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Warriors Of The Deep
The TARDIS materialises in a seabase in the year 2084. Earth in the late 21st century is divided between two power blocs waging a bitter cold war, forever threatening to escalate into violent conflict. Mysterious accidents have been occurring on the seabase, including the deaths of key personnel. Investigating, the Doctor, Tegan and Turlough discover that not only have double agents infiltrated the seabase, but the Doctor's old foes, the Silurians and Sea Devils, are plotting to use the seabase to set off a war which will decimate humanity.
Having completed work on Season Twenty's Arc Of Infinity, Johnny Byrne began developing ideas for Doctor Who's twenty-first season. Aware that producer John Nathan-Turner was eager to mine the series' past, Byrne suggested bringing back the eponymous monsters from 1972's The Sea Devils. The production team was excited by this idea, and suggested that Byrne pair the Sea Devils with their landbound cousins, introduced in 1970's The Silurians.
Byrne began working on his storyline around June 1982. At the time, the Cold War between the United States and the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics was still being waged, and Byrne wanted to explore the dynamics of a world in which two supremely powerful blocs sit in opposition to one another, each waiting for the other to pull the trigger. In particular, Byrne was interested in the notion that those in charge of the weapons might not be reliable in an atmosphere of such heightened tension. In developing his ideas, Byrne drew upon elements of a 1975 episode of Space: 1999 he had script-edited called The Guardian Of Piri. Written by Christopher Penfold, this had also featured an individual who could interact with a computer via an implant.
Byrne was commissioned to write Warriors Of The Deep on September 10th. He had watched The Silurians and The Sea Devils to prepare for the assignment, and decided that the Silurians should be portrayed as the leaders of their race, while the Sea Devils would operate more in the manner of elite foot soldiers. He also asked script editor Eric Saward if he could model his serial on Saward's own Earthshock, broadcast during Season Nineteen; Byrne had been impressed with its kinetic, action-oriented style, and wanted to try his hand at a similar type of story. Byrne intentionally avoided using any recognisible names for the two power blocs involved in his adventure; to this end, he implied that his supporting characters emanated from a variety of nationalities.
After delivering his draft scripts for Warriors Of The Deep at the start of 1983, Byrne departed for work in the United States. As a result, he was unavailable for further rewrites. This proved to be unfortunate because script editor Eric Saward discovered that the episodes were badly mistimed, in some instances coming in at almost double the required length. Saward set to work revising Warriors Of The Deep by himself, dispensing with elements such as the crew that Byrne had assigned to the probe which is despatched from the seabase and is attacked by the Myrka. Saward also responded to criticisms from Ian Levine, who was functioning as the Doctor Who production team's unofficial fan adviser. Levine felt that Byrne had not properly captured the spirit of the Silurians and Sea Devils.
In the process of rewriting Warriors Of The Deep, Saward made the adventure much more bloodthirsty than Byrne had intended: Icthar, Vorshak and Preston had all survived in Byrne's version, but Saward killed them off in an attempt to portray the brutality of the events. Upon receiving Saward's amendments, Byrne was dismayed by what had become of his serial, although he felt that there was nothing he could do at this point. His relationship with the Doctor Who production office cooled considerably from that point onward.
Despite Nathan-Turner's penchant for seeking out new directors for Doctor Who, Pennant Roberts was selected to helm Warriors Of The Deep, now designated Serial 6L. The two had renewed their acquaintance when Nathan-Turner was investigating the use of clips from Shada -- Roberts' last Doctor Who story, which had been abandoned due to strike action in 1979 -- for the twentieth-anniversary special The Five Doctors. Nathan-Turner developed a confidence in Roberts, and invited him back to Doctor Who.
Roberts initially planned to film the scenes in and around the seabase hydro tank at a water tank owned by the Ealing Television Film Studios. These and other sequences would be filmed at Ealing from June 14th to 17th, before Warriors Of The Deep entered the studio for a two-day block beginning on June 29th and a three-day session from July 13th. In May, however, Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher called a snap election for June 14th to take advantage of her popularity in the wake of the Falklands War. The announcement caught BBC Planning by surprise, and recording space had to be swiftly reallocated to accommodate election coverage. Amongst the casualties of this development was Warriors Of The Deep: Nathan-Turner was informed that the first studio block would have to be brought forward by a week, or else the serial would have to be abandoned.
Doctor Who's twentieth season had lost one story -- Saward's own “The Return” -- due to a labour dispute, and Nathan-Turner was determined that Season Twenty-One would not be similarly curtailed. Left with no other option, the producer agreed to accommodate the new dates. This decision was met with trepidation by the Visual Effects Department, however, which was concerned that the costume for the Myrka could not be completed in time for the revised schedule. To make mattes worse, the visual effects designer assigned to Warriors Of The Deep, Mat Irvine, would be delayed in starting work on the serial due to another programme which had fallen behind schedule. Adding to the chaos was the realisation that the Ealing filming would now have to be cancelled because the crew would be required to cover the election. No alternative dates were available, which meant that Roberts would have to make other arrangements at very short notice.
