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Planet Of Fire
Turlough rescues a drowning botany student named Peri Brown and brings her to the TARDIS to recuperate. Before Peri can bid her farewells, Kamelion -- once again under the Master's control -- takes the TARDIS to the planet Sarn. There his mission is to find the Master, who has been diminished to just inches in height following a mishap with his tissue compression eliminator, and restore him using the healing properties of Sarn's miraculous numismaton flames. But Sarn hides a mysterious connection to Turlough's past -- a connection which may prove to be the catalyst in the Master's scheme.
Towards the end of 1982, a strike by the BBC electricians' union delayed the recording of Enlightenment, the fifth serial of Doctor Who's twentieth season. This, in turn, forced the postponement of the intended finale, “The Return”, to Season Twenty-One, where it evolved into Resurrection Of The Daleks. Both of these events would prove to have repurcussions for the twenty-first season's fifth story, which would immediately follow the rescheduled Dalek adventure.
First, Enlightenment director Fiona Cumming decided to leave Britain on a Christmas vacation while waiting for her serial to resume production. Her destination was Lanzarote, the easternmost of Spain's Canary Islands off the coast of Morocco. During her trip, Cumming sent a postcard to Doctor Who producer John Nathan-Turner, which inspired him to consider filming a story in Lanzarote. The year before, Doctor Who had had some success filming in Amsterdam for Arc Of Infinity, and Nathan-Turner was keen to record abroad at least once per season. Investigating the possibility, he was delighted to discover that the Doctor Who budget would indeed permit a week in Lanzarote.
Meanwhile, script editor Eric Saward felt badly that director Peter Grimwade's pre-production work on “The Return” was now all for naught. A misunderstanding had also led to discord between Grimwade and Nathan-Turner, which Saward felt was a result of the producer overreacting. Saward wanted to make things up to Grimwade, and offered him a scripting assignment for the fifth slot of Season Twenty-One; in addition to directing several Doctor Who serials, Grimwade had also authored Time-Flight and Mawdryn Undead in recent years.
Grimwade accepted, but was confronted with a number of requirements for his storyline. In addition to making use of the Lanzarote locale, he would have to account for a number of comings and goings amongst the TARDIS crew. All three members of the regular cast -- Peter Davison, Mark Strickson and Janet Fielding -- had decided to leave Doctor Who during Season Twenty-One. Nathan-Turner and Saward had decided to scatter these departures throughout the season. Tegan would be written out at the end of story four, Resurrection Of The Daleks, while the Doctor would regenerate at the end of story six, The Caves Of Androzani, so Grimwade was tasked with providing an exit for Strickson as Turlough. Fortunately, Grimwade had also written Turlough's introductory story, Mawdryn Undead, and had already developed a background for the character (including a previously unused first name, “Vizlor”) upon which he could now draw.
Next, Grimwade would have to write out Kamelion, the robot companion introduced in The King's Demons at the end of Season Twenty. The Kamelion prop had never worked as well as Nathan-Turner and Saward had been led to believe -- a situation made worse by the accidental death of one of its creators. As a result, Kamelion's second appearance would also be its last. Furthermore, Grimwade would have to introduce the new companion, Perpugilliam “Peri” Brown, who had been created by Nathan-Turner and Saward during February 1983, and bring back the Master for his annual contretemps with the Doctor. Anthony Ainley's contract to play the Master was about to expire, so Grimwade was asked to write out the character in a potentially permanent way, in case Ainley decided not to return to Doctor Who.
On March 29th, Grimwade was contracted to provide a storyline called Planet Of Fire; the title “Planet Of Fear” may also have been considered. Full scripts were then commissioned on April 20th. These had to be carefully constructed to ensure that the Kamelion prop would not be needed on location, with Grimwade instead having the robot metamorphose -- partly or completely -- into the forms of the Master or Howard Foster.
Grimwade decided that Lanzarote would feature as two different locations in the story -- the Greek island of Aeschyllos and the alien planet Sarn -- to take advantage of the variety offered by the landscape. Grimwade was subsequently informed that the deal worked out between the production office and the Lanzarote Tourist Board meant that the Earthbound sections would actually have to be set in Lanzarote itself, forcing Grimwade to abandon some of the historical detail he had worked out. Grimwade found that writing for the Lanzarote locale was very difficult because of his unfamiliarity with the island. He had hoped to join the production team on a recce to Lanzarote in September, but was disappointed when Nathan-Turner denied his request.
