‘PLANET OF FIRE’
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The Flames of Sarn
This is a really ‘hot’ story! ‘Planet of Fire’ commences a new chapter in the Fifth Doctor’s life with characters departing and new characters coming in. I enjoyed ‘Planet of Fire’ when I saw it with two friends of mine, who are married and ‘Doctor Who’ fans at their home in Hampshire in January 2010.
It’s good to watch this story in the summer during a heat wave, as I did when I watched it again for a second time. ‘Planet of Fire’ is on a 2-disc DVD edition with the original four-part story on Disc 1 and a new special edition ‘movie’ version on Disc 2, much in the similar vein as the ‘Enlightenment’ DVD.
This story contains five elements that writer Peter Grimwade had to incorporate into his script. There’s the ‘death’ of the Master, the introduction of new ‘Doctor Who’ companion Peri, the departure of Turlough, the departure of Kamelion and the location usage of holiday island Lanzarote.
Those are a lot of ingredients and a tall order for a writer to be challenged with. But Peter Grimwade managed it well and came out with one of the most exciting ‘Doctor Who’ stories ever delivered. In fact, this is probably Peter Grimwade’s strongest ‘Doctor Who’ tale out of the three he wrote for TV.
The location work of Lanzarote is incredible. The island became two places in the story. Not only did Lanzarote act as a holiday resort at the beginning of the story, but it also became the burning planet Sarn where the story is mostly set. It does feel extremely hot and breathtaking when you watch this.
I couldn’t get over how the production team went to great lengths into filming the various parts of the island to get the shots that they wanted. Lanzarote is truly an amazing location and it’s great to see it in the background of a ‘Doctor Who’ TV adventure before Peter Davison’s era came to an end.
The story has the Doctor still recovering from the loss of Tegan, who departed in ‘Resurrection of the Daleks’. They had been together for a long time. He’s also probably shattered from a recent Dalek adventure between him and Turlough during their solo TARDIS travels together undocumented here.
The Doctor is a changed man. He’s no longer the opportunistic hero he once was. He’s become embittered with death and destruction and can’t stand the people who go behind his back. He’s suspicious of Turlough who hides something and he gets frustrated with robot Kamelion’s duplicity.
In this story, we get to learn more about Mark Strickson as Turlough before he leaves the series. Turlough started off in ‘Mawdryn Undead’ as this shifty character. He has now become a stronger person with some depth. Turlough’s TARDIS travels with the Doctor have made him a better person.
Turlough reveals to the Doctor that he’s from Trion, and bears the Mesos Triangle on his shoulder. He becomes heroic despite himself, as he rescues Peri from drowning in Lanzarote. When the Doctor and Turlough visit Sarn, they discover remnants of a Trion ship and suspect there are some survivors.
There’s friction between Turlough and the Doctor. The Doctor suspects Turlough’s not telling him everything, as he threatens to end his friendship with him. It’s a great story for Turlough as his swansong and it’s fitting that Peter Grimwade, who introduced him, writes him out on a strong note.
This story is also the last to feature Kamelion, the robot companion who appeared in ‘The King’s Demons’. By this point, the production team hadn’t made good use of Kamelion. He was a robot that didn’t work and was hard for the actors to play with. It was decided Kamelion should be written out.
The robot prop isn’t used much in this story, but the character is used by the Master to do his evil bidding. Kamelion appears as the Master as well as Howard, Peri’s stepfather. He then takes on a Howard appearance that seems like Data from ‘Star Trek: The Next Generation’ with silver make-up.
That should have been how Kamelion appeared in every story. Get rid of the robot and dress someone up in silver make-up like Data. Why didn’t they think of that?! But Kamelion had to go as the Doctor fired the Master’s tissue compression eliminator on him, with some relish I might add! 😀
I enjoyed Anthony Ainley as the Master in this. I found that cliffhanger for ‘Part One’ very exciting where Kamelion transforms from Howard into the Master to scare Peri. He has that marvellous laugh and says “I am the Master! And you will obey me!” That’s pure magic. What a cliffhanger!!! 😀
The Master works from his TARDIS to control Kamelion and carry out his plans to stop the Doctor. There’s a certain twist with the Master in this story. Peri discovers it when she finds the real version of the Master at the end of ‘Part Three’. You’ll have to discover it for yourselves on what the twist is.
