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By johnbensalhia, Aug 17 2017 09:16AM

If The Reign Of Terror saw Doctor Who historicals dabble with comedy, then The Romans was the first of its kind to embrace this genre with open arms. Rather than concentrate on teaching its young viewers about past historical events, The Romans, instead, sets out purely to make the young ‘uns laugh. Rather than become a full-blown disaster, this is actually one of the second season’s finest moments.

In fact, The Romans marks a number of firsts for Doctor Who, and even a couple of one-offs. From the start, the story doesn’t even attempt to tie up its literal cliffhanger from the conclusion of The Rescue. Instead, we fade up on the Doctor and his three friends enjoying a meal in a luxury Roman habitat. It’s a refreshing change of tack to see the Doctor appear so unconcerned about the preceding week’s peril, and is the first story to suggest that the TARDIS is a lot stronger than it looks. Stories like The Curse Of Peladon and Frontios would build on this. Who would have thought that a rickety old Police Box could stand up to a fall down a whacking great chasm?

Another first is the unusual story structure, which comprises multiple stories in one. The Doctor and Vicki get their own adventure, as do Ian (who ends up with new buddy Delos) and Barbara (who becomes entangled in the amorous pursuits of Nero himself). What’s more, Barbara is in exactly the same place as the Doctor and Vicki, but amazingly, the two parties never meet. This is one of the very few stories to try such a trick, and in fact, it works brilliantly. Imagine the viewers screaming to their TV sets to urge Barbara or the Doctor just to stick around that little bit longer to meet up. By the end of the story, both parties have reunited, blissfully unaware of each others’ adventures.

The main first is, of course, the humour, and while The Reign Of Terror attempted this genre with mixed results, The Romans gets it spot on. While John Lucarotti or David Whitaker may have depicted Nero in a more serious light, Dennis Spooner does the opposite and presents him as a bumbling, sexist old fool. He thinks nothing of going behind his wife Poppaea’s back and attempting (in vain) to seduce Barbara, is perfectly happy to throw the Doctor into the lion’s den after the Time Lord makes a fool of him at a banquet, and also gleefully casts Rome into a fiery inferno. Credit should also be given to Derek Francis for his amusing portrayal of the emperor, and while it’s all obvious farce, it’s still never less than enjoyable.

This story works because of William Hartnell’s performance. Hartnell, in fact, had been long associated with comedy – for example, he had played Sgt Bullimore in The Army Game and had also appeared in Carry On Sergeant. Up to now in Doctor Who though, Hartnell had never really got the chance to show his talents for comedy. In The Romans, he’s on top form, whether he’s all too aware of what Nero has in store for him in the lion’s den (and producing some all-too obvious puns in the bargain) or when he’s hilariously playing the lyre (in a neat homage to The Emperor’s New Clothes). While there are one or two obvious fluffs (“Impossibissity” or the scene when he intrudes on Michael Peake’s cue after missing his own), all in all, The Romans proves to be a great showcase for the main man, and manages to steer the character of the first Doctor into previously uncharted territory.

Interestingly, the humour works in context, because there are enough serious moments to balance out the comedy. What’s more, it’s subtly done too, for example when Tavius reveals himself to be a Christian, after he helps Ian and Barbara to escape from the clutches of Nero. Ian’s storyline is also pretty gruelling after he is bought as a slave, and forced to deal with the prospect of fighting for his life or becoming lion food. The Romans never goes overboard with the serious tone, but manages to keep it in the background.

Talking of Ian, the relationship between himself and Barbara has never been more apparent. Looking at the two in The Romans, you’d think that they were a married couple, joking to each other about non-existent fridges and experiencing Roman combovers. William Russell and Jacqueline Hill are at their best, and give Ian and Barbara refreshingly natural characterisation that always feels real. Even Vicki works in this story, since she’s not written as a screamer: more a comedic foil for the Doctor, and so, is less irritating than in other stories.

Production wise, this story looks fantastic. It’s a cliché of course, but put the BBC in charge of a historical production, and they turn up trumps. Raymond Cusick’s designs are marvellous, richly detailed and very convincing for the time. It’s too bad that these historicals weren’t produced in colour, since we’re missing out on all the subtleties of the sets. Christopher Barry, too, handles the action and the comedy very well indeed. The superimposed map locations are very effective, and like Marco Polo, are quite ahead of their time. The fight sequences are well done (and nicely set up by stunt man and Delos, Peter Diamond), and form a good counterpart to the humour of the piece.

There’s a refreshing holiday feel to The Romans. It’s nice to see the Doctor and co indulge in a bit of chilled out downtime, and taking a break from saving the universe. If only taking a holiday was as simple as going by TARDIS. No long aeroplane queues. No painstaking security searches at the airport. No yobs on the aeroplane, swilling beer and leering at the stewardess. And best of all, it’s absolutely free. I’d bet that Doctor Who Tours would pull in a fair bit of custom, and if the experience is half as fun as The Romans, then I’d sign up straight away.

* Friends, Romans, Countrymen! My Doctor Who ebook guides for the 3rd Doctor and the first half of the 4th Doctor years are out now at Amazon for very affordable prices!

By johnbensalhia, Aug 15 2017 11:34AM

PLEASE NOTE: Here be spoilers. If you haven't seen the show, go away and do so. It's rather good, you know.

No matter what, you can throw a boomerang away, and it'll still bounce back (in my case, it'll probably end up whizzing back to hit me on the bonce). Same goes for a number of telly programmes. Big Brother was given the boot from Channel 4, when Channel 5 came along to take standards and ratings down to new lows. Come Dancing was once a late night staple for the Beeb, and was later dusted down to bring in a clutch of Z-list celebrities to move around a big floor for 90 seconds apiece. The difference was that it now included 'Strictly' in the title. Which makes all the difference, apparently. When they revive another Brucie-related behemoth in the future, expect to to be called 'Strictly Generation Game'.

Anyway, the same applies to Jonathan Creek. Quite a few times, it's disappeared from sight to reappear when you least expect it. Back in 2012, there were rumours of a Christmas special recently surfaced on the web, but alas, it turned out to be a false hope. But the following year, The Clue Of The Savant's Thumb came along. Furthermore, a new series got the green light in 2014. When that got decidedly mixed reactions, again, it was thought that that was the end of the duffle coat for good. Not so. For, the far superior 2016 Christmas special, Daemons' Roost was broadcast to more favourable reviews.

So what is it about Jonathan Creek that still brings the viewers back for more? The last Christmas special, Daemons Roost gained some healthy viewing figures, suggesting that there was still a demand for the unassuming fellah in the duffle coat. Basically, for the most part, it's a two-pronged mystery. Not only can it feature whodunnit elements, it also runs along Columbo-tested lines of posing a howdunnit as well. The episodes present an apparently implausible scenario: An arthritic man commits suicide in a closed-off bunker with no way out. A valuable porcelain statue is stolen in front of several witnesses. A smarmy rich bloke returns from the grave after falling to his doom. Part of the fun of Jonathan Creek is to deduce not only the perpetrator of the crime, but also how the crime was rigged in the first place.

