Doctor Who – The Daleks. Episode Two – The Survivors

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Once the Doctor eventually realises that the planet is contaminated with a very high level of radioactive fallout it’s chilling to see how keen he is to abandon Barbara to her fate –

IAN: We’re not leaving until we’ve found Barbara.
DOCTOR: Very well. You may stay and search for her if you wish, but Susan and I are going back to the ship. Now, come along, child.
IAN: All right, carry on, fine. How far do you think you’ll get without this? (he shows him the fluid link)
DOCTOR: Give that to me.
IAN: Not until we’ve found Barbara.
DOCTOR: Give it to me, I say.
IAN: No! It’s time you faced up to your responsibilities. You got us here. Now I’m going to make sure that you get us back.

The point’s a moot one anyway as they shortly all end up prisoners of the Daleks. The iconic nature of this episode is pretty much self evident – the first meeting between the Doctor and the Daleks – although it’s understandable that the mythos would only be added in later years. Nobody really expected in 1963 that the Daleks would ever be anything more than a one-shot monster (especially since the series was struggling for survival) so they’re presented here not as a universal menace, but simply as a group of frightened, scarred survivors.

The Daleks are all that remains of a civilisation who fought a deadly war with the Thals.  So Galactic conquest isn’t their aim – that would be difficult anyway, since they can’t move out of their city – they just want to survive. But their survival doesn’t include the Thals and this is how the story will develop.

As in An Unearthly Child, the four time-travellers are prisoners.  Thanks to radiation sickness they’re in a pretty wretched way and Ian (after a tussle with the Daleks) is unable to walk.  A mysterious package of drugs left outside the TARDIS by an unknown hand might be their salvation and suspiciously the Daleks are keen for one of them to bring them back to the city.

But who will get it?  Ian is keen to go – there’s an unspoken sense that he should, since he’s a man (why send a woman or a child out, when he’s there?) – but since he can hardly walk it seems impossible.  Both the Doctor and Barbara have been badly hit by radiation, so that leaves Susan.  She doesn’t want to face the terrors of the forest (we’ve seen how she was affected by a brief encounter with a stranger in the previous episode) but it’s clear that their survival depends on her.

Christopher Barry certainly makes the most of his limited resources and the scenes of Susan’s return to the TARDIS are memorable – thanks to close-ups of her frightened face and the flashes of lightening in the forest.  And the occasional flash of light only serves to make the forest more, not less, intimidating.

So far the story has had an interesting structure – in episode one we concentrated on the four regulars, episode two has introduced the Daleks (with mention of the disgustingly mutated Thals) and episode three will see the arrival of the Thals proper.  With seven episodes to play with, it makes sense to hold back certain elements for a while – but once we get to The Escape there’s the sense that the story can really begin.

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Howards’ Way – Series Four, Episode Eight

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The crane operator was clearly working overtime this episode, as there’s a couple of nice swooping shots – at the Mermaid Yard and over at Polly and Gerald’s house – both of which allows the action to pause for a second.

Tom, Emma and Bill decide – in Jack’s absence – to fit a new engine into Jack’s newly designed boat.  What will the typically fiery Jack make of this tinkering?  He’s aware of it, since he’s observing proceedings – with a telescope! – close by, but he seems remarkably mellow at present.

Meanwhile, Gerald is less than enthused to discover that his house is filled with boxes, many, many boxes.  It’s been a while since Polly and Gerald shared a decent comedy scene (last year their plotline was sombre, to say the least) so this makes for a welcome change.  Polly has decided to launch a new mail order line (German casual wear) under the Periplus banner.  Unfortunately she hasn’t mentioned this to Jan ….

Gerald’s patient reaction to this house invasion is a delight, as is his nonplussed reaction when Polly holds up a puffy jacket for his inspection.  A pity that Polly didn’t insist he try it on – that would have made a good scene even better.

