Sunday, 29 September 2013
The real Second Coming.
Has there ever been a more significant story since An Unearthly Child? Stories like The War Games may have been game-changers, but this brings Doctor Who back from the wilderness and turns it into a popular and successful prime time show, creating millions of new fans (especially younger ones).
If the McGann movie turned out to be a master-class in how not to bring Doctor Who back, Rose shows how it ought to have been done.
No need whatsoever to bog things down in continuity. No need to make it a regeneration story. US TV techniques may be on show - but the series remains quintessentially British. It will shortly take off in the States without the need to overtly "Americanise" it in any way.
If the various Star Trek incarnations, The X-Files and so forth can tell a good story in 45 minutes, then so can Who.
Cliffhangers we will miss - they'll be reserved for the very occasional two part story. In their place we get the "Next Week..." trailer.
The Autons are a perfect monster to launch the new series - a connection to the past for us older fans, but easily accessible and understandable to a totally new viewer (the name Auton is never actually used on screen).
The new Doctor and his companion hit the ground running (literally). Rose has a home life - a job, boyfriend, and a mum. There is a strong mix of drama and humour - some of the latter a little broad (burping bins, for instance).
Just a few hints as to what the Doctor has been up to since we last saw him. It's suggested that he has only recently regenerated (either that or he has been travelling in the universe of No Mirrors for a while) and we hear mention of some war...
First mention also of the Shadow Proclamation.
There's a little homage to the series' origins - the unseen electrician being called Wilson (after Donald).
Model-maker Mike Tucker links the classic series and the new one.
The Mill aren't entirely new to the series - having worked on The Curse of Fatal Death.
Cardiff pretends to be London for the first time. Later on, Swansea will pretend to be Cardiff...
A few hints regarding the forthcoming Day of the Doctor and Smith's final story to be found in "The Doctor: His Lives and Times" book.
Regarding the former, Moffat suggests there are more than just Zygons in the story. He points out that they just happened to be filmed on location and were seen by the public. He might be referring to the inclusion of the Daleks - if this quote derives from before the Dalek images were released. Robert Banks Stewart is quoted elsewhere as saying that he thought the Cybermen were involved as well.
Moffat also says he does not want the story to be a roll call of the past. It has to win new viewers and to make sure there is a 100th anniversary.
He says: "If you're going to celebrate Doctor Who, you're celebrating the Doctor - well, why not tell his story. What's it like for him? What's it like being him, what defines him, what defines what he is?... What would be the Doctor's most important day, what would be the show that would change him as a person forever, alter the course of his life?"
For me, this is just another intimation that we will be visiting the Last Great Time War, and that the Hurt Doctor is the one who destroys Gallifrey. What else in the Doctor's life could possibly be more significant?
Regarding the Christmas Special, there is one little item I think could be of great significance. There's a children's tale about the creation of the Pandorica on page 228. Whilst the Doctor is described as an evil goblin, the Pandorica is the work of "a good wizard". I.e. a single male character of great power. The Doctor is described often in the book as a magician or wizard. Makes you think that it is possibly a Time Lord. For some time now, there has been a persistent rumour that Omega is behind the whole "Silence will fall" thing. If it does transpire that an old foe is being brought back to be the Big Bad, it can only really be Omega. No other villain would destroy the Universe (because he is the only one known to be outside it).
Even the Black Guardian wants anarchy and chaos in the Universe.
If you watched the (frankly underwhelming) new BBC adventure series Atlantis last night, you will have seen that there is now a (frankly underwhelming) logo and hash-tag for the anniversary story. A behind the scenes shot of Daleks was also released.
A trailer is in post-production - so not just the San Diego Comic Con one reheated.
Nothing else to comment upon this week. Looking ahead to the coming week, tomorrow sees a number of DVD releases. All 8 of the "Monster Collection" sets are out, and so is the final complete story - Terror of the Zygons (unless or until some more lost episodes turn up). Thursday sees the release of the "Essential Guide to 50 Years" book.
Thursday, 26 September 2013
There's quite a lot of new merchandise in the pipe-line for the anniversary. Two items of note today are the third of the Doctor Who figurine collection - the Cyber-Controller - and the new BBC book "The Doctor: His Lives and Times".
The latter, by James Goss and Steve Tribe, has something of the Clayton "I never blink" Hickman "Brilliant Books" about it. Each story is covered by means of (fictitious) miscellaneous peripheral written materials - letters, diaries, postcards and so forth. There's the Doctor's report card from Prydon Academy - through to Winston Churchill writing to Sydney Newman in early 1963 proposing a new TV series...
