Welcome to my writing!

For a long time I've wanted to set up an online repository of my interviews, reviews and other writings ... and here it is! Use the Subject List to the right to select an author/topic and you will get all the entries which relate to the selected subject. Have fun browsing through!

Thursday, 16 May 2013

Eagle Rising

Eagle Rising
David Devereux / Gollancz /£18.99 / 18 December 2008

Rating: 3

Magician and bastard Jack must infiltrate a high powered cabal to prevent them resurrecting one of the most evil men in history.

David Devereux has an easygoing writing style, but this often comes across as somewhat matter of fact and contains quite a lot of ‘tell’ and not a lot of ‘show’. We follow Jack as he relates his adventures with a sinister group of influential men, encountering allies and enemies along the way, and even battling a scaly demon from Hell. It’s all good fun stuff: subterfuge, ritual, torture and death all being meted out in the course of the novel. There’s some twists, and the deviousness of the action is all worryingly genuine giving the feeling that maybe some of the elements may actually be true! Not as good as Devereux’s debut novel, but a worthy follow up.

David Howe

DID YOU KNOW: a crochet hook can be used to expose the six muscles holding the eyeball in place so that they can be severed, enabling the eyeball to then be removed. Nice.

Shaun Hutson


Shaun Hutson is one of the great survivors from the boom in horror during the 1980s. He first crashed onto the scene with a ground-breaking novel called Slugs in 1982 (in the same year he also published a novel called The Skull under his own name, and a book called Sledgehammer under the name Wolf Kruger, and as Kruger had also published Blood and Honour the year before) and has followed this with approaching fifty books of blood and carnage, making his own distinctive mark on the genre. He has written under several pseudonyms (including one used currently which he will not divulge) and has worked in the Crime and Western genres as well as Horror.

David J Howe caught up with Hutson to discuss his new titles, which firmly place him back in horror territory after a number of novels which seemed to leave more supernatural horrors behind in favour of that which real life can throw at you. Hutson isn’t buying that though. ‘I wasn’t aware that I’d left the horror genre behind for a while,’ he comments, ‘but I know what you mean with the thrillers. I think it just depends on what you call horror. To me, a werewolf or a vampire aren’t as horrifying as someone having a mental breakdown or someone finding out they’ve got a terrible disease. The horror of physical violence is, in my humble opinion, as terrifying as any haunted house or graveyard full of zombies … Using films as an example (I’ll have to because I’m not much of a reader) a film like Se7en is more terrifying than Night Of The Living Dead because it’s about real people, identifiable people not bloody zombies … Raging Bull or Taxi Driver as as horrific in their own ways as The Texas Chainsaw Massacre or The Hills Have Eyes (in my opinion). Stuff that’s likely to happen to you is infinitely more terrifying than something that will never happen in a million years …’

Anyone who has read his books will know that Hutson is not afraid to speak his mind, and the same is true when being interviewed. He writes what he wants to write, and always has done. ‘My moves back, sideways or up my own arse have always been driven by what I want to write, not by a conscious decision to do something different that’ll reach a wider audience. If that happens then great, but, all I can do is write what I want to write and hope that someone wants to read it.

‘My advice for someone wanting to write horror these days would be don’t … I think horror is a dead genre. It’s been killed by books like Silence Of The Lambs and by the millions of crime books that are around now. People read Silence Of The Lambs and thought they’d read a horror novel. They hadn’t, they’d read something that was horrific. Same with Misery. It wasn’t a horror book, it was horrific. There’s a crucial difference. Horror had it’s golden age in the mid-seventies and early eighties but I honestly believe it’s dead and buried now. I wish I was wrong. You can’t go to the pictures without seeing some new second rate piece of horror every week but that trend hasn’t spilled over into books and won’t as long as there are so many serial killer books around. No zombie can compete with a human monster …

Human monsters are what mark out Hutson’s current two titles, even though they also mix a healthy dose of the supernatural into the format. Available in paperback is Dying Words, a novel about revenge and also about the publishing industry. In the book’s foreword (Hutson always supplies a lengthy commentary at the start of his books) he mentions that the book came about because of a random idea during a discussion about writing.

‘The idea and the genesis for Dying Words came about after I’d been talking to one of my reps about having writer’s block. Normally I don’t suffer with this (well, to tell the truth I suffer with it every bloody morning when I sit down in front of my keyboard but that’s another matter) and I hadn’t had a block so bad since Victims back in 1987. I had a good idea what kind of characters I wanted to write about but I hadn’t got a clue what kind of book to put them in. That’s what usually happens now, I think of something I’d like to write about or issues I’d like to examine and then have to find the right book to do that kind of navel fluff examining in (if you’re still with me..)

‘With Dying Words, I got this thing in my mind about paintings that came to life or being able to enter a specific painting (I’d been browsing through a book of military paintings when that little gem hit me) but then I thought, no, that’s been done too many times before so I thought that something about a haunted library might be ok, and I suppose the two strands of ideas crossed over, I had a brainstorm, thought “entering a book”, and that was it, really.

‘Not every book has such tortuous beginnings, the ideas usually come pretty easily but maybe that’s why Dying Words was so easy to write once I got going. I was so bloody relieved to have a book to do that I started enjoying myself …’

Dying Words features a popular horror novelist as one of the main characters … ‘The immensely successful, good looking and rich horror writer in the book is a complete figment of my imagination and is in no way, shape or form based on me in any way whatsoever, honest, guv …’ chuckles Hutson. ‘I knew that having a horror writer as one of the central characters was going to get people thinking it was me and I suppose there’s bits of him in me, or vice versa. I don’t mix with other authors so he’s definitely not based on anyone else. I think that whatever you write, some of yourself gets into the central character (and sometimes into the peripheral ones too), you can’t help it. I’m a horror writer, John Paxton in the book is a horror writer, there were bound to be similarities somewhere. Maybe he’s what I’d like to be … (I’d settle for good looking and rich, in fact, I’d just settle for rich …)’

I wondered how Hutson felt that horror writers were viewed. ‘I think people tend to assume that the writer is like the books they write. For instance, Jackie Collins writes about rich, spoiled bastards in Hollywood so everyone expects her to be like one of her characters. Thomas Harris writes about serial killers but I don’t think he’s ever murdered anyone … I write about sick, twisted shit so people expect me to be warped like my books (er … actually, they might have a point …) What I also find is that people tend to expect me to be seven feet tall, dressed in black leather, carry an axe everywhere and spend all my time watching horror films. Sorry to disappoint you, folks …’

And what about how horror fiction is viewed by the publishers, distributors and booksellers? ‘I think horror has always been treated with derision by the book trade in general, not proper literature and all that. Maybe it isn’t but, in my humble opinion, it’s certainly no worse than the piles of chick-lit polluting the shelves … Sorry, better shut up there, I’m getting on my soap box …’

Dying Words features the concept of physically being able to step into a book … where would Hutson like to be able to go if he could step into any book? ‘The idea of being able to retreat into a book is quite good really. I’d probably retreat into Michelle Pfeiffer’s autobiography given the choice … Either that or the latest edition of Playboy … Books I’d definitely like to avoid becoming a part of would be War And Peace (too dangerous) or one of my own novels as people tend to die horribly … The whole of Dying Words was fun because it was the first time I’d ever written a book set in the publishing business. It was a really enjoyable experience writing it, as opposed to the grind of most novels. I had more freedom because so much of it was fantasy, I suppose. Like the ending, I could create locations and put people in them at will.’

The main location for the ending of the book is a dilapidated fairground. Where did this concept come from? ‘I think that fairgrounds are really scary places. The one in the book is based on the Pleasure Beach in Great Yarmouth where I spent many holidays as a kid and even the laughing sailor outside the funhouse is there … I know it’s a cliché but I like it. Writing this kind of thing you can’t help but deal in clichés sometimes but it’s how you deal with them, which angle you come at them from that determines whether they work or not. I hate the cliché of people going to a deserted house in the middle of nowhere and getting killed one by one...That was what I was trying to avoid in Twisted Souls a couple of years ago. I didn’t want people going to a run down, dirty house with a horrible history (I hate that) I wanted people going to a new, lovely house with no history at all until they themselves created it. The same with the fairground in Dying Words, it’s been used before I know but, hopefully, not in the same way. The disfigured monster cliché is the same. I don’t normally have monsters in my books, but I thought, fuck it, why not? I think that these days, it’s impossible to write anything that’s completely original, you just have to take old established clichés and twist them to suit your own style. Subvert them if you like, I prefer to take the piss …

Within Dying Words, we learn that one of the horror author John Paxton’s novels is called Unmarked Graves … and then this happens to be your next book … ‘Yes, the name check for Unmarked Graves within Dying Words is an in-joke … sorry … To be honest, I had about as much trouble thinking up fictional titles for Paxton’s work in Dying Words as I do for my own novels in real life … I can’t start work without a title, you see. I could have the greatest idea in the history of the world but, if I haven’t got a title, I can’t write a word …’

Unmarked Graves is a brave novel from Hutson as it deals with a very ‘hot’ topic, that of racial abuse and racism. ‘Thank you for calling Unmarked Graves a brave novel. Very much appreciated. Right from the beginning I saw it as Plague Of The Zombies meets Mississippi Burning …(well, something like that anyway). I didn’t write it as a comment on our society or any other noble reason, it just seemed to work as an idea. I never, contrary to what some people think, set out to shock or outrage (that’s just a pleasant by-product). I decide on a subject that interests me and I write about it. I was intrigued by racism. Why people find it so bloody hard to see past someone’s colour, religion or beliefs and I just went deeper and deeper into it. What I didn’t want were clichés as far as the characters were concerned. That would have been an easy trap to fall into. I hope to God I’ve avoided it. It wasn’t really a race thing either. It was just why some people get so worked up about what others do. Personally speaking, I couldn’t give a toss if my next door neighbours are Satanists who spend all day shagging goats and eating their own shit. As long as they keep it to themselves I’m happy. If they ask me over for a cup of tea that’s fine, as long as they don’t ask me to hold the goat while they cut its throat or tell me that my own beliefs are wrong, then I can handle that too. My philosophy in life is live your own life and let other people live theirs … or, keep your fucking nose out of my business unless you want it broken … But anyway …

Unmarked Graves is rooted very firmly in reality. All my books are. If I’d set it in the nineteenth century in some quaint village in the middle of nowhere then the idea of voodoo and the living dead wouldn’t have had the impact it has in a small town in modern day England. Like I said earlier, you take the clichés and twist them to your own purposes. The racism had to be viewed from both sides to give a balanced view. In every book I think you have to have both sides of an argument. That’s why I try to have my central characters with as many flaws as the so-called bad characters. I just think it’s fun to blur that line between what’s good and what’s evil, hardly original but very necessary as far as I’m concerned … It is rooted in reality, in cases in the news and also some things that I myself have encountered. I know people like the ones who exist in Unmarked Graves … but then again, so do lots of others probably.’

