The Doctor Who Companion

Get your daily fix of news, reviews, and features with the Doctor Who Companion!

Reviewed: Doctor Who Season 4 – Die A Hero

There’s a line said by Polly Wright (Anneke Wills) in The Faceless Ones, her and Ben Jackson’s (Michael Craze) last serial, which particularly sticks in the mind: “You don’t think my friends will forget me like that, do you?”

It’s a fair concern: the last companion to leave, Dodo (Jackie Lane), was kicked off stage quite unceremoniously in The War Machines (1966), Polly and Ben’s introductory tale. What would be the fate of that swinging Sixties girl and her cheeky, cockney, sailor friend?

The question feels more pertinent in this age, now we know the fate of much of Ben and Polly’s time on the TARDIS – missing from the BBC archives, leaving fans to enjoy their tales through novelisations and narrated soundtracks. The Patrick Troughton era is particularly rife with this problem: swathes of Seasons 4, 5, and 6 are devastated, although Hartnell’s Season 3 has also been unfairly massacred. Many know about this tragedy; fewer know that all the original tapes were wiped by one man, who, for the purposes of this piece, wants only to be identified as “G. Leopold.” No, wait, that’s too obvious; we’ll just call him “Guy”.

The DWC was lucky enough to catch up with Guy and ask him about his careless disregard for The Precious. We urge fans not to find his home, a perpetually-burning church in the village of Devil’s End, and badger him relentlessly for the damage he’s caused. Email in if you want his postcode.

DWC: Good morning, Guy. Thanks for joining us.

GUY: Morning. Always a pleasure.

So, Guy, why do you hate Doctor Who so much?

What? I—

And tell us, why do you have such a deep-seated hatred for the show’s fans?

I don’t know what you mean!

History demonstrates otherwise, Mr Leopold.

I—I’m not being treated like this.

Yes, you are. Look, we’re treating you like this right now. So please tell us, why did you scrap all those tapes?

It was BBC policy!

Oh, following orders, eh?

Well, actually, yes. Look, back then, we didn’t know they’d be useful for the future. We didn’t know Doctor Who would have such a fanbase –

You didn’t know… by Season 4?! I find that very hard to believe.

Believe it. Doctor Who was popular, but at that stage, the show was on rocky ground. The BBC wanted to continue, but the lead man wasn’t up to it. Gerry Davis and Kit Pedlar –

You spelled “Pedler” wrong.

You’re writing up this interview.

Ah yes.

Decisions were made so late in the day, the writers of The Tenth Planet – Kit Pedler and Gerry Davis – drafted a conclusion in which the Doctor didn’t regenerate. That’s how close the call was made. But [William] Hartnell was too ill to carry on. I hear he went home, stood by his fireplace, and told his wife, “I don’t want to go”, echoing the sentiments of the tenth incarnation of the Doctor. Very ahead of his time, our Bill.

Regardless, the programme’s future was uncertain. And Aunty Beeb couldn’t foresee a time when they could repeat serials. Plus they were trying to save money, so reused reels. Tapes were damned expensive!

Don’t I know it? I had to sell my video player just to buy Revenge of the Cybermen on VHS back in 1983. Still haven’t watched it, mind.

So those films had to go. We either reused them or threw them in a skip out back. It was heart-breaking getting rid of Hartnell’s regeneration, the first story with Jamie McCrimmon [played by Frazer Hines], and what was thought to be the last appearance of the Daleks.

Ah yes, Power of the Daleks.

The Evil of the Daleks.

Just testing. This is very strange, Mr Guy – you have such a knowledge of Doctor Who that one might presume either you have access to the internet or are indeed a fanatic.

I am a fan.

In what way do you resemble a means of keeping oneself cool?

No, I mean, I love Doctor Who.

… Are… Are you saying…? Are you saying you didn’t junk the episodes after all and have instead been keeping them in your attic, hidden for decades, so you can sell them on for enormous profit and use said profit to buy a small island in the Pacific, where you intend to live out your days high on drugs, listening to rock ‘n’ roll, and surrounded by top-shelf prostitutes?

That’s exactly what I’m saying.

Can I come too?



But, if you wish, I will share my thoughts on each Doctor Who serial, including the ones I’ve allowed the general public to see already through the medium of digital versatile discs.

Nah, you’re alright, mate.

How about just Season 4? It’s one of my favourites.

I’m parked on a meter.

You arrived in an Uber.

Tell me about Season 4.


Shall we start at the beginning?

No, let’s start at the end.

There’s no need for that sort of cheek.

I mean, let’s start at the end of the Hartnell era. Season 4 was a transitionary period, starting with The Smugglers, going onto The Tenth Planet, then welcoming in the Second Doctor, played by Patrick Troughton, himself played by Reece Shearsmith.

I loved him in P.R.O.B.E.

Are you still here?

I’m here to prompt you, to ask the important questions. By the way, have you got any biscuits?

The Smugglers

I’ve a soft spot for historicals, and this one is particularly neat because it ties into The Curse of the Black Spot (2011) as the titular Smugglers are searching for the lost treasure of Captain Henry Avery. What are you smirking about?

You said “titular”. Heh.

Anyway, this serial must’ve felt like such a breath of fresh air. Doctor Who had done location filming before – the first time in The Reign of Terror (1964), and the previous season finale, The War Machines, was set in contemporary London – but The Smugglers moves to the gorgeous environs of Cornwall.

It’s interesting, actually, that this season feels so preoccupied with holidays. This serial’s setting is a break from the alien planets and city landscapes; because a few previous historicals were shot in studio, the scope of the Cornish vistas is really refreshing and feels altogether very different. Then, later on this season, we get The Macra Terror (essentially a riff on holiday camps) and The Faceless Ones – literally set at an airport! It’s possibly an allegory about transitions: going on holiday should, in theory, reawaken you, revive you, give you a new lease on life. I’m not sure it always does; to me, holidays can really tire you out. Nonetheless, there’s a glorious confidence to this production team, almost as if they’re all in the holiday spirit. No doubt it belies a nervousness about all these changes, but it doesn’t come across at all. This is a show that feels very sure of itself. It’s joyous to experience.

