Hello everyone, the Historian here, with Ketina, Schmallturm, Spoo, MiniSpoo and Cz. Tonight, as I mentioned last week, we watched the original lost episode, the first one to be wiped by the BBC. Some of us have been hearing about this one for literally decades...so, what did we think? Well, first, let's get to the summary!
Episode summary: First aired 25 December 1965. The central control column has stopped moving. Sara, not knowing what this means, calls the Doctor and Steven's attention to it. Steven tells her it just means they've landed. The Doctor checks the scanner, but sees only static. Steven is about to touch the control that opens the doors, but the Doctor stops him. "Do you see those dials?" he asks. "Now, do you know what that means? If either of you went outside, it would be extremely dangerous. The whole atmosphere is entirely poisonous...!"
Outside a police station in Northern England, a policeman walks into the courtyard. There is snow on the ground and the policeman stretches as he looks around. Suddenly, he notices something amiss--a police box has appeared in the yard! "Who put that there?" he asks himself. A police car, containing two other policemen (singing "Good King Wenceslas") pulls up. They see the police sergeant standing in the yard and go to join him. He, too is confused about the arrival of a police box. "Oh, perhaps somebody sent it to the Inspector as a Christmas box!" suggests one of the policemen. The sergeant, less than amused, tells the two to keep watch on the box. "Why? Do you think it's gonna to fly away?" asks the other policeman.
Back in the control room, the Doctor is preparing to go outside to mend the scanner eye. Steven asks why, if it's poisonous to him and Sara, why not to the Doctor? The Doctor responds, "here you come from, in both places, the air is pure. Outside there is the worst kind of pollution I've met in years!" He tells them he will not be affected by it and they should only come out if something happens to him. Over Steven's objections, the Doctor tells his friend to open the door and close it behind him.
The Doctor sticks his head outside the doors, only to be confronted by a smiling policeman! The two wish each other "Good evening," and the Doctor retreats back into the ship. The policeman does a double-take, suddenly realizing what he's seen. The other policeman runs over at his partner's call. The first policeman tries to convince his doubting partner that he saw a "bloke with a...with...with long white hair" come out of the doors, but when the second policeman tries the doors they are locked.
Inside, the Doctor tries to explain to Sara that they are on Earth. She's confused, since it says "POLICE" on the front of the ship; aren't they on the Doctor's planet? The Doctor gives up and once again prepares to leave, telling Steven to close the doors behind him.
Seeing no one, the Doctor exits the TARDIS...and is immediately grabbed by the two policemen, who were hiding around each side.
Inside the police station, the desk sergeant is listening to a man making a complaint about a missing greenhouse. The policemen bring the Doctor in, to the CID office. As he passes, the Doctor says to the man with the missing house, "Haven't I seen your face before somewhere, hmm? Yes, of course, I remember now, yes - the market place at Jaffa." He laughs and they take him into the office.
Outside, Steven has crept out of the TARDIS to look for the Doctor. He sees and avoids a policeman, ducking down behind the police car.
In the CID office, the detective-inspector is having absolutely no luck interrogating the Doctor. "I've heard of a housing shortage," he says, "but I never knew it was so bad you'd have to spend Christmas in a Police Box." The Doctor is delighted to discover that it is Christmas and says that he has been travelling. He implies that he is not English and, when the DI tries to find out where the Doctor is from, he finally admits, with a laugh, "Well, I suppose you might say that I am a citizen of the universe...and a gentleman, to boot!" The DI is not amused.
In the yard, Steven is still creeping around the car. He notices that there is a policeman's coat sitting on the back seat and reaches in to put it on...
Inside the station, the man is still complaining about his missing greenhouse. The sergeant notices Steven, dressed as a policeman, enter and calls him over. He assumes Steven is a new man sent from "G" division. After a moments confusion, Steven suddenly puts on a convincing Liverpudlian accent and plays along with it. He tells the sergeant he's come about the old man who was just taken through a few minutes ago. The sergeant tells Steven to wait until the CID's finished and the greenhouse man starts up again.
In the CID office, the Doctor is attempting to explain that the "Police Box" isn't one at all, but "a machine for investigating Time And Relative Dimensions In Space." Both the DI and the policeman look at each other and decide the Doctor is a nutter. "Do I take it that you gentlemen are imputing that I am mentally deranged, mm? Mmm? Hmm!" the Doctor says, angrily. The two policemen confer. The DI asks is the old man was the only one in the box. "There might be a whole army of the...them in there, living like gypsies in one of Her Majesty's police telephone boxes!" says the DI. The policeman replies, "And just how many people would you expect to come out of one box?"
