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Terror Of The Autons
The Doctor is warned of a new threat to the Earth: the evil renegade Time Lord known as the Master has arrived. The Master has allied himself with the Nestene Consciousness and has once again paved the way for an Auton presence on Earth. The Doctor and his new assistant, Jo Grant, must stop the Nestenes for a second time -- but this time with the knowledge that the Doctor is going head to head with a being who is quite possibly his true equal.
Because he had been appointed producer of Doctor Who late in the planning stages for the programme's seventh season, Barry Letts' influence on that set of stories was minimal. The opportunity to really make his mark finally came in late February 1970, when Letts learned that Doctor Who was to continue into Season Eight. Letts thereafter made four major decisions which would affect the series both on-screen and off.
First, having secured a larger budget for Season Eight, Letts was able to schedule it as a collection of five stories, one more than in Season Seven. This meant that Letts could avoid the lengthy seven-part serials which were predominant in the seventh season; the longest story of new year would be only six episodes long. In this manner, Letts was able to ensure that there would be more “first nights” during Season Eight, which he and Head of Serials Ronnie Marsh felt would be better from a ratings perspective.
Second, Letts decided that the altered recording schedule with which he had experimented on both The Silurians and Inferno during Season Seven would now become the norm. Instead of taping one episode each week, two episodes would now be recorded together every fortnight, thereby reducing wear and tear on sets (a set which was needed for every installment of a six-part story would now only have to be erected and taken down three times, rather than half a dozen).
Third, Letts and script editor Terrance Dicks decided that the Doctor's Season Seven companion, Liz Shaw, would not return to the programme. Letts felt that Liz was too intelligent and independent to play second fiddle to the Doctor, and wanted to soften the rather sterile UNIT environment. Instead, Letts elected to introduce new male and female characters, inspired by the companion team of Jamie and Victoria who had featured in the series when Letts had directed The Enemy Of The World two and a half years earlier. The Doctor's new assistant would be Josephine (Jo) Grant, envisioned as being more charming but less science-oriented than Liz. Her male counterpart, with whom there would be the possibility of romantic involvement, would be UNIT Captain Mike Yates; Yates would also act as the Brigadier's second-in-command.
Finally, Letts and Dicks agreed that Season Eight should feature some sort of gimmick to attract new viewers. With the exiled Doctor acting as a sort of latter-day Sherlock Holmes, they thought it would be appropriate to introduce an archnemesis in the vein of Holmes' Professor Moriarty. This new villain, whom Letts and Dicks hoped would replace the Daleks at the forefront of Doctor Who's rogues gallery, would be a renegade Time Lord like the Doctor, but with a much more evil bent. Dicks would subsequently christen the character “the Master” as a sinister spin on the Doctor's own peculiar appellation.
With the fundamentals of Season Eight now defined, the next priority for the production team was to secure their cast for the new year. To this end, Jon Pertwee was quickly contracted on March 9th. Letts had created the Master with Roger Delgado in mind, and the actor agreed to appear throughout Season Eight on March 23rd. Delgado -- whose full name was Roger Caesar Marius Bernard de Delgado Torres Castillo Roberto -- had left a bank job to work on stage. He soon parlayed his exotic appearance into a number of film and television roles; these included Quatermass II and Sir Francis Drake, the Bing Crosby/Bob Hope movie The Road To Hong Kong, and Hammer horror fare such as The Mummy's Shroud.
Next to commit to Season Eight was Nicholas Courtney, on April 8th. Two months later, on June 22nd, John Levene agreed to appear in 18 episodes as Sergeant Benton. Shortly thereafter, auditions began for the roles of Jo and Mike. For the former, about fifty actresses were interviewed. Three performers -- all of whom wanted to play Jo in the vein of the female protagonists of The Avengers -- had already been shortlisted before Katy Manning was one of the last to appear before Letts. Manning had some television credits to her name, including an episode of Softly, Softly: Task Force. She had also been offered a contract by MGM in Hollywood, but had acquiesced to the wishes of her father and remained in England. Manning was late to the audition and was unable to read her script as she had forgotten her glasses, necessary due to her extreme shortsightedness. Nonetheless, she was offered the part the next day. Pertwee concurred with Letts' decision: he had met Manning at the BBC some months earlier and felt then that she was suitable for Doctor Who.
Meanwhile, Letts' first choice to play Mike Yates was actor Ian Marter. It soon became clear, however, that Marter would not be able to commit to all of Season Eight and so Letts instead hired Richard Franklin, whom the producer had recently seen in a West End play. In addition to a variety of theatrical work, Franklin had also appeared in programmes such as Crossroads and Dixon Of Dock Green. Marter, meanwhile, would eventually be cast as companion Harry Sullivan four years later. Franklin was contracted for all five serials on July 1st. Manning's contract was signed on the 3rd, guaranteeing her appearance in at least twenty episodes.
To write the new characters' debut serial, Dicks had turned to Robert Holmes. Dicks had been very pleased with Holmes' Spearhead From Space, which had led off Season Seven, and asked him to pen a return appearance for that adventure's monsters, the Autons, and their plastic-controlling masters, the Nestene Consciousness. Holmes disliked reusing old creations, preferring to come up with original concepts for each new story, but ultimately consented. A storyline entitled “The Spray Of Death” was commissioned on April 28th.