It’s ironic, then, that this was the serial during which it became clear Hartnell couldn’t continue.

That seems very late in the day.

It does feel that way: Hartnell leaves in the very next serial. But The Smugglers was filmed as the last production of Season 3, held over to start the new series, so I guess that accounts for it. There had been months of negotiations, but it was during this shoot that the producer, Innes Lloyd decided not to renew his contract. We don’t know if Hartnell’s contract extended to The Tenth Planet or whether he agreed to do one final adventure before stepping down from the role. As a version of Tenth Planet exists without a regeneration, I suspect the former.

Still, William remains a core part of The Smugglers: he’s not pushed to one side and forgotten about, in favour of the two new leads who are content to bound around the stunning landscape.

And wow, this must’ve looked beautiful. It was the first time Doctor Who had shot on location so extensively, and it really pays off. In fact, it’s a rare Doctor Who which doesn’t even have incidental music. Instead, you get the roaring, cavernous rush of the coast filling your ears. Windswept and interesting, indeed. It looks so different to anything Doctor Who has done before… or since, actually.

Unfortunately, this must be one of the least-viewed storylines in Doctor Who history – not only did it achieve an average of 4.48 million viewers per episode, the lowest audience figure since Doctor Who‘s beginning (a record it held until The Trial of a Time Lord), but it’s also missing, meaning generations haven’t been able to see it.

That’s right – we’re all waiting for you to sell them back to the BBC.

At least you’ve got a few surviving clips. The Australian Broadcasting Corporation edited out some of the more violent scenes, so these exist, and the episodes themselves were scrapped. It is a surprisingly violent tale, making for a tense 4-parter. It’s a strange phenomenon: historical storylines often feel more “raw”, more threatening. Perhaps some of the comedy in similar tales comes from a release of tension; The Smugglers rarely does this. It’s not a gag-a-minute serial. It’s a runaround, akin to Shakespeare.

Shakespeare? Really?

Absolutely. The mistaken identity trope is a core feature in comedies and tragedies by Ol’ Shakey, and in Doctor Who historicals.

There is some levity, of course, and much of this is due to Ben and Polly taking their first trip in the TARDIS. Ben, foreshadowing his scepticism towards the Second Doctor in the upcoming Power of the Daleks, doesn’t believe the Doctor’s taken them back to the 17th Century. Polly puts on an approximation of the Cornish accent as well: a developing theme, I promise. Admittedly, it’s frustrating that Polly is the only woman in the serial – and she’s confused with a boy.


Your guess is as good as mine. She comments, “I do wish everybody would stop calling me ‘lad’.” Her own resentment at this rears its head in The Highlanders.

But that’s a minor niggle in an otherwise enjoyable, if dark, production. It’s grittier than you may expect from a show which, the previous season, gave us the ridiculousness of The Myth Makers (1965), The Ark, and The Gunfighters (both 1966). The cast and location carries the whole, pulling you along so you’re not too weighed down with the seriousness of the situation.

It seems an obvious comparison purely due to the environs, but The Smugglers is a lot like Poldark. Everything looks stunning, but there’s a dangerous undercurrent.

I guess it prepares you nicely for the next story. A modern audience knows regeneration is imminent; back in 1966, though, the rug was about to be pulled from underneath the general public.

The Tenth Planet

What I think is particularly interesting about The Tenth Planet is how iconic it now is, yet the Doctor is basically sidelined throughout. Yes, it’s through necessity, but this is the first regeneration story! He should be front and centre! One last hurrah! Okay, so regeneration wasn’t even “a thing” back then, but you’d think they’d give Hartnell a celebratory send-off. Instead, it’s as if John Wiles had written it. In fact, people criticise Dark Water/ Death in Heaven (2014) because the Doctor doesn’t do anything, but the same is true of The Tenth Planet. His advice is, essentially, wait and see what happens. He tells everyone that Mondas can’t handle the energy drain, and sure enough, it can’t. Boom. Goodbye, Cybermen.

Still, Hartnell does enjoy some great interactions with the Cybermen, notably that “love, pride, hate, fear: have you no emotions, sir?” speech. It’s like a William Hartnell microcosm. In just a few words, he’s cheeky and charming, crusty and angsty, but, as An Adventure in Space and Time points out nearly 50 years later, “with a twinkle”. The First Doctor gets a lot of grief for having a hard-outer-shell (though it’s frequently pierced, particularly when he’s with Susan or Vicki); detractors should watch The Tenth Planet because you can see why he’s such a good leading man.

The overall narrative of the first three seasons, it can be argued, are about the Doctor turning into a hero. He properly embraces this aspect of himself by The War Machines: his standing up to the robots is a marked difference from the guy who tried to bash in a caveman’s skull or who hid the TARDIS fluid link so he could get his own way. Ironically, however, for The Tenth Planet, he’s a hero who nonetheless reverts back to his old superiority. He tells the Cybermen their plan will go wrong, then it does. It really is that simple. It’s an interesting thing because that streak runs throughout Doctor Who: the Time Lord always knows best. He’s a hero, but an arrogant one; one with blinking vision; a self-centred one.

A flawed hero. That’s what makes him a hero, don’t you think?

I’m not sure I’d—

It was rhetorical.

Oh. Okay, so if you say The Tenth Planet is so simple, why is it so iconic?

There are a few reasons, I think. The first is obviously the regeneration. It must’ve been so bizarre back then. It genuinely was a show pushing itself to the limit, beyond what any other franchise had ever done before… or potentially since. James Bond gives it a shot, but doesn’t quite go so far as saying everything that’s happened is one long narrative. It’s up to you to decide whether Daniel Craig is the same guy as Pierce Brosnan. You don’t know whether the codenames are assigned to different people who then “become” Bond or what the heck’s happening.