Sara emerges from the ship into the yard, wondering aloud where in the world her companions have gone. She looks at the TARDIS light, where the scanner eye is located. Just then, the first policeman comes up and asks her what she is doing. She tells him she must fix the scanner eye, which (of course) just confuses him. He tells her on Christmas, they like to be lenient, so could she just move along to the party he assumes she's on her way to, due to her "fancy dress?" Exasperated, Sara heads to the yard exit. The policeman, trying and failing to be "with it," calls out to her to "have a...have a...have a swinging time!" He then goes into the station. After he leaves, Sara returns, amazed at the stupidity of her friends, who have obviously gotten themselves into trouble.
In the station, Steven paces up and down. Finally, the inner door opens and the Doctor is led out by the policeman and the DI. Steven and the Doctor acknowledge each other and Steven covers by saying, "Er, you see he's a funny feller, but I know how to handle him. We're used to him down in 'G' Division." The policeman offers to go with Steven to make sure the old man steers clear of the "Police Box," and the three leave.
Outside, the policeman catches sight of Sara finishing up the repairs. At Steven's whispered urging, the Doctor runs into the TARDIS while the policeman is distracted. Steven attempts to cover for Sara, but she simply elbows the policeman in the stomach, sending him to the ground and the two enter the ship. The TARDIS disappears. The original policeman returns and sees his partner on the ground and helps him up. The two look on in shock, seeing the "Police Box" is gone.
In the control room, the three friends are recovering. Sara has fixed the scanner and the Doctor makes sure the Taranium is safe. He reminds them that the Daleks have a time craft too and could be following them. Steven doubts they could have found out about having the fake core yet, but the Doctor knows that the Daleks will want to test their horrible Time Destructor weapon before trying to invade the solar system. Perhaps they will be able to destroy the real Taranium before the Daleks find them...Sara notices that the rotor on the control console has stopped again. The Doctor thinks they might still be on Earth. The atmosphere is better...he turns on the scanner...and then calls for someone to open the door!
What the TARDIS crew has seen is a blonde woman strapped to a table and being pulled towards a large circular saw as an evil looking, mustachioed man cackles! Steven runs out and punches the villain to save the damsel...at which point the director, Steinberger P. Green, yells cut! It's a silent film set...but Steven and Sara have no idea what a "film" is and are confused. The three friends run as the director calls for security and chaos ensues. The actress, Blossom LeFavre, is inconsolable and the "villain," Darcy Tranton, has a blackening eye. Steinberger sends an assistant off to find Steven and Sara (he hadn't seen the Doctor).
CAPTION CARD: "And so the hunt was on..."
Steven runs down a corridor and meets the Doctor. He has lost Sara. The Doctor spots a door labeled "Wardrobe" and bustles his friend through it. A little tramp, with cane and bowler hat, waddles by them as they exit, looking curious.
CAPTION CARD: "Meanwhile in the Sheik's tent..."
An actor playing an Arab Sheik leans over a scantily clad Vampy actress and unconvincingly delivers a line. The director, Ingmar Knopf, calls cut and tries to get them to do the scene again. As they start again, Steinberger bursts in and asks Knopf if he's seen the two interlopers. "They just beat the living daylights out of my camera crew. It was great!" he says. Knopf is not amused and orders Steinberger off his set. Knopf is then told that the Arabian academic advisor, one Professor Webster, has arrived. He tells his assistant to bring the Professor at once. Meanwhile, Steinberger is continuing to extol Steven's virtues and Knopf again orders him off the set. Suddenly, he catches sight of Sara, who is wandering around. Knopf assumes she is there for the harem scene and wonders why she is wearing such an odd costume. "Tell her to get them [the clothes] off!" he yells, and the crew starts to move towards Sara, who backs away...
CAPTION CARD: "Meanwhile in the Wardrobe department..."
The Doctor and Steven leave the room and return to the corridor. They confer and the Doctor tries going further down the corridor to look for Sara while Steven stays where he is. An assistant director, walking past, notices Steven (who is still wearing his police uniform) and assumes he's there in costume. The AD hustles Steven away. He pulls away and runs down a hallway...only to run the other way immediately after, pursued by two Keystone Cops! They drag him away, out of sight. Suddenly, off screen, we hear the sound of an old car horn and the chug of an ancient car moving off...and then a HUGE CRASH! After a few moments, a battered looking Steven runs off. A moment later, the AD runs in looking for him. "Now where's he got to?" the man asks. "We need him to do that scene again..."
