Who-er, Missus! When Doctor Who Got It Dead Wrong

January appears to be the month of lists here at Kasterborous and, with the excellent recent summary of those moments from the show that weren’t quite right, it only seems proper to celebrate those things from Who history that were just plain wrong. What were the writers, designers and props people thinking? Read on and titter ye not (not much, anyway).

1. Erato (Creature from the Pit, 1979)

There is very little to say about Erato. The various appendages flapping everywhere, the Doctor’s attempts to get to know the creature a bit better… it’s all a bit much. Legend has it the only person not moved to helpless laughter by the sight of the creature was legendary BBC weatherman and hurricane naysayer Michael Fish, who greeted the proud ambassador with a non-plussed ‘it’s made of weather balloons’. From that cool reaction, if we ever make contact with aliens and they look like Erato, Michael Fish could be our only hope for interplanetary diplomacy.

2. The Axon Spaceship (The Claws of Axos, 1971)

clawsofaxos-spaceship

Katy Manning commented on it. My partner commented on it. There is something very wrong with an alien race who drift through universe in some sort of flying sex aid. The bit they left sticking out of the ground when they crashed is particularly iffy. Remember: if a group of people in very tight tie-dye onesies invite you in to see their wares, you say ‘no’.

3. The ‘Mind’ of Axos (The Claws of Axos, 1971)

…and here’s why. No good will come of it, as the Doctor discovers when invited to take a seat on the Axons’ inflatable plastic sofa and ends up eye-to-eye with, well, the one-eyed monster that’s popped up to reveal all. The plot, I mean. Possibly embodying what a lot feminists have been saying about the location of blokes’ brains, the Mind of Axos swings about in Jon Pertwee’s face for a while before going temporarily limp and then rising again at the end, as it were, covered in foam.

4. Alpha Centauri (The Curse of Peladon, 1972)

On first seeing the hermaphrodite hexapod member of the Galactic Federation, director Lennie Mayne, concerned that Alpha Centauri looked a lot like, well, a galactic member, ordered that it be covered up. Fortunately that worked and nobody ever noticed how phallic the creature really was. What’s that? They did? Oh.

5. The Time Detector (The Time Monster, 1972)

"Throbbing with time energy"

“Throbbing with time energy”

The Pertwee years have proven to be a fertile ground for this article. Here, in an already silly story, you have this particularly silly device. It has a probe bit, two separate sections for some dials, and sadly for Katy Manning, holding it with the pointy bit towards her isn’t going to detract from the fact that the design is very similar to that seen in just about every defaced text book you ever got at school.

6. The Doctor’s Reacting Vibrator (The Savages, 1966)

In an interesting juxtaposition, this doesn’t look rude (from the telesnaps, anyway), but hearing William Hartnell go round banging on about his reacting vibrator never fails to raise a smile. It’s for doing calculations, by the way. That’s what it’s for. It is.

7. The Fungoid Plants (Planet of the Daleks, 1973)

And it’s back once more to the Third Doctor era for scenes of Jo Grant running the gauntlet of the planet’s spurting flora to get help for the Doctor, who is so close to death that he only has time to get changed before suffocating. Surely the mess the Fungoids make of the TARDIS screen would alert you to the fact that, Daleks or no Daleks, the whole eco-system on Spiridon really needs to take a cold bath.

8. The Target Room (Tomb of the Cybermen, 1967)

“There’s some kind of a subliminal target that you’re trained to aim at”, says ill-fated archaeologist Bill Haydon, shortly before meeting his end while trying to out-stare a pair of flashing op-art knockers. There’s a moral in there somewhere.

9. The Master’s Tissue Compression Eliminator (Various, 1980s)

2ndmaster-estram-tce

This is probably best explained by some confusion as a child when I watched the BBC drama Edge of Darkness. There is a scene when grieving policeman Craven searches his late daughter’s bedroom to see if he can find some clue as to why she was killed. Amongst her possessions is what I took at the time to be some alien weapon akin to that waved about with camp menace by Anthony Ainley in Doctor Who. Sadly, the Time Lord connection to one of the finest conspiracy dramas ever made came to nothing, but my question did generate one of the most awkward pauses ever to grace our living room.

