One of my earliest reviews on this blog was of the HP Lovecraft Historical Society’s film version of Lovecraft’s story. HPLHS has returned to The Whisperer in Darkness a second time for the latest episode of Dark Adventure Radio Theatre.
This audio play is especially noteworthy in that it’s been produced, rehearsed, and recorded during these months that much the world has been shut down by the COVID-19 virus; since in-person meetings were impossible, the work was done by a number of individuals in separate locations.
While the film version of The Whisperer in Darkness expanded on Lovecraft’s original short story, adding new characters and a third act after Albert Wilmarth’s panicked exit from the Akeley farmhouse, this audio adaptation is trimmed down, even for a DART drama.
Wilmarth’s correspondence with a man who claims to have proof that old legends of flying creatures from other worlds living in the remote hills of Vermont are not only true, but that these beings still exist, as well as his subsequent trip to Vermont are told via “found footage.” Most of the recordings are in the form of wax Dictaphone cylinders dated from the winter of 1927 through September 1928.
Three of the four Doctors have reached Rassilon’s Tomb in the tower with their companions–Sarah Jane, Tegan, and Brigadier Lethbridge-Stewart.
Amid some companion complaints and inter-Doctor badinage, the three Doctors examine and eventually translate the ancient inscription on a squat obelisk, which contains a welcome and an obscure warning. Only Dr 1 has any idea what the latter might mean.
While Sarah Jane and Tegan helpfully tie up the Master (he was knocked out when the Brigadier slugged him), the Doctors then turn their attention to the task which they all came here to perform: lowering the forcefield that keeps the Tardis from moving so they can exit the Death Zone and get back to their respective times. There’s a control panel on the wall behind them, and it’s Dr 3 who gets the job done by “reversing the polarity of the neutron flow.”
Once the Tardis is free of the forcefield, it disappears from the misty countryside where it’s been parked just in time to avoid being blown up by another group of Cybermen, thus evading the least suspenseful menace in the entire show (and there have been some pretty tepid menaces).
Turlough and Susan arrive to join the others, although I’m sorry to see that Drs 2 and 3 evince no interest in seeing Susan again. She’s their granddaughter too and they haven’t seen her since they were Dr 1. You’d think they’d at least say Hello. Continue reading “The Five Doctors, Part 4”
One way or another, three of the four Doctors trapped in the Death Zone on Gallifrey have made it into the Tower. Dr 3 and Sarah Jane are heading down from the top, while Dr 2 with the Brigadier, and Dr 1 and Tegan go upstairs. The chamber containing the tomb of that legendary Time Lord Rassilon must be somewhere between.
As they go along with their respective Doctors, Sarah Jane and Tegan each express a dreadful feeling of foreboding, as if they’re walking into disaster. Dr 3 tells Sarah that he feels it too; it’s the Mind of Rassilon reaching out to them as they get nearer to his tomb.
To demonstrate Rassilon’s powers, even though he’s been dead for quite some time, the Doctors run into a few minor obstacles. This is also the show’s opportunity to get in a few more old companions who were available.
Dr 3 runs into Liz Shaw and Mike Yeats, formerly of UNIT. In answer to his question, they assure him that “the little fellow with the checked trousers” as well as his other selves are just ahead, waiting for him. They need his help. He believes them at first, but when he tries to go back to get Sarah Jane, whom he left sitting on the last stairway down, before going on with Mike and Liz, they try to stop him. Dr 3 then realizes that they’re only illusions and runs back down the corridor the way he came.
Fake Liz screams “stooopp hiiim” in a creepy echoing voice before both she and Fake Mike disappear.
Dr 3 now has his doubts about Sarah Jane too for a moment, but aside from being a bit more cranky than usual since she rolled down that ridiculously undangerous hill, she’s been perfectly normal. They head down another corridor.
When Tegan expresses her feelings of dread and danger, Dr 1 pooh-poohs it and tells her he doesn’t feel any such thing. It’s all illusion. Just ignore it. And he marches on, unperturbed. Tegan shudders but follows.
Unnoticed by them, the Master is sneaking up the stairs behind them.
