|THE ALIENS OF COVENTRY
18 JUNE 2009
512, the last observation of the journey, was seen again on Sunday 21
June 2009 passing from Gloucester through Churchdown en route to
article bridges the gap between fact and fiction. Although a
number of trains were observed - and reported below - en route from
Cheltenham to Coventry on Thursday 18 June 2009 none were of any type
not seen before elsewhere in Rail Reports.
However, the day out did offer me the chance to travel to
Coventry by rail for the first time and also to visit the travelling Doctor Who exhibition located at that time in the Coventry Transport Museum in Hales Street.|
|Cheltenham 0756||170 566, 170 105 haulage to Birmingham New Street|
|Birmingham New Street||221 134, 221 136 haulage to Coventry|
|Coventry||Wrexham and Shropshire train en route for London Marylebone hauled by two Class 67s with matching silver DVT, 390 042|
221 136 haulage to Birmingham New Street
|Birmingham New Street||350 249, 170 115 haulage to Cheltenham|
north from Coventry railway station - rebuilt in the 1960s at the time
of the electrification of the West Coast Main Line - and keeping the two Coventry Cathedrals to the right, the Coventry Transport Museum was reached in about
15 minutes by way of the numerous shopping centres filling the heart of
the city within its ring road. Turning north for a moment from the
museum entrance, two decorative arches linked it across a pedestrian
plaza and Hales Street from the twin column supported tympanum of Pool
Meadow Coach Station: the other great public transport portal of
|Just outside Pool Meadow Coach Station was
a another welcome link between Coventry and Gloucester - a statue of Air
Commodore Sir Frank Whittle OM, KBE, CB, FRS, FRAeS by Faith Winter.
The larger than life statue was unveiled on 1 June 2007 - the
centenary of Sir Frank's birth in Coventry and shows the father of the jet engine watching the first test flight of the Gloster-Whittle E28/39 at RAF Cranwell on 15 May 1941.|
|On 12 April 1961 - less
than 20 years after the first flight of the Gloster-Whittle E28/39 - Yuri
the first man in space and by 23 November 1963 both the USSR and USA
completed their first manned space programmes with single-seat
vehicles. As the World eagerly awaited the flights of three and
two-seat Voskhod and Gemini spacecraft viewers to BBC TV however were introduced to a much more radical form of transport guided by a very different kind of hero.|
Rather than a thirtysomething test pilot with an optional flat-top haircut, The Doctor was a white haired old man who travelled through both time and space in what appeared to be London Police Box. In fact it was a Mark 40 Time Capsule stolen from a repair facility on Gallifrey by one of the plant's more inquisitive inhabitants and the chameleon circuit - designed to make the craft blend in with the local scenery on landing - never worked properly again. As well as being centuries older than he looked - even allowing for the ability to regenerate when injured - The Doctor had yet more secrets to reveal.
The Mark 40 - which he referred to as the TARDIS ( Time And Relative Dimensions in Space ) was in fact a three dimensional manifestation of a four dimensional object. Just as an ant with no concept of height would regard a sugar cube as having an area five times as large as its square footprint, so human visitors to the TARDIS would remark that it was much larger on the inside than the outside. In fact the Tardis had many other operating features that would be displayed as the Doctor and his human companions travelled the universe to encounter numerous other life forms - many of which were recalled by the Doctor Who Exhibition, which began at the Coventry Transport Museum on 13 March 2009.
focussing entirely on the television series revived in the 21st
Century, no Doctor Who Exhibition would be complete without reference
to The Doctor's oldest alien foe, the Daleks. At Coventry these venomous
metal-clad denizens of the Planet Skaro moved about and fired lasers
over the heads of visitors toward their one-eyed creator Davros, safe behind a
thin metallic screen in his Dalek-like wheelchair.