When the Master gets ‘killed’ in ‘Part Four’, he rises from his box and is enveloped in burning flame. He pleads with the Doctor to free him, but the Doctor just stands there. The Master howls in pain as he burns into cinders. Could this really be the end of the Master? It can’t be! He always comes back!
Nicola Bryant makes her first appearance as Peri Brown in this story. I enjoyed Peri in her first ‘Doctor Who’ story. She comes across as ‘spunky’ and a good-going American botany student who loves adventure. She gets rescued by Turlough from drowning before she’s taken aboard the TARDIS.
She soon discovers they’re not in Lanzarote anymore as she finds herself chased by a robot that turns into a ‘gangster’. I love the moment when Peri defiantly stands up to Kamelion as the Master as he demands the comparator from her. Peri doesn’t get spend much time with the Doctor in this.
One of the famous scenes with Peri is where she’s wearing a bikini. She’s stuck on a yacht in Lanzarote and has to find a way to get across to the island. What does she do? She swims across to the shore in her bikini from the yacht. Watching those shots of Peri’s in her bikini were mesmerising.
It’s one of the raunchiest shots ever seen in ‘Doctor Who’. Peri is played out to be a sex symbol where she’s wearing next to nothing in every story she’s in. Seeing Peri in her swim suit plants such an imprint on my mind. I can’t help but think how sexy Peri is every time that I see her in ‘Doctor Who’.
Peter Davison is great as the Doctor in this story. He appears without his cream-coloured jacket, as he walks about in shirt and braces for most of the story in the exotic Lanzarote locations. Peter’s energy enthuses throughout. I thoroughly enjoyed his scenes where he’s crossing Sarn’s landscapes.
The Doctor develops a strong character relationship with Turlough in this story, in getting to know more about him and welcomes Peri who’s just come aboard the TARDIS. Peter’s performance is at its strongest throughout and it’s great to see him with so much energy before he departs the TV series.
The guest cast is as follows. There’s Peter Wyngarde as Timanov, the Chief Elder of the Sarn Temple; Edward Highmore as Malkon, Turlough’s brother and Dallas Adams as Howard, Peri’s stepfather. And there’s Barbara Shelley as Sorasta, James Bate as Amyand and Jonathan Caplan as Roskal from Sarn.
By the story’s end, Turlough is summoned back to Trion and is free of all charges. He has a fond farewell with the Doctor. Turlough passes the torch to Peri to look after and keep the Doctor out of trouble. Turlough goes and the Doctor offers to return Peri back to her own time and place on Earth.
But Peri is keen to travel with the Doctor and asks if she can join him in the TARDIS. I think that’s lovely. Since Nyssa, there hasn’t been anyone else who wants to be in the TARDIS. The Doctor is uncertain at first, but is reinvigorated by Peri’s sense of adventure that he welcomes Peri on board.
The DVD special features are as follows. On Disc 1, there’s the making-of documentary ‘The Flames of Sarn’ with cast and crew interviews. There’s ‘Return to the Planet of Fire’ with director Fiona Cumming and designer Malcolm Thornton and a ‘Design on Sarn’ interview with Malcolm Thornton.
There are some ‘deleted and extended scenes’ as well as ‘continuity’ announcements from the story. There’s also a commentary with Peter Davison, Nicola Bryant, Mark Strickson and director Fiona Cumming; an isolated music option by Peter Howell and an info-text commentary option to enjoy.
There’s a ‘Radio Times Listings’ PDF of the story; a photo gallery of the story and some Easter Eggs to look out for on the DVD.