With a new paperback and a hardback out now, along with a new paperback collection of two of his earlier titles (Shadows and Nemesis), what is next for Shaun Hutson? ‘What can you expect from me next is a good question … I’m working on next year’s book which hasn’t actually got a title (I know I gave you all that bullshit earlier about not being able to write a novel without having a title but this is the first time I’ve done it). I’ve just finished a kids horror book (my fourth) under a pseudonym and I’ll carry on writing my own stuff as long as anyone wants to read it. Believe me, I’m grateful they still do …

Unmarked Graves and Dying Words are published by Orbit and are available now.

David J Howe

Doctor Who Bonanza


It can’t have escaped many people’s attention that Doctor Who is a massive success on television at the moment, and with anything that’s popular comes a slew of spin off items. We sent David J Howe down the shops to see what he could find …


Kids today don’t know they’re born … a totally Doctor Who themed bedroom is finally within reach. The Wall Stickers pack contains six sheets of plastic, stickybacked photographs. There are three designs, and the images range from the Doctor and the TARDIS to Daleks, Cyberman and Ood, together with some random sticky words of ‘Fantastic’ and of course, ‘Exterminate’. The Art Squares are three impressively detailed photographic collages of Daleks, Cybermen and a selection of TARDIS, Sycorax, Ood and K9. Like the stickers, these are plasticised and are intended to brighten up a plain painted wall. From the same company comes a sturdy Uplighter – a shade for a ceiling light – which is decorated with current Doctor Who imagery. I would guess that the stickers may be a little hard to apply without getting air bubbles under them, but as always there’s a knack to these things and kids are never too young to learn …


Character Options’ range of action figures is currently the toast of the toy industry, winning awards, selling in their millions and causing headaches for shops who just cannot keep them in stock. Joining the range is the big old Face of Boe. The Face is … well … a giant face in a mobile life-support tank, and the toy details his craggy features and dreadlocks perfectly. A button on the top allows Boe to close his mouth – for some reason it’s spring-loaded open, which lends the character a somewhat gormless air. Mickey Smith was the somewhat hapless boyfriend of Billie Piper’s Rose, and an action figure is long overdue. It’s a great likeness, and he’s flexible in all the right places. The figure has additional articulation on his arms so he can supposedly hold a big gun which comes with him. Great for posability, less effective in holding a gun.


Whatever will they think of next … this cool magnetic kit in the Supermag range is a Cyberman … but a strangely anorexic one as his legs, arms and waist are jointed with sticks and metal balls. You need a degree in mechanical engineering to be able to build him, and disappointingly it’s only the arms which are held on with magnetism. The rest of the kit comprises rods which screw into the balls, and plastic joint-cups which hold the balls securely.


I think £14.99 is expensive for a poster … even one as good as this. It’s an awesome creation, using lenticular technology (where a layer of small plastic ridges on the surface of the poster allow the viewed image to change as you move around it) to create a very effective three dimensional image of the Doctor and a Cyberman. The effect is so real that it has to be seen to be believed, and you really do find yourself tentatively touching the poster to see if your hand will disappear into it.


Last year we had Dalek and TARDIS cakes, and now we have yoghurt in tubes. There is a Doctor Who promotion running on cyber-strawberry flavour packs and there are 24 different designs of tube to collect, as well as nine different boxes ranging from cut-out figures and photographs to a door hanger and 3D models. The yoghurt is tasty, if a little sweet and worryingly pink, and chowing your way through at least nine boxes of the stuff may put you off it for life.


Best bargain of the month: ten of the BBC’s original Doctor Who novels, in exclusive paperback editions, and packaged in an attractive box, for only £10! Madness. The tales cover adventures for the ninth and tenth Doctors with companion Rose tying it all together. If you are a collector then you’ll want to snap these up, and if you just fancy a set for the kids to destroy, which are cheaper than the usual £6.95 each for the normal hardback editions, then this is definitely worth getting.

Doctor Who on Video

Doctor Who On Video

Home video really came into its own in the late seventies, but it wasn't until 1983 that BBC Enterprises finally released any Doctor Who on tape. While the fans had been clamouring for repeats on television (which rarely happened), and for some of the old material to be released on video, the BBC seemed indifferent to the requests. Then, at BBC Enterprises' 20th anniversary Doctor Who convention at Longleat House in Wiltshire, BBC Home Video gave out voting forms to try and gauge the level of support for Doctor Who releases, and to get some idea of what would be popular.

This resulted in the totally bizarre choice of 'Revenge of the Cybermen' to have the honour of being the first BBC Doctor Who release. It was packaged in an oversized box (as were all the BBC releases at the time) and retailed for £39.99 - this was before the days of sell-through video. The second release was 'The Brain of Morbius' and rather than give us the complete four part story, the BBC chose to put out an hour long edited version. This had fans in uproar as not only had the story been butchered, it also cost £19.99.

Eventually, the BBC realised that what the public wanted was un-cut recordings, with all the opening and closing credits intact, and this is how they started to release them. Unfortunately they still couldn't keep their scissors off them and small, insignificant cuts were being made for no apparent reason. All the black and white releases were edited in one way or another and it is only in the last year or so that the tapes have been released completely uncut.

The BBC also realised that if they could ask £10.99 for a four part story on one tape, then they could charge double that for a two-tape release, so six part stories, which had previously fitted onto one tape ('The Seeds of Death', 'The Talons of Weng-Chiang') were now released on two tapes for twice the price. This was acceptable in the case of a story such as the ten part 'The War Games', or when, thanks to fans working in BBC Video's offices, they combined a six part story with the two part story that had preceded it on transmission ('The Sontaran Experiment'/'Genesis of the Daleks'), but for other six-part releases this could only be described as blatant commercialism; getting more money for the same goods.

More recently, effort has been put into releasing special tapes covering a particular Doctor's era, an excellent idea, allowing episodes from stories which are not held by the BBC in their entirety to be released on tape. We have also seen one 'extended edition' tape ('The Curse of Fenric') and other ideas have also been rumoured, for example including some out-takes on the end of the tapes, and releasing other 'special editions'.

Looking through the list of what is currently available on BBC home video, it is interesting how many stories are available from the early Tom Baker years as opposed to the other Doctors. Not counting Years tapes, the breakdown is: Hartnell - 4; Troughton - 6; Pertwee - 7; T Baker - 13; Davison - 3; C Baker - 1; McCoy - 1. Maybe the fact that those Tom Baker stories got some of the highest ratings ever for Doctor Who explains the obvious bias. Cynics can argue that the show was better then, and since the start of the eighties it has been on a downward spiral from which it was just starting to recover when the BBC decided to pull the programme from production. They also decided not to allow anyone else to make it, and to refuse to say when they would make it again. Strange behaviour from a public body which is making enough money from the current video releases of old Doctor Who to make a new series and still have cash in hand.

Here then is a round up of all the Doctor Who available on BBC Video at the moment. There are some gems and some decidedly dodgy choices, and our star rating may help you decide what to look out for.

The Hartnell Years (1991)

Introduced by Sylvester McCoy
Episodes featured: Pilot
The Crusade #3
The Celestial Toymaker #4

The concept behind these 'Years' tapes is to give an overview of that particular Doctor's era by including three episodes from incomplete stories held by the BBC, together with some clips from other adventures and a linking commentary from a well known Doctor Who personality - in this case that of the Seventh Doctor, Sylvester McCoy.

This tape, in common with the other 'Years' tapes, fails on the choice of episodes. Doctor Who's pilot episode, deemed not good enough to transmit back in 1963 and subsequently re-made, is a curiosity piece only. The plot is the same as on the transmitted episode (which can be found on 'An Unearthly Child'), and the production standards are considerably worse, which is why it was re-made in the first place.

'The Crusade' was one of the historical stories favoured by the production teams in the show's first couple of years, and despite bravura performances from the likes of Julian Glover and Jean Marsh, episode three is the traditional 'padding' episode, in which the characters, having survived the perils of the first two parts, wait for the resolution which is to come in the final part.

'The Celestial Toymaker' however, is a classic of its time. With a superb villain in the Toymaker, played with gusto by Michael Gough, and a small cast of supporting characters (including Carmen Silvera, now better known for her role as René's wife in 'Allo, 'Allo), the story involved the Doctor and his friends playing a series of deadly games to win back the TARDIS which has been taken by the Toymaker.

Rating: ***

An Unearthly Child (1990)

First UK Transmission: 23/11/63 - 14/12/63 (4 episodes)
Writer: Anthony Coburn & C E Webber
Director: Waris Hussein
Regular cast: William Hartnell (The Doctor), Carole Ann Ford (Susan), William Russell (Ian), Jacqueline Hill (Barbara)
Starring: Derek Newark (Za), Jeremy Young (Hur), Alethea Charlton (Hur).

This is the first ever Doctor Who story, and while the final three episodes may appear dated today, the first episode still captures a sense of wonderment and awe as we meet for the first time the mysterious stranger known as the Doctor, his unearthly granddaughter Susan and her teachers Ian and Barbara. The Doctor whisks them all back to Paeolithic times where they are captured by a stone-age tribe searching for the lost secret of fire.

Rating: ***½

The Daleks (Two tape set) (1989)

First UK Transmission: 21/12/63 - 1/2/64 (7 episodes)
Writer: Terry Nation
Director: Christopher Barry (1,2,4,5) & Richard Martin (3,6,7)
Regular Cast: William Hartnell (The Doctor), Carole Ann Ford (Susan), William Russell (Ian), Jacqueline Hill (Barbara).
Starring: John Lee (Alydon), Virginia Weatherell (Dyoni), Alan Wheatley (Temmosus).

This was the series which launched Doctor Who in the public's eye. It introduced the Daleks, evil mutated creatures living in mobile metal shells in their gleaming city on the planet Skaro, and their unique appearance and grating voices sent a wave of Dalekmania around the country.

The Doctor, Susan, Ian and Barbara arrive on Skaro which is an apparently dead world apart from a massive metal city. They are captured by the Daleks who plan to wipe out the planet's other inhabitants, the Thals, with a radiation bomb. The Doctor must convince the pacifist Thals that peace is worth fighting for.