Much like deducing an impossible magic trick, but Jonathan Creek himself isn't your average showy, flashy wizard. That's left to egotistical showman Adam Klaus. Jonathan devises the fiendishly clever stage tricks from behind the scenes. With that in mind, Jonathan's not quite your archetypal TV hero either. This is a man who walks around in a grubby old duffel coat, lives a quasi-reclusive existence in a Sussex windmill and has the haircut of... uh, well, I guess me, when I was three years old in 1977.

Jonathan Creek is another good example of writer David Renwick's anti-hero leading characters. Many of Renwick's works revolve around a main protagonist who's frequently bemused and cynical of the modern world, whether it's Victor Meldrew bellowing “I don't believe it!” in One Foot In The Grave or Alice Chenery tutting quietly from behind a cosmetics sales counter in Love Soup. And of course, there's Jonathan, the cynical anti-hero writ large. Don't forget, the first episode went out in 1997, when beery laddism ruled supreme. Turn on the TV, and there'd be Chris Evans or Johnny Vaughan braying at boorish audience oafs. Switch on the radio, and there would be the Gallagher brothers rolling with it. Even if you'd visited your local pub in the summer before, you wouldn't be able to move for bellowing tattooed giants crowing along to Three Lions. So plonk a quietly spoken, fiendishly clever chap in the middle of all this in-yer-face '90s madness, and you have a recipe for Renwick genius.

Jonathan does not conform to the traditional hero stereotype. He's not full of boasting bravado. In the first episode alone, Maddy is surprised that the audacious Iron Maiden trick isn't the work of Adam Klaus, but the chap who previously stabbed her with a cocktail stick. After going out for a spot of lunch, Jonathan demonstrates a trick in the restaurant in the most mundane fashion possible. It's a work of genius, but it's broken down in an ordinary, straightforward fashion. On the subject of Maddy, Jonathan also isn't your archetypal laydeez man a la James Bond. He's shy and generally a bit useless with women. The will-they/won't-they sub-plot of Jonathan and Maddy crops up throughout the first three seasons of the show, and with so many missed opportunities for a straightforward lurve affair, it's no real surprise that Maddy ups sticks and leaves for a book tour in America.

The other notable aspect of Jonathan's persona is that he values brains over brawn. He's not too good in a scrap, cowering from jealous boyfriends with Hoovers or psychopathic nut-jobs in parked cars. He's not your typical cop who throws angry killers around like cricket balls. No, he's a quietly reflective genius who's a return to the traditional old detectives such as Sherlock Holmes or Hercule Poirot, who solve the mystery with pinpoint precision. In one episode alone called The Scented Room, Creek works out how a priceless painting was stolen in little more than a click of the finger. If only arrogant critic Sylvester Le Fley hadn't slated one of his shows.

The Brains Over Brawn mantra extends to the whole show. It's a TV programme that works on repeated viewings, since invariably, there will be something that the viewer had missed the first time around. It's testament to Renwick's writing and the superlative direction that in essence, all the clues are there as to how the crime was committed, but it's only in hindsight that the clues are more obvious than you realise. In the first episode, The Wrestler's Tomb, close-ups of plates of meat and the sight of Francesca being wrapped up as a mummy are very subtle clues pointing to the fact that she shot popular artist Hedley Shale with her feet, after binding herself with duct tape. It's clever stuff, and unlike other disposable murder mystery shows, Jonathan Creek is a prime example of a programme tailor made for the DVD age.

Do the scenarios require dramatic licence? Well, I guess in some cases, you could argue that. A former camera lighting man rigs up a bit of scaffolding and lighting to trick an old woman into thinking that she saw a dead woman who had been fatally killed in an explosion (just to provide him with a handy alibi). A doctored CD manages to make its way into the hands of an elderly lady, who then has the foresight of a businessman's death. But don't forget, this is fiction we're talking about here, and since the episodes are weaved together with careful thought and precision, the sometimes implausible scenarios don't really matter.

A good example of the thoughtful scripts is that the world of Jonathan Creek isn't a simple black and white one. It's a world full of bitter revenge, jealousy and people who have been hard done by. A good number of the crimes are committed by people who believe that justice hasn't been done. Mother Redcap's killer Fay Radnor takes revenge on the judge who released a criminal onto the outside world, who then killed her brothers. Alan Rokesmith takes revenge on Jack Holliday in Jack In The Box after he did the time for Holliday's planned murder of his wife.

Even one of the recent specials, The Judas Tree, continued this trend, with Hugo Dore and his wife Harriet framing Emily Summerton for Harriet's apparent death in revenge for his older brother's death caused by a younger Emily and her friend Kim some years ago (in fact, it was Kim who was killed in the fall). It's a frequently cruel, inhumane world, where it seems that the only way to seek out justice is by doing it yourself. It's also a world full of jealousy and rage, with Clare Sallinger simply killing Felicity Vale out of spite in The Problem At Gallows Gate, or a slightly demented Louise Bergman causing the death of her father in The Tailor's Dummy after he cast aside her ideas. The criminals aren't as straightforward as they seem on the surface, and what Renwick does is to give them some sort of background, which makes their motives just that more credible.

As with many other shows, Jonathan Creek boasts a number of varied supporting characters. There's Adam Klaus, the bumbling but flashy performer, whose tricks can end in disarray, as can his propensity for blatant womanising. Then there are the female sidekicks. It's interesting that Jonathan always teams up with the polar opposite type of female. Maddy, Carla, Joey and Polly are more forthright and prone to getting their own way than Jonathan is. Out of these, Maddy is arguably the most popular. Going back to the laddish trend for the 1990s, Caroline Quentin was also starring in Men Behaving Badly as Dorothy, and you could argue that Maddy is just as forthright and strong-willed as her comedic alter ego. Despite their less than auspicious introduction, it's clear that Maddy grows to be intrigued and even mesmerised by Jonathan's quiet genius. There are plenty of unrequited love scenarios happening in the next three years, and typically it never works out. Carla, Joey and Polly are even more louder in temperament, and admittedly they aren't quite in the same league as Maddy. Although at least, Jonathan finally got his Mrs Creek in the form of Polly.

On the production front, Jonathan Creek is a triumph in every respect. The stunning visuals bring the show to life, from the distinctive windmill base through to the gimmicky magic tricks. The show employed a number of highly accomplished directors, including Marcus Mortimer and Sandy Johnson (who has recently carried on the good work in ITV's Benidorm). The direction results in some imaginative, well-executed shots, propelling the action along at a barrel of knots.

