The Tenth Planet part 1

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  • #62490
    Craig @craig
    Emperor

    Next up is the first Doctor’s final story – hopefully that’s not too much of a spoiler as it’s the reason we’re discussing it. So come, be merry, and watch a story that will lead directly into the Christmas special, and will probably be referenced quite heavily. So if you want to understand the back story and get all the in-jokes after you’ve had your turkey, get involved.

    Written by Kit Pedler, it was broadcast in October 1966. The Doctor and his companions, Ben and Polly, land in Antarctica in December 1986 (how futuristic), at the Snowcap space tracking station. The base is supervising the mission of the Zeus IV spaceship, running a routine probe on the Earth’s atmosphere.

    When the mission starts going wrong, the Doctor informs them that the space capsule is being affected by the gravitational pull of another planet — a tenth planet in the solar system.

    I should add that the last episode of this four-part story has sadly been lost, but there is a reconstruction. I’m sure it will be available to buy from your favourite DVD/Blu-ray retailer, or it may be on your Netflix, Prime or Hulu, or whatever else you subscribe to.

    And remember, we’re discussing this story one episode per week, as it was originally broadcast. If you’ve seen it before, for the convenience of anyone approaching this for the first time, NO SPOILERS for subsequent episodes please.

    #62497
    wolfweed @wolfweed

    @craig  Part 4 currently lives here:

    10th planet part 4 on dailymotion

    (We should all purchase a legal version of the story if possible of course)

    tp

    #62499
    Craig @craig
    Emperor

    @wolfweed Cheers. I’d found the footage + stills reconstruction but not the animation.

    It won’t hurt to offer both as a final watching experience. Might even be an interesting topic of conversation – what do people prefer?

    #62505
    wolfweed @wolfweed

    @craig  I’d probably prefer the stills recon rather than the Studio Ghibli-esque anime…

    Happy to go with whatever others prefer though.

    Cheers!

    #62507
    Bluesqueakpip @bluesqueakpip

    Okay. General Cutler is an idiot.

    In fact, he’s such an idiot that the script has a line in it (possibly inserted by the script editor or producer) where one of the supporting characters mentions how unbearably awful the General is. The guy is an official idiot. His job in the script appears to be to rush around shouting at people instead of asking them sensible questions, refuse to let them explain what’s going on, then shout at them some more when they try and explain. I mean, seriously, three people turn up at an Antarctic base, and you don’t want to know little things like ‘how the heck did they get here without anyone noticing’? A mysterious extra planet turns up and you don’t wonder if your mysterious visitors have something to do with this?

    Yup, Official Idiot.

    Cheers for Earl Cameron, not only playing a black astronaut, but playing the Captain of Zeus Four. In 1966, one month after Star Trek had daringly posited a black communications officer who was never (in the original series) allowed to take the command chair. I mentioned Earl on the news thread; he attained the grand old age of 100 in August. He was one of the generation of black actors, mostly immigrants, who managed to break the colour bar on British TV, moving from specifically ‘black’ parts to roles that – like the part of Williams – were not racially based.

    Considering how ill William Hartnell was, he does a very good job. I really enjoyed his performance; though I did note that he has relatively little to do. This is, it seems, because by this point they were trying to reduce his workload.

    The snowscape of Antarctica is pretty good for the day, but I kept wincing at the seeming lack of knowledge of just how very, very cold it would have been. Polly’s very fashionable handwarmer must have had magic qualities (possibly TARDIS designed), because it keeps her hands unfrostbitten even when she takes them out – and the metal in her ring would’ve cold-welded to her hand if she’d really been waving it around in Antarctica. I was much more tolerant of the dodgy ‘space’ acting, because this was 1966 and human spaceflight was only about five and a half years old. No live TV broadcasts from space stations to base the movements on – the actors seemed to be trying to imitate ‘weightlessness’ and later managing a good guess at the effects of acceleration.

