19 – The Invasion

As covered in last week’s blog, Doctor Who was headed towards an uncertain future in 1969. The show’s popularity had been waning over time, and lead actor Patrick Troughton was giving firm indications that he had little desire to stay on board for a fourth season as the Doctor. Into this mix, the decision was taken to trial a style of adventure that was to shape the next five seasons of Doctor Who; an adventure set not in the far reaches of space, the past, or the future, but on contemporary earth.

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47 – The War Games

We proceed briskly from the first regeneration story to the second, and to a story that deservedly is described as ‘epic.’ Much like Hartnell’s final adventure was also significant for the first appearance of the Cybermen, Patrick Troughton’s swansong is not only significant for his departure, but also for the first ever appearance of the Doctor’s home planet of Gallifrey (albeit unnamed in this story). While we had met another of the Doctor’s race before in The Time Meddler (and also in The Daleks’ Master Plan – but we can only speculate on this appearance), this was the first time they were named as Timelords, and the first time we were brought to the Doctor’s home.

The story itself is gargantuan – at ten episodes long it is certainly not fit for consuming in one go. I did so the first time I watched the story (on DVD) and learned very quickly this is not how one should watch it!

It is however a very clever and engaging drama – until episode 2 you are convinced that the Doctor has landed in World War One, and it is not until later it is revealed that they are on an alien world, where a number of different conflicts are played out in different war zones. Behind the scenes, a renegade Timelord known as the War Chief is aiding the native race to kidnap soldiers from earth’s historic conflicts, using them to build the ultimate warrior race.

The first nine episodes largely involve the Doctor resolving the crisis on the planet – and while he defeats the War Chief, it is at the cost of summoning the Timelords to help return the captured humans to their rightful time and place. Episode ten almost stands alone to focus on the dramatic moment that the Doctor is placed on trial for breaking the Timelord code to never interfere. At this stage, Patrick Troughton had decided that three years was enough, and had tendered his resignation to avoid becoming typecast. With Fraser Hines and Wendy Padbury also electing to leave, the producers took the opportunity to return Jamie and Zoe to their own times, having forgotten all but their first adventure with the Doctor. The Doctor meanwhile, would be sent into a permanent exile on earth, unable to travel through time, and with his appearance changed.

It is quite interesting to see how production decisions to completely recast the TARDIS team and to keep costs down by having adventures on earth, were worked out so well in the script. But to focus just on episode 10 is to do a massive disservice to the other nine episodes. The War Games is very much to be enjoyed at leisure rather than in haste, but is a fitting end to the Patrick Troughton era. In contrast to Planet of the Spiders, you feel more like one does at the end of Logopolis – rather sorry that the Doctor is saying goodbye …

68 – The Krotons

This is quite an unusual story for me – a rare instance of a Doctor Who story that I have grown to like less over time rather than more. I suspect the principal reason behind this is that for a long time my family only owned three Patrick Troughton adventures on VHS – Tomb of the Cybermen, The Seeds of Death, and The Krotons. With such a small sample, the latter was quite well enjoyed – which I think reflects on the excellence of Troughton himself.

Why then the fall from grace? Quite possibly that although this is a perfectly enjoyable adventure, it is not the best Troughton adventure. Now that I have been able to enjoy classics like The Web of Fear and The Invasion, The Krotons is somewhat exposed as but a pale shadow compared to these stellar performances.

I concede this is somewhat harsh, because this is a quite well paced and enjoyable four part adventure, and deservedly in my top 50% of classic Doctor Who stories. It is notable as the first Doctor Who adventure to be penned by Robert Holmes, who would go on to write many classic adventures. It has to be said that the Krotons also make for good villains – threatening in their absence in the first two episodes, and imposing in their menace in the final two episodes. They would have made for excellent recurring villains.

Nor can you fault the rest of the cast – unlike in The Seeds of Death, I have the impression that the TARDIS crew wasn’t completely jaded by this point. That said, this serial also gives rise to the unfortunate line in which Troughton’s Doctor, speaking for all of the viewing audience, observes that Zoe’s intelligence gets somewhat annoying at times. Sadly, this is true – companions such as Nyssa showed that a companion could be intelligent without grating on the viewer, while companions like Adric made you long for the days when Jamie misunderstood everything the Doctor told him. Zoe never really worked for this reason – she was never annoying by any means, but it was difficult to like her.

The Krotons however is a thoroughly enjoyable adventure, and certainly one that I am glad survived the cull of the BBC records.

