It is amazing how complete is the delusion that beauty is goodness.
I am not a vegetarian because I love animals; I am a vegetarian because I hate plants.
- A. Whitney Brown
FOUR HUNDRED DAWNS
Me: Right – we’re diving in a bit blind here. I’ve got to confess that I don’t know a huge amount about this story, except that we’re near the end of Verity Lambert’s time as producer and the third episode’s been recovered. But we haven’t got access to that one yet.
Him: Do you mind if I fall asleep during this?
Me: Not at all. I’m actually quite excited.
The third season of Doctor Who begins with a pan across a desert. The TARDIS lands and there’s a bit of console movement - and then a shot of the Doctor - from an off-screen recording made at the time. It’s amazing that any footage like this survives, considering how much time has passed, and it’s intriguing exactly what moments the footage that survives is made up from – I guess it comes down to a case of point-and-film. Anyway, on the TARDIS, Steven is having his hair cut to regulation male companion length. Vicki is carrying on a conversation with the Doctor. The scissors were last seen in Edge of Destruction.
The Doctor announces they’ve landed and pops on the scanner for a peek. The planet is silent.
Me: Maybe the volume’s off.
The Doctor checks the readings – seems alright. Vicki wants to have a proper look now that Steven conforms. The Doctor says it might be a good idea, after they’ve earned a rest. Or have they?
Him: ‘Long deserved undeserved’?
Outside the TARDIS, a jelly mould approaches.
Him: There it is.
Me: Looks quite cute.
The jelly mould bumps up against the TARDIS, startling the occupants. The Doctor suggests it might be blind. On the scanner something rises from the jelly mould.
Me: Fair play. Oh – movement.
Steven thinks it’s sending a message.
Him: Primitive email?
Vicki is quite taken with the beast and names it and its species ‘Chumblies’. The Doctor opens the doors and the travellers head outside. Seems nice enough.
Me: Maybe they’ll bring the Chumblies and the Rills back.
Him: Not before the Zarbi.
Steven spots three suns and Vicki finds almost-roses.
Me: The Drahvins visited the Pandorica.
Him: How do you know?
Me: Their ship was in the episode.
From behind the TARDIS a Chumbley emerges, armed with what appears to be either a gun or a straw. The Doctor engages it in conversation, unsuccessfully.
Him: Shiny William Hartnell.
The Chumbley gives the Doctor a playful bump and then kills a bush. The Chumbley sets off and our heroes follow, observed by two strangely dressed figures.
Me: Hello, ladies.
Him: Say what you see. ‘Doctor Who in an Exciting Adventure with Cutbacks’.
The ladies throw a mesh net on the Chumbley, incapacitating it.
Me: Steven’s impressed.
Steven: What a lovely surprise.
Drahvin: We are the Drahvins.
Steven: And very nice too.
Him: Might be his usual greeting.
Me: It’s possible Steven didn’t just get given Barbara’s lines then.
Him: Ian’s as well.
Me: I think they’ve been Taylor’d. Hee hee hee! Boom! Boom!
Him: Oh, right: Basil Brush. World’s fifth scariest puppet. Number four: Topov; number three: Mooney; number two: Pig, and number one: Hartley Hare. That’s my top five. And the basis for a completely different blog.
Me: Pipikins: Sapphire and Steel for kids.
The Drahvins are from Drahva in Galaxy 4. Steven, as mentioned, is impressed but Vicki’s spider-sense is tingling in this one. The Drahvins reveal why they saved our chums.
Me: It’s a rescue.
Him: It’s The Rescue?
The Drahvins are to take our heroes to their leader, Maaga. If they stay here, they will be captured by the Rills. Or “Rrrrrrrrrills” as they’re actually introduced by a Drahvin, who rolls the name in a way that puts even McCoy to shame. The Rills are not people. They murder. They’ve killed a Drahvin already. Suddenly – more Chumblies!
Me: “Run away!”
The Him sighs. The new arrivals offer Chumbley assistance while our heroes and the Drahvins run off to meet Maaga.
Me: There’s not much dialogue.
We reach the Drahvin ship.
Him: This is the footage that survives.
