Doctor Who Cuttings Archive

Up against the old enemy

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EVERY fictional hero must have his nemesis and the Doctor's arch enemy was another renegade Time Lord, the Master, who first appeared in the 1971 story Terror of the Autons.

The concept of the Master came about after script editor Terrance Dicks decided the series required a regular villain who would fulfil the same role as Professor Moriarty in Sherlock Holmes.

There was only one actor they would consider for the part and that was established character actor Roger Delgado. Delgado had specialised in playing suave foreign villains.

His costume was a black two piece Nehru-style suit with matching shoes and gloves. Together with Delgado's dark looks and goatee beard, they combined to give the impression of a highly cultured, intelligent and evil man.

His trademark was an odd weapon called the Tissue Compression Eliminator which killed people by shrinking them. His first victim ended up in his own lunchbox.

Delgado proved an instant success and appeared in every story of the 1971 season plus three others in the following two years. Composer Dudley Simpson came up with a theme which was played every time the Master made his first appearance in each story.

In real life Roger Delgado was a kind, considerate and caring man and he and Jon Pertwee became friends. Delgado was killed in a car crash several weeks after making his last appearance as the Master in the final episode of Frontier in Space, screened in March 1973.

Dicks has suggested that the Doctor and the Master were actually brothers, though this was never stated in any of the episodes. The last adventure of the Pertwee era was to have answered many of the questions about their relationship and was rumoured to end with the Master sacrificing his own life to save the Doctor. With the death of Delgado, a different story, Planet of the Spiders, was substituted.

Three years after Delgado's death the Master made a reappearance in The Deadly Assassin. This time the Master was decaying as he had used up all his regenerations and this clever plot device permitted the use of a different actor, Peter Pratt, who wore a skull-like mask.

The Master subsequently appeared in The Keeper of Traken in 1981, played by Geoffrey Beevers, and managed to regenerate again into his most recent incarnation, portrayed by Anthony Ainley.

Ainley's Master appeared in several Dr Who stories during the eighties but Delgado proved too hard an act to follow and Ainley's portrayal of the Master was as forgettable as Roger Moore's James Bond.

Of course, the Master was not the only maladjusted life form with a mad hankering to do away with the good doc - enemies were prevalent throughout time and the universe.

Even when he was taking time off to get over the Tardis-lag from misadventures on distant planets, the Doctor could be certain of very little peace and quiet. Many episodes were set on present-day Earth and featured an organisation called the United Nations Intelligence Taskforce (UNIT), a paramilitary force which dealt with threatened alien invasions.

The UNIT concept really developed from a 1968 story, The Web of Fear, which dealt with the British Army's response to an invasion of the London Underground by the Yeti.

This atmospheric six-part thriller was brilliantly directed by former soldier Douglas Camfield and is considered the best-ever story by many fans. The story introduced the character of Colonel Lethbridge-Stewart, played by Nicholas Courtney, who later became a series regular.

The Web of Fear was such a hit that a second story featuring the Lethbridge-Stewart character - now promoted to Brigadier - was commissioned. This adventure, The Invasion, was about a Cyberman attack on London and was also directed by Douglas Camfield.

The story was notable for the scenes of Cybermen emerging from man-hole covers and marching down the steps of St Paul's Cathedral. It also included a battle between UNIT troops and Cybermen in the last episode.

For this sequence the British Army provided several military vehicles and a platoon of Coldstream guards who played the part of UNIT troops. The Invasion was the template for many other UNIT stories during the Pertwee era and most of them featured scenes in which UNIT squaddies discovered that their rifles, grenades and bazookas were no match for alien weaponry.

Most of the stunt sequences in these UNIT stories were arranged by a company called HAVOC and could be quite elaborate. The Ambassadors of Death featured a thrilling shoot-out between UNIT soldiers and an armed gang which was worthy of The Sweeney.

