By Roy Mathur, on 2020-06-18, at 23:34:58--00:03:38 BST, for Captain Roy's Rocket Radio Show, Listen
Third Doctor: Jon Pertwee
Sarah Jane Smith: Elisabeth Sladen
Director: Michael E. Briant
Writer: Terry Nation
Producer: Barry Letts
Serial three of season eleven, following Invasion of the Dinosaurs covered in 314--315, 4 x 25 minutes, first broadcast from 23 February to 16 March 1974.
We're starting a little differently this today. On this actual day, i.e. the Thursday 18th June 2020, Dame Vera Lynn, famous in World War Two for the song We'll Meet Again, died aged 103. Her family said, "Dame Vera Lynn, who lived in Ditchling, East Sussex, passed away earlier today, 18 June 2020, surrounded by her close family." RIP Vera Lynn.
But back to our regular On this Day section regarding the first broadcast of this Doctor Who serial. On that actual day, 23rd February 1974, the only thing of note in the UK that day was musical (did you like that?). Thank god, Slade's Merry Xmas Everybody was finally knocked off it's perch by Suzi Quatro's Devil Gate Drive. I used to hear "Dimbleby Drive" when I was a child, but I was probably distracted by super hot Suzi--the only bassist to ever make the bass guitar look like a cool instrument. Rock and roll.
The TARDIS is stranded on Exxilon and the Doctor runs into stranded marines who are there to mine a mineral called parrinium, which is a cure for a deadly plague epidemic. A Dalek ship lands and the human marines make a truce with the Daleks to mine the parrinium.
Sarah, separated from the Doctor, is kidnapped as a sacrifice to a spectacular city that her Exxilon captors worship.
She is rescued by the Doctor and they escape into tunnels chased by Daleks now equipped with projectile weaponry that can work without electrical energy. A Dalek is destroyed by a cybernetic root equipped with a laser that defends the city. Then they meet some friendly Exxilons, including Bellal, who does not share the superstition of the other group and only wishes to see the tyranny of the automated deadly city his ancestors built destroyed.
When the Doctor realises that the city is powered by an energy draining beacon that caused the three ships to become trapped, he and Bellal set out to destroy it. They traverse a maze full of lethal puzzles and find the city's control room. The Doctor hacks some electronic circuit boards, sets off an automated defence system; big, dumb, tough Exxilon guards or cyborgs, which destroy the following Daleks, and gives the city's computer brain an aneurysm.
There is then a dramatic scene outside the city as the Dalek ship, no longer drained, takes off and is blown up by a marine hidden on board.
Doctor wistfully observes as the city falls.
It's amazing. Last time I said how I really don't mind the quarries and gravel pits used by the BBC as alien environments and the very next recap episode, we're in some kind of old quarry---actually Hanson's Aggregates (Binnegar Plain quarry), Puddletown Road, Gallows Hill, Dorset.
Inconsistency alert! If the beacon drains electrical energy, how do the Daleks move, how does the Doctor's sonic screwdriver work; how does anything electrical, in fact, function? Nerd pedantry satisfied, let's move on.
A maze of lethal puzzles? I love it. I love sci-fi and I love mazes. Put them together and you have another of my favourite themes. Examples include the excellent Robert Silverberg novel, The Man in the Man (1968), or, of course, the Cube series of films.
I thought the diminutive Exxilon ally of the Doctor, Bellal (Arnold Yarrow), was particularly endearing. He would have made a splendid companion to the Doctor.
The Exxilon body costumes just look like loose rubber over ordinary humans. It's not a great look, but at least the rough exteriors match their planet's similar look.
The Daleks may be nasty buggers, but they improvise well. Swapping beams for mechanical machine guns in a stroke of genius.
The city's computer brain---a plexiglass sphere within a cube---looks really cool, cooler than ORAC from Blake's 7, and something similar would make an excellent PC case.
First, here's an answer to a fascinating question about this Doctor Who podcast that nobody asked. The question is, where do I get the information for this show? The answer is, mainly my memory, BBC, Wikipedia, TARDIS Data Core, IMDB, the Radio Times, Doctor Who: The Location Guide, and whatever random sources I continually imbibe. Are they fact-checked? No.
Also, I'm particularly enjoying this season's credits; it the swirly blue psychedelic crystals and the Doctor's serious expression and stationary stance as he shrinks back into the centre is very trippy and grown up. It reminds me of the Sapphire and Steel credits.