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An early birthday present for Doctor Who fans

Two more stories found

From Patrick Troughton era

It’s wonderful news

There has been some fantastic news for Doctor Who fans in its 50th anniversary year with the news that 9 more lost episodes have been found. This brings the number of missing episodes down to 97.

Even better news is the fact that they almost complete 2 stories from Patrick Troughton’s second year as the Doctor. Until the discovery of “Tomb of the Cybermen” in the early 1990s, no complete story from this season existed. This year has seen the release of another story from this era, “The Ice Warriors”, with the missing episodes being animated, we now have a run of 3 almost complete stories as the 2 stories that followed, “The Enemy of the World” and “The Web of Fear” being the stories recently discovered.

These 2 stories are of additional interest as they were directed by people who would become legendary figures for Doctor Who fans.

Salamander looks

Much like the Doctor but is

Ruthless Dictator

The first story, “The Enemy of the World” was directed by Barry Letts who would later go on to produce Doctor Who during the Jon Pertwee era. Until now, only one episode of this story existed and in a global spanning story, the episode that we had is easily the least interesting of the six. This story is discussed by Barry Letts in his autobiography “Who and Me” and some lessons that he learned about how Doctor Who was made and how it may be improved. Something as simple as changing from making an episode a week to two episodes a fortnight made a big difference (especially in relation to sets that sometimes got damaged when they were stored). There was a set problem in the episode that existed which lead to a strange scene of someone under guard being kept in a hallway where he ate a meal. This story also features a doppelgänger, allowing Patrick Troughton to play both the Doctor and the tyrant Salamander with a finale that leads directly into the next story. This story also features an early Doctor Who appearance of an actor who plays villains and officious jobsworths exceptionally well, Milton Johns. He would star in two more Doctor Who stories, both in the Tom Baker era, “The Android Invasion” and “The Invasion of Time”. Had the Harry Potter films been made in the 70s or 80s, he would have been an ideal Severus Snape.

The Yeti return

And Lethbridge-Stewart enters

In the underground

The second story, “The Web of Fear”, is interesting for a number of reasons. One being that the enemy is the Great Intelligence (first encountered in “The Abominable Snowmen”, the story that preceded “The Ice Warriors”). The Great Intelligence has also reappeared in the new series of Doctor Who. Web of Fear also introduces a character who would become one of the most popular characters in the series, although in this story the Brigadier has yet to be promoted and is Colonel Lethbridge-Stewart in this story. The Great Intelligence used robotic Yeti to carry out its plans and inside one of the furry suits was the man who would go on to be the much-loved Sergeant Benton of U.N.I.T., John Levene. This story was directed by Douglas Camfield. Camfield has directed many of the most fondly remembered stories form the classic era. There is a very good extra about Douglas Camfield on the recently released “Terror of the Zygons” DVD. The set design on Web of Fear is very good, so good that the production team almost got into trouble after being denied access to film on the underground, they reproduced the underground so convincingly that those who had denied the access thought they had filmed there anyway.

The soundtracks for both these stories have been available with Frazer Hines providing the linking narration for both stories but it is a pleasure to view these lost stories again. Both stories are available to download, the still missing episode 3 of The Web of Fear features the soundtrack and telesnaps, from iTunes but there will be a DVD release for both stories.

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When 108 became 106

The number 108 has a particular resonance with Doctor Who fans. For many years this number represented the number of missing episodes from the Doctor Who archive. The missing stories, dating from the 1960s, are from the black and white era of Doctor Who when episodes were routinely wiped so that the videotape could be reused in an effort to save on the costs. For more about the missing episodes, I heartily recommend the book Wiped by Richard Molesworth.

That number is now 106 with the discovery of two missing episodes. One of the episodes is from the William Hartnell story, Galaxy Four and the other features Patrick Troughton in The Underwater Menace.

Galaxy Four sees William Hartnell’s Doctor accompanied by Maureen O’Brien as Vicki and Peter Purves as Steven Taylor and also features the infamous Chumblies. Some extracts from episode one are on the Lost In Time DVD but the episode that was found is episode three.

The Underwater Menace sees Patrick Troughton’s Doctor accompanied by  Anneke Wills as Polly and Michael Craze as Ben and by new crew member, Jamie McCrimmon. The episode found pre-dates  Episode 3 (also on the Lost In Time DVD), as it is episode 2 of this 4 part serial and in being so is now the earliest episode to feature Patrick Troughton with all episodes from his first two stories, The Power Of The Daleks and The Highlanders missing.

