Imaginary Friends: a 1960s stpry, by Jacqueline Rayner

Second paragraph of third chapter:

We went to Rome, which is from history and sometimes from Sunday School. There was a lion! I think I mite like lions even more than cheetahs. The Emperer chased Barbrar and the Doctor pretended to play a liar and made it sound silent. I wish Anne would play silent when she does piano practice. There was a lady and her job was to poison people! I thought the police would come and arrest her but they did not.

This is the first in a series of six YA Doctor Who novellas published to commemorate the recent anniversary. It’s a very good start. Young Gerry has dreams of the Doctor, his companions and their adventures together, in a world that is just the same as ours, except that there is no TV show called Doctor Who and strange things happen like the unsolved murder of a pesticide researcher, or the odd goings-on at the Post Office Tower…

Really this is lovely. Jacqueline Rayner on form is one of the best current Doctor Who prose writers, and she’s on form here. She brilliantly evokes the decaying industrial atmosphere of the mid 1960s and the need for escapism, and the changing dynamics of family relationships over the last sixty years, and the universal difficulty of growing up. I loved it. You can get it here.

Bechdel fail, I’m afraid, with tight third around the boy protagonist.

Invasion of the Dinosaurs, by Jon Arnold (and Malcolm Hulke)

When I first watched Invasion of the Dinosaurs in 2007, I wrote:

Notoriously, the first episode of Invasion of the Dinosaurs exists only in black and white, while the other five are in colour (it would all have been in colour when shown in January/February 1974). Also notoriously, the actual dinosaurs themselves are absolutely terrible as special effects. There are no two ways about it: they are embarrassing puppets pasted onto their scenes by unconvincing CSO.

If you can ignore the awfulness of the dinosaurs, it’s not such a bad story; like many Pertwee tales, it is a bit too long, but the two basic bits of plot – conspiracy at the highest levels of government to Take Over/Destroy England, and the people who think they are on a spaceship to colonise the nearest star – are both rather good and well enough worked out, with their motives a bit of a reprise of The Green Death but with the environmentalists now the bad guys. The cliff-hanger where Sarah is told that she’s been in space for three months, and the scene where she proves she isn’t by walking out of the airlock, are both real jewels.

The main plot twist involving the regular cast, however, is a slightly different matter. Captain Yates, the Brigadier’s deputy since Terror of the Autons, turns out to be in league with the bad guys, yet can’t quite bring himself to do the Doctor harm. The scene where we discover his betrayal is handled with no dramatic tension whatever, and his motivations are not really explored at all. The Brigadier and Benton get all the good lines, but there’s interesting narrative tension among the villains as well.

If it hadn’t been for the dinosaurs, this would probably be remembered as one of the great Pertwee stories despite the not-quite-connected plot. As it is, you just have to close your eyes when they are on-screen; but it’s still way ahead of, say, The Mutants. (I wonder if an audio version of this, with linking narrative by Elisabeth Sladen or Nicholas Courtney, might work a bit better?)

When I came back to it for my Great Rewatch in 2010, I wrote:

Invasion of the Dinosaurs was Malcolm Hulke’s last story for Doctor Who, and it must be said that with the rather central exception of the dinosaurs it is rather good. It is a shame about the dinosaurs, especially the tyrannosaurus / brontosaurus fight in episode 6 which is a real low point. The assembly of talent among the guest cast is excellent – Martin Jarvis, Peter Miles, Carmen Silvera, John Bennett, Noel Johnson, all had been on Who before and/or would be again, and all take it seriously (I guess they couldn’t see the dinosaurs for the most part).

Hulke takes it seriously too; his sympathies are of course with the New Earth folks, but his message is one of working for revolution and change within the system. Mike Yates’ treachery is the most interesting thing that has been done with a regular character since Katarina and Sara were killed off. It’s a shame that Richard Franklin never quite rises to the challenge, but it twists Hulke’s narrative from being a relatively safe tale of rooting out the dodgy bits of the establishment to a nasty one where your own household may turn against you.

Sarah and the Doctor are awfully cuddly now, especially in their exchange about Florana at the end! NB that this is the second story in a row about bad guys using time travel to transport their innocent pawns between different periods of Earth history.

All the above points occurred to me again as I rewatched it this time. I would also add that the London setting is used effectively, especially in the devastated and empty street scenes of the first couple of episodes, and the sense of enclosure and subterfuge in the Minister’s office later on. (Though the starship passengers look like real idiots for not smelling a rat sooner.) And Elisabeth Sladen is on particularly good form.

I knew Hulke’s novelisation (of his own script) well as a kid. The second paragraph of the third chapter is:

‘The signal’s very faint, sir.’ The radio operator turned up the volume control on his console to ‘full’. ‘It’s no good, sir. They’ve faded out altogether.’

When I reread it in 2008 I wrote:

I am not sure if this is the best of this run of novels (and I’m certain it’s not the best of the Season 11 novels, as Doctor Who and the Planet of the Spiders clearly takes that trophy) but it is certainly the most interesting. As commenters to my last entry noted, it starts with a lovely vignette of a Scot in London for the football who becomes a victim of the dinosaurs; there are other little bits of depth added as well, Professor Whitaker becoming very camp, and a couple of odd extra details – the Doctor is described as having “a mop of curly hair” (shurely shome mishtake?) and he talks about the Mary Celeste again as he did in Doctor Who and the Sea Devils. Also, of course, the book loses the appalling visual effects of the original programme – these dinosaurs are flesh and blood, not rubber!

Yet at the same time it is a bit too over-earnest, not quite as mature as Hulke’s better novels (Doctor Who and the Cave Monsters and Doctor Who and the Green Death), so it doesn’t quite get its fourth star from me.

It is interesting that both this and the previous story are about the bad guys shunting people (and in this case dinosaurs) between the present and the past.

The viewpoint character in the opening chapter is from Glasgow, a point I missed when compiling my list of mentions of the city in Doctor Who last month. One other detail added by Hulke for the novelisation is that Butler, the character played by Martin Jarvis, has a large facial scar, and is also made more complex, doubting the wisdom of the grand plan at an earlier stage. You can get it here.