The casting too, is very good. A good number of famous faces turned up to appear in the show, including Rik Mayall, Griff Rhys Jones, Annette Crosbie, and for Doctor Who fans, there's a plethora of familiar faces, including Mary Tamm, Peter Davison and Colin Baker. The regular actors are also superb. It's hard to think of anyone but Alan Davies helming the show with his understated comic timing and pitch-perfect delivery; Caroline Quentin makes for the perfect sidekick, turning what's on paper quite an aggressive, feisty character into a much more likeable and warmer person, while Stuart Milligan is excellent as the comic foil, Adam Klaus (Anthony Stewart Head got the first shot at playing Klaus, until a certain vampire slayer beckoned him to the United States Of America).

Plus, let's not forget the man behind the machine, David Renwick. As with all of his shows, Jonathan Creek displays the man's talent for providing clever, highly witty scripts that are high on both entertainment and innovation. There's an appealing streak of black humour that runs through the show (there's even an episode, Miracle On Crooked Lane, that sees a whole army of Creek geeks dressed up as the man himself) but at times, there's a curious pathos to be had, whether it's well-meaning chief inspector Ken Speed dying after a struggle between the judge's widow and Fay, or the rather pathetic figure of Norman Stangerson trying and failing to live a double life with his current and ex wives.

Will Jonathan Creek return? Should Jonathan Creek return? Two great mysteries worthy of the duffel-coated one himself. As with all of these shows, a lot depends on budget, availability and logistics. The Beeb's budgets have been affected by the recession, so a high-budget show such as Jonathan Creek could potentially pose a problem. It's vaguely possible that the BBC may choose to bring him back for the odd special.

Plus, there's audience reaction, which has been more up and down since 2009. The Grinning Man and Daemons' Roost, for example were favourably received by critics and fans, although admittedly, others such as The Judas Tree and the 2014 series garnered more mixed feedback. This reviewer personally felt that there was too much screaming and crying in The Judas Tree, and that it just felt a bit too laboured and drawn out (especially in a 90-minute slot). As for the 2014 trio of episodes, the less said about them, the better.

Having said that, Daemons' Roost was a big improvement and return to form. I'd definitely tune in to any future Creek episodes, if only to see an even more flustered Jonathan trying to make sense of a world that relies even more heavily on social media, trendy bafflegab and quasi-reality TV shows that seem even more of a mystery than his most difficult cases. It's a top quality show that rewards repeated viewing, and one that relies on clever, thoughtful writing rather than tacky dumbing down.

By johnbensalhia, Aug 11 2017 09:26AM

If Only Fools And Horses had started in the 21st century, it wouldn't have lasted for more than two series.

Let me explain. Back in the early 1980s, a brand new sitcom was written by John Sullivan, charting the misadventures of a wayward Peckham family, the Trotters. Three generations were spanned in a poky flat, which was part of Nelson Mandela House. The problem was that, when it first went out in 1981, the ratings were deemed to be on the low side. A second series went ahead, but even then, the ratings were not deemed world-shattering. If that had happened today, the show would have been axed quicker than you could shout “Mange Tout!” That's the price you pay for being with a ratings-hungry broadcaster, full of media-savvy trendies with buzzwords and balance sheets.

But luckily, a repeat season was to prove to be Only Fools And Horses' salvation. This time around, the repeat ratings of June 1983 were very good, especially considering the hot weather outside. From that point on, Only Fools And Horses grew in stature, to the point where it became one of the most revered sitcoms in British history.

So what's the secret of its success? John Sullivan had already scored with Citizen Smith, which charted the adventures of loser freedom fighter Wolfie Smith, between 1977 and 1980. After Wolfie went on the run from arch nemesis Ronnie Lynch, Sullivan extended his interest in writing about charismatic losers, and in the process came up with Del Trotter.

Del is the charismatic wannabe writ large. He has a neat line in market stall patter. He could charm the skin off a python. He takes great pride in his appearance, whether it's through showy outfits or flashy cocktails and bling. But when the chips are down, he's the fallible hero. Not many of his schemes come off, and when they do, there's normally some hidden catch. He's hopeless in love for the first seven years, getting his heart broken by Heather or snooty Miranda.

But perhaps the greatest skill displayed by Sullivan here is that at the end of the day, Del is a heartfelt family man. This is why he is left fuming at his wayward dad, who abandoned him after his mother's death – in 'Thicker Than Water', he simply abandons his dad with a handful of fivers and a turned head. He constantly remembers his late mother with affection, but most of all, he's always there for his brother Rodney, whether he likes it or not. That strong characterisation is easy to relate to, in that the viewer can identify with those strong family bonds.

Rodney is also a key player – maybe more of an idealist than Del, but he too, is a character that never quite seems to win the day. Again, he's hopeless with relationships, and even when he marries Cassandra, it's not plain sailing at first. His business ideas sometimes don't work. In great sitcom tradition, the leads are flawed, everyday people, who the viewers at home can identify with. Sometimes Del and Rodney are at loggerheads like any normal family members – there's times when Del is pretty out of sorts with Rodney, such as when he wrecks Rodney's relationship with a posho in 'A Royal Flush'. But when all is said and done, there's that unshakeable brotherly love between the two – just look at the scene when Rodney finally marries Cassandra, leaving Del alone.

Of course, the third main character was vital to the programme. Initially, with bluff old Granddad, and then the sea-loving, war anecdote-spouting Uncle Albert, the family set up was complete.

Part of John Sullivan's successful reputation is his gift for characterisation. Very few sitcom writers flesh out their supporting characters, often passing them off as dead wood with a couple of token lines and forced cameos. But Sullivan made the supporting characters three-dimensional people in their own right. Mention Only Fools And Horses to your average Joe on the British street, and they'll mention Trigger, Boycie, Marlene... That's testament to the skilled writing, but also to an astutely chosen cast. Roger Lloyd Pack, John Challis and Sue Holderness – in fact, all of the supporting actors and actresses were ideal choices for the parts and displayed great comic timing throughout the show.

Ditto the leads. David Jason and Nicholas Lyndhurst rightly became huge stars on the back of playing Del and Rodney, not just because of their comic timing gifts, but other subtle depths. Lyndhurst could just make the viewer laugh with one of his many facial expressions (check out his horrified reactions to devil spawn Damien), but then he could also handle the more serious sides of the scripts, such as his teary breakdown in the lift in 'Time On Our Hands'. Jason was the king of this though, steering his way through comic lines and poignant asides like a winning Formula One driver. Granville and Pop Larkin may have been highly successful, but no other role defined Jason's acting capabilities as well as Del. And to cap it off, Lennard Pearce and Buster Merryfield made for highly likeable supporting presences too.

The scripts for Only Fools And Horses are rich in texture. They're crammed full of killer lines, one-liners, plot twists and even quite startling changes in tempo. For a light-hearted sitcom, Only Fools And Horses has addressed bereavement, miscarriage, criminal assault, sexual assault, bankruptcy... - you name it, there's been some topical and hard-hitting themes brought up. And for the most part, they haven't been dealt with in schmaltzy, heavy-handed fashion, but with dignity and care.