Trapped in the Death Zone on Gallifrey, two out of four Doctors are hiking toward Rassilon’s Tower with a companion.
The other two? They’re having a tea party inside the Tardis, although I don’t see any actual tea. Tegan and Turlough are enjoying what look like green cocktails. Susan’s apparently got some lemon meringue pie. There’s also a lavish fruit bowl.
It’s just a little scene, but whenever I watch episodes where Doctors and their future and/or previous companions meet up, I wish that everybody would hang around for a little while after the adventure is over and have a reunion party in the Tardis. This is the only time anything like that happens.
By the time we join them, Susan has had time to catch up with her Grandfathers (as far as I can tell, Dr 1 and Susan didn’t mention the Dalek). The two Doctors are now discussing their plans.
Another interesting thing about the scenes between Drs 1 and 5. Dr 1 has always been something of a cantankerous old Time Lord and doesn’t seem to like very many people. In The Three Doctors, he called Drs 2 and 3 “the clown and the dandy” and goodness knows what he would have made of Dr 4. But he likes this future self, calls him “my boy,” and isn’t at all tetchy during their conversations. He does have some run-ins with Tegan, however, as subsequent scenes will demonstrate.
Dr 5 brings up a primitive computer graphic image of Rassilon’s Tower on a screen on the Tardis’s control panel. There are three ways to get into the tower: Above, Between, or Below, as Dr 2 will sing later from an old Gallifreyan nursery rhyme.
The initial plan is that Dr 5 and the two women will walk over to the Dark Tower, pick an entrance, and go inside to shut off the forcefield generator and release the Tardis. Dr 1 then intends to bring the Tardis over to them in the tower so they can get out of here. I don’t think they’re aware yet that Drs 2 and 3 are wandering around nearby, but Dr 1 will pick them up on the Tardis sensors shortly.
The trio sets out, but they don’t get far before Dr 5 meets the Master and stops for a chat. He doesn’t believe the Master is there to help any more than Dr 3 did and Tegan, keeping a safe distance with Susan, doesn’t have any reason to trust the Master either (remembering how he shrunk her Auntie and pushed Dr 4 off a radio telescope, which is how she ended up here in the first place).
None of them notice the Cybermen coming down the hillside, until the squad has almost marched on top of the Doctor and Master. When they try to run, the Master gets zapped and knocked out. Dr 5 takes the transporter beacon, which the Master showed him during their conversation, uses it, and finds himself in the Time Lords’ Inner Council chamber.
When the Master comes to, he’s surrounded. He quickly makes friends with the Cybermen by pretending that he’s there to help them. Unlike the Doctors, the Cybermen believe him. Cyber-Suckers!
Actually, it’s only four Doctors, and one of them is a substitute for the late William Hartnell, who had passed on several years before Doctor Who‘s 20th anniversary, when this 90-minute special episode was made.
Not only does this story involve getting all the Doctors together; the show’s creators seem bent on getting anybody who was involved in it during its run to date and was available to appear in it somewhere. There’s a lot activity being juggled between different groups of characters. I’m going to break my review up into sections.
But first, a short history of me and Doctor Who. In the early 1970s, our local PBS station began to air all the episodes of a given story on Sunday mornings. My little brother watched them, and was a much more keen viewer than I was.
The first episode I ever saw was of Jon Pertwee’s Doctor. I haven’t been able to identify which story that was; I believe the Doctor’s companion was Liz Shaw, and what I would later know to be UNIT was fighting off an alien invasion. Aside from that, I don’t recall much except that it was the first time I’d ever heard a British telephone ring. While I rather liked the Doctor’s sense of style, I didn’t take much interest in the story and only saw bits and pieces of subsequent stories until The Three Doctors. I started watching regularly during Tom Baker’s era and through Peter Davison’s, and those are the stories I still have the greatest affection for. (It helps that I’ve had a crush on Peter Davison since I was 17… going on 40 years now.)
This 20th anniversary show is one I remember watching when it first aired in 1983. We usually saw episodes of Doctor Who a year or two after they were shown in Britain, but this one actually aired in some parts of the US before its UK debut.