CAPTION CARD: "Meanwhile back in the Sheik's tent..."
Ingmar Knopf is arguing with his actors when the Doctor wanders into his studio. Knopf immediate mistakes him for the Arabic expert, Professor Webster, and asks for his help. Not 'Professor,' the Doctor corrects him, Doctor. The Doctor wanders around the set, tells the vampy actress to "put some more clothes on." He then wanders over to a large chest and raps on it. To his surprise, it opens and Sara climbs out! Knopf tells her to get out--she's in the next scene--and the Doctor hustles her off to the Wardrobe room. Knopf calls after him, "But Dr. Webster! Where are you going?"
CAPTION CARD: "But what has happened to Steven?"
Steven comes out of the Wardrobe room, no longer wearing his police coat. Suddenly, the Doctor and Sara walk down and meet him. Steven asks Sara where she's been and she replies, "I don't know. But a strange man kept telling me to take my clothes off!" The Doctor, exasperated, tells his young friends, "Now, come along. We must go back to the TARDIS. This is a madhouse. It's all full of Arabs! Come along."
CAPTION CARD: "Meanwhile, all was not well at the Old Barn"
Steinberger is desperately trying to console his actress and set up another take. Everything is chaos! Suddenly, Sara, Steven and the Doctor arrive, trying to get back to the TARDIS. Steinberger sees them and calls out for them to stop! They run, Steinberger and his assistant run after them, the actress runs after everyone...
CAPTION CARD: "The Chase was on..."
The chase grows to include a Keystone Cop, the Little Tramp, various studio personnel...all led by Steven and Sara. The Doctor, however, has made it back to the TARDIS and is talking with a depressed looking man in a checked suit. Sara and Steven run through Knopf's set, gathering even more people into the chase.
CAPTION CARD: "Meanwhile back at the TARDIS"
The depressed man complains to the Doctor that it's impossible to do something new as a comic, everything's already been done by Chaplin. Steinberger, meanwhile, rushes onto Knopf's set. The Swedish (?) director is still yelling for the departed "Doctor Webster" and orders Steinberger off the set, pointing out which way Sara and Steven went. He then keeps calling for Webster.
"Done by Chaplin," continues the failed comic. Maybe he should give comedy up and take up singing, he says to an increasingly distracted Doctor. "But, who'd use a singer with a name like Bing Crosby?" finishes the man, sadly. Steven and Sara run up and the three companions rush into the TARDIS. The ship dematerializes just as Steinberger and the rest of the company rush in. The director is gobsmacked. "Whata great trick! They just disappeared!" he yells. Knopf arrives, still shouting for Webster and, in the general chaos, is told by the crew that the old man has disappeared. Suddenly, a little old man with glasses taps Knopf on the shoulder. He introduces himself as Professor Webster...
CAPTION CARD: "And so, they all lived happily ever after"
In the control room, Steven and Sara are still recovering from their ordeal, which they did not understand at all. Suddenly, the Doctor arrives bearing a tray. On it is a bottle of champagne and three glasses. "What's this?" asks Steven. "Well, we so rarely get a chance to celebrate, but this time...we must." replies the Doctor. "Celebrate?" asks Sara. "Yes," says the Doctor. "It's Christmas." "Is it?" asks Steven. "Don't you remember?" says the Doctor. "The police station – Christmas?" "So it was, yes!" says Steven, as they all take glasses. "Here's a toast - a Happy Christmas to all of us." says the Doctor. "Same to you, Doctor, Sara," says Steven. He and Sara clink glasses, as the Doctor turns to us. "Incidently," he says, "a happy Christmas to all of you at home!" The three all continue to toast each other and sip their champers as we....fade out....
WHEW! Quite simply, this summary was incredibly difficult to write and didn't come close to being well described/conveyed by the above. As always, I thoroughly recommend getting the recon from Loose Cannon Productions. Anyway...
Ketina's Very Paraphrasey Transcript
K: Well, that was surreal.
H: I predicted last week was that the team's initial reaction to this would be “what... the hell... was that?” and I think I'm satisfied that that was the result.
Sc: We had our chance to see slave bikini Sara and we didn't. That was disappointing. [Knopf never did get her to take her clothes off... --H]
H: This show included one of the most celebrated lines in Doctor Who and two of the most infamous, both of which I believe were in fact, ad libbed by William Hartnell. He pissed off the director by breaking the fourth wall at the end. But apparently some producer liked it so they kept it.
Sc: I didn't think it was that bad. But it was a silly episode.