Other shows have replaced their main characters, of course. They do it all the time. Doctor Who, though, establishes that Troughton, the Bakers, Pertwee, Davison, and everyone else are all the same person. They’re all Hartnell. Rather wonderful, that.

And what a regeneration! The effect is better than most that has come since. The overexposure certainly works better than McCoy’s stretchy face or Capaldi’s wonky burst of lightning.

Secondly, it’s the debut of the Cybermen, and they’re genuinely wonderful. Creepy as you like. I love that they’ve had something of a renaissance recently. For quite some time, they were a joke: people were laughing about their cloth faces, compared to the robotic makeovers (later this season, in fact). But their original appearance was like a walking body bag! How horrific is that? It means they’re different from other sci-fi races – they’re not robots or traditional cyborgs. They’re us with all our organs stripped away and replaced. There’s those gaping eyes, screaming mouth, massive chest unit, steady gait, circular strips of metal around their joints as if holding them together, and the hands. The fleshy hands. Brrr. No wonder they were brought back so swiftly.

Then there’s the location. The South Pole, 1986. It looks so radically different from anything that’s come before. It’s a startling place to set this story: it’s brave and adventurous and perilous. Season 4 is especially good at varying settings. Cornwall one week; Antarctica the next; and after that, the rocky, volcanic terrain of Vulcan.

The Star Trek planet?

The Tenth Planet has a simple plot, but simplicity isn’t something we should shirk from. We should embrace it.

And Doctor Who was getting pretty complicated…

The Power of the Daleks

Changing the face of the lead guy is complicated. It could’ve changed everything. Some would argue that it did. It certainly changed the future of Doctor Who: before, it was finite. After The Tenth Planet, it became potentially infinite.

Regeneration also tells kids one simple thing that acts as the basis of most hero tales: “you can be the hero too.” One day, a kid growing up watching the show could be the Doctor. Indeed, a few have been – Peter Davison, for example, loved the Second Doctor era; David Tennant was so passionate about Terror of the Zygons (1975), they brought the shape-shifters back for The Day of the Doctor; and Peter Capaldi used to bug the production team with questions when he was a child. Heroes, Doctor Who tells us, come in many shapes and sizes.

Innes Lloyd, Gerry Davis, and everyone else working behind-the-scenes didn’t fold under the weight of the series, and writers, David Whitaker and Dennis Spooner gave us an assured and fearless version of Doctor Who. One of the best Doctor debuts, I’d argue.

Go on then.

Go on, what?

Argue it’s one of the best Doctor debuts.

Well… Well, it is. Again, it’s simple, and that’s to its benefit. It gives the audience all they want: a brilliant Doctor, sure of himself already but still mercurial, standoffish, and silly; Daleks, en masse, being devious and terrifying; companions who aren’t afraid to get stuck in; and a decent pace. The mechanics of shifting all the players around like an elaborate chess game – all the underhandedness and political movers and shakers trying to use spiralling circumstances to their advantage… It’s rather Shakespearian.

That’s two allusions to the Bard in 3 stories. Are you trying to prove something?

You’re the one who called him “the Bard” and said, “allusions”.

As a 6-part serial, The Power of the Daleks fills its screen-time admirably, but it could equally do with having one episode shaved off. Still, you can never have too many Daleks – as we’ll see later this season – and they result in some of the best cliffhangers of the era. The Daleks claim a number of great episode endings actually: there’s the sink plunger heading for Barbara in The Daleks (1963- 64); the one emerging from the Thames in The Dalek Invasion of Earth (1964); the Doctor explaining to his companions that “the Daleks have won” in The Daleks’ Master Plan (1965)…

In The Power of the Daleks, every single cliffhanger is inspired. The Doctor introduces Ben and Polly to the dormant Daleks. A Dalek claims to be humanity’s servant. Daleks enthuses about getting their power, hinting at a full-scale takeover. Lesterson (Robert James) discovers the Dalek production line. “Daleks conquer and destroy!”

Plus, the final scene of Power: a seemingly-destroyed Dalek moving its eyestalk.

The Power of the Daleks remains one of the strongest Dalek adventures in the programme’s long history. It has a wealth of competition, of course, including from a story later this very season.

But before all that, let’s take to Scotland, shall we?

Oh crikey. I thought the highland invasion started with Steven Moffat…

The Highlanders

Creag an tuire!

There’s no need for that sort of language.

This is a season for endings – this serial is the final historical.

What about Black Orchid (1982)?

Oh, be quiet.

So this is the last proper, actual, pure historical, based loosely on real events, in this case the Jacobite uprising following the Battle of Culloden in 1745. You’d be forgiven for thinking this wasn’t such a big event, however, because Gerry Davis and Elwyn Jones (the latter of whom gets co-writing credit, but only really came up with the plot, not actually touching the script) don’t treat this as an educational trip.

Sydney Newman would be spitting feathers.

Well, to be fair to them, the story pays lip service to historic fact. It tries its best. But it comes across as a bit of a muddle. Perhaps Davis had a lot on his plate. Nonetheless, the narrative itself is great, and you’re not hindered by a potential lack of detailed knowledge on the subject. You quickly get the gist that some Scots are kicking off and they don’t seem to like the monarchy very much. The Laird, Colin McLaren (Donald Bisset) is the 18th Century Nicola Sturgeon.

As it is, The Highlanders is indicative of the historicals. This last vestige of an era is a perfect summation of it all. Even it being inaccurate puts it in line with other questionable serials like The Romans (1965) and The Gunfighters, both of which I really enjoy; yes, despite The Ballad of the Last Chance Saloon –

So fill up your glasses/ And join in the song/ The law’s right behind you/ And it won’t take long…

My point is, I like those two stories, but they take “artistic interpretation” to new heights. The Highlanders doesn’t fall off the proverbial wagon quite so spectacularly in those regards.

Did you say “wagon”? You know what this means? So it’s curtains for Charlie/ That barman of fame/ He met Johnny Ringo/ And he knew Johnny’s name…

Urge to kill, rising.