That Polly has decided not to tell Jan, but then goes ahead with newspaper advertising is a little bizarre.  Surely this would mean that Jan would eventually find out anyway?  As it is, it’s Abby – of all people – who tips Jan off, which leaves her hurt and wounded.  Polly’s supposed to be her oldest friend, so how could she do this?  Everything’s set up for a confrontation next episode.

Tom and Jan’s relationship continues to intrigue.  They have another convivial lunch which sees Tom reject Jan’s cheque (she borrowed a hefty sum from him during Periplus’ recent business traumas).  Instead he asks if he can have shares in her company (since she owns a stake in the Mermaid it seems only fair).  And although Jan has jealously guarded control of her empire (it still irks her that Ken has a small shareholding and she blocked Polly’s attempt to grab a stake) she quickly and happily agrees.

I’m not quite sure what Jan’s feelings for Tom are (we know that she’s still very uncertain about Sir Edward’s proposal, so is she contemplating a reunion with her ex-husband?).  On the other hand, Tom’s status seems much more clear-cut.  He’s happy in his relationship with Emma (although maybe she’s not – more on that in a minute) with the result that he treats his ex-wife with indulgence and more like a sister than a former partner.

This is demonstrated after Jan shows him her new present from Sir Edward – the flashy sports car.  Tom jocularly tells her that “you need a bit of a talking-to, my girl” and is prepared to skip a meeting with Charles in order to do so.

Emma isn’t pleased when she later learns that Tom cancelled the meeting for a spot of quality time with Jan and is even less chuffed when he later asks her to step out of the office for a moment after Jan brings round the paperwork relating to his new shareholding in Periplus.  Tom seems not to display the slightest hint of jealousy about the relationship between Jan and Sir Edward, but Emma clearly finds it harder not be irked whenever Tom and Jan spend time together.

A more empathic man would understand this, but as we’ve seen so often, Tom – for all his good qualities – is somewhat lacking in this department.  The way he raises his eyebrows after Emma storms out of the office makes it plain that he doesn’t really understand that he’s treading on very thin ice at present.

Ken’s boat continues to sink and Leo is the next rat to leave it.  That’s a tad unfair of course, but Leo’s loyalties are definitely split.  He’s desperate to race in the world powerboat championship but if he stays at Leisure Cruise will he get the chance?

This is another of those plot oddities which creep up in HW from time to time.  It only seems like a few days ago when Leo raced a powerboat for the first time and now he’s good enough to contest the world championship?  Either the championship field is very small or he’s become very good very quickly.

But whilst he does have loyalty towards Ken, racing powerboats is now his life (apparently) so the chance of a guaranteed seat in the race if he goes to Relton is just too good an opportunity to pass up.  So he bids farewell to Ken in a scene which sees both of them raise their voices – nothing new for Ken of course, but it’s always nice to see a touch more animation from Leo.

Leo and Abby have minimal contact in this episode.  When she hears that Sarah paid him an evening visit (to discuss jumping ship to Relton) there was maybe just a twinge of jealousy from her, but Leo didn’t rise to the bait and both were prepared to laugh it off.

Charles dangles a carrot in front of Tom – a new yard, with much better facilities than the Mermaid.  With these resources behind him, the possibilities are endless – although Tom’s still convinced that, since it’s Charles, there must be a catch.

Elsewhere, Sir Edward continues to sniff around Jan (he’s taken to popping up in the least expected places and frightening the life out of her), the saga of William continues to rumble on, Michael Hanley’s doing rather well in the transatlantic race whilst Jack is doing less well at the bookies.  Surely by now he’s realised that he shouldn’t back his own hunches – instead he needs to rely on Kate’s tips.

Jack’s return to the Mermaid doesn’t quite go the way he planned.  The others have completed the Orkadian in his absence, but there’s just one question – where is it?  Bill points “there she is” as he, Tom and Jack watch it sailing away.  This leaves Glyn Owen with a classic end of episode line.  “Somebody’s nicked my bloody boat!”

