Day: April 14, 2017

Doctor Who – tape 1511

It was a source of some surprise to me, as a longtime but casual viewer of Doctor Who since childhood, that I had quite a gap in my watching.

Not Hartnell and Troughton, I knew they were ‘before my time’ but it’s the hole in my Pertwee history that came as a surprise to me when I returned to the series as an adult.

Some of my earliest memories of Doctor Who were of the Autons, the animated shop window dummies first seen in Pertwee’s debut story Spearhead From Space. I remember that I used to call them ‘The Dollymen’. So for a very long time, I thought I must have started watching the show with that.

But as the BBC started releasing videos in the 80s, and then as UK Gold started doing their repeats, I realised I didn’t really know any of his first season. And my memory of even his second season is very shaky. Obviously, I must remember Terror of the Autons, as that’s where I must have got the Dollymen from. And I most definitely remember The Daemons, which traumatised me. But the stories in the middle obviously didn’t lodge in my brain, as I don’t really have strong memories of those, which includes this story, Colony in Space.

Part of the problem is that I still get this confused with Frontier in Space, which I read as a Target novelisation. But this is from Pertwee’s second season, his first with Katy Manning as Jo Grant, and they were my formative Doctor and Companion.

This episode starts with the cheapest Gallifrey set you can imagine, as the time lords discuss using the Doctor to help them get back a doomsday weapon from the Master.

Talking of cheap sets, one of the walls of the Tardis appears to simply be a blown up photograph of a Tardis wall.

This is also the first time Jo has been in the Tardis, which seems odd, given this is her fourth story. But the Doctor is still exiled to Earth by the Time Lords, so I guess it’s not as surprising as it might seem.

The Tardis dematerialization effect was also dirt cheap – a simple cut, not even a fade.

Maybe they spent the whole budget on this robot prop.

It certainly didn’t get anywhere near this alien design.

Oh look, one of the colonists is Gail Tilsley.

And at the end of episode one, the Doctor is menaced by one of those robots.

The robot is owned by a mining company, after the duralinium on the planet, but naturally, they have to get rid of the colonists. This might explain why the colonists are having trouble growing anything.

Apparently there are 100 billion people back on Earth – no wonder they need to ravage other planets.

The mining company really are the worst of capitalism, which is what you’d expect from a Malcolm Hulke episode.

There’s a lot of the typical being captured and escaping to fill up the episodes. Jo is captured by the ‘primitives’ who are the planet’s native population.

But everyone else is waiting for the Adjudicator to come and rule on whether the mining company can throw the colonists off the planet. The Adjudicator’s ship is another fairly terrible model shot, it’ painfully obvious that it’s being controlled by someone holding the wing and turning it. It looks like an Airfix kit painted red.

Jo meets the leader of the ‘primitives’.

Her reaction is to scream which seems odd given that he looks a lot like the others, only whiter. Also, their living space looks a lot more advanced than the colonists.

We finally get to meet the Adjudicator. I wonder if this reveal was a surprise, given that every story in this season has featured The Master, and the Time Lords at the start talked about him.

The Doctor and Jo meet another leader of the aliens, this one a little smaller.

It’s nice to see that teletypes have made a comeback in the 25th century. I especially like the way that they’ve overcome the technical limitation of teletypes not printing photographs by just pasting a photocopied picture onto the paper.

Having been forced off the planet by the colonists, after the Master has adjudicated on their behalf (and that only because the Doctor threatened to expose him) The Mining Company people find out the Master isn’t the real adjudicator, so they head back to the planet. God, this story is just so much back and forth, isn’t it?

The Doctor and Jo find the Master’s Tardis. I see he has exactly the same blown up roundels on his wall.

The Master captures them (again) and locks Jo in a tube, then forces the Doctor to take him to the aliens’ city, or he’ll flood the tube with poison gas.

But the Mining Corp men get into his Tardis while they are travelling, and try to rescue Jo, leading to this cliffhanger which is both prosaic and actually quite scary – a finger about to press a button.

In the final episode, the Doctor and the Master are taken into the aliens’ city. The Mining Corp get the upper hand (again) and force all the colonists to leave the planet on their own ship, which has already been established to be unreliable.

Still, it’s actually a big shock when the rocket takes off and blows up. That’s harsh.

The Master finds what he’s looking for – the super-weapon the aliens built centuries ago. It’s powerful enough to blow up a star.

The Master wants to rule the Cosmos, of course, and the Doctor doesn’t. But the alien leader appears and tells the Doctor to activate the self destruct. Which blows up the entire alien city (after the Doctor, Master and Jo escape of course). Seems very harsh on the aliens, and I wonder why they didn’t destroy it themselves a long time ago, if they’re happy to have it destroyed now.

Out of the city, our heroes are once again captured by the Mining Corp, and about to be executed, when suddenly the colonists appear and order the Mining Corp men to disarm. Hooray, they’re not dead after all.

I was hoping that this story would somehow pay lip service to the native people of the planet, and maybe the colonists and miners would both have to leave, but even in this mostly left wing story, colonial instincts supercede indigenous people, who are all handily wiped out at the end. Not the greatest message.

The tape ends right after this episode.

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