Doctor Who: The Tenth Planet (UK - DVD R2)
The Wilson Bros examine this partially-animated William Hartnell swansong...
The year was 1966 and things were about to change for Doctor Who; although the introduction of two young companions had freshened the show, the failing health of the leading man was causing problems not only for the actor himself, but also for the production. Change was afoot, and this change would set up the a system to allow Doctor Who to continue indefinitely.
It is 1986 and the TARDIS materialises in the South Pole; The Doctor (William Hartnell), Ben (Michael Craze) and Polly (Anneke Wills) soon discover that things are amiss at the Snowcap Base, which is supervising the Zeus IV space mission. A new planet is discovered in the solar system, uncannily Earth-like in appearance, and an emotionless enemy, part organic, part machine, begin to attack the base as their ruthless plans for Earth begin to unfold...
There is no getting around it, William Hartnell was looking increasingly frail by this story; he was written out episode three because he was too ill to work, which is unfortunate, as this was his last story and he is absent for a quarter of it. Though he looks undeniably frail at times (especially when looking at the remaining clips of the last episode) and the fluffed lines were symptomatic of his worsening arteriosclerosis, there are still moments when Hartnell dazzles us with his powerful delivery; Hartnell's mannerisms were still first-rate during this final story, where you can see his thought processes at work whilst he is in the foreground, taken in everything that is happening and his eyes darting back and forth as he determines what to do and how to do it - it's wonderful to watch. Like a well-maintained navel, Hartnell is fluff-free during the first episode and gets to deliver a belter of a repost when asked "if he can be more specific" about the increasingly bleak situation that the population of the base (and Earth for that matter) - "yes, I'm afraid I can" replies Hartnell, in a triumph of ominous understatement, both in writing and delivery. There is a moment during episode two where Hartnell tries to convince General Cutler that there are visitors from another planet at large, and Cutler duly scoffs at him, the look that Hartnell - in the foreground - has a look that screams "oh well, I tried to tell him..." It's easy to poke fun at Hartnell's shortcomings (these were mainly due to illness, rather than age), but he was very much underrated as an actor during his later years.
If we're talking about stumbling over lines, then the biggest culprit has to be Michael Craze, who trips over his dialogue so often that you would have thought someone had tied his shoelaces together - the best one has to be when he describes the Cybermen's home world as "grotty plonet Mandos". Despite these verbal bear-traps, Craze demonstrates that he was a great companion - there is a scene in episode four where he deduces that the Cybermen have a weakness, despite a scientist scoffing at his ingenious deductive reasoning. It's a pity that so little of his time on Doctor Who survives in the archives.
Poor old Anneke Wills really doesn't have much to do in this story, apart from screaming now and again and going to make coffee whilst the men do all the problem-solving - truly a case of Polly put the kettle on.
Robert Beatty is suitably grizzled as General Cutler; Beatty was one of those Canadian-born actors who settled in Britain and for a period of three decades, seem to be the go-to people for portraying Americans on film and television. Though Americans and Canadians would have little trouble picking out (or should that be "oot"?) a Canadian masquerading as an American, most UK ears will merely register it as a US accent. Beatty is good in the role, being the perfectly authority figure for the very antiauthoritarian First Doctor to lock horns with. There is an amusing scene during the first episode where Cutler looks at The Doctor dismissively and barks "I don't like your face and I don't like your hair!"; this is almost certainly a reflection on the fact that young people were growing their hair long at that point and despite The Doctor's age, he was very much against authority - well, that and it could have been an in-joke about Hartnell's wig. Cutler has an untimely departure at the beginning of episode four and his gruff demeanour is sorely missed, but allows the story to concentrate on the real antagonists during the final act - the Cybermen.
As well as having the distinction of serving as the template for the "base under siege" storyline that dominated the Troughton era that was waiting in the wings, The Tenth Planet also sees a group of people made up of different nationalities all working for a common goal in a confined area, which echoes Troughton's first Cybermen story, The Moonbase. There's a couple of Americans, an Australian (you would have thought that Bill Kerr would have played him, as he had pretty much cornered the market at the time) and an Italian, amongst others. The actor playing the Italian doesn't have the most convincing accent, merely applying vaguely Mediterranean tones, sticking an "a" suffix to words now and again, along with exclaiming "mamma mia!" every so often.
