who are similar to the description Ian gives, are friendly, which Ian finds hard to believe given his recent encounter. The alien returns to the ship and questions Vicki: she has been out and heard an explosion. The alien lies to her about what has happened to the Tardis crew and claims to be protecting them. He goes to talk to Bennet. This alien is Koquillion. Vicki has been hiding the injured Barbara in the ship. Vicki tells Barbara that Koquillion has been keeping them here and that the aliens killed all the crew including Vicki's father in an explosion. Bennet who was injured was the only survivor. Vicki tells Barbara the Koquillion has killed her friends. Bennet stumbles into the room Vicki uses telling her of his encounter with Koquillion while she tells him that there was a survivor. The Doctor & Ian are trying to find their way out of the caves and are threatened by an alien beast in the chasm bellow. Ian sets off a booby trap in the caves and finds himself surrounded by spikes that threaten to push him over the ledge he's standing on......

Yeah,so so episode. Nothing spectacular, just a quiet little run-around for the three remaining regulars. The monster is nice but the ending, with blades coming out the walls, looks like it's been lifted straight from a 40s serial!

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How can you tell the rocket is from the United Kingdom? It's got a Union Jack on it's tail fin!

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Playing Vicki is young actress Maureen O'Brien in her first television role. You can hear her interviewd by Toby Hadoke for Who's Round #95. The main guest actor in The Rescue was the rising Australian star Ray Barrett, who plays Bennet. He'd been in Emergency Ward 10, one of the first UK television Soap operas, as well as voicing Commander Shore & Triton in Stingray. He would later provide the voices of John Tracy, the Hood and many background characters in Thunderbirds as well as taking a lead role in the successful series The Troubleshooters.

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Koquillion is credited as being played by "Sydney Wilson", a name made up by the production team in tribute to two of the creators of Doctor Who, Sydney Newman and Donald Wilson, in order to preserve the identity of the character disguised as him. However given there's only two other characters in the episode it's not that hard to work out who it is!

We're into Doctor Who's second recording block and there's a major behind the scenes change: We've a new Script Editor in charge, Dennis Spooner, who wrote Season 1's Reign of Terror which I enjoyed a lot. He wastes no time commissioning his predecessor, David Whitaker, to produce this story the entire function of which is to introduce the new young female companion to replace Susan. We have a return for Director Christopher Barry last seen directing the earlier episodes of The Daleks which Richard Martin didn't. Of the two I think Barry's episodes are done better yet he gets a 2 parter on a ruined moon and a comedy Romans story while Martin gets the Daleks big return!