Since The Three Doctors, I’d been interested in the idea of Doctors meeting Doctors, the contrast of personalities even though they were the same person. It’s an idea I’m still partial to.
To include something of William Hartnell, the show begins with a clip of the First Doctor’s farewell speech to his granddaughter Susan, in which he promises that he’ll come back and they will see each other again.
The story proper opens with the current Doctor (Peter Davison, or Dr 5) and his two companions Turlough and Tegan* having a bit of a holiday in northern Wales, not far from Portmeirion. Dr 5 calls it the Eye of Orion and says it’s the most tranquil place in the universe.
This tranquility is not to last long. It wouldn’t be much of a show if it did.
At the end of Part 3, Doctors 2 and 3 willed their way out of their cell in Omega’s glittering cave hideaway and snuck back into the chamber where he harnesses the power of a singularity, in hopes of destroying it.
Omega catches them at it and subjects Dr 3 to the power of the Dark Side and a wrestling match with another creature of his making.
After a few flips, the creature gets Dr 3 into a strangle hold; it looks like he’s about to lose, and Omega gloats until Dr 2 warns him: “Destroy him and you destroy your only chance to live.”
Omega relents, and suddenly Dr 3 is back in the singularity chamber with Dr 2 and Omega, lying on the floor and gasping for breath. Dr 2 helps him up, but it’s Omega he thanks.
Meanwhile, the group of Doctors’ companions and friends also escaped from Omega’s cave base are running across the desolate landscape with Brigadier Lethbridge-Stewart and Mr. Ollis the groundskeeper until they find Bessie where Dr 3 left her parked. They all pile in and the Brigadier announces that they’re going to UNIT HQ. “It’s nearer than you think.”
At the end of the previous episode, Dr 2 lowered the Tardis’s protective forcefield. Not only were he, Sergeant Benton, and Brigadier Lethbridge-Stewart aboard the Tardis zapped, but the entire UNIT HQ was pulled through that black hole into the antimatter universe.
Already in that antimatter universe on a rather desolate planet, Dr 3, Jo, and Dr. Tyler are taken to a sort of throne room, where they and we finally meet the person who’s responsible for all this–that splendidly voiced person in cape and impressive mask whom we just glimpsed in Part 2 (played by Stephen Thorne). He introduces himself as Omega. (“Omegger,” if you speak in a posh British accent, as he and Dr 3 do.)
Dr 3 knows who he is, but thought he’d been destroyed eons ago.
Jo and Dr. Tyler are then taken to a cell in the glittery bauble cave with doors that vanish and reappear as needed; when the door reappears to shut them in, Jo does that thing that I know from Janet Fielding’s (Tegan’s) commentaries on Dr 5 episodes drives her crazy–where they point at an action and exclaim “Look!” before it actually happens, and then it happens.
Once the humans are gone, Dr 3 and Omega have a conversation that fills us in on Omega’s backstory:
Many thousands of years ago, Omega was a brilliant stellar engineer on Gallifrey. This desolate world was a star, and part of his job was to detonate it and create a supernova to provide the enormous power needed for his people’s nascent time-and-space travel abilities. It was a dangerous mission, but he considered it an honor as well as his duty. Mission successfully accomplished, but the Time Lords have always assumed that he was killed in the explosion; instead, he’d been thrown into this black hole of antimatter and he considers himself abandoned by them.
“They became Time Lords,” he grumbles to Dr 2, “and I was forgotten.”
“Not forgotten,” Dr3 tries to assure him. “I’ve always looked on you as our greatest hero.”
“I should have been a god!” Omega responds, which tells you all you need to know about his mental state after being stuck here alone for so long. What he wants now is vengeance. Continue reading “The Three Doctors, Part 3”
At the end of Part 1, Dr 3 and his companion Jo were zapped by the multicolored blob-thing in UNIT HQ’s lab and disappeared. It’ll be some time before we find out what’s happened to them, but during the activity that follows at UNIT, we’re given a very brief scene of them reappearing via that beam emitting from the so-called black hole and ending up unconscious in a quarry.