Jon Arnold, who has previously delivered solid analysis of Rose, Scream of the Shalka and The Eleventh Hour in the Black Archive series, has delivered another decent and readable piece of work here.

A short introduction reflects on the context of the story, with the end of the Pertwee era coinciding with unusual political instability in the UK.

The first chapter, “London Falling”, looks at the way in which London has been portrayed in Doctor Who overall, especially in this story.

The second chapter, “The Politics of the Dinosaurs”. looks in detail at the political disarray of early 1970s Britain and its reflections in Doctor Who.

The third chapter, “The Golden Age”, looks at similar iterations of the Golden Age narrative, including the 2005 reality TV show Space Cadets and Douglas Adams’ Golgafrinchams. The second paragraph, with quote and footnotes, is:

The earliest known mention of a golden age occurs in Hesiod’s poem Works and Days (c700 BCE). In this poem, the author outlined his five Ages of Man: the golden age, the silver age, the bronze age, the heroic age and the iron age, with the last of these being Hesiod’s own time4. The names of Hesiod’s ages are derived from the materials from which he believed Zeus constructed humanity (with the heroic age being one of demigods, perhaps an early indication that Hesiod’s metaphor did not quite cover the scheme of society he wished to use – an early example of golden ages being a let-down). The conception of the golden age as an idealised lost nirvana is clear from his description:

“The race of men that the immortals who dwell on Olympus made first of all was of gold […] they lived like gods, with carefree heart, remote from toil and misery. Wretched old age did not affect them either, but with hands and feet ever unchanged they enjoyed themselves in feasting, beyond all ills, and they died as if overcome by sleep. All good things were theirs, and the grain-giving soil bore its fruits of its own accord in unstinted plenty, while they at their leisure harvested their fields in contentment amid abundance.’5

4 Believed to be around the last third of the eighth century BCE. West, ML, ed, Hesiod, Theogony and Works and Days, p10.
5 Hesiod, Works and Days, p87.

The fourth and longest chapter, “The Immortal Hulke”, looks at the career and beliefs of Malcolm Hulke, who of course was a Communist at one point in his life and also left a legacy of writing about television. It does not explain Hulke’s obsession with reptiles.

The first of three appendices, “20 Years Before Jurassic Park“, makes a case that the dinosaurs are not really all that awful by 1970s standards. It’s difficult to make this a very strong case, hwoever.

The second appendix, “KKLAK!”, looks in detail at the changes Hulke made to the story when adapting it as a novel.

The third appendix, “‘Ullo Jon! Got a New Motor?'” looks at the origin and fate of the Whomobile.

I would have liked to read some analysis of one more topic – the treachery of Mike Yates, which is briefly referred to in passing, but which as I said earlier was the most interesting thing that has been done with a regular character since Katarina and Sara were killed off eight years earlier.

Apart from that, it’s generally a satisfactory and sympathetic piece of work, looking at a flawed but fondly remembered story and explaining where it came from. Normally I like to get a bit more of the behind-the-scenes gossip, but I’m happy with what we get here.

Anyway, you can get it here.

The Black Archives
1st Doctor: Marco Polo (18) | The Dalek Invasion of Earth (30) | The Romans (32) | The Massacre (2)
2nd Doctor: The Underwater Menace (40) | The Evil of the Daleks (11) | The Mind Robber (7)
3rd Doctor: Doctor Who and the Silurians (39) | The Ambassadors of Death (3) | The Dæmons (26) | Carnival of Monsters (16) | The Time Warrior (24) | Invasion of the Dinosaurs (55)
4th Doctor: Pyramids of Mars (12) | The Hand of Fear (53) | The Deadly Assassin (45) | The Face of Evil (27) | The Robots of Death (43) | Talons of Weng-Chiang (58) | Horror of Fang Rock (33) | Image of the Fendahl (5) | The Sun Makers (60) | The Stones of Blood (47) | Full Circle (15) | Warriors’ Gate (31)
5th Doctor: Kinda (62) | Black Orchid (8) | Earthshock (51) | The Awakening (46)
6th Doctor: Vengeance on Varos (41) | Timelash (35) | The Ultimate Foe (14)
7th Doctor: Paradise Towers (61) | Battlefield (34) | The Curse of Fenric (23) | Ghost Light (6)
8th Doctor: The Movie (25) | The Night of the Doctor (49)
Other Doctor: Scream of the Shalka (10)
9th Doctor: Rose (1) | Dalek (54)
10th Doctor: The Impossible Planet / The Satan Pit (17) | Love & Monsters (28) | Human Nature / The Family of Blood (13) | The Sound of Drums / Last of the Time Lords (38)
11th Doctor: The Eleventh Hour (19) | Vincent and the Doctor (57) | The Pandorica Opens / The Big Bang (44) | The Impossible Astronaut / Day of the Moon (29) | The God Complex (9) | The Rings of Akhaten (42) | Day of the Doctor (50)
12th Doctor: Listen (36) | Kill the Moon (59) | Dark Water / Death in Heaven (4) | Face the Raven (20) | Heaven Sent (21) | Hell Bent (22)
13th Doctor: Arachnids in the UK (48) | Kerblam! (37) | The Battle of Ranskoor av Kolos (52) | The Haunting of Villa Diodati (56) | Flux (63)

Doctor Who and the Silurians and Doctor Who and the Cave-Monsters, by Malcolm Hulke, and The Silurians, by Robert Smith?

When I first watched Doctor Who and the Silurians in 2007, I wrote:

Doctor Who and the Silurians was the second story of Jon Pertwee’s first season in 1970 (and for some reason the only TV story with “Doctor Who and” in the title). Those who have seen Quatermass are keen to point out the links; for me, it was one of the most X-Files-like of Doctor Who stories, with our team of investigators checking out mysterious happenings which turn out to have an entirely Earthly explanation (rather rare among Who stories). The first three episodes seemed reminiscent of yer standard rural horror story, but the second half, alternating between science labs and the Silurian caves, steps back into familiar territory. Very familiar in fact – there’s Peter Miles, to return playing essentially the same character in Invasion of the Dinosaurs and even nastier in Genesis of the Daleks; there’s Geoffrey Palmer, who lasts two episodes this time before dying horribly (he was only in one episode of The Mutants before dying horribly; and now of course he is due to return as the captain of the Titanic – spot a pattern here?); and, most surprising, there’s Paul Darrow, nine years before Avon became one of Blake’s Seven, being the Brigadier’s second-in-command. The Young Silurian is overacting a bit though. I didn’t enjoy it quite as much as Spearhead from Space and Inferno, but I can see why some regard this as Pertwee’s best season.