Today the story stands up surprisingly well despite one or two naff moments, and overall is an enjoyable if slightly overlong watch. Personally I prefer this TV version to the film version (Dr. Who and the Daleks) as the latter is very cut back and loses much of the impact in the process.

Rating: ****

The Dalek Invasion of Earth (Two tape set) (1990)

First UK Transmission: 21/11/64 - 26/12/64 (6 episodes)
Writer: Terry Nation
Director: Richard Martin
Regular Cast: William Hartnell (The Doctor), Carole Ann Ford (Susan), William Russell (Ian), Jacqueline Hill (Barbara).
Starring: Bernard Kay (Tyler), Alan Judd (Dortmun), Nicholas Smith (Wells), Peter Frazer (David Campbell).

One year later and the Daleks returned by popular demand, and this time their activities were not confined to an alien planet, for they had invaded the Earth. They planned to mine the Earth's radioactive core and thus convert it into a massive mobile power source. The Doctor, with the help of resistance fighters, managed to save the day.

The excellent scenes of the Daleks parading around deserted London sights are regrettably let down by pitiful effects of the Dalek saucer flying and the high pitched and ineffective Dalek voices. The Robomen (humans converted into Dalek slaves) are fairly unimaginative too. The problem here is that the second Dalek film, Daleks' Invasion Earth 2150 AD, which is based on this story, is superior in almost every important aspect.

Rating: **

The Web Planet (Two tape set) (1990)

First UK Transmission: 13/02/65 - 20/03/65 (6 episodes)
Writer: Bill Strutton
Director: Richard Martin
Regular Cast: William Hartnell (The Doctor), William Russell (Ian), Jacqueline Hill (Barbara), Maureen O'Brien (Vicki).
Starring: Roslyn de Winter (Vrestin), Arne Gordon (Hrostar), Martin Jarvis (Hilio).

Watching this story really requires a suspension of disbelief beyond all the others. The story's central concept and plot is sound: an alien parasite has invaded a peaceful planet and turned the ant-like Zarbi against the butterfly-like Menoptra; but the budget and technology available back in 1965 were not up to creating the visuals required to make the story work. Vaseline smeared on the lens helps to disguise most of the shortcomings of the costumes and sets, but the adventure often comes over as a pantomime in space rather than the serious political drama suggested by the script. It's all good fun though.

Rating: **

The Troughton Years (1991)

Introduced by Jon Pertwee
Episodes featured: 'The Abominable Snowmen' #2
'Enemy of the World' #3
'The Space Pirates' #2

This tape contains a very poor selection of episodes from the Troughton era. 'The Abominable Snowmen' part 2 is weak compared with episode one of the following Yeti story 'The Web of Fear' (which the BBC also hold) and 'Enemy of the World', despite featuring Troughton in the dual role as the Doctor and as the evil dictator Salamander, is a slow and rambling affair. The same goes for 'The Space Pirates', another tedious space opera included here apparently only because the tape's producer, John Nathan Turner, worked on it.

The episodes they could have chosen included some from 'The Ice Warriors' (a brilliantly directed and atmospheric tale of which the BBC hold four out of six episodes), 'The Faceless Ones' parts 1 or 3 (fairly slow but with good performances from the regulars and the guest cast) or any of the many Dalek/Cybermen episodes still in existence. These were deliberately not included due to the planned release of Dalek and Cybermen compilations, but their omission means that this tape is a very poor representation of Troughton indeed.

Rating: *

The Tomb of the Cybermen (1992)

First UK Transmission: 2/09/67 - 23/09/67 (4 episodes)
Writer: Kit Pedler & Gerry Davis
Director: Morris Barry
Regular Cast: Patrick Troughton (The Doctor), Frazer Hines (Jamie), Deborah Watling (Victoria).
Starring: Aubrey Richards (Parry), Cyril Shaps (Viner), Clive Merrison (Callum), George Roubicek (Hopper), George Pastell (Klieg).

This is the release we never expected to see. Missing from the BBC until the episodes were returned from Hong Kong at the start of 1992, The Tomb of the Cybermen has been hailed as a classic ever since it was first transmitted. Cast and crew recall it fondly and everyone who watched it back in the sixties has some recollection of its power and impact.

A group of archaeologists have uncovered the lost Cybermen tombs on the planet Telos, and the Doctor joins their party as they explore further. It transpires that the Cybermen had set traps to lure the humans into reviving them, and once the silver giants are awakened from their frozen sleep, they set about attempting to convert the humans into Cybermen.

If you want one tape to start with, which will give you a good introduction to Doctor Who and to Patrick Troughton's Doctor then this is the tape for you. It also features a specially recorded introduction by its director, Morris Barry.

Rating: *****

The Dominators (1990)

First UK Transmission: 10/08/68 - 7/09/68 (5 episodes)
Writer: Norman Ashby (pseudynom for Mervyn Haisman & Henry Lincoln)
Director: Morris Barry
Regular Cast: Patrick Troughton (The Doctor), Frazer Hines (Jamie), Wendy Padbury (Zoe).
Starring: Ronald Allen (Rago), Kenneth Ives (Toba), Arthur Cox (Cully).

Not a bad story, but the acting and effects let it down. The planet of Dulkis is invaded by two alien Dominators and their robot servants the Quarks. The Dominators want to convert Dulkis into a radioactive power source for their fleet, and the pacifist Dulkians seem powerless to stop them.

Troughton is on good form here, and Ronald Allen makes a convincingly ruthless alien.

Rating: ***

The Mind Robber (1990)

First UK Transmission: 14/09/68 - 12/10/68 (5 episodes)
Writer: Derrick Sherwin (1) & Peter Ling (2 - 5)
Director: David Maloney
Regular Cast: Patrick Troughton (The Doctor), Frazer Hines (Jamie), Wendy Padbury (Zoe).
Starring: Emrys James (The Master), Bernard Horsfall (The Stranger).

'The Mind Robber' is poles apart from 'The Dominators' which it followed in transmission order. The TARDIS arrives in a strange white void where a force tempts Jamie and Zoe away from the ship. From here they arrive in a world of words where myths and legends are real if you believe in them. Encountering Medusa, a Unicorn, clockwork soldiers and eerie White Robots, they finally meet the Master of the Land, a writer kidnapped from Earth who expects the Doctor to take his place.

While the first episode is very atmospheric with good use made of visuals and sound, the story is let down by its ending, which seems slightly silly given all that has gone before.

Rating: ***½

The Krotons (1991)

First UK Transmission: 28/12/68 - 18/01/69 (4 episodes)
Writer: Robert Holmes
Director: David Maloney
Regular Cast: Patrick Troughton (The Doctor), Frazer Hines (Jamie), Wendy Padbury (Zoe).
Starring: James Copeland (Selris), Gilbert Wynne (Thara), Terence Brown (Abu), Madeleine Mills (Vana), Philip Madoc (Eelek), Richard Ireson (Axus), James Cairncross (Beta).

Another brilliant script let down by the appearance of the title monsters. On an unnamed planet the Gonds are taught and ruled by a machine and their brightest students are sent to the Krotons in the machine from which they never return. The Krotons are crystalline beings awaiting enough mental power to revive themselves and leave the planet. The Doctor and Zoe unwittingly supply the power and the Krotons revive. The Doctor discovers that they are susceptible to Sulphuric acid and so disables their machine thus freeing the Gonds.

The Krotons unfortunately look as if they were constructed from egg-boxes, and although the sound effects and voices are very good, the overall impression on watching the story today is that the budget must have been even smaller than usual.

Rating: **

The Seeds of Death (1985)

First UK Transmission: 25/01/69 - 1/03/69 (6 episodes)
Writer: Brian Hayles
Director: Michael Ferguson
Regular Cast: Patrick Troughton (The Doctor), Frazer Hines (Jamie), Wendy Padbury (Zoe).
Starring: Alan Bennion (Slaar), Philip Ray (Eldred), Louise Pajo (Gia Kelly), Ronald Leigh-Hunt (Radnor), Terry Scully (Fewsham).

I have a soft spot for this second Ice Warrior story, even though it is not as good as their first appearance. The Warriors have invaded the moon, and are using a matter transmission system - T-Mat - to send Martian seed pods to locations across the globe. The pods emit spores which absorb the oxygen in the atmosphere, thus changing the climate to that suitable for the Martians. The Doctor is on hand to discover the solution to the problem.

The story rattles along at a fair old pace, and although the trip to the moon in a rocket seems dated even by 1969 standards (remember the real-life journey was mere months away), most of the effects, in particular the Ice Warriors themselves, are effective.

Rating: ****

The War Games (Two tape set) (1990)

First UK Transmission: 19/04/69 - 21/06/69 (10 episodes)
Writer: Malcolm Hulke & Terrance Dicks
Director: David Maloney
Regular Cast: Patrick Troughton (The Doctor), Frazer Hines (Jamie), Wendy Padbury (Zoe).
Starring: Jane Sherwin (Lady Jennifer Buckingham), David Saville (Carstairs), Terence Bayler (Barrington), Noel Coleman (General Smythe), Edward Brayshaw (War Chief), Philip Madoc (War Lord).

Patchy is the best word to describe this epic ten part adventure which brought to a close Patrick Troughton's era as the Doctor. The plot trundles along with numerous capturings, escapes and chases, until at the end the Doctor is brought to trial by his own people, the Time Lords, for his past crimes and exiled to Earth in the 20th century.

There are some good performances from the guest cast and the final two episodes are almost worth the price of admission as they lay the groundwork for many stories to come.

Rating: ***

The Pertwee Years

Introduced by Jon Pertwee
Episodes featured: 'Inferno' #7
'Frontier In Space' #6
'The Daemons' #5 (B/W)

The third of the 'Years' tapes is slightly better than the others, and features a selection of episodes chosen by Pertwee himself.

'Inferno' is quite a fun story, and the final episode is included here. The monsters are suitably hairy and nasty and the story's climax is pretty effective.

'Frontier in Space' part six features the last appearance of Roger Delgado as the Master. This is a good and sensible choice, as we get to see not only the Draconians and the Ogrons, but the Daleks and the Master too.

On the other hand, 'The Daemons' is one of the best stories from the Pertwee years, and what we have here is a black and white copy of the final episode. As the BBC have an American standard colour copy of the story, and as the recent repeat of 'The Sea Devils' was partly from a converted American copy, I don't understand why a colour copy of 'The Daemons' part 5 could not have been included instead.

