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Tuesday, 12 June 2012

Doctor Who Season 10 (1972/3): Back in the Black

The dandy and the clown, saving the universe

The tenth season of the show saw Jon Pertwee continue as the Doctor, the production team remain in place and Katy Manning continue as Jo Grant until departing at the end of the season. It almost saw the show get a new version of the theme tune as well.

The theme tune had under minor changes during the show’s history, but Brian Hodgson, Paddy Kingsland and Delia Derbyshire created a new version on a EMS Synthi 100 analogue synthesiser (a thing the size of two double wardrobes), dubbed “Delaware” after the road in the London area of Maida Vale that was home to the Radiophonic Workshop. The theme, called the “Delaware” version as well, wasn’t liked by BBC execs, who decided to keep the current theme – but not before it had ended up by mistake on a few episode copies sold to Australia[1].

There would be other changes though – the Doctor’s exile would be ended for services rendered in “The Three Doctors”, allowing him to move freely in space and time. Therefore UNIT began to appear less in the show – only twice in this 26-episode run.

The first episode of this season aired on 30 December 1972; hence the two years listed in the subject of this post.

The Three Doctors (4 episodes)

Time itself is in danger and the Time Lords realise this is a job too big for one Doctor…

The show’s tenth anniversary story, although airing nowhere near the anniversary date (the nearest story to that is actually the following season’s “The Time Warrior”), this is an enjoyable little tale – although the costumes get a bit dodgy at times. All three Doctors appear here, although William Hartnell’s role is limited to appearing on a monitor as he was too ill to do anything except read cue cards – it would be his final acting job before his death in 1975.

Treat this as a Christmas panto and you’ll enjoy it.

Carnival of Monsters (4 episodes)

Taking the TARDIS for a spin now he is free from his exile, the Doctor and Jo arrive on a cargo ship. Or so they think to begin with, as strange events occur, they actually learn they are in an alien peepshow…

A light-hearted and witty tale by Robert Holmes, this story also  features Ian Marter, who had gone for the role of Mike Yates but to pull out, who would later play Harry Sullivan, companion to the Fourth Doctor.

Frontier In Space (6 episodes)

The Doctor and Jo arrive in 2540, where the empires of Earth and Draconia are on the brink of war, accusing each other of attacks on their ships, which are in reality being carried out by Ogrons (mercenaries who worked for the Daleks in “Day of the Daleks”). Accused of being spies for Draconia, the time travellers learn that the real person behind the situation is none other than a certain bearded Time Lord.

Roger Delgado’s final appearance before his tragic death (there’s a wonderful bit where he’s seen reading H. G. Wells’ novel The War of the Worlds; even super villains like to have a read), Malcolm Hulke’s “Frontier” is a plot-heavy space opera with a big surprise at the end; I enjoyed this one considerably. In fact, more than one reviewer has noted the similarity between this one and a war in Babylon 5. Ratings were overall a bit lower than “Carnival”, though.

Planet of the Daleks (6 episodes)

The Doctor is seriously injured – having been shot by the Master. He and Jo arrive on the planet Spiridon, where they encounter one thing worse than Daleks. Invisible Daleks.

The conclusion of a short arc started in “Frontier” (the initial plan was for one twelve-parter, in fact), this story, Terry Nation’s first for the show since 1965, is to a great extent a re-do of Season 1’s “The Daleks”, even including Thals. All round good, but contains some very obvious toy Daleks in a couple of shots and some continuity howlers.

The Green Death (6 episodes)

UNIT investigate a mysterious death at a Welsh mine, where the body is glowing green. Are Global Chemicals responsible for this and an infestation of giant maggots?

Primarily remembered for the giant maggots (some of them being inflated condoms), this ecology-themed story also gets a bit patronising on the Welsh[2]. That said, there is some great stuff here and the final scene with the Doctor quietly slipping away from Jo’s engagement party[3], driving off into the distance, is very moving.

Jo’s departure concluded another successful season for the show – which averaged 8.87 million viewers, about half a million up from Season 9.

The Doctor wouldn’t be alone for long though. Dr. John Smith was about to meet Miss Sarah Jane Smith.

[1]ABC (Australian Broadcasting Corporation) in Australia was a popular first overseas sale destination for serials – for a start, ABC could pay the bulk of the residual fees that needed to go to the performers and crew, making other sales cheaper – and the show has had a long popularity Down Under, as well as in its own way contributing to the making of the show by providing some of its crew members, such as incidental music composer Dudley Simpson. Today, it is still broadcast only a couple of weeks after the UK airing and in prime time as well. More than a few lost episodes have turned up down here, as well as clips from others that were cut by Australian censors. The popularity of the show there was the basic motivation for Tegan Jovanka, of whom more later.
[2]BBC Wales now produces the show!
[3]She’s marrying Professor Clifford Jones (played here by Stewart Bevan, then Manning’s RL boyfriend), who she meets here – they would have seven children.

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