Doctor Who – tape 1791

Two more Doctor Who stories from the UK Gold repeats. The announcer has to explain that these episodes are earlier in the series than the last story they showed, which would put this just after State of Decay on a recent tape.

The first story here is Meglos. I think it’s about a cactus.

The Tardis lands on a planet the Doctor has visited before, Tigella. Our first glimpse of the Tigellans doesn’t fill me with confidence – platinum blonde wigs, padded sleeves and pointy shoulders, looks like the Doctor Who alien costume playbook is being followed to the letter.

Tigellans

There’s a small explosion, and one of the bewigged aliens needs some medical attention to his eyes. Tigellan medicine is so advanced that they can cure major eye damage using sherbet flying saucers.

Sherbet Saucers

There’s a clash between the scientific ‘savants’ and the religious segment of the population, represented by very special guest star Jacqueline Hill as Lexa. Hill was, as I’m sure most readers would know, one of the very first companions for the Doctor, as she played schoolteacher Barbara Wright.

Jacqueline Hill

Oddly, the plot of this show has one of the Tigellans being an old acquaintance of the Doctor, but it’s not Hill’s character Lexa, it’s another character,  Zastor, played by Edward Underdown, whose line delivery has a touch of the Hartnells about him. I don’t know why the show didn’t give that role to Hill, so it could at least have the meta fun of the Doctor recognising an old friend, played by an actual old friend of the show.

The Tigellans are arguing about something called the Dodecahedron, some kind of artefact that the savants think is engineered, but Lexa and her people say is a supernatural entity. “It descended from the heavens” she says, thus implying that they probably think rain is divine.

Now all of a sudden we’ve got a different set of aliens, once again delving into the BBC costume box and this time picking out furry helmets, probably leftover from The Ribos Operation.

Furry Leftovers

They’re there to ‘bring an Earthling to the screens of Zolfa Thura’. The reason for this is not being made clear. The Earthling doesn’t seem happy about it.

Earthling

A structure emerges from the desert, and the people enter to meet the last survivor of the planet, Meglos.

He’s a cactus.

Meglos

Meglos is after the Dodecahedron. The dialogue scenes between the cactus and the furry hat men is less visually interesting than the Adventure Game when the Rangdo was an aspidistra.

Thankfully, they eventually transfer Meglos into the handy Earthling they brought along. This is genuinely good makeup.

Human Meglos

He’s interrupted the Tigellan transmission to the Doctor. Is that meant to say “Date” and not “DATEB”?

Known as the Doctor

Meglos traps the Doctor and Romana in a Chronic Hysteresis. Some sort of time loop. Then he imitates  The Doctor himself.

He manages to steal the dodecahedron before the Doctor can escape from the loop, and naturally, when he does, the Tigellans think he stole their magical power source.

Romana’s still with the furry hatted people, running about on the surface of the planet where all the plants are deadly. And Lexa is going to sacrifice the Doctor by dropping a large rock on him.

Eventually, the Doctor gets out, and pretends to be Meglos to recover the dodecahedron, and all’s well, except for Lexa getting shot in a really badly directed sequence where she’s supposed to stop Romana getting killed, but the timing is really confused.

The next story is Full Circle, notable for being written by a fairly young fan of the series, Andrew Smith. The Doctor and Romana are summoned back to Gallifrey, and Romana’s not happy as she doesn’t want to give up travelling with the Doctor. But instead of ending up on Gallifrey, they land on a marshy planet with lots of young men running around in yellow pyjamas or something.

Pyjamas

There’s a big starliner on the planet, and the inhabitants are worried about something called mistfall.

One of the young men in yellow is Adric, and he’s told that mistfall is a myth. He finds his way into the Tardis.

And from the marshes, it all goes a bit Creature from the Black Lagoon.

Marshmen

On the starliner, we’ve got more BBC Costume shoulders.

More Shoulders

Romana is menaced by some of the young men in pyjamas who take over the Tardis (along with Adric). Then the Tardis is taken to a cave by the Marshmen.

K9 comes to find them (from the outside) and has his head knocked off by a marshman. I found this quite shocking.

K9 Head

One of the marshmen got into the starliner, and the Doctor tries to calm it down, as it seems very scared, only a child, but the men on the starliner hit the Doctor on the head and put the marshman in a net.

A spider scares off the marshmen from the Tardis – Romana says ‘They’re only spiders’ but they’re quite large, so the pyjama boys run back into the Tardis to leave Romana on her own with the spiders, one of which bites her. And Adric pushes the wrong button, making the Tardis dematerialise. Whatever happened to isomorphic controls?

Romana and a spider

The Tardis arrives on the starliner, to the relief of the Doctor, and when he finds Romana missing he goes back to the cave, where Romana is awake, but seems not to remember the Doctor.

I like this era of the show for its willingness to show other rooms in the Tardis.

Other Tardis Room

The spider venom seems to have adversely affected Romana, and she’s somehow linked to the young marshman that the locals want to dissect.

Bad reaction to spider venom

Suddenly the show kicks into gear, as the Doctor berates the starliner crew for their lack of moral leadership. He also reveals the great secret – that the starliner could lift off today, and that their society’s endless repeated circle of disassembly and reassembly is just a tactic to maintain the status quo. But the ‘deciders’ in charge have to admit that while they have all the manuals to explain how to maintain and repair the ship, the one thing their ancestors didn’t pass down was how to pilot the ship.

Then there’s the mystery of the marshmen, and their biology, and why Romana now seems to be working with them. The Doctor decides he needs to science the shit out of it.

Doctor Sciencing

The ultimate revelation is that the ship has been there for tens of thousands of generations, and the current crew are actually evolved marshmen. The Doctor leaves them with the restored flight manual, leaving them to explore for another planet to live on.

The Doctor and Romana return to the Tardis, and realise that they are in Exo-Space or E-Space. “We must have passed through a charged vacuum emboitment” says the Doctor, “one of the rarest phenomena in spacetime.”

 

Before the second episode of Meglos, there’s a very short extra programme, Gold Fillings, with a performance from Tommy Cooper, doing the “Glass, Bottle, Bottle, Glass” trick.

Before the second episode of Full Circle there’s a special trail for Blake’s 7 where the cast reminisce about the programme.

After the last episode, recording stops, and underneath there’s a bit of an old Bette Davis movie, Dark Victory. The tape stops after a bit of this.

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  • trail: Blake’s 7
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  • trail: Doctor Who – Warrior’s Gate
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