There aren't too many duff Only Fools And Horses episodes. It admittedly takes its time to find its feet, with some slow-moving, talky instalments in the first series ('A Slow Bus To Chingford' is particularly dull) and there's the odd episode which feels a bit out of place ('A Royal Flush' is out of character, with Del to obnoxious and unlikeable) – but these are well compensated for by a string of classics, particularly in the later stages of its run. 1988 to 1996 are the golden years for the show, where everything just came together, and achieving some pretty high ratings in the process.

A classic of its time, Only Fools And Horses stands as one of the all-time great sitcoms, even spawning spin-offs in the form of The Green Green Grass and the Rock & Chips prequel. So here is a brief guide to all things Only Fools And Horses – Lovely Jubbly!


Derek 'Del' Trotter (Played by David Jason)

Flashy, gregarious but well-intentioned half of Trotters Independent Traders. Frequently looks out for his younger brother Rodney after their mum Joan passed away and their dad Reggie abandoned them. This results in several misunderstandings and awkward situations such as dates going belly up, business incentives going awry and as many dodgy deals as iffy cocktails.

Was initially in partnership with wig-loving Jumbo Mills in the 1960s where they had a fish stall outside a pub – Jumbo later went to Australia, although he did offer Del the chance to move out there (he turned the offer down).

Drives a classy yellow Robin Reliant and an equally spectacular Ford Capri in later series. Likes the tacky bling and equally naff getup, whether it's the Gordon Gekko yuppie look, hideous pyjamas or equally horrid leopardskin trunks.

He has an instant rapport with people, thanks to his outgoing, friendly nature, and can garner people's interests at the market, even if the goods aren't always up to scratch. Comes up with a string of misunderstood catchphrases (see later section). Despite his cheery persona, Del wears his heart on his sleeve, and gets easily emotional at personal losses or tragedies such as Granddad's passing or Cassandra's miscarriage. He's not easily spooked, although he's not too keen on hospitals and doctors – or dentists, come to that, given that he leaves it 15 years before booking a fresh appointment.

Has been on a string of failed dates, and was engaged one time to a raucous missus called Trudy. Even used to date Marlene for a bit! Eventually, his heart is lost to Raquel Turner, an actress and singer, and together, they become proud parents of Damien.

Attended Martin Luther King Comprehensive (also known as Dockside Secondary Modern) and was in Class 4C with Trigger, Boycie, Denzil and Slater. He played midfield in football at school and left with 8 As, all of which stood for “Absent”.

Has a double who turns out to be a Mafia boss called Don Ochetti.

His favourite toon is 'Old Shep' by Elvis, he likes The Who, he can't swim and he's not much cop with a hang glider either.

Rodney Trotter (Played by Nicholas Lyndhurst)

The other member of Trotters Independent Traders and idealistic younger brother of Del. Always tries to aim high, and is sometimes embarrassed at Del's outlandish schemes, but his plans for bettering himself always seem to come unstuck - his attempts to go it alone in business fail, and he makes the foolish mistake of packing in his cushy job with Alan Parry over a stupid misunderstanding.

He's also initially not much cop with relationships either – usually, his choice of women leaves a lot to be desired. Irene Mackay is too old for him and is already married to a psychotic nut. Sandra turns out to be a policewoman. And he foolishly believes that Nervous Nerys will actually enjoy a wild time on the road. Eventually he meets and falls in love with Cassandra Parry, although it's a bumpy marriage at first, thanks to Cass' obsession with the bank and his misguided expectations of what a wife should do. Has a uniform fetish, much to Cass' chagrin.

More academically gifted than Del, with two GCEs in Maths and Art. Even went on to study at art college, although dabblings with the wacky baccy meant expulsion. His talent for art pays off when one of his old paintings, The Marble Arch At Dawn wins him an overseas holiday. Nevertheless, he enrols in night courses where he studies art and computing.

Initially, Rodney's and Cassandra's plans for a baby are cruelly thwarted after Cass suffers a miscarriage. In the end though, he and Cass become proud parents of little baby Joan.

Granddad (Played by Lennard Pearce)

Curmudgeonly but likeable old cove. Often found in front of his multiple tellies. Not much of a cook, since he frequently makes a meal of the dish (see 'Christmas Crackers' or the end of 'Thicker Than Water', for example).

Del says that he was an “Out of work lamplighter waiting for gas to make a comeback”. His CV doesn't read too good either – he was a decorator for the council in 1924 but that lasted two days. He was a security officer at a warehouse in Chingford, but this too ended in the boot after 341 Hitachi cases went AWOL.

He served in the Boer War, and was deported from Spain during the Spanish Civil War.

Can sometimes get the wrong end of the stick with people's names – the first line of Big Brother is “That Sidney Potter's a good actor, in'ee Rodney?”. Not much cop with cards either (see A Losing Streak), but is a dab hand with a spade and gardening gloves, given that he set up an allotment patch.

Passes away between the events of Happy Returns and Strained Relations, after actor Lennard Pearce passed away in 1984.

Uncle Albert (Played by Buster Merryfield)

Younger brother of Granddad, who turns up at his funeral in Strained Relations. Has the nickname “Boomerang” because he always comes back, but his full name is Albert Gladstone Trotter. More active than his older brother, given that he gets involved in Del's scams a lot more. He used to box for the Navy.

Frequently bores people with his tales of the war (see catchphrases). We do learn plenty of Albert's wartime experiences. He spent most of the war stationed in a storage depot on the Isle Of Wight. However, he was also seconded to a marine parachute training division, once sank the USS Pittsburg and ran HMS Cod aground at Normandy, and was also in the Soviet Union at one point.

He originally left home at 15 to work on a tram steamer, and was also a boiler maintenance man in the Navy. He used to live in Tobacco Road, although his house was knocked down.

He can play the piano, although Mike the barman is none too impressed with his shanty ditties. Has a friend called Knock Knock.

Trigger (Played by Roger Lloyd Pack)

Dimwitted road sweeper. Real name is Colin Ball.

Poor old Trig doesn't have much ambition in life, although he is promoted from road sweeper to environmental hygienist (or glorified road sweeper, if you like). He also gets a medal for saving the council money.

Used to attend the same school as Del and was inexplicably head boy in his year. Has a wide-ranging family including niece Lisa, an aunt called Reenie and a gay cousin called Ronnie. Permanently useless in love – his tryst with council depot manager Linda went down the swanny pretty sharpish, for example. Used to fancy Julie Christie.

Regularly slow on the uptake – for example, he inexplicably calls Rodney, Dave. This leads to some priceless comedy, best summed up in the following three classic quotes.

Rodney: “This is like something out of an Agatha Christie film.”

Trigger: “Yeah, I used to fancy her.”

Rodney: “You know, people become famous for a little while – then they disappear, like Renee and Renato, Simon Dee...”

Trigger: “Or Gandhi.”

Rodney: “Yeah, so see, maybe this time its... Gandhi???!!!??”

Trigger: “Yeah. I mean he made one great film and then you never saw him again.”