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Howards’ Way – Series Four, Episode Three

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Jan’s not a happy bunny.  Sir Edward announcing their engagement without asking her was annoying enough, but it’s the continuing problems with the stolen designs that’s really ramping up the pressure.  It’s made the newspapers (complete with the most unflattering picture of Jan ever) which is one of the reasons why she’s somewhat flaky today (because it’s in the papers I mean, not because the picture of her isn’t terribly good).

Tom’s installed a new computer at the Mermaid.  It’s pretty advanced – able to communicate with other computers up and down the country – but it’s only the first step in Tom’s America’s Cup plans.  He’s also ramping up the security at the yard (including an alarm system linked to the local police station).  Has Tom spoken to Jack first?  Of course not.  And what do you imagine Jack’s reaction will be?  Yes, that’s right, he goes through the roof.  Jack might be highly predictable, but that’s part of the fun.

Jack storms off and gets very drunk.  His later reappearance at the Mermaid, late at night, triggers off the new alarm which results in the police arriving.  Tom and Emma arrive just in time to see him being poured into a squad car.   Rather wonderfully he croons “I just called to say I love you” at them before disappearing.  It’s another of those hardy Howards’ Way perennials – Jack staggering around drunk – but it never fails to entertain.

When Jack’s not legless, he’s eyeing up one of his old boats, now owned by a man called Harry Sellers (Conrad Phillips).  Jack later buys the boat – The Grecian Lady – off Harry.

Abby and Charles meet.  He’s still a changed man, uninterested in business and happy to help Abby any way he can.  He’s aware that Sir Edward is also attempting to assist her with her battle to regain custody of William, but knows that his father has ulterior motives (whereas Charles seems only to want what’s best for Abby).  But for the moment Abby is content to remain with Sir Edward and doesn’t particularly want to get to know Charles any better.  Charles doesn’t seem to mind though, he’s content to wait ….

Leo and Abby have an argument.  He’s convinced that she’s simply using people (Sir Edward especially) in order to win custody of William.  She reacts angrily to this, taunting Leo that his life is an empty one (consisting of racing powerboats and little more).  They laugh and make up after this, but later Leo – with Sarah and Abby watching on – goes hell for leather when testing the powerboat.

And then the throttle jams, so Leo seems set on a one-way collision course with some very large rocks.  Eek!  For Sarah, looking on, there’s no doubt a nasty flashback to her husband’s death.  With the incidental music ramping up, things look sticky for a few seconds but then the throttle unsticks itself and all is well.  This moment serves as an indication that Leo’s thought processes might be a little cloudy at present – was it simply an accident, or was he racing with something to prove?

Ken and the cigarette-toting Antonia continue to scheme.  He’s keen to weaken Jan’s business so that he can buy back into it (“you’re going to need me soon, my darling, I’m going to make very sure of that”).  He and Antonia also frolic in the pool (at different times though).

The next day, the pair decide to have a canoodle in one of the Leisure Cruise boats.  With screaming inevitability Sarah stumbles across them.  She’s already spent the rest of the episode with a disapproving expression painted across her face – partly at Ken and partly at Leo’s reckless attitude on the water – and this latest escapade of Ken’s only serves to irritate her even more.  But she’s far too well-bred to make a scene, she simply proclaims that from now they operate on a strictly business level, before exiting.

Sir John is keen to join forces with Gerald and – joy of joys – Ken approaches both of them with a new business venture.  Oil.  You wouldn’t have thought that the coastline was full of oil, but Ken is convinced.  Is Howards’ Way going to turn into Dallas?  This is such a bonkers idea (any scheme that Ken Masters thinks is a sure fire hit has to be approached with caution) that I can’t wait to see how it turns out.

Having previously restricted her scheming purely for her numerous extra-martial affairs, Polly’s now demonstrating that she’s got a keen eye for a business chance.  She continues to be desperate to pour her money into Jan’s business (and has visions of taking it over completely in due course – after all, once Jan and Sir Edward marry, surely he won’t allow her to work?).  But Jan, despite the fact her back’s right up against the wall, tells Polly and Kate that she intends to stand and fight.  The disappointment on Polly’s face is palpable.

