So We Finally Have a Villain, Assignment: Earth VI Story Generator, Jamming, 26/10/2013

I wanted Patrick Troughton to perfect a way to mug the
camera in a way that would unnerve an audience.
Only Patrick Troughton could play Francis Eight. 

Of course, Francis Eight wouldn’t be anything like the Doctor. Watching The Enemy of the World convinced me with certainty of Troughton’s incredible versatility. What Francis Eight as a character relies on is a lack of trustworthiness, a characterization that makes you suspicious of him all the time. I suppose the character has a smarm more appropriate to Salamander, the villainous dictator Troughton also plays in The Enemy of the World

But the character would work differently than Salamander as well. After all, I wouldn’t want to throw soft pitches to Patrick Troughton, especially after paying him enough money to get him filming in New York television studios for six episodes this season. Francis has to combine a sense of considerable wisdom and experience with that uncertainty of his moral character. He’s slyly charming, like a rogue from a spy show who’s retired to become a snide Control figure, but who occasionally lets slip a Machiavellian ruthlessness. There should also be a sense that he’s personally much older than his appearance. He was a warrior who’s become a sage, but who may be a closet gangster. 

Jacqueline Hill was capable of still, steely performances
that would perfectly suit Morrigan, another Aegis familiar
named after a god of death, this time Celtic.
Naturally, his familiar is a bird, a raven named Morrigan who appears with him at various surreptitious points in the city, delivering him strange signs or mysterious messages. When in human form, Miss Morrigan is a prim Englishwoman dressed entirely in black, and played by Jacqueline Hill, who has a similar sly characterization. She’s meant to echo an even more extremely secretive and haughty version of Isis as she was in the first season. This is where the progress of the main cast in growing more human and individual will become clear. Isis sees in Morrigan a direction she might have gone if Gary had been a different sort of person, less impulsive and moral on an individual level, which would have made him less likely to form emotional bonds like with the Robinson family in season three. Beyond that, it would be joyous to watch Jacqueline Hill slowly develop an appetite for scenery over her and Troughton’s six appearances in season four. 

One might wonder how much influence Doctor Who could have on American adventure television at this time. Until the late 1970s, after all, no episodes of Doctor Who were broadcast outside Britain beyond a few strange transmissions that would see film prints end up in Hong Kong and Nigeria. The show could never have found an audience in the United States. 

However, that didn’t stop me, the imaginary time-displaced Emmy-nominated (but never winning!) showrunner Adam Riggio from going on vacation to London in the summer between seasons two and three in summer 1972. While there, I caught a strange program Saturday evening that transfixed me with its weirdness. I asked around at the BBC, and while none of the current stars would be available anytime soon, I was given a brief history of the show. So I had them make some old prints and mail them for my review. I spotted Hill from a brilliant performance in a story they sent me called The Crusade, and from the moment I finished watching the print they made of The Power of the Daleks, I had to have Troughton. I left the film prints in a storage space in the studio, and they should still be kicking around somewhere. 

So what precisely is Francis Eight doing in New York? He and Morrigan are part of the new British delegation to the United Nations, giving Francis direct access to the goings-on of the Security Council and privy to much of the gossip floating around the General Assembly. He’s perfectly positioned to spy on and nudge the behaviour of various delegations and governments through a carefully placed word here, an overheard conversation there, and the occasional raven surreptitiously using the photocopier. Gary, Roberta, and Isis have been tasked by Aegis authority to see that Francis is using the right nudges, only those the bosses want him to use.

1 comment:

  1. I don't know if you intended this, but having Doctor Who veterans playing the villains of a show comprised mostly of Star Trek veterans is rather a genius bit of casting given the way the fanbases of the two franchises seem to have evolved.