Trigger: “If it's a girl, Del and Raquel are calling her Sigourney after an actress. If it's a boy, they're calling him Rodney – after Dave.”

Boycie (Played by John Challis)

Proud, snob of a second hand car dealer from Lewisham. Full name is Terence Aubrey Boyce.

Married to Marlene, and despite their frequent attempts to have a baby, eventually Tyler is born in the late 1980s.

Likes to flash the cash, and like Del, likes the bling and cigars. Unlike Del, he's more of a natty dresser, with his swanky suits. He has enough money to live on a very rich estate and to own extra property such as a Cornish cottage near a salmon farm. He is also a Mason and spends lots of time down at the Masonic Lodge. However, his dodgy deals do land him in the nick for a short spell, after he's done for perjury, embezzlement and various other counts.

Tends to lord it over Del with his frequent boasts, not to mention his trademark machine gun laugh whenever things go awry for the hapless wheeler dealer. Still proud of Del's ultimate millionaire status – in 'Time On Our Hands', he momentarily stares out Del and then warmly shakes him by the hand.

Later moves to a rural retreat in Shropshire with Marlene and Tyler in the spin-off Green Green Grass (in order to flee from the dreaded Driscoll Brothers).

Marlene (Played by Sue Holderness)

Long-suffering wife of Boycie. Very good friends with Del – especially bearing in mind that the two were an item for a nanosecond some time ago.

Also likes the bling and flashy clothes. Gives birth to Tyler in 1989. Related to Bronco Lane, a window cleaner and compulsive thief.

Cassandra Parry (Played by Gwyneth Strong)

Polite, well-spoken wife of Rodney. The two embark on a romance after they meet at an evening class. She is the daughter of Alan and Pamela Parry.

Lives in Blackheath when she first starts going out with Rodney. Very career minded with a sharp focus on the bank at which she works. This causes considerable friction in the first stages of her marriage to Rodney. He punches her boss Stephen and they also temporarily split after Del blabs about an aborted date of Rodney's. They later reconcile, and after a miscarriage, Cassandra becomes mum to Joan.

Hates men with ponytails. Is scared of rats.

Raquel Turner (Played by Tessa Peake-Jones)

Del's long-suffering missus, Raquel used to be an actress and singer with high career goals. She meets Del through a dating agency, although the initial romance thaws after Del finds out that she is having to make ends meet as a stripper. The two reconcile in Margate on the annual Jolly Boys' Outing, where Del discovers that her latest gig is as The Great Raymundo's assistant. Used to be in a pop duo called Double Cream.

Was once married to Roy Slater, Del's nemesis. She hasn't spoken to her folks for a long time, but she invites them round to dinner in 1996. Her father is an antiques dealer, and his discovery of a long-lost John Harrison watch proves to have a long-lasting impact.

Gives birth to devil child Damien Derek in 1991.

Denzil Tulser (Played by Paul Barber)

Good friend of Del's and another alumnus of the Class of 1962. He is married to the scary Corrine, although she's none too keen on Del after frequent mishaps such as a flooded kitchen and a jam sponge for their wedding reception. Naturally, the marriage ends in divorce.

Has five brothers, including one called Carl. Works for the Transworld Express, and also used to drive buses with Sid.

Mike Fisher (Played by Kenneth MacDonald)

Cheery but harassed barman of the Nags Head from around 1983 to the early part of the 21st century. I say harassed – this is normally whenever Del barges in with one of his madcap schemes, and in addition, he has so many slates that Mike could retile the roof of the pub.

Used to work as a cocktail waiter. Sadly, his career as barman ends after he's thrown in the slammer for embezzlement.

Mickey Pearce (Played by Patrick Murray)

Goofy best friend of Rodney. Also hangs out with other best mate Jevon. Not too good with the social graces, with more useless chat up lines than the entire archive of Blind Date. Cassandra is none too impressed with Rodney and Mickey's friendship – Rodney apologises at one point for a raucous dinner party.

Claims to be an MD of his own firm, but more often than not, he's stuck in a dead end job such as selling double glazing.

Roy Slater (Played by Jim Broadbent)

Dodgy copper and the class victim of 1962. Joined the police force at 18, but used the force for corrupt means. Ultimately found to be involved in a diamond smuggling racket, for which he was sent to jail.

His class reunion for the gang of 1962 is just a decoy so that he can try and get back with Raquel, his former wife - or at least use her in a scheme that sees him richer in an inheritance deal. Del saves the day and orders Slater to stay away from Peckham and grant Raquel a divorce with the aid of a dodgy fax machine and some very convincing bluffing.

Sid (Played by Roy Heather)

Mostly runs a greasy café that serves delicacies such as porridge with a wig in it. Later runs the Nag's Head after Mike's in prison.

Jevon (Played by Steven Woodcock)

Right hand man of Mickey Pearce.

Damien Derek Trotter (Played by various actors)

Eerie son of Del and Raquel. Terrifies Rodney after he thinks he's the son of the devil (Rodney makes the mistake of jokingly suggesting Damien as a baby name) – this is usually illustrated with a crash zoom-in into Rodney's horrified face and a burst of the theme from The Omen.

The Dodgiest Deals

* Painting services

Del's plans to decorate the Golden Locust Chinese takeaway go wrong when it turns out that it's dodgy luminous paint. Poor old Mr Chin, the owner has to wear shades.

* China cats

Retailing at only £1.25, these iffy china cats play “How Much Is That Doggy In The Window”. Regrettably, their repertoire doesn't extend to “Oklahoma”.

* Crap watches

A common knock-off from the Trotters (eg: seen in 'The Long Legs Of The Law' ep). Both Rodney and the fearsome Shadow (AKA Lennox Gilbey) own broken timepieces.

* Portable computers

This is all back in the days before laptops, you see.

* Raincoats

Dry clean only. Rodney's raincoat has his name printed on the collar in big, childish letters.

* Iffy toy dolls

Apparently, if you keep them long enough, they grow spots and go to Bros concerts. Instead, they sing in speeded-up foreign voices.

* Musical doorbells

These in-no-way-tacky offerings play 36 national anthems.

* Peckham Spring Water

One of the most audacious gambits devised by the Trotters, this miraculous miracle of bottled water turns out to be recycled tap water! Which admittedly does glow in the dark...

* Russian camcorders

Del has 650 of the things to flog, and in theory, they should be snapped up in the blink of an eye. Problem is, not only are they more difficult to carry than a bulldozer, the buyer also has to have a Russian VCR, since the tapes won't fit in a standard English-made recorder!

* Trotter Crash Turbans

After an angry Dr Singh has scooted off on his motorbike, Del has a radical idea for getting rid of his riding helmets sprayed red. Simply attach plenty of material to the helmets and you get a Trotter Crash Turban. Likely to be shown on Wayne's World rather than Tomorrow's World.

The Lingo

“Rodney, you plonker!”

Bellowed by Del whenever Rod makes a great big stinking faux pas.