A lot of stories are covered by newspaper cuttings - such as the police calling off the search for a missing man named Rex Lupton, who lost his job thanks to Magpie Electricals, and was last seen at a Tibetan meditation centre... There are a couple of Radio Times snippets, covering David Attenborough's new series in the Amazon - with Prof. and Mrs Jones.
Each Doctor's era is also covered, factually, by a number of archive interview highlights and some short essays.
It is worth concentrating on the detail. That picture of T-Mat Temptress Gia Kelly on Page 46, for instance. Yes, it's actually CO. This will lead you to look for her other photographic intrusions throughout the Doctor's timeline...
Haven't had a chance to absorb this fully, but initial reaction is that it is a worthwhile purchase (RRP £20, but obviously to be found cheaper on-line).
(If you were planning on buying the "Essential Guide to 50 Years" book, aimed at a younger readership, this has been brought forward to 3rd October, according to Amazon UK).
I must admit I have never been a massive fan of the RTD Cyberman design. The figurine collection gives us the Controller from The Age of Steel - in the shops today, though subscribers got this about two and a half weeks ago. I suspect that, as the collection grows, this one will get pushed further and further towards the back.
Next time it will be a Weeping Angel. So far, so obvious - though they've managed to hold a Dalek (RTD bronze one) back to issue 6. I am really only looking forward to the classic series figures. The initial publicity for this collection did not say what would be released with issue 8. We now know that it will be the Tenth Doctor, from School Reunion.
Also known as "The TV Movie", as it was a movie that was made for TV, but some people don't like that.
The only televised adventure for Paul McGann's Eighth Doctor.
Sole appearance of companion Dr.Grace Holloway and sort-of companion Chang Lee.
Eric Roberts brings the Master to life in a memorable performance.
Last appearance by Sylvester McCoy as the Seventh Doctor, travelling alone now.
The story? The Doctor is given a mission by the Time Lords to collect the mortal remains of his old enemy. The Master has been put on trial by the Daleks and exterminated, and its from Skaro that the Doctor has to pick up what's left.
Master escapes and takes over a human. Doctor gets gunned down by a triad gang in San Francisco, on the eve of the Millennium. Regenerates.
Stops Master stealing his body and future regenerations - as well as causing the TARDIS to suck the planet inside out. TARDIS brings dead companions back to life.
The Doctor is half-human - on his mother's side. This means that any human can open the Eye of Harmony, which is now housed in the TARDIS cloister room.
You can see just from that brief précis why a lot of people struggle to like this. The Americanisation isn't popular, and the apparent romance 'twixt companion and Doctor caused quite an outcry. Some would love to dismiss this in the same way as the Peter Cushing movies - but Sylvester's inclusion makes this all but impossible.
What has tended to happen is that certain controversial aspects have simply been ignored since 2005.
Things might have been worse. There might have been a complete re-boot - with the Doctor being grandson to Rassilon, who sends him off on a quest to find his lost father, Ulysses.
Tuesday, 24 September 2013
The Radio Times has been running a poll recently - trying to identify which programmes make for the perfect night in. Today it was announced that Doctor Who has won the Drama category. Other winners included the legendary comic duo Morecambe & Wise, and Michael Palin's globe-trotting series Around The World in 80 Days.
Of course, my perfect night in would comprise Doctor Who, followed by Doctor Who, followed by...
Monday, 23 September 2013
I was browsing the excellent eyeofhorus.org.uk site today and came across the American version of the 50th anniversary story poster - with added companions. Does look a lot better than the UK version.
Note the "War Begins Again" banner at the top...
Sunday, 22 September 2013
And so the classic series of Doctor Who ended. On the evening of 6th December, 1989, the Doctor and Ace wandered away from Horsenden Hill to continue their travels - but without us.
We didn't know it at the time, but JNT and Andrew Cartmel guessed as much - hence the added speech about people and places made of smoke and song as they walk away from us.
Only those who read the DWM comic and the later novels would know what the Seventh Doctor and Ace got up to next. They're still out there, according to Big Finish. The evidence is all a bit contradictory, however.
Does Ace go off to Gallifrey to be enrolled at the Academy? That's what Cartmel had in mind for her. Did she become a gun-toting, latex clad warrior? Did she die in the Doctor's arms - as the DWM comic had it? Or did she become a powerful business woman who did a lot for charity, as the Sarah Jane Adventures imply? Had SJA continued, there were plans to have her appear.
Ace returns to Perivale, but it is no longer her home. That's the TARDIS now.
Anthony Ainley makes his final appearance as the Master, and fortunately he's back on form.
There will be some more Ainley Master madness, courtesy of a computer game. You can find the scenes on the DVD for this story. They're surreal.