73 – The Seeds of Death

After a short break I am back to my episode countdown – and returning to the original (forgotten) principle of bashing out a post in ten minutes – so … GO!

For a long time this was only the second Patrick Troughton serial I had watched (after Tomb of the Cybermen) – and a prime contributor to my then perception that the era wasn’t particularly good. The story revolves around returning foes the Ice Warriors, who seize control of Earth’s primary transport means (named T-Mat, years before it was pointed out that ‘Transmat’ is a better name) and plot to use it to devastate earth with a deadly fungus – transported through the eponymous ‘seeds.’ Into this scenario steps the second Doctor with Jamie and Zoe – all three actors perhaps painfully aware that they were on their way out by the season’s end.

I have to say, viewing the serial on DVD made me reappraise the story more favourably. It stands up moderately well as an alien invasion story, and the Ice Warriors themselves are superb – the episode one cliffhanger is absolutely sensational in its reveal of the enemy. The main trouble is that the series looks and feels rather tired by this stage. In this regard The Invasion was good proof that the UNIT era was the right direction to take as the show moved to colour – it injected fresh life and impetus to the show. It seemed just a little too easy to disengage while watching this particular adventure, and one cannot help but wonder to what extent the decision by the main cast to leave had upon the production team. One forgets that the show was heading towards completely unchartered territory – while the cast had been refreshed many times over, there had always been some degree of continuity. Starting in Season 7, the TARDIS team would be entirely new (unless you count Nicholas Courtney becoming a regular cast member).

For all of these provisos, The Seeds of Death is still a thoroughly watchable adventure, if a shade long at six episodes. One has the distinct suspicion that a faster paced four part adventure in the colour era would have transformed a merely good adventure, into an absolutely fantastic one.

Eleven minutes … dangit!

83 – The Mind Robber

As I said in my review of The Dominators, Patrick Troughton does not do bad stories – and I suspect that assessment will remain upright until the recovery of The Space Pirates! That said, The Mind Robber is undoubtedly a very odd story, and one that had to grow on me before I learned to enjoy it.

For one thing, the story was meant to begin with episode 2, with the TARDIS already arrived in ‘The Land of Fiction’ where the story is set. Production issues with the preceeding story, The Dominators, meant that the producers had to add a clumsy additional episode to the front of The Mind Robber. It is handled so well however, that you would never have guessed if it had not been first pointed out – the TARDIS appearing to land in ‘nowhere’ and then exploding, in what surely must have been a very dramatic cliffhanger.

I fear I must bring in a spoiler at this point – with no reference made to the adventure in the following story The Invasion, it is heavily implied that the adventures of this story occur in some sort of fantasy world, rather like in the Matt Smith adventure Amy’s Choice. Certainly, the principal baddy who rules over the Land of Fiction while called ‘The Master’ has no connection with the evil Timelord of the same name. For a first time viewer I was more than a little bemused, if not annoyed, by the completely zany and nonsensical direction of the story, and the seeming absence of any plot. I think however, once you embrace the absurdity of proceedings, it is much easier to go along for the ride and enjoy it as the light-hearted nonsense it was intended to be.

Viewers used to the modern series ought to note a few words of warning – while great for their time, the graphics and special effects are obviously dated – not least the rather horrendous rubber suit with painted muscles for the comic-book hero ‘The Karkus’. But if you remember this is 1960s television, you will enjoy it much better – and not least the imaginative recasting of Jamie for one episode when Frazer Hines was severely ill – what could have been awkward to work around became a very interesting plot dynamic in the story, and a source of comedy as Patrick Troughton manages to forget what Jamie ought to look like!

You do need to view this story through rose-tinted spectacles and suspend a certain amount of disbelief, and you certainly should not expect any kind of logical conclusion! But so long as the viewer bears this in mind, you will certainly enjoy this story!


I’m away with work this week, so my next review will not be until Friday – will check in then!

86 – The Dominators

I cannot tell whether this post will please or sadden fans of the Second Doctor – undoubtedly they will be pleased that until this point I have not had a bad word to say about any of his stories, but I have noticed that Troughton fans in particular have a reverence for his era that makes all other eras pale in comparison – so I may well bring down their judgement upon myself by daring to imply some of the blessed Pat’s stories were less than good!

So let me begin with a brief acknowledgement – we can only judge the Troughton era on the material that has survived – and sadly most of it has not. It says a lot that none of the surviving material is outside of the top 100, but it does not necessarily mean that Seasons 4 to 6 were a golden era for Doctor Who with not a single poor story to disgrace it – the fact is, we simply do not know how good or bad many of the lost stories are. The Enemy of the World is a perfect example of this – it would not have featured highly on stories fans wanted to see returned, but when re-discovered became an instant fan favourite.