10. Taxi for the script editor! (Various)

“Once he’s got what he wants, we’ll mean nothing to him.”; ” Switch over to sexual air supply.”; “Men, young men, are dying for it”; “The Doctor has the greatest weapon of all”; “The penetration must be stopped!”; “We’ll all go and deal with old cocky lickin’”; “Shall I give him a taste of Thomas Tickler?”. Fnarr, fnarr, as Viz readers everywhere will doubtless be saying…

So there we have it. A round-up of the dodgy, the deranged and the double-entendre-some from the worlds of Doctor Who. Let’s take a moment to salute the straight faces and fortitude with which these things were said, worn and, in some cases, handled by the actors.

I’m sure you can think of others, but you’re probably too grown up to mention them…

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  1. TimeChaser says:

    I often wondered what possessed Troughton to say “sexual air supply”. The first time I saw those episodes as a kid (on my Cybermen: The Early Years VHS), I thought my ears were playing tricks on me. Surely he meant sectional? I guess they were so pressed for time they couldn’t get another take?

    • Dr Moo says:

      Mistakes like that always bother me. When you see the scene what you’re seeing was presumably the best take. Maybe it got left in as a nod to the grownups watching it with their kids? It was still very much a show for kids (that adults enjoyed) at that point.

      • TimeChaser says:

        In the late 1960s? I personally doubt it was left in as a joke. Remember, we’re talking about a time when censorship was much tighter than it is now. My guess is Troughton either intentionally flubbed his line as a prank, but it was the best take and they didn’t have time to get a new one, or he made a mistake but again, best take/no time.

        I mean, editing hasn’t improved much. Over the years I’ve caught a lot of little things in new series episodes where they should have gone for another take, but either someone didn’t catch it or they didn’t have the time or ability to get another one.

        • Dr Moo says:

          Doesn’t matter really, what’s important is that it was left in there (no edit, take two, etc) and it will always continue to make us laugh.

          • TimeChaser says:

            Or facepalm. 😉

          • DocLeon says:

            Wasn’t it the case that back then the show was recorded “as live” so there was little or editing. TV was very different in those days, no one making it expected the shows to be seen again – and certainly not available for repeated viewings like they are now. Particularly something like Who with a new episode broadcast practically every week.

    • TheLazyWomble says:

      Maybe it had something to do for what goes on in downtime aboard the space station

    • James O'Neill says:

      Back then they literally pulled the plug on production at 10 PM! So, no time for a retake , plus they never expected anyone would see it again. Hence the missing episodes.
      As to mishearing , I still swear Danny Pink said ” What up, bitch?” Not “Got our bench!”.

      • Dr Moo says:

        I thought that too, had to rewind the episode to see if he’d actually said it. Very difficult to do that on iPlayer though, ended up going back five minutes by accident…

    • Dr Moo says:

      It kind of happened eventually too…
      http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Day_One_(Torchwood)

  2. James O'Neill says:

    Vervoids…………!

  3. Castellan Spandrel says:

    Pay attention to the Doctor and Victoria in particular in the TARDIS scene at the start of Web of Fear. That’s all I’m saying.

  4. Dr Moo says:

    Planet Of Fire, the Trion Beacon that Peri finds in Part One.

  5. OldMaidWhovian says:

    I always got a bit of a snort at seeing the “game station / Satellite 5” for Davie’s era, the one with the “rings” whose ends definitely looked like the end of a…well, to put bluntly, a knob.

  6. Namnoot says:

    Don’t forget that one Tom Baker story where he communicated with an alien by, er, blowing into one of its appendages (I can’t remember if it was Creature from the Pit for Nightmare of Eden).

  7. bar says:

    I’ve seen certain creatures referred to as the ‘vulvoids’ for sadly obvious reasons, and the tree groping Peri in Mark of the Rani is well-documented.
    But watching ‘Mind of Evil the other day I couldn’t help laughing at Roger Delgado’s expression as the giant missile was manoevered at the hanger entrance…
    Suffice it to say that if you’re in the wrong mood and the wrong company almost anything can look dodgy. Just keep it to yourself if you’re watching with the children!

    • Dr Moo says:

      This other bit from Mark Of The Rani that Adventures With The Wife In Space pointed out is even worse but less well-documented. Look at the man that isn’t a giant rainbow. Specifically look “downstairs”.

      • Dr Moo says:

        Not sure why it’s appeared twice.

        • bar says:

          or indeed at all! So unsubtly echoed by the stove chimney behind them. I clearly missed so much being at Uni in the CB years. If we’re not careful Christian will throw us out for being a disruptive influence.

  8. kwijino says:

    Oh, I’d say on the whole, Torchwood got it wrong also. It was billed as edgy and grown-up, but the whole show was full of groaners as bad as these.

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