By Roy Mathur, on 2023-10-28, at 00:36:40--01:25:00 BST, for Captain Roy's Rusty Rocket Radio Show
Welcome back to Classic Doctor Who revisit. Sorry I've been absent. I was beset by a number of mishaps that are only now untangling.
In pod 488, I reported and agreed with Russell T. Davies' view that the entire back catalogue of Doctor Who, including classic Who, should be available on iPlayer, and the only thing of consequence in Whodom lately is that the Beeb have confirmed this, in addition to the upload of a massive Doctor Who document archive.
Story 001, An Unearthly child, won't appear, at least not immediately, as it is mired in rights negotiations with the son of the original writer and rights holder, Anthony Coburn. Like the Daleks, created by, and whose intellectual property was owned by, the late Terry Nation, Doctor Who ownership is not clear-cut. However, the story is available on BritBox and, of course DVD, and I'm sure pirate Captain Wrack, of whom we shall learn more tonight, would not let mere ownership of a thing get in her way.
Cast: Fifth Doctor: Peter Davison, Tegan Jovanka: Janet Fielding, Vislor Turlough: Mark Strickson, Captain Striker: Keith Barron, Marriner: Christopher Brown, Captain Wrack: Lynda Baron; actress; Nurse Gladys in Open All Hours, Mansell: Leee John; lead singer of Imagination; Just an Illusion
Director: Fiona Cumming
Writer: Eric Saward Producer: John Nathan-Turner
Location: Ealing Film Studios (1982) and BBC Television Centre (1983)
Broadcast: Season 20, serial 5, story 127, following Terminus covered in 499, 4 x c. 25 minute episodes, first broadcast 1 to 9 March 1983
Media: Target novelisation by Barbara Clegg (1984), VHS (1993), DVD Black Guardian Trilogy (Mawdryn Undead, Terminus, Enlightenment (2009), DVD Doctor Who DVD Files Issue 57 (2011)
In the UK and USA, Michael Jackson's Billie Jean is number one.
British Leyland launches a miserable five door hatchback called the Austin Maestro, which replaced the only slightly less terrible predecessors, the Austin Maxi and Allegro.
The TARDIS materialises the hold of an Edwardian yacht. The Doctor gets Turlough to reluctantly explore. They meet sailors suffering from amnesia, who say they are in a race. They soon discover that the ship, and other antique vessels, are in a sailing race in space under the command of Eternals with a spellbound human crew; called Ephemerals by the Eternals. The prize for winning the race is Enlightenment awarded by the Black and White Guardians.
The Eternals are not about cheating and a pirate ship commanded by the sadistic Captain Wrack is destroying other vessels. Turlough, in a moment of madness to jumps off the Edwardian ship, but, luckily, is pickup up by the pirate ship. Wrack takes pleasure in tormenting Turlough.
Captain Wrack invites the other officers to her ship for a party. Reunited, the Doctor and Turlough seeks Wrack's secret weapon below decks.
Meanwhile, Wrack bewitches Tegan and places a gem in her tiara, which will act as a targeting device for the weapon when she returns to the Edwardian ship. Back on the Edwardian ship, and at the very last moment, the Doctor deduces that the gem is the targeting device and throws it into space, where it explodes harmlessly.
The Doctor is to travel back to the pirate ship in his TARDIS to stop Wrack. There is a confrontation between Wrack and her first mate and the Doctor and Turlough, and the next thing we see is two bodies that have been spaced.
The Edwardian ship wins. The Ephemeral sailors, released to return to Earth, fade away. The Guardians offer Enlightenment to the Doctor. When he refuses, they decide to reward Turlough with a priceless diamond if the Doctor is sacrificed. Turlough refuses and flings the diamond at the Black Guardian, who seeming dies, screaming and burning. The Doctor says the reward wasn't material, but the choice of enlightenment. Severely stressed by the events, Turlough demands to be taken home.
The Eternals seeming omnipotence, and disregard and fascination for mortal Ephemerals (Tegan's Eternal admirer) reminded me of the Q Continuum from Star Trek: The Next Generation.
Lynda Baron clearly relishes chewing the scenery as Captain Wrack; a buxom, vivacious, sadistic dominatrix, who thoroughly enjoys frightening the trussed-up Turlough and later seeing easily through his attempts at manipulation.
Captain Wrack's first mate, Mansell, is played coolly and sinisterly by Leee John.
Who can blame Turlough for wanting to return home? I'll be glad to see him go. The self-confessed coward and blatant self-server was nothing but trouble. Though, at the end, like Adric, does manage at least one selfless act.
Most people would prefer material wealth. At the cost of doing something evil...? Maybe that demographic is lesser. Only slightly less though, given how much of the worst side of human nature we are seeing in the news recently.
The close-ups of Turlough show him with insanely long eyebrows. Were those prop-eyebrows to show his alieness? If they are natural, then I apologise to Mark Strickson, as well as congratulate him him on owning such impressive beetles.
The dove and raven head wear of the White and Black Guardians is too obvious. More than that, the execution of the costume design is utterly ludicrous. They look as though they've had stuffed birds smashed onto the tops of their heads. It's not so much symbolic as shambolic.
It's as well that the White Guardian expands on the apparent death of the Black Guardian because I'd forgotten about Tom Baker's The Key to Time malarkey:
Be vigilant, Doctor. Once, you denied him the Key to Time. Now, you have thwarted him again. He will be waiting for the third encounter, and his power does not diminish.
If you're interested, the earlier Key to Time stories were covered in pods 404, 405, 411, 414, 418, and 420.
VFX designer Mike Kelt based the ship models on research at the National Maritime Museum in Greenwich.
I'm a boaty and spacey chap, so ships in spaaace are just my thing. My favourite ship is the ancient Greek trireme.
After this revisit, expect our usual all things geek episode.
Following that, they will be a sudden surge in horror-themed podcasting over the Halloween period, which, no surprise, is one of my favourite times of the year. This is the start of a new series of classic British horror revisits, so tune in if that's your body bag.
Clean out your earwax listeners, that is five podcasts in five days!