Also dropped as Grimwade's scripts developed were elements of Peri's character: she was meant to forge a bond with the Doctor in part because he reminds her of her late father, who died at the same age as the Doctor now appears. She had also been envisaged as wealthy and blonde; this last characteristic was abandoned with the casting of brunette Nicola Bryant during the summer. Unfortunately, Grimwade had trouble writing Peri to Saward's satisfaction, and the script editor provided a number of revisions to Planet Of Fire in order to toughen up the new companion's portrayal. Grimwade was also unhappy with Saward's decision to tone down the story's commentary on issues of religious zealotry, and by the decision to cast Dallas Adams as Howard Foster. Grimwade had envisaged Foster as an older man who evoked the spirit of archaeologist Howard Carter, but this was now lost.
The obvious choice to direct Planet Of Fire -- now designated Serial 6Q -- was Fiona Cumming. She and her team travelled to Lanzarote on October 13th, to prepare for filming beginning the next day. Work on the 14th took place at Playa Papagayo, for the scenes on the research boat and the beach. This was Bryant's first day of recording as Peri, and it was bizarrely disrupted by a German nudist, who believed that Bryant was actually drowning when she filmed the scene of Peri in the water. The man was very unhappy to learn that Bryant was just acting, and later ruined a take for a scene on the beach when he ran through the shot.
October 15th took cast and crew to Mirador del Rio, for the scenes in Timanov's quarters. The day concluded at Orzola, for material at the jetty and in the cafe. After a break on the 16th, the final three days in Lanzarote saw recording shift to the Montañas del Fuego in Timanfaya National Park, where the various Sarn exterior shots were captured. On the last night in Lanzarote, Adams and Peter Wyngarde liberated some turtles kept in the hotel pool and released them into the sea, causing the police to be summoned.
A week later, the first studio block for Planet Of Fire got under way at BBC Television Centre Studio 1. This was a two-day affair, spanning October 26th and 27th. The first day dealt with scenes on a variety of sets, including the bunker, the tunnel, the seismic control centre and the collonade, along with some of the material in the Hall of Fire; the remaining sequences in the latter were completed on the 27th.
Work on Serial 6Q then resumed for three days in TC6, from November 9th to 11th. Remaining scenes in the seismic control centre were taped on the 9th, along with all of those set aboard the TARDIS. The middle day dealt with material in the Trion spaceship, the Sarn ruins and the Master's laboratory. The ruins and laboratory sets were again in use on the 11th, as was the Master's TARDIS; various effects shots were also completed on this day. Gerald Flood, who had provided the voice of Kamelion in The King's Demons, once again performed dialogue for the robot. Although the departure of Kamelion meant that this was the end of Flood's ostensibly regular involvement in Doctor Who, he would actually return for the very next serial, The Caves Of Androzani, in which Kamelion made a cameo appearance alongside the Fifth Doctor's other companions. Flood continued to work on stage and screen, including a television production of Bleak House, until his death from a heart attack on April 12th, 1989.
Like Flood, Mark Strickson would also return briefly in The Caves Of Androzani, but Planet Of Fire brought an end to his time as a member of the main cast. Strickson subsequently appeared in programmes such as Bergerac and Casualty before he and his wife moved to Australia in 1988. There he put his acting career on hold to complete a zoology degree at the University of New England. From then on, Strickson's focus shifted to producing and directing wildlife documentaries. However, he would also reprise his role as Turlough for Big Finish Productions' range of Doctor Who audio dramas, beginning with Phantasmagoria in 1999.
Planet Of Fire would also turn out to be Fiona Cumming's last Doctor Who credit, although she was scheduled to direct “The Ultimate Evil” for the abortive original version of Season Twenty-Three. Cumming continued to direct for television, including episodes of the soap opera Eldorado. She passed away on January 1st, 2015.
Finally, Planet Of Fire marked Peter Grimwade's last contribution to Doctor Who. A final submission to the production office, entitled “League Of The Tandreds”, was abandoned in late 1984, apparently on grounds of cost. By this time, Grimwade's personal issues with Nathan-Turner and his unhappiness with the development of Planet Of Fire had left him largely disillusioned with Doctor Who. Indeed, in 1986 he wrote and directed an episode of the children's series Dramarama entitled The Come-Uppance Of Captain Katt, a thinly-veiled parody of Doctor Who which drew upon his experiences behind the scenes. Grimwade also directed episodes of programmes such as All Creatures Great And Small while novelising his Doctor Who stories for Target Books and publishing one original novel entitled Robot. In the late Eighties, Grimwade left the BBC to focus on making industrial videos; he succumbed to leukemia on May 15th, 1990.
|Updated 5th January 2015|
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