Hello everyone, the Historian here, making it in just under the wire (as usual) with a wrapup of our last story. And wow, what a story it was! Honestly, we covered a lot of this ground already over the past eight discussions, so let’s see if I can come up with anything new.
Production Notes: The basic story (well, the very basic, not-quite fleshed out story) for this Cybermen adventure (the last one until 1975!) was once again written by Kit Pedler–who had created the Cybermen for The Tenth Planet. He’d been a “scientific advisor” for the show on and off since 1966, when he proposed the idea that became the War Machines in 1966, but this wound up being his last work on Doctor Who. If I have it right, he was credited with the story ideas for six serials over the two years he was associated with the program–not bad!
This story also saw a first real onscreen credit for a figure beloved by Doctor Who fans: Terrence Dicks. He had become story editor Derek Sherwin’s assistant earlier in the year, but (since Sherwin was both writing this story and engaged in assisting Producer Peter Bryant with production) this would be Dicks’ first credit as “script editor,” the new name for “story editor.”
A lot has been made of this story being Bryant and Sherwin’s “pilot” for the new direction the series would go in (for the seventh season), and I think that’s an excellent cue to talk about where the series was at this time and why a new direction might have been needed. To put it bluntly, ratings had fallen off fairly severely over the first two stories of the season. They ticked up a bit for The Invasion, but not to previous levels…and they had crept down again by the end of the story. The fact that the budget for the series had been reduced didn’t help. And, by early August of 1968, Patrick Troughton had announced his decision to leave the show at the end of the recording block. (Frazer Hines had already planned to leave earlier, but was convinced to stay so he and Troughton would leave at the same time.) There were those in BBC management who assumed that the end of this sixth season would be the natural end of the show itself–something that neither Bryant nor Sherwin wanted. Thus the need for a new, potentially slightly cheaper direction as part of their argument for Doctor Who to be commissioned again: the show would get away from space epics and be based on Earth, with the Doctor (in a Quatermass-like role) helping combat alien invasions with the newly created U.N.I.T. (It’s worth noting that Terrence Dicks was not a huge fan of this idea–but that’s another tale for quite a different Project, not this one!) But they realized they couldn’t implement wholescale changes like the ones proposed all at once…so this story was a (very effective!) “try-out” for season seven, rather than a new direction for season six. (In other words, we’re back to outer space in our next story!)
As always, for the complete run-down on production, see A Brief History of Time (Travel).
Project Notes: Once again, we covered (and re-covered) a lot of ground already in the discussions, which I’ll link to in a minute. I was pleased, though not at all surprised, by how much the Project enjoyed the story–as I’ve already said, it’s definitely up there for me. There was a bit of disagreement about the end of episode eight…well, actually, Ketina talked about how she felt it was anticlimactic and I didn’t say anything at all. But, since I have the last word here, I’ll say that I really like the whole “Yay, the Cybermen on Earth and Vaughn are stopped! Wait, what do you mean the danger’s not over?” aspect, as well as the great tension/release of the five minutes and quick edit to Zoe thing. I felt like it gave this fairly unique story a nice, unique ending. (And it’s not like we haven’t seen sudden cuts from action to denouement before, right?)
But that’s just me, of course. Now, here’s the episode discussion links:
And here’s the Official BBC episode guide for this story.
Next! A new adventure on a new planet will test the Doctor’s mental abilities to their fullest! Sort of!
Until later tonight, I remain