In 2010, when I came back to it for my Great Rewatch, I was less forgiving:

There are some good bits in Doctor Who and the Silurians, but they are an awful long way apart; this would have been an undisputed classic if it were a four-parter. The length of the story may not have been the choice of director Timothy Combe (who also did Evil of the Daleks and The Mind of Evil, after which he was apparently barred from future Who work), but it has other problems that clearly are his fault: too many static scenes of the Brigadier sitting talking to someone in an office, several of which are interrupted by the Doctor arriving just as his whereabouts are beng discussed. This all made me wonder about the distance between the research centre and the caves; I didn’t get a good sense of that (and Malcolm Hulke’s map in the novelisation is actually a bit confusing).

The story falls quite naturally into two halves – the “something nasty in the woodshed” bit before we actually meet the Silurians properly, and the “clash of civilisations” bit when we do. The two halves are not linked well (what’s the story with the dinosaur, for instance? or the Silurians’ relationship with Quinn?) but the second half is better, and for once we get monsters with decent characterisation, balanced by the Brigadier’s monstrous behaviour at the end – the first time we have seen a regular character defy the Doctor so wilfully, and as a result we viewers are asked to sympathise with the alien agenda rather than the forces of the British state.

It’s also a great story for spotting guest stars: Avon is the Brigadier’s second-in-command, Khrisong / Hieronymous is also there, Nyder is running the research centre, and Geoffrey Palmer, who dies horribly every time he is on Doctor Who, is the Permanent Under-Secretary. (If you haven’t heard the super two-hander audio between Paul Darrow and Peter Miles set in Kaldor City, I do recommend it.) Finally, of course, by pure chance I was watching it immediately after the New Who two-part Silurian story was broadcast, but my thoughts on that will have to wait.

This time around I found myself in between my two previous takes. The pacing is slow, and not everything in the early episodes makes sense compared with what we learn in the later episodes. But the tensions between and among the human and Silurian characters are well depicted, and this time around I was particularly grabbed by Fulton MacKay, in his only Doctor Who appearance of a distinguished career, as the misguided and doomed Dr Quinn. And after recent years, I must say that I sat up and paid attention a lot more during the plague sequences.

The second paragraph of the third chapter of Malcolm Hulke’s novelisation, Doctor Who and the Cave-Monsters, is:

Miss Dawson’s mother had died, of incredibly old age, a year ago. At last free, Miss Dawson immecliately applied for, and got, this job at the research centre at Wenley Moor. Derbyshire wasn’t exactly Australia or America, but at least it was some distance from London, and it was the start of her new life.

This was a favourite when I was a kid. When I reread it in 2008, I wrote:

This was the second original novel in Target’s series of novelisations after Doctor Who and the Auton Invasion, the first of Hulke’s six books for the range. It is a good one; Hulke tells the story in part from the point of view of the eponymous cave monsters (the word “Silurian” is not used here), showing us humans as alien vermin. He also makes the story a more overt parable about authority and power, and adds little bits of character especially for the Brigadier and Liz. (And see note below on a minor character.) I suspect this will be near the top of my list of Third Doctor novels.

[It has an explicit reference] to Northern Ireland, which are otherwise very rare in the Doctor Who mythos (though see also Daragh Carville’s play, Regenerations). In Doctor Who and the Cave Monsters, we get the following back story for Major Barker (renamed from Baker in the TV story, where he was played by Norman Jones without a beard):

“…he saw himself one rainy day in Londonderry, Northern Ireland, leading a group of soldiers who were trying to pin down an IRA sniper. The sniper had already shot two of his men dead, and wounded a third. The Major carefully worked his men into a position so that the sniper was completely surrounded. Then he called upon the sniper to surrender. A rifle was thrown down from a window, and a man appeared with his arms raised. As Major Barker called on his men to break cover and arrest the sniper, shots rang out from a sniper in another building, instantly killing the young soldier next to Major Barker. Without a second’s thought, Barker aimed his revolver at the sniper standing with his hands up in surrender, and shot him dead. For that moment of anger, Major Barker had been asked to resign from the British Army and to find another job.”

Things had changed rather drastically in Northern Ireland between the time of broadcast of this story (January-March 1970) and Hulke’s novelisation, published four years later. According to the grim and masterly Sutton index, before the summer of 1970 the only people killed by the British Army in Northern Ireland were two Protestants shot during riots on the Shankill Road. IRA sniper attacks on the army began only in February 1971. (I don’t know if this is at all helpful for the UNIT dating controversy.) The idea that Barker would have been removed from the army in the circumstances described is rather grimly laughable; even the odious Lee Clegg was eventually allowed to walk free and return to the ranks.

I still think that the book is one of the best novelisations, with a lot of the plot points rounded off, the Silurians (not given that name here) getting much more characterisation and agency, and Major Barker voicing the ideas that Hulke himself hated.

‘It’s as plain as a pikestaff there’s sabotage going on,’ said Barker, taking the Doctor’s bait without realising it. ‘Anyone can see that.’
‘I may agree with you,’ the Doctor said. ‘But sabotage by whom?’
‘Communists, of course.’ Major Barker gave his answer as though it should have been obvious to everyone.
‘Why should communists cause these power losses?’ said the Doctor.
‘They hate England, that’s why.’ Barker started to warm to his subject. ‘They train people to come here to destroy us.’
‘I see,’ said the Doctor. ‘Are these Chinese communists or Russian communists?’
‘There’s no difference between them,’ said Barker. ‘And if it isn’t them, it’s the fascists. Or the Americans.’
‘The Americans?’ said Liz, almost but not quite laughing.
Major Barker turned to Liz. ‘Miss Shaw, England was once the heart of an empire, the greatest empire the world has ever known. But the bankers and the trade-unionists have destroyed that great heritage. Now we are alone, backs to the wall, just as we were in 1940, only there is no Winston Churchill to lead us. The whole world is snapping at us like a pack of hungry wolves. But the day will come, Miss Shaw, when England will rise again…’

I also want to salute Chris Achilleos’ lovely internal art, a tradition that I wish had been continued for novelisations of later years (of course I understand the commercial constraints too). They gave us a tremendous sense of the visuals of the story, at a time when we had no reason to think we would ever be able to see it for real.