In the Drahvin ship the story moves forward. The ship’s falling apart. We meet Maaga. Our heroes are introduced as prisoners. The Drahvins deliver their report – including the loss of the mesh net. Maaga fills in background to the story. She announces that the Drahvins are at war with the Rills.
Me: I think I’ll have to draw a Chumbley for this.
Maaga announces that in fourteen dawns the planet will disintegrate, which causes a bit of a problem. The Rills are repairing their spaceship a short distance away in order to escape. Maaga reveals that the Drahvin ship can’t fly – because the Rills shot it down. She describes Drahva. It’s a bit overpopulated, which is interesting as the rest of the Drahvins we meet have all been grown, with Maaga herself being the only ‘living being’.
Maaga: We have a small number of men, as many as we need. The rest we kill. They consume valuable food and fulfil no particular function.
Maaga reveals that they managed to bring the Rill ship down following its attack on them. After this, one of the Drahvins was killed. When asked to describe a Rill, Maaga is quite vague and derogatory. A Chumbley approaches the Drahvin ship.
Me: This reminds me of Destiny of the Daleks for some reason.
Him: I don’t remember Destiny of the Daleks.
Maaga says that the Rills send the Chumblies to tell them lies. The Doctor wants to listen, but Maaga doesn’t. The Chumbley is attacked. The Doctor offers to find out if the planet is really going to explode. Maaga agrees, but one of the crew has to stay. It’s Vicki.
Me: The Doctor’s holding a seal or something.
The Doctor and Steven leave. A Chumbley is bumping the TARDIS. The Doctor offers some observations.
Me: It feels like William Hartnell’s struggling a bit.
Back on the Drahvin ship, Maaga is administering a telling off. The Doctor and Steven watch the Chumbley mount an unsuccessful TARDIS attack. It leaves. Back in the TARDIS, the Doctor consults his astral map – last seen in The Web Planet.
Me: Still got it then.
It’s bad news.
The Doctor: The Rills were quite right.
And Maaga was being optimistic with her ‘fourteen dawn’ projection.
The Doctor: Two dawns! Tomorrow is the last day this planet will ever see.
The credits scroll, and something that’s previously passed me by passes by.
Me: Good grief! Angelo Muscat! He’s the Butler in The Prisoner! Oh – that’s marvellous!
Him: You remember that?
Me: Well the most recent edition of The Prisoner gives him on-the-box billing because, apart from Patrick McGoohan, he was the only actor in every episode.
TRAP OF STEEL
Me: So, Galaxy 4 is where the Drahvins come from but not where this story’s set. That’s a bit vague.
We recap. The situation hasn’t improved. There’s a Chumbley at the TARDIS door, placing something over the handle.
Him: Plastic bag. It’s the dog-walking bag and it’s been left next to the TARDIS.
Me: Maybe it thinks the TARDIS is a bin.
If it does, we’re dealing with a delinquent Chumbley, as its next action is to try and set light to the bin. There’s a bang and the Doctor and Steven fall down. And again.
The Doctor: Well, I think Guy Fawkes must’ve been resurrected.
Him: Another great shot of Steven. He looks like the leader of the black turtle-necked group.
Me: The Xenons?
Him: I think so. ‘Youthful exuberance’.
Me: That’s them.
Back with the Drahvins and Vicki has been mistaken for a rabbit.
Me: They’re veggies.
The Doctor and Steven return to the Drahvin ship.
Him: Whoah! Steven’s a Faceless One!
|Hi-Fi's cloaking device begins to fail.|
The Doctor produces a tool and vandalises the Drahvin paintwork.
Him: And a regular screwdriver.
In the ship our heroes are reunited.
Him: There’s no music.
Me: There isn’t, is there?
The Doctor lies to the Drahvins about the timescale. Maaga asks for help. Steven asks why the Drahvins wouldn’t cooperate with the Rills. The Doctor says it’s none of his business. Maaga pulls a gun and gets disarmed by Steven. The other Drahvins return from their patrol and our heroes are right back where they started, but with an annoyed bunch of Drahvins to contend with. The Doctor admits it’s only two dawns until planet death. Maaga isn’t over-pleased, but accepts Steven as a hostage. The doors to the ship open. The Him’s reading the captions by this point.