That said, I still think it reflects well on Troughton that the story I have least enjoyed featuring him (not counting the travesty of The Two Doctors) is so high on our countdown. I think it is fair to say that this serial, the first in Season 6, is judged rather harshly precisely because the standard of surviving Troughton stories is so high. By any acceptable Doctor Who standards The Dominators is a good entertaining tale. The titular Dominators are nasty pieces of work, if somewhat incompetent in their nastiness, and despite poor reviews I rather enjoyed their box-like servants the Quarks. Their attempts to destroy the planet of the pacifist Dulicans for use as fuel make for a story that could have been faster paced, but does not suffer unduly for it. Indeed the bigger distraction is taht both male and female Dulcians wear rather short skirts …

As with all Troughton adventures, it is his performance that stands out as exceptional – although he is somewhat subdued in this serial – it is easy to presume that he already knew that this would be his last season, and that the two years’ of grueling schedule had caught up with him. For all that, he remains the wonderful spontaneous enigma he ever was, and the chemistry between he and his companions Jamie and Zoe is thoroughly enjoyable. While Jamie’s reputation stands for itself, and easily makes him one of the best loved companions to feature on the show, Zoe is much harder to deal with. One suspects she suffers from a similar problem to Liz Shaw, Romana and Nyssa – being too near to the Doctor on an intellectual level to help the viewer to emphasise with her. For all that, she does demonstrate traces of initiative and independence that would later be taken on by the likes of Jo and Sarah-Jane – so perhaps we should embrace the change for the better!

I can think of no better way to summarise The Dominators than this – if this is an example of a poor Troughton, it says a lot for the quality of his other stories!

The Missing Episodes – Part One

The more dedicated reader will be aware that we have counted down from 137 serials, and pondered why the number is not higher than this. Including the 1996 Television Movie and the uncompleted Shada (both of which have made this list) the number of serials ought to run to 160.

As long-term fans of the show are very painfully aware, a large number of the earliest episodes of the show (especially from seasons three and four) have been completely lost from the BBC Archives. For those who are not long-term fans, the brief explanation is this: videotape was extremely valuable. The BBC therefore transferred the originals film unto smaller film reels for sale overseas, then wiped the tapes for reuse. The bigger mistake was junking the overseas prints when they returned to the UK.

The 23 missing pages are therefore 23 serials that have the vast majority of their episodes missing and that I have not seen on DVD. Some serials with missing episodes do make the the list – The Tenth Planet for example, was released on VHS with ‘telesnaps’ representing the final, still missing, episode, while The Invasion was released with the missing episodes 1 and 4 animated. Others have been released on DVD with their missing episodes animated but I have not purchased them as yet. The reasons for this will be outlined in part two of this feature, while in the third section I will review the three serials I would most like to see recovered if possible. In part one however, I pay brief homage to those serials lost to time, and share my expectation of what the serial would be like:

Marco Polo
This was included as a 30 minute tele-snap reconstruction on The Edge of Destruction DVD and I was highly intrigued by the storyline. It holds a certain mystique for Doctor Who fans, both because it is entirely missing, and because it is the earliest story to have missing episodes. While the sets look lush and the storyline is intriguing, I am slightly wary of how much a seven part story might drag.
Desire for it to be found: * * * *

The Crusade
Two episodes of this four part adventure are currently missing, and even if they have to animate the missing episodes I would love to see this serial in full. Even aside of the historical setting featuring Richard the Lionheart and Saladin, the serial features Julian Glover, who was utterly excellent in the Tom Baker serial City of Death.
Desire for it to be found: * * * * *

Galaxy 4
From Wikipedia this appears to be a steady-as-she-goes standard 60s sci-fi adventure. It is perhaps for that reason I am less bothered by it. If the serial is in a similar vein to The Space Museum then I might enjoy it, but if it is like later Season 3 story The Ark, then I suspect I would be less wowed.
Desire for it to be found: * *

Mission to the Unknown
The reduction of Planet of Giants to a three part story left a spare episode block, that was filled by this standalone episode that, uniquely for Doctor Who, does not feature the regular cast, but instead is a primer episode for the forthcoming Dalek Master Plan. Perhaps because it stands alone I am less anxious to see this episode recovered – although that may well change if The Daleks’ Master Plan were recovered.
Desire for it to be found: * *