    This first episode is interesting in that it seems to set up the ‘real’ villain as General Cutler. Yes, we get the invasion of the Mondasian Cybermen at the very end, but while ‘The Tenth Planet’ is the mystery, Cutler, throughout the episode, is the real antagonist.

    And he’s an idiot. Did I mention that? 😉

    #62516
    Whisht @whisht

    Well I enjoyed this.
    I haven’t seen it before, so don’t know what happens.
    I think @bluesqueakpip has mentioned a few of my thoughts but here’s a couple more:

    – Cutler is such an idiot, he invites unknown and possibly hostile people into the viewing area so they can get a good look at what’s going on (maybe by 1986 there are no ‘hostile’ people?).
    – I love the fact its so ‘international’ though I cringed at it at the same time (oh, Italian you say? Better sing me some opera and ogle at girls – mama mia!).
    – I really like Ben (or the actor playing him at least – he seems a bit less ‘actor-y’ than some of the others perhaps).
    – Mondasian Cybermen wisely have goolie-warming heating units in the cold conditions.
    – cloaks make for wonderful disguises.
    – karate chops are really really effective (hii-ya!).

    #62517
    wolfweed @wolfweed

    @bluesqueakpip  I now have disturbing visions of Ben & Pollys’ noses & lips (& Polly’s right hand) being amputated in an attempt to stop the frostbite!

    There is a mention of penguins, which makes us believe we really are at the South Pole.

    Private Tito has some surprisingly saucy wall decor, to remind him of what women look like – seeing as none work there in 1986…

    Cutler to the Dr: ‘I don’t like your face, nor your hair!’

    A second mention of penguins, this time ‘frustrated’ ones. No fiery-arsed ones yet…

    In 1986 in our universe, the Challenger Space Shuttle disaster sadly occurred.

    The astronauts are drezzed for the occasion in their cool Bossk-Wear…

    bw

    They’ve spotted a strange planet through their oversized drainpipe.

    Cutler wants them to perform ‘An Emergency Splashdown’… (Oo-Er!)

    The suspense as the ship goes out of control is extremely unsuspenseful, mainly due to the static shooting of those scenes…

    The spinning mirror-planet is a creepy concept. It recalls the various ‘globe’ BBC idents…

    Expecting ‘visitors’ – It’s so unnerving!

    The telephones in 1986 look rather rude!!!

    Hartnell’s prolonged silent face-acting is great. The jokey banter of the TARDIS crew is undercut for a moment, with a palpable sense of foreboding…

    The spaceship that lands is better than some, looking somewhat like a smoke alarm

    Thankfully the mysterious monsters visit for the cliffhanger and even get to use ‘The Keys of Marinus’ style effective disguise method of putting a hood over their strange head appendage…

    Can’t wait to find out more next week…

     

     

     

    #62543
    Mudlark @mudlark

    @bluesqueakpip , @whisht, @wolfweed

    General Cutler is an idiot.

    He is all of that, but my first thought was that he is an example of a common – at the time – stereotype of the totally unimaginative and by-the-rule military officer who is so mentally and emotionally incapable of processing such a truly out of the ordinary experience as this that he either refuses to acknowledge it at all or resorts to rationalising it in mundane terms.   Compare Colonel Breen in Quatermass and the Pit.

    Having never seen this before I found it unexpectedly gripping – more so than The Keys of Marinus; and given the limitations of the medium and the budget, the impression conveyed of Antarctic wilderness was remarkably effective, even though, like you, my second thought was that the Doctor, Ben and Polly were decidedly underdressed for an Antarctic blizzard.  On the other hand, with the benefit of all the subsequent years of accumulated Who-lore we might postulate that they are protected by a field projected around the Tardis, just as in recent series we have seen people able to step safely out of the Tardis into the airless vacuum of space.  The translation field of the Tardis seems to extend over a considerable distance, after all.

    This first appearance of the cybermen, even though expected, was startlingly spooky, and I can see now why some people think this first incarnation to be more effective than the later, more conventionally robotic designs.