On Disc 2, there’s a brand-new special edition ‘movie’ version of ‘Planet of Fire’ that contains new CGI effects, widescreen and surround sound by Fiona Cumming. Although I enjoyed this new version of ‘Planet of Fire’ it suffers with the loss of the original Peter Howell incidental music and cut scenes.
There’s ‘Calling the Shots’ that focuses on the behind the scenes studio recordings of this story with cast and crew interviews. There’s also ‘Remembering Anthony Ainley’, which is a retrospective documentary that looks at the actor who played the Master in ‘Doctor Who’ during the 1980s
There’s a ‘coming soon’ trailer for ‘The Dominators’ with Patrick Troughton, Frazer Hines and Wendy Padbury.
‘Planet of Fire’ is a great story to watch. It features endings but it also features new beginnings as the Doctor has a gained new companion in Peri. I enjoyed watching this story in its exotic Lanzarote locations. It has great characters throughout and this is one of the finest from the Peter Davison era.
The ‘Kamelion Tales’ DVD box set has been a great collection of adventures to enjoy from the classic TV series. ‘Planet of Fire’ is a superior story whereas ‘The King’s Demons’ lacks the excitement it should have had. It was fun and intriguing seeing how Kamelion’s time in the TARDIS was chronicled.
‘Planet of Fire’ rating – 8/10
‘DOCTOR WHO – PLANET OF FIRE’
Please feel free to comment on my review.
Logar Saves Timanov
Do the flames of Sarn get hotter in this ‘Doctor Who’ Target novelization?
I’ve enjoyed reading the Target novelization of ‘Planet of Fire’, the final ‘Doctor Who’ story to be novelized by Peter Grimwade. I’m pleased I’ve read all three ‘Doctor Who’ Target novelizations by Grimwade as it has been interesting to discover how he novelized his TV stories into books themselves.
Peter Grimwade is often overlooked at a ‘Doctor Who’ writer since he’s praised more as a ‘Doctor Who’ director. The ‘Doctor Who’ stories he directed for TV were ‘Full Circle’, ‘Logopolis’, ‘Kinda’ and ‘Earthshock’. The stories he wrote for TV include ‘Time-Flight’, ‘Mawdryn Undead’ and ‘Planet of Fire’.
I’m pretty sure the ‘Doctor Who’ stories that Peter Grimwade wrote for TV would’ve been amazing had he directed them as well. But BBC policy didn’t allow that and the directing efforts of Ron Jones, Peter Moffatt and Fiona Cumming probably didn’t meet and fulfil Peter Grimwade’s vision for thoe stories.
The Target novelizations of ‘Doctor Who’ allowed Peter Grimwade a chance to reinvent that vision for his three stories to readers. Those who read the novelizations of ‘Time-Flight’, ‘Mawdryn Undead’ and ‘Planet of Fire’ did not have to be spoiled with dodgy special effects and dodgy dialogue in book forms.
Peter Grimwade’s journey of ‘Doctor Who’ novelizations has been interesting. Whilst the ‘Time-Flight’ novelization wasn’t impressive (clearly Grimwade wanted that one out of the way as quickly as possible), the ‘Mawdryn Undead’ novelization is a marked improvement with detail and character development.
Reading the ‘Planet of Fire’ Target novelization is also on the same lines as the ‘Mawdryn Undead’ novelization. And dare I say it, I believe ‘Planet of Fire’ in both TV and novelization is the strongest of Peter Grimwade’s ‘Doctor Who’ stories in terms of writing. And that does say a lot in terms of writing.
I have also read the original children’s novel, ‘Robot’, by Peter Grimwade. Whilst that wasn’t ‘Doctor Who’ and I did find it a challenge to get into that book, it was interesting to see Grimwade’s writing style in terms of description and character development. This is certainly the case with ‘Planet of Fire’.
‘Planet of Fire’ must have been a mess of a challenge for Peter Grimwade to write in terms of the TV scripts. With a shopping list of ingredients to put into his story including Peri’s introduction; Turlough’s departure; Kamelion’s departure; the Master’s ‘death’ and incorporating Lanzarote into the mix…yeah.
