Doctor Who: Ten Little Aliens

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Chris Morley looks at the First Doctor novel, Ten Little Aliens.


As we near the end of our First Doctor celebrations here on WarpedFactor, we turn to novel set just prior to his regeneration. We know now that the First Doctor was terrified of the change & its implications, but Ten Little Aliens from the 50th anniversary novel reprint series takes that & runs with it to the extent that he's pitched into just the sort of base under siege narrative the man he would become is best known for.

In essence it's Agatha Christie meets Alien as he, Ben & Polly are drawn into what becomes a pitched battle between human soldiers on a training exercise & the alien Ten Strong - alien Schirr rebels with a grievance against the Earth Empire after their world is annexed in its name. Leader DeCaster is a cult figure, his followers perhaps in awe of his grasp of Morphiean magic.


Frozen with him as part of their incarceration, it soon becomes apparent that they aren't quite as frozen as their captors would like to believe, & may indeed have a hand in the disappearances of several Empire squaddies, led by Marshal Haunt, whose entire reason for signing up to all this appears to relate to a certain piece of advice the Doctor first gave in The Reign Of Terror.
DOCTOR: Well, it's hardly fair to speculate, is it? No, I'm afraid you belittle things. Our lives are important, at least to us. But as we see, so we learn.
IAN: And what are we going to see and learn next, Doctor?
DOCTOR: Well, unlike the old adage, my boy, our destiny is in the stars, so let's go and search for it.
His search will end soon, a maiden battle with the Cybermen leaving him drained at the end of The Tenth Planet, The Power Of The Daleks seeing him literally become a whole new man with Ben & Polly remaining by his side to ease viewers through the change having made their d├ębuts in William Hartnell's final stories before either handing over to or being shoved aside in favour of Patrick Troughton, depending on point of view.

Jackson it is who turns confidant as his elderly-looking temporal chaperone confesses his fear of impending death, & perhaps it's this fear which leads him to block Polly from reading his mind using the mental image of a penny farthing, a trick first used in The Space Museum...
LOBOS: Proceed immediately to corridor 417. Detain three humans. One man, one woman and a young girl.
COMMANDER : Message received and understood. It will be dealt with immediately.
LOBOS: A simple matter of thought selection. By asking a question, I plant an image in your mind. No matter what you say, as long as you're seated in that chair, I will see your mental pictures reflected. You see, it is quite useless for you to lie to me. Now shall we return to the questioning? How did you get here?
At which point we see the old-time bike. There's even a cameo for the spacesuits later seen in The Moonbase, or at least the implication's there that it's them!


Time to see the dark side of an unnamed planetoid, the setting of Ten Little Aliens. Though the offer to experiment with a certain aptly named Pink Floyd album & The Moonbase to see if they sync is still open! Though the Doctor would disagree with Roger Waters' spoken contention on not being frightened of dying perhaps? He certainly shows not a hint of it as his final hour approaches, The Man In The Velvet Mask offering further details of what awaits him as the second heart common to Time Lord physiology is implied to grow only following the first regeneration. In light of which its tempting to ponder on whether the Second Doctor was experiencing discomfort as a result of the new ticker!
DOCTOR: It's over. (chuckles) It's over.
BEN: Doctor?
DOCTOR: The muscles are still a bit tight.
Incoming producer Innes Lloyd would give him plenty of potential heart attacks in dreaming up the base under siege format, Pat's stock in trade. Our own Elliott Rowe summed it up best...
"Originally devised by producer Innes Lloyd as a cost saving method, this particular trope went on to define the Second Doctor’s era with many of his episodes following this style."
Though Hartnell would actually be the first to test it out in his final bow.
DOCTOR: Here we are. Well now, excuse me, my dear. Take this to your General please.
SERGEANT: Me? You crazy?
DOCTOR: Very well, then, take me to the General. I think perhaps I can help him.
SERGEANT: Oh, I don't know.
DOCTOR: Now look here, Sergeant. This is urgent. I insist.
Actress Stephanie Cole would wax lyrical on Lloyd-
"What I loved about him was that he approached you directly rather than go through your agent. This would never happen now. He might notice you in a small part, then would bring you through the ranks.

He did the same with directors and cameramen. He mothered you right through the system and was a very kind man.

But with his navy background, he was also determined to fight the system and be the captain of his own ship.

He was astute and highly intelligent. He fought his corner. No one is allowed to be like that any more.

Writers and producers today are, in general, out of touch with what people want. The people in charge bugger it up and muck the best writers about. In Lloyd's time, a head of drama would trust their producers and they, in turn, would trust their writers."
His greatest legacy in terms of Doctor Who is perhaps rightly as a harbinger of change - he was in the producer's chair when the decision was taken to replace Hartnell in light of failing health. But the decision allowed for the preservation of longevity, and perhaps Ten Little Aliens serves as an ideal print send- off?

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