    #62544
    Bluesqueakpip @bluesqueakpip

    The DVD has arrived. It’s rather spiffy; not only does it have both the animated AND the stills reconstruction of Episode 4, it has a ‘making of’ documentary, the immediately post Who Hartnell interview, plus interviews and discussion pieces with several Who companions.

    And, of course, an audio commentary. They seem to have managed most of the surviving cast members; Anneke Wills, Earl Cameron and Alan White (the two astronauts), Donald van der Maaten (Cyberman) and Chris Matthews, who had his first TV role, Radar Technician. They also managed an interview with the designer, which is intercut with the commentary.

    Generally the cast seemed to have really enjoyed this as ‘something different’, cutting edge. They were proud of it. Earl Cameron was very happy (if a bit surprised) to be asked to play an astronaut. Back in the 60’s, as I noted above, just the idea of a black astronaut was unusual.

    A lot of the outside was filmed at Ealing – William Hartnell had a stand-in. One thing that’s very noticeable is that while the surviving original cast (William Russell, Carole Ann Ford) obviously recall Hartnell very fondly, by this time Hartnell seems to have been not just ‘irritable’ but frankly terrifying. Anneke remembers that she and Michael were very close partly because they needed to support each other when Hartnell ‘went off on one’. Alan White, who knew Hartnell from previous jobs, also remembers him fondly and talks about what a good actor he was. The impression I’m getting is of a contrast between people who only knew him in this later stage of Who, and those who knew him before he became ill.

    The set had been partly ‘borrowed’ from Pinewood, where they were filming something futuristic.

    Robert Beatty (General) was a big star at the time. He was also a mate of Hartnell, so some of the scenes were figured out between the two of them. Kit Pedler, the writer, was very hands-on and attended rehearsals to help out with the science.

    Peter Kindred was the designer – pleased to be asked to do Who because it was his first ‘proper’ job after finishing his trainee designer stage. He was going for a realistic, rather than ‘SF’, look; Cape Canaverel style. He wanted a ‘lonely little base’ in the middle of nowhere – hence Ealing, which allowed space for wider shots.

    Peter also remembered how difficult Hartnell was by then – he didn’t know at the time Hartnell was ill, but remembers him as very, very bad tempered. He had the distinct impression everyone was looking forward to Patrick Troughton coming in; he also thought the idea of regeneration was very clever, very original.

    The organic hands of the Cybermen were a costume error – the costumer forgot the gloves. Then they decided it looked rather good, especially given that they were supposed to be in the Antarctic, so used make up instead.

    #62586
    JimTheFish @jimthefish
    Time Lord

    Fascinating to watch this again. A bona fide piece of Who history on so many levels. I always feel that BG Who was at its best when ingenuity and commitment trumped budget limitations and I feel this is absolutely one of those times. The rocket sequences are a bit static and the ‘space acting’ is a bit odd but for me it works — although I agree with @wolfweed that it’s a bit less suspenseful than it could have been. But for Who to be attempting this in ’66 is quite impressive.

    Cutler is an absolute arse, naturally. But as @mudlark says he’s very much a type inherited from Quatermass and US 50s B-movies. He’s also a type that we’re going to see a lot of in the next couple of eras of Who. He’s a close relative of Hobson in Moonbase, Clent in The Ice Warriors, Carrington in The Ambassadors of Death and so on. And perhaps even a harder more unsympathetic take on the Brigadier.

    In fact, is this the first example of something that will repeat through the entire show’s history — the pre-regeneration story setting up the model for the change of direction for the incoming era? Is this the first example of the ‘base under siege’ trope that’s going to be the staple of the Troughton era. It strikes me that both this and The War Machines are templates for the entire direction of the show from 66-69. The Moonbase is essentially a total remake of The Tenth Planet.

    Oh, and Mondasian Cybermen. Yay! They really are genuinely creepy and easily the best iteration of this particular alien. And they haven’t even said a word yet.

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