You can get it here (for a price).

After all of that, I found Robert Smith?’s Black Archive monograph on the story, titled just The Silurians, a bit of a mixed bag. On the one hand, he explores the themes of the story in some depth. But on the other, I found his presentation of some of the political issues a bit out of date; and in particular, I don’t think you can really write properly about any Malcolm Hulke story without reference to Doctor Who and the Communist, by Michael Herbert, which looks at the relationship between Hulke’s politics and his writing. Only one previous Black Archive volume is mentioned; I think the book could have benefitted from more dialogue with its own predecessors.

The first chapter, “Can Technology Solve All Our Problems?”, looks at the Cyclotron as a supplier of free (or at least cheap) energy, and the shadow of the atom bomb, as twin aspects of technology.

The second chapter, “What’s the Ideal Length for a Doctor Who Story?”, defends the length of Doctor Who and the Silurians, arguing that, for instance, the whole Hartnell era could be considered as one long story, if you like. It would have been interesting to know if there are other episodic Sixties and Seventies series from which comparisons could be drawn.

The third chapter, “What’s the Point of UNIT?”, actually concentrates on the Doctor’s role and character especially in an Earth setting. The second paragraph is:

‘In science fiction, there are only two stories. They come to us or we go to them.’3 So claimed Malcolm Hulke, when despairing of the then-new Earthbound format that he felt Doctor Who had been saddled with for the start of the 1970s. Consequently, he went and wrote a story that was neither: they come to us, except that they’ve always been here.
3 Quoted by Gordon Roxburgh in Matrix, Issue 6.

The fourth chapter, “Who Has the Moral High Ground Here?”, looks at the story’s takes on colonialism and violence.

The fifth chapter, “Is Doctor Who a Science Show?” points out the rarity of science as such actually being portrayed in the show (as it is here), also veering into conspiracy theories and animal rights.

The sixth chapter, “Could the Silurian Plague Have Killed Us All?” is the one which turned out to be the most timely for a book published in January 2020. Unfortunately this also means it has dated badly; most of the gosh-wow facts about epidemics are now either common knowledge or overtaken by events. This is hardly Smith?’s fault, of course.

The seventh chapter, “Who’s Responsible for All This?”, attempts to round off the narrative by looking at the Doctor, especially the Third Doctor, as a character and explaining that the end of the story ought to be a “hyperobject”, a concept that is not really well explained.

Anyway, I’ll keep going with these; you can get this one here.

The Black Archives
1st Doctor: Marco Polo (18) | The Dalek Invasion of Earth (30) | The Romans (32) | The Massacre (2)
2nd Doctor: The Underwater Menace (40) | The Evil of the Daleks (11) | The Mind Robber (7)
3rd Doctor: Doctor Who and the Silurians (39) | The Ambassadors of Death (3) | The Dæmons (26) | Carnival of Monsters (16) | The Time Warrior (24) | Invasion of the Dinosaurs (55)
4th Doctor: Pyramids of Mars (12) | The Hand of Fear (53) | The Deadly Assassin (45) | The Face of Evil (27) | The Robots of Death (43) | Talons of Weng-Chiang (58) | Horror of Fang Rock (33) | Image of the Fendahl (5) | The Sun Makers (60) | The Stones of Blood (47) | Full Circle (15) | Warriors’ Gate (31)
5th Doctor: Kinda (62) | Black Orchid (8) | Earthshock (51) | The Awakening (46)
6th Doctor: Vengeance on Varos (41) | Timelash (35) | The Ultimate Foe (14)
7th Doctor: Paradise Towers (61) | Battlefield (34) | The Curse of Fenric (23) | Ghost Light (6)
8th Doctor: The Movie (25) | The Night of the Doctor (49)
Other Doctor: Scream of the Shalka (10)
9th Doctor: Rose (1) | Dalek (54)
10th Doctor: The Impossible Planet / The Satan Pit (17) | Love & Monsters (28) | Human Nature / The Family of Blood (13) | The Sound of Drums / Last of the Time Lords (38)
11th Doctor: The Eleventh Hour (19) | Vincent and the Doctor (57) | The Pandorica Opens / The Big Bang (44) | The Impossible Astronaut / Day of the Moon (29) | The God Complex (9) | The Rings of Akhaten (42) | Day of the Doctor (50)
12th Doctor: Listen (36) | Kill the Moon (59) | Dark Water / Death in Heaven (4) | Face the Raven (20) | Heaven Sent (21) | Hell Bent (22)
13th Doctor: Arachnids in the UK (48) | Kerblam! (37) | The Battle of Ranskoor av Kolos (52) | The Haunting of Villa Diodati (56) | Flux (63)

Moon Boots and Dinner Suits, by Jon Pertwee

Second paragraph of third chapter:

On leaving Miss Maxwell’s ‘Academy’, I followed [his brother] Michael to Aldro, a boarding school in Eastbourne. I was about seven and a half and not at all happy at the idea of being so far from home. There was a kind old master there called Mr Craft, who closely resembled Rudyard Kipling; well, he seemed old, but as I received Christmas cards from him for twenty years afterwards, he was probably only about thirty-five at the time. To me he represented kindness. Mr Hill, the Headmaster, on the other hand represented unkindness, for I was often to be caned by him. ‘Go and change into gym shorts and wait for me in the gymnasium,’ he would order. That wait was more terrible than the thrashing. Even at seven and a half, I could take the beating, but the waiting made me sick with apprehension.

First volume of Jon Pertwee’s autobiography, though he did not write much more apart from an out-of-print account of his time on Doctor Who. It’s an entertaining set of anecdotes about his early life, difficult relations with parents (he did not actually know that his father‘s friend was his biological mother), his wartime service in the navy (which takes up almost half of the book), his love of girls and cars. If I had been editing it, I might have taken out some of the exclamation marks.