“Cushty!” and “Lovely Jubbly!”

A sign that things are going well for Del.


Means one of two things from Rodney – if said brightly, it's his equivalent of Cushty. If said in a sarky tone of voice, things are not going well.

“During the war...”

Meaning that it's time for a lengthy Uncle Albert anecdote about his wartime days.

“Alright, Dave?”

Frequent Trigger misunderstandings when talking to Rodney.

“This time next year, we'll be millionaires!”

A great bold promise that the business will turn around for Del and Rodney.

“Mais oui, mais oui...”

Usually spoken when Del's in charm mode, with a bird on one arm and a great big umbrella-sprouting Pina Colada in the other hand.


That's Del speak for “Goodbye”.

“Mon dieu!”

Usually bellowed whenever Del gets irritated or annoyed.

“Fromage frais!”

The penny drops for Del.

John Recommends...

Cash And Curry (1981)

An early example of the strong plotting that John Sullivan excels at. It's a case of Del and Rodney getting thwarted in one of their dodgy deals, this time by Mr Ram and Vimmal Malik, who are apparently on opposite sides of the fence. In fact, they are secretly working together, fleecing Del out of money over a dodgy statue.

Maybe it's a bit talky by modern day standards – there's a lot of dialogue exposition, but this is just indicative of the time in which it was made. Overall though, it's clever stuff, carried well by David Jason and Nicholas Lyndhurst (intriguingly Lennard Pearce is absent this week) and Renu Setna also gives a good, solid performance as the shifty Mr Ram.

A Touch Of Glass (1982)

Famous for that chandelier scene, 'A Touch Of Glass' caps off the second season in style. It's a good example of Del's inept attempts at social climbing, after they fall in with the Ridgemeres (Geoffrey Toone, incidentally, guest starred in a Sullivan-penned episode of Citizen Smith which also dealt with shameless social climbing called 'The Party's Over'). Plenty of fun times here, complete with dodgy singing china cats.

Friday The 14th (1983)

A great little nugget, often forgotten, but this amusing homage to good, old-fashioned ghost stories always satisfies.

Strained Relations (1985)

One of the great examples of how Sullivan was the master at mixing comedy with poignancy. Addressing Lennard Pearce's death, Sullivan took the bold move of killing off granddad and showing how Del and Rodney came to terms with his passing. While Rodney openly mourns, Del tries to put on a brave face, but even then, this is a losing battle – best scene in his angry outburst to Rodney (“Bloody family! I've finished with them! What do they do to you, eh? They hold you back, drag you down, and then they break your bloody heart”).

The Longest Night (1986)

A strong example of how you only need one set as long as the script and performances are up to scratch. This classic sees Del, Rodney and Albert held prisoner in a supermarket office, and it's hilarious. Special mention to Vas Blackwood who gives one of the funniest supporting performances as dopey Lennox (AKA: The Shadow).

Dates (1988)

The beginning of the OFAH Golden Age, Del decides to try the dating agency route and very nearly gets it right with Raquel. It's a non-stop whirligig of funny lines and scenarios – Rodney's date with Nerys is particularly priceless, with Lyndhurst's facial expressions in the car providing more comedy gold than in an entire series of My Family. And hey, it's also got Nicholas Courtney in this one as a waiter.

Yuppy Love (1989)

Well, a lot of people would select this one, if only for the infamous Del Falls Through Gap In Yuppy Bar scene. The problem is, I've seen that scene so many times, so it's become a bit tired for me – newcomers will love it, though, and furthermore, the whole episode shows just how confident John Sullivan had become. He fires off a stream of non-stop witty lines (“I bet it's Wet Wet Wet”) while telling a good, solid story in the process. Del typically has to step in with the late 1980s yuppy culture, but even then, he's like a fish out of water while striding into a yuppy bar, Filofax akimbo. Great stuff, and Jason's near-corpsing at a soaked Lyndhurst tops off what's a fabulous episode.

Chain Gang (1989)

Another example of how Sullivan's talent for plotting comes together. The audience is thrown off beam by the apparently amiable Arnie (good performance from Philip McGough here), a retired jeweller. It looks like a great opportunity for Del's consortium, as they stand to make a healthy profit from some gold chains, and when the plan goes awry after Arnie collapses, there's no reason to suspect that foul play is at work. Of course, it's all a con, since it turns out that Arnie is faking the collapses with his two sons who are disguising themselves as paramedics. If that sounds convoluted – well, it's not (that's just my non-talent for over-complicating things). It's compelling, intriguing stuff and a perfect showcase for Sullivan's talent for tight plotting.

And Jason's face after Arnie tunelessly bellows out a quick snatch of “What A Wonderful World” is priceless.

The Unlucky Winner Is... (1989)

This has everything you could possibly want from an Only Fools episode. It features the antagonism between Del and Rodney – in this case, Del dupes Rodney into thinking that he's won a holiday, the snag being Rodney is supposed to be 14 years of age. It also features more funny scenes than you can shake a jumbo sized burger at, whether it's Trudy asking Rodney if he likes Bros, Rodney coming off worst in a Groovy Gang skateboarding contest or the physical comedy of Del casually taking a ciggy and glass of wine off Rodney after the Groovy Gang reps pay an unwanted visit. An all-time classic.

Little Problems (1989)

John Sullivan displayed four notable talents when writing sitcoms: A knack for writing side-splittingly funny lines. Taut plotting. Great characterisation. And poignancy. You get all four in equal measures in this superb season finale. There aren't many sitcoms that feature such well-crafted characters as Del and Rodney, and Del's 100% devotion to his brother is displayed to the max here, as he suffers a brutal beating at the hands of the dreaded Driscoll brothers in order to stop them getting their grubby mitts on Rodney's cash deposit wedding present.

There's also that finale scene in which Del is left alone at the wedding reception with only Mick Hucknall bawling in his ear, a wedding cake figurine of the groom and countless memories. Even though the farewell between Del and Rodney is expertly written and acted, that scene ends by relying on David Jason's facial acting and perfectly executed direction from Tony Dow (high camera shots and all). Now that's genius.

Rodney Come Home (1990)

A bit too serious and soapy in places, but the conflict between Rodney and Cassandra is well worked out, and it's still buoyed by so many funny lines that it's sometimes hard to keep up because they come at you at breakneck speed.

It also features one of the funniest ever scenes in Only Fools And Horses – the bit where Uncle Albert's supposed to look horrified at Rodney's date with Tanya. Buster Merryfield is really on the ball here and his constant “Huuuuugggghhhh!!!” facial expressions not only crack up the viewer, but also David Jason, who's evidently failing to keep a straight face while the cameras roll.

Stage Fright (1991)

Another quintessential slice of classic comedy, and due in part to the hilarious Tony Angelino, the cheesiest act from the Down By The Riverside club. Not only is his whole appearance a sham (Del bellows “I got lumbered with a star whose props come from Lilley & Skinner, Crown Toppers and Mattesons!”), but he can't sing songs with R in the lyrics. The cringe-inducing duet with Raquel of 'Cwying' is one of the funniest scenes in Only Fools And Horses.