The Highlanders also blends together serious material with the utterly ridiculous. The Doctor is the main source of the latter. And oh boy, Troughton is on fire. There’s something quite Seventh Doctor about him. Or, indeed, there’s something Second Doctor about Sylvester McCoy.

The Time Lord does love fancy dress, and Patrick goes one further by putting on a dodgy German accent. You’d be forgiven for thinking the Second Doctor had remembered his childhood friend’s penchant for dressing up and said, “I’ll be having some of that, Master.” Some will no doubt shout “hide your shame” at this serial and throw it in with The Talons of Weng-Chiang (1977), The Tomb of the Cybermen (1967), and The Celestial Toymaker (1966). But he’s having a laugh, the audience is having a laugh, and it’s incredibly daft. Not the daftest thing in Season 4 (we’re coming to The Underwater Menace, don’t worry), but still a bit skewed. I’m still not quite sure why the Doctor does it. Mind you, if we’re talking about potentially offensive accents, how about David Tennant pretending to be a Cockerneee in every episode except some of Tooth and Claw (2006)?! Heck, The Highlanders is rife with cringe-inducing accents. Don’t blame Troughton for wanting to join in the fun.

And it is fun! It’s all smiles and light-heartedness until the excrement hits the fan. There’s the threat of the noose and talk of slave labour (again, respectively recalling The Gunfighters and The Romans). The cliffhanger to Part 2 is particularly grim. Ben and Jamie are stuck on a ship and are informed by Trask (Dallas Cavell) that the only way off the Annabelle is “straight downwards, ooh-arr” – and someone in a body bag is slid off the plank. The whole thing has a similar air as The Reign of Terror (1964) or The Massacre of St. Bartholomew’s Eve (1966). You further get the feel of a great voyage, not quite akin to Marco Polo (1964), but the potential’s there, and it moves along at a steady pace.

Ben gets a fair amount to do, showing off his sailor skills, and it’s a welcome introduction for Jamie. The crew melds together quickly: at one stage, they could just leave the young piper behind, but they stick around for him, and his place on the TARDIS is assured without much of a fuss. He’s naturally sceptical of them, especially at such a critical time where allegiances were rocky at best. They nevertheless come together, making for an upbeat conclusion.

They all have their time to shine though. Polly proves gutsy and dependable; I especially enjoy how she deftly blackmails Lt. Algernon Ffinch (Michael Elwyn) and spends the rest of the serial calling him “Algy dear.” It’s a great reversal of power.

Mind you, she is needlessly and uncharacteristically cruel to Kirsty (Hannah Gordon) in Part 1, admonishing her, “You’re just a stupid peasant.” She probably trying to get her to spring into action and help, but it doesn’t sit levelly with what we already know about Polly.

The Doctor, however, fares much better. He’s witty and wicked. He’s already nailed who his Doctor is (though, admittedly, he does tweak his performance throughout his tenure), and it’s marvellous. When he’s asked why they’ve not tried bloodletting the ailing Laird, he replies that “the bloodletting must wait until Taurus is in the ascendant.” The best scene involves him blindsiding Perkins (Sydney Arnold): the Doctor asks if he gets headaches. No, Perkins doesn’t. So the Doctor bangs his head to the desk and asks again. “Me head does ache,” Perkins relents. “Of course,” the Doctor retorts, “what do you expect?”

It means that The Highlanders isn’t as dour as The Reign of Terror, as silly as The Myth Makers, or, sadly, as wonderful as The Aztecs (1964), but it does have a lot going for it. It’s well worth listening to.

The Underwater Menace

Ah yes, I know this one. They found another episode of it a few years ago and the BBC begrudgingly released it on DVD in a shoddy rush job using telesnaps but no narration and few directions, meaning fans would have to watch a still picture and a silent soundtrack for a while until something actually happened.

I feel you’re still bitter.

Very much so. I still bought the DVD, though all the reviews said it was rubbish. And this is such a ridiculous story.

Oh, utterly ridiculous. But that’s okay – Doctor Who often is. In among The Caves of Androzani (1984), Robots of Death (1977), and The Waters of Mars (2007), you get silly Who, and that’s a key ingredient of the programme. Doctor Who takes itself seriously, but some of the stories full of pomp, the ones that try to say something important and be relevant and thought-provoking, are, indeed, just ridiculous. Look at Kill the Moon (2014)!

I’d rather not.

This is Doctor Who as a cartoon, and I don’t say that to degrade cartoons. What I mean is, it has all the elements of a solid Doctor Who tale – a nutty scientist, a mythical city, mysterious creatures – but it still has an “otherness” about it. An alien quality. It should feel like normal territory, but it’s not, which is a bizarre phenomenon. The only other show I can think of that could get away with this level of lunacy is a cartoon, where normal rules need not apply.

Eccentricity courses through the blood of Doctor Who, and The Underwater Menace takes it to the Nth degree. That should make it enjoyable, but it’s mired in familiar tropes: authorities don’t take the Doctor seriously, there’s a lot of running about and hiding and delayed executions, and then they all wish they’d taken the Doctor at his word; fortunately, he still saves the day. That could apply to any number of other serials, and the series gets away with it most of the time. Here, though, it mixes with a confused narrative to produce a below-par story.

In some ways, The Underwater Menace is like a historical: you can easily compare it to The Aztecs or The Reign of Terror. But it should be a different beast. It should be fantastical. It should be closer to, say, The Time Meddler (1965) – a pseudohistorical tale that captures an era but evokes excitement because its trappings are so different to anything that surrounds it. We’ve not even mentioned the Fish People, gliding about on wires and applying lipstick in a haphazard fashion. That’s partly because they’re not in the story much. They seem to be there to tick a box. It’s as if someone specifically asked Geoffrey Orme to include a monster. The Fish People are there purely for a visual, and whether that’s a good or bad thing is debateable. Again, without them, it’d bear an even stronger resemblance to a historical.

In fact, the nearest Doctor Who ever gets to replicating the outlandishness of The Underwater Menace is, appropriately, The Time Monster (1972), another story which examines the destruction of Atlantis… and similarly plagued by questionable costume design.