This is the first discovery since episode 2 of the Daleks Master Plan was returned in 2004.

For more information about the discovery, please listen to this special edition of the Doctor Who podcast here.

It will be interesting to see what they will look like after the amazing restoration team get to work on them but if you want to have a sneak peak, click here.

This discovery gives Doctor Who fans hope that somewhere, there may be more treasures to be found and that magic number will keep on decreasing.

If you think you may have information about missing episodes, please contact missingepisodes@drwho-online.co.uk or click here

A Dalek is silenced ~ R.I.P. Roy Skelton

It is with sadness that I heard of another death of someone who had an important role in Doctor Who’s history.

Roy Skelton starred in many episodes of Doctor Who (including one appearance as a character who is invisible) but he will be most fondly remembered within the Doctor Who universe as being one of the voices of the Daleks.

Roy’s first contribution to the series was to provide some of the voices of the Monoids from the William Hartnell story, The Ark. (The actors couldn’t provide the voices due to them having a ping-pong ball in their mouth which was painted as an eye). He next provided the voices for the William Hartnell finale, The Tenth Planet, the story that introduced the Cybermen. The voices in this story are quite sing-songy (listen to the soundtrack if you can or try the Big Finish story, Spare Parts, to hear these voices). The Cybermen have had many types of voices over the years but these were quite unusual.

His first “appearance” as a Dalek was in the Patrick Troughton story, Evil of the Daleks.

The Daleks were not used again until Jon Pertwee was the Doctor and the Daleks were a late addition to the story that became Day of the Daleks (with a plot not too dissimilar from The Terminator). This was the Daleks first TV appearance in colour and a gold Dalek was seen in this story. The oddest thing about this story is the Dalek voices. They don’t have the menace of previous Daleks, a reason could be that Roy wasn’t providing the voices for this story. There could have been more difficulties with this story because producer, Barry Letts, and script editor, Terrance Dicks, had proceeded without asking Terry Nation permission to used the Daleks. A meeting was arranged and apologies said and an offer to write another Dalek story offered.

This story was to be Planet of the Daleks which featured the return of the vocal talents of Roy Skelton and this was the story I alluded to earlier in which he also played Wester, an invisible Spiridon who aided Jo Grant to recover from a fungal infection.

His next vocal appearance was for the classic Tom Baker story Genesis of the Daleks. Michael Wisher had also provided some Daleks in Planet of the Daleks and Death to the Daleks but in this story, Wisher played the creator of the Daleks, Davros which left Roy Skelton to provide the voice of the first Dalek.

His next appearances were in front of the camera in the Terry Nation scripted Android Invasion and Sarah Jane Smith’s final story, The Hand of Fear (although he is well camouflaged).

He provided Dalek voices for Destiny of the Daleks (the last Dalek story to be scripted by Terry Nation) Revelation of the Daleks and Remembrance of the Daleks (featuring Colin Baker and Sylvester McCoy as the Doctor respectively).

If you know your Doctor Who well, you may have noticed that he has featured alongside all but one of the Classic Series Doctors. He did make  a brief (vocal) appearance appearance in the twentieth anniversary special, The Five Doctors which featured Peter Davison.

His rasping voice is the voice I most associate with the Daleks as I grew up in a time before video and DVD releases and repeat showings were few and far between (usually saved for an anniversary or other special occasion).

Roy Skelton also provided the voices of Zippy and George in the children’s television series, Rainbow but it is his work on Doctor Who that I will remember hm most fondly.

My thoughts go out to his family and friends.

Tom Baker joins Big Finish

Exciting news coming from Big Finish. Tom Baker will once again be the Doctor. Click here for more details. It looks as if they will be available in 2012. Keep an eye out here for pre-order details over the coming months as Big Finish often have good pre-order offers. (Honest, I have no affiliation with Big Finish but at present I have several items pre-ordered and can’t wait for them to come out). Now where did I leave my scarf?

Funeral for the Brigadier

The funeral for the late great Nicholas Courtney will be held on Saturday 5th March 2011. It will take place at Golders Green Crematorium. He will be missed and my thoughts remain with his family and friends at this sad time.

I am very grateful to Bruna Zanelli for providing me with this information.

Nicholas Courtney 1929-2011

It is with sadness that I learned of the death of Nicholas Courtney. If you are a Doctor Who fan, you won’t need me to tell you how important he was to the series’ success. Although he was most famous for his portrayal of Alistair Gordon Lethbridge-Stewart, his first appearance came in the epic William Hartnell story, The Daleks Master Plan playing Space Agent Bret Vyon who was later killed by his sister, Sara Kingdom (played by Jean Marsh, who also started alongside Nicholas Courtney in his final Doctor Who appearance as the Brigadier in Battlefield).