The stories these three episodes come from are potentials for release anyway and eventually this tape will be of interest only for Pertwee's linking commentary (which like all the 'Years' tapes is bland and gives no feel for the era at all) and for some clips showing unused experimental footage of the Pertwee title sequence.

Rating: *

Spearhead from Space (1988)

First UK Transmission: 3/01/70 - 24/01/70 (4 episodes)
Writer: Robert Holmes
Director: Derek Martinus
Regular Cast: Jon Pertwee (The Doctor), Caroline John (Liz Shaw), Nicholas Courtney (Brigadier Lethbridge-Stewart).
Starring: Hugh Burden (Channing), Derek Smee (Ransome), John Woodnutt (Hibbert).

The first ever colour Doctor Who and the first to feature Jon Pertwee in the title role. The story sees the Doctor arrive on Earth to start his exile, and this coincides with an invasion by the Nestenes and their plastic Autons. Forced on location by a BBC strike, the story is well directed and features some excellent performances and effects.

Rating: ****

The Claws of Axos (1992)

First UK Transmission: 13/03/71 - 3/04/71 (4 episodes)
Writer: Bob Baker & Dave Martin
Director: Michael Ferguson
Regular Cast: Jon Pertwee (The Doctor), Katy Manning (Jo Grant), Nicholas Courtney (Brigadier Lethbridge-Stewart).
Starring: Roger Delgado (The Master), Peter Bathurst (Chinn), Paul Grist (Bill Filer), Donald Hewlitt (Hardiman), Bernard Holley (Axon Man/Voice of Axos).

An alien spacecraft, Axos, arrives on Earth containing a race of beautiful golden humanoids who offer a rare mineral in exchange for hospitality. The aliens turn out to be a hostile energy-sapping parasite intent on draining the Earth. The Doctor joins forces with the Master (who had brought Axos to Earth in the first place) to defeat it when it threatens their lives as well as the future of the Earth.

I like this story despite its shortcomings. It has some excellent monsters in the Axons, and imaginative use is made of numerous video effects. It falls down on some of the effects and on a dreadful American accent effected by Paul Grist, but overall it is an enjoyable little tale.

Rating: ***

Day of the Daleks (1986)

First UK Transmission: 1/01/72 - 22/01/72 (4 episodes)
Writer: Louis Marks
Director: Paul Bernard
Regular Cast: Jon Pertwee (The Doctor), Katy Manning (Jo Grant), Nicholas Courtney (Brigadier Lethbridge-Stewart).
Starring: Wilfrid Carter (Styles), Aubrey Woods (Controller), Anna Barry (Anat), Jimmy Winston (Shura), Scott Fredericks (Boaz).

The Daleks have invaded Earth again, this time in the 21st Century, and freedom fighters have travelled back in time to assassinate the minister they see as responsible for starting the wars which eventually led to the Dalek invasion. The Doctor realises that the wars had actually been started by the fighters themselves and that they are caught in a time paradox.

Day of the Daleks is a fun story which saw the return of the Daleks to our screens after a five year gap. Like all the Pertwee stories, it contains a fair share of action and running about, and the Daleks are quite entertaining in their way.

Rating: ***

The Three Doctors (1991)

First UK Transmission: 30/12/72 - 20/01/73 (4 episodes)
Writer: Bob Baker & Dave Martin
Director: Lennie Mayne
Regular Cast: Jon Pertwee (The Doctor), Katy Manning (Jo Grant), Nicholas Courtney (Brigadier Lethbridge-Stewart).
Starring: William Hartnell (The Doctor), Patrick Troughton (The Doctor), John Levene (Benton), Stephen Thorne (Omega), Rex Robinson (Tyler), Laurie Webb (Ollis).

The Three Doctors celebrated Doctor Who's tenth anniversary and brought together all three incarnations of the Doctor to fight Omega, a renegade from the Doctor's planet, who was trapped inside a black hole.

As an anniversary story, this show hit it just right. There is an excellent villain in Omega, and many interesting effects, as well as a traditional 'globby' monster.

Lots of fun, and it's good to see Troughton and Pertwee obviously enjoying themselves immensely.

Rating: ***

The Time Warrior (1989)

First UK Transmission: 15/12/73 - 5/01/74 (4 episodes)
Writer: Robert Holmes
Director: Alan Bromly
Regular Cast: Jon Pertwee (The Doctor), Elizabeth Sladen (Sarah Jane Smith).
Starring: Kevin Lindsay (Lynx), David Daker (Irongron), John J Carney (Bloodaxe), Donald Pelmear (Reubish), June Brown (Lady Eleanor), Jeremy Bulloch (Hal).

The Sontaran Lynx has crashed on Earth in Medieval times and is kidnapping scientists from the future to help repair his ship so that he can leave. The Doctor investigates and becomes embroiled in some Medieval rivalry between the robber baron Irongron and the local gentry.

There is some good location work here, as well as some excellent dialogue courtesy of Robert Holmes. Lynx the Sontaran is an excellent character, and the make-up effects are superb. All in all a good little tale. Look out for June Brown in her pre-Dot Cotton days as Lady Eleanor.

Rating: ***½

Death to the Daleks (1986)

First UK Transmission: 23/02/74 - 16/03/74 (4 episodes)
Writer: Terry Nation
Director: Michael Briant
Regular Cast: Jon Pertwee (The Doctor), Elizabeth Sladen (Sarah Jane Smith).
Starring: Arnold Yarrow (Bellal), Duncan Lamont (Galloway), John Abineri (Railton), Julian Fox (Hamilton), Joy Harrison (Jill Tarrant).

This story seems to have a very bad press and I've never been quite sure why. The Doctor and Sarah arrive on the planet Exxilon where a mysterious city drains all the power from the TARDIS. The Doctor meets a human expedition, sent to get a rare mineral which is the only known cure to a space plague. The Daleks arrive - they too are after the mineral - but their exterminators will not function due to the power drain. The Daleks are helpless. The humans and Daleks make an uneasy truce until they can resolve the problem of the lack of power.

Personally I like this story a lot. The Daleks are devious and memorable, the humans wimpish and hopeless and the whole thing hangs together very well. True, there are some naff moments like when the city's venom-spitting roots attack a mining operation, but on the whole the production is enjoyable and there are more Daleks in it than Day of the Daleks.

Rating: ***

Planet of the Spiders (Two tape set) (1991)

First UK Transmission: 4/06/74 - 6/07/74 (6 episodes)
Writer: Robert Sloman
Director: Barry Letts
Regular Cast: Jon Pertwee (The Doctor), Elizabeth Sladen (Sarah Jane Smith).
Starring: Richard Franklin (Yates), John Dearth (Lupton), Cyril Shaps (Clegg), John Kane (Tommy), Ralph Arliss (Tuar), Geoffrey Morris (Sabor), Gareth Hunt (Arak), Maureen Morris (Voice of the Great One).

The Doctor took a blue crystal from the planet Metebelis Three and the giant Spiders that live there want it back. That's basically the plot, and it is padded out with to-ings and fro-ings between Earth and Metebelis Three, and sub-plots involving the simpleton Tommy gaining intelligence, and one of the Doctor's Time Lord mentors posing as the Abbot of a monastery.

The final Jon Pertwee story, Planet of the Spiders works well on a number of counts. I don't believe that anyone could mistake the eight-legged creatures in here for the real thing, but they do occasionally look pretty authentic. There is a lot of action, with a classic chase sequence on road, air and sea to look forward to.

A fitting end to one of the better Doctors.

Rating: ***½

Robot (1992)

First UK Transmission: 28/12/74 - 18/01/75 (4 episodes)
Writer: Terrance Dicks
Director: Christopher Barry
Regular Cast: Tom Baker (The Doctor), Elizabeth Sladen (Sarah Jane Smith), Ian Marter (Harry Sullivan).
Starring: Edward Burnham (Kettlewell), Alec Linstead (Jellicoe), Patricia Maynard (Miss Winters), Michael Kilgarriff (Robot).

The first story to feature Tom Baker's shambling bohemian Doctor, 'Robot' succeeds and fails in equal parts. Michael Kilgarriff is superb as the towering metal creature, and manages to imbue it with pathos and sympathy through his voice alone. The Doctor is recovering after his regeneration and seems scatty and unpredictable, and the other characters are all well acted, in particular Patricia Maynard's icy feminist Miss Winters.

Where it fails is on the special effects. There is a sequence involving an obviously toy tank, and the effects of the robot growing to giant size are typical of the period - all blue fuzzy lines and bits disappearing into the sky.

'Robot' kicked off Doctor Who's twelfth season, the only one so far which is all available on home video.

Rating: **

The Ark in Space (1989)

First UK Transmission: 25/01/75 - 15/02/75 (4 episodes)
Writer: Robert Holmes
Director: Rodney Bennett
Regular Cast: Tom Baker (The Doctor), Elizabeth Sladen (Sarah Jane Smith), Ian Marter (Harry Sullivan).
Starring: Wendy Williams (Vira), Kenton Moore (Noah), Christopher Masters (Libri), John Gregg (Lycett), Richard Morgan (Rogin).

Compared to its preceding story, 'Robot', 'The Ark in Space' is a masterpiece. The TARDIS arrives on a space ark containing the last survivors of the human race in suspended animation, which has been invaded by the Wirrn, an alien parasitic insect species. A handful of humans must battle to prevent the Wirrn from using humanity as fodder for its young.

With its small cast, claustrophobic sets, and the image of a man being slowly converted into an alien Wirrn, 'The Ark in Space' has all the elements that made the 1977 film Alien so successful. The formula works here as well, and this story is one of the best available.

At the end of the adventure, the time travellers use the Ark's transmat system to pop down to earth to see how things are looking down there. This leads into the next adventure ...

Rating: *****

The Sontaran Experiment/Genesis of the Daleks (Two tape set) (1991)

First UK Transmissions: 22/02/75 - 12/04/75 (2 episodes and 6 episodes)
Writer: Bob Baker & Dave Martin (Sontaran), Terry Nation (Genesis)
Director: Rodney Bennett (Sontaran), David Maloney (Genesis)
Regular Cast: Tom Baker (The Doctor), Elizabeth Sladen (Sarah Jane Smith), Ian Marter (Harry Sullivan).
Starring: Sontaran: Kevin Lindsay (Styre), Peter Walshe (Erak), Terry Walsh (Zake), Glyn Jones (Krans), Peter Rutherford (Roth), Donald Douglas (Vural).
Genesis: Michael Wisher (Davros), Peter Miles (Nyder), Guy Siner (Ravon), Dennis Chinnery (Gharman), Stephen Yardley (Sevrin).