Philip Pope is excellent as Tony, but Tessa Peake-Jones has also proven to be a great asset to the show, in particular her furious recollection of the following repertoire. Altogether, a great episode, and for once, the Trotters actually gain more than they lose.

The Class Of '62 (1991)

A top episode from another strong season. It's a good showcase for Jim Broadbent as the utterly loathsome Slater, who will stop at nothing to get what he wants, no matter who he hurts in the process. More strong plotting and acting from the regulars combine to make an unmissable episode.

Miami Twice (1991)

I know a lot of people don't care too much for this one, but I personally really like it. The first instalment's admittedly marking time before the trip, but it's still got some amusing stuff, in particular Rodney's horror at a talking Damien. The second part is feature film stuff – I guess that some of the fans think that the sitcom doesn't translate that well to this genre, but I see it as a confident sitcom pushing the boat out into uncharted waters. The location filming is awesome, David Jason is amusing as Mafia boss Don Ochetti (“I hate Limeys! I hate Limeys!!” he bellows while furiously pedalling on his exercise bike), and best of all, it's great seeing Del and Rodney like fish out of water in a sinister world in which they can't comprehend (Rodney's bellowing of “GIT!” at a mafia boss is especially chucklesome). Flawed? Possibly. But it's still a worthy, and for me anyways, a successful experiment.

Fatal Extraction (1993)

Again, it's not that well-remembered, but this excellent Christmas special neatly parodies the film Fatal Attraction, right down to Albert boiling his pants in a great big pot. Mel Martin is great as the sinister Beverley, and the end scene suggests that maybe she wasn't quite as innocent as she would have you think. Lots of other funny stuff here, including dodgy ski wear and for once, Cassandra freaking out at devil child Damien.

The 1996 Trilogy (er, 1996)

Comprising Heroes And Villains, Modern Men and Time On Our Hands, this swansong (well, it was at the time) sums up everything that's great about Only Fools And Horses in a nutshell. In essence, it's one long three parter which encapsulates the show's essence of three ordinary men facing their share of small victories and personal setbacks, before a great big bombshell changes their lives forever.

It's full of notable, well-staged moments from Del and Rodney's ill-advised entrance as Batman and Robin through to the last lovely coda in which the Trotters finally get their rewards. It's also got its fair share of great lines (“I'll buy the sandwiches 'cos you bought the Rolls”) and lump-in-throat moments.

Cassandra's miscarriage is handled with dignity and sensitivity (and Nicholas Lyndhurst knocks it out of the park in the lift scene as he tries to come to terms with what's happened), while the final scene in which Del, Rodney and Albert say farewell to Nelson Mandela House is just as moving. There's a certain degree of irony in the fact that the get-rich scheme that had eluded the Trotters for so long was in the garage gathering dust all that time, but as Del points out, it's the dreaming and chasing that proved more attractive than getting the reward,

If only it had stopped there – the three comeback specials lacked that certain something, and the fact that the Trotters were now facing bankruptcy after their happy ending kind of undid all that good work. But if you choose to ignore those last three specials, then this magnificent trilogy sends the Trotters off in style.

By johnbensalhia, Aug 11 2017 08:49AM

Scooby Doo: Forever a classic. An army of kids remember the scaredy-cat mutt and his terrified buddy Shaggy running away from a gaggle of ghostly deep sea divers, Kon-Tiki men, and disembodied blue heads in floating crystal balls.

But when it comes down to it, the ghosts are always men or women in masks. Even after 20-odd episodes, Scooby and Shaggy are always duped by the latest baddie of the week who, for whatever reason, chooses to dress up in a ghost costume to achieve his or her dastardly plan.

I only mention this because of the baddie in The Rescue, an oft-forgotten story of Doctor Who’s second season. The baddie is a creepy looking lizard thing called Koquillion – which turns out to be a nutbar in a costume. Sadly, it’s blatantly obvious that there’s only one man responsible – and that’s bed-ridden Barrett. Even a newborn baby could recognise that Barrett’s responsible for the whole thing since...

a) There are no other crewmembers present on the wrecked spaceship to terrorise panicky young urchin Vicki and

b) Koquillion and Barrett are never seen in the same room together. It’s too bad that Barrett doesn’t say a summing up line of “I woulda gotta away with it if it hadn’t been for you, you meddling Doctor” before plummeting to his doom.

The Rescue is a reasonable entry in Season Two, as the time travellers touch down on the planet Dido. Presumably, The Doctor’s thinking of doing a mystery tour of planets named after bland singer/songwriters that inexplicably sell vast quantities of albums. Maybe there are some lost scripts which saw The Doctor land on the planets Sheeran, Blunt and Morrison.

It’s a perfectly serviceable two-parter, which these days, would be melded into one 45-minute episode. It never feels padded, but there doesn’t seem to be enough drama to sustain the interest. Regrettably, there are hardly any characters – apart from the aforementioned Barrett, there are no guest characters apart from a couple of native Dido goons who manage to shock Barrett into backing away and falling off a ledge and over a sheer drop.

It’s difficult to keep the interest going without any real personalities, and even Barrett is hardly on the screen, which is a shame, since Ray Barrett plays him very well indeed. Despite this limitation, Christopher Barry does his best to inject some sort of life into proceedings. The set-pieces such as Ian’s death-defying chasm peril and The Doctor’s climatic showdown with Barrett are well done, all to the strains of that creepy musique-concrete score from Tristram Cary.

The Rescue’s chief function, though, is to introduce Susan’s replacement, or uncharitably, Susan Mark 2: Vicki. Vicki, regrettably, has not had a brilliant press. Admittedly, she doesn’t quite qualify for the rotten tomato category which boasts such visionary luminaries as Adric or Mel, but by the same token, she’s not exactly in the same league as Jo, Sarah Jane, Romana or Donna.

The main problem is that Vicki’s not really given her own identity by the production team. Alien as Susan was, she really only had two functions which were to ask what was going on and to scream. Not exactly rocket science, and you can see why Carole Ann Ford wanted to bail. Problem is, Susan at least, had some alien background, which was sometimes drawn on in her stories – unfortunately, Vicki has no such weapons in her armoury. Instead, she’s just a generic whiny cutout with a lumbering pet called Sandy. Poor old Sandy: First of all, you’re adopted by a screaming brat, and then you’re reduced to a smoking heap by a firework fired by a bouffant-haired schoolteacher. Why-y-y-y? Oh, Sandy.

Maureen O’Brien has a luckless task on her hands to bring any semblance of reality to the one-dimensional Vicki, and actually very nearly succeeds. In particular, O’Brien has a great rapport with William Hartnell. The Doctor and Vicki hit it off from the word go, as soon as The Doctor strolls onto the wreckage of the spaceship. Vicki takes to The Doctor like a duck to water, after failing to make friends with Barbara and Ian. Although if a complete stranger barged into your territory and killed your pet, you’d hardly be lining up to be best buddies. But Vicki instantly trusts The Doctor, and also likes him.

