Friday, 26 June 2015

077 The Chase Episode 6: The Planet of Decision

EPISODE: The Chase Episode 6: The Planet of Decision
TRANSMITTED: Saturday 26 June 1965
WRITER: Terry Nation
DIRECTOR: Richard Martin
SCRIPT EDITOR: Dennis Spooner
PRODUCER: Verity Lambert
RATINGS: 9.5 million viewers
FORMAT: DVD: Doctor Who - The Space Museum/The Chase

"I shall miss them. Yes, I shall miss them, silly old fusspots."

The travellers ascend in the lift with the Mechanoid to it's city. The Daleks fetch equipment from their ship to cut through the wall and follow. The travellers are herded into a room but the Doctor isn't happy. Inside the room is a bearded man: He is astronaut Steven Taylor, marooned when his ship crashed. He assumes they are rescuers sent from Earth and is overcome. He has been a guest of the Mechanoids for two years, robots who were sent from Earth to prepare the world for colonisation. They await a command code that never came. The Mechanoids are holding them as specimens monitoring all they do and say. The Daleks summon the lift and prepare to confront the Mechanoids. There is a way out from the cell onto the roof of the city 1500ft above the ground. The travellers see this as an escape route: Ian finds some power cable which he thinks they can lower and climb down. The Daleks enter the city and confront the Mechanoids.

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Neither side will back down and a pitch battle ensues. Vicki is overcome by the height so the others lower her as the city catches fire in the battle. Steven charges inside to retrieve his cuddly panda mascot. The travellers make it to the ground but there's no sign of Steven. They shelter in the Tardis as the city is destroyed. Emerging later they find the Dalek time craft empty and abandoned. Ian & Barbara realise that since it works properly they would be able to get home. While they go into the machine to talk with the Doctor, Steven stumbles out of the jungle and into the Tardis. The Doctor isn't keen on Ian and Barbara leaving, claiming it could kill them, but Vicki talks him into it. He programs the machine for one flight to London 1965 and then sets it to self destruct. The machine dematerialises leaving the Doctor and Vicki together. Ian & Barbara materialise in a warehouse opposite White City Tube Station and leave just before the time machine is destroyed. Ian and Barbara are overjoyed to have returned home to London and then wonder how they will explain their absence. The Doctor and Vicki watch on the Time Space Visualiser, as the Doctor admits he will miss his friends. The Tardis leaves Mechanus, with it's remaining crew unaware that they have a guest.

After a five episode build up in many ways this episode is a bit of a let down. The Doctor effectively lets the Mechanoids solve their problem for them.

We do get to find out who & what these robots are as marooned astronaut Steven Taylor explains:

DOCTOR: You mean there's no other human beings here on this planet?
STEVEN: No, nothing except the Mechanoids.
BARBARA: Where do they come from, do you know?
STEVEN: You don't know? But this is Mechanus.
IAN: Sorry?
STEVEN: Look, about fifty years ago Earth decided to colonise this planet. Well, it landed a rocket full of robots programmed to clear landing sites, get everything ready for the first immigrants.
VICKI: And they didn't arrive?
STEVEN: No. See, Earth got involved in interplanetary wars. I suppose this place was forgotten.
Be interesting to know when this is and what interplanetary wars Earth has got involved in.....

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Steven is played by actor Peter Purves, then aged 26. His short acting career to that point had most of the usual suspects on it including Z-Cars and Dixon of Dock Green. He'd already appeared in The Chase episode 3 Flight Through Eternity as American tourist Morton Dill. As far as the Tardis crew knows he perishes in the city while retrieving his panda mascot HiFi but the viewer gets to see Steven on the ground evading a Fungoid, presumably Ken Tyllsen the only "WITH" credited on this episode. So we know he's got out the city. What we don't know is his final fate..... and for that you'll need to come back next episode!

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We get a new Dalek arm attachment this episode the electrode unit which they use to cut their way into the lift shaft. The seismic detector, seen in earlier episodes, also features. The Doctor's box of tricks, created in episode three and carries around since then, finally gets used against the Daleks invading Steven's living space and is what causes the fire that destroys the Mechanoid city.

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The Mechanoids are another attempt, like the Vrood and the Zarbi, to repeat the success of the Daleks and find the next big Doctor Who monster. This time they're little more than a Dalek rip off, another race of machine creatures. A shell, with a weapon projecting from it, in this case their flame thrower.

