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)
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)
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)
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…