Saturday, August 08, 2020

Jo Grant in Space

Twitter has earned itself a bad reputation as the home of cancel culture and Donald Trump. But it's also the place where Katy Manning endearingly expresses her enduring affection for Jon Pertwee. I have no grounds to suspect anything was going on between the two behind the scenes on Doctor Who but wouldn't it be lovely? Especially since this is her Twitter profile to-day:

To-day she's also tweeting about losing her purse so if you happen to see it, please return it to her.

Manning was in hospital recently and I was happy to see when she finally returned to Twitter after surgery on her eyes. It put me in the mood to watch one of her episodes so I watched Colony in Space, a 1971 story by Malcolm Hulke. In this serial, to bypass an invisible security beam set by the Master (Roger Delgado), the Doctor (Jon Pertwee) encourages Jo (Katy Manning) to lie flat on her back and "wiggle away!"

The effort draws some involuntary gasps and cries from Jo but they both make it safely inside the Master's TARDIS, thank heavens. Once inside, they begin poring over the Master's files.

They find a document the Master had stolen from the Time Lords about an indigenous race that produced a superweapon before devolving to "primitives". So that explains one document in these cabinets, what are all the others? I amused myself thinking about Missy spending long evenings scrupulously attending to piles of paperwork.

This is another instance where Steven Moffat retroactively improved Doctor Who with Missy. I used to think it silly that the Master doesn't kill the Doctor in Colony in Space and it seemed really strange when the Master offered to share control of the universe with the Doctor. After Missy, the inconsistent nature of the Master's fixation on the Doctor actually makes sense.

MASTER: "Look at all those planetary systems, Doctor! We could rule them all!"

DOCTOR: "What for? What is the point?"

MASTER: "The point is one must rule or serve, that's a basic law of life."

Of course the Master would see life as only being about power.

The serial's mainly about a conflict between a colony and a mining company and I like how many shades of grey there are in the conflict. The mining company is obviously the villain but they do have a point when they argue the need for the planet's mineral resources on Earth may be more important than the colonist's obstinate struggle to make plants grow on an apparently barren rock. Why the planet can't be colonised and mined isn't clear--Earth has both colonies and mines, after all. Hulke was apparently inspired by the history of the American colonies which makes it surprising it didn't occur to him that settlements and mining operations often had symbiotic relationships. Why don't the colonists open some saloons? Maybe a casino?

The mostly male cast is a bit strange, with the couple female characters both in caretaker roles among the colonists. The demarcation of gender roles is surprising after the feminism of Pertwee's first season. It turns out this was apparently due to the BBC's Head of Drama Serials, Ronnie Marsh, who objected when actress Susan Jameson was cast as one of the miners on vague grounds that it wouldn't be suitable for a family audience. So she was replaced by an actor named Tony Caunter. I wonder how many decisions like that happen to-day?

But the serial does have a good guest cast. I really like Morris Perry as the cruel and callous head of the miners, Dent, even if his hair looks like he was filming Richard III between takes.

This was also the last appearance of one of my favourite Doctor Who guest stars, Bernard Kay, who gets a complex role here as the seditious miner who helps the Doctor and the colonists.

It's not that he's not interested in the profits and he says he doesn't mind lying to the government. He just doesn't want to murder anyone. He has a lot of nice juicy scenes where he has to sort out his feelings and make up his mind.

The alien "primitives" have a cool design. I like how there are three different kinds, my favourite being the supremely wise elderly baby.

This is a six part serial but, like a lot of Pertwee's early serials, very easy to watch in one sitting.

Twitter Sonnet #1382

The quarry kicks a coin against the salt.
The kind of starch we need is under cloth.
The golden air Capone consigned to vault.
We asked a sullen, drinking, mobster moth.
A picture nears with smiling jacks awake.
Assembled pegs complete computer storms.
The salty snow prepares the ground to bake.
The hedges rise to craft a dream of forms.
Confusing plans began with rocks and food.
The big iguana's really just a dream.
Our metal arms would wreck the nature mood.
The other crew were stacked within the beam.
The power came from paper brains and pens.
The lumps of grain and stone we'd count as wins.

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