The story certainly sets a template to be used when the series returns in 2005 - in terms of the contemporary (sub)urban background for the companion and as a setting for alien activities.
Friday, 20 September 2013
In which the TARDIS materialises back on Earth, in the woods near the village of Devesham. Sarah knows of this place as she covered a story at the nearby space defence centre. A mission had gone wrong, and astronaut Guy Crayford had been assumed killed when the XK5 rocket was destroyed. The Doctor and Sarah see a UNIT soldier leap to his death in a quarry. The Doctor notes a number of large black pods, and they are then shot at by a group of men wearing white overalls, their faces obscured by helmets. They go to the village and find it apparently deserted. In the local pub, they find all the coins in the till are of the same date. The pages of a calendar are also all of the same day. A lorry pulls up - on the back of which are the missing villagers. They are accompanied by the white suited figures. The villagers file into the bar in silence. As the clock strikes the hour, they suddenly come to life - as though nothing odd has happened. Surprisingly, the dead UNIT soldier is amongst them.
The Doctor goes to the space defence centre and meets Guy Crayford - the man believed to be dead. The white suited figures turn out to be androids - with guns built into their right fore fingers. The Doctor is captured but Sarah frees him. They realise that this village and all its surroundings are fake. The Doctor had earlier noticed a particularly high level of background radiation. They are on the planet Oseidon - home to the belligerent Kraal race. They rescued Crayford when his craft got into trouble, and have used his memories to create the village and its surroundings as part of an elaborate invasion plan. Oseidon is a dying world, spoiled by pollution. Kraal scientist Styggron has developed an army of android replicas which will infiltrate the real village and space defence centre. Crayford believes the Kraals will co-exist with humans, but Styggron plans to have the androids spread a lethal virus before his people arrive. The Doctor encounters android versions of Sarah, Benton and Harry Sullivan. After Sarah left the key in its lock, the TARDIS has travelled onto the real Devesham area on Earth.
The Doctor and Sarah must stowaway aboard the XK5 as Crayford and Styggron take off for Earth. They use the black pods - designed for androids - to travel down to the surface before the ship lands, in order to warn the authorities. The Doctor finds himself battling an android copy of himself. He has the space defence centre's radio dish transmit a signal which deactivates all of the androids. He goes to the XK5 where Crayford has rebelled against Styggron. The Kraal kills him, and appears to shoot the Doctor, before being destroyed by his own virus. It transpires that this was not the real Doctor, but his android duplicate, reprogrammed. The Kraals are forced to abandon their invasion.
This four part adventure was written by Terry Nation (only his second - and last - story not to feature the Daleks) and was broadcast between 22nd November and 13th December, 1975.
The director is Barry Letts, who produced the majority of the Pertwee era. With the inclusion of UNIT and a contemporary Earth setting (albeit a faked one for the first three episodes) the story feels as though it could have easily fitted into that earlier era. The opening episode has a real Emma Peel era Avengers feel to it as well. Many Avengers stories featured strange goings-on in apparently sleepy English villages.
Whoever gave this story its title is a bit of an idiot. Those strange events in the first section offer up a genuine mystery. Why did the UNIT man kill himself, and how could he reappear unscathed? Why does the calendar feature the same day? Why are the coins all brand new and of the same date? How can the popular darts night leave the board unmarked? Why do the villagers all behave so strangely?
Trouble is, the title has already told us that it is all about androids. A more obscure title would have preserved the intrigue a bit longer.
The story marks the final, unsatisfying, end to the UNIT era proper. Harry and Benton make their final appearances. Sadly, they are android replicas of themselves for most of it, and poor Benton (John Levene) is last seen lying unconscious (possibly even dead for all we, the viewers, know) on the floor. Nicholas Courtney proved unavailable to reprise the Brigadier, and his place is taken by Colonel Faraday. He is played by Patrick Newell, most famous for his role as "Mother" in the Tara King era Avengers. Principal guest artist is Milton Johns, as Crayford. Styggron is played by Martin Friend, and his military commander - Chedaki - is Roy Skelton.
Producer Philip Hinchcliffe hated the masks for the Kraals, and they are rather cumbersome and lacking in expression. He rightly pointed out that a rhinoceros was not a good starting point for designing a species capable of the most intricate technological abilities.
Episode endings are:
- Sarah creeps towards the cell where the Doctor is being held. Behind her, a telephone panel opens to reveal a hideous alien face watching her.
- The Doctor struggles with Sarah, knowing she is a duplicate. "Sarah" falls to the ground and her face falls away to reveal electronic components...
- The Doctor and Sarah must get into the android travel pods before the take-off g-forces destroy them...