The costumes vary wildly. Sandra Reid and Juanita Waterson (in her only Doctor Who credit) deliver some clever designs, ideal for the settings, and while many are nicely realised, others are lost in the execution. There are Roman or Greek-esque looks (i.e. actors are draped in bed sheets), spliced with kooky hats and swimsuits. Look at what Lolem (Peter Stephens) and Ramo (Tom Watson) have on their heads though. You can see the smart designs itching to break through, to be appreciated, but instead, they look absurd. It’s a real shame. Ara (Catherine Howe) comes out of it with the most dignity. The “shell-suits” are a neat idea and her headgear isn’t too distracting.

There nonetheless remains plenty to enjoy, much of it delivered by Troughton. One particularly pleasing reversal of expectations comes when the Doctor explains Zaroff’s (Joseph Fürst) plan in Part 2: to the priest, whose beliefs are surely more bent towards things not easily quantified, he demonstrates a scientific experiment, heating a flask of water up until it explodes. To the leader of Atlantis, who you’d expect to have a rationed, arguably scientific mind, the Doctor’s first line of appeal is about something abstract: how Zaroff’s eyes show his insanity. It’s a neat blurring between science and religion, showing that they’re not mutually exclusive (and that one’s mind can be clouded, no matter their rank and belief system).

Fürst, Watson, and Stephens all give decent performances – Fürst, admittedly, a pantomime villain, but not reaching the hammy style of Graham Crowden in The Horns of Nimon (1979- 80), so he treads the line. All in all, there’s a good cast here. None of them seem to be put off by the ludicrous production.

Perhaps its biggest crime is that it feels studio-bound. There’s little scale to it, despite the threat to the entire world and promise of a grand, sprawling city of Atlantis. It’s cramped and uncomfortable. It doesn’t have to be that way. The next tale, for instance, is a base-under-siege that appears crowded when it needs to, and vaster when cutting to the moon’s surface…

The Moonbase

Next, we’re onto The Moonbase, a story sadly overlooked; admittedly, it pales in comparison to The Tomb of the Cybermen, but there’s a lot to love here – and, as it’s their second appearance, it properly cements the Cybermen as a credible, recurring threat. They get a makeover that’s the basis of subsequently designs. Sure, the handles were there in The Tenth Planet, and the voice was creepy, but this new sleek “metallic” look works really well and is a massive leap forward in design. Their voices are different and again it’s the foundation for the robotic voices of today.

They’re scary too! Despite the table wobbling as it gets up, the cliffhanger to Part 2 is wonderful. The Cyberman suddenly unveils itself as the Doctor realises how the race are hiding among them – “Did your men search in here?”, the Time Lord asks, a horrible realisation settling into his brow. Troughton delivers this beautifully, which is no surprise. He’s humourous when he needs to be, and deadly serious the next minute. He’s worried, reasonable, unreasonable, and care-free, all at the same time. If you want to see Patrick at the height of his powers, The Moonbase is definitely a strong candidate. Although, really, there are very few stories where he’s not the best of the best. I return to the assertion that he – alongside the other TARDIS team members – elevate all the material; the good and the bad. Everything is better because the Second Doctor is there.

And this season sure is barmy. The Moonbase doesn’t descend into Underwater Menace levels of lunacy, but it has its moments. The airtight tray is one of them, sealing a hole in a flimsy dome. The logic behind the flimsy dome itself is questionable. Nationalities are presented as caricatures. As the Cybermen are flung into space, the sound effect is hilariously anticlimactic. Numerous scenes could be enhanced with the Benny Hill theme tune.

Still, each of these things are charming in their own ways. There’s a naïve optimism about our voyage into space, and yes, the dome being so easily attacked is a design flaw but stamp “MADE IN BIRMINGHAM” somewhere and you’d believe it.

You filthy racist.

Plus, we don’t know what weapons the Cybermen are using. It’s not like they went up to the dome with a fork, poked at it, and it slowly started deflating like a bouncy castle. The air escaping isn’t accompanied by the sound of flatulence or anything. Honestly, if that offends you as a fan, Doctor Who probably isn’t for you. As for the tray sealing the hole… It is wince-inducing. I’m no scientist, but I’m pretty sure it wouldn’t work because trays have imperfections meaning they’re not airtight. But this is the future – maybe instead of solving world hunger, societies turned their attentions to making high-quality plastics.

True, the various crewmembers might as well have “ITALIAN” or “DANISH” plastered onto their foreheads, Benoit (Andre Maranne) could easily have walked around with a garlic necklace and a baguette in his hand, but such stereotypes do their job. They’re not judgemental or needlessly harsh. They’re well-intentioned. The Moonbase posits that, in the future, we’ll all work together for the greater good of mankind, and that’s brilliant. Again, it’s naïve optimism in action, and I love that.

The caricatures also show that, even unified, everyone is different and that’s a good thing – a perfect juxtaposition with the Cybermen.

It’s TV shorthand: the audience doesn’t need to do much work to remember these people, differentiate them, and identify them. That means you’re not sat there thinking, “which one have the Cybermen converted now?” You just know these characters and quickly grow to like them. Yes, even crusty Hobson (Patrick Barr). Characters who instantly set themselves at odds with the Doctor and co. are often hard to sympathise with, but Barr treads the line well. He’s naturally untrusting; it doesn’t feel forced. In fact, part of you thinks he quite likes the Doctor – he at least lets him get away with a lot. Hobson threatens to throw them out onto the lunar surface, but he shows considerable leniency.

It’s promising that the Doctor is this charming and likeable so early on in this incarnation. It’s also a testament to the brilliance of Patrick Troughton. We’re so lucky to have him.

The Macra Terror

Ooh, they animated this one!

Yes, so I heard. It’s quite a shame, however. If there’s any missing serial that should remain unseen, it’s The Macra Terror – not because it’s bad.Far from it. But the soundtrack is so mysterious and genuinely creepy. You don’t need visuals.

