Dr. Who: The Daemons, Part 2

While Part 1 had a good set-up, with a stormy night, an archeological dig into an ancient longbarrow burial mound with the ominous name of the Devil’s Hump, and a Black Mass calling up something evil, but this second episode is where the daemons of the title really start to get out and around. The Master

Part 2 begins just where the first part ended; Mr. Magister (aka the Master), having successfully summoned up a certain powerful being, is shouting “Azael! Azael!” His cowering coven notice that the stone gargoyle in the corner of the cavern now has glowing red eyes.

Back at UNIT HQ, Mike Yates and Sergeant Benton are watching a rugby game on the office telly and realize they’ve missed the midnight archeology program about the opening of the Devil’s Hump longbarrow–which the Doctor had wanted to prevent. They switch channels to try to catch the end of the show, and the first thing they see is Jo sobbing over the supine and frosty form of the Doctor. The transmission breaks off.

The two men first attempt to contact the Brigadier, who’s out for the evening dining in his dress uniform. When they can’t get hold of him,  they decide to head for the village of Devil’s End themselves.

The Doctor has been frozen by the blast of snow and icy wind that emerged from the Devil’s Hump barrow once Professor Horner opened it. I assume the professor was killed by the same blast, since we never hear another word about him. Other people who were a little bit farther from the opening seem to have survived.

The village doctor gently tells the sobbing Jo that her Doctor is indeed dead–but before he can turn into Tom Baker ahead of schedule, a faint pulse is detected. The small-d doctor is confused by what sounds like two heartbeats in his patient’s chest, but he has the Doctor conveyed to a bed in one of the rooms at the Cloven Hoof to be thawed out.

BokThe television news team at the barrow site swiftly pack up their gear, eager to get away. After they depart, we see a pair of larger red eyes glowing in the dark from within the barrow.

In the morning, even though his coven has gone, the Master is still down in the cavern below the church quietly praying. I take it that his duties as parish vicar don’t require him to do any morning services up in the church. As if in response to his prayers, some very large creature we don’t see comes stomping out; it casts its shadow over the hapless constable, who was sitting on guard at the gate of the barrow field.
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Dr. Who: The Daemons, Part 1

While I did first see Doctor Who during the early part of Jon Pertwee’s run, those episodes that involve UNIT fighting off various alien invasions of Earth never engaged me very much. They still don’t–apart from this one.

What makes this particular story stand out for me is that its alien invasion is dressed up as a Hammer-type horror movie. Its setting in an English country village and the trappings of witchcraft throughout the story evoke films like The Witches and The Wicker Man. And yet, in the end, the film it’s most closely related to turns out to be Nigel Kneale’s Quatermass and the Pit.

The Daemons

This first episode of The Daemons begins on a dark and stormy night in a village called Devil’s End (actually, Aldbourne in Wiltshire). We get close-ups of a toad watching from the underbrush, a cat peeking out from shelter, and something black and slinky crawling along beside the road (actually, it’s a furry hat pulled on a string). A man is leaving the local pub, the Cloven Hoof, with his dog, when the dog breaks free of its leash and chases the creature up into the churchyard. The man follows it there, where he sees something horrible.

The man is found dead the next morning. The village doctor tells a concerned middle-aged lady dressed in a cloak belonging to Margaret Rutherford that the death was caused by a heart attack, but the lady, Miss Hawthorne (Damaris Hayman), vehemently disagrees. She sees it as part of something more dark and disastrous that’s going on.

“The signs are there for all to see,” she insists. “I cast the runes this morning!”

At UNIT HQ, the Doctor and his assistant Jo March (Katy Manning) are debating the central theme of this story: science versus superstition. Jo is very much an Age of Aquarius girl. The Doctor doesn’t believe in the supernatural, but is certain that there are always scientific explanations for phenomena that aren’t yet understood.  He despairs of ever making a scientist of her.

As a demonstration, he shows her and Captain Mike Yates some “magic” by making his car Bessie start up and drive around the garage yard by herself. The two are astonished, until the Doctor reveals that he’s doing it all via a remote-control device in his coat pocket. Did they really think that it could be anything else?

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The Paternoster Gang: Heritage 2

This second audio-drama boxed set from Big Finish carries on the adventures of detective Madame Vastra and her assistants as presented in The Paternoster Gang: Heritage 1.

The Paternoster Gang: Heritage 2

Dining With Death

The first episode is noteworthy in that it’s written by Dan Starkey, who plays Strax.

Even back in the 1890s, Earth was a common meeting-place for various aliens, being both an out-of-the-way galactic backwater and neutral territory. When representatives of two great empires, attempting to negotiate a peace settlement, are blown up along with half the restaurant where they were having dinner, Madame Vastra ends up agreeing to act as a facilitator for further diplomatic talks–which will take place at her home.

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The Paternoster Gang: Heritage 1

The Paternoster Gang

Madame Vastra, the prehistoric Silurian lizard-lady and Victorian detective, made her initial appearance on Doctor Who along with her cheeky Cockney wife Jenny and the battle-loving but lovable Sontaran Strax in the episode A Good Man Goes to War. We first meet them as old friends of the Doctor’s, which for a long time led me to believe I’d missed an important episode.

The trio appeared in several subsequent episodes during Matt Smith’s run as the Doctor, as well as in Peter Capaldi’s introductory story. I know I wasn’t the only fan who wanted them to have their own spinoff series, solving bizarre mysteries on the gaslight streets of 1890s London, but a period costume drama with science-fiction style special effects, plus two of the three stars in heavy alien makeup every week was more than the BBC was willing to budget for.

But these expensive production difficulties disappear with audio drama. Big Finish has done four boxed sets of stories under the title of “Heritage,” featuring Neve McIntosh, Dan Starkey, and Catrin Stewart as Vastra and her companions. The first set contains three adventures and a bonus disk.

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The Whisperer in Darkness

Sketch of a Mi-Go on Round HillOne 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.

Akeley and WilmarthWilmarth’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.

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The Five Doctors, Part 4

The conclusion, with spoilers.

DoctorsThree 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).

Cyber-bombs

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”

The Five Doctors, Part 3

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.

The Tower

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.

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The Five Doctors, Part 2

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.

Tardis Tea Party

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.  Above, between, or belowDr 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!

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The Five Doctors, Part 1

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.

Four Doctors

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.

First Doctor's farewellTo 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.

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The Three Doctors, Part 4

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.

Driving BessieMeanwhile, 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.”

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