The Doctor actually seems to enjoy a far warmer relationship with Vicki in subsequent stories than with Susan – just look at their hi-jinks in The Romans or The Crusade, or their attempts to escape from the Animus in The Web Planet.

In fact, even though The Rescue is a pleasant enough but disposable filler 50 minutes, it’s a perfect showcase for the talents of William Hartnell. This is one of his best stories, and encapsulates all the best elements of his Doctor. At the beginning we see him far more vulnerable than he’s ever been before when he mistakenly calls out for an absent Susan and nearly loses his level composure. He is seen to be the perfect grandfather figure to Vicki.

But we also see that he hasn’t lost any of his fire, when he furiously confronts Bennett and holds him to ransom over his murderous actions at the story’s conclusion. We’re a long way from the grumpy old miser of An Unearthly Child, and all the better for it. The First Doctor has now been fully fleshed out into a three-dimensional character, partly due to some strong scripts, but mainly down to Hartnell’s commendable performances.

Enjoy this review? Then explore the worlds of the 3rd and 4th Doctors in my brand new Doctor Who ebooks! They are available at Amazon for very reasonable prices:







By johnbensalhia, Jun 27 2017 12:44PM

Long before the days of The Godfather, Star Wars and – erm, American Pie, Doctor Who had that sequel thing down to a fine art. The Doctor Who makers knew very well what their audiences wanted after the Daleks caught on with kids the previous Christmas. Sure enough, the kiddies got their wish with The Dalek Invasion Of Earth.

Dalek Invasion is an important 1st Doctor story in that it not only successfully brings back the motorised dustbins back for a successful rematch, but it’s also the first companion departure, as Susan falls in love with super-quiffed Scot David Campbell.

It's also a story probably better known to older fans who grew up in the 80s as the Peter Cushing Technicolor glory Daleks Invasion Earth: 2150 AD. Scary-looking Robomen. Daleks and fire extinguishers. And hey – the mighty Cribbins in a pre-Wilf companion role. All of which combine to bring back happy memories of rainy school holidays when there was nothing else on TV but Paddles Up.

The TV version isn’t quite as visually impressive as its big screen counterpart, but it’s still vintage Who. Rather than go for the mini-adventure quests, Terry Nation decides to go for his other favourite narrative device: the desolated Earth. Just look at Survivors, originally created in the 1970s, and now successfully brought back to life for the 21st century. There’s a lot of mileage in this idea, and there’s a great feeling of dread and depression in the first episode of Dalek Invasion.

The oppression is well-conveyed through the evocative location filming, which is captured effectively by Richard Martin. It’s odd - Martin seems to be a lot more comfortable on location than in the studio, where sometimes his shots come across as a little stagey or forced. But out in the big wide world, there are loads of impressive shots such as The Doctor and Ian making for the deserted warehouse or the notorious cliffhanger when the Dalek rises from the depths (although it’s never quite clear as to what the Dalek’s doing there in the first place – deep sea diving isn’t a very Dalek-y thing to do).

Just like Survivors, Dalek Invasion Of Earth contains a motley collection of hard-nosed clichés, some of which work, some of which don’t. The most successful is probably Bernard Kay’s Tyler. Kay gives the first of many convincing guest performances in Who, and adds a lot of down-to-earth, no-nonsense gravitas to the part. Peter Frazer as David also works very well here, and he strikes up an immediate rapport with Carole Ann Ford as Susan. Less successful are Dortmunn and Jenny, not really the respective faults of Alan Judd or Ann Davies, who are actually quite good, but more the faults of their hammy, stilted dialogue. Dortmunn is given to making pompous speeches, while Jenny is the Nation cliché of the hard-nosed, aloof hanger-on (think Avon from Blake’s 7) writ large. It doesn’t help either that Jenny’s lumbered with a ridiculous looking balaclava throughout, which makes her look like a female Tucker from Citizen Smith.

The Daleks are still just as scary for the kids as they were in their début outing - exterminating luckless prisoners and planning to remove the magnetic core of the Earth. Too bad that their plan is just a little implausible, scientifically, and also that they have to resort to utilising rubbish sidekicks and monsters.

The Robomen, for example. Impressive in the film version, useless in the TV one. I always thought that they’d look like the creepy masked men on the front of Chris Achilleos’ cover jacket for Uncle Terrance’s adaptation. Instead, they are no more than badly acted extras with waste paper bins on their head and a penchant for talking in sloooowwww, duuuuullllll monotones that makes them sound like bored newsreaders rather than terrifying henchmen.

Moving on to the Slyther. What’s all that about? To be fair, the sound effects for the Slyther are excellent, but on screen it just looks like a man in a giant seaweed costume. Badly executed, the Slyther really should have been kept off screen – at least kids could have used their imaginations and conjured up far more convincing threats than what was on the TV. Still, apparently the Slyther was the talk of the town back in the day – the accompanying (and otherwise rather good) DVD making-of featurette seems to take up an awful lot of time prattling on about the Slyther, as actor Nick Evans gushes about how he was a minor celebrity for stomping about in a green sack for five minutes.

Overall, The Dalek Invasion Of Earth trots along very well as a fast-paced (well, for the '60s anyway) action adventure. Despite the many clichés, Nation’s script is well written and gives the characters plenty of development. Ian and Barbara get some good material as they are divided from each other (typical Nation) and paired off with Larry and Jenny. Larry’s character is well thought out, and the scene in which he is reunited with his Roboman brother manages to be both brutal and rather poignant at the same time. Even the minor characters such as Ashton and Wells are given enough development, and look, there’s Mr Rumbold from Are You Being Served (according to the documentary, actor Nicholas Smith wanted to be The Doctor!).

But of course, this is Susan’s last bow, and you can see how she’ll be parted from her grandfather throughout. The Doctor gradually catches on that his granddaughter is maturing and falling in love. He initially chides her for always following what David says, and after catching them in a clinch on the moors while cooking supper, he wryly says: “I can see something’s cooking.” Susan is reluctant to leave though, and torn between her usual time-travelling life and the possibility of starting a new one with David, the decision is ultimately taken out of her hands by The Doctor, who locks her out of the TARDIS. His last speech to Susan is beautifully delivered by Hartnell, his voice even breaking at one point. I’m not quite sure that the following sequence quite works, as Susan stagily drops the TARDIS key and exits with her new boyfriend to the strains of what sounds like a pensioner sitting on a Hammond Organ (although Francis Chagrin’s score has otherwise been very good). Still, all that’s excused though, since both the writing and the performances from William Hartnell and Carole Ann Ford have been so strong. A marvellous ending to an enjoyable sequel.

Read about what I thought of the Jon Pertwee Dalek stories in my new Pertwee era ebook guide!