Isn’t this one in the attic too?

Yes, but I fell asleep.

Publicity Shot from The Macra Terror

There’s probably a joke to be made about crabs here, isn’t there?

Would you like some cider?

I’m already off my face, pal. Best let the G&Ts settle or my AA group are gonna be really disappointed in me. Bunch of holier-than-thou’s.

The Macra themselves admittedly aren’t realised quite so spectacularly as a modern audience might expect – certainly anyone who’s seen their return in Gridlock (2007) – but in 1967, they were excellent. These big, monstrous beasties, lurking about a human colony and controlling the citizens. Director, John Davies approaches them in a smart manner: they’re the unknown creatures in the dark.

I think Ben being taken over by them is particularly effective. He’s such a strong character otherwise, and his loyalty to the Doctor and his fellow companions has always shone through.

Actually, if there’s an unsung hero of the era, it’s Michael Craze. He’s an incredible actor: nuanced and magnetic. He’s a very likeable chap, and never falters. Even if he’s surrounded by dodgy actors in dodgier costumes reading out even dodgier lines, Craze is a professional through and through, and manages to drag the whole production up to a better standard. Indeed, it’s often down to him, Troughton, Wills, and Hines to make some serials watchable.

And that’s just it: there’s not a serial this entire season that isn’t extremely watchable. Most of the stories are really solid anyway, but when they fall short – I’m looking at you, Underwater Menace – you want to experience them anyway because you want to spend more time with this TARDIS team.

And where does The Macra Terror fall? Is it solely watchable for Ben and co.?

No, no, I just went off at a tangent, sorry.

You shouldn’t do that. This is a professional thing. I remember talking to Mark Gatiss about tangents, and he recalled a time he was chatting to Steven Moffat about Doctor Who Magazine. Y’know what really annoys me about that? They change the size of the magazine! Have you picked one up? Altered them again. I stack them up neatly and now they look like the leaning tower of Pisa. Ever been there? I used to think it was in Spain, but it’s in Italy apparently.

What I was saying is, The Macra Terror is a great story, elevated further because the TARDIS crew are so brilliant.

It’s so sad that we don’t get to spend longer with them all. But The Macra Terror spent time ripping them apart, and The Faceless Ones would cement the damage. I know everyone’s time on the TARDIS is limited, but Ben and Polly seem like they have more to give.

Polly is smart and modern: she’s exactly what the show needed. It’s interesting that the next female companion, Victoria Waterfield (Deborah Watling) appears to be the opposite of Polly’s remit from The War Machines: we were introduced to this Swinging Sixties Gal in the Inferno nightclub, created to echo contemporary culture; Victoria, on the other hand, is literally a Victorian, and, while still smart, is more out of her depth through her earlier adventures. Polly really doesn’t get enough credit. A few times, she’s relegated to making tea, but lest we forget that she figures out how to attack the Cybermen and she doesn’t shy away from any of the action.

We must applaud Anneke Wills for sticking by Michael Craze too: the production crew apparently wanted to keep Polly on but ditch Ben. That would’ve been a huge mistake anyway, but it feels right that the pair, who join the TARDIS together, leave hand-in-hand too. We want them to be together. They fit.

I guess that’s why there’s something uneasy at the heart of The Macra Terror. To see Ben at odds with those he cares about leaves a certain frisson in the air. It’s not as if Ben’s not confrontational: a favourite scene in The Moonbase sees Ben and Jamie competing for Polly’s affections. “I’m sure Polly’s very impressed,” Ben says. “Look, I said I was better,” Jamie assures him. “Would you like me to prove it to you?” And then Craze drops his register. He’s suddenly steely. “Any time, mate.” They’re cut from the same cloth and that makes for a great dynamic on the Ship.

Ben always knows his own mind. I love his scepticism in The Power of the Daleks. The Doctor has his work cut out to prove who he is. Polly relents relatively sharpish, but it’s to Ben (and the audience) that he has to show he’s worthy. To see him acting so bizarrely in The Macra Terror, enthusiastically following the crowd, and landing his friends in trouble, is surprisingly disturbing.

Dare I say that he should’ve stayed on the TARDIS instead of Jamie…?

I dare you.

It’s not entirely fair. I like Jamie. But this is a classic case of the production crew overstuffing the TARDIS. I guess it shows how likeable Frazer Hines is – I’ve met him, and he is – but they shouldn’t have taken him on. They already had Ben filling the same role; instead, he comes across as the Flavour of the Month. They take him and Polly on, then flit to someone new after a few weeks. I hate that attitude. Ben, Michael, Anneke, and the audience deserved better.

Fortunately, their last story is brilliant…

The Faceless Ones

As you may have gathered, I love this story. I may go on a bit.

Only a bit?

Chameleon Tours send 18- 25-year olds all over Europe, promising fun and non-stop adventure.

There’s probably a joke to be made about Brexit here, isn’t there?

But none of the passengers return.

There’s probably a joke to be made about Brexit here, isn’t there?

When the Doctor, Polly, Ben, and Jamie arrive, two of them are kidnapped and their bodies seemingly taken over.

Gatwick airport is an ingenious setting, perfectly reflecting the tone of the piece, concerned with missing people, identity, and immigration. The Faceless Ones is Gerry Mills’ sole directorial credit on Doctor Who, and it’s a wonder he wasn’t asked back: he utilises the backdrop beautifully and even the sets in the studios at Ealing Green and Lime Grove have a good sense of scale to them. Set squarely in the 1960s, commercial flights were starting to get popular (despite first being available in the early 1900s), especially with youngsters. It’s ripe for the picking then: Doctor Who excels at feeding off what’s popular at the time.

And it’s so exciting! Landing in the path of an oncoming aeroplane certainly is a courageous start. I love this unique location: it feels somehow electric. In fact, the entirety of Part 1 layers intrigue and drama on in swathes: there’s a grisly death via a ray gun that electrocutes its victim (just four minutes in!); questionable cargo; kidnappings; politics; allusions to the Elephant Man; a hunt for the TARDIS team; and a police officer who looks a bit like George Osborne.

