Sunday, 28 January 2018

473 Underworld: Part Four

EPISODE: Underworld: Part Four
TRANSMITTED: Saturday 28 January 1978
WRITER: Bob Baker & Dave Martin
DIRECTOR: Norman Stewart
PRODUCER: Graham Williams
RATINGS: 11.7 million viewers
FORMAT: DVD: Doctor Who - Myths & Legends: The Time Monster, Underworld & The Horns of the Nimon

"The Quest is over. The Quest is over!"

Ah the Doctor & Leela have *fallen* out of the capsized minecart into the shaft. They are rescued by the Minyans and break into the P7E. The Seers go to consult the Oracle considering giving the Minyans the cylinders if they leave. The Oracle releases the cylinders, observed by the Doctor, and the guards negotiate a truce with the Minyans, returning Herrick & the race bank cylinders. The Doctor confronts the Oracle, which reveals it is the Keeper of the race bank and still has them. The Doctor retrieves the real Race Bank cylinders and flees. The cylinders given to Jackson are taken to the ship which prepares to leave, with K-9 rescuing the Doctor who has been trapped in a tunnel. The Doctor stops the launch bringing them the real Race Banks with K-9 revealing that the fakes are fission grenades. The Doctor is captured with the fakes being taken back to the P7E, but he is rescued by Leela. They flee with the slaves back to the Minyans ship which leaves just before the P7E is destroyed by the fission grenades. The Minyans leave for a new home planet with the surviving slaves as the Doctor returns to the Tardis with Leela & K-9, comparing Jackson to Jason....

Oh dear.

The Cliffhanger looked a mess anyway, it wasn't obvious what was going on till you see the Doctor & Leela hanging down from the hole. The Seers aren't explained, no "our secret is revealed we need not disguise ourselves no more". We get another Doctor arguing with a mad Computer, like the face of Evil.

4 a 4 b

And to top it all the ending resolution is a series of swapping duplicates round. No, it's a mess, in fact the entire story is a mess. You could lay some of the blame with Bob Baker & Dave Martin for the script but my feeling is that it's the implementation by first time director Norman Stewart that's really at fault. He's got another Doctor Who in the following season, The Power of Kroll, but I have little memory of that so I won't be judging him on that here. I will note that after that second story he returned to his former role as Production Manager/Assistant.

I've watched it, it's done, it can join The Sensorites & The Space Pirates on the "I never have to watch this again pile". It's a bit of a shame because through all this mess Tom is still putting in a watchable performance.

Underworld was novelised by Terrance Dicks in 1980. It was released on video in March 2002 and on DVD on 29th March 2010 as part of Doctor Who - Myths & Legends with The Time Monster & The Horns of the Nimon.

Two days after this episode was broadcast the fifth Blake's 7 episode The Web was shown.

Sunday, 21 January 2018

472 Underworld: Part Three

EPISODE: Underworld: Part Three
TRANSMITTED: Saturday 21 January 1978
WRITER: Bob Baker & Dave Martin
DIRECTOR: Norman Stewart
PRODUCER: Graham Williams
RATINGS: 8.9 million viewers
FORMAT: DVD: Doctor Who - Myths & Legends: The Time Monster, Underworld & The Horns of the Nimon

"Do not worry. He has saved many fathers!"

I could just cheat, say I'd seen it and copy the synopsis from elsewhere? No? Oh well....

The gas clears allowing the Doctor to recover and Herrick to be rescued by his crew mates. The guards are overcome by the gas the Doctor has had sucked out the mines. Idas takes the Doctor & Leela to the citadel where the guards are about to sacrifice his father in a chamber nearly identical to the Minyan flight deck. They are captured as the enter the P7E, but Idas disrupts his father's sacrifice enabling them and some of the slaves to escape. They are rescued by the Minyans but Herrick is captured and interrogated by the Seers who reveal that while Guards & Slaves are true Minyans they have evolved. The Doctor & Leela hide in mine carts and are pushed toward the darkened entrance to the P7E

I watched it, I can't unwatch it. Still there was a bit of shooting this episode. But WORST CLIFF HANGER *EVER* - where was the drama there?

The whole thing is appallingly lit: I moan about things being too brightly lit but here it's hard to make out any details at all in a great many scenes, especially in the badly CSO'd tunnels. Oh for a bit more money to decamp to Chislehurst caves where the Mutants was filmed. The same is true of the Citadel itself, very under lit, which tries to hide, unsuccessfully, that it's a redress of the set for Jackson's ship, the R1C. Why bother hiding it as there's a blatantly good reason why it is the same set redressed?

