As Berman and James planned the third season of Professor X, they were both blessed with an increased episode count (from 20 to 26) and and cursed with the knowledge that this would certainly be the final season as Geoffrey Sumner had no intention of continuing in the part beyond this year. Likewise, Julie Stevens had only four episodes left in her contract and had accepted work elsewhere and Anthony Newley, who had signed a 24 episode contract, had 20 episodes left this year.
"Julie's problem was the more serious one," Newley recalled. "I think they wanted to try a different sort of travelling companion and so they settled on Tanni, the Trojan girl." Tanni, played by Denise Upshaw, was introduced in the fourth episode of the season and contracted until "the end of the current run," which at the time was still planned as a 26 episode batch, to end in March 1966. The character was envisioned as an Eliza Doolitte type, which would also satisfy Sumner's desire to impart more news to the viewers, in this case by telling it to Tanni.
The first two stories, "Universe N" and "A Funny Thing Happened on the Way to Troy," were both ready to go and a new six part Mechanoid story in the planning stages when Berman hit on the idea of continuing the series without Sumner. The rejuvenation idea, indeed the very practice of changing actors midstream, is now an accepted part of television lore, but at the time it was revolutionary. There was, however, a problem.
Donald James explained in a 1983 interview: "We sold them on the idea that the Professor, being an alien, could change his body and personality, and while I think they liked our choice in Rudy Vallee as the new Professor X, they weren't sure the viewers would. We were shooting the first story when they went ahead and gave us another 17 episode pickup for season four." Berman then managed to alter the transmission schedule, holding back the last four of this season's 26 episodes until season four, meaning 22 episodes would air in this season and 21 the next. This would have serious effects on Denise Upshaw's character, as we will see.
It was, however, Anthony Newley's character that was causing the actor concerns at the time. "Universe N" was originally written for Ian and Christina and Newley basically got their lines. However, the actor explained, "Peter was a space pilot, not a doctor. I had all this medical jargon to get my tongue around and it was just wrong. I don't think the writers ever used my character properly." In truth, this may be due to the influx of new writers this season. Only 8 of 22 episodes were scripted by "Professor X" veterans; the rest were handled by newcomers.
This hiccup in the depiction of Peter aside, "Universe N" went off without a hitch. The following "A Funny Thing Happened on the Way to Troy" saw off Julie Stevens and the introduction of Tanni. The stage was therefore set for the return of the Mechanoids.
"The Mechanoid Master Plan" was the last story to be designed by Ray Cusick under contract as house designer, although his expertise was sought out for many more stories. It also marked another battle between Barwick and Cusick about the Mechanoid size and shape. Cusick recalls: "It just got worse and worse every year. Tony wanted the Mechs six feet high in "The Perils of Professor X." He wanted them eight feet high in "Master Plan." He wanted them spherical. It was madness. Fortunately, Monty Berman didn't suffer this foolishness gladly and set Tony packing, though of course that caused trouble later on."
The six episode story, the longest to date, was cowritten by Barwick and script editor Donald James, who incorporated the Vicar into the plot for the last two episodes. BBC documentation indicates that both writers collaborated on the storyline, but James, in a 1990 interview, claimed that he was solely responsible for episodes 3, 5 and 6. He also told Professor X Monthly at that time: "We wanted the Vicar to come back again in season four and so left his ending unrevealed. But Geoff Sumner had left of course and Billy Hartnell didn't want to play the Vicar without him."
The rest of the season began to fall into place. Berman disliked the historical adventures and decided that only six episodes--three stories--would deal with Earth's past (excepting parts four and five of the Mechanoid story, which were set in Regency times). Further, the first and third of these stories were of the comedic type favored by Donald James. The second historical tale, "Who Knows the Huegenots?," was written by Eric Paice in the more serious style of his first season episodes.
The most notable new writer to emerge this season was Tony Williamson, whose groundbreaking "Nursery Room Nightmares" came amid some public protest over its frightening content. The story marked the first appearance of a new foe for the Professor in St. John Squareheart. This bizarre villain, with his total power over the works of fiction and its characters, would reappear twice more over the course of the series, plaguing three Professors. Over all his appearances, Squareheart would be played by William Gaunt. His creator, Tony Williamson, would continue to write for the series for many years afterward.
Also emerging this year was writer Jimmy Sangster. The future Hammer Films scribe was given the task of writing out both Peter and Tanni over the course of the final two stories. While Newley's departure was expected to all parties, Denise Upshaw's was not. The actress was apparently uninformed that the season order had been dropped from 26 episodes to 22 and, to her mind, had been cheated of four weeks' work and pay. Unfortunately for her, as Berman explained, "she was reading `26 episodes' in the contract when in fact it said `to the last transmitted episode of the season'. They weren't necessarily the same thing. Denise thought she would still be with Professor X when the series ended, when in fact her character had matured and grown enough that she could be left in 1966 England."
This story, "Machines of Loving Grace," was the first story set in modern times. In it, a computer called XOANON took control of the first McDonalds to open in London and used the production line to create robots in a bid for world domination. The storyline reminded some viewers of "The Avengers" and, in a way, helped to pave the way for the success of the program in the 1970s.
Geoffrey Sumner's final four episodes were shot along with "Machines of Loving Grace" in December 1965 but were, as noted, held over until season four. The seasons were bridged by two new characters who joined Professor X in "Machines": Navyman Ben Monkhouse (Christopher Matthews) and barmaid Georgina (Liz Fraser). Both characters were created to fit current BBC trends in making its television characters more real. Ben, a Cockney seaman, looked far more like someone you could honestly meet in the street than either of the Professor's previous male companions while Georgie, as she was known, was a direct-from-Carnaby Street icon of the swinging Sixties. The pair were also the first, and so far only, companions of the Professor to be romantically involved. They followed Professor X into the SARDIT after he said goodbye to Tanni and dealt with XOANON's threat and into the next season.
This is a work of fiction. Professor X never existed and none of the names quoted within (in many cases real actors/writers/etc.) ever worked on this series.
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