Jack drops a bombshell.  He’s quitting the Mermaid Yard with immediate effect.  This is Jack Rolfe remember, a man who’s consistently inconsistent, so it’s hard to believe him – even when he sets sail in The Grecian Lady, seemingly content never to darken the Mermaid’s door again.  I’ll give him an episode before he comes back (two at the most).

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Howards Way – Series Four, Episode One

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For those who hadn’t seen – or had forgotten – the series three finale, there’s a helpful recap here as a news report brings us back up to speed.  Charles and Avril are feared lost at sea, somewhere off the coast of Ireland.  Stock footage of Royal Navy ships is intercut with shots of a reporter called Andrew Chater (Michael Walker), clutching a very large microphone and advancing towards the camera in a slightly menacing fashion.

The opening few minutes are film heavy as we cut from the over-enthusiastic reporter to Sir Edward at Highfield (being comforted by Jan) and then to Gerald, who finds himself doorstepped by a whole posse of reporters.  Some of them are quite well dressed (one’s even wearing a black bow tie).  And though it’s obviously sad that Charles and Avril are missing, they seem more interested in the stability of Frere Holdings, given Charles’ absence.

Jack is barely holding himself together.  Eyeing a portrait of Avril on his office desk, he refuses to move (despite the entreaties of both Tom and Kate) until he receives news.

Not everybody’s paralysed by grief though.  Ken is quite chipper, organising a photoshoot for a sales brochure (this involves cheesy music and a swimsuit clad model, who he delights in, ahem, touching up).  “That’s it! That’s better. Beautiful!” Ken beams, as he unzips her just a fraction more.  Good old Ken.

He’s also not adverse to scooping up some business which might have gone Relton’s way, but now – due to the uncertainty surrounding the company’s stability – now lands in his lap.  “I’m very sorry for them, but … life has to go on”.  Ken Masters = heartless.

Leo and Sarah later discuss him.  “He’s got a taste for success and is hungry for more and he’ll use you, me, anyone to get it. Just wait and see” she says.  Oh good, I think we’re going to have some fun with Ken this year.

He continues to sniff around Jan, although she remains cool.  Is it me, or does Ken sound slightly different during this scene?  Less rough and tumble and more refined.  Is Kenneth attempting to assimilate himself with his social betters by mimicking them?

The series clearly had a fairly decent budget by this point as they were able to afford hiring a rescue helicopter.  It’s possibly a little surprising that Charles and Avril are found so quickly (some ten minutes in) but their exact conditions aren’t clear at first (only that Avril is unconscious) so there’s still there’s still a lingering sense of uncertainty for a while.  Given Jack’s face (Glyn Owen was always so expressive) I hope he receives good news soon, otherwise I can foresee him keeling over.

Oh dear.  Avril’s sustained head injuries and is still unconscious.  With the constant beeping of the life support machine, Jack holds onto her hand and hopes for the best.  It’s better news about Charles as he’s young and strong and so should make a full recovery, but Sir Edward is still melancholy.  He confides to Jan that he was never much of a father.  Does this mean that he really intends to turn over a new leaf, and even if he does will the equally stubborn Charles be prepared to meet him half way?  If S3 saw Sir Edward attempting to reconcile with his son via the business route, it looks as if here he’s going to try the personal touch.

Father and son are reunited and as you might expect it’s not a joyful encounter.  Charles is hardly in the best shape (bruised and bandaged up) but even had he been A1 it’s doubtful that things would have turned out differently.  If Sir Edward really does want to reconcile with his son then it’s long to be a long, hard road.

The fact that Sir Edward paid for Abby’s passage back home and is putting her up at Highfield is an interesting wrinkle.  Maybe if his relationship with Charles doesn’t work out then he’ll simply transfer his attentions up a generation or two – granddaughter Abby and great-grandson William.