Director Derek Martinus (who was something of an old-hand on Doctor Who by this point) manages to make the most of the limited budget and resources at his disposal; the scenes aboard the Zeus IV spacecraft are surprisingly effective; despite the not particularly convincing interior, there's something about the way these scenes are filmed that present an eerily calm atmosphere to them and really help to sell the illusion that the two people in the ship (played by Alan White and Earl Cameron) are really in space. There is a nice use of a moving camera, providing what is essentially a tracking shot that culminates in the TARDIS materialising in the middle of a blizzard in the South Pole; it would have been easier to just lock-off the camera and have a static shot, but Martinus takes a more inventive approach and his efforts pay off and bring a cinematic freshness to the shot which helps to establish a unique, other-worldly atmosphere, despite being on Earth. The reveal of the Cyberman at the end of episode two is an iconic moment that is made even more exciting by having the camera pan up from the Cyberman's hand to his face, rather than just cutting to his visage. Speaking of the scenes set out in the bleak wilderness, the shot of the disguised Cybermen walking off and having the hand of one of the freshly-deceased humans sticking out of the snow is wonderfully effective.
Speaking of the Cybermen, the most kindly description that can be applied to the design of them in this story is "basic"; another description of their design is that it looks like they got dressed up out of the kitchen drawer (or the shed, looking at the lamps on their heads). There IS something to their design, though as they look more like part-man, part machine being and their black, empty pools for eyes and a mouth that opens wide to have a disembodied voice come out, then almost snap shut afterwards (when the guys in the suits can get the synchronisation correct, of course). What IS a problem is the silly voices that they have, are mainly supplied by Roy Skelton; Skelton is a fine voice actor, but the lilting, almost sing-songy tones they are afflicted with sound silly and are reminiscent of Zippy from Rainbow (later voiced by Skelton) - there is a scene during episode four where numerous Cybermen are talking at once and it sounds like they are on football terraces.
There is an interestingly downbeat cyclical note in this story, where William Hartnell is wearing the same coat, scarf and astrakhan hat that he wore in his first story, An Unearthly Child. Whilst it makes sense that he would want to wrap up warm in such a freezing, inhospitable environment, it also seems to suggest that Hartnell wanted to go out the same way he came in, in much the same way that Eric Morcambe always used to be seen wearing a brown Mac, flat cap and carrying shopping bags at the end of an episode of The Morcambe and Wise Show.
The last couple of scenes with William Hartnell have a sense of eeriness to them, as you can see that The Doctor really isn't well and he cryptically says something to Ben and Polly before heading off into the TARDIS and falling over shortly afterward; it's easy to imagine that young viewers at the time must have been scared when they watched it, as the concept of regeneration hadn't been mentioned then, let alone stuck in the public consciousness like it is today and Toyah Wilcox said it best in Thirty Years in the TARDIS, when she said "in my eyes, he was dying". In our opinion, the original regeneration (or "renewal", as it basically was then) is the best and you have to take your hat off to whoever decided to make use of a fault in the gallery that caused the image to white-out. This regeneration is the original and still the best in our opinion.
As most of you will know, episode four of The Tenth Planet went AWOL from the BBC archives sometime in the seventies and it is the only episode where the exact nature of its disappearance cannot be traced. As with all other missing Doctor Who episodes, dedicated fans recorded the soundtracks for posterity and they have since become invaluable for reconstructions and, as is the case here, for animating the missing episodes. As this is quite possibly the most single-most sought-after episode out of the lot, what's the animation like - especially after so many people were under-whelmed with the previous efforts on The Reign of Terror?
We are pleased to reveal that though the animation is in the same style as the aforementioned Reign of Terror, it has been toned down considerably, and the results are much closer to how the episode would have looked (ignoring one or two instances of JJ Abrams-like reflections and/or lens flare) and the fact that the work is less "showy" than last time, it means that the viewer is not distracted and will be able to enjoy it more. The representations of the actors are great, with Anneke Wills looking particularly scrummy and Hartnell doesn't look as "glassy-eyed" as he did in The Reign of Terror. There is some nice rotoscoping of the surviving clips and we are pleased to report that the regeneration scene is faithfully replicated in animation form. In short, we are VERY pleased with the work that has been put into that - if we were to put this in politician's speak "mistakes have been made, lessons have been learnt and we are now taking a more robust approach in future".
The three surviving episodes weren't in that great shape (we consulted with one of the guys at the Doctor Who Restoration Team, who confirmed this) and whilst the results are much better than the VHS release, there are going to be some fans who will be disappointed by what is presented here. The VIDFire process has been applied and every effort has been made to remove visual debris and various imperfections; image detail is marginally lower than what we have seen in some recent sixties stories, but it's not ghastly by any stretch of the imagination. The animated episode four is, not surprisingly, flawless.
The first three episodes sound fine, but seeing as the audio for the missing fourth episode has been pieced together from the existing fan-generated audio recordings, there are moments when fidelity and clarity in general varies considerably.