3 a 3 b

Then we have the unmasking of the seers Ankh & Lakh. You're expecting them to be human beings just like the guards Rask & Tarn but they're some form of cyborg. Unfortunately the head design looks like a cross between something out of King of the Rocket Men, which at that time would be regularly shown on the BBC, and Wordy from Look and Read. You've got the Magic E song in your heads now, you can thank me later.

3 c 3 d

And as for the dreadful lift music as the Doctor, Leela and Idas float down the shaft ...... ugh.

Some more Greek mythology for you: Idmon and Idas are two names taken directly from the Greek while the Oracle, presumably a computer, I really can't remember or care, is named after the ancient source of prophetic knowledge. The most famous Oracle was at Delphi and she was named Pythia, a name that will later resurface in the Gallifreyan mythology in the New Adventures Novels.

About the only good thing here is some continuity to the previous story:

LEELA: Revolution! Wait, Idas. Has no one ever thought of revolution? Has no one ever rebelled?
IDAS: My father did.
Leela obviously remembers what they did in The Sunmakers.

Two new actors this week, and we don't see either of their faces but we have seen them both before:

Frank Jarvis, Ankh, was a Corporal in DW: The War Machines and returns Skart in The Power of Kroll, the second and final directing job for this story's debut director Norman Stewart. Jarvis is best known for playing Roger in The Italian Job but also appears in The Sweeney as a Prison Officer in Contact Breaker and in The Professionals as Patterson in Look After Annie, Musgrave in Not a Very Civil Civil Servant and Dale in Stopover.

We saw Richard Shaw, Lakh, as Lobos in The Space Museum & Cross in Frontier in Space. His first brush with science fiction was in the late 1950s when he play Sladden in Imps and Demons, The Enchanted, The Wild Hunt & Hob, the third to sixth episodes of Quatermass and the Pit.

Amongst the uncredited Trogs we have John Cannon, a familiar face due to his appearance as Elgin in Hand of Fear part 2. He'd also been a Miner in The Monster of Peladon and a Passer by in The Talons of Weng-Chiang and returns as a Technician in The Pirate Planet, a Guard in The Armageddon Factor, a Guard in The Creature from the Pit, an Extra in Time-Flight, Striker's Helmsman in Enlightenment and Sir Raulf Fitzwilliam's 1st Servant in The King's Demons. His Blake's 7 include a Federation Trooper in Project Avalon, Cevedic's Heavy in Gambit, a Labourer in The Harvest of Kairos and a Federation Trooper in Children of Auron while he's got a Moonbase 3 appearance as a Technician in Castor and Pollux. He's got a Porridge to his name as a Prison Inmate in the superb A Night In, a Constable in Supersnout and a Policeman in Thou Shalt Not Kill for The Sweeney, Huey in It's Only a Beautiful Picture for The Professionals as well as an appearance in The Empire Strikes Back as a Holographic Imperial Officer and 3 episodes as a Legionnaire in Beau Geste for Douglas Camfield.

Two days after this episode was broadcast the fourth Blake's 7 episode Time Squad was shown.

Sunday, 14 January 2018

471 Underworld: Part Two

EPISODE: Underworld: Part Two
TRANSMITTED: Saturday 14 January 1978
WRITER: Bob Baker & Dave Martin
DIRECTOR: Norman Stewart
PRODUCER: Graham Williams
RATINGS: 9.1 million viewers
FORMAT: DVD: Doctor Who - Myths & Legends: The Time Monster, Underworld & The Horns of the Nimon

"The Quest Is The Quest!"

The cannon penetrates the accreting mass and they escape, sighting & crashing on a planet that has formed round the P7E. The ship ploughs through the surface of the planet becoming wedged in more solid rock closer to the P7E. In the cave tunnels the Trog underclass mine under the guards, who in turn are the slaves of the Seers who serve the Oracle. The Minyans venture into the tunnels, followed by the Doctor & Leela, who meet escaped Trog Idas. Herrick encounters a guard, causing the guard's superiors to pump gas into the tunnels. The Doctor adjusts mining equipment to suck the gas out of the tunnels, but is overcome before he can finish the job.

Part 1 was slow and boring..... but nowhere near as bad as this. Just a bunch of wandering around in tunnels and pumping gas through them, in itself an awful effect. Dire.

The observant among you might spot that the guards weapons are Minyan shield guns, minus the shield......

2 2 2 1

James Marcus, Rask, was a peasant in the Doctor Who serial Invasion of the Dinosaurs. His CV includes UFO as a SHADO Operative in Mindbender, The Sweeney as Myles in Cover Story, directed by Douglas Camfield who obviously liked him because he used him again for the and The Professionals episode Take Away where he plays D.C. Jack.