Me: Rule number one-
Him: “Never eat a turnip”?
Me: The other rule number one.
Him: “Never eat a companion”?
Me: Unless it’s Adric.
Him: They didn’t eat Adric. Stop being mean about him.
Me: I’m fairly sure that Tom Baker was after a vegetable companion but got given Leela instead. Peter Davison got his celery1 though. And a bonus Adric.
Him: Tom Baker wanted a vegetable companion?
Me: He suggested he could have a cabbage to talk to, but Philip Hinchcliffe didn’t think it would catch the imaginations of the Dads quite as much as what he had in mind.
Him: That would have been amazing. Didn’t Sylvester McCoy listen to a pear?
Me: Something like that. I think it was a Barry Island apple.
The Doctor and Vicki wander across the surface.
Him: Vicki’s eyes are, once again, glowing with an evil intelligence.
The Him’s singing the captions now. Well, we’re both singing the captions. On the Drahvin ship Steven is offered food.
Me: “Mmmmm. Salad.”
Steven sparks up a conversation with his Drahvin guard. Turns out only Maaga’s armed, and her gun can destroy pretty much anything.
Steven: Even the Chumblies?
Me: Oo. Interesting.
Steven attempts to foment rebellion.
Me: I’ve a suspicion that the Drahvins aren’t bright enough to win a war.
Maaga wanders in on this exchange and sends the Drahvin away. She has a chat with Steven about the possibility of taking the Drahvins away in the TARDIS.
Him: Is there any movement in this one at all?
Steven: I’m the gullible one, is that it?
Him: Steven isn’t gullible. He’s under Hi-Fi’s influence. “Steven – Kill the Drahvins – steal their delicious eucalyptus leaves – Obey me – Obey…”
It’s the voice that really sells it, but I’m afraid that you’ll just have to use your imagination.
Him: Hang on! Hi-Fi becomes the Boss! “Steeeeven! Steeeeeeeeeeven…”
Steven lies down. Elsewhere…
The Doctor and Vicki watch from behind a boulder. Vicki picks up a rock and bungs it at the Chumbley.
Him: Moving rock! She missed – but it was a moving rock!
Me: The Troughton Attack Manoeuvre.
The Doctor and Vicki follow that Chumbley. The Drahvins aren’t doing much; Maaga’s scheming.
Him: The Drahvins don’t have eyes.
Vicki and the Doctor have reached the Rill ship.
Vicki: It looks like a… a drill rig.
The Doctor: What could they be drilling for?
Vicki: Oil, gas?
Me: The hell of it?
The Doctor is most impressed with the Rills – they seem to be much more advanced than he expected.
Him: Vicki stares into the entrance/The Doctor stares out into space/Vicki stares at the exit/What a boring place
Him: I’m pretty sure that the Chumblies are pink.
Him: I think I saw a picture of them in colour.
The Doctor and Vicki make their way inside and…
Him: It’s the Dalek noise.
The smell of ammonia lingers in the air.
Him: Isn’t that urine?
Me: Um… Well…
The Doctor and Vicki discover - what appears to be - a baby Chumbley.
Him: Aw. It’s tiny.
Just as we’re cooing over the unexpected cuteness – there’s a cliffhanger Rill!
Him: And Air Lock hasn’t been released yet?
Me: Not yet, but I’m glad it will be. In a reasonably priced DVD release - with The Underwater Menace episode two and all the missing photo galleries and documentaries from the original Lost in Time - and not used as an excuse to release a four-disc Redux version or anything cheeky like that.2
1. But does Davison’s celery truly count as a companion? Fan debate rages on into the night and carpets remain unhoovered as a result.
2. Sorry. Sorry. Couldn’t help it.
We recap. The Rill doesn’t make me jump this time.
Me: That was the only photo of a Rill at the time.
Him: And now they’ve got the entire episode.
Me: Great, isn’t it?
A Chumbley approaches and our heroes run. A grill falls and Vicki is trapped. The air is being converted to ammonia – which can’t be good. The Doctor does some swift tampering but to no avail. A Chumbley chitters up behind Vicki, who’s a little bit alarmed at how her day’s turning out. The Doctor tells her to follow the Chumbley and talk to the mind-manglingly hideous Rill to see what it wants. At this point, the Him starts doing something a little bit unexpected.