Audio Commentary: This might well be the penultimate track to be found on a Doctor Who release, with The Moonbase sealing the vault when it comes out in the new year, and it’s with a heavy (or at least enlarged) heart that we put this sucker on, knowing that there’s only one more to go, as they have been a source of genuine entertainment for us over the God-knows how many years we have spent reviewing these things. Along for the ride on the SS Nostalgia are Anneke Wills (Polly), Christopher Matthews (Radar Technician), Earl Cameron (Williams), Alan White (Shultz), Gregg Palmer (Shav/Gern) Christopher Dunham (R/T Techician) and Designer Peter Kindred. With Toby Hadoke at the helm, we’re pleased to report that his steady hand on the tiller, it’s a romp of educational proportions as they all look back at the story which lead to much less fluffs from The Doctor.
Right from the off, Hadoke reveals that his first job was on stage as Mattews’ sidekick, and great amusement is had by all when it reveals the thespian also appeared in Eastenders, as the boyfriend of homosexual character Colin, and political correctness flies out of the window when Mathews recalls that he used to get a lot of people yelling “woofter!!” at him in the street because of the role. In spite such things, he was OK about the public interest regardless of the nature of it; “I didn’t mind," he fondly reflects, “…a little boy came up to me once in the street and said: ‘you’re a poof, ain’t ya?’ and actually I’m not!” There is a certain generation where the notion of being PC didn’t really register, but such instances can be amusing on a few different levels, though.
Wills really is a delight, and a fountain of knowledge about her time on the show, coming from the unique perspective of being the only surviving actor to be a companion during the reign of both black-and-white era Doctors. She keenly points out where the stand-in was deployed at the start of episode three, and the extra work it entailed for her; “That’s Gordon Craig collapsing,” she interjects, “…Bill has actually completely collapsed, and has gone off to Cornwall to have a deep rest, so now we are all being given his lines, so we’re supporting the whole show without Bill”. Dunham grabs the baton from Wills, and explains his plunge into the deep-end on his first piece of television; “I arrived on the set,” he recalls with some fondness, “…and Bill Hartnell suddenly disappeared - he was very ill - and I was most impressed how the sort of just gave his lines to these two cohorts, and they just did it. It seemed to me most impressive.” She also goes on about how the show was [I]“dying on its legs” just before The Tenth Planet, but we’ll leave it to you to find out why Hartnell’s take on the show was the wrong one.
If ever there was a question/generalisation which keeps coming up to bite the show on the arse, it’s that of the quality of the sets, and their inherent stability. This comes up once again, and it’s up to the uber-fan to get to the bottom of the mystery if they were as wavy as many folk claim; “I think they wobbled a bit…” recalls Matthews, shortly before Hadoke tries to defend the honour of the show by asking the loaded question of if it was typical of TV at the time, or just on the one particular show; “I think it was unique to Doctor Who,” the actor affirms, before quickly softening things, “…well, not unique to Doctor Who, but I think they wobbled more on Doctor Who than anywhere else.”
As well as providing a load of fascinating stuff about the aesthetics employed on The Tenth Planet, Kindred is rather frank about how the atmosphere on the set was impinged by the lead actor, how change, my dear, would be for the better: “William Hartnell had been doing it…” he flatly states, “…for three years, and - actually - when he wasn’t very well, he was a very irascible old boy, and I think it came across… as a rather bad-tempered character, and I think possibly it was time for him to be changed to someone a bit more loveable.”
Causing some confusion is actor Gregg Palmer, as he appears here under his real name of Donald Van der Maaten, having the distinction of being one of the original breed of Cybermen. His is an interesting tale of how the industry can be rather prejudice, leaving even most dedicated out in the cold; “I had moved back to Holland," starts van der Maaten, on his descent from the ’biz, ”…where I was in a Dario Fo play, where I had an accident. I had to jump off a table, where some water was spilled, and my leg went sideways, and I required a knee and a back operation, and that’s when I stopped acting and I became a teacher… I had to stop, because being about thirty-five/thirty-six, you have to have the power of your body, and with a bad back and a gammy knee, you can’t do much, can ya?”
There are a lot of folk who aren’t proud of their work on the show, so when you get someone in who is quite taken by it when they look back, it really does the heart good, even more so when it’s one of the cast, those prone to grumbling about how the lack of resources changed their performances; “I’d forgotten how good it was,” says White, with a measure of admiration, “…because nowadays, they have a black room with one [light] on someone’s face, and that chiefly goes on for five minutes, but [back] then, you had to light everything, and in this particular case, It’s sometimes VERY well-lit, by an standards - even film standards”. Along with the late Jim Kelly, he might be one of the coolest guys ever to play a character named Williams.