In an increasingly rare move towards value for money, these eight episodes, transmitted consecutively back in 1975, are available together.

'The Sontaran Experiment' was filmed on location on Dartmoor, and the windswept plains and rocks act as a marvellous backdrop to an effective little two part story about a Sontaran (Styre) testing a group of humans. The Doctor arrives from the ark in time to thwart his plans. This is just the starter and the main course is 'Genesis of the Daleks', possibly the best Dalek tale released on video to date. The Daleks don't appear until the end, but the show is completely stolen by Michael Wisher's superlative Davros, the Daleks' creator, and Peter Miles as his devious, sadistic side-kick Nyder.

This is a classic package and is well worth getting.

Rating: *****

Revenge of the Cybermen (1983)

First UK Transmission: 10/04/75 - 10/05/75 (4 episodes)
Writer: Gerry Davis
Director: Michael E Briant
Regular Cast: Tom Baker (The Doctor), Elizabeth Sladen (Sarah Jane Smith), Ian Marter (Harry Sullivan).
Starring: Alec Wallis (Warner), Ronald Leigh-Hunt (Stevenson), Jeremy Wilkin (Kellman), William Marlowe (Lester), David Collings (Vorus), Michael Wisher (Magrik), Christopher Robbie (Cyberleader).

'Revenge of the Cybermen' ended the twelfth season, and is the weakest of the five stories. The Doctor and his friends arrive back on the ark only to find that they are in an earlier time period when it was still a beacon. A space plague has wiped out most of the occupants leaving only a handful still alive. The Doctor discovers that the plague has been caused by the Cybermen and that they want to destroy the planet Voga - around which the beacon is orbiting - as it is rich in gold deposits which are lethal to the Cybermen.

This adventure has little in its favour. The Cybermen do not work well within the story's structure - why, for example, would they go down to a planet which is full of gold if they can be killed by the stuff? - and the dialogue is corny and forced.

Considering that this was chosen to lead the video releases, it is surprising that it did well enough to warrant any others!

Rating: *

Terror of the Zygons (1988)

First UK Transmission: 30/08/75 - 20/09/75 (4 episodes)
Writer: Robert Banks Stewart
Director: Douglas Camfield
Regular Cast: Tom Baker (The Doctor), Elizabeth Sladen (Sarah Jane Smith), Ian Marter (Harry Sullivan).
Starring: Nicholas Courtney (Brigadier Lethbridge Stewart), John Levene (Benton), John Woodnutt (Duke of Forgill/Broton), Angus Lennie (Angus), Robert Russell (The Caber), Lillias Walker (Sister Lamont).

The Doctor is summoned to Scotland by the Brigadier to investigate the mysterious destruction of a number of oil rigs in the North Sea. The cause turns out to be the Skarasen, 'pet' of the alien Zygons who have their base under Loch Ness. The Zygons want to prepare the Earth for invasion, but the Doctor, as always, prevents them.

This is another of my favourite stories, in this case because I am a sucker for a well executed alien: the Zygons are orange foetus-like creatures and are quite horrific. Camfield's direction is impeccable and the only thing which lets the story down is the dreadful model-work for the Skarasen. If not for this, it would be another classic.

Rating: ****

Pyramids of Mars (1985)

First UK Transmission: 25/10/75 - 15/11/75 (4 episodes)
Writer: Stephen Harris (Pseudynom for Robert Holmes & Lewis Griefer)
Director: Paddy Russell
Regular Cast: Tom Baker (The Doctor), Elizabeth Sladen (Sarah Jane Smith).
Starring: Bernard Archard (Marcus Scarman), Peter Mayock (Namin), Michael Bilton (Collins), Peter Copley (Dr Warlock), Michael Sheard (Laurence Scarman), Gabriel Woolf (Sutekh).

This period of Doctor Who's history was consistently full of well made and entertaining stories and many of them are now available on video. 'Pyramids of Mars' is one of the best. It tells of an ancient Egyptian god Sutekh who was imprisoned in a pyramid on Mars by his brother Horus. Now Sutekh has taken control of a human and is planning his escape ... unless the Doctor can stop him.

'Pyramids of Mars' was strongly influenced by the legends and myths of the Egyptians, and indeed Sutekh's robot servants look like mummies. The story blends horror and excitement, and moves at a strong pace.

Rating: *****

The Brain of Morbius (1984 - edited version, 1990 - full version)

First UK Transmission: 3/01/76 - 24/01/76 (4 episodes)
Writer: Robin Bland (pseudynom for Terrance Dicks & Robert Holmes)
Director: Christopher Barry
Regular Cast: Tom Baker (The Doctor), Elizabeth Sladen (Sarah Jane Smith).
Starring: Philip Madoc (Solon), Colin Fay (Condo), Gilly Brown (Ohica), Cynthia Grenville (Maren), Michael Spice (Voice of Morbius).

Doctor Who's re-working of the Frankenstein story, this is a fun tale featuring a mad scientist (Solon), his deformed assistant (Condo), a supernatural Sisterhood, thunder, lightning and headless bodies. Morbius was an evil Time Lord and Solon saved his brain when his body was destroyed. Now Solon needs a head to finish his work and who should turn up but the Doctor.

Considering the limitations of budget and studio space, this story does very well indeed. Philip Madoc excels as Solon, and Michael Spice's voice for Morbius is powerful and memorable.

Rating: ****

Masque of Mandragora (1991)

First UK Transmission: 4/09/76 - 23/09/76 (4 episodes)
Writer: Louis Marks
Director: Rodney Bennett
Regular Cast: Tom Baker (The Doctor), Elizabeth Sladen (Sarah Jane Smith).
Starring: John Laurimore (Count Federico), Gareth Armstrong (Giuliano), Tim Pigott-Smith (Marco), Norman Jones (Hieronymous).

This is one of the better period pieces presented by Doctor Who. We are back in the 15th century and an alien energy force, the Mandragora Helix, has hitched a lift on the TARDIS. It takes over the high priest Hieronymous who is also leader of a secret brotherhood of star worshippers, and attempts to establish a bridgehead to Earth. The Doctor saves the day by draining its power.

Good performances from all the cast, some nice effects and a superb location in Portmerion in North Wales (where The Prisoner was filmed) add up to a good piece of entertainment.

Rating: ****

The Deadly Assassin (1991)

First UK Transmission: 30/10/76 - 20/11/76 (4 episodes)
Writer: Robert Holmes
Director: David Maloney
Regular Cast: Tom Baker (The Doctor).
Starring: Peter Pratt (The Master), Angus Mackay (Borusa), Bernard Horsfall (Goth), George Pravda (Spandrell), Erik Chitty (Engin).

'The Deadly Assassin' was the first adventure to blow the lid off the Doctor's home world of Gallifrey. We had always believed the Time Lords to be all-powerful beings, and here they are presented as a bunch of old men, obsessed with ritual and internal politics.

As a story it works very well indeed, and episode three, which for the most part takes place in a fantasy world inside the Time Lords' main computer, is still as powerful as when first transmitted. Here we are re-introduced to the Master, a wizened and disfigured creature who hopes to gain a new lease of life through harnessing the Time Lords' power systems. This story paved the way for the Master to return at a later date.

Rating: ****

The Robots of Death (1986)

First UK Transmission: 29/01/77 - 19/02/77 (4 episodes)
Writer: Chris Boucher
Director: Michael E Briant
Regular Cast: Tom Baker (The Doctor), Louise Jameson (Leela).
Starring: Russell Hunter (Uvanov), Pamela Salem (Toos), David Collings (Poul), Miles Fothergill (SV7), Gregory de Polnay (D84).

The TARDIS arrives on a sand-miner combing an alien planet for precious ores. The mine has a robot crew and a handful of humans to watch over things. Unfortunately the robots are being reprogrammed to kill the humans, and the Doctor is under suspicion from the start.

'The Robots of Death' is a hokey title which does not do justice to the superb drama of the story. Like 'The Ark in Space' it pits a small band of humans against a strong destructive force and expects them to win out. The strength here is in the magnificent art deco design of the sets and robots, and Miles Fothergill's impersonal and murderously calm SV7 is chilling in the extreme. Gripping stuff.

Rating: *****

The Talons of Weng-Chiang (1988)

First UK Transmission: 26/02/77 - 2/04/77 (6 episodes)
Writer: Robert Holmes
Director: David Maloney
Regular Cast: Tom Baker (The Doctor), Louise Jameson (Leela).
Starring: John Bennett (Li H'sen Chang), Deep Roy (Mr Sin), Michael Spice (Weng-Chiang), Trevor Barnes (Litefoot), Christopher Benjamin (Jago).

Another of my favourite stories. This time set in Victorian London, 'The Talons of Weng-Chiang' involves the Doctor playing Sherlock Holmes to track down a war criminal from the future. Magnus Greel is draining young women of their vitality in an attempt to prevent himself from dying before he can recover his time cabinet and continue his experiments. He has taken on the persona of the Chinese god Weng-Chiang to enable him to hide behind the facade of a Chinese Tong operating in London.

This story epitomises all that the BBC does right with regards to period drama. The sets, the costumes, the acting and the script are all excellent, and with only a couple of shots of a 'man-in-suit' giant rat to lower the tone, this is yet another classic. All the cast are superb, from John Bennett's misguided oriental to Benjamin's blustering theatre owner and the overall impression is of a very rich and enjoyable story.

Rating: *****

City of Death (1991)

First UK Transmission: 29/09/79 - 20/10/79 (4 episodes)
Writer: David Agnew (pseudynom for Douglas Adams & Graham Williams)
Director: Michael Hayes
Regular Cast: Tom Baker (The Doctor), Lalla Ward (Romana).
Starring: Julian Glover (Scarlioni), Catherine Schell (Countess Scarlioni), Tom Chadbon (Duggan), David Graham (Kerensky).

A location trip to Paris makes 'City of Death' visually very interesting. The script is a complex beast involving a time-splintered alien directing the course of history to allow a splinter of himself to travel back in time and prevent the splintering happening in the first place.

There are fine performances as one would expect from Glover and Schell, and Chadbon is just right as the bumbling detective. Watch out for a cameo appearance from John Cleese and Eleanor Bron as art lovers in part four.

