Monday, 7 February 2011

077 The Chase Part 6: The Planet of Decision

EPISODE: The Chase Part 6: The Planet of Decision
TRANSMITTED: 26 June 1965
WRITER: Terry Nation
DIRECTOR: Richard Martin
SCRIPT EDITOR: Dennis Spooner
PRODUCER: Verity Lambert
FORMAT: DVD: Doctor Who - The Space Museum/The Chase

The travellers ascend in the lift with the Mechanoid to it's city. The Daleks fetch equipment from their ship to cut through the wall and follow. The travellers are herded into a room but the Doctor isn't happy. Inside the room is a bearded man: He is astronaut Steven Taylor, marooned when his ship crashed. He assumes they are rescuers sent from Earth and is overcome. He has been a guest of the Mechanoids for two years, robots who were sent from Earth to prepare the world for colonisation. They await a command code that never came. The Mechanoids are holding them as specimens monitoring all they do and say. The Daleks summon the lift and prepare to confront the Mechanoids. There is a way out from the cell onto the roof of the city 1500ft above the ground. The travellers see this as an escape route: Ian finds some power cable which he thinks they can lower and climb down. The Daleks enter the city and confront the Mechanoids. Neither side will back down and a pitch battle ensues. Vicki is overcome by the height so the others lower her as the city catches fire in the battle. Steven charges inside to retrieve his cuddly panda mascot. The travellers make it to the ground but there's no sign of Steven. They shelter in the Tardis as the city is destroyed. Emerging later they find the Dalek time craft empty and abandoned. Ian & Barbara realise that since it works properly they would be able to get home. While they go into the machine to talk with the Doctor, Steven stumbles out of the jungle and into the Tardis. The Doctor isn't keen on Ian and Barbara leaving, claiming it could kill them, but Vicki talks him into it. He programs the machine for one flight to London 1965 and then sets it to self destruct. The machine dematerialises leaving the Doctor and Vicki together. Ian & Barbara materialise in a warehouse opposite White City Tube Station and leave just before the time machine is destroyed. Ian and Barbara are overjoyed to have returned home to London and then wonder how they will explain their absence. The Doctor and Vicki watch on the Time Space Visualiser, as the Doctor admits he will miss his friends. The Tardis leaves Mechanus, with it's remaining crew unaware that they have a guest.

Well..... the battle scenes are short lived and the Mechanoids are little more than a Dalek rip off. Leaving them aside, what this episode is remembered for is bidding farewell to Ian & Barbara and introducing Steven Taylor, played by Peter Purves, cast after his brief appearance in episode 3.

This is the last time we see Ian & Barbara on screen but apparently the powers that be wanted to give them a brief cameo at the end of the Massacre, witnessing the Tardis depart from Wimbledon Common. Many years later we came so close to getting Ian back during 1983's Mawdryn Undead. William Russel was unavailable for filming as teacher Ian Chesterton so the function was filled by Nicholas Courtney's Brigadier having retired to teach maths. As I write William Russel is alive and well, if advancing in years and has regularly contributed commentary to Doctor Who DVDs. Jacqueline Hill, who played Barbara, took a break from acting to raise a family, returning to the trade in the late 70s when her appearances included a guest role in the Tom Baker story Meglos. Sadly she was taken ill with cancer and died in 1993. A tribute to her can be found on the recently released Doctor Who - Meglos DVD.

We also bid farewell to two members of behind the scenes staff. Script Editor Dennis Spooner takes leave of his post with this story. His tenure on staff was brief but he'll be back writing the next story as well as a good proportion of next year's Dalek Masterplan. This is the last Doctor Who directed by Richard Martin. Popular with the cast he seemed to get lumbered with technical monster stories which perhaps weren't quite his forte. It's interesting contrasting the Daleks under his direction to that of Christopher Barry in their first appearance and Douglas Camfield in their next. He had a long career in television working on a variety of programs.

The Mechanoids were another attempt to produce the next BIG Doctor Who monster (see also: Vrood & Zarbi) but this was their only appearance. Unlike most other Doctor Who monsters of the time they were immortalised in toy form and did appear in the Daleks comic strip during the 60s. If you're a Doctor Who fan you'll be able to hazard a pretty good guess as to what the next big monster was, but they're not due to show up for another season and a half yet!

The Chase was one of the last Target Books to be released, novelised by John Peel. It was released on VHS in 1993 as part of Doctor Who's 30th anniversary in a limited edition Dalek tin with Remembrance of the Daleks then on DVD in 2010 when it was packed with the Space Museum.

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