At this point, we have to say that Earl Cameron has an absolutely amazing voice on him, with the kind of gravely, rasping quality that should have casting agents knocking down his door for voiceovers. As if he couldn’t be any more loveable, he has nothing but nice memories about his time spend in front of the camera for Britain’s favourite teatime show. “For me,” he fondly encapsulates, “…it was a great thing to be called on such a prestigious series, you know… and I was flattered that I could be in a Doctor Who”. If only more thespians were that gracious about it.
This is a really nice commentary, with a good mix of people involved, all pleased to have been associated with it to various degrees, with a nice warmth between them in spite of such a frozen story: when Hadoke asks Matthews if the memories of the project come flooding back when watching the show, and is swiftly answered when he gets the response of: “Not really. I think it’s ‘cause I spent too much time in the pub with Anneke.” Our boy with the microphone doesn’t sound too depressed that he’s soon to be out of a job doing these things, and the top-participant award jointly goes to Earl Cameron and Anneke Wills - keep a listen-out for Cameron jokingly taking credit for Hartnell becoming a father-in-law, as it’s pretty neat. File it under “treasure and enjoy”.
Information Subtitles: The storage of data and facts is a tricky thing to get a hold on. Sure, its shape has been many and varied over the years, as discs went from floppy to proudly hard as they became engorged, before cast aside for CD and DVD capacity. Hell, for a few years, the DAT was storage king paedophiles rejoiced at the evidence-concealing zip-drive, and then came data-sticks before all formats were killed off and went up to the Cloud. The way to preserve such valuable information is a process of change, but all serve to the furthermost of knowledge. Or porno. Thankfully, another incredible fact-track avoids such pleasures of the flesh and does what it does with peerless ease: to further knowledge whilst providing a damn good time for all, and with Hartnell’s last chance to fluff his lines this time around, you know it’ll be something special.
Be it the origins of the title, the various influences on the story during the writing process, just about every angle is thoroughly covered on this one. Which special cameras where used, the names of certain pieces of library music employed throughout the story, that the seamstress who made the Cybermen suits was from Islington, the unscripted ad-libs are all documented. We even get the original idea to replace Hartnell that of the half-jokingly suggested way of having the TARDIS crash-land and a new actor come out through the smoke!
Speaking of which, there is a lot of detailed information about the increasing inability of Hartnell to deliver the goods, and the compromises which were being made to keep him aboard. Included in this is how they originally wanted to replace him at the end of The Celestial Toymaker, where he would walk out with a new face at the end of the final episode. Every single influence which went into the process of regeneration is catalogued with dynamite studiousness, including everything you could ever want to know about the cross-fade system used for the recording, in aching detail, but this is exactly what dedicated Who fans would put at the top of their Christmas list!
This has the lot, once again. Not even the Okudas get their hands on this much material when they do text-commentaries for the Star Trek releases - not by a long chalk. It even points out the spelling mistake on one of the writers’ names “That should be Gerry Davis,” as opposed to the “Davies” which appears on the screen. The trademark humour is interlaced through the proceedings, giving the proceedings some welcome levity with the assurance of Bernard Bresslaw on a Kirby wire in Moon Zero-Two! It’s almost hard to write a review of this particular fact-track, as there are almost none left to come, and it’ll be a case of “pass the Prozac” when the final one pops out of the tray. Until then, just enjoy this little cracker, as it keeps up the lofty standards attained over the last decade, and wonder if Stephen James Walker, the man who put this whole thing together, is some kind of organic data-storage unit, able to carry around vast quantities of information, ala Johnny Mnemonic. Like Keanu Reeves, but with less splinters.
Episode Four Reconstruction: The original recon that featured on the VHS release has been included here to try and satiate (i.e. shut up) some of the more hardcore fans who were not happy that the surviving clips from this missing episode weren’t included in the animated version. It’s nicely done, with all of the existing footage being incorporated, bringing a sense of life and vibrancy to the proceedings now and again. There are some people who aren’t that keen on recons, but have always thought that if they are done correctly and have a degree of ingenuity to them, then they can be very entertaining and a perfectly valid way of experiencing missing Doctor Who episodes.
Frozen Out: Beginning with some cool snowy animated Cybermen and Anneke Wills explaining that her “hubby” had warned her in advance that William Harnell could be difficult, this documentary starts as it means to go on. The falling ratings, Hartnell's cantankerous nature and the desire to keep the show going all combined to come up with a remarkable way of writing out the leading man, which would ensure the perpetual continuation of Doctor Who.
Wills reveals that it was Kit Pedler's wife who came up with the wonderful – and fantastically intriguing – title. Wills is the key speaker in this documentary, and her keen memory, combined with her enthusiasm means that things aren't nearly as dry as they could have been.