The story Inferno included a scene where stuntman Roy Scammell, playing a Primord monster, falls from a gasometer. This promptly went into the Guinness Book of Records as the highest ever fall performed for a British television programme at that time.

Many of these UNIT stories were inspired by the BBC's Quatermass serials, screened in the fifties, which also featured alien invasions, the Army and a scientist character, Professor Bernard Quatermass. The first Pertwee story Spearhead from Space has many similarities to Quatermass II, including the opening shots of meteorites being tracked by the Army which are virtually identical.

Unfortunately, the gritty realism of these early UNIT stories was not maintained and as the years wore on Brigadier Lethbridge-Stewart became a Colonel Blimp character.

The UNIT stories stopped in the mid-seventies though the BBC brought the organisation back for one last adventure, Battlefield, in 1989. Unfortunately, this was a boring, confusing mess which lacked the realism of the earlier stories.

UNIT has since featured in two independent spin-off productions, Wartime and Downtime, and the producer of the new Dr Who story, Philip Segal, has hinted that some new UNIT stories may be made in the near future.


ONE of the key figures in the success of Dr Who in the Patrick Troughton era was the series' uncredited scientific adviser and co-creator of the Cybermen, Dr Kit Pedler. Pedler graduated in medicine in London in 1953 and took a PhD in 1961. He worked as a pathologist at the Institute of Ophthalmology in London and published over 40 papers on the eye and the nature of vision.

He came to the attention of the BBC when a Horizon film crew interviewed him in his laboratory and his name was given to Dr Who producer Innes Lloyd and his script editor Gerry Davies who were looking for scientific ideas for the show. Pedler was contacted and came up with a number of story ideas. His first contribution was a story outline about a mad computer in the Post Office Tower. This idea formed the basis of The War Machines, scripted by Ian Stuart Black. Pedler then went on to create the Cybermen with script editor Gerry Davis. These monsters were originally intended as a warning of what could happen if spare part surgery went wrong.

The first Cyberman story, The Tenth Planet, was a great success and two others, The Moonbase and The Tomb of the Cybermen, followed within a few months. All three were written by Kit Pedler and Gerry Davis, though the first two were credited to Pedler alone. Tomb of the Cybermen proved very controverisal as it featured a scene in which a Cyberman's chest unit was smashed open by a strongman to reveal foamy entrails. This provoked a strong complaint from Mary Whitehouse and Kit Pedler appeared on the BBC's Talkback programme to defend the scene.

Pedler contributed outlines for two further Cyberman stories, The Wheel in Space and The Invasion and then left the show, with his writing partner Gerry Davies, to concentrate on their other brainchild Doomwatch. This ran for three seasons and led to three spin-off books and a feature film, as well as adding a new word to the English language. Pedler was devoted to ecology and spent the last few years of his life promoting resource-saving ideas. He died in 1981.

GRAPHIC: Friends and foe: Roger Delagdo, above, who was the quintessential Master, and below, Jon Pertwee with Nicholas Courtney as Brigadier Lethbridge-Stewart of UNIT accompanied by one of his men and, of course, the Doctor's assistants.

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  • APA 6th ed.: Barron, Colin (1996-05-04). Up against the old enemy. The Herald p. 6.
  • MLA 7th ed.: Barron, Colin. "Up against the old enemy." The Herald [add city] 1996-05-04, 6. Print.
  • Chicago 15th ed.: Barron, Colin. "Up against the old enemy." The Herald, edition, sec., 1996-05-04
  • Turabian: Barron, Colin. "Up against the old enemy." The Herald, 1996-05-04, section, 6 edition.
  • Wikipedia (this article): <ref>{{cite news| title=Up against the old enemy | url= | work=The Herald | pages=6 | date=1996-05-04 | via=Doctor Who Cuttings Archive | accessdate=14 July 2024 }}</ref>
  • Wikipedia (this page): <ref>{{cite web | title=Up against the old enemy | url= | work=Doctor Who Cuttings Archive | accessdate=14 July 2024}}</ref>