The Tenth Planet part 3

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    Craig @craig

    Now here’s an interesting episode in the tale. Not only is the fourth episode missing (don’t worry, there’s a reconstruction for next week), but the Doctor is missing from this third episode.

    Days before filming, William Hartnell told the BBC that he was too ill to appear. Script editor Gerry Davis quickly rewrote the script, had the Doctor collapse at the start, and gave his dialogue to other characters, mostly to Ben. This was something they’d been prepared for. They knew Hartnell was ill so all the episodes had been written so that he would have relatively little to do, just in case.

    Polly’s line about the Doctor being “worn out” is echoed in “An Adventure in Space and Time” about Hartnell.

    So in this episode the Doctor is taken ill. As the Earth is slowly drained of its energy, Cutler is determined to get his son back to Earth and destroy Mondas by using the Z-bomb, a doomsday weapon.

    This story is 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.

    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.

    wolfweed @wolfweed

    There’s not much I can say about this episode…

    The Doctor falls…

    Polly put the kettle on…

    That ventilation shaft looks quite roomy – I’m sure that Barclay would fit!


    Derek Martinus keeps the tension flowing with plenty of big close-ups.


    Bluesqueakpip @bluesqueakpip

    The special effect for the spaceship formation looks suspiciously like a black backcloth with holes cut in it, mounted on a circular frame so they can turn it round, then backlit.

    William Hartnell isn’t in this episode at all; his stand-in is playing ‘collapsing Doctor’. That’s why we don’t see the face. It was Acute Bronchitis, it seems, and he must have been pretty ill – Anneke Wills remembered that he’d really wanted to give a good performance for his last story. While, as @craig says, there were plans in place for a possible collapse, it doesn’t seem to have been an entirely smooth process – more Gerry Davis and Derek Martinus holding things together by the skin of their teeth.

    I do love the little bit with Robert Beatty, where he starts talking to Cutler Jr. as if he’s on the phone to him, then visibly remembers that he’s Gen. Cutler talking to Lt. Cutler. Even if he does continue to call him ‘Son’. I’m guessing that Cutler Jr. is only seen on monitor because they’re reusing the two astronaut set, and want to make Zeus Five look like a solo ship.

    Geneva is also fun, with everyone rushing around trying not to look as if the budget can only stretch to one speaking part and one cough-and-a-spit.

    William Hartnell’s lines were split between Ben (‘the Doctor said’) and Dr. Barclay.

    Ah, Polly finally gets to do something. Make the coffee. 😉 In fairness, she does then make an excellent job of persuading Barclay to be sneaky in defying Gen. Cutler, as well as pointing out that it may possibly be Cutler Jr’s life against the lives of millions. Later she rises to the dizzy heights of hiding under a blanket, pretending to be Ben.

    The ventilation shaft seems to be a failure of communication between designer and script- or possibly Barclay’s lines here were originally Hartnell’s, and the Doctor would’ve been too old to clamber through them. In which case it’s simply everyone making the best of a bad job, and hoping no one will notice that the shaft could’ve taken Barclay easily.

    No wonder the Doctor will invent the Sonic Screwdriver a few stories later, the number of times people talk about screwdrivers in this story.

    May I just say that the Cybership is a beautiful bit of model-work? Lovely design. So is the Z Bomb, with its retractable gantry. Also a very nice bit of stunt work in this episode, with Ben’s somersault over the railing.

    As @wolfweed says, Derek Martinus manages to keep the tension going despite the minor handicap of losing his lead actor four days before filming. 😉 The final countdown is used to great effect, with the numbers flashing up onscreen as … the credits roll. Good cliffhanger.

    Bluesqueakpip @bluesqueakpip

    The audio commentary for Episode 3 is actually the audio commentary for Episodes 3 and 4, since the BBC decided not to do a commentary for the animated episode. Chris Dunham joins the commentary (Radio Technician, Eps 3 &4). I will confine myself to the Ep. 3 comments.

    Cybermen: there was some discussion of using the actors’ own voices, but it was decided that the helmets would make it too difficult to get a clear recording. No ADR, of course; even Roy Skelton had to be on-set, just off camera, recording the dialogue as-live.

    Doctor Who in this ep. was played by Gordon Craig. Chris Dunham notes how impressed he was by the way the Doctor’s part was redistributed and the actors took up the baton.

    Apparently this is a historic episode for Doctor Who. This is where the series gives birth to its very first ventilation shaft – and what a bouncing, healthy, large ventilation shaft it is. 😉 While Who was low budget, the designer notes that it didn’t feel it, because at that point practically everything else was low budget too. TV was very new, the designers had come in from art school, theatre, shop window design, anywhere. It was all very experimental and exciting, but there wasn’t a lot of money floating around.

    Much praise for the late David Dodimead, who appears to have basically stepped up to play the ‘main hero’ for this episode.

    Anneke Wills is firm in insisting that the coffee was merely a ploy for Polly. She was wheedling her way in to persuading Barclay to sabotage the Z-bomb. She repeats that she had no idea at the time that Bill Hartnell was so ill – no one mentioned it to the actors. Michael Craze bore the brunt, it seems, with Hartnell accusing him of forgetting lines (when it was Hartnell himself). Hartnell was always very ‘gentlemanly’ to her. However, while Michael may have had reasons to remember this story less than fondly – as well as suffering Bill Hartnell’s bad temper, the artificial snow got up his nose, got jammed and nearly killed him – he at least met his future wife. She was the floor manager. 🙂

    janetteB @janetteb

    Finally got to catch up on this story the other night but have not had time to comment as yet. Really enjoying @bluesqueakpip‘s account of the audio commentary. I am not convinced by Anneke Wills claim re’ the coffee however. Her function seems mainly to scream, a very backwards step for the female companion after the early years when Barbara shows her contempt when asked to cook or make tea.
    I really liked the cybermen voices though one overdoes the sing song at times. Nice that the cybermen in the last couple of recent episodes captured something of that quality.


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