The Spider-Man villain?

Look at the cliffhanger too! Horribly macabre – a badly-burnt hand clawing at the air; a man whose very flesh is peeling away…

I’m gonna make a cuppa.

This world must be so strange for poor Jamie. He copes well, already a focal point of the series. There’s a lovely warmth between him and the Time Lord, with the former being duplicated by the Chameleons, and the latter noting, “I much preferred the original!” It’s at the expense of Ben and Polly, though, who, due to scheduling, only appear briefly in three of the six episodes, their final farewell a video insert.

In fact, the serial feels suitably related to The War Machines: bold and fresh; ‘hip’ but with a grim underbelly and subtext. It leads Ben and Polly’s exit full-circle – like they’ve never been away. “It is our world,” they note.

“You’re lucky,” the Doctor says, intriguingly. “I never got back to mine.”

Samantha Briggs (Pauline Collins) is, instead, drafted in to act as a companion in The Faceless Ones. She’s a bit ‘soap opera’ with a Scouse drawl that waivers into Welsh once or twice – like a would-be Dodo. She even says ‘eh, kid.’ It’d definitely be interesting to see how she and Jamie, uh, ‘got on.’ They even kiss!

How very modern.

Collins turned down the offer of staying on as a companion, so if we’re looking for someone to board the TARDIS, might I suggest Wanda Ventham’s Jean Rock?

I think you’re too late, mate.

She’s feisty and smart, using her initiative and sticking by the Doctor, despite how crazy he sounds. She faints – but she’s not like previous companions; she doesn’t just scream and fall over at the brief mention of extra-terrestrials. No, this faint is a ruse, concocted by her and the Doctor.

And when it all kicks off, she’s ready to trip aliens up with a chair.

Briggs can even sense their rivalry, delivering the questionable line, “you haven’t got all the brains in London.”


Despite one or two clangers, the script is wittily written, much of the dialogue cutting and cheeky.  When RAF planes are scrambled to follow a Chameleon Tour flight (despite being able to climb only “ten miles plus”), the Doctor drily says, “how futile.” And his whole character is summed up perfectly when he’s accused of wasting his and everybody else’s time. “I don’t think I’ve been wasting a minute,” he says, smiling.

“Haven’t I met you before?” the Doctor also asks one of the disguised Chameleons. “I don’t think so,” he replies. “You must have a double!” the Doctor jokes, underlining his own brilliance.

Yes, Patrick Troughton is on top form already (despite his Doctor effectively ‘doing his back in’ some way into the story). But he’s not the only one to deliver some zingers. When he instructs passengers to their living quarters, Donald Pickering’s Blade uses the Doctor and Nurse Pinto (Madalena Nicol) as exceptions: “You two won’t be needing living space.”

It’s also surprisingly affecting when one of the alien menaces sadly says, “we’ve lost our identities…”

Try working at the DWC.

You can tell that Malcolm Hulke (Doctor Who and the Silurians) co-wrote The Faceless Ones, alongside David Ellis. The whole thing foreshadows the Third Doctor era: the Doctor faces off against a not-entirely-evil alien threat in contemporary London, while coming up against frosty, disbelieving officials.

But it’s not all politics. There’s also a Goldfinger-esque scene, and the Doctor using a screwdriver to mess up the Chameleon’s plans. A normal screwdriver – not a sonic one!

The incidental music is strong and creepy too. I particularly admire that the music in the Second Doctor era is, on the whole, unique to each story. In The Faceless Ones, even bongo drums are deployed to ramp up the tension. The 1980s music, in contrast, can be summed up with two terrifying words: pan pipes.

Ah, Pan’s People. I always admired their pipes, if you know what I mean, eh, eh, eh?

Speaking of music, a new titles sequence sound arrangement debuts with Part 2. It’s more recognisable than the understated one before it – which, oddly, plays at the end regardless. There are just minor differences, but it’s quite magical and sounds a lot like the early Fourth Doctor theme.

That’s not to say the serial is perfect.

So what you’re saying is, The Faceless Ones is perfect?

Like, why is Samantha the only person to have noticed people going missing? There’s also the way the Chameleons figure out that the Doctor isn’t human. “His intelligence is above normal beings,” they note – after the Doctor has blocked a gas-spewing plug with some cloth. Genius. It also reflects the attitude towards young folk at the time: looking for a way to escape all responsibilities; searching for a party; ultimately gullible and disposable.

Ain’t that the truth?

The Faceless Ones is so clever and unique, with really grotesque monsters and so many witty lines -any small quibbles can easily be shoved to one side. The biggest sin of all is, of course, the always-brilliant Ben and Polly being sidelined, something which was out of the writers’ hands.

Sadly, The Faceless Ones isn’t the send-off the pair deserve, but it’s still a excellent story with great visuals and wonderful performances.

Ben and Polly faced off against Daleks and Cybermen, War Machines and Macra; were caught up in the smuggler’s search for Captain Avery’s treasure and witnessed the aftermath of the Battle of Culloden; and they’ve seen the Doctor change his entire body for the very first time, and learned to trust and love the eccentric man who emerged from the regeneration. No, Polly, we will never forget you and Ben. Because the Doctor, Jamie and the audience have lost some genuine friends.

Are you crying?

I have hayfever.

But enough dwelling on sad farewells – because the TARDIS has been stolen and a very familiar foe is rolling into view…

The Evil of the Daleks

See, you’re crying now too.

That’s because this was due to be the last Dalek story in Doctor Who.

I thought that was The Power of the Daleks.

You really are testing.

Terry Nation was trying to sell them on for an American TV series, so this was due to be their swansong in Doctor Who. And what a swansong it is! It’s like a film. It’s an epic thriller across space and time, taking us from contemporary Earth to the Victorian era to Skaro. It’s exciting to be back on the original planet of the Daleks: the sets are admittedly a tad underwhelming, yet because the Emperor Dalek’s there, it works, as does the lattice design spread throughout. Derek Martinus’ direction really highlights the clever constructions. Framing the TARDIS with the white reticulation is stunning, as is the lighting used to immediately draw the eye yet make the Doctor’s precious Ship feel somehow out of reach.