Lots of names are dropped, many of them of showbiz figures now long forgotten, though a couple stood out; visiting his father’s friend A.A. Milne as a child, Milne’s son “was good enough to introduce me to his toy animal friends, Piglet, Owl, Kanga, Kanga’s son Roo, and best of all, his teddy bear, Winnie the Pooh.” At the other end of the book, when he is assigned to Naval Intelligence, one of his office-mates is future prime minister James Callaghan. (Callaghan, who lost the 1979 election, is the most recent prime minister to have served in the armed forces and the only one to have been in the Navy.)

But Doctor Who fans like me won’t find much to chew on here. Pertwee did not really have hidden depths; what you saw was what you got, and that personality is on display in his book. You can get it here.

The Dæmons, by Matt Barber (and Barry Letts)

The next in the Black Archive sequence of commentary on Doctor Who is on The Dæmons, which rounded off the eighth season of Old Who in 1971. As usual, I went back and rewatched the original story, and then reread the novelisation, published in 1974, before getting to the Black Archive analysis.

When I first watched it in 2007, I wrote:

The Dæmons, first shown in 1971, is presumably the only Doctor Who story featuring a character in the title outside the standard 26 letters of the alphabet (plus numbers and punctuation). I’m a bit stunned that it is remembered as the peak of the Pertwee era by some. It’s not very good; it’s not very bad either; perhaps that makes it an archetypal Pertwee story, and so those who like that sort of thing will like this sort of thing. Delgado is good; Benton and Yates are good (and this story has clearly provided much inspiration for slash writers); both the Third Doctor and Jo are bad, as usual; and the monster is just awful, as is the final twist (it is destroyed when Jo offers her life instead of the Doctor’s as such self-sacrifice CANNOT COMPUTE).

My brother in 2010 wrote up The Daemons in the style of New Who:

JO: Don’t kill the Doctor, he’s fantastic! Kill me instead!
AZAL: Good point. I was just realizing how stupid it would be to kill the Doctor. (KILLS JO).
DOCTOR: Tut tut.
AZAL: I’m the last of my kind, you know.
DOCTOR: Really?

When I got to it again myself later in 2010, in my Great Rewatch, I liked it a lot more than first time around:

The Dæmons is surely the greatest of the UNIT stories, and one of the most English stories of this very English show. Evil morris dancers! A white witch! The Master is your local vicar! The first time I watched this I didn’t like it much, but taken in context, and an episode at a time, I can see why this Barry Letts script is seen as a high point of the Barry Letts years; it is the first time, apart from The War Games, that we have had a season finale as such, pulling all the characters together and ending with the Master’s disgrace and capture.

The Brigadier is off the main field of action for most of the story, which actually gives him a chance to shine on his own rather than be snarled at by Pertwee, and generates a nice the-boss-is-away dynamic among the other UNIT folks, augmented by Delgado on top form and by Damaris Hayman’s wonderfully batty performance as Miss Hawthorne (who we assume had a jolly good fertility dance with Benton throughout the following night). Apart from Richard Franklin, who is clearly the weakest of the regulars, everyone is excellent. (I enjoyed also watching the Return to Devil’s End documentary, bringing Pertwee, Courtney, Franklin and Levene back to the village along with director Christopher Barry.)

commented back in The Abominable Snowmen that Who has four ways of treating religion: squabbling sectarians, deluded cultists, religious buildings used for nefarious purposes, or true believers. The Dæmons includes both the second and third categories. As far as I remember it is also the first time religion has been portrayed on the show since The Abominable Snowmen, and the only time apart from Steven’s profession of faith (or at least denomination) in The Massacre and the unecclesiastical antics of The Smugglers that we have had anything explicit about the Church of England. More on this in the story after next.

Once again, I liked it a bit more on rewatching. Sometimes one enjoys performances that little bit more because the performers are clearly having a good time, and this is one of those. The spooky line between science and magic is nicely explored as well; we’ll get to that later.

The second paragraph of the third chapter of the novelisation, by Barry Letts, is:

Across the churchyard flitted a shadow a little more dense than the shadows of the gravestones in the moonlight. Seeking the sanctuary of the church wall, it paused momentarily as if to make sure it was unobserved and then vanished through the vestry door.

The Master talks to a young man in the vestry

When I re-read the novelisation in 2008, I wrote:

This was one of those books which, on rereading, very much lived up to my fond childhood memories. It is funny, witty, adds bags of backstory to both minor and major characters (the account of the Doctor and the Master growing up together on Gallifrey ought to be canon for all interested fanfic writers), substitutes far better special effects on the page for the end-of-budget ones we got on-screen, and is generally a good read. My favourite Third Doctor book so far.

Again, I still think this is the best Third Doctor novelisation, with Doctor Who and the Green Death by Malcolm Hulke being its only serious rival; it’s the only classic series novelisation by Barry Letts, the producer throughout the Pertwee years. One aspect that I feel deserves a bit more attention: the dramatic internal illustrations by Alan Willow, this being the first of seven novelisations that he illustrated between 1974 and 1975. (Though his take on Jo isn’t brilliant, and “creature” is misspelt in the second caption – not his fault, I guess.)

You can get it here.

Matt Barber’s Black Archive on The Dæmons is of average length for this sequence, but has very long chapters, so this review will probably be unfairly short.

The introduction sets out Barber’s stall: The Dæmons is actually a very atypical and unusual Doctor Who story, “without time travel, with little science fiction and, debatably, an ambiguous approach to the existence of magic; a story in which the TARDIS does not appear and is not even mentioned.” Barber himself has an MA in the History and Literature of Witchcraft, and his PhD focused on the mythologising of American politics in film and television, so he brings an unusual set of analytical filters to the task.

The first chapter, “The Unholy Power of Olive Hawthorne”, looks at witchcraft lore through Margaret Alice Murray, Gerald Gardner, and James Frazer of course, before turning to the role of Miss Hawthorne in the narrative; he makes the interesting point that although she is presented initially as a somewhat batty busybody, in fact she is right about what is really going on and all the men she argues with, including the Doctor, are wrong.