2 Rask 2 Tarn

Godfrey James, Tarn, has a CV as long as your arm involving virtually anything I've ever watched. The earliest thing of interest in it is an appearance in Out of This World, the ABC predecessor to Out of the Unknown, where he was in the now missing episode Cold Equations as Perry. He was then in UFO as Game Warden Mitchell in The Square Triangle, The Sweeney as Charley Smith in Big Spender, Space: 1999 as the Alien Transporter in the excruciating The Rules of Luton, The Professionals as Ross Kilpin in No Stone, The Tripods series 2, episodes 2 & 3 as Commander Goetz and A Very Peculiar Practice as Sweet in May the Force Be with You.

Norman Tipton, on the left as Idas, is one of the few actors to play a supporting role in more than one episode of Blake's 7, appearing as Artix in Spacefall & Cygnus Alpha, which were broadcast on the Mondays before & after this episode. He can also be seen in Yes Minister: The Economy Drive as the Photographer. His father Idmon is played by Jimmy Gardner who was previously Chenchu in Marco Polo

2 Idmon 2 Klimt

Jay Neill, Guard Klimt, was previously a Pikeman in The Masque of Mandragora & Silvey in The Invisible Enemy. At the start of his career he made several appearances in Doomwatch as a Man in Project Sahara, Laing in The Battery People, a Man in By the Pricking of My Thumbs..., a Young Man in Flight Into Yesterday and a Man in Flood. He has a Yes Minister to his name as a Bodyguard in The Death List.

Two days after this episode was broadcast the third Blake's 7 episode Space Fall was shown.

Sunday, 7 January 2018

470 Underworld: Part One

EPISODE: Underworld: Part One
TRANSMITTED: Saturday 07 January 1978
WRITER: Bob Baker & Dave Martin
DIRECTOR: Norman Stewart
PRODUCER: Graham Williams
RATINGS: 8.9 million viewers
FORMAT: DVD: Doctor Who - Myths & Legends: The Time Monster, Underworld & The Horns of the Nimon

"The Quest is The Quest!"

The Tardis stops on the edges of the cosmos where K-9 detects a spaceship nearby. Narrowly escaping a nebula that is sucking them in they materialise on the ship which the Doctor establishes is from Minyos. The Time Lords actions on Minyos, which led to the populace destroying their planet, led to the Time Lord policy of non interference. On the flight deck the aged Tala is injured as the ship is sucked into the nebula. The Doctor arrives and is attacked by Herrick. Leela goes to attack him but is stopped by the crew's pacifier ray. Tala is taken away to regenerate. They have been tracking a missing ship, the P7E which is carrying the future of their race. They have been on this quest for 10,000 years, regenerating many times. K-9 takes control of the ship and steers it out of the nebula. He reactivates many of the damaged systems, and the restored tracking system locks onto the P7E. They locate the ship in the nebula which the Doctor believes formed round her. They enter the nebula, but the weight of the ship attracts rock to it's hull dramatically increasing it's weight. They use the laser cannon to try to burn their way out but it starts to disintegrate

Slow and boring. Ugh. In some ways it reminds me of those Troughton episodes which attempt to show off the reality of working in space. But there is some nice stuff in here: The ship looks nice, even if I can't get a clear screenshot of all of it this episode, as do the shots of the rocks building up round it.

JACKSON: If that's where P7E is, that's where we go.
DOCTOR: But that could mean destruction.
JACKSON: No, Doctor, it'll mean the end of the Quest. If P7E went in there, so can we.
DOCTOR: But P7E didn't go in there. She couldn't have! She must have been there at the beginning and the nebula formed around her.
HERRICK: How does he know that?
DOCTOR: It's elementary physics. The still centre of a raging storm. P7E might be in there and she might be safe, but if you go in after her, it could mean destruction.
JACKSON: Doctor, if P7E is there, we must find her. That is our purpose. Destruction is a chance we take. The Quest is the Quest.
JACKSON: Main systems functional. Then why aren't we moving?
DOCTOR: Don't you know? What's the normal hull thickness?
JACKSON: Three metres twenty.
DOCTOR: K9! Present hull thickness?
K9 [OC]: Hull thickness seventy metres, increasing.
JACKSON: Seventy metres!
DOCTOR: We're being turned into a planet.
JACKSON: But that's impossible!
DOCTOR: No, it's not impossible, Jackson. It's simply gravity. This ship's a large, heavy object surrounded by smaller, lighter, objects. Our gravitational pull is greater than theirs. We attract them. They stick to us. It all snowballs.
K9 [OC]: Eighty metres, increasing.
DOCTOR: We're being buried alive. If it wasn't for this layer of debris, the asteroid belt would have smashed us to pieces. Still, you can't have everything, can you.
The theory behind that is scientifically sound too: Accretion Theory is how planets are believed to be formed and Doctor Who returns to this idea in the Christmas Invasion. For more buy The Planets on DVD.