Meanwhile, by the end of May, Nathan-Turner and Saward had largely finalised their plan to deal with the various changes which would be sweeping through Doctor Who during Season Twenty-One. It was agreed that the departures of Tegan and Turlough would be spread out, while Kamelion, the robot companion introduced in The King's Demons and which had now been deemed a failed experiment, would also be written out of the series.
Furthermore, it was decided that the Fifth Doctor would regenerate in the season's penultimate story, giving the viewing audience an opportunity to properly acquaint themselves with the new Doctor before the programme went off the air for nine months. Peter Davison was unhappy with this move: he had signed a contract for the entirety of Season Twenty-One in November 1982, and was frustrated that he would not be able to complete three full years on Doctor Who. The only other time that a Doctor had been replaced mid-season was back in 1966, when the transition from William Hartnell to Patrick Troughton had marked the first change of lead actor for the programme.
Nathan-Turner's first and only choice to play the Sixth Doctor was Colin Baker. Baker had originally intended to become a lawyer before switching gears and attending the London Academy of Music and Dramatic Art. He had enjoyed considerable success on television during the Seventies, with roles in War & Peace, Fall Of Eagles and especially The Brothers, where he had become a household name playing the unscrupulous businessman Paul Merroney. More recently, Baker had appeared in episodes of Blake's 7, For Maddie With Love and Juliet Bravo.
Nathan-Turner had first met Baker when he had appeared on Doctor Who in Arc Of Infinity the year before. At the time, Baker had been resigned to the fact that his role as Commander Maxil in that serial would put him out of the running to someday play the Doctor. This was a considerable disappointment to the actor, who had enjoyed Doctor Who since its premiere in 1963; he had previously made inquiries about the lead role prior to Davison's casting in 1980.
However, Nathan-Turner had been taken with Baker's humour and charisma during the making of Arc Of Infinity, a feeling which deepened on two further encounters with the actor: once at a party thrown by Sarah Sutton, and later while meeting with Gerald Flood (who would guest star in The King's Demons), who was appearing with Baker in the play Relatively Speaking. Unlike Baker himself, Nathan-Turner did not view his appearance as Maxil as a significant impediment to Baker becoming the Sixth Doctor.
On June 10th, Nathan-Turner invited Baker to a meeting, where the actor was astonished to find himself being offered the starring role in Doctor Who. The two continued to discuss the proposition over the next few days, and on one occasion ran into Davison and his wife, Sandra Dickinson, at a hotel bar. During rehearsals for Warriors Of The Deep the next day, Nathan-Turner confirmed to Davison what his leading man had already guessed: Baker would indeed be his successor on Doctor Who. Davison agreed to keep the information to himself until the BBC was ready to make a formal announcement. Less keen on Nathan-Turner's choice for the Sixth Doctor was Saward, who was now finding himself at odds with his producer more and more frequently.
Recording for Warriors Of The Deep got under way with a two-day block in BBC Television Centre Studio 6 on June 23rd and 24th. As was his habit, Roberts had sought to add more roles for women to the serial, and the result was the casting of Ingrid Pitt as Solow, a part which Byrne had envisaged as an elderly male doctor. The 23rd was devoted to recording scenes in the TARDIS, the PS Unit and the airlock breached by the Sea Devils.
Problems were quickly evident with the costumes for both monster species. The actors within experienced ventilation issues, exacerbated by the heat wave afflicting England at the time. Furthermore, the Silurian outfits had a tendency to buckle around the neck, and this resulted in the mask being improperly fitted to the body on some occasions. The Sea Devil costumes, with their large webbed feet, hindered mobility, and the helmets were too heavy, making the heads tilt to one side and cause the actors' vision to be obscured.
However, all of this paled in comparison to the difficulties Roberts would confront with the Myrka. The monster was supposed to be ready for the first studio day, to give actors John Asquith and William Perrie an opportunity to rehearse. The Myrka had been designed in the manner of a pantomime horse, with two operators positioned in either end of the costume, and so Roberts had sought out Asquith and Perrie because they routinely operated a genuine pantomime horse, Dobbin, for the BBC children's series Rentaghost.
On the 23rd, however, Nathan-Turner was informed that not only would the Myrka be unavailable for rehearsals, but the costume would not be physically ready. Nathan-Turner informed Visual Effects that he had no choice but to use the Myrka on the 24th, no matter what condition it was in. Given the constraints under which Serial 6L was already operating, no further amendments to the recording schedule were possible.
Effects assistant Stuart Murdoch worked tirelessly to get the Myrka ready for recording, but by the time the cameras began rolling on the 24th, the paint was still drying, soiling the outfits of those actors with whom the Myrka came in contact, including Janet Fielding. Furthermore, Asquith and Perrie found the costume very difficult to manipulate, and consequently the Myrka was not nearly as mobile as Roberts had anticipated. This resulted in many of the scenes involving the monster coming across as very awkwardly staged, such as Solow's exaggerated karate lunge (this had been Pitt's idea, drawing on her knowledge of the martial arts).