Several modifications were made to Holmes' original breakdown. Wanting to make Jo's role in the first episode more prominent, Dicks suggested the sequence where she discovers the Master operating out of Farrel's factory and subsequently sets off the booby trap on the box due to the evil Time Lord's post-hypnotic suggestion; originally, the bomb had simply gone off when the Doctor tried to open the box by remote control. The elder Farrel's immunity to hypnotism -- justifying the Master's decision to have him killed -- was Dicks' idea as well. The script editor also added dialogue explaining that Liz Shaw had returned to Cambridge. Initially, the troll dolls played a much greater role in the story's climax, and explained the Master's interest in the circus, which would have been used to distribute the toys. The victim of the Master's murderous phone cord was another alteration: initially, this would have been the Brigadier rather than the Doctor, strangled as he tries to alert the police to the true nature of the troll dolls.
More significant was Dicks' dislike of the way Holmes had originally planned to instigate the Auton invasion. Holmes had written that the daffodils (and the troll dolls) would be animated when the temperature reached a certain level -- a level which would be obtained thanks to a fortuitous oncoming heat wave in Britain. Feeling that this made the story's setting illogical -- it would make more sense for the Master to carry out his plan in a tropical locale -- it was decided to replace this with a broadcast activation signal. The attempted arrival on Earth of a Nestene energy form was also added to part four at this point. The scripts for “The Spray Of Death” were commissioned on June 12th.
In addition to his role as producer of Doctor Who, Letts was keen to direct the occasional serial -- a job which he had most recently undertaken on an emergency basis for part of Inferno at the end of the seventh recording block. Since “The Spray Of Death” came at the start of the new season, Letts decided to helm Serial EEE himself.
Franklin joined the cast for the start of location work on September 17th, when several scenes were completed, mostly in Buckinghamshire. These included the Daffodil Men handing out the plastic flowers at St Peter's Court and a parking lot in Chalfont St Peter, and various roadside sequences in Hodgemoor Woods near Chalfont St Giles. The day concluded back in London with the explosion of the booby-trapped box at Queen's Wharf in Hammersmith. Manning and Delgado's first day of work was September 18th, which was spent at the Roberts Brothers Circus. Erected in Leyton, London, this doubled for the Rossini Brothers International Circus.
Production resumed after the weekend on the 21st, when the scenes of the Doctor and Jo being pursued by Autons were filmed in a quarry owned by the Totterhoe Lime and Stone Company Ltd near Dunstable, Bedfordshire; this material had originally been written for a woodland environment. Manning, who had to play Jo without wearing her glasses, twisted her ankle on this day. The actress -- already nervous about being the junior member of the regular cast, and provoked by jokes made by production assistant Nicholas Howard John (the brother of Caroline John, who had played Liz Shaw) -- became concerned that she might be fired. Pertwee came to his costar's defence, however, rebuking John's comments. Manning was taken to hospital to have her ankle examined, but returned to work shortly thereafter. Another castmember in ill health at this time was Courtney, who was enduring a sudden bout of depression. Courtney's state was noted by both Pertwee and Letts, and the producer/director elected to excuse him from most filming that day.
Courtney continued to be absent the following day, which saw the start of filming on Beacon Hill material. The GPO Relay Station tower at nearby Caddington posed as the research establishment. A double stood in for Courtney, and most of the Brigadier's dialogue in the relevant scenes was deleted or reassigned. Letts also inserted the scene where Jo twists her ankle to explain the limp Manning now suffered following her accident the day before. Another last-minute change was to have the faux Master shot at the story's conclusion revealed to be a hypnotised Farrel; as scripted, an Auton played the decoy.
The Beacon Hill sequences were completed on the 23rd, after which location work concluded at Thermo Plastics Ltd back in Dunstable; this served as Farrel's factory. Courtney rejoined the team, although Letts agreed to reduce his dialogue to make the work less stressful for him. On the 24th, Katy Manning was introduced to the press as the Doctor's newest companion. At around the same time, it was decided to amend the serial's title to Terror Of The Autons.
The first block of studio recordings took place on Friday, October 9th and Saturday the 10th at BBC Television Centre Studio 8. The first day was used for special effects sequences, notably those involving the animated troll doll and Goodge's miniaturised corpse. The second day saw the completion of most of the remainder of episodes one and two.
During rehearsals for the second studio block, the scripts underwent two significant amendments. First, Dicks realised that the story's new title meant that an Auton needed to appear somewhere in part one, inspiring the inclusion of the scene where the Master animates an Auton. Meanwhile, Ronnie Marsh had objected to the Doctor's final line about the Master, in which he avows that the Master will stay on Earth “until I destroy him. Or until he destroys me”. Instead, the Doctor would suggest that he was looking forward to their next contretemps.
The second block occurred exactly two weeks after the first, on October 23rd and 24th; this time, however, the venue was TC6. The Friday was largely used for shots requiring the time-consuming Colour Separation Overlay effect, while Saturday saw the rest of parts three and four recorded. Meanwhile, Doctor Who now had access to far more advanced editing facilities than had previously been the case. This enabled Letts to tailor each episode much more to his liking than would otherwise have been possible, and resulted in significantly more editing of scenes than in the past. The first product of this electronic surgery, Terror Of The Autons part one, was broadcast on January 2nd, 1971, signalling the start of Doctor Who's eighth season.
|Updated 11th March 2011|
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