The Myth Makers
While not the highest on my list, it seems by repute that this episode is similar in feel to the Romans – a story that I thoroughly enjoyed. For that reason alone, I’d be delighted if this story made a reappearance:
Desire for it to be found: * * * * *

The Daleks’ Master Plan
12 episodes, and 9 of them missing, including the famous Christmas episode where William Hartnell breaks the fourth wall and wishes “A Merry Christmas to all you at home!” While one would hope the Daleks provide as much enjoyment as other Dalek serials from this era, I suspect 12 full episodes would kill me off.
Desire for it to be found: * * *

The Massacre
If you had asked me in Septemer 2013 if this serial was high on my list of serials to be found, I probably would have been less bothered. Then The Enemy of the World was found – another serial in which the actor playing the Doctor also plays the lead villain of the serial. Enemy was completely fantastic, and I have high hopes that William Hartnell playing a villain would be equally amazing.
Desire for it to be found: * * * * *

The Celestial Toymaker
I imagine this serial to be similar to The Mind Robber – slightly confusing and off the wall and therefore unique and interesting. While I would not be desperate for its recovery, it is one I would be interested to see.
Desire for it to be found: * * *

The Savages
I have become more enthusiastic to watch this serial having seen other serials featuring Steven Taylor as a companion. He plays a strong lead in this serial, and he plays such a good companion that I feel his performance alone would make The Savages worth recovering.
Desire for it to be found: * * * *

The Smugglers
This is one of those episodes I could take or leave. All four episodes are missing, and the plotline doesn’t sufficiently grab my attention that I am anxious for them to be recovered.
Desire for it to be found: *

The Highlanders
Oddly enough, where fans are positive about The Smugglers and dismissive of The Highlanders, this is a serial I would rather like to see. Whether it is my Celtic roots, or the fact that this story introduces Jamie McCrimmon as a companion, but I would be genuinely disappointed if this story was never recovered, even if it turns out not to be the strongest story.
Desire for it to be found: * * * *

The Macra Terror
I also break with conventional opinion on this Troughton classic. Fans of the show who actually watched the show in the 60s have fond memories of this serial. I’m slightly worried how awful the Beeb’s attempts at giant crabs will look.
Desire for it to be found: * *

The Faceless Ones
This story was for a long while like its title – it hardly flagged up on my radar. After reading the plot summary however, I can see this serial following in the theme of The War Machines and paving the way for stories like The Web of Fear and The Invasion, both of which eventually led to Jon Pertwee’s Doctor teaming up with U.N.I.T. I would be highly interested to see how those themes may or may not have developed in this serial.
Desire for it to be found: * * * *

The Abominable Snowmen
Where once my curiosity about this serial was no more than idle, the recovery of The Web of Fear and use of the Great Intelligence in the modern series has made me more interested to see the genesis story for this menace. I would definitely buy a DVD double-pack featuring this serial and the fully recovered Web of Fear (assuming it is possible to find episode 3 of Web)
Desire for it to be found: * * * *

Fury from the Deep
Another serial where I am less bothered by its recovery relative to fandom at large. Perceived as intense and spooky, I have the fearful impression that the serial consists of six episodes on an oil rig. While I’m prepared to be impressed, this story doesn’t rank highly on the list of those I’d want recovered.
Desire for it to be found: * *

The Wheel In Space
This used to be a serial I really wanted recovered – principally because of my great love for Cybermen stories. Having read the BBC reconstruction on their site featuring the story’s tele-snaps, I am slightly wary of how much it may drag over six parts. That said – I’d be thrilled if they found it.
Desire for it to be found: * * * *

The Space Pirates
Universally agreed as the story most fans would be happy to stay lost forever as the price for recovering the rest. For all I know, it may be a hidden gem that goes roaring into my top ten when it is recovered, restored and released. But I’m not holding my breath for any of those contingencies …
Desire for it to be found: *

So where next you ask? Well in part two I will comment on three serials that are mostly complete, two of which have been released on DVD with their missing episodes animated – that is: The Reign of Terror; The Underwater Menace; and The Ice Warriors. I will also take the opportunity to comment on why, for now, I have not bought these serials on DVD.

Part three will come in three parts, as I review the three serials I would most like to see recovered in their entirety: The Moonbase, Power of the Daleks and Evil of the Daleks. My reasons for choosing these three will become clear as I write each piece!

As a concluding remark – while I may have indicated a certain lack of enthusiasm for certain of the lost episodes above, I would be more than delighted if any additional lost material were recovered. But I’m still not expecting The Space Priates to become my favourite serial any day soon …