The distinctly international flavour to the cast is discussed and it's great to see an interview with Earl Cameron, who played astronaut Williams in the story – he is one of the last surviving members of the cast, who speaks about his surprise when his agent called him up and told him about the gig. Having read Hartnell's biography, we knew about the degree of racial prejudice that he had, but it will come as something as a shock for those who just know Hartnell has the loveable-yet-crotchety Doctor; Wills is pretty frank about Hartnell's racism, which is something we were surprised to hear addressed whilst watching this and she speaks of how it came to the surface with Earl Cameron and how she and Michael Craze were ashamed for Hartnell. Cameron is tactful about the subject, saying that it if happened, he was never aware of it during his time on Doctor Who and going on to say that racial prejudice never bothered him. The man must be a saint of some sort.
Designer Peter Kindred gives a welcome perspective on the physical creation of the Cybermen, essentially being the Cybermen's equivalent of Raymond Cusick, having taken the basic design and coming up with the physical look of them and he reveals the reason why lamps were stuck on their heads was simply to give them more height and although the look of the Cybermen have evolved over the years, there is still a manifestation of this attempt of the Cybermen equivalent of the Cuban heel.
Michael Craze broke his nose on stage and nearly died due to a burst blood vessel – such a senseless death was narrowly averted, it's a terrible shame that he would eventually pass away from falling downstairs and subsequently having a heart attack. Anneke Wills also points out that Craze having to put up with fake snow flying up his hooter during the filming of the blizzard scenes would have it's compensations, as he met the Edwina Vanner, the production assistant, whom he would later marry.
Wills impresses how blown away she was with the main set for the story and the designer Peter Kindred reveals some of the ways of making something much more impressive than a humble budget would allow. An unfortunate oversight also worked in the favour of the design of the Cybermen as there were no gloves for the Cybermen on the first day of filming, so it was decided that they would have fleshy, human hands, making them more creepier than originally intended.
Hartnell's bout of bronchitis is brought up (no phlem-related pun intended), along with the sudden need to write out The Doctor from episode three; Hartnell's dialogue was hastily rewritten and shared amongst other members of the cast and Hartnell's double from the location filming on The Smugglers was drafted in at short notice. Peter Kindred reveals that although director Derek Martinus thrived on the challenge of trying to work around this potentially catastrophic problem, he and many others felt that the show was “falling apart”.
The inevitable filming of the regeneration (or renewal, if you like) is spoken of, with Wills describing the meeting of Hartnell and Patrick Troughton as being very poignant, but puts forward the opinion that the outgoing actor was probably “quite tickled” that he was being replaced by someone of Troughton's Thespian stature. A welcome interview from someone else involved with the production pops up when the regeneration is being discussed; Shirley Coward was the vision mixer charged with the video transition between Hartnell and Troughton,and Wills provides an enthusiastic perspective on this moment from people watching in the studio - “it was blooming magic!”, she chuckles. There is a helpful animated representation of exactly how the transition was achieved in the gallery, which is a lovely little touch and it's great to hear from Coward, who was directly responsible for such an iconic moment in British television history.
The moment of Hartnell's departure is reiterated by Wills, saying that he fought right up until the end, but eventually just let himself go and conceded to the inevitable fact that it his time on Doctor Who was over. Peter Kindred – who played a Cyberman in The Tenth Planet – recounts a story right at the end of the production, which demonstrates the frustratingly bi-polar nature of Hartnell, in which he tap-danced across the studio, ending in a flourish and said to Kindred that when he can do that, he can call himself an actor.
This documentary is great fun and really helps to add colour to the stories about the filming and the behind-the-scenes issues that we have all read about. It's great to hear from the few people remaining and addressing the thorny issue of Hartnell's racism is something to be commended.
William Hartnell Interview: This is it. This is what could be looked upon as the Holy Grail of Doctor Who interviews, as William Hartnell appears on-camera and speaks about his time on the show as he in his dressing room making himself up for panto.
It’s sad to say it, but there is an offhanded arrogance prevalent during in the interview, which is probably a little taste of the "difficult" Hartnell that so many of those who worked on Doctor Who with during his tenure have spoken of. Though he is filmed making himself up for a role in panto, he refuses to see pantomime as “legitimate theatre”, which is a little hypocritical of him, seeing as he was prepared to take the money for appearing in something that he obviously considered beneath him as an actor.
