Planet of Fire

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134[1]Planet of Fire
Doctor Who serial
Planet of Fire.jpg
Peri caught by Kamelion in the shape of the Master
Cast
Others
Production
Writer Peter Grimwade
Director Fiona Cumming
Script editor Eric Saward
Producer John Nathan-Turner
Executive producer(s) None
Incidental music composer Peter Howell
Production code 6Q
Series Season 21
Length 4 episodes, 25 minutes each
Originally broadcast 23 February–2 March 1984
Chronology
← Preceded by Followed by →
Resurrection of the Daleks The Caves of Androzani

Planet of Fire is the fifth serial of the 21st season in the British science fiction television series Doctor Who, which was first broadcast in four twice-weekly parts from 23 February to 2 March 1984. The episode features the nineteenth appearance of Peter Davison as the Fifth Doctor, and the last before his final serial, The Caves of Androzani. This story marks the final regular appearance of Mark Strickson as Vislor Turlough and introduces Nicola Bryant as the Fifth Doctor's new companion, Peri Brown. It also is the second and final appearance of Gerald Flood as the voice of Kamelion.

Plot[edit]

On the desert world of Sarn, robed natives worship the fire god Logar and follow the Chief Elder, Timanov, who demands obedience. Those who dissent are known as Unbelievers and two of them, Amyand and Roskal, cause unrest when they claim to have ventured to the top of the sacred fire mountain but not found Logar. One of the Sarns, Malkon, is known as the Chosen One because of the unusual double triangle symbol burnt into his skin: he is also unusual for having been found as a baby on the slopes of the sacred fire mountain.

The same triangle symbol is found on a metal artefact uncovered in an archaeological dig in Lanzarote overseen by Professor Howard Foster. His stepdaughter Perpugilliam (usually called 'Peri') Brown is bored with the dig and wants to go travelling in Morocco and when he seeks to prevent this she steals the strange artefact and tries to swim for freedom. Fortunately for her the TARDIS has landed nearby—responding to a distress call sent by the strange artefact—and Turlough sees her drowning and rescues her. Going through her possessions as she recovers he finds the artefact and acknowledges the same triangle symbol is burnt into his own flesh. The Doctor returns to the TARDIS after attempting to triangulate the source of the signal being emitted by the artefact, and the ship dematerialises, seemingly on its own. It soon arrives on Sarn and the Doctor and Turlough set off to explore.

The Doctor's other companion, the android Kamelion, has meanwhile made mental contact with its old controller, the Master, who attempts to assert his control and change Kamelion's appearance from that of Howard. Kamelion tries to warn Peri of the Master but the Time Lord succeeds in gaining control. She flees the TARDIS with the creature in pursuit as the rumblings of the volcanoes of Sarn gather ferocity.

In the Sarn colony Timanov has damned the Unbelievers to be sacrificed to appease Logar and stop the tremors. They flee to a secret base in the mountains which is filled with seismological apparatus and which the Doctor and Turlough stumble across. The Doctor informs the Unbelievers that the tunnels, which have been their refuge, are volcanic vents which will soon fill with molten lava. It is also established that Turlough is of the same race as those who colonised the planet, and when the indigenous people see his Misos Triangle, they greet him as a second Chosen One. Turlough realises Malkon may be his brother and becomes even more worried when Peri turns up and mentions the Master.

Another important figure in Sarn mythology is the Outsider, a promised prophet, and the Master/Kamelion fulfils this role admirably. He convinces Timanov of the appropriateness of harsh action and when the Doctor arrives with the Unbelievers they are all seized for burning. However, Malkon and Peri arrive shortly afterward and end this assault, though not before Malkon has been injured. Turlough is aghast when he finds his relative has been shot and the Doctor presses him for as much information as he has on the strange circumstances of Sarn. It seems it is a long abandoned Trion colony planet, and that Turlough, a Trion, suspects some of his family were sent here after a revolution against the hereditary leading clans of his homeworld. He supposes his father died in a crash but that Malkon survived, while he himself was sent in exile to Brendan Public School in England, overseen by a Trion agent masquerading as a solicitor in Chancery Lane.