|Uttering the battle cry "Delete!" rather than "Exterminate!" was another warped genius behind another aggressive alien half-machine race - John Lumic a.k.a the Cyber Controller. However, although his own handle-headed 21st Century footsoldiers ( below ) were instantly recognisable as a development of the Cybermen first defeated by William Hartnell's Doctor in 1966, David Tennant's adventures portrayed them as being created on Earth in a parallel universe. In contrast,"The Tenth Planet" - which also saw Patrick Troughton take over as The Doctor - featured Cybermen invading Antarctica from their home world of Mondas, a twin of the Earth which had drifted to the edge of the Solar System, forcing human like beings to replace thir bodies with plastic and metal. As such, a fight between John Lumic's Cyberman and those from Mondas would remain a possible challenge for incoming Doctor Matt Smith from 2010 onwards!|
|A third species to have made the quantum leap from the pre 1989 Doctor Who to the post 2005 are the Sontarans. Like the Daleks, they have dared to take on the Time Lords of Gallifrey and also stand out in the memory of viewers as the first enemies of companion Sarah Jane Smith ( still played by the ever lovely Elisabeth Sladen in her own Sarah Jane Adventures ), the enemies in "The Sontaran Experiment" - the only Doctor Who story to be shot entirely on location - and the enemies of Doctors Patrick Troughton and Colin Baker both at once. Not bad for a cloned race with a vulnerable probic vent whose main aim is to defeat the Rutans!|
|Fortunately, David Tennant has also been reunited with a faithful robot friend from earlier regenerations - K-9. In an echo of the very first Doctor Who story "An Unearthly Child", the metal mutt re-entered the life of the Time Lord at a secondary school and helped him, Rose, Sarah Jane and Mickey defeat the Krillitanes - an alien race posing as teachers. K9 first appeared in Doctor Who in October 1977 as the mobile computer cum pet of Professor Marius of the Bi-Al Foundation and the original version left the show the following March to protect companion Leela on the Planet Gallifrey. However, The Doctor had already built a Mark II version, which lasted until the story "Warrior's Gate" ( first screened 1981 ) and a Mark III model which he then presented to Sarah Jane Smith , even though her last story was in October 1976.... With time continuing to be a relative concept, K-9 and Sarah Jane Smith went on to appear together in "The Five Doctors" and their own spin-off "K-9 and Company".|
than just being a carnival of monsters, Coventry's Dr Who Exhibition
also displayed many of the techniques used to transform an idea in
the mind of a writer to the finished televison programme. And
where better to start than with a page of script from the first of the
21st Century episodes? First shown on 26 March 2005, "Rose" had the double task of re-introducing Doctor Who to a young
audience and telling an exciting tale about malevolent shop dummies -
The Autons. Writer Russell T. Davies approached this by
focussing first on Rose herself (played by Billie Piper), an ordinary
Lonon shop girl who encounters something odd after being inadvertently
trapped in the basement of her department store. |
SCENE 11. INTERIOR BASEMENT ROOM - NIGHT 1 - CONTINUOUS
Darkness. ROSE reaches for the light switch -
Pools of light snap on; the rest of the room stays pitch black. It's a big storage space lined with pipes and cables. And full of shop window DUMMIES. Sixty, male and female - not neatly arranged, but crowded in, all caught in different lifeless poses. Stark illumination from the lights, steep shadows on the smooth expressionless faces.
(No wigs. the hair's part of the sculpture, like a statue.)
She crosses the room, to the far door, tries it, it's locked. Behind her the first door she came through swings-
Rose runs back, pushes, but it won't open.
Oh you're kidding me.
A noise behind her, a clatter, she turns, fast-
Nothing. Absolute stillness. Rose unnerved:
Is that someone mucking about?
Rose walks to the centre of the room, scared but defiant, looking at the dummies. Quiet.
Who is it?
She looks round. The dummies' faces. The Empty stares.
And then - not suddenly, no shock - at the back of the room one DUMMY'S head slowly turns to look at her.
Rose is holding her breath. Scared. Fascinated.
The dummy, a good distance away, behind so many others - tilts its head slowly from side to side. Studying her.
The its entire body shifts, as if to get a better look at her, curious.