It’s a wonder how Grimwade managed to get a story out of it with the setting of the fiery planet Sarn; Timanov; legends of the Outsider; Logar; etc. The novelization of course is a chance for Grimwade to iron out any dodgy aspects of the story and strengthen it to make it feel coherent and clear for readers.
The Target novelization was published in 1985, a year after the story was transmitted on TV in 1984. The story is divided into 11 chapters. The chapters themselves are of varying lengths. This is something I have noticed in all three of Peter Grimwade’s ‘Doctor Who’ Target novelizations which was intriguing.
The first chapter of the book is more of a short prologue to the story. It features a scene on a Greek sailing ship I believe and of Turlough’s father’s ship crashing on the planet Sarn years ago. Not sure what the Greek sailing ship is about. I guess this sets up the Trion artefact found in the Lanzarote seas.
Oh yeah, the Lanzarote island doesn’t get named in the Target novelization. It’s simply referred to as ‘the island’. Not sure why Grimwade decided to go with this approach. Maybe Grimwade wasn’t happy with setting the story on Lanzarote to suit director Fiona Cumming and he wanted it to be a different island.
Incidentally, I read the book whilst I was away in Leicester for the ‘Science of the Time Lords’ weekend at the end of January 2019. It was nice to read the early chapters of the book whilst waiting for my evening meal at the Premier Inn, reading such detail and character development at the very beginning.
For the Target novelization of ‘Planet of Fire’, Peter Grimwade decides to restructure the events that happen in the story compared to what was shown in the TV version. So, in the second chapter, the very first scene is not of Aymand and Roskal climbing up the mountain of fire to try and disprove Logar.
The first scene is of the Doctor and Turlough in the TARDIS console room, reflecting on Tegan, before going to check on Kamelion. The scenes set on Sarn actually begin in Chapter 4 of the story. Chapters 2 and 3 are mostly the Doctor and Turlough in the TARDIS and Peri with her stepdad Howard on Earth.
This happened to a certain extent in the movie version on the ‘Planet of Fire’ Special Edition DVD, directed by Fiona Cumming. The scenes in that movie version didn’t match to the one in the TV version. There were also deleted and extended scenes reincorporated into the movie version than the TV version.
I’m not sure why Peter Grimwade decided to restructure the story in the novelization compared to the TV version as well as Fiona Cumming restructuring things in the movie version for the DVD. Clearly the ‘Planet of Fire’ scripts were in a mess when it came to editing the TV story together for viewing.
In any event, the novelization provides a straight-forward and clearer account of what goes on in the tale with fewer cuttings of scenes. Sections with just the Master and Peri are compiled as one in the ‘Part Three’ segment just as sections with the Doctor and Turlough are compiled as one in the ‘Part Four’ segment.
Incidentally, I do feel Peter Grimwade has made the planet Sarn feel more hot and dangerous compared to how we see Sarn in the TV version. I couldn’t help but think of the fiery version of Sarn in the movie version of ‘Planet of Fire’ by director Fiona Cumming for the DVD. It was easy to visualise.
The ‘Planet of Fire’ novelization is also a great opportunity to enhance Turlough’s character, especially since this is his final story and Peter Grimwade introduced him in ‘Mawdryn Undead’. There’s some interesting backstory delved into Turlough’s character in his connections to Trion as well as Sarn itself.
It was compelling to read when Turlough was anxious about the TARDIS picking up a signal from a Trion ship and him believing Kamelion to be responding to those signals. The background on what happened to Turlough in terms of the civil war between his family and other Trions was so interesting.
It was interesting how Turlough behaves in this story when he realises the Trions are not on Sarn and that he want to leave the Sarns to die when the volcano erupts. Typical Turlough. 😀 Turlough also finds his parents’ graves when he and his brother Malkon visit the crashed spaceship belonging his father’s.