(I must add also that Damaris Hayman, who plays Miss Hawthorne, appears in the very last episode of Here Come the Double Deckers! which also dates from 1971.)

The second chapter, “Satanism, Devilish Pacts and Scientists”, starts with a real-life West Country vicar who was accused of involvement with black magic in 1969; then looks at Faust and the Master (and to an extent the Doctor as well); then at the influence of Aleister Crowley and Dennis Wheatley in general; and finally at the similarities and differences between The Dæmons and The Devil Rides Out.

The third chapter’s title is “A Tour of Devil’s End”. Its second paragraph is:

There is something about the English village that made it an enticing location for particular genres of popular culture in the 1970s. But why should such a parochial and picturesque location become such a standard for horror and dark fantasy? In the previous chapter, I inferred that the writers of Doctor Who were, like fan creators, ‘textual poachers’. In this chapter, I want to press this idea further by looking at how the series adapts the work of genre writers including John Wyndham and Nigel Kneale, MR James and HP Lovecraft to create a new, gestalt narrative. Through this, I want to explore how the English countryside and pastoral mythology has been adopted and reshaped by popular culture before, during and after the production of The Dæmons. In this way I will unpack what the English village brought as a location for this story and others in the 1970s and 1980s, and what Aldbourne in particular contributes to the character and popularity of The Dæmons. This will be a whistle-stop tour through subjects ranging from folk horror and pseudo-archaeology to psychogeography, hauntology and religion.

The opening paragraph of the chapter points out that Aldbourne, the village where The Dæmons was filmed, is very close to Silbury Hill, the ancient artificial mound which was the subject of a televised dig in 1969. (My old friend Jonathan Last has things to say about Silbury Hill.) Barber then looks at the real geography of Aldbourne, the connections between The Dæmons and the Fifth Doctor story The Awakening, the subgenre of Folk Horror, Nigel Kneale’s Quatermass and the Pit, John Wyndham’s The Midwich Cuckoos, the role of the Church (both institution and building), M.R. James, H.P. Lovecraft and the role of the pub.

A brief conclusion reflects on Barber’s personal reaction to visiting Aldbourne over the years, and an appendix gives a plot summary of The Devil Rides Out by Dennis Wheatley, which is clearly a taproot text for this story.

In general I prefer the Black Archive books that reflect a bit more than this does on the production, plot and performances in the stories that they are looking at. But this was a very interesting and well-informed exploration of the cultural roots of The Dæmons. Recommended. You can get it here.

The Black Archives
1st Doctor: Marco Polo (18) | The Dalek Invasion of Earth (30) | The Romans (32) | The Massacre (2)
2nd Doctor: The Underwater Menace (40) | The Evil of the Daleks (11) | The Mind Robber (7)
3rd Doctor: Doctor Who and the Silurians (39) | The Ambassadors of Death (3) | The Dæmons (26) | Carnival of Monsters (16) | The Time Warrior (24) | Invasion of the Dinosaurs (55)
4th Doctor: Pyramids of Mars (12) | The Hand of Fear (53) | The Deadly Assassin (45) | The Face of Evil (27) | The Robots of Death (43) | Talons of Weng-Chiang (58) | Horror of Fang Rock (33) | Image of the Fendahl (5) | The Sun Makers (60) | The Stones of Blood (47) | Full Circle (15) | Warriors’ Gate (31)
5th Doctor: Kinda (62) | Black Orchid (8) | Earthshock (51) | The Awakening (46)
6th Doctor: Vengeance on Varos (41) | Timelash (35) | The Ultimate Foe (14)
7th Doctor: Paradise Towers (61) | Battlefield (34) | The Curse of Fenric (23) | Ghost Light (6)
8th Doctor: The Movie (25) | The Night of the Doctor (49)
Other Doctor: Scream of the Shalka (10)
9th Doctor: Rose (1) | Dalek (54)
10th Doctor: The Impossible Planet / The Satan Pit (17) | Love & Monsters (28) | Human Nature / The Family of Blood (13) | The Sound of Drums / Last of the Time Lords (38)
11th Doctor: The Eleventh Hour (19) | Vincent and the Doctor (57) | The Pandorica Opens / The Big Bang (44) | The Impossible Astronaut / Day of the Moon (29) | The God Complex (9) | The Rings of Akhaten (42) | Day of the Doctor (50)
12th Doctor: Listen (36) | Kill the Moon (59) | Dark Water / Death in Heaven (4) | Face the Raven (20) | Heaven Sent (21) | Hell Bent (22)
13th Doctor: Arachnids in the UK (48) | Kerblam! (37) | The Battle of Ranskoor av Kolos (52) | The Haunting of Villa Diodati (56) | Flux (63)

The Time Warrior, by Matthew Kilburn (and Terrance Dicks)

When I first watched The Time Warrior in 2007, I wrote:

The Time Warrior was the first story in the eleventh season of Doctor Who, over December 1973/January 1974. More significantly, it was the first outing for Elisabeth Sladen as Sarah Jane Smith, a role she played until October 1976, the longest continuous run of any companion (and longer than some Doctors had on screen). (Reprised, of course, in 1981 in K9 and Company, 1983 in The Five Doctors, in various Big Finish and other spinoffs, and last year in School Reunion; now getting her own TV series at long last.)

She gets a good introduction, stowing away in the Tardis to investigate the disappearance of scientists, who as it turns out are being kidnapped by time machine by an alien Sontaran who needs them to repair his spaceship which has crashed on Earth in the Middle Ages. (Of course, when they meet again in School Reunion, the Doctor is once again pretending to be Dr John Smith; not, as we now know, for the last time either.) I felt she was a bit screamy compared with the Sarah Jane Smith we came to know and love later on, but in contrast with the awful Jo who came before she is a vast improvement.

There’s also an interesting conversation in Episode 2 between the Doctor and the Sontaran commander Lynx with significant continuity implications. Apparently this was the first time that the Doctor’s home planet had been named. But it’s also interesting that the Sontarans have been considering it as a military target, a plan which comes to fruition in The Invasion of Time in 1978.