Rating: ***½

Logopolis (1992)

First UK Transmission: 28/02/81 - 21/03/81 (4 episodes)
Writer: Christopher H Bidmead
Director: Peter Grimwade
Regular Cast: Tom Baker (The Doctor), Sarah Sutton (Nyssa), Matthew Waterhouse (Adric), Janet Fielding (Tegan).
Starring: Anthony Ainley (The Master), John Frazer (Monitor).

The final outing for Tom Baker's Doctor, 'Logopolis' is a bit of a mixed bag. The plot concerns a plan of the newly regenerated Master to hold the universe to ransom. Apparently the universe's life has been extended by an alien races mathematical calculations holding open holes into other universes to drain off the excess entropy from ours.

Like much Doctor Who in the eighties, 'Logopolis' looks very nice, but has little meat to it. John Frazer makes an admirable attempt as the leader of a race wiped out by the Master, but he ultimately comes over as completely impotent. Ainley's Master, seen here for the first time, is not a patch on Delgado's and the Doctor's companions, Nyssa, Adric and Tegan, are a totally mis-matched trio - Adric in particular is simply dreadful.

Rating: **

Castrovalva (1992)

First UK Transmission: 4/01/82 - 12/01/82 (4 episodes)
Writer: Christopher H Bidmead
Director: Fiona Cumming
Regular Cast: Peter Davison (The Doctor), Sarah Sutton (Nyssa), Matthew Waterhouse (Adric), Janet Fielding (Tegan).
Starring: Anthony Ainley (Master), Derek Waring (Shardovan), Michael Sheard (Mergrave), Frank Wylie (Ruther).

As Tom Baker bowed out, so Peter Davison checked in. 'Castrovalva' comes from the same mould as 'Logopolis', indeed it follows on directly, and has only a slightly more comprehensible plot. The newly regenerated Doctor is lured to the fictional city of Castrovalva by the Master who has kidnapped Adric and is using his mathematical skills to create the illusory city. Once there, the Doctor only realises it is a trap just in time to escape.

What we learn from this story is that Matthew Waterhouse (Adric) really is a hopeless actor in this role, and that the new Doctor is strangely attracted to cricket and celery.

Rating: **

The Five Doctors (1985 - edited version, 1990 - full version)

First UK Transmission: 25/11/83 (1 90 minute episode)
Writer: Terrance Dicks
Director: Peter Moffatt
Regular Cast: Peter Davison (The Doctor), Janet Fielding (Tegan), Mark Strickson (Turlough).
Starring: Richard Hurndall (The Doctor), Patrick Troughton (The Doctor), Jon Pertwee (The Doctor), Philip Latham (Borusa).

Whereas 'The Three Doctors' worked as an anniversary story because it did not try to be too clever, 'The Five Doctors' is too clever by half. Dicks was asked to write a script which would encompass five Doctors, numerous returning companions (Susan, Jamie, Zoe, Liz Shaw, Yates, the Brigadier, Sarah Jane Smith and K9) plus a Dalek, the Cybermen, the Master, the Yeti and a clutch of Time Lords.

That it turned out as entertaining as it did is a miracle in itself. The production is quite fun, with familiar faces cropping up all over the place, but ultimately it is a celebration of twenty five years of Doctor Who and not a story in its own right. Perhaps only of interest to the knowledgeable fan.

Rating: ***½

The Caves of Androzani (1992)

First UK Transmission: 8/03/84 - 16/03/84 (4 episodes)
Writer: Robert Holmes
Director: Graeme Harper
Regular Cast: Peter Davison (The Doctor), Nicola Bryant (Peri).
Starring: Christopher Gable (Sharaz Jek), John Normington (Morgus), Robert Glenister (Salateen), Maurice Roëves (Stotz), Roy Holder (Krelper), Martin Cochrane (Chellack), Barbara Kinghorn (Timmin).

Davison's last story as the Doctor and Robert Holmes pulls out all the stops to make it a good one. The Doctor and Peri arrive on the planet Androzani Minor during a gun-running war. They meet up with the insane Sharaz Jek who takes a shine to young Peri and kidnaps her. The Doctor must rescue Peri and save both her and himself from the deadly illness they have contracted.

'The Caves of Androzani' is perhaps the best Davison story, featuring loads of action, violence, impressive acting (especially Gable as the tormented Jek), startling effects and a brilliant script.

It's a shame that there weren't more of this quality.

Rating: *****

The Twin Dilemma (1992)

First UK Transmission: 22/03/84 - 30/03/84 (4 episodes)
Writer: Anthony Steven
Director: Peter Moffatt
Regular Cast: Colin Baker (The Doctor), Nicola Bryant (Peri).
Starring: Maurice Denham (Edgeworth/Azmael), Kevin McNally (Hugo Lang), Edwin Richfield (Mestor), Paul Conrad (Romulus), Andrew Conrad (Remus), Oliver Smith (Drak).

This tape is released as a Woolworths special, changed at the last minute from the excellent Hartnell historical story 'The Aztecs' which will now be released by the BBC later in the year. Woolworths may well regret whatever circumstances prompted this change as 'The Twin Dilemma' is possibly the worst ever Doctor Who story with nothing at all in its favour.

The plot is rubbish, concerning a giant slug, Mestor, who wants to take over the galaxy by sending a planet into a sun so that his eggs will be scattered in the explosion. Colin Baker makes his debut as a totally unlikeable Doctor, prone to fits of manic depression and quoting poetry, and the cast, with possibly the exception of Denham who must have wondered why he ever agreed to appear, are uniformly dreadful. The crowning glory is the casting of twins in the roles of the pre-pubescent Romulus and Remus who cannot pronounce the letter 'r' (consider in this light their names!) and they are equally unable to act, making Adric look good by comparison.

Steer well clear of this one. Don't even be tempted because it really isn't worth it!

Rating: -* (minus one)

The Curse of Fenric 'Extended Edition' (1991)

First UK Transmission: 25/09/89 - 15/11/89 (4 episodes)
Writer: Ian Briggs
Director: Nicholas Mallett
Regular Cast: Sylvester McCoy (The Doctor), Sophie Aldred (Ace).
Starring: Dinsdale Landen (Dr Judson), Alfred Lynch (Millington), Nicholas Parsons (Rev. Wainwright).

By far the best of the more recent Doctor Who adventures, 'The Curse of Fenric' delivers on almost every count.

This tape is a special extended edition with about 6 minutes of additional material not in the original TV transmission. This helps to explain the story and adds some depth to the characters.

The Doctor arrives on an army base near the coast during the Second World War to find that his old enemy Fenric is afoot. Fenric has taken over the commander of the base and calls from the waters a race of vampire creatures called Haemovores.

Of particular note here is the Ancient Haemovore, a superb piece of state of the art animatronics. Also watch out for effects like the runes writing themselves on the crypt wall and the dissolution of the vampires. Even Nicholas Parsons is excellent as the doubtful vicar. Great stuff.

Rating: *****

Finally, a peek at the BBC's schedules for the rest of the year and on into 1993 reveals that there are more Doctor Who adventures to come. 'The Invasion' is a brilliant 1968 Troughton Cyberman story unfortunately with two of its eight episodes missing. The gaps will be filled by Nicholas Courtney (who played the Brigadier) explaining what happened. 'Shada' was a six part 1979 Tom Baker story which was never completed due to a technicians strike at the BBC. Baker will be providing a narrative to fill the gaps. 'Vengeance on Varos' was originally transmitted in the UK as two 50 minute episodes but this 1985 Colin Baker adventure will be released as a four episode version. It's good to see 1964's 'The Aztecs' appearing, one of the better historical adventures from William Hartnell's era. The Tom Baker Years, unlike the other 'Years' tapes, will have no complete episodes, instead it features Baker talking about each of his stories, prompted by short clips. There is also a Dalek Special and a Cyberman Special which will feature some of the remaining material from the sixties. Expect episodes 5 and 10 from 'The Daleks' Master Plan' (Hartnell 1965/66) and part 2 of 'The Evil of the Daleks' (Troughton 1967) presented by Peter Davison on the Dalek tape, and parts 2 and 4 of 'The Moonbase' (Troughton 1967) and 3 and 6 of 'The Wheel in Space' (Troughton 1968) presented by Colin Baker on the Cyberman tape. The tapes will also feature interview material with some of the people involved in the making of the stories. It is odd that one of the three surviving episodes from 'The Tenth Planet', the Cybermen's first appearance back in 1966 is not included.

David J Howe

Doctor Who Monsters

Doctor Who Monsters

David J Howe steps into the TARDIS to seek out some of the many monsters featured on the BBC's weekly science fiction adventure serial.

Doctor Who is the world's longest-running science fiction television programme. Created by Sydney Newman and Donald Wilson for the BBC, it was first transmitted in November 1963, and since that time the Doctor (a nomadic alien whose origins have never satisfactorily been explained) has had over 150 televised adventures in time and space and has encountered literally hundreds of alien races and monstrous individuals. The Doctor is a Time Lord from the planet Gallifrey, and has the ability to change his body when the current one wears out or is damaged - a process called regeneration. There have been seven incarnations of the Doctor so far, each played by talented actors who have brought new facets to the character and helped to carry forward the popularity of the programme amongst children and adults alike.

When thinking of Doctor Who, the first thing that comes to most people's minds is not the TARDIS or the Doctor but the monsters, in particular a race of pepper-pot shaped aliens from the planet Skaro, better known as Daleks. It is fitting that the Daleks are so closely associated with the TV programme which spawned them, as they were a major factor in the early popularity and growth of the series from a Saturday tea-time drama to a national (and international) institution.

The Daleks' debut came just six weeks into the series, in the second episode of a story called The Mutants (aka The Daleks), written by Terry Nation, then a comedy writer. Doctor Who had started on November 23rd 1963 with an episode introducing us to the nameless time-traveller (we know he is a Doctor, but Doctor ... who?) and Susan his grand-daughter. Two of Susan's curious school teachers, Ian and Barbara, follow her home to an old junk yard. Inside the yard they find that Susan has vanished and also the incongruous form of a blue police public call box - a familiar sight on London's streets during the sixties. Susan's mysterious grandfather, the Doctor, arrives, and is reluctant to help Ian and Barbara search for Susan. Suddenly Susan's voice is heard coming from inside the police box, and the schoolteachers force their way inside.

What they find is now a part of television history as the police box is just the external shell for a fantastically advanced space/time machine called TARDIS (the letters standing for Time And Relative Dimension In Space), and the Doctor and Susan are aliens from another time, travelling in the hope of one day returning to their own people.

