The Awakening, by David Evans-Powell (and Eric Pringle)

I am not sure if I caught The Awakening on first broadcast – I think I did see the second episode but not the first. When I came to it in 2008, I wrote:

Fandom seems to be generally fond of The Awakening; it didn’t really grab me. Tegan’s relatives have worse luck with alien invaders than those of any other companion pre-Rose. I found the Malus utterly unconvincing, and as so often its means and motivation made little sense. I did like Polly James as Jane though.

When I came back to it three years later, for my Great Rewatch, I wrote:

Hey, it’s another two-part story with roots in a past period of English history! For the second time in four stories, and the third in three seasons. For once, the fundamentals are fairly sound, but the execution a bit haphazard – most notably, the Malus itself rather fails to be scary despite smoke machines and dramatic music, there is an awful lot of infodumping for little emotional payoff, and we have yet another Tardis invasion of both bystanders and the Malus somehow penetrating it. Polly James does her best but it’s not really convincing. 

Tegan’s grandfather is about the same age as her late aunt, but I suppose that’s not out of the question.

Nice for the team to get a break and relax after it’s all over. NB that The Awakening is the first story since Black Orchid, almost two seasons before, not to feature a returning villain or companion.

I particularly endorse the first paragraph here. The means and motivation of the baddies are (as so often) not well explained.

As mentioned, Frederick Hall, who played Tegan’s grandfather, was only five years older then Delore Whiteman, who had played her aunt three years before; and he was only thirty years older than Janet Fielding, his on-screen granddaughter. One can think of plenty of ways to resolve this, of course.

I also reread the novelisation by Eric Pringle, who wrote the TV story. The second paragraph of the third chapter is:

She dived around the comer of a barn, and stopped. she was gasping for breath and leaned against the barn wall for support, beside its open doorway. The bricks, warmed by the sun, burned against her back.

In 2008, I wrote:

Often the novelisations of two-part stories bring new material and imagination to the narrative, and I thought at first that this was going to be one of those, with good introductory description (especially of Jane Hampden, one of the great companions who never was). However, the pace isn’t really sustained, and the plot sinks under its own flaws; notably, Pringle misses the opportunity to make something more of the Malus’s physical appearance on the page, and the whole thing ends up essentially as a cut-down version of The Dæmons.

One extra point is that Jane Hampden, played by Polly James who turned 43 in the year of broadcast, is described as “young” in the book. Pringle was six years older than her; it’s a matter of perspective, I suppose. You can get the book here.

David Evans-Powell has done his best here to find depth in what is honestly not a spectacularly good story. The introduction to his Black Archive monograph sets out his stall: that The Awakening is a mediation between 1970s folk horror, and 1980s heritage drama.

The first chapter, ‘Unexpected Aura for a Quiet English Village’, briefly looks at villages in literature and culture as outposts of traditional values under threat from modernity.

The second chapter, ‘There Will Be No Visitors to the Village”, looks at Little Hodcombe as an uncanny landscape, ending up inevitably with the Wicker Man.

The third and longest chapter, ‘We’re in the Wrong Century!’, looks at The Awakening as a ghost story and a time slip drama, ending up with Sapphire and Steel and Quatermass and the Pit. The second paragraph is:

One of the working titles associated with the serial was ‘Poltergeist’1, and this alleged form of haunting is witnessed by the characters alongside more traditional ghostly manifestations. German for ‘noisy spirit’, poltergeists are a particular form of ghostly phenomena in which objects appear to move, appear and disappear without human intervention and where unexplained sensations (such as sudden cold or heat, smells, sounds and noises, and gusts of wind) are experienced. These phenomena have been attributed to psychic abilities, usually telekinesis (the power to move objects with the mind), manifested by those going through emotional or physiological change, such as during puberty2. This association between apparently ghostly activity and psychic ability is a critical aspect of the serial.
1 Doctor Who: The Complete History #38, p63.
2  Dagnall, Neil, and Ken Drinkwater, ‘Eight Things You Need to Know about poltergeists”

The fourth chapter, ‘But That’s a Representation of the Devil!’, looks at the Malus’s roots in the Green Man and M.R. James, and the ancient Greek Gorgons.

The fifth chapter, ‘Think of it as the Resurrection of an Old Tradition’, comes back to the question of folk horror vs heritage drama, and comes down on the heritage side.

The sixth and final chapter, ‘You Must Join in Our Games’, looks at re-enactment in general and at how it is portrayed here in particular.

A coda, ’20th-century Men Playing a Particularly Nasty Game’, looks briefly at how civil wars are remembered, mentioning Northern Ireland and briefly looking at Spain.

I generally prefer the Black Archives where the production itself is described; those that concentrate on trying to find the meaning behind the story sometimes run adrift because there is not much there there, and I’m afraid this is one of them. A good effort, but I was not wholly convinced. 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) | The Girl Who Died (64) | 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)