H: At this time, Christmas episodes of shows tended to be one-offs, to not have anything to do with regular continuity. The BBC thought that no one would tune in because it was Christmas day.
Sc: Thus why they got Terry Nation to write the script.
S: Big ups to the recon guys for the Terry Gilliam inspired animation. Of all episodes, this was the time to do it.
H: Very big ups, as there were very few pictures...
K: Most of which were blurry.
H: And they had to make most of them.
S: In addition to the Scooby Doo chase, many of Sara's expressions matched her lines well.
K: Some of the pictures of Hartnell looked like he was missing a tooth or had really weird eyes.
H: I think there was supposed to be some kind of interrogation light on him [in the police station] that made him look particularly bad.
Sc: And he has bad teeth anyways.
MS: Well, he is British. [I'll note that MiniSpoo was echoing his dad here. So blame Spoo. --H]
H: He's British of a “certain age.” We had a lot of in-jokes and references in the first half that we didn't understand because it was a parody of a show called “Z Cars” that we haven't seen.
Sc: Were those the actors from the actual show?
H: No, but they were at least like the characters in the show. But alas, there are very few episodes surviving of that show either.
Sc: Will there be reconstructions of “Z Cars”?
H: Unlikely. No one taped it like they did with Doctor Who.
S: There's really no point in analyzing this episode.
H: Not too much, no. It was the first lost episode; the tape was erased in 1965. Well, 1966. Since it was a special Christmas episode, the BBC determined it had no overseas resale value, so they just wiped it and planned to sell "Daleks' Master Plan" as an eleven part serial.
S: The novelty factor is high, but that's about it. It doesn't really say anything.
H: The title cards and everything was all in the original, though these were obviously recons.
S: I thought as much.
K: So Charlie Chaplin was there?
H: And Bing Crosby too.
S: (sarcastically) And he was so the spitting image.
Sc: And Rudolph Valentino, apparently.
H: Or someone like him.
S: Has there been another story where the Doctor was seen on screen so little that wasn't related to him being sick or on vacation?
K: I thought he was on screen a lot.
S: It didn't feel like it because the wacky high jinx on the movie set, that did not involve him, dragged on so long.
K: I couldn't understand most of the dialog, the audio was so bad.
S: The extras weren't doing their “rhubarbs” clean.
H: I think they were trying to convey chaos and they were doing it a little too well.
MS: All I can say is “wow.”
H: You really liked it?
MS: That's all I can say.
S: I don't think that was a good “wow”.
H: So, any last comments?
Sc: I really have nothing further to say.
C: No reaction here. I've void of emotion on this episode.
MS: It was really weird that the Daleks weren't there. It's like other Doctor Who stories with Daleks, but they weren't there. And I like how the Daleks talk.
H: I agree with you entirely. The Daleks will be back in the next episode, so we'll see them soon.
K: Okay, some stuff that I thought of when watching the episode.. during the entry to the movie set half, after recoiling in horror at the screams (which were rather violent and scary) all I could think of was “I can't pay the rent” “You must pay the rent!”
H: Exactly. I love how Steven just runs out and knocks the guy down.
K: Is that what happened? Yeah, I followed it, but it was confusing.
C: Why did Sara crawl into a box?
S: Because she wouldn't take her clothes off.
H: There's a pop song in there.
K: There were a bunch of “Billy Fluffs.”
H: Apparently the “we must get out of here, it's a mad house full of Arabs” was a Billy Fluff--or, at least, improvised, according to one story I've read.
K: Was the professor at the end Bill Hartnell?
H: No, it was not.
S: This is the second time we've gone “oh hey” and it wasn't Bill Hartnell. I guess there were just a bunch of look-a-likes around in the 60's who looked like him.
H: The police man was trying to fit in to the 60's... “Have a swinging time!”
H: I'm just glad to say, after decades, that I finally got to see it. I'm not too disappointed, as I had low expectations since I'd read about it. But it was fine and I'm glad I saw it.
S: We seldom have a reason to celebrate, but this time, we must. So, I wanted to say “Happy Presidents Day.” And (turns to computer) Happy Presidents Day to you the reader, too!
And there we have it--the 1965 Doctor Who Christmas episode, the only one until 2005. Forty years is a long time between Christmases...
In all seriousness, seeing things like this are the reason I started the TARDIS Project in the first place. I just want to thank my friends for indulging me and to all of you for indulging me by reading this. Next week, we're back to more Dalek shenanigans! Until then, I remain
NEXT WEEK: "VOLCANO"