It’s interesting to see how the dynamic between Bill and Tom has changed over the years.  During the early part of S1, Bill had little time for Tom (especially his well meaning attempts to streamline the running of the yard).  This has all changed now, as Bill specifically asks Tom, in Jack’s absence, to have a word with the lads, who are still unsettled (reporters are sniffing around).  It’s a pity that, following the departure of Davy a while back, the lads have become little more than a group of extras, but it’s always good to see them every so often as it helps to remind the viewers that there’s more to life at the Mermaid than just what takes place inside the office.

Leo’s looking rather sharp today.  White suit, blue shirt, black and red tie.  He’s off to meet Abby, but that’s not the reason why he’s smartly dressed (at this point he’s still a thrusting young powerboat salesman).  They’re at one of their favourite locations – the ruined Abbey – where she tells him that her mother has changed.  Polly now genuinely seems to care.

She then drops the bombshell that Charles Frere is her real father.  I’d have liked the camera to linger on Edward Highmore for a few more second whilst he digested this news, but there’s a lot to pack into this opening episode, so time was very clearly of the essence.  If Jan and Sir Edward do decide to tie the knot that will result in some interesting familial links between Leo and Abby.

Poor Leo now realises that Abby didn’t come home to be with him, instead she’s still working out whether or not she has a future with Orrin.  “I’m not even in the picture at all, except as a friend. Reliable old Leo”.  Aww.

A late-night meeting between Charles and Jack (Charles has been able to extract himself from his hospital bed, Jack is in the hospital chapel) is an awkward one.  Charles is conciliatory (unusual to see) whilst Jack wears a face like thunder.  What’s notable about this scene is that whilst Jack intensely disapproves of Charles, it’s less about the accident and more to do with the way Charles hurt Avril when they broke up for the first time.

Glyn Owen – as ever – is wonderful.  Jack tells Charles that “I held that girl in my arms when she was one hour old. Watched her grow into a woman. So don’t tell me anything about loving my daughter, Mr Frere”.

It’s clear that the accident has affected Charles, as the arrival of Gerald to talk business isn’t entirely welcome for him.  Gerald might be concerned about the shareholders but Charles is fixated on the death of the pilot (“how do I assess that kind of profit and loss?”).

The soundtrack suddenly goes all dramatic as Jan realises that someone’s pinched all of her designs and Jack’s told that Avril’s condition has taken a turn for the worse.  Slightly odd that both of these moments are scored the same way as I know the one I think is the more serious (and it doesn’t involve clothes).

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Grange Hill – Series Ten, Episode Thirteen

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Written by Margaret Simpson.  Tx 17th February 1987

The pupils of Grange Hill have been allowed to have their say about the burning events of the day.  Sadly, most of the recordings aren’t really primetime radio material (Mr Bronson wears a wig, school custard isn’t great, etc) but a few voices stands out.

One of them is Fay, who’s unhappy about the inflexibility of the closed report system (no doubt she’s thinking that her dalliance with Mr King might affect her future employment prospects).  The others – Banksie, Laura, Julie, Cheryl – listening back to the recordings agree, although Banksie seems a little more interested in nuzzling Laura.  It’s been something of a whirlwind romance …

Freddie interviews Mrs McClusky.  It’s not exactly a meeting of equals, as Freddie is flustered (partly due to technical problems) whilst Mrs McClusky gives a very domineering and Thatcheresque performance.  She’s patience personified as Freddie fumbles through his questions (her sympathetic smile might be an indication that she’s hardly been tested).   His final question relates to closed reports, but she effortlessly manages to bat off his feeble points.  Reacting to his comment that the files are secret, she sweetly disagrees.  “I prefer the word confidential”.

Fay later accurately suggests that Freddie’s questions weren’t really at fault, it was more to do with the fact that Mrs McClusky – a skilled politician – is well able to avoid answering anything she doesn’t want to.  If the pupils are going to get anywhere then their methods will have to change.

Margaret Simpson’s script harks back to the early eighties, a time when Mrs McClusky ruled Grange Hill with an iron fist and ruthlessly crushed any sign of dissent quickly and effectively.  Her fury when she realises that her comments have been cut up and distorted is highly characteristic of those early days.