Back in the UNIT lab, after theorizing that Dr 3 and Jo have been transported somewhere, Dr 2 observes that the blobby thing has “gone off the boil” and he and Sgt. Benton venture out of the Tardis.
While Dr 2 is testing blobby’s limits, the Brigadier comes in. Being somewhat preoccupied by the blob-thing inside the HQ and the attack by the glittering shrouded creatures outside, it takes him a moment to register that the Doctor is now his old pre-regeneration friend again. He asks about some of their adventures together: the Yeti, the Cybermen attack, and the Autons story which was Patrick Troughton’s last before he transformed into “that tall, thin fellow.” But this last hasn’t happened yet for Dr 2 at the point when he was taken out of the time-stream, and he tries to explain this to the Brigadier and avoid spoilers on what’s coming up for him. He refers to himself as a “Temporal anomaly.” Not that the Brigadier really understands this, but he’s got enough to deal with at the moment and just goes along with it.
“You’ve been mucking around with that infernal machine of yours,” the Brigadier concludes, and tells Benton, “As long as he’s done the job, he can wear what face he likes.” He suggests that Dr 2 consult those “all powerful” Time Lords.
In 1974, Doctor Who had been a successful BBC program for nearly ten years; as November approached, the show’s producers were looking for ways to celebrate and make its 10th anniversary show a particularly special occasion. Producer Barry Letts, in his commentary on this DVD, says that one of the requests he’d heard most often from fans was an episode in which the three actors who had played the Doctor all appeared together. Everybody involved was game for it, but it took a bit of work behind the scenes to accomplish.
The first of the four episodes of this anniversary story starts at a wildlife sanctuary. Ducks, swans, and other birds are swimming along on a lake, and something that looks like a weather balloon, or Rover caught in a very large plastic bag, appears to be snagged just at the water’s edge.
An old man in wellies and carrying a rifle–he’s the grounds-keeper–approaches to examine the box, which resembles a car battery, that’s attached to this rigging and anchoring it.
Soon after, a professorial-looking gentleman in tweed drives up to the sanctuary and is greeted by an elderly woman in a cardigan. She addresses him as “Dr. Tyler.” She’s phoned him about the box her husband found, and directs him down to the lake where hubby, Mr. Ollis, is waiting. He hasn’t touched it, she says, and asks if it’s got chemicals in it that might be a danger to the ducks. Dr. Tyler reassures her on that point and continues driving down to the lakeside.
Mr. Ollis has in fact touched the box, which starts making staticky noises. Then zap!–he disappears. The birds on the lake fly off in alarm.
By the time Dr. Tyler gets out there, he finds the box alone. There’s no sign of the groundskeeper, whom he had glimpsed at a distance just a minute before. He phones UNIT HQ.
At the end of Part 2, Cambridge University science student Claire Keighley accidentally brought Professor Chronitis back from the dead by discovering and activating the controls for the Tardis that is his room at St. Cedd’s College.
Once he’s explained that much to her–not that she understands everything he’s saying about their present state of timelessness, he tells her:
“We must find Skagra. He has the book.”
Fortunately, Claire does know about the book, so this part isn’t completely bewildering to her. Chronotis continues to explain the situation:
Shada is the Time Lord’s prison planet, but they are conditioned to forget about it–which was why the Doctor couldn’t remember its name when he was talking about Salyavin earlier, but he knew what the name meant when he heard the professor’s dying words.
The book is the literally the key to Shada. It’s what you use to access it.
If Skagra is working with mind transference, says the professor, then he can only be going to Shada for one reason. The prisoner he wants is that Salyavin we’ve already heard about. He must be stopped.
Chronotis then boosts Claire’s intellect by entering her mind and “rearranging things,” as she later describes it, so she knows enough to help him get out of this timeless state and go after Skagra.
Over on his magnificent cartoon command ship, Skagra is explaining this to Romana. As they’re talking, he realizes that the Gallifreyan code the book is written in would have to have reference to Time, and he goes looking back through the Doctor’s memories for his last mention of Time.