Sunday, 25 November 2018

492 The Androids of Tara: Part One

EPISODE: The Androids of Tara: Part One
TRANSMITTED: Saturday 25 November 1978
WRITER: David Fisher
DIRECTOR: Michael Hayes
PRODUCER: Graham Williams
RATINGS: 8.5 million viewers
FORMAT: DVD: Doctor Who - The Key to Time Box Set (Ribos Operation/Pirate Planet/Stones of Blood/Androids of Tara/Power of Kroll/The Armageddon Factor)

"Can you mend an android?"

The Tardis lands on the planet Tara searching for the fourth segment of the Key to Time. The Doctor sends Romana to complete the task while he takes a day off to go fishing. She quickly finds the fourth segment disguised as a statue and uses the tracer to transmutate it back to it's crystal form. However she is attacked by a Taran woodbeast and then saved by Count Grendel of Gracht who, interested in her and the crystal, takes her back to his castle. The Doctor is found on the river by two swordsman and accused of trespass on Prince Reynart's hunting estate. Hearing that he is a Doctor they ask him to look at their damaged android. Romana is taken to Madam Zamia, Count Grendel's surgeon/engineer to be checked out. They marvel at her and have her restrained. Grendel orders Romana disassembled but orders that her head is kept because it's "quite remarkable". Taken to a hunting lodge, the Doctor is introduced to Prince Reynart and his damaged android. Zamia & Grendel realise Romana is flesh & blood, and not an Android as they had thought. Reynart intends to use his android to prevent an assassination attempt on him at his coronation from Count Grendel. The only other contender for the throne, Princess Stella has disappeared. Grendel has Romana drugged. The Doctor demonstrates the repaired android duplicate of the prince and after it leaves the room they celebrate with a glass of wine. Soon however all collapse, drugged by their drink, as Count Grendel arrives.....

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Oh that was fun. Looked nice, especially the location stuff, a decent bit of humour to the script and sets up the story with political intrigue, missing princesses and android duplicates. Been a while since I watched this story but that was good, competent stuff. I remember the swords with their electric charges vividly from when I was younger.

In Tom Baker's first story Robot we saw the Doctor emerge from the Tardis in a variety of costumes, and many a companion has walked into the console room wearing a new outfit but I think this is the first time we see the actual Tardis Wardrobe as Romana chooses an appropriate dress to wear on Tara. Unfortunately what she picks is hideous and the dress she's wearing at the start of the episode, reused from the Ribos Operation, is much better!

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ROMANA: What about our task? The Key to Time, remember?
DOCTOR: Oh, that old thing.
ROMANA: Yes, that old thing. The Guardian did stress the need for urgency, didn't he?
DOCTOR: Shush.
ROMANA: I'll do it.
DOCTOR: If you must.
DOCTOR: I just feel I deserve a little break. After all, we've got half the segments.
The Doctor wanting time off is a bit of a running joke at the moment. Here's the start of The Ribos Operation, right before the White Guardian shows up to send them on their quest:
DOCTOR: Listen, I've got a little surprise for you.
K9: Master?
DOCTOR: You and I are going away on holiday.
K9: Affirmative.
DOCTOR: A nice, long holiday.
K9: Affirmative.
DOCTOR: Would you like that, K9?
K9: Affirmative, affirmative, affirmative
DOCTOR: Shush. Halergan Three's lovely, K9. You'll really like it. Beaches, palm trees, sunshine all day.
This time he decides to go fishing, which he has referred to before notably in Talons of Weng-Chiang where he talks about fishing with the venerable Bede!
ROMANA: Where are you going?
DOCTOR: Fishing.
ROMANA: Fishing? What's fishing?
DOCTOR: Fishing? It's an art, worthy of the knowledge and practise of a wise man. Isaak Walton
ROMANA: Look, we haven't got time for you to practise anything. We've got to find the fourth segment.
DOCTOR: You find it. I'm taking the day off.
ROMANA: The day off?
DOCTOR: Yes. After a journey of four hundred years and twelve parsecs, I'm allowed a rest of fifty years.
ROMANA: Where does it say that?
DOCTOR: Section ninety three, paragraph two, laws governing Time Lords. You look it up. Go on.
ROMANA: What? You just made that up. But you can't just spent the fifty years fishing.
DOCTOR: Well, of course not. I'd get bored. I just propose to spend the next couple of hours fishing.
ROMANA: But what about the fourth segment?
DOCTOR: You get it.
ROMANA: Right, I will.
DOCTOR: Yes, you do that. It's a lovely day, beautiful countryside. The walk will do you good.
ROMANA: Thank you.
DOCTOR: Would you just mind standing aside, please? You're casting a shadow. It frightens the fish.
ROMANA: Frightens the fish. Look, I'm going to get that fourth segment and I'll be back here in under an hour. You be ready to leave.
Romana's estimate is a little pessimistic, within 7 minutes of the episode starting she's found the disguised segment and returned it to it's crystal form!