Anyway, not one of the great Robert Holmes stories, but not bad at all.

Coming back to it in 2010 for my Great Rewatch, I wrote:

The Time Warrior has the difficult task of introducing the first new companion for three years. But it is also the first story with a historical setting since The Highlanders, which incidentally was also the introductory story for a long-lasting companion (Jamie), which in itself is rather a good signal that the show is still capable of pulling surprises (which is just as well, considering the disappointments in store later in the season). The medieval stuff – Dot Cotton and Boba Fett in alliance against the bad guys – is actually rather well done, to the point that you don’t realise that there is only one castle playing two roles. The Sontarans are off to a good start, and there’s a satisfying bang at the end as the castle blows up.

It’s interesting to note that Sarah actually looks rather boyish here – pageboy haircut, understated bust, wearing trousers rather than skirt – which reinforces the point that the companion is meant to be the audience identification figure, and perhaps makes her easier for small boys to relate to than the much more girly Jo would have been. One can’t take this too far – she is certainly femme rather than butch – but it strikes me that after the first seven seasons of regular characters who just happen to be hanging around the Tardis and the Doctor, we have here the consolidation and further development of the Jo Grant dynamic.

One further character note about the Doctor – we have a bit of a reshaping of the role of the Time Lords here, as galactic ticket-inspectors; and this is also the story where the Doctor says he is serious about what he does, but not necessarily the way he does it. Unmoored from the UNIT setting, this is a new Pertwee in some ways, and we are allowed to sympathise with Sarah to a certain extent when she mistakes him for the villain rather than the hero of the story.

Rewatching once more, a couple of points struck me. First, immediately after the rather drab location shooting of The Curse of Fenric, here things seem much better co-ordinated and coherent. Alan Bromly is not at the top of many people’s list of favourite Doctor Who directors, but (unlike Matthew Kilburn, but we’ll get there) I think he delivers the goods.

Second, the script is neutral but heading towards positive on Sarah’s feminism. The Doctor looks like an ass in the first scene with her when he tells her to make the coffee. There’s a funny moment when she tells the kitchen wenches that they should not be living in the middle ages, just before realising that they have no choice. But to have a character articulating these views at all is (sadly) a step forward. (I also wonder if the wenches had been hiding or hidden when Lynx arrived; it’s clear that Sarah is the first woman he has seen.)

Third, Elisabeth Sladen is really nervous in her first scene as Sarah. We know now that Pertwee had been awful to her in rehearsal, saying how sorry he was that Katy Manning had left, almost as awful as the Doctor is to her in the script. The scene gives context for Sarah thinking the Doctor must be the villain, but one can also sympathise with the jitters of an actor who had just been given her breakthrough role, but with a star who had already had one potential candidate sacked and had made it clear he wished she was someone else. (Pertwee came round in the end, but the production team had already decided to dump him and keep her.)

The second paragraph of the third chapter of Terrance Dicks’ novelisation is:

Linx went to the cellar door. It was closed and locked but he made no attempt to open it. ‘Linx!’ bellowed a hoarse voice from the other side. ‘My lord Linx, will you open the door?’

When I last read it in 2008, I wrote:

Somehow despite the apparently favourable conjunction of DW’s most prolific TV script writer (Holmes) and the most prolific novelisation writer (Dicks), it rarely seems to gel, and this is a typical example: an unexceptional Dicks novelisation of a decent Holmes script, supposedly in this case with Holmesian participation. The Sontaran commander Linx (rather than Lynx) and the myopic Professor Rubeish both get a little more characterisation, but it’s otherwise standard stuff.

It is interesting that both this and the next story are about the bad guys shunting people between the present and the past.

I now accept that this was unfair of me. There are a lot of nice little moments in the novelisation that were missed from the TV show, including Mary, Hal the archer’s girlfriend, whose lines were completely cut from the screen. After a marathon of Pertwee novelisations in 2008, I think I may have been getting a bit fed up with Dicks’ prose, but in isolation it reads much better. You can get it here.

As with the author of the last Black Archive that I wrote up, Matthew Kilburn is a friend, amd as with Una McCormack on The Curse of Fenric, this monograph has made me reassess several aspects of the story positively, though starting from a higher base in that I liked it more to start with.

An introduction points out the rarity of stories set in the historical past at that time of Doctor Who, the most recent having been The Evil of the Daleks, six years before, and also discusses the uninventive style of director Alan Bromly (where as mentioned above I think there is a decent case for the defence).

The first chapter looks at The Time Warrior as a war story, reflecting on Holmes’career both as s soldier in Burma and as a writer for the patriotic boys’ magazine John Bull, but also considering the Vietnam War which was raging at the time.

The second chapter looks at the story’s aesthetic, coming down firmly on the Gothic side of the fence, considering also The Castle of Otranto, Ivanhoe, Frankenstein and the TV series Arthur of the Britons.

The second paragraph of the third chapter is:

The above paragraph offers a brief description of a character who could be either the Doctor or Linx. The parallels are obvious, especially with Spearhead from Space; but so are the objections. While Irongron and his men saw Linx’s vessel cross the sky and fall to Earth, the UNIT officer and her technician saw Nestene energy units, not the TARDIS. The UNIT personnel identified an enemy, while it’s Irongron who finds an ally. However, this latter statement is open to challenge, and it’s part of the Doctor’s function in this story to point out why.

The chapter looks at how Lynx and the Doctor parallel each other, alien wizard/scientists working with local Earth military/political leaders, but also looks at how Lynx portrays racism and colonialism.

The fourth and final chapter looks at Sarah as a character, and the way in which she is both a new and a traditional companion figure for Doctor Who. Her feminism is a character trait; it’s not funny, but it’s not shared by others either. The chapter looks at the story of Elisabeth Sladen’s casting, and also at the changes between script and screen which slightly eased the gendered elements of the story.

A conclusion reflects again on The Time Warrior as a post-imperial story, and how its themes are reflect in other Who stories which Holmes had a hand in.

The whole thing is well worth getting here.