His next appearance on Doctor Who was as the aforementioned Lethbridge-Stewart (he is a Colonel in his first encounter with the Doctor, this time played by Patrick Troughton) and the character hasn’t yet been developed into the Brig we all know and love, in fact we may think that HE is the character who is in league with the Yeti and the Great Intelligence. His first appearance as the Brigadier,  was in the Cyberman story, The Invasion, opposite Patrick Troughton again. This story also introduces UNIT and is a kind of blueprint for what the show was to become. Although the Cybermen were the monsters in this story, the chief villain is Tobias Vaughn played wonderfully by Kevin Stoney. One constant in Nicholas Courtney’s appearances so far is the director. All of these stories were directed by Douglas Camfield.

Douglas Camfield had originally cast Courtney as Captain Knight in the Web of Fear, a character that was killed off during the serial but the original actor chosen to play  Lethbridge-Stewart dropped out (David Langton, who went on to star as Richard Bellamy in Upstairs, downstairs,  which was co-created by Jean Marsh). Nicholas Courtney was given a promotion from Captain to Colonel and history was about to be made.

Many of my favourite Doctor Who storylines featuring Nicholas Courtney are those directed by Douglas Camfield, including one which was partly directed by Camfield but due to ill-health during production, the directorial duties were finished by then producer, Barry Letts. That story was the finale to Jon Pertwee’s first season as the Doctor, Inferno. Surprisingly, this was Doctor Who’s first attempt at a parallel universe story. This gave Nicholas Courtney the opportunity to play both the Brigadier and the Brigade Leader (in this universe, the fascist Brigade Leader is free of facial hair). He plays both roles wonderfully.

At the start of the 70’s, Doctor Who underwent a drastic change, not just the change from black & white into colour but the Doctor was grounded on earth. Whereas before, the Doctor was free to roam anywhere and anytime to encounter strange worlds and threats, now the threats had to come to earth. It would be a new challenge with a new Doctor. A fresh start. I think that the contribution Nicholas Courtney made as the Brigadier has been of vital importance. In the first season of Pertwee stories, the Doctor is more concerned with getting the TARDIS to work than to bother with invading aliens or unearthed beings. The Brigadier brings a human element to the storylines and also gave the Doctor someone in authority to argue with, something that hasn’t occurred very often in the new series.

I became a fan of Doctor Who after the UNIT years but I do remember being very excited at the prospect of seeing the Brigadier in the Peter Davison story Mawdryn Undead and delighted at the team up of  Nicholas Courtney alongside Patrick Troughton in the 20th anniversary story, The Five Doctors. Those days were free of DVD releases and repeats of earlier stories were few and far between with my only way of catching up with the previous stories were the target novelisations. These were excellent companions to me but they didn’t match the sheer thrill of seeing the Brigadier in the flesh. Nicholas Courtney brought to life a great character and managed to give the character a warmth and human-ness that enhanced the series.

A wonderful story to listen to is by Big Finish;  part of their Companion Chronicles Series. It is called Old Soldiers and I would like to finish by repeating the first words spoken by Nicholas Courtney as Alistair Gordon Lethbridge-Stewart in this story, “to absent friends”.

From interviews I’ve read and heard by Nicholas Courtney himself and others, he strikes me as being a very kind-hearted man with a great sense of fun and a twinkle in his eye. He will be missed and my thoughts are with his family and friends.

Now about that 21  gun salute…five rounds rapid.

Recommended listening

The Daleks Master Plan*

The Web of Fear*

*surviving episodes of these stories can be found on the Lost In Time DVD set

Old Soldiers

Recommended Viewing

The Invasion

Inferno

Mawdryn Undead

The Five Doctors

Battlefield

Enemy of the Bane

Recommended Reading

Still Getting Away With It

Greyhound Leader

 I would also suggest looking at the sites listed on the right hand side for more tributes to this great man. Please feel free to leave some comments about your own memories about Nicholas Courtney. Thank you

UNITs Brigadier

And defender of the earth

Friend of the Doctor

Biography news

NEWSFLASH: As some of you may know, one of my favourite Doctors is 2nd Doctor, Patrick Troughton. The exciting news is that his son, Michael, has written a biography about his father. The full article can be found here. You can order the book here [Many thanks to my co-author for informing me of this]