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This is the official blog of Phoenix Roleplaying, a multi-genre simming site, created in August 2010.

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Wednesday, 28 March 2012

Bases under siege - Doctor Who Season 4 (1966/67)

This 43-episode fourth run could be called “The Lost Season” of Doctor Who – not a single story is complete and three are pretty much entirely missing in video form. The basic reason for this is that the show’s overseas popularity dropped after the end of Dalekmania and so there were less copies of stories from this time made for foreign sales.

A further note on missing stories – a few of the early stories marked as complete are actually missing small bits due to the recovered prints having been partly censored for content purposes by foreign broadcasters, particularly the Australians.

While Innes Lloyd would stay on as producer, Peter Bryant would take over as script editor towards the end of the season. Both companions at the start of the run would go, but the biggest change of all was something that the audience never saw coming in.

The Smugglers (4 episodes, all lost)

Ben, Polly and the Doctor arrive in 17th century Cornwall in this pure historical revolving around a search for the treasure of Captain Henry Avery[1] and a smuggling ring. When the Doctor learns of a riddle revealing the treasure’s location, he gets kidnapped…

The Tenth Planet (4 episodes, Episodes 1-3 survive with only small bits, especially of the regeneration sequence, surviving from Episode 4)

Arriving at the South Pole in the then-future of 1986, the crew discover that a tenth planet[2] has been discovered in the solar system and its inhabitants are heading this way, with the intention of saving their planet through destroying their own. Those inhabitants are the Cybermen, who look and sound a bit different to how they do today.

This story is best remembered for its ending, where the Doctor, who has been feeling distinctly off throughout the story, collapses on the TARDIS floor and transforms into a completely different man. In a world where we get our new Time Lord announced almost a year before he first appears on screen and the Internet allows for spoilers to go around the world faster than you can boil an egg, try to imagine the shock that an audience would get when it’s dropped on them without any warning.

The Cybermen

Created by Gerry Davis and Kit Pedler (the show’s scientific adviser), the Cybermen were a result of Pedler’s fears about developments in medicine – a race that had achieved immortality at the cost of individuality. The original human-ish faces and sing-song voices of “The Tenth Planet” wouldn’t last, but the cyborgs were an instant hit and would appear three more times under the next Doctor. They are rightly considered number two in the show’s panoply of monsters and of course still turn up today.

The Power of the Daleks (6 episodes, all missing)

Naturally, all this concerns Ben and Polly, especially as this guy’s clothes have also changed with this appearance. However, this new younger man soon convinces them that he is still the Doctor and the crew arrive on the planet Vulcan, where a crashed spaceship contains two of the most terrible creatures in the universe. Creatures that are going to reproduce…

I’ve heard the audio of this story, the first not written by Terry Nation in some form and from what I remember, it’s pretty good.

Patrick Troughton – the Second Doctor

Patrick Troughton (1920-1987[3]) was an actor with extensive experience in a variety of roles ranging from Robin Hood to Father Brennan in The Omen. A shy publicity avoiding man with a complicated private life, Troughton’s casting was welcomed by Hartnell.

Troughton wanted to differentiate his portrayal from his predecessor and his eventual choice (after some initial ideas that were less than good) of style was a “cosmic hobo”, with a far more Chaplinesque costume than Hartnell – a man who hid a keen mind and a strong sense of cunning under shambolic attire. It was the right call and his Doctor would become one of the most-loved in the show’s history (many poor stories are saved through his performance alone), with his influence carrying through to this day.

The Highlanders (4 episodes, nothing survives except for some clips from Episode 1 cut by Australian censors)

The penultimate pure historical in the show’s history (the last being “Black Orchid” in Season 19), this sees Team TARDIS arriving in Scotland in 1746 after the Battle of Culloden[4], where they help a group of Highlanders fleeing the aftermath of the battle, in an adventure that involves the Doctor in drag and also pretending to be German.

Key in this story is the first appearance of James “Jamie” McCrimmon, who would join the TARDIS crew, stay until the end of the Second Doctor’s era and become one of the show’s most popular companions.

The Underwater Menace (4 episodes, 2 and 3 survive)

Involving the lost city of Atlantis, Fish People and a mad scientist trying to destroy the world (while chewing the scenery), “The Underwater Menace” has a reputation for being a very poor story – I can’t really comment as I’ve not experienced.

The Moonbase (4 episodes, 2 and 4 complete)

In which the Cybermen try to take over a weather control station on the Moon in 2070.

“Base Under Siege”

“The Moonbase” is an early example of a classic type of DW story known as “base under siege”. Take a small isolated facility (preferably with corridors), add a motley cast of stock characters who are suspicious of our time travellers, place a deadly monster inside and watch the terror rise as the guest cast start dying one at a time. It’s cheap and cheerful (although not for the characters), perfect for when the budget doesn’t stretch to something more ambitious. This stock plot is common in the show (one even turns up in Season 32) and a veritable Troughton era cliché.

This is not to say that these stories can’t be good – some of the show’s best stories (e.g. “The Horror of Fang Rock” from Season 15 and “The Waters of Mars” from Season 30) are of this type.

The Macra Terror (4 episodes, none available)

An idyllic holiday camp hides an alien secret. Listened to this on audio and I quite liked it, IIRC.

A new title sequence debuted in this story, this one featuring the Doctor’s face (as would all title sequences until 1989)

The Faceless Ones (6 episodes, only 1 and 3 complete)

A contemporary story involving aliens kidnapping people to steal their identities, this story also sees the departure of Ben and Polly

The Evil of the Daleks (7 episodes, only Episode 2 survives)

Initially meant to be the final Dalek story[5] to allow Terry Nation to try and get his Dalek series sold to the States,  this seven-part epic set mostly in 1867 sees the Daleks trying to distil the “Human Factor” and become invincible. It sounds very good on audio, although it has been argued that the actual on-screen action wouldn’t have been as good.

A new companion joins Team TARDIS here, one Victoria Waterfield, daughter of one of the characters here. If one companion lives up to the stereotype of Who companions as screamers, it’s her, although she was quite capable of handling herself and eventually embraced the miniskirt. Alas, with only one story of hers complete (“The Tomb of the Cybermen”), she’s a bit forgotten.


[1]Him from “The Curse of the Black Spot”.
[2]There are now officially eight, of course.
[3]In what some might incorrectly term “ironic”, he suffered a fatal heart attack in his hotel room while attending a fan convention in Florida.
[4]The final defeat of the Jacobite uprising, an attempt to restore the House of Stuart to the British throne, led by James II’s grandson, Charles Edward Stuart, aka “Bonnie Prince Charlie”.
[5]Naturally, it wasn’t and one Dalek was left alive at the end to allow for a return, although it would be Season 9 before they appeared again.

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