- The Doctor and Sarah locate the TARDIS in the woods and continue on their travels...
Overall, possibly the weakest story of the Hinchcliffe era. A lot of plot holes and a bit of a throwback to an earlier time for the programme. Biggest gaffe of all is obviously Crayford's eye-patch. Styggron has told him that they couldn't save his left eye - hence the patch. Crayford doesn't know his eye is still there and intact until someone tells him...
Things you might like to know:
- Tom Baker got a throat infection when he filmed the scenes of hiding in the lake. You can hear his husky voice in other scenes filmed afterwards.
- Despite building a model of the XK5, stock footage of a NASA rocket is used to show it taking off.
- The Doctor's longer light grey coat makes its first appearance.
- Harry and Benton are both mentioned in Mawdryn Undead by the Brigadier. Harry is then working at Porton Down (a military research establishment in Wiltshire) whilst Benton has become a used car salesman. Harry will feature in a spin-off novel - Harry Sullivan's War - written by Marter himself as part of a short-lived companions spin-off series. He is last seen in the companion montages in Logopolis and Resurrection of the Daleks. Sarah treasures a picture of him in her attic in the Sarah Jane Adventures - and Harry is suggested as a possible name for her adopted son. As well as writing a number of Target novelisations, Ian Marter collaborated with Tom Baker on an abortive Doctor Who movie. He died in October 1986 after falling into a diabetic coma. Benton returned in an unofficial video spin-off (Wartime) and has just made his first Big Finish appearance.
- From The Kenneth Williams Diaries (Harper Collins 1993, edited by Russell Davies), the entry for Saturday, 29th November reads: "I saw the TV news. 'Dr Who' gets more & more silly...".
- And yes, it is that Russell Davies - writer and broadcaster - who caused our Russell to add a 'T' to his name.
Wednesday, 18 September 2013
The Curse of Fenric.
At the same time that we are being drip-fed the new, darker, Doctor, something else has been going on. There's a story arc - and it isn't necessarily about the Time Lord.
There's more to that arsonist, anti-social brat he picked up on Iceworld than we realised.
At the time, we just accepted that she traveled from present day Perivale to Iceworld thanks to a time-storm which appeared in her bedroom one day. A side effect of mixing up home-made explosives apparently.
Just bad science, most of us thought at the time.
Later, in Silver Nemesis, the Doctor is intrigued about a chess game in progress in Lady Peinforte's study.
Again, most of us didn't think much of this at the time. We also learned of a cut scene in which Ace saw a portrait of herself in Regency dress at Windsor Castle.
We know Ace is a troubled girl - with a deep resentment for her mother - and she has a friend who has been the victim of a hate crime.
Ghostlight fleshes out this back-story a bit more. We find that Ace burned down Gabriel Chase in the 1980's.
With The Curse of Fenric, things are pieced together. Fenric, an ancient evil once beaten by the Doctor through a game of chess, has been manipulating a number of individuals and families through time in order to free itself and exact revenge upon the Doctor. Ace turns out to be one of these pawns.
By sending Kathleen Dudman to stay with her grandmother in South London, Ace creates her own existence. Kathleen's baby, who Ace dotes on, is going to grow up to be the mother she hates.
For the first time, the companion has become the main focus of attention. They're not there just to scream, get into trouble, create jeopardy and make the Doctor look clever and brave.
The new series, from 2005 onward, has followed the same course - leading some fans to actually complain that the Doctor has become second billing in his own series.
I wouldn't go quite that far myself, and we have to accept that the 1960's & '70's representation of the companion just isn't acceptable anymore.
Sunday, 15 September 2013
The actual 25th Anniversary story, the order of season 25 being rearranged so that this could begin its run on the 23rd November, 1988.
Unfortunately it is a bit of a re-run of the same season's Remembrance of the Daleks - with the Doctor manipulating the villains who want to get their hands on an ancient Gallifreyan artifact - one which is then used to destroy them at the resolution of the story.
It is actually nowhere near as good as the former story. Perhaps the Dalek tale ought to have been the anniversary story.
There are also more hints as to some dark secret about the Doctor's true origins. Lady Peinforte knows what this is (from some un-televised adventure).
She is played by Fiona Walker, who appeared in the programme's very first season (as Kala in The Keys of Marinus).
It is amazing how much padding there is in what is only a three episode story, with three different sets of villains running around.
A load of past and present production personnel - and Nicholas Courtney - make up the tour group looking round Windsor Castle.
In hindsight, there is a problem with all these powerful Gallifreyan artifacts. Whilst the Doctor could have come across the living metal, validium, long after he left his homeworld, it is certainly implied that he took the Hand of Omega with him when he first fled the planet. How does this square with the Doctor and Susan not even knowing which TARDIS they were going to steal until the last moment? Can the Hand shrink to a handy pocket size?