The Master/Kamelion has meanwhile seized Peri and uses her to transport a black box into the control room of his TARDIS. It contains a miniaturised Master—the real thing—who has been transformed by a disastrous experiment with his trademark Tissue Compression Eliminator (TCE) weapon. The Master thus re-established the psychic link with Kamelion to gain the power of movement and has manoeuvred the robot to Sarn so that he can take advantage of the restorative powers of the numismaton gas within the fire mountain.

Turlough realises the imminent volcanic bursts will destroy the Sarn colony, so nobly uses a functioning communication unit to get in touch with Trion and plead for a rescue ship to evacuate the planet. In so doing, he abandons his own freedom. Acting on a message from the Doctor, Turlough programs the TARDIS to rescue the Doctor and Peri from the gas control room, forgoing a chance to stay aboard and escape from the military arriving from his homeworld. He finds out that a general amnesty has been issued and he is free to return home. Only the elders choose to remain on the planet to die, facing the erupting volcanoes, Timanov retaining his faith even in the face of Amyand's revelation that Logar was merely a man in a fireproof suit: "Another deception!"

The Doctor, meanwhile, succeeds in weakening the Master's hold over Kamelion and interrupts the numismaton experiment. He adds calorific gas to the surge but is unable to prevent the Master from reacquiring his usual size and becoming—he taunts—"a thousand times stronger". As the gas flow alters, the Master is trapped and the Doctor does not intervene despite his oldest enemy's threats and then pleading, watching as he is seemingly immolated. Implored by the terminally wounded Kamelion, the Doctor has put the automaton out of its misery using the TCE. Escaping the destruction of the gas control room in the TARDIS along with Peri, the Doctor lands to pick up Turlough, only to find that he has elected to return to Trion now that he is a free man. Turlough tells Peri to look after the Doctor. He then parts from the Time Lord, thanking him for all that he has learned in his travels with him. As the Doctor and Peri return to the TARDIS, the young American tells him she has a few weeks' vacation left and would like to spend it travelling with him. The Doctor accepts and the two embark on new adventures.

Continuity[edit]

This was the last story to feature Mark Strickson as Turlough. He returned for the Fifth Doctor's regeneration scene in The Caves of Androzani. Turlough was the last male companion of the Doctor on screen until Adam Mitchell joined the TARDIS crew briefly at the end of the Ninth Doctor episode "Dalek" in 2005. Strickson has said that had he realised that the next season would involve stories consisting of two 50-minute episodes, he would not have departed from the series. He felt that Turlough was not receiving enough development because the 25-minute format necessitated more frequent cliffhangers and therefore less character development.

This serial was originally intended as the swan song for Anthony Ainley as the Master since his contract with the show had come to an end, hence the "death" of the character in the numismaton flames at the story's climax. As a deliberate tease for the audience, the Master's truncated final line is "Won't you even show mercy to your own...", with him apparently being killed by the gas just as he is about to reveal the true nature of his relationship to the Doctor. However, the Master reappeared in the following season's The Mark of the Rani without explanation as to how he survived the flames. Script Editor Eric Saward cut from The Mark of the Rani the explanation for the Master's survival provided by writers Pip and Jane Baker but the explanation is in their novelisation of the serial.

It was decided that because of the climate of Lanzarote, where the serial was filmed, the cast would have to alter their usual costumes. Although Peter Davison started the story wearing his cricketer outfit, for the rest of the story, he wore a different pair of trousers with question mark braces and a beige floral waistcoat. Strickson shed his usual school uniform in favour of a blue pin-stripe shirt and tan shorts with a pair of swim briefs underneath. Nicola Bryant also wore a pink bikini beneath her clothes to which she stripped down for a couple of scenes, the first time a companion had been seen to wear a two-piece swimsuit since Sarah Jane Smith in the Third Doctor story Death to the Daleks.

Peri's mother and her friend Mrs Van Gysegham, both mentioned in this story, appear in the 2006 audio drama The Reaping. Although Kamelion is destroyed in this story, it makes a posthumous reappearance in the audio Circular Time and appears onscreen in the aforementioned regeneration sequence in Caves of Androzani.