Hartnell’s association with Doctor Who seems to run hot and cold, as he starts off fairly cantankerously cursing the Daleks, referring to them as “a distraction” and he seems to think that it would be easy to shake off the role of The Doctor by doing other roles, but with only one more stage role after that panto and only two or three TV appearances (as well as The Three Doctors) – one can only speculate if Hartnell could have truly shaken off Doctor Who, but ultimately Hartnell's rapidly declining health meant that he would never shake off Doctor Who. It's a fascinatingly candid glimpse of Hartnell and we can’t thank highly enough the people who were able to bring this rarity out for fans to enjoy.
Doctor Who Stories - Anneke Wills: The actress who portrayed Polly “put the kettle on“ Wright gets the chance to give her perspective on the pitfalls and the pleasures of working on Doctor Who. This interview was conducted in 2003 for the 40th anniversary documentary, The Story of Doctor Who and - quite frankly - is an absolute delight, as Ms Wills displays a wonderful enthusiasm and an occasional arched eyebrow as she highlights numerous memorable moments from her time on the show.
From the original contrasting personalities of the characters of Polly and Ben ( “the Dolly Deb and the Yobbo Sailor”), to the transition between William Hartnell and Patrick Troughton, Wills’ sense of love and enthusiasm for Doctor Who and many of her co-stars (especially Troughton) oozes from every pore. Wills decided to go against the type of tough female character that had emerged from shows like The Avengers and just react to monsters in the same way she would - scream very loudly, which she eventually regretted because it became a fairly regular occurrence (she would arguably tie with Deborah Watling for Doctor Who’s screamiest companion).
The cantankerous nature of Hartnell is discussed, with Wills mentioning that she had been warned beforehand by her-then husband Michael Gough just how bad-tempered her co-star could be and Wills also explains that she had worked with “old duffers” such as Herbert Lom and Eric Portman, who were volatile and she was better able to handle his irascible nature better than some - you have to wonder if she was secretly including her distinctly volatile then-husband, Michael Gough in that list of "old duffers"? Her glee at Hartnell’s departure and Troughton’s arrival is something that will put a smile on your face as you watch it.
The best Anneke-dote has to be when she had just left the show and was sitting on a bench in Hampstead Heath with her children and Peter Cook (Wills hung out at The Establishment and was friends with Pete and Dud), when a small child comes up and sits next to her, seeing her not as actress, but as Polly herself - the decision not to pretentiously waffle about Polly being a character she played and instead speaking as Polly and replying to the child’s question about the TARDIS changed her perspective about Doctor Who and the magic it was (and still is) able to create.
In short, this is 13 minutes of sheer bliss - we could have listened to her for hours. Though so many of Anneke Wills’ Doctor Who episodes are missing and Polly is often overlooked as a companion (and in effect, so are Ms Wills acting abilities), it’s good to hear the actress speak with such enthusiasm and it makes you want to dive back into your mid-to-late sixties Doctor Who collection and see Polly in action. This featurette truly IS a triumph of the Wills. Forget it.
Boys! Boys! Boys!: In what could be looked upon as an effort to redress that balance that was slanted in favour of the female companions in Doctor Who ( Girls! Girls! Girls! had three instalments), this documentary has three of the male actors who played assistants to The Doctor. Peter Purves (Steven Taylor), Frazer Hines (Jamie McCrimmon) and live, via satellite, Mark Strickson (Vislor Turlough) all chat about their experiences on Doctor Who.
Each of them describes how they got the Doctor Who gig (Purves originally played redneck Morton Dill in one of the earlier episodes of The Chase and made a good enough impression on the producer that he was kept on to play Steven toward the end of that same story) and they all have a sense of humour about their time on the show.
What quickly becomes clear is that each actor knows very little about the era that the others were from, with Purves knowing only the most scant info about Hines' time on Doctor Who and knowing pretty much nothing about Strickson's run.
There is a good degree of chemistry between Purves and Hines, it's just a pity that Strickson couldn't have been in the studio with them, as the three of them would have gotten along famously – as it is, it's still good fun, but there is the feeling that Strickson exists in this ethereal glass bubble, like that typing chair trap thing in Time and the Rani.
The outfits each of them wore are put under the spotlight, with Purves loathing the stripy jumper that he wore in The Celestial Toymaker, Hines being perfectly fine with sporting a kilt and Strickson loving the dark school uniform that he had – Strickson was allowed to pick out the items himself, apart from the socks, which were multi-coloured and garish, courtesy of a certain flamboyant producer...
The essential function of the male assistant is discussed, with only Purves being the only one of the three of them who was able to perform the basic function – taking care of the more action-orientated demands of the story, as Purves served an older actor playing the Doctor; Hines came aboard just after Hartnell was replaced by a considerably younger man and Strickson appeared on the show during the era of an actor who was in his early thirties.