The idea that he stocked up the TARDIS with a load of super weapons before setting off on his travels just does not ring true with me.
Friday, 13 September 2013
Remembrance of the Daleks.
Part of the 25th Anniversary celebrations.
At this stage in the programme, the Daleks are only being used sparingly. (Future show-runners please take note). It would transpire that each of the last few Doctors would only meet them once. On each occasion, they would mostly play second fiddle to their creator, Davros.
This story finally seems to free them from him. We have two rival Dalek factions - shades of Evil of the Daleks. The redesign which had featured in the previous Dalek story (Revelation of the Daleks) finally gets a proper outing. The white / gold Daleks are noticeably taller and slimmer.
Of course, as could have been guessed from that particular livery, Davros is still around. He proves to be the Emperor - hiding in what appears to be an homage to the Century 21 Dalek Emperor.
Skaro gets destroyed after the Doctor goads him into using the Omega device without checking it first. Caveat Emperor.
Omega is name checked (it is his Stellar Manipulator that the Daleks are fighting over), and we have references to the very first story (the I.M. Foreman junkyard and the Coal Hill School. Shame the tribute is marred by the misspelling on the gates of the former).
The Doctor implies that he was around at the beginning of the Time Lords' golden age. A cut scene takes it further and has him claim to be more than an ordinary Time Lord.
This is the first flowering of what might have been the "Cartmel Masterplan" - had the series not ended the next year. The Masterplan has since been dismissed as merely a set of ideas.
The Masterplan would have proved a failure had it being followed. Whilst it is good to add new layers of mystery to the Doctor, to have then explained his background fully and tell the audience exactly who and what he is would have simply demystified the character once again - the very thing the writers were trying to address.
Wednesday, 11 September 2013
Interesting image released. John Hurt's position is significant - appearing to be walking away from / out of the Last Great Time War (Gallifreyan symbols and Burning Daleks). But what is a "Bad Wolf" sign doing in amongst it all?
We have reason to believe that the Time War sequence relates to the Fall of Arcadia (which the Doctor has previously said he was present at - and might one day get over). How do we know? Because an extra has stated on his CV that he is playing an "Arcadian Refugee". (He's also playing a UNIT soldier - so the Arcadians might not look human).
Good to see some activity around the Anniversary with today's announcement. I'll comment further once I've had a chance to look properly at the details.
Tuesday, 10 September 2013
From Wales-Online - Matt Smith's wonderful wig. There are a few other pictures that have appeared on Twitter. Filming taking place at some football fields near to where Rose was filmed.
No other news to report these days, so we're reduced to admiring peoples' syrups...
Sunday, 8 September 2013
The Trial of a Time Lord.
Except it's not. Not really.
The longest ever Doctor Who story at 14 episodes.
Unless you count it as 4 separate stories with an overarching link, like the Key to Time season.
The Doctor gains a companion he hasn't even met yet - namely Mel.
Farewell to Robert Holmes.
The troublesome - but productive - relationship between JNT and Eric Saward comes to an end.
The other Season 23 - what might have been had the hiatus not occurred.
Sacking of a Doctor.
Another companion death.
Except it isn't.
Gallifreyan justice is rather odd. We're used to being able to represent yourself in court, but the Doctor here discovers that you can also prosecute yourself. The Valeyard seems to make things up as he goes along. It starts as a tribunal and then turns into a trial halfway through.
Does the Valeyard not get an inkling that his scheme might be doomed when the Doctor presents evidence from his own future? The Matrix is only supposed to predict future events - based on the accumulated knowledge of dead Time Lords. It isn't supposed to show the future in detail.
Parts 1 - 4 (The Mysterious Planet) represent Robert Holmes' last completed story. It will be the final two episodes that will finally snap the already strained relationship between the producer and his script editor. Holmes wanted to end things on a cliffhanger - the Doctor and the Valeyard tumbling into a void, like Holmes and Moriarty at the Reichenbach Falls. JNT felt that it would give the BBC the excuse to end the series. It had only just scraped through a cancellation crisis (the so-called hiatus) and the programme was vulnerable. We lost the chance to see return appearances for the Ice Warriors and the Celestial Toymaker because of this. Planned stories were scrapped, and the episode count reduced to 14. The longest story - but the shortest season.
The introduction of Mel caused a great deal of fuss. Unfortunately most of this was blamed on the performer - which is unfair. The character was badly defined from the start.
Peri's horrifying demise is completely undermined by the preposterous tacked-on happy ending.