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How they ever got away with that in the studio I'll never know but next story the Daleks get one too!

215198_10150271382443438_563333437_9274064_4639539_nIn fact there's a very famous publicity image of producer Verity Lambert lighting her cigarette off of the Mechanoid's flame thrower!

In fact there's a large number of publicity shots & off screen photos existing for The Chase, some of which can be found on the DVD but, like this one, there's even more out there on the internet if you look!

Mechanoid Merchandising exists in the form of plastic toys in several sizes and appearances in the Daleks TV21 comic strip, long overdue for a new collection as the previous one 1994's Dalek Chronicles goes for a pretty penny on eBay!

If you're a Doctor Who fan you'll be able to hazard a pretty good guess as to what the next big monster was, but they're not due to show up for another season and a half yet!

There's three Mechanoids in this episode: Murphy Grumbar, who was in the previous episode and Jack Pitt & John Scott Martin. Both were Zarbi in the Web Planet. Scott Martin was Dalek operator in episodes 1-4 while Pitt was the Mire Beast in episodes 1 & 2 and the cabin steward in 3. Both then were the mysterious "WITH", probably Fungoids, in episode 5..

Director Richard Martin has reused several of the cast of his previous story the Web Planet over the course of this story:

ACTOR Web Planet The Chase EPISODES
John Scott Martin Zarbi Dalek
Jack Pitt Zarbi Mire Beast
Cabin Steward
Ian Thompson Hetra Malsan2
Arne Gordon Hrostar Guide 3
Roslyn DeWinter Vrestin Grey Lady 4

The battle between the Daleks and the Mechanoids is over by the 18 minute mark of the episode leaving the rest of the time top deal with the departure of the Doctor's last two initial companions. Very little has been made of trying to get them home recently, in fact I don't think the subject has come up since Susan left. But it's obvious they want to go home when the chance, in the form of a working time machine, presents itself:

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BARBARA: Ian, do you realise we could get home?
IAN: Home? Yes. Do you want to?
BARBARA: Yes. I never realised it before.
IAN: Neither did I. We may never get another chance.
BARBARA: Do you think we could work it?
IAN: Well, would the Doctor take us?
BARBARA: Let's ask him.
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DOCTOR: I don't want to know! I want none of this! I've never heard such nonsense in my life! You'll end up as a couple of burnt cinders, flying around in space. You idiots! You are absolute idiots!
I wonder how much of this is the Doctor being serious about the risks of travelling in an alien time machine, which has seemed to have served the Daleks very well, and how much is overstatement because he doesn't want to loose Ian & Barbara, his last link to his Granddaughter Susan.

Years later, in Talons of Weng Chiang, we meet the hideously deformed Weng Chiang who has had an accident with a time machine!

But Ian & Barbara are insistent....

BARBARA: We are not idiots! We want to go home!
IAN: Yes, home! I want to sit in a pub and drink a pint of beer again. I want to walk in a park and watch a cricket match. Above all, I want to belong somewhere, do something, instead of this aimless drifting around in space.
DOCTOR: Aimless? I've tried for two years to get you both home!
IAN: Well, you haven't been very successful, have you?
DOCTOR: How dare you, young man. How dare you, sir! I didn't even invite you into the ship in the first place. You both thrust yourselves upon me!
BARBARA: Oh, Doctor, stop it!
DOCTOR: Oh, for heavens sake, I've never heard such nonsense.
BARBARA: Look, I know we thrust ourselves upon you, but we've through a great deal together since then. And all we've been through will remain with us always. It'll probably be the most exciting part of my life. Look, Doctor, we're different people, and now we have a chance to go home. We want to take that chance. Will you help us work that machine?
In the end it's Vicki assuring the Doctor that she will stay that persuades him to let them try:
VICKI: Doctor? Doctor, you've got to let them go if they want to. They want to be back in their own time.
DOCTOR: Don't you want to go with them, child?
VICKI: What for? What would I want to be back in their time for? I want to be with you. Doctor, you've got to help them.
DOCTOR: Don't you realise, child, the enormous risks?
VICKI: But it's up to them.
vlcsnap-2014-10-14-15h23m02s113 But Vicki herself is evidentially sorry to see the two older companions leave when they do go.

Ian and Barbara do make it home safely, materialising in a garage in sight of White City Tube station with a car tax disc confirming when they arrived. The garage is on the lot at Ealing Film Studios where the filmed battle sequence for this episode were shot and this sequence was shot on 10th May 1965.

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At this point this sequence is directed by Douglas Camfield who was due to take charge for the next story with a series of still images shot on 6th May 1965:

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Ian & Barbara visit Trafalgar square then Albert Embankment & Westminster Bridge. Both previously featured as locations during episode 3 of Dalek Invasion of Earth.

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We've seen Barbara stand in that spot before: she and resistance fighter Jenny were pushing the crippled Dortmun as Daleks crossed the bridge!

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We then see a real life Police Box in Bayswater Road before they visit Kensington Gardens. As you can see they're very happy to be home together.

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Their final stop is Regent Street where they board a Routemaster bus and get a shock at the fares going up in the two years they've been away!

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The Bus Conductor they encounter is played by regular series stunt man, and regular Camfield associate, Derek Ware. He made his d├ębut on the first Doctor Who story An Unearthly Child (Production Assistant: Douglas Camfield) as the uncredited fight arranger, a role he repeated on The Aztecs: Temple of Evil. He finally gets an on screen credit both as a Saracen Warrior and the fight arranger in Camfield's previous story, The Crusade. vlcsnap-2014-10-14-15h27m09s23 Ware's group HAVOC would provide stunts for many Doctor Who stories. He returns as an uncredited Trojan Soldier as well as the Fight Arranger in Myth Makers 4: Horse of Destruction before fight Arranging Dalek Masterplan 7: The Feast of Steven and appearing in episodes 9 & 10, Golden Death & Escape Switch, of the same story as Tuthmos. He's the Spaniard in episodes 1, 3 & 4 of The Smugglers - he fight arranges that last episode too, fight arranges episodes 1 & 4 of Camfield's Web of Fear as well as appearing in episode 4 as a soldier. He's The Ambassadors of Death: Episode 2 as a UNIT Sergeant and Episode 7 as a UNIT Soldier before playing Private Wyatt in episodes 1-3 of the next story, Camfield's Inferno. He fight arranges the fist episode of the story after that, Terror of the Autons before making his final, and possibly most famous, on-screen appearance in The Claws of Axos: Episode One as Pigbin Josh!

This is the last time we see Ian & Barbara on screen but apparently the powers that be wanted to give them a brief cameo at the end of the Massacre, witnessing the Tardis depart from Wimbledon Common. Many years later we came so close to getting Ian back during 1983's Mawdryn Undead. William Russell was unavailable for filming as teacher Ian Chesterton so the function was filled by Nicholas Courtney's Brigadier having retired to teach maths.

If you want my opinion then yes, Ian & Barbara did go off together, get married and live happily ever after!

As I write William Russell is alive and well, if advancing in years, and has regularly contributed commentary to Doctor Who DVDs. Jacqueline Hill, who played Barbara, took a break from acting to raise a family, returning to the trade in the late 70s when her appearances included a guest role in the Tom Baker story Meglos. Sadly she was taken ill with cancer and died in 1993. A tribute to her can be found on the recently released Doctor Who - Meglos DVD.

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Ian & Barbara's trip round London has been watched by The Doctor and Vicki, using the Space Time Visualiser for the last time so they know their friends are home safe:
VICKI: Doctor, they made it! They made it!
DOCTOR: I shall miss them. Yes, I shall miss them, silly old fusspots. Come along, my dear, it's time we were off.

We also bid farewell to two members of behind the scenes staff. Script Editor Dennis Spooner takes leave of his post with this story. His tenure on staff was brief but he'll be back writing the next story as well as a good proportion of next year's Dalek Masterplan. This is the last Doctor Who directed by Richard Martin. Popular with the cast he seemed to get lumbered with technical monster stories which perhaps weren't quite his forte. It's interesting contrasting the Daleks under his direction to that of Christopher Barry in their first appearance and Douglas Camfield in their next. He had a long career in television working on a variety of programs.

The audio of this episode was edited together with new narration by Dalek Voice artist David Graham and as a record by Century 21 Records in the UK during 1966. The Chase was one of the last Target Books to be released, novelised by John Peel. It was released on VHS in 1993 as part of Doctor Who's 30th anniversary in a limited edition Dalek tin with Remembrance of the Daleks then on DVD in 2010 when it was packed with the Space Museum.

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