When Susan threatens to leave and stay on Earth, the Doctor operates the controls and sends the ship back in time to the Palaeolithic era where a stone-age tribe has lost the secret of fire and want the time-travellers to help. They eventually escape but rather than back to 20th century England, TARDIS takes them instead to an apparently dead and petrified forest on the planet Skaro.

The forest surrounds a gigantic metal city, and the Doctor determines to explore. It is in this city that they discover the Daleks, mutated remnants of a once noble race who intend to wipe out all remaining life on the planet with a radiation weapon.

The Daleks are the archetypal evil robots equipped with a lethal exterminator, memorable voices, and a completely inhuman shape. Unlike robots, however, each Dalek contains a mutated lump of seething hate, all that remains of the actual organic creature.

Described as 'the most evil creatures ever invented' the Daleks' origins were not revealed on screen until 1975 in an adventure called 'Genesis of the Daleks', again written by Terry Nation. In Nation's story Skaro was the site of a long war between its opposing humanoid factions: on one side the Thals, on the other the Kaleds. As time progressed, funds began to run out and the respective sides began re-using old equipment and resorting to biological weapons and nuclear bombardment in an attempt to gain the upper hand. The inevitable result of the chemicals and radiation was massive mutations on both sides and it soon became apparent that neither side could win.

Then the Kaleds' chief scientist, a genius named Davros who had been crippled and confined to a mobile life-support system earlier in the war, came up with a plan intended to save the Kaled race and to win the war. Davros determined to discover what form the Kaled mutations would ultimately take, and designed a travel and life-support system for them. He named his invention the mark three travel machine or Dalek.

In striving to make the Kaled race survival-orientated, Davros removed all trace of emotion and fear from his genetically engineered mutants. The Daleks would survive as that was their basic instinct, and they would survive by the systematic extermination of all life which was not Dalek. The killing started with the Thals, but then the Daleks turned on the Kaleds and ultimately Davros himself.

Following the end of the war - achieved through the Daleks dropping a radiation bomb which wiped out all life on the planet bar themselves and a few Thal mutants - the Daleks found that they could not move outside their metal city as they drew their power from static electricity generated through contact with the floor. The remaining Thal mutants underwent further metabolic change and eventually came full circle, becoming handsome and peaceful humanoids.

No other monster featured on Doctor Who had quite the same impact as the Daleks. During the sixties the BBC tried very hard to popularise the various creatures as they appeared, but none of them ever really caught on, although many are still fondly remembered today.

There were the Sensorites, bulbous-headed telepathic aliens who ultimately turned out to be a peaceful race, preyed upon by three deranged Human astronauts. Then there was the Daleks' pet, the Slyther, which was only glimpsed lurking in the shadows when they invaded Earth in the 21st Century.

The Zarbi, one of the most unlikely alien races, also received a lot of publicity. These were the creation of Australian writer Bill Strutton, and looked like giant ants. Indeed, Strutton's inspiration had come from watching a pair of bull ants fighting. Strutton's story, 'The Web Planet' (1965), contained no humanoids apart from the Doctor and his friends. As well as the Zarbi, there were the Menoptra, giant butterfly people, the Optera, underground grubs, and the Venom Guns, Zarbi larvae which spat poison from their snouts. The story also featured the Animus, a huge glowing web-structure with a malign intelligence at its centre, which was controlling the Zarbi and oppressing the Menoptra. The story was very ambitious for its time and some of the imaginative concepts could not wholly be embraced by the budget and available technology.

William Emms' 'Galaxy 4' (1965) introduced another twist. This was a classic tale of good versus evil with the good represented by a race of hideous wart hog-like, ammonia-breathing Rills, while the evil was attractively packaged as Amazonian female warriors called Drahvins. Both races were trapped on a doomed planet and the Doctor, seeing through the facade of good looks, ultimately helped the Rills escape before the planet was destroyed, leaving the ruthless Drahvins to their fate.

Other aliens to appear during the early years of Doctor Who included the one-eyed Monoids ('The Ark' 1966), the immortal Celestial Toymaker (played by actor Michael Gough) ('The Celestial Toymaker' 1966), a race of energy sapping Elders on a planet of savages ('The Savages' 1966) and a whole host of intergalactic creatures introduced in an epic twelve part story 'The Daleks' Master Plan' (1965/66).

In 1966 we were introduced to another of the programme's most popular enemies, a race of giant silver humanoids driven by logic and the instinct to survive: the Cybermen.

The concept came from Dr Kit Pedler who was at the timeDoctor Who's scientific adviser. He had a personal fear of where replacement part surgery was heading and he saw the Cybermen as the logical end point. They had once been human, but they replaced their limbs and internal organs with machines until they became more machine than flesh.

Written by Pedler and Doctor Who's script editor, Gerry Davis, 'The Tenth Planet' introduced us to the inhabitants of the planet Mondas - Earth's twin - who had discovered the science of cybernetics and used it to prolong their lifespan. They replaced limbs and vital organs with metal and plastic until the Mondasians became the first Cybermen. From Mondas they spread out across the galaxy, terrorising and bringing cold, emotionless, logical destruction with them.

To look at the Cybermen are quite impressive. Each stands about seven feet tall and is encased in a protective flexible silver armour. Their features are covered by an expressionless silver mask, with holes for the eyes and mouth. On their chest they wear an armoured unit which contains all their life-support functions and which distributes lubricants and power to all their limbs. The unit is also armed with both detachable guns and in-built weaponry depending on the Cyberman. They each have the strength of ten men and do not need oxygen as they do not breath as we do. Gold dust is their only weakness as it coats their life-support systems and suffocates them.

The Cybermen are in many ways more horrific a concept than the Daleks. In the Cybermen we can see the human form, and the Cybermen have the means to convert humans into creatures like themselves - the fear of losing one's identity touches nerves in everyone.

Another strength of the Cybermen lies in the horrific content of their stories. In 'The Tomb of the Cybermen' (1967) we saw the creatures slowly being revived, thawed from the ice by a power crazed logician. We also saw them destroyed, spurting foam from their chest-units as they wailed in electronic pain. In 'The Invasion' (1968) the Cybermen again invaded Earth, this time using the London sewers as a base. The sight of a crazed Cyberman lurching towards the Doctor's companions out of a dark sewer is an image that tends to stick in the memory. Just as potent is the image of the Cybermen breaking out of their storage capsules in the 1982 adventure 'Earthshock'.

The Cybermen were just one of many monsters which appeared in the late sixties. We also saw creatures like the Macra (giant crabs, drooling saliva and controlling an Earth colony), the Chameleons (faceless aliens who kidnapped humans to steal their forms), parasitic seaweed creatures (who took over a refinery as well as the humans on it), the Quarks (robot servants of the alien Dominators who intended to convert a peaceful planet into a radioactive power source) and the Krotons (more robotic creatures who used a race's mental power to revive and sustain themselves).

All of these were popular but two other creations really captured imaginations back in the black and white days. The first of these was the Yeti.

Doctor Who has often touched upon human legend (the Loch Ness monster, Atlantis, the Minotaur etc) and the myths surrounding the Bigfoot, or Yeti, inspired Mervyn Haisman and Henry Lincoln to write 'The Abominable Snowmen' (1967) where the elusive creatures turned out to be robots controlled by an alien intelligence struggling to manifest itself on Earth. Although the Intelligence's first attack on Earth was unsuccessful, it was its second attempt which raised the Yeti to cult status. 'The Web of Fear' (1968) took place in the London underground, and even today many people still recall the cobwebs and the eerie pulsating web through which the Yeti stalked their victims accompanied by the two-tone beeping from the spherical control units buried in their chests.

The other popular monster from the sixties was a race of Warriors from Mars, which writer Brian Hayles arranged to be discovered buried in a glacier during the third ice age in the year 3000. 'The Ice Warriors' (1967) saw them revived and attempting to take over the Earth using their powerful sonic weapons.

The Warriors stand around eight feet tall and are clad in green scaly body armour edged with coarse black fur. Their heads are also encased and their eyes are covered with a flat red perspex-like material. Martian technology developed the Warriors as fighting machines with electronically augmented hearing and sight and a fearsome sonic weapon fitted to their arm. They appear slow and ponderous only because of Earth's unfamiliar gravity, and their distinctive hissing breathing and voice are as a result of the Earth's atmosphere.

Not all the Martians are evil. While the Doctor has encountered Warriors intent on invading the Earth by disrupting its climate ('The Seeds of Death' 1969), and plotting to annexe supplies of a rare mineral on an alien planet ('The Monster of Peladon' 1974), he has also met Warriors who are strongly loyal and moral, who helped and supported him when he was mistaken for the Earth delegate at a conference to allow a primitive planet to join the Galactic Federation ('The Curse of Peladon' 1972). Despite their popularity at the time, the Ice Warriors have not re-appeared since 1974 and their place has been taken by a number of other creatures and aliens.

In 1970 Doctor Who was made and transmitted in colour for the first time, and with a new actor playing the Doctor (Jon Pertwee) exiled to Earth by the Time Lords, the menaces he faced were more home-grown than we had seen before.

His exile to Earth coincided with the first invasion by the squid-like Nestene consciousness which arrived contained in a swarm of meteorites in Robert Holmes' 'Spearhead from Space' (1970). The Nestenes had no bodies of their own and so used Autons, animated plastic dummies, to do their bidding. Scenes of a row of mannequins springing jerkily into life in a shop window and then striding through the streets killing pedestrians as they go are among the all-time classic moments in Doctor Who's history. Holmes' second story featuring the Nestenes and Autons, 'Terror of the Autons' (1971), went a step further and brought the menace into our own homes. 'Terror of the Autons' was criticised heavily by Mary Whitehouse and the Viewers and Listeners Association for its scenes of graphic horror: a man is suffocated and crushed by a plastic armchair; a troll-like doll strangles another victim; the Doctor is attacked by a telephone cable which wraps itself around his neck; and plastic daffodils spray a plastic film over the mouths and noses of their victims.

The Nestenes were the first of numerous creatures which tried their hand at the Earth. There were the Axons, apparently perfect golden humanoids who offered the planet a valuable mineral in exchange for knowledge. Their true nature was revealed as hideous orange tentacled monsters, part of a collective organism which included their ship and the mineral. The Axons were a parasitic life form come to leech the Earth of its energy.

The Axons had been brought to Earth by the Master, another of the Doctor's race, but one committed to evil and the gaining of personal power. The Master has been behind many of the plots against the Earth, including using a mind parasite in an attempt to sabotage a peace conference ('The Mind of Evil' 1971), the revival through black magic of an ancient god-like alien to judge the Earth ('The Daemons' 1971) and the manipulation in 1972 of a race of reptilian creatures, the Sea Devils.