Doctor Who has long been dismissed as a children's show, but Strickson is quick to dismiss that, as it was aimed at a family audience, with certain aspects to bring in all the family to watch (including Hines saying that he was essentially acting as eye-candy for young women) and he just looked upon Doctor Who as drama, calling it “gold-plated... true family entertainment”. We couldn't have put it better ourselves.
Unlike Girls! Girls! Girls!, this looks it like it will be the only instalment of Boys! Boys! Boys!, as there were comparatively few male companions on the show, unless someone wants to make a documentary with Matthew Waterhouse where he defends both the character of Adric and his time on the show? Thought not. What we have here is great fun and although there are a few stories and anecdotes that you may have heard before (mainly because Frazer has honed them to perfection over the years), they're always welcome and you'll enjoy this romp through the barren landscape that was the domain of the male Doctor Who companion.
Companion Piece: Arthur Darvill, Nicola Bryant, Louise Jameson, William Russell, Elisabeth Sladen (taken from the 2003's The Story of Doctor Who) all appear in this examination of the role of the companion and the possbible psychological workings of the various characters who have hopped aboard the TARDIS for an extended stay.
There is the degree of pretentious waffle from psychologist Tomas Charmorro-Premuzic, who seems to have been prepped for this documentary in the same manner as C-list celebs are primed for those ghastly “100 All-Time Greatest Ever...” list clip-shows, being shown a small selection of items from a large reserve and being asked to comment upon them. At one point, he describes The Doctor's need for having companions as “narcissistic”, that they are “trophies” and that The Doctor is incapable of maintaining long-lasting relationships – this is all well and good, but the practical aspects of television production means that the average companion is only around about two or three years before the actor wants to move on and do something else. It is interesting that the good Doctor picks up the fact that having Ace facing her fears near the end of the original run of Doctor Who was essentially cognitive behavioural therapy – this was supposedly sewing the seeds of having Ace packed off to Gallifrey to become a Time Lady or whatever, but we'll never truly know if this would have happened.
Nicola Bryant provides the main voice of the companion during this documentary; it could be argued that she could be one of the quintessential companions, so giving her a voice here provides a welcome window into the world of the companion. Bryant insists that she portrayed Peri with a degree of resilience, otherwise it would have been completely out of touch with reality, but concedes that she still needed to scream, and William Russell pops up to confirm that Carole Ann Ford left Doctor Who because it seemed as though all she was required to do was scream (well, that and twist her ankle and/or fall over. Bryant should have reiterated her words on the function of the companion that she amusingly rattled off in More Than 30 Years in the TARDIS, which summed the whole thing rather nicely.
It's also nice to see Arthur Darville being interviewed; he has a quiet introspectiveness about him and provides a modern-day perspective on what it means to be a male companion in the 21st century, with him amusing saying that Rory is the kind of questioning character who would insist upon taking out travel insurance before going off (presumably to an alien world).
Writer Nev Fountain brings up an interesting point in that the original concept of the companion on Doctor Who was all-important, with Ian and Barbara being the focus of the show (which Russell T Davies seemed to take on-board when he brought the show back. He also notes that Frazer Hines ceased to be Jamie McCrimmon a few episodes in and simply became Frazer Hines in a kilt.
This documentary has to manage the tricky balancing act of being entertaining and being informative and it seems to manage this quite well; even if you happen to disagree with the swarthy psychologist, there is still plenty of other stuff in this to entertain and inform.
Some of the various departures of companions are brought under the spotlight, including the frankly ludicrous decision to soften the exit of Peri during the Trial of a Time Lord season by hastily revealing that she wasn't dead after all and had decided to shack up with Brian Blessed. Bryant herself speaks of her dislike of this last-minute interference and certainly didn't know that her character was going to end up being married to The Human Megaphone.
The Golden Age: Historian and smarmy know-it-all Dominic Sandbrook (did you ever see his series looking at the 1970s? Jesus...) is your host for this look at the parallels between events happening during the run of the original series and New-Who. Sandbrook - speaking the words of Doctor Who author Simon Guerrier) sees if there was truly a “Golden Age” of Doctor Who, delving into the Audience Appreciation Index in order to get a better perspective on how “good” the show was at any given point. Cue the infamous clip of John Nathan-Turner - from the 1986 episode of Open Air - explaining how he thinks that “the memory cheats” in terms of looking back on something through rose-tinted glasses, along with the footage of a young Chris Chibnall saying that Doctor Who had great capacity for adult drama from that same programme. Hmm, wonder if that ever worked out...?