The Black Archives
1st Doctor: Marco Polo (18) | The Dalek Invasion of Earth (30) | The Romans (32) | The Massacre (2)
2nd Doctor: The Underwater Menace (40) | The Evil of the Daleks (11) | The Mind Robber (7)
3rd Doctor: Doctor Who and the Silurians (39) | The Ambassadors of Death (3) | The Dæmons (26) | Carnival of Monsters (16) | The Time Warrior (24) | Invasion of the Dinosaurs (55)
4th Doctor: Pyramids of Mars (12) | The Hand of Fear (53) | The Deadly Assassin (45) | The Face of Evil (27) | The Robots of Death (43) | Talons of Weng-Chiang (58) | Horror of Fang Rock (33) | Image of the Fendahl (5) | The Sun Makers (60) | The Stones of Blood (47) | Full Circle (15) | Warriors’ Gate (31)
5th Doctor: Kinda (62) | Black Orchid (8) | Earthshock (51) | The Awakening (46)
6th Doctor: Vengeance on Varos (41) | Timelash (35) | The Ultimate Foe (14)
7th Doctor: Paradise Towers (61) | Battlefield (34) | The Curse of Fenric (23) | Ghost Light (6)
8th Doctor: The Movie (25) | The Night of the Doctor (49)
Other Doctor: Scream of the Shalka (10)
9th Doctor: Rose (1) | Dalek (54)
10th Doctor: The Impossible Planet / The Satan Pit (17) | Love & Monsters (28) | Human Nature / The Family of Blood (13) | The Sound of Drums / Last of the Time Lords (38)
11th Doctor: The Eleventh Hour (19) | Vincent and the Doctor (57) | The Pandorica Opens / The Big Bang (44) | The Impossible Astronaut / Day of the Moon (29) | The God Complex (9) | The Rings of Akhaten (42) | Day of the Doctor (50)
12th Doctor: Listen (36) | Kill the Moon (59) | Dark Water / Death in Heaven (4) | Face the Raven (20) | Heaven Sent (21) | Hell Bent (22)
13th Doctor: Arachnids in the UK (48) | Kerblam! (37) | The Battle of Ranskoor av Kolos (52) | The Haunting of Villa Diodati (56) | Flux (63)

Directed by Douglas Camfield, by Michael Seely

Second paragraph of third chapter:

They worked on the seventh floor of Lime Grove, assigned to different film editors. This was the same building where Alfred Hitchcock made The Thirty Nine Steps twenty years before when it was the Gaumont British Picture studios. Perhaps it was a portent for the future of the film industry when the BBC had bought tip and converted the studios in 1949. Situated in Shepherd’s bush, the building was on a cramped and enclosed site and the only way to expand was up. Lime Grove Studios became a multi-levelled rabbit warren of a building, easy to get lost in and was not much loved by those inside. Try as they might, the people who worked here in the 1950s find it very hard to describe the place as magical. Further down the road at Wood Lane, something magical had been postponed.

A couple of years ago, I read a biography of Robert Holmes, the greatest of Old Who’s writers; this book looks at the life of Douglas Camfield, one of the greatest of the Old Who directors (the top three must be him, David Maloney and Christopher Barry – and Camfield directed more episodes than either of the other two).

I found it a really fascinating read. Seely has hunted down as much information as he can about every single TV episode that Camfield ever directed. He knows his audience, so he has concentrated particularly on Doctor Who – the stories we now know as An Unearthly Child, Marco Polo, The Crusade, The Time Meddler, and most of all The Daleks’ Master Plan; and also The Web of Fear, The Invasion, Inferno, Terror of the Zygons and The Seeds of Doom. Those alone would be a fantastic legacy.

But Seely is very good at taking us into the world of the director, to the point that you can almost smell the static electricity in the studio gallery and the manure on location. Not every BBC director was as meticulous or professional as him; at the same time, he seems to have been genuinely charming, always bringing his guitar to finish the evening singing with those of the cast and crew that wanted to. (Though he also had his musical blind spots, and repeatedly refused to hire Dudley Simpson for incidental music.)

Camfield had a loyalty to a certain group of guest actors who tended to pop up in many of his productions, but in general they were good. This included his wife, Sheila Dunn, who got a small part in the Dalek’s Master Plan and a larger part in Inferno; though I remember her best as the daughter of Kessler, in the sequel to Secret Army, which had nothing to do with Camfield. Incidentally Bernard Hepton, the star of Secret Army, started his career as a director before turning to acting and was a peer of Camfield’s on the BBC training courses.

He did his best to move away from being typecast as a police and science fiction serial specialist, but did not quite success. He directed Duel, one of the great Blake’s 7 episodes, and the first episode of Shoestring and two others. His only close co-operation with the great Robert Holmes was not Doctor Who but the 1981 series The Nightmare Man, based on the novel Child of Vodyanoi by David Wiltshire; I have fond if scary memories of it forty years on, and would love to get hold of a copy.

Camfield’s health was always a problem, and he had to be taken off the Doctor Who story Inferno after a couple of episodes when he suffered a heart attack. Another heart attack hilled him at the age of 52 in 1984. Unlike Robert Holmes, who had sadly run out of steam when he died a couple of years later, one feels that Camfield was still innovating and finding new things to do, though he would have refused to return to Doctor Who. We must be grateful for what we have. This is a good book, with occasional rough edges. You can get it here.

The Unofficial Doctor Who Annual 1972, ed. Mark Worgan

Second paragraph of third chapter (“Phantoms of the Mind”, by Paul Vought):

In Elm House, a recently built concrete tower block, in a very contemporarily furnished apartment an author sits at tier desk tapping away at the keys of her typewriter, totally absorbed in tier work. Now and then site takes a break by sipping a tepid coffee front a brown mug with an orange floral pattern on it. She has completely lost track of the time.

One of several unofficial annuals produced recently by Terraqueous, edited by Mark Worgan, filling the gap between the official 1971 Annual and the official 1973 Annual. In fact it has more pages (180) than the two of them combined, featuring comment from Katy Manning, Mike Tucker, John Levene and Richard Franklin, and twenty stories in prose and comic strip format, almost all of which also feature the Master, as well as the usual rather pointless games. It’s a little variable but its heart is in the right place. It seems to no longer be obtainable, so you’ll have to take my word for it.

Unofficial Doctor Who Annual 1972 cover