Despite all the rancour, an unhappy Roberts persevered and completed the scenes in the detention area and the airlock assaulted by the Myrka on the 24th. However, time grew so tight that he was often forced to record each shot in just one or two takes. As a result, Roberts often found himself having to compromise on quality. In one instance, Roberts had no choice but to use a shot of Fielding and Tara Ward (Preston) which the actresses had thought was merely a camera rehearsal; their visibly halfhearted performance would have to be retained in the serial's final edit.
The difficult first studio block behind them, cast and crew travelled to the Royal Engineers Diving Establishment, at Marchwood in Hampshire, on June 28th. This facility offered a watertank similar to the one Roberts had intended to use at Ealing. He had made arrangements for the tank to be filled and warmed prior to the team's arrival, but was disappointed to discover that this had not been done. As a result, it had to be hastily filled with cold water, making the recording of the scene where the Doctor falls into the hydro tank a very unpleasant experience for Peter Davison.
The rest of the material originally planned for Ealing was instead completed at Shepperton Studios in Shepperton, Surrey on June 29th and 30th. This included all of the material aboard the Silurian ship and in the Sea Devil base. Unusually, Roberts elected to shoot all of the scenes at Marchwood and Shepperton on Outside Broadcast (OB) video. The BBC had an edict against the use of OB recording at facilities like Ealing, but this was not enforced at outside locations. Roberts preferred to use OB video instead of film because it would blend more naturally with those sequences taped in the studio.
Meanwhile, Nathan-Turner and Saward had continued to plan for the era of the Sixth Doctor. They were aware that a common criticism of recent seasons had been the overcrowding of the TARDIS, and so they intended that the new Doctor would travel with just a single companion. This would be botany student Perpugilliam “Peri” Brown, who was created by Nathan-Turner and Saward in February and would be introduced in Davison's penultimate story. It was decided that Peri should be the Doctor's first American companion -- probably as an overture to the burgeoning Doctor Who following in the United States, in much the same way that Tegan's nationality had been calculated to attract the interest of the Australian Broadcasting Commission. Nathan-Turner had found the name Perpugilliam in a book, and felt that it was the kind of old English name favoured by some in the American upper class during the Sixties. Saward wanted Peri to be more of an “everyperson” than had been the case with recent companions, and hoped that her relationship with the Doctor would evoke memories of the popular Third Doctor/Jo Grant pairing in the early Seventies.
The actress who won the role of Peri was Nicola Bryant, a recent graduate of the Webber Douglas Academy of Dramatic Art. Bryant had originally dreamed of a career as a ballerina, before asthma curtailed her aspirations. Doctor Who would be her first professional assignment; indeed, after being offered the role of Peri, Bryant had to take on a considerable amount of cabaret work in order to qualify for admission to Equity, the actors' union. Unlike Peri, Bryant was British, but she was married to an American, and held joint American citizenship as a result. Nathan-Turner encouraged Bryant to downplay both her marital status and her true nationality. After being introduced to the press on July 5th, Bryant briefly upheld the masquerade by giving interviews in the American accent she would use in Doctor Who. She was contracted for twelve episodes (the final two serials of Season Twenty-One and the opening story of Season Twenty-Two) on August 9th, with a BBC option for the entirety of the twenty-second and twenty-third seasons.
While Bryant was being unveiled to the public, four days of model filming for Warriors Of The Deep were taking place at the Visual Effects Workshop in Acton, from July 4th to 7th. Then, from the 13th to the 15th, Warriors Of The Deep returned to TC6 for its second and final studio session, as originally scheduled. The set for the bridge was used on the first two days, along with the computer bank bay on the 13th and the chemical store on the 14th. The final day saw the recording of scenes at the bridge entrance and in the storage area.
For Season Twenty-One, Doctor Who would be broadcast twice a week, as had been the case for the last two years. Once again, however, it landed in a different timeslot: after airing on Mondays and Tuesdays for Season Nineteen, and on Tuesdays and Wednesdays during Season Twenty, Doctor Who would now be transmitted on Thursdays and Fridays throughout most of the country. Warriors Of The Deep inaugurated the programme's twenty-first season on January 5th, 1984. It was already planned that this would be the final year for the twice-weekly broadcast pattern. The BBC now rarely aired half-hour dramas, and it was thought that a move to a more conventional forty-five minute timeslot for Season Twenty-Two might freshen the appeal of Doctor Who.
Around July 1983, Johnny Byrne submitted one further story idea to the Doctor Who production office, called “The Guardians Of Prophecy” (also known as “The Place Of Serenity”). With the unhappiness provoked by Warriors Of The Deep still fresh, however, there was little impetus to develop the submission, and in fact Byrne would not return to Doctor Who. He went on to write for programmes such as One By One, Noah's Ark and Heartbeat, and continued to contribute scripts for All Creatures Great And Small. In the late Eighties, Byrne renewed his association with Doctor Who when he wrote several scripts for a proposed feature film on behalf of the Daltenreys group, although this project would never come to fruition. Byrne died of cancer on April 2nd, 2008.
|Updated 30th May 2010|
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