This truly is a beautiful production. The plot whips around (okay, so they could’ve cut this 7-parter down an episode or 2), meaning we get to enjoy lots of settings without any of them becoming too familiar or safe. Every location feels dangerous. Doctor Who typically does the Victorian era well, and the props and set dressings, important to the narrative early on but soon dropped and forgotten as a curio, add to the atmosphere.

Mind you, I can’t take Maxtible seriously. He’s like a comedy character. Marius Goring saves it because he’s such an intense actor, but Thoedore looks like he should be played by Jim Howick in Horrible Histories. Or as if he should be playing “How Many Hats?” in The Armstrong and Miller Show.

The cast is superb though. Victoria Waterfield’s introduction is a bit disappointing, but her chemistry with the Doctor and Jamie is touching. Watling makes the best of essentially being your classic damsel in distress. A pity because she could do so much more; indeed, in subsequent serials, she shows spirit and a loveable charm. Her warmness is present in The Evil of the Daleks, so while she doesn’t do that much, the audience can nevertheless see why the Doctor and Jamie are happy for her to board the TARDIS. Some of that’s potentially compassion, but what happens to Victoria’s normal life is the ideal catalyst for her trips into time and space.

Of course, Watling, Hines, and Troughton got on famously well behind the scenes, and their playfulness comes across.

As an aside, we should note how chilling it is that Jamie believes the Doctor’s helping the Daleks. It’s the sort of deception this incarnation of the Doctor falls back on a few times (most notably in 1969’s The War Games), but Jamie, presumably because he’s still a relative newcomer, falls for it here. Is the Doctor a hero? Is he a grand manipulator? Is he rolling with the punches? He’s all three and more, which is rather brilliant.

Kemel, specifically, is a notable character – he goes from being an antagonist to a sympathetic saviour, and how wonderful to see Sonny Caldinez outside his Ice Warrior costume.

Oh, that’s right, he played Martians in The Ice Warriors (1967), The Seeds of Death (1969), The Curse of Peladon (1972), and The Monster of Peladon (1974), didn’t he?

That was very expositional, my dear DWC journalist. But yes, you’re absolutely right.

The dialogue in The Evil of the Daleks is sharp too: just what you’d expect from David Whitaker. With this and Power under his belt, he certainly nails the Daleks. He truly gets to the heart of them, drawing on concepts raised in The Daleks and the Peter Cushing Daleks’ Invasion Earth 2150AD movie – namely the mutant race’s use of static and magnetism – and pushing the boundaries. They’re devious and sly. They’re not just there to exterminate all: the Daleks are strategists and can easily manipulate others through blackmail, deception, or flattery.

Though this is supposed to be the last time we see the Daleks, Whitaker sets up a number of aspects that the show does return to. Arthur Terrall (Gary Watson) finds his origins in the Robomen from The Dalek Invasion of Earth (1964) and can be seen as a predecessor of Edwin Bracewell in Victory of the Daleks (2010). The “Human Factor” idea draws from The Power of the Daleks then foreshadows Daleks in Manhattan/ Evolution of the Daleks (2007).

But don’t hold that against it, eh?

Oh, and the Emperor Dalek demonstrates the Dalek hierarchy better than ever before, and certainly proved an inspiration for Bad Wolf/ The Parting of the Ways (2005). The Emperor is intimidating, actually. It’s scary. It has a genuine presence and weight when it first appears on-screen in Episode 6.

This isn’t, as the Doctor suspects/hopes, the Daleks’ “final end” (fortunately so), but if it had have been, it’s an incredible send-off.

Concluding Thoughts

Okay, so how would you conclude this piece?

That’s really your job, not mine.

Okay, but it would make my life a lot easier if you could just say “in conclusion” and go from there.

I like the phrase “concluding thoughts”.

This is really my job, not yours… [Pause.] But yes, I do too. Please do go on.

Well, in conclusion, I would say that Doctor Who Season 4 is one of the best seasons in the history of the show.

This sounds like hyperbole on Chris Chibnall Levels.

It’s not, though. Season 4 is exceptional. It’s nuts, and clever, and cartoonish, and smart, and… And great. Look at the stories: two top-quality Dalek serials; the introduction of the Cybermen; episodes with stunning on-location filming; a contemporary thriller… William Hartnell does a solid job on his last two serials, then Troughton 100% hits the ground running. There’s some post-regenerative madness (even though we didn’t know what “regeneration” was back then), but he settles in and immediately becomes that ethereal stranger, dancing through time and space.

We also get the debut of one of the Doctor’s most faithful and loved companions, and say goodbye to two extraordinary friends – Ben and Polly, unique in Doctor Who for witnessing the first regeneration and for first encountering the Cybermen.

Yet people do overlook it. Why? Because so much of it is missing. A lot of fans don’t listen to the soundtracks or read the novels. And even if they do, there’s something not quite solid about them. They need to experience the real things. Eventually, I’m sure, they will.

Yes, yes, fascinating. However, I’ve just discovered something.

A disturbing secret about Doctor Who?

No. I’ve forgotten to turn the Dictaphone on.

NEXT: “What’s that coming over the hill? Is it a monster? Is it a monsterrrrrr?”

Philip Bates

Editor and co-founder of the Doctor Who Companion. When he’s not watching television, reading books ‘n’ Marvel comics, listening to The Killers, and obsessing over script ideas, Philip Bates pretends to be a freelance writer. He enjoys collecting everything. Writer of The Black Archive: The Pandorica Opens/ The Big Bang, The Silver Archive: The Stone Tape, and 100 Objects of Doctor Who.

Reviewed: Doctor Who Season 4 – Die A Hero

by Philip Bates time to read: 36 min
%d bloggers like this: