Saturday, 8 October 2016

131 The Tenth Planet: Episode One

EPISODE: The Tenth Planet: Episode One
TRANSMITTED: Saturday 08 October 1966
WRITER: Kit Pedler & Gerry Davis
DIRECTOR: Derek Martinus
PRODUCER: Innes Lloyd
RATINGS: 5.5 million viewers
FORMAT: DVD: Doctor Who - The Tenth Planet

"Pretty soon we shall be having visitors!"

A rocket launches into space. Over a shot of a control console we get some more nifty computer like graphics. Snowcap base has just taken control of the Zeus 4 space mission manned by Astronauts Schultz and Williams. The Tardis has materialised outside the base. Wrapped up in warm clothing the Time Travellers are trying to explore but hampered by the severe weather conditions. They, and especially Polly, are noticed by the guards who apprehend them and bring them inside for questioning by their commander, General Cutler. Zeus 4 is drawn off course, the Doctor believes he knows what is causing the problems but nobody listens to him. The crew of Zeus 4 find that their energy and their ship's is being drained somehow. They attempt to make a course correction using Mars as a navigation point but instead find a new planet. Observing from Earth the Time Travellers point out the planet's similarity to Earth (it looks very similar, just the other way up) The Doctor predicts that they will very soon have some visitors....

When I did the War Machines I said that I'd been keen to do two Hartnell stories since I started writing this block. That was one and this, the final First Doctor story, is the other. Just as War Machines reflects popular culture by showing us a swinging London in the sixties, Tenth Planet shows us a reflection of the space race to the moon which was in progress at the time. There's not a lot for the Tardis crew to do in this episode as the situation is set up with them as literal observers through the control room window for the majority of the episode.

A notable feature of this episode is that the role of astronaut Glynn Williams is the largest part for a black actor in the series so far and Earl Cameron delivers a great performance. I've just looked at his IMDB entry and it appears he's still with us, aged 99, and, until recently, was still working. He appeared in 2010 hit film Inception, which Liz bought a few years back so I'm going to have to watch it again to spot him! He also make a good contribution on the commentary and special features for the Doctor Who - The Tenth Planet DVD. He is one of a number of actors in this story to feature in the BBC's production of Paul of Tarsus, where he plays Simeon.

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Like many of the cast Australian Alan White, as astronaut Schultz, doesn't have any further Doctor Who connection but he was in The Prisoner episode Dance of the Dead as Dutton. The nickname used for his character, Bluey, is a common one for Australian Redheads.

The American Sergeant is John Brandon, who will go on to make a few appearances as Zeus, Archangel's Boss in Airwolf, including the superb Fallen Angel.

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Natural pedantry, and ten years working for actuaries, required me to check if the calendar for December 1986 was correct. Excel provides the solution
shows that 1st December 1986 was indeed a Monday!

Whenever I see this episode the thing that really catches my eye in the spacesuits worn by Williams & Schultz. They're modelled on the Windak High Altitude Pressure Suit, and this isn't their first or last in a dramatic production either! From a purely Doctor Who point of view they turn up again in a later story, Patrick Troughton's The Wheel in Space.

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But the first time they appear on-screen is in the 1964 version of The First Men in the Moon.

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They're probably the things that have been in Doctor Who that have been seen by the most people because they pop up in Star Wars & The Empire Strikes Back as BoShek and Bossk's costumes!

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They aren't the only reused props in this story either! The consoles along the far wall of the tracking room were previously seen in The Avengers episode The House That Jack Built

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There's a few extras in this episode who have prior or future Doctor Who form. Ken McGarvie is a Soldier in Tracking Room in just this first episode. He's been a Saxon in The Time Meddler 2: The Meddling Monk and a Saxon warrior episode 4 of the same story, Checkmate, a Cricketer/Reveller in Dalek Masterplan 8: Volcano, a Tavern Customer in The Massacre 1:War of God and finally a Man in Newsroom in The War Machines episode 4. Nicholas Edwards, the R / T Technician in the first two episodes of this story, was an Elder in The Savages: Episode 1. Sheila Knight is the Geneva Secretary and returns as the Receptionist in the first episode of Doctor Who and the Silurians before playing a Technician in the second episode of the same story.

Apparently the fake snow in this episode aggravated Michael Craze's nose, which he'd recently had operated on to remove a chip of bone, when it was thrown in his face by Production Assistant Edwina Verner. He obviously didn't bear a grudge against her for this as they got married some while afterwards! IMDB thinks that Peter Pococok stunt doubles for Michael Craze in this episode but I can't work out what for unless it's something to do with the snow scenes and his nose. He returns in episode 4 as a Soldier.

Following the success of the War Machines, Kit Pedler was proposed an idea where the Earth's energy to be being drained by Star Monks from Earth's twin planet Mondas. Gerry Davis, Script Editor, liked the idea but wasn't keen on the Space Monks and asked if Pedler could come up with a different idea for the protagonists....

Which brings us to the episode ending .... oh what an ending!

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A spaceship lands near the base. The Sergeant and Tito go outside to the Tardis, but unable to gain entry the Sergeant sends Tito back inside for cutting gear. Tall mysterious figures walk out of the snow and slay the sergeant, one of whom disguises himself in the cold weather gear the Sergeant was wearing.

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Tito and a fellow guard return before being cut down by the visitors. They have metal & plastic chest units with all covering body suits. The hands look human but the faces are a taut mask with circle for eyes and a rectangular slit for a mouth, a lamp mounted on their heads, connected to the side of the head by massive handles.

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Watching for the first time in the sixties people must have wondered who these strange unnamed visitors were emerging from the snow storm to the haunting strains of Martin Slavin's Space Adventure, a piece of music you'll be hearing much more of later.

We, of course, know who they are: The Cybermen have arrived!

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