Sandbrook turns his attention to reaction from the press and certain influential members of the public including that old witch Mary Whitehouse (she’s dead, she can’t sue and we genuinely cracked open a bottle of champagne when she croaked) and her mindless hoard of unquestioning sheep-like God-botherers. Sandrook puts forward the notion that Whitehouse’s James Anderton-like “God-on-my-side” meddling could have resulted in a noticeable shift in tone relating to on-screen violence between seasons fourteen and fifteen, but this was probably due to a change of producers and a departure from the “gothic” trappings that were indicative of the Philip Hinchcliffe era.
The budgetary deficiencies that were turned into triumphs are exalted and a certain Pip and Jane Baker debut story is shat upon and Sandbrook (along with writer Guerrier) conclude that the show’s constant evolution was what has kept it going and that the so-called “Golden Age” of Doctor Who is, in fact, all of it. There will be many fans who disagree with this opinion - to the point that Character Options Lazlo figures and Dapol Tetrap figures will be hurled at screens across the land - but we are all entitled to our own opinions and the world would be a rather dull place if this wasn’t the case.
Blue Peter: Well, we suppose that it HAD to be included in this set. To celebrate the show's 10th anniversary, Blue Peter ran a piece about Doctor Who and the nine minutes you see here could be looked upon as the reason why episode four of The Tenth Planet is still missing from the BBC archives, as it was borrowed to get the regeneration clip to show on Blue Peter; if there is any bright side to this extract from Blue Peter, it's that an extended clip from an otherwise missing episode of The Dalek's Master Plan is also included. Given that there were clips from The War Games, it’s nothing short of a bloody miracle that all ten episodes survive to this day.
Hosted by Peter Purves, Leslie Judd and John Noakes - who rather modestly mentions his involvement in Doctor Who - there are a host of clips and a little bit of light-hearted banter between Purves and Noaksie about the haircut Purves had as Steven, along with a rather superficial look at the effects that have been used in the show (mainly ones from The War Games) and the handy list of adversaries that Patrick Troughton rattled off during his final episodes. Purves is required to mention a few of the monsters that had been seen during the early part of Jon Pertwee’s era and it seems bloody obvious that he hadn’t much of a clue what he was talking about, being thankful that he was either reading off an autocue or idiot-boards. This is fun, nostalgic stuff that at some points will have you almost watching from behind the sofa (because of Purves’ toe-curling monsters roster), but it’s nice that it has finally been included in it’s entirety.
Photo Gallery: Well, you know that this is going to be an enjoyable romp through the various selection of images from The Tenth Planet the very second you hear realise that the tune most associated with the Cybermen, Space Adventure. will accompany them a lot of them! There are some cool pictures from the studio filming of the blizzard scenes, along with some interesting pictures of the Cybermen being touched-up (not in the molestation sense, of course) by members of the production team. Elsewhere, there are some nice pictures of the sets and some portrait pics of the cast. It's always nice to see pictures like this, but it's a pity that there are no images from the filming of the regeneration.
Coming Soon Trailer: It's The Moonbase. Again. There's no denying that it's a nice trailer, but it's been seen before.
PDF Materials: As well as the usual Radio Times listing, there is a reproduction of a small article to publicise the first episode of the story and also a little teaser about the return of the Daleks. It's interesting to note that at no point during this Radio Times material is any indication giving that Hartnell was leaving the series nor that Patrick Troughton was going to replace him.
This story may have it's detractors, but there it is impossible to deny that it is an incredibly important one; it sees William Hartnell leave Doctor Who, it establishes the concept of what would later be termed "regeneration", allowing the show to potentially run indefinitely (in our opinion, this was the first and the best regeneration). It also introduced the Cybermen, even if the original depiction is somewhat rough around the edges and also was the first Doctor Who story to feature what would become a staple of the Troughton era - the base-under-siege!
The Doctor Who Restoration Team have done the best they possibly can to try and restore the picture to how it should have looked when originally transmitted and we - as always - applaud their sterling efforts. The animated episode four is very enjoyable and well executed. The extras are plentiful and wonderfully enjoyable, with the William Hartnell interview being the jewel in this particular crown. This story may have already been released in the Regeneration box-set, but the extensive array of extras presented here make it far easier to justify a double-dip.
Review by Wilson Bros
General viewing, but some scenes may be unsuitable for young children
Release Date: 14th October 2013
Disc Type: Single side, dual layer
Audio: Dolby Digital 2.0 English
Extras: Audio Commentary, Frozen Out, William Hartnell Interview, Boys! Boys! Boys!, Companion Peice, The Golden Age, Blue Peter, Information Subtitles, Coming Soon Trailer, PDF Materials
Easter Egg: No
Director: Derek Martinus
Cast: William Hartnell, Anneke Wills, Michael Craze, Patrick Troughton, Zippy From Rainbow
Length: 98 minutes
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