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Unfortunately that leads her into contact with the Taran Wood Beast, not one of the series most successful monsters!

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And that, in turn leads to her being rescued by Count Grendel of Gracht, played by chief guest star Peter Jeffrey! Location work for this story was conducted in and around Leeds Castle which, confusingly, is in Kent rather than Yorkshire. It's been used over the years as a location by a number of films & TV productions as well as playing host to a number of concerts.

The main view of Castle Gracht is provided by the South of Leeds Castle.

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Views to the West provide the close up seen in later episode of the exterior.

The interior courtyard is seen as The Count arrives at the castle.

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The Tardis materialises in the Wood Garden which also provides a lot of the area Romana wanders in as well as where the Doctor fishes.

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The Mill is the location of the statue which has the Fourth Segment embedded in it.

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Finally The Pavilion provides the location where Reynart and his party are staying.

Returning to the story is David Fisher who wrote the preceding tale The Stones Of Blood, becoming the second writer, after Chris Boucher with Face of Evil & Robots of Death, to write consecutive stories. He would have repeated the trick with the second and third planned stories next season, A Gamble With Time & Creature from the Pit, if it weren't for personal circumstances forcing him to withdraw from writing Gamble with Time, which was set for recording after Creature from the Pit and in the end became City of Death.

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Director Michael Hayes is new to the series. He will return for this season's finale, The Armageddon Factor, and the aforementioned City of Death.

This episode aired 2 days after the fifteenth anniversary of the first episode of Doctor Who being shown.

REYNART: Tomorrow, at the appropriate hour fixed by the astrologers, in the great Coronation room of the Palace of Tara, I am to be crowned King.
DOCTOR: Well, congratulations.
REYNART: They will be in order if I get there.
DOCTOR: Why? What's to stop you?
REYNART: Count Grendel of Gracht.
REYNART: He'll kill me if he needs to. After all, you can't crown a dead Prince. Grendel and his men will be watching every entrance to the palace to prevent my getting to the Coronation room at the ordained time.
REYNART: If I fail to appear at the right moment, I forfeit my right to the crown.
DOCTOR: Ah. And that's when Grendel of Gracht steps in?
REYNART: The only other contender for the throne is the Princess Strella, but she disappeared some time ago. Nobody knows where she is.
DOCTOR: Where does George come into all this?
ZADEK: There have been three attempts on his Highness's life already. The next one could be successful.
DOCTOR: Ah, I see. Let them attack George here instead of the Prince.
REYNART: Precisely. We use George, the android copy of me to create a diversion, to distract their attention.
DOCTOR: And draw their fire.
REYNART: To draw their fire, while we slip past the guards into the Coronation room. What do you think, Doctor?
DOCTOR: Well, it has been done before....
The Doctor is effectively holding his hand up here to the very heavy debt Androids of Tara owes to The Prisoner of Zenda. I've never read it or seen any of it's many adaptations but homages to it, like this Doctor Who story, abound. I know enough to know it's something about political intrigue, a marriage and at least one double. In fact the night before I wrote the original blog entry for this story I was, without any forward planning on my part, watching Futurama season 5 episode The Prisoner of Benda which also uses Zenda as inspiration and tosses in some mind swapping and the Harlem Globetrotters! Order it on DVD or Blu-ray.

Sunday, 18 November 2018

491 The Stones of Blood: Part Four

EPISODE: The Stones of Blood: Part Four
TRANSMITTED: Saturday 18 November 1978
WRITER: David Fisher
DIRECTOR: Darrol Blake
PRODUCER: Graham Williams
RATINGS: 7.6 million viewers
FORMAT: DVD: Doctor Who - The Key to Time Box Set (Ribos Operation/Pirate Planet/Stones of Blood/Androids of Tara/Power of Kroll/The Armageddon Factor)

"The prisoner has been tried and sentenced in his absence. The sentence will now be carried out. The sentence is death. You are to be executed immediately!"