Named by the keeper of an abandoned sea fort who glimpsed them and was driven insane by the sight, they are horrific part-reptile part-humanoid creatures armed with a powerful hand weapon which they can use to burn through the hulls of ships as well as to fire bolts of energy at any who oppose them.

Their alien looks belie the fact that they are actually native to the Earth, and along with their land-based cousins the Silurians (mis-named by the Doctor as the period of Earth's history they originated from was the Eocene), ruled the planet many thousands of years ago. Their story, told by Malcolm Hulke in 'Doctor Who and the Silurians' (1970) and 'The Sea Devils' (1972), was that their civilisation came to a halt when a rogue planet was detected headed for Earth on a collision course. The reptiles knew that the collision would disrupt the environment for many years to come and so decided to put themselves into hibernation until the Earth became habitable once more.

Unfortunately the planets did not collide as they had predicted, instead the rogue was captured by Earth's gravitational pull and became the Moon. As the expected disaster never occurred, the reptile's mechanisms to revive them once danger had passed did not operate, and they slept on in ignorance. The ape creatures which they had kept as pets evolved into Mankind and all was well until the reptiles were awakened from their sleep. The deposed rulers decided to reclaim their heritage and to wipe out the upstart apes.

The Silurians, who had been awoken by radiation from a Cyclotron machine, attempted to destroy Earth's Van Allen belt thus allowing harmful radiation to kill the humans, and the Sea Devils were awoken by repair work being carried out to an abandoned Sea Fort and began sinking ships in the vicinity.

The Master tried to use the Sea Devils to gain power for himself, but his plans were ultimately foiled when the Navy bombed their underwater base, destroying the creatures. Previously the military had used explosives to seal the Silurians underground. This apparent treachery on the part of humanity came to a head when a triad of Silurians revived some Sea Devil Warriors and attempted to seize control of a military base in the year 2084 and instigate a global war between the superpowers ('Warriors of the Deep' 1984). The Doctor was luckily on hand, but he again despaired of all the deaths that resulted.

Other creatures encountered by the Doctor during the seventies included the members of the Galactic Federation present on the planet Peladon to debate that world's entry to the Federation. There was the six-armed, one-eyed hermaphrodite Alpha Centauri, the evil Arcturus floating in a tank of nutrient sustained by a life-support system and the Ice Warriors. There were the Draconians, proud lizard-like creatures with a society based on a dynastic empire. Their Empire had made a pact with Earth, a pact that the Daleks and the Master were keen to break down.

Another popular foe first appeared in 1974 in a story again by Robert Holmes called 'The Time Warrior'. The warrior in question was Lynx, a Sontaran, who had crashed his ship in Medieval England. Lynx was kidnapping scientists from the 20th century to help repair his ship, and it was this activity which drew the third Doctor's attention.

Sontarans live for war and battle. They see such endeavours as glorious and praiseworthy, and every Sontaran, from officer to cadet, longs for the day when they might die for the greater glory of the Sontaran empire. Such is their total commitment to the art of war that Sontarans are actually bred for the purpose. Each is cloned from a genetic pool, and all are refined and honed to create a perfect fighting machine, all identical, with matching aims, goals and values.

The Doctor encountered the Sontarans again in Earth's future. They had decided to test the strength of human resistance to a planned Galactic invasion and had sent a lone emissary to Earth to carry out experiments. Field Major Styre had captured members of a ship from one of Earth's colonies which he had lured back to Earth itself, and was experimenting on them in a number of cruel and torturous ways. The fourth Doctor managed to rescue the humans and arrange for the Sontaran's power supply to be sabotaged.

When Tom Baker took over as the fourth Doctor in 1974, he came up against a variety of hideous and evil creatures. There were the Wirrn, giant insect creatures which laid their eggs close to a power source to enable them to grow. Once they hatched, the larvae sought out a host to slowly convert into a Wirrn, the host's brain gradually taken over by the invading parasite. When the Doctor encountered them, the host was human.

'The Ark In Space' (1975), yet another Robert Holmes story which introduced the Wirrn, was a powerful and claustrophobic tale of a small group of humans up against the invading Wirrn. It was made in 1974, about five years earlier than Ridley Scott's Alien, but contains many similar ideas and concepts. One can only surmise that Scott (who very nearly designed the Daleks back in 1963 as at the time he worked as a BBC designer) may well have been influenced by Doctor Who's treatment of the ideas.

Following the Wirrn the Doctor met the Zygons, more aliens trapped on Earth, this time under Loch Ness where their cyborg 'pet' and food source, the Skarasen, was mistaken for the Loch Ness monster. There were the Kraals who attempted to invade Earth using android duplicates, there was Sutekh, one of the ancient Egyptian gods who was breaking free of his bonds in a pyramid situated on Mars and an anti-matter creature which emerged into our universe on a planet at the edge of the galaxy.

Transmitted in 1975/76, these adventures were strongly influenced by films from the fifties and sixties. 'Pyramids of Mars' had its roots in the Hammer Mummy films, 'Planet of Evil' with its invisible anti-matter creature which flickered into existence when passing through a force field was inspired by Forbidden Planet, 'The Android Invasion' had the android duplicates delivered to Earth in seed-pod-like containers reminiscent of Invasion of the Body Snatchers and 'The Seeds of Doom' was strongly based on Christian Nyby's 1951 film The Thing from Another World (John Carpenter's version was some years away). Even the classic Frankenstein story was exploited in 'The Brain of Morbius', in which a discredited Doctor Solon builds a piecemeal body in which to house the preserved and functioning brain of his master.

Doctor Who has always been innovative in its presentation of creatures which differ from the norm. 'Image of the Fendahl' (1977) by Chris Boucher, encompassed many of the themes and iconography of death and black magic: a human skull is unearthed which is far older than it should be and which, when X-rayed, has a five-pointed star pattern on it. The skull is in fact the channel for the alien Fendahl to come to Earth. The Fendahl is a creature which is death - the Time Lords reduced the planet between Mars and Jupiter to rubble in an attempt to wipe it out, and its contact with Mars turned that into a dead world. Once on Earth, the Fendahl attempted to manifest itself completely and of course the Doctor prevented it.

Horror returned in 1980 when we were introduced to the Marshmen. 'Full Circle' by Andrew Smith featured the concept of a planet on which the flora and fauna are linked together and which evolve on a predetermined cycle. A spacecraft crashes on the planet and all the occupants are killed by the Marshmen who rise from the swamps and attack the ship. The Marshmen then evolve into humans and eventually believe themselves to be the true crew of the ship which they attempt to make ready for flight. Eventually the planetary cycle comes full circle and the mists again roll in from the swamps, closely followed by another marauding group of Marshmen. One of the most effective moments in DOCTOR WHO's history is the sight of the Marshmen rising from the misty swamps to advance on the hapless spacecraft.

Peter Davison took over the title rôle as Doctor Who progressed into the eighties and we met the frog-like Monarch and his two lieutenants, Persuasion and Enlightenment, en route to colonise Earth from their home planet of Urbanka. There were the Terileptils whose ship had crashed on Earth in the seventeenth century and who were ultimately responsible for the fire of London in 1666. The Malus was originally the psychic power source of a probe from the planet Hakol that crashed on Earth many hundreds of years ago. The entity was reactivated during a modern-day reconstruction of a Civil War battle and, through psychic energy, directed the war game to a conclusion that would provide enough fear and bloodshed to enable it to break free.

It was not only the Earth which was threatened, however, and the Doctor encountered alien menaces on many other planets too. For example a nest of Tractators on the planet Frontios was discovered to be the cause of both violent meteor showers and the mysterious disappearance of the planet's colonists. The Tractators used gravity to impel their victims towards them and then manipulated the living flesh into hideous burrowing machines.

In 1985, another classic alien was added to the ever-growing list. This was Sil, a maggot-like creature obsessed with violence, pain and hard cash. Sil was on the planet Varos where the Governor was trying to negotiate a better price for the ore that Varos had in abundance. In a bold move, the director of 'Vengeance on Varos' (1985), Ron Jones, hired disabled actor Nabil Shaban to play the creature. This was inspired casting as Shaban's superb acting, combined with a revolting maggot costume which could not have been worn by an able-bodied actor, meant that Sil came over as a totally believable and nasty piece of work.

By this time Colin Baker was playing the Doctor, and during his short tenure we were introduced to such menaces as the Vervoids, flesh-eating plant creatures which ran amok on a luxury space liner, the Androgums, gluttonous humanoids, and the Borad, a half-humanoid, half snake creature intent on making the Doctor's companion Peri into a creature like himself for breeding purposes.

As the eighties drew to a close, there were a few more additions to Doctor Who's monster gallery as well as a new actor playing the Doctor, Sylvester McCoy.

Ian Briggs' 'The Curse of Fenric' (1989) featured a quiet village on the Yorkshire coast: seemingly an ideal place for the British Army to set up a base during the Second World War. However the village had a secret hidden in Viking runes carved on the wall of the church crypt, and the sea nearby was home to an ancient race of blood drinking monsters, the Haemovores.

The Haemovores had once been human but had been changed into zombie-like vampire mutants. Their leader was a creature called the Ancient Haemovore, bigger, older and more horrific than the rest. The Doctor managed to persuade the Ancient Haemovore not to allow the evil Fenric to destroy life on the Earth, and the Ancient One sacrificed himself instead. Like the Sea Devils and Marshmen before them, scenes of the Haemovores rising from the sea and advancing on a priest through a mist-wreathed graveyard are amongst the more memorable in recent years.

Another memorable creature was the Destroyer from 'Battlefield' (1989). This horned and blue-skinned demon was summoned by Morgaine the witch to destroy the Earth, and, even though shackled by chains of silver, managed to create a lasting impression. Doctor Who still managed to stir up controversy, as with the death of the character Kane in the 1987 story 'Dragonfire'. Kane was a humanoid who existed at sub-zero temperatures and at the story's conclusion he was exposed to sunlight and his face melted away to reveal the grinning skull beneath. This effect was the cause of many complaints from concerned parents and even received coverage in the tabloid press.

Over the last twenty-nine years Doctor Who has presented a wide selection of believable, and not-so-believable creatures for our entertainment. The series has spawned more nightmares than any other, and has seen the Doctor battle evil in all its many forms across the galaxy.

As the Doctor himself once said: "There are some corners of the universe which have bred the most terrible things. Things which act against everything that we believe in. They must be fought."

David J Howe