Him: Big fish/Little fish/Cardboard box/Big fish/Little fish/Cardboard box/ Big fish/Little fish/Cardboard box/Big fish/Little fish/Cardboard box
Back with the Drahvins and Steven’s asleep. The Him continues being unexpected.
Him: Nail in the wall/Bish bash bosh/Nail in the wall/Bish bash bosh
Maaga pines for decent conversation and a planet that isn’t about to turn all molten. The loneliness of command leads to evil soliloquies.
Me: She’s a wrong ‘un.
Having read the key-points of his manual, Steven’s faking sleep to buy time and overhear scheming, both of which are essential attributes for any successful companion. Vicki is taken to the, now closed, hatch where the Rill was glimpsed. Unexpectedly, a Chumbley starts speaking for the Rill. I’m quite baffled for a moment.
Me: That’s mad! It sounds just like Aleister Crowley.
The hatch opens and the Rill begins a chat that will last some time and cover any plot points. Using telepathic communication. Meanwhile, the Doctor tampers
Him: “Marvellous. Bust it.”
The Rill and Vicki are getting along famously. The Rill says that the Drahvins started it. As it reminisces, the picture starts moving and we see a Drahvin lying on the surface sand. Maaga approaches and kills the Drahvin, putting Vicki firmly on the side of the Chumblies (and the Rill).
Me: Oo – reconstruction done proper.
The Him doesn’t comment on the sudden movement. As the Great Beast reveals that he can only breathe ammonia, Vicki remembers what the Doctor was up to and starts panicking. It wouldn’t be the first time something she’s become fond of is accidentally murdered by a member of the TARDIS crew.
Me: “Stop weeping, child. They looked funny and so they had to go.”
Back on the Drahvin ship, Steven’s still ‘asleep’, so Maaga’s getting in some organ practise with a few scales.
Me: Meanwhile, in church.
Steven slithers silently up to his guard and pounces. The re-enactment moment doesn’t go unnoticed.
Him: Is that where they’ve redone it with actors?
Me: Reckon so.
Steven leaves the Drahvin ship, spots a Chumbley, and then climbs back into the airlock. ‘Escape to Danger’ is a tricky skill for a new companion to learn, but Mr Taylor has mastered it manfully. The Doctor and Vicki are chatting to the Rill.
Me: I’m quite looking forward-
Him: To cheesecake?
Me: To seeing this all moving properly.
The Doctor meets up with the Rills properly. They’re keen on drilling for power. And repairing the mess that the Doctor has made of their air-converter.
Him: I like the smoke that’s drifting.
Me: How d’you think William Emms came up with the name?
Him: It sounds like a cool name – ‘Rill’. But it’s just ‘drill’ without the ‘d’.
The Doctor reveals how long’s left until the planet goes full Alderaan. The Rill wails despondently. There’s a sudden noise.
Vicki: What’s that?
Me: The phone?
Back on the Drahvin ship, Maaga is taunting Steven. There’s a sudden shot of a big black spot – I think it’s a microphone. Maaga reveals that Steven isn’t as safe as he thinks he is, what with being in an air-lock and all. There are dials on the wall revealing how the atmosphere’s doing. Maaga starts draining the oxygen.
Him: My book mentioned Robespierre.
Me: Oh, yeah?
Him: Yeah, Chemical Chaos.
The Him reads out the relevant pages with accents and gusto – it’s about the last days of Lavoisier. It’s my first hint that he might not be totally grabbed by the slideshow with commentary. Having been told by the Rill that Steven’s making sounds of distress, the Doctor and Vicki are wandering the landscape in the general direction of where they left him.
Me: That looks quite good.
A Drahvin confronts the rescue party. Vicki and a Chumbley practise a bit of deception. It doesn’t work and there’s a fight. It ends with everyone trooping towards the Drahvin ship, where Steven’s being forced into a position of end-of-episode acting.
Me: There’s a mirror of events between the two ships.
THE EXPLODING PLANET
We recap. Steven’s still in trouble.