|In fact one of the most noticeable differences to the post 2005 Doctor Who is the deep, rounded characterisation of the companions compared to the earlier requirement of simply screaming, twisting ankles during chases and being able to say "Doctor, look at the size of it!" Rose, for example, further introduced both viewers and Christopher Eccleston's Doctor to her boyfriend Mickey and her Mum, with whom she shared a flat on the Powell Estate. This domicile featured again in David Tennant's introductory story "The Christmas Invasion" - hence the red tinsel on the balcony of this large scale model on display.|
|Similarly, Rose had many chances to dress up for the place and time being visited - as when David Tennant's Doctor tried
to take her to see Elvis Presley but arrived in north London at the
time of the 1953 Coronation - just as an alien called The Wire was
using television to steal viewer's faces. Sadly - considering the
Exhibition's location - the motor scooter that The Doctor also produced
from the innards of the TARDIS was not on display but Rose's iconic
pink prom dress and green jacket combination helped cement the new
show's appeal to teenage girls - traditionally an audience that science
fiction shows have found difficult to reach. |
|Calling this feature Aliens of Coventry was partly an homage to the first two-part story of the Christopher Eccleston era "Aliens of London" in which criminal members of the Slitheen family of Raxacoricofallapatorius ( pictured below ) trick the World's scientists into gathering in Britain's capital by crashing a spacecraft through the Clock Tower of the Palace of Westminster. Although many special effects in the 21st century Doctor Who are computer generated, this one required a large scale model of just one face of the clock that makes Big Ben bong. Had this been real life, perhaps the ruined tower could have been replaced by a multi story duck house with quacks instead of Westminster chimes, but as in fact Doctor Who - which is mainly created in and around Cardiff - has offered international viewers a range of British locations apart from the cliched views of London so beloved of Hollywood film makers.|
|The best science fiction has always drawn in readers and viewers by tapping in to their latent fears, be it rats in George Orwell's "1984" or the snake pit in Steven Spielberg's "Raiders of the Lost Ark". In the same way, the menacing, totalitarian Daleks, Cybermen and Sontarans chimed with the Cold War Soviet Bloc - although the villain of "The Runaway Bride" - the 2006 Christmas Special was a very scary spider - The Empress of Racnoss. Her children were buried at the centre of the Earth and would have eaten all of mankind had The Doctor not drowned them by diverting the River Thames - which rises in Gloucestershire - down their bore hole in central London.|
|Although BBC Wales has often "made up" parts of Cardiff to look like London, alien planets have not been depicted unless they can be made to look truly alien, rather than just an abandoned quarry or a bit of Dartmoorstanding in. One early example of this was New Earth, a replica of our own dear planet made in the year five billion in the M-87 galaxy. More specifically, a message on psychic paper summoned David Tennant's Doctor to a sparkling white hospital on the coast of New New York where the sick were healed - and unfortunately experimented on as well - by the cat-descended Sisters of Plenitude ( below) Biped pussies - including flying car driver Thomas Kincade Brannigan ( played by Ardal O'Hanlon ) cropped up again in the episode "Gridlock" when the Doctor's companion Martha Jones ened up suffering from crabs - the giant Macra, last seen on Doctor Who in 1967.|
|While some of the aliens encountered by The Doctor - like the Nestene Consciousness and the Ood - are truly out of this world, others - like the Sisters of Plenitude and the Judoon - have more obvious roots in animals already familiar on Earth. Pigs, for example, have been the inspiration for both the pilot of the Slitheen spaceship that trashed Big Ben and also for a race of human hybrids doing the dirty work of the Daleks in Manhattan ( seen below ). This continues a long tradition of Daleks - flying or otherwise - using other races as "guard dogs" or slaves. Their stooges of choice in the Jon Pertwee years of 1970-1974 were the Ogrons but in the 1966 film "Daleks Invasion Earth 2150AD" humans were transformed into emotionless Robomen. Assisting members of the Earth resistance in that Technicolour presentation was actor Bernard Cribbins, who has also appeared in the 21st Century Doctor Who as Donna Noble's grandfather.|
|As well as a guide to the Doctor Who exhibition, the shop at Coventry Transport Exhibition offered books, models, and a machine for turning pennies into souvenir plaques.|
travelled to Coventry and spent £ 8.00 to visit the Doctor Who
Exhibition ( and £3.50 on the accompanying guide book ) it would have
been wrong not to visit the free-entry Coventry Transport Museum housing
At one time Coventry boasted literally hundreds of cycle, motorcycle and car manuacturers and before that was renowned for its clock making industry. It was this skilled workforce that first attracted the sewing machine firm founded by Josiah Turney and James Starley ( 1830 - 1881), who went on to apply cross spoked wheels and differential gears to tricycles. James Starley's work with his nephew John Kemp Starley and with William Hillman were to lay the eventual foundation for Rover and Hillman cars and Arial motorcycles.
Once established as a centre of automotive excellence, Coventry soon attracted the antecedents of today's Peugeot and Jaguar although for Daimler the choice was not automatic.
In 1893 Frederick Simms, a British business associate of the German engine maker Gottleib Daimler, registered the Daimler Motor Syndicate Ltd as a prospective company to market Daimler engined cars in Britain. However, the Daimler Motor Company as we know it was launched in 1895 after Frederick Simms sold his fledgling firm to Harry Lawson who, in 1896, began looking for suitable factory premises near a pool of skilled labour. In Cheltenham Lawson and his fellow directors seriously considered using the works of the Trusty Oil Engine Company, part of a larger concern called Weyman and Hitchcock, which had just gone bankrupt.