I also enjoyed how Grimwade writes for Kamelion in this story for the novelization. This is the first time I’ve read Kamelion in a ‘Doctor Who’ Target novelization. It’s interesting how Grimwade manages to pick Kamelion up since he was introduced in another story, ‘The King’s Demons’, by another writer.
It was a challenge to understand Kamelion’s shifting loyalties from being a friend of the Doctor’s to being a slave of the Master’s when doing his bidding. It was also interesting how he shifts from being the robot Kamelion to the Kamelion-Master and then back to the robot Kamelion throughout the tale.
I don’t think I can really say much about the Doctor and Peri’s character development in the novelization as it matches to what was in the TV version. Though it was intriguing to read from the Doctor and Peri’s points of views how they see events in the story and how they react to handling them.
Mind you, Peri’s introduction into ‘Doctor Who’ through the ‘Planet of Fire’ novelization is handled well. It was interesting to read Peri’s rocky relationship with her stepdad Howard; how she reacts to being on a different planet in another time and place and how she reacts to Kamelion and the Master.
A notable change in the story is when Peri meets Howard on the boat to tell him that she’s leaving for Morocco and gets deliberately left behind on the boat to be stranded by her stepdad. This is different in the TV story since Howard has to get Peri onto the boat to be stranded after telling him of her plans.
The Master’s villainy also more or less matches to how he was in the TV version. Though it was interesting to read how the Master became the shrunken size he was and how he reacts to Peri interfering with his plans. And of course, Peter Grimwade wrote for the Master before in ‘Time-Flight’.
The story ends rather differently compared to the TV version. First of all, Timanov survives the end of the story, believing that Logar has returned. This is because Aymand, who is in the Logar boiler suit, doesn’t take the helmet off to reveal himself. Aymand keeps it on to convince Timanov that he is Logar.
This is so Timanov can board the Trion ship taking the Sarns away from their burning planet. Speaking personally, I think this works well in the novelization compared to the TV version, since Timanov staying behind and going to be burned off in the fire in the TV version felt bleak and rather depressing.
Incidentally, the line about the Master asking the Doctor, “Won’t you show mercy to your own [brother]?” before he gets killed doesn’t feature in the novelization. I’m not sure this was in the original scripts for the TV story. In any case, Grimwade doesn’t use it for the novelization which is good.
There’s a moment where the Doctor speaks abruptly to Peri for a moment when she asks him if he’s alright after the death of the Master. The Doctor does calm down and reassures Peri that he’s alright, but I’m uncertain why he was abrupt with her to begin with here. I prefer the TV version of that scene.
The book closes not with the Doctor and Peri leaving Sarn in the TARDIS before the ship takes off violently. Instead it closes with Turlough simply taking one last look at the Doctor and Peri outside the TARDIS before boarding the Trion transporter. The focus is more on Turlough when the story finishes.
Interesting how Grimwade finishes on that note. Maybe the final scene between the Doctor and Peri in the TARDIS was not by Grimwade and was by script editor Eric Saward. Turlough just knows Peri is going to be the Doctor’s new companion before Peri asked the Doctor if she can join him in the TARDIS.
I hope one day there will be an audiobook provided for the ‘Planet of Fire’ novelizaiton someday. Whether the audiobook will be read by Peter Davison; Mark Strickson or Nicola Bryant, I do not know. It’ll be so interesting to re-read the Target novelization and find out how it’ll sound in the audiobook.
‘Doctor Who – Planet of Fire’ is arguably the best of Peter Grimwade’s ‘Doctor Who’ novelizations. No seriously! I found how compelled and engaged I was into the characters and the story when reading the book. There are times when Grimwade paraphrased scenes which I would’ve preferred to stay in.
But ironing out certain dialogue that felt dodgy in the TV version and improving certain scenes especially in the story’s climax helped to make this Target novelization worthwhile. It did feel slightly compressed in the final two chapters, but overall this was a very satisfying ‘Doctor Who’ novelization.
‘Doctor Who – Planet of Fire’ rating – 8/10
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