Production[edit]

Serial details by episode
Episode Broadcast date Run time Viewers
(in millions)
"Part One" 23 February 1984 (1984-02-23) 24:26 7.4
"Part Two" 24 February 1984 (1984-02-24) 24:20 6.1
"Part Three" 1 March 1984 (1984-03-01) 23:57 7.4
"Part Four" 2 March 1984 (1984-03-02) 24:44 7.0
[5][6][7]

The working title for this story was The Planet of Fear.

The decision to make Peri the daughter of a wealthy American family was inspired by the popularity of the soap operas Dallas and Dynasty. Nicola Bryant was cast in part because she held dual citizenship in the United States - because she was married to an American - and the United Kingdom.[8]

Cast notes[edit]

Mark Strickson has also reprised the role of Turlough in the audio plays by Big Finish Productions and penned the introduction to the spin-off novel Turlough and the Earthlink Dilemma (1986). Promotional photographs taken during production include a shot of Peter Davison wearing a tuxedo and holding a gun, with Nicola Bryant standing next to him in a bikini, in the style of James Bond.[9] Eleanor Bron was originally considered for the role of Sorasta

Reception[edit]

Writing for the Radio Times, Patrick Mulkern observed that writer Peter Grimwade "laces his script with homosexual subtext", noting in particular the "male eye candy on display", claiming "old sage Timanov’s mentoring of callow youth Malkon has a hint of pederasty" and also commenting on the "unmistakeably phallic object" hauled from the seabed and fondled by Howard, Curt and Peri.[10]

Commercial releases[edit]

In print[edit]

Doctor Who book
Book cover
Planet of Fire
Series Target novelisations
Release number 93
Writer Peter Grimwade
Publisher Target Books
Cover artist Andrew Skilleter
ISBN 0-426-19940-5
Release date 14 February 1985

A novelisation of this serial, written by Peter Grimwade, was published by Target Books in October 1984. A prologue juxtaposing the crash of the vessel Professor Foster is salvaging with the crash of the Trion ship carrying Turlough's family to Sarn opens the novelisation. The Master's teasing last line "Won't you save your own..." is removed.

Home media[edit]

Planet of Fire was released on VHS in September 1998. The DVD was released in June 2010, with commentary by Peter Davison, Nicola Bryant, Mark Strickson and Fiona Cumming, as part of the box set Kamelion Tales along with The King's Demons. It also contained a Special Edition edit of the story overseen by director Fiona Cumming. The special edition edit also included a specially filmed prequel before the opening titles. At a mere 66 minutes it is the shortest and the most edited of the special editions. This serial was also released as part of the Doctor Who DVD Files in Issue 116 on 12 June 2013.

References[edit]

  1. ^ From the Doctor Who Magazine series overview, in issue 407 (pp26-29). The Discontinuity Guide, which counts the unbroadcast serial Shada, lists this as story number 135. Region 1 DVD releases follow The Discontinuity Guide numbering system.
  2. ^ Nathan-Turner, John (1986). Doctor Who - The Companions. New York: Random House. pp. 18–21. ISBN 039488291 Check |isbn= value (help). 
  3. ^ Howe, David J; Stammers, Mark (1995). Doctor Who - Companions. London: Doctor Who Books. p. 103. ISBN 1852275820. 
  4. ^ "Doctor Who - Classic Series - Companions - Kamelion". BBC. Retrieved 2012-11-12. 
  5. ^ Shaun Lyon et al. (2007-03-31). "Planet of Fire". Outpost Gallifrey. Archived from the original on 2008-07-31. Retrieved 2008-08-30. 
  6. ^ "Planet of Fire". Doctor Who Reference Guide. Retrieved 2008-08-30. 
  7. ^ Sullivan, Shannon (2007-08-07). "Planet of Fire". A Brief History of Time Travel. Retrieved 2008-08-30. 
  8. ^ Planet of Fire at A Brief history of Time (Travel)],
  9. ^ "Doctor Who Image Archive - Various". shillPages. Retrieved 2013-10-09. 
  10. ^ Mulkern, Patrick (29 March 2012). "Planet of Fire". Radio Times. London. Retrieved 14 January 2013. 

External links[edit]

Reviews
Target novelisation