In the end though such Daimler models as the Regency, Empress and Conquest were to be built in Coventry while Gloucestershire concentrated on aircraft, and another firm that sprang up in the city of Lady Godiva and The Special a.k.a. was Ferguson.
|This particular "Little grey Fergie" was the 500 000 th 20 bhp TEF20 model and rolled off the production line at Ferguson's Banner Lane works in March 1956. Despite initial resistance by Harry Ferguson to what he saw as noisy and crude diesel engines, the four cylinder 20c variant of the German doctor's prime mover was installed from 1951. However, by 1956 the TEF20 was ready to be replaced with more complex and powerful tractors better suited to the changing needs of farmers.|
Meanwhile Thomas Humber founded the Humber cycle company in Sheffield in 1868 and was already producing bicycles in Nottingham, Beeston and Wolverhampton by the time that factory number four was opened in Coventry in 1889. After a brief flirtation with tricycles and quadricyles — one of which sported front wheel drive and rear wheel steering. The first Humber car - the 3 1/2 horsepower Phaeton - was built at Beeston in 1899 and by 1903 a four cylinder 20 bhp car was being assembled at Coventry's Folly Lane - not far from the factory making Hillman cars.
Both Hillman and Humber became part of the Rootes Group in the early 1930s and by the outbreak of World War II, Humber were producing a range of stylish Pressed Steel bodied cars - powered solely by six-cylinder engines - which were positioned as the more expensive cars in the Rootes range.
Production continued throughout the hostilities, when the 4.1-litre Super Snipe and its variants were built as staff cars. Field Marshall Montgomery had one called “Old Faithful" as well as the one pictured above in the Coventry Transport Museum.Interestingly, although the military number on the bonnet - M 239485 - is the same, the 1/32 scale Airfix kit ( 05360-4 ) was offered with the licence plate number 32YF95 instead of MSV 103 as seen at Coventry. This staff car can also be compared with "Monty's" own personal M3A3 Grant tank preserved in London's Imperial War Museum.
The legend on the driver's door plaque reads:
"The Victory Car" This Humber Staff Car No. M 239485 was used by Field Marshall The Rt. Hon. The Viscount Montgomery of Alamein, KG, GCB, DSO from Normandy to Berlin 6 June 1944 - 25 August 1945. It was returned by the War office from Germany 26 July 1947 in order that it should take its place beside the Field Marshall's other famous staff car "Old Faithful" No M 239459 which had already been presented to The Rootes Group, as a tribute to the service given by Humber cars on all War fronts."
In fact Coventry had its very own Montgomery - a motorcycle maker - from 1911 until 1940 when the factory was destroyed in the same raid that ruined the original Coventry Cathedral, thereby giving Sir Basil Spence the opportunity to design the new structure which opened in 1962.
|Although the years from the end of the Second World War to the 1970s saw the British car industry boom, The Rootes Group was to become a part of American company Chrysler and then be known as Peugeot Talbot by the 1980s and one perhaps unexpected source of income was the Paykaan, a version of the Hillman Hunter introduced in 1966 and produced by the Irankhodro company until 2005. At first the Paykaans were exported as completely knocked down kits but by the Islamic Revolution of 1979 12 000 were rolling off the production line comprising mainly Iranian parts. After this event, the kits - built at Humber Road in Coventry - were bartered for oil, wood and other commodities rather than paid for in scarce foreign currency. Paykaan TEH-43837 displayed in the Coventry Transport Museum was fitted with a 1600 cc engine capable of 93 mph.|
|By 1987 Britain's mass-production car industry was under serious threat from rivals in Continental Europe and the Far East, but in that year a Coventry made Daimler Fleetline bus was on hand to celebrate as - for the first time in their 104 year existence - Coventry City Football Club won the FA Cup. PDU 125M was the last Daimler Fleetline built and was delivered to Coventry Transport in 1973. Named "Peeping Tom" after the man who broke ranks with his fellow townsfolk and spied on Lady Godiva as she rode naked through the streets, the 10.450 litre engined bus was donated to Coventry Transport Museum by the West Midlands Passenger Transport Executive in 1986 and was converted to an open top observation vehicle. Its first task was then to carry the Sky Blue team around Coventry to public adoration after they beat Tottenham Hotspur 3-2 at Wembley.|