1 07 1 08

Against that the look of the ship and the feel of Dudley Simpson's music is very Blake's 7. Yeah, I'm sorry but I will keep harping on about it: the two series are intimately linked in feel at this stage of Doctor Who's production and indeed this episode is the first broadcast after Blake's 7's first episode, The Way Back, aired on 2nd January 1978.

As you'll see this story is essentially a giant rip off of any Greek Myth going. At the time Classics was still taught in schools so I suspect a lot of the viewers watching would have got it. The quest at the centre of the story is essentially the story of Jason and the Argonauts and the quest for the Golden Fleece and by this point the 1963 film Jason and the Argonauts, which features second Doctor Patrick Troughton, would have been airing on television regularly. Substituted for the Golden Fleece is Minyan Race Memory bank.... (Minyan = Minoan, as in Minotaur) Hmmm where have we seen a Race Memory Bank before? Hand of Fear, also written by Bob Baker & Dave Martin. Jason becomes Jackson, while Herrick, Orfe & Tala are adaptations of the Argonauts Heracles/Hercules, Orpheus and Talaus. Meanwhile elements of The Odyssey are also included: the quest taking a long time (10 years vs 10,000 years) and the objective being the P7E/Penelope, the wife of Odysseus. Odysseus himself has an on-screen Doctor Who appearance in The Myth Makers, where he was played by Ivor Salter.

You know for every source that Robert Holmes "paid homage to" it's surprising that he never went near Greek Myths. As far as I'm able to tell this story wasn't commissioned under his watch and is wholly the responsibility of incoming script editor Anthony Read, an experienced writer an script editor who was lured back to the BBC by producer Graham Williams. Interestingly when Read leaves the script editor's post and writes for the show he produces a tale based on another Greek myth: Theseus and the Minotaur becomes Horn of the Nimon.

A few episodes back I pointed out that we'd got halfway through the number of episodes broadcast in Tom Baker's stay as the Doctor. Well if you throw in the missing six episodes of Shada, which we'll be talking about at the start of May, that makes this episode, his 89th, the half way point in Tom's reign.

Settle yourself in: virtually the entire cast of this story have Doctor Who form or have done something interesting!

James Maxwell, here playing Jackson, has two episodes of Out of the Unknown to his name: he was in The Dead Past as Jonas Foster and The Fastest Draw as Peter Stenning. The Dead Past exists and can be seen on the Out of the Unknown DVD Set. He was also in the second series Doomwatch as Dr. Whittaker in The Iron Doctor which you can see on the Doomwatch DVD set. He has found infamy post mortem for allegedly haunting Manchester's Royal Exchange Theatre!

1 01 Jackson 1 02 Herrick

Alan Lake, Herrick, was already well known as Diana Dors third husband. By this point he had appeared in Ringer, the first regular episode of The Sweeney as John Merrick. A few years later he'd guest star in Aftermath, the third season opening episode of Blake's 7 as Chel.

Jonathan Newth, Orfe, now has sci fi form appearing since this story in The Day of the Triffids, as Dr Soames, and Nightmare Man, as Colonel Howard, both of which have strong Who connections behind the scenes. He can also be found in The Professionals: It's Only a Beautiful Picture as James Tibbs

1 03 Orfe 1 04 Tala

Meanwhile the agent of Imogen Bickford-Smith, Tala, on hearing that Louise Jameson was shortly departing Doctor Who was quick to proclaim his client as the new companion! You can see her in Fawlty Towers:The Psychiatrist as the Girlfriend and she's in The Professionals too appearing as the Blonde in The Untouchables.

Tala starts the story as an old woman before regenerating into a much younger form:

1 05 1 06

The Doctor has explained that his people had had some prior contact with the Minyans:

DOCTOR: It was what happened on Minyos that led to our policy of non-intervention.
DOCTOR: Yeah. Well, the Minyans thought of us as gods, you see, which was all very flattering and we were new at space-time explorations, so we thought we could help. We gave them medical and scientific aid, better communications, better weapons.
LEELA: What happened?
DOCTOR: Kicked up out at gunpoint. Then they went to war with each other, learnt how to split the atom, discovered the toothbrush and finally split the planet.
LEELA: So this ship must have got away before the planet was destroyed.
LEELA: That was a hundred thousand years ago. Nobody lives for a hundred thousand years. Do they?
It would appear as if the Minyans also obtained the ability to regenerate from the Time Lords too!

Five days before this episode was broadcast the Blake's 7 episode The Way Back was shown with the second episode Space Fall following 2 days after.