Me: Good title. It’s actually about Traken.
Him: It’s Superman.
Me: Marvellous! So this is actually set on the other side of Krypton?
Me: It’s not impossible, I guess – but the Doctor’s connected more to the Marvel universe if anything.
My original notes read: “Steven and rescue and stuff. Hard to tell what’s going on.” I think I’ll stand by those, as the sound on this episode is a bit muddy. That’s not to criticise, in any way, the sterling work of the dedicated individuals who’ve made it possible to be even able to experience this episode. It’s a dig at VHS.
Me: Can you hear this alright?
Me: I thought I was going old for a moment.
Him: You are. Bwah ha ha!
Back on the planet, the Drahvins are about to burst into song. Maaga has an edge of panic to her voice. The final nightfall’s coming and they need to be aboard the Rill ship while there’s still a planet to leave. The Doctor, Vicki and Steven return to the Rill centre where the Doctor is planning to jumpstart the ship using the TARDIS.
Me: ‘The Rill Centre’ sounds like a North Wales swimming pool.
Steven meets his first Rill and has a quick debate about ethics.
Him: I like the baby Chumbley. The Doctor should have the Baby Chumbley as a companion.
Me: And Zombo?
The Drahvins are preparing to launch their final assault. Vicki and the Doctor are gathering cables. The planet is beginning to ominously rumble.
Him: So, was there only one Rill – or did we only see one?
Me: The others all have headaches and aren’t thinking loud enough to join in.
Him: I’m not keen on how aliens introduce themselves as species. “I’m a Drahvin.” “I’m a Rill.” We don’t go around saying, “I’m a human.”
Me: Speak for yourself.
Drahvin Three murders a Chumbley with some lead piping.
Him: No! I liked that Chumbley. That was a nice Chumbley.
The Drahvins prepare to attack the Rill ship. The powering up of the ship will take at least two hours, which is cutting it a bit fine. A Drahvin arrives and is dealt with by the Chumblies. The Doctor enters the Rill space for a proper meeting. Maaga orders an attack. There’s a fight. The Doctor and the Rill are finally face to face.
|It's what's inside the tusked, ammonia-breathing exterior that counts.|
Me: Oh wow.
Him: I thought they only had one picture?
Me: Maybe that’s been added by a fan. I’m really looking forward to seeing the Rills properly.
Having said their goodbyes, our heroes prepare to leave. Outside, the fight continues. The Rill ship is fully charged.
Rill: It is easy to help others when they are so willing to help you.
Me: All gone a bit Star Trek there. “If we co-operate-“
The Rill motors start up. The Drahvins watch as the Rills leave, then catch sight of the TARDIS crew – they’re very afraid by this point. I mean it, the Drahvins are really scared.
Me: Interesting from a moral perspective.
A suicide Chumbley holds back the remaining Drahvin whilst our heroes get back into the TARDIS. The Drahvins watch it leave.
Me: That’s a bit harsh.
Him: Why’s the Doctor leaving the Drahvins?
Me: Good question.
Him: Well, the Drahvins won’t be back.
Me: Not those ones.
Following that little adventure, the Doctor wants a rest. Vicki’s hurt her ankle.
Vicki: Look at that planet. I wonder what’s going on there.
Me: Meanwhile, on Kembel.
Him: “Take him back to Kembel!”
We pan through a foggy jungle.
A gentleman in a spacesuit is crawling around, panting. This is Garvey, and he’s just remembered what he’s got to do.
Garvey: Must… kill…
NEXT: MISSION TO THE UNKNOWN
Me: And that was made like it was the fifth part of Galaxy 4. And that jungle looks like where all the money for the five episodes went.
Him: The explosion was pretty good.
Me: I suppose it could have been from anywhere.
The credits roll.
Me: Nice. Kudos. Thoughts?
Him: I like the Chumblies.
Me: Anything you’d like to say about gender inequality, the nature of feminism or the objectification caused by the male gaze?
Him: Don’t scare the hare!
Me: Superb. That’s a good point to end on.
Him: “But the Drahvins were sensible enough to send one male baby of their kind to a strange blue planet a long way away. The planet… EARTH!“