The Megara intervene saving the Doctor and put him on trial, with the Doctor conducting his own defence. During the trial he coerces them to scan the mind of Vivian Fay proving that she is Cessair of Diplos, the criminal they have been hunting. They are all transported back to the stone circle, where the Doctor seizes Cessair's pendant, the source of her powers. The Megara transform her into stone before the Doctor uses the pendant, actually the third segment, to return them to their ship in Hyper Space. Bidding farewell to the Professor the Doctor, Romana & K-9 return to the Tardis to transform the segment into it's natural form and attempt to combine it with the first two.....

Some nice fun and games this episode but it's not a touch on the previous ones. In fact the whole story is a bit of a game of two halves with lots of Gothic horror in the first half and a sterile space ship in the second. For me, at least, the first half is the superior of the two.

The centrepiece of this episode is the Doctor's legal confrontation with the Megara and you can tell Tom's having a lot of fun starting with The Doctor pulling a lawyer's wig from his pocket.

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MEGARA: We are justice machines.
MEGARA: Judge.
MEGARA: Executioner.
The Megara are voiced by David McAlister and Gerald Cross. Cross made a vocal appearance earlier in this story when he supplied the off screen voice of the White Guardian in episode 1. He'd previously appeared in UFO as the Insurance Man in Reflections in the Water.
MEGARA: We are allowed to execute only prisoners who have been found guilty.
DOCTOR: Mmm. Well, it certainly adds a new dimension to the role of defending counsel. Wait a minute, wait a minute. Aren't you supposed to be offering me a last toffee apple or something? A blindfold, a hearty breakfast, a free pardon? No?
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The Megara may look like talkative balls of flashing light but they get to display some power in this episode. They disintegrate one of the two remaining Ogri to start with, the third having been presumably destroyed in it's fall over the cliff in episode three.

MEGARA: This humanoid is not Vivien Fay. She is Cessair of Diplos. Wait. She is guilty of the theft and misuse of the Great Seal of Diplos. Also of removing silicon based lifeforms from the planet Ogros in contravention of article seven five nine four of the Galactic Charter, and employing them for her own ends.
Then towards the end of the episode they transform Vivien Fay into stone, imprisoning her in the circle.
MEGARA: Cessair of Diplos, you have been tried and found guilty of the following charges. Impersonating a religious personage, to wit, a Celtic goddess, for which the penalty is imprisonment for one thousand five hundred years. Theft of the Great Seal of Diplos, for which the penalty is perpetual imprisonment. The sentences to run consecutively. Have you anything to say before sentence is passed?

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I remarked on the reuse of props during the last episode but while watching this episode I spotted another which is quite mad, and I don't believe anyone has ever spotted before I did!

Here's the control console in the prison spaceship, portions of which are reused from UFO as we pointed out last episode. But what are those orange boxes underneath, they remind me of something. A closer look shows some more detail:

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They are not one but two of the spacesuit chest units from 2001: A Space Odyssey! The one on the left is shown from the bottom, with the black control handle still attached to it's right side, while the one on the right is shown from the top!

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The Say Hello Spaceman blog has looked extensively at the 2001 spacesuits and tells the story that although all props from the film were ordered destroyed some spacesuit elements survived and have popped up in various BBC productions, including the previous story The Pirate Planet where I completely failed to notice the backpacks!

Stones of Blood was novelised in Terrance Dicks and published in March 1980. Target books are at present being turned into audiobooks but Stones of Blood, uniquely, uses a new adaptation for it's audiobook release penned by original author David Fisher in preference to the original novelization.

Stones of Blood was released on video in May 1995 on the same day as the Androids of Tara to form the second pair of stories from the Key to Time season released, with The Ribos Operation & The Pirate Planet coming out the previous month and Power of Kroll & Armageddon Factor the next. The Key To Time season was a set of releases which came with a specially designed spine picture that ran over all six title. While there has never been a video boxset release of the Key To Time, it's only ever been available as a boxset on DVD. In October 2002 all six Key To Time stories were released in Region 1 with minimal extras & restoration to help satisfy the American demand for Tom Baker stories. The Key to Time was then released as a special edition, numbered & limited to 15,000 with brand new extras in Region 2 on the 24th September 2007, which sold out very quickly with this set commanding a premium price on eBay for quite some time. The Key to Time Box Set was reissued in a non limited edition in November 2009 and can now be had for a very reasonable price.

The final word on this story really needs to go to Professor Rumford. Beatrix Lehmann has been a superb guest star, helping bring out the best in Tom Baker. Both he and John Leeson, the voice of K-9, spoke very fondly of her on the DVD. It was Beatrix Lehmann's last television role as she passed away the following year.

EMILIA: Poor Vivien. I can't help feeling sorry for her, but she hasn't finished making trouble yet.
ROMANA: What do you mean?
EMILIA: The Nine Travellers. They'll have to be surveyed all over again. Oh, that'll put the cat amongst the pigeons, believe me.
DOCTOR: Professor, you could write a monograph about it.
EMILIA: Ah yes, and make Idwal Morgan look a fool.
ROMANA: Will you write everything that happened?
EMILIA: Certainly not. I do have my academic reputation to consider. Funny, I never noticed a police box there before.
ROMANA: Goodbye, Professor, and thank you for everything.
EMILIA: Goodbye? Where
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EMILIA: I do have my academic reputation to consider.

Sunday, 11 November 2018

490 The Stones of Blood: Part Three

EPISODE: The Stones of Blood: Part Three
TRANSMITTED: Saturday 11 November 1978
WRITER: David Fisher
DIRECTOR: Darrol Blake
PRODUCER: Graham Williams
RATINGS: 9.3 million viewers
FORMAT: DVD: Doctor Who - The Key to Time Box Set (Ribos Operation/Pirate Planet/Stones of Blood/Androids of Tara/Power of Kroll/The Armageddon Factor)

"Count the stones, Doctor. Beware the Ogri!"

Arriving at the stones Miss Fay attempts to ensure the Doctor's non-interference by using holding Romana hostage before disappearing. The Stone Creatures, which the Doctor identifies as Ogri, attack & kill two campers nearby absorbing their blood. The Doctor builds a machine to transport himself into Hyperspace, where he deduces Romana is being kept. He finds her but accidentally releases the Megara, justice machines who were to judge the prisoner, Cessair of Diplos, who was being taken for trial. However she has somehow escaped and the crew have been killed leaving the Megara trapped. They charge the Doctor with having broken laws by releasing them but while the argue a point of order the Doctor & Romana escape to the point he hopes Professor Rumford will transport them home from. However the waiting Professor & K-9 have been attacked by Vivian Fay and the Ogri, destroying the Doctor's device. She transports herself & the Ogri to the ship in Hyperspace where she tells the Doctor & Romana that they are trapped and she will destroy them!

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A game of two halves. More of the sparsely lit countryside scenes for the start of the episode and then it all changes and the contrast between the scenes on Earth and the stark brightly lit spaceship couldn't be more striking!

Although the spaceship model isn't one of Matt Irvine's best efforts (those are obviously microphones on the back) the shots mixing the Doctor in the ship, seen through a window with the surrounding Hyperspace are great as are the musical cues that Dudley Simpson uses throughout the spaceship scenes.

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This episode is a joy for those of us who like spotting reused props and costumes!

Yes that's a Kraal android in the cell with Romana and a Wirrn in another cell!

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And our old friends the Triangular/Hexagonal Wall Panels (first seen in the Mutants) and the UFO Moonbase control banks.

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The control screens on the ship are a bit interesting: is that the first time we've seen real, albeit primitive, computer graphics in the show?

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Liz was mightily amused by the silly sound effect as the Doctor powers up his "transporting to Hyperspace" gun/device which she looked at and said "it's pinky purple with a ridgey bit and a big bulbous end - it's a willy!" before insisting I put that comment in!

However the Megara are a rather nice effect, far superior to a similar one seen during the previous season.

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Like the previous story there's no actors involved who've been in Doctor Who before and only one of them appears later: Shirin Taylor, playing the camper Pat here in the 100th story, later returns as a customer in Dragonfire, the 150th story. Her unnamed partner is played by James Murray. Their death is particularly horrific even by Doctor Who standards with them in agony and the flesh being stripped from her hands.

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The director Darrol Blake is helming his first & only Doctor Who story. He had previously worked on Doomwatch directing No Room for Error & Flight Into Yesterday in the second season in 1971 and Without the Bomb, Deadly Dangerous Tomorrow & The Killer Dolphins plus the untransmitted Sex & Violence in the third season in 1972. No Room for Error, Flight Into Yesterday and Sex & Violence exist and can be found on The Doomwatch DVD. Blake also worked on the 1974 The Tomorrow People story A Rift in Time.

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Also working on the show for the first time is experienced writer David Fisher. He'd worked with Script Editor Anthony Read before on The Troubleshooters, a series that Read had Script Edited & Produced. Fisher will become the second Doctor Who author to write two consecutive stories after Chris Boucher who wrote Face of Evil & Robots of Death. Indeed as we'll see he very nearly became the first person to write two sets of consecutive stories with Nightmare of Eden & The Gamble With Time. Alas personal circumstances intervened and A Gamble of Time was passed to other hands to finish.....