But did Freddie and the others really believe that they could recut her interview in a less than flattering light and she’d simply let it pass?  It seems a little naïve if so.  Wise old Mr Mackenzie tells the sixth-formers that broadcasting their message of dissent over the airwaves for all the school to hear wasn’t sensible, whereas writing a reasoned, well-argued report would be more likely to bear fruit.

Zammo and Jackie are discussing getting engaged.  Banksie is a silent – and moody – observer to their intimate chit-chat.  Since he’s now involved with Laura you may have assumed that he’s over Jackie, but given his doomy countenance I don’t think that’s the case.

The arrival of Mr Bronson in the sixth form common room – deputising for an absent Miss Partridge – doesn’t help to perk Steven Banks up.  His choice of a work experience position (a garage) differs somewhat from what he’s been offered (working in a school for handicapped children).  Julie’s going to the same school – Hazelrig Road –  a piece of news which doesn’t cheer him up, although this is nothing personal.  Banksie’s just in a typically scowly mood.

Mrs Reagan continues to pull faces whenever Laura mentions Banksie.  Is it his bad-boy image, the fact he drives a motorbike or that he’s several years older than Laura which is the main problem?  The bike appears to be the thing which upsets Mrs Reagan the most, but it may be that she’s simply using this as a convenient excuse (although motorbikes can be dangerous – especially the way that Banksie rides).

Danny makes an unexpected appearance.  He’s at home, waiting to travel up to Scotland for his first round of treatment.  Freddie and Julie ask him to record a message for the grand opening of Grange Hill’s radio station.

It seems that Cheryl’s morphed into the departed Janet.  This episode she chides Roland about his unhealthy eating habits – a bar of chocolate for breakfast – and suggests he goes on a sponsored diet.  Mind you, she finishes by saying that if he did lose a few pounds then she might fancy him, something which we never heard from Janet.  Roland pulls a speculative face at this titbit of information.

Ziggy’s plan to scale the highest building in the school and plant a banner is ongoing.  He asks Robbie to paint him a banner proclaiming that ‘Ziggy Greaves Was Here’ (not sure why, since Ziggy is a remarkably self-confident sort of chap, convinced that he can do anything himself).  Ziggy’s not too pleased with Robbie’s effort – he tells him that he’s misspelt ‘Woz’ as ‘Was’.  The fact they’re using Miss Booth’s materials without her permission spells inevitable trouble.  When they hear footsteps, they dash for the nearest cupboard but sadly forget to take the banner.  ‘Ziggy Greaves Was He’ is therefore left in full view, forcing Ziggy to attempt to extract it without Miss Booth and Mr Kennedy noticing.

Do they succeed?  Of course not.  Miss Booth sets them an appropriate punishment – they have to clear up the art room later.  Naturally they use this time to also craft a second banner (which is now painted on cloth, more sensible than the paper they initially used).  So all is well.  Well apart from the blocked sink and the inevitable comedy consequences which occur.  And at the worst possible moment Miss Booth walks in.  Oops.

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Big Finish on Spotify

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A generous section of Big Finish’s back catalogue is now available to listen for free on Spotify.

This includes various releases from Doctor Who, and associated titles like Dalek Empire, Jago & Litefoot, Counter Measures, UNIT, Iris Wildthyme and Charlotte Pollard.  There’s also plenty of Non-Who audios to enjoy, such as Blakes 7, Survivors, The Avengers, Sherlock Holmes and Dark Shadows.

Pages from Ceefax (and other Teletext providers)

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I’ve been spending some time happily navigating around this website, which has archived pages from Ceefax and Oracle, as well as other teletext providers.  Each link takes you to a specific day, with all the pages accessible for viewing.

You may need to try a few browsers to find which one works best (I couldn’t input page numbers with IE, but everything worked fine with Firefox).  Navigation is simple – use the number buttons to input the page number you want, whilst the cursor keys left and right cycle you through the pages (if there’s more than one available on that page).

For anyone who used the service, there’s an undeniable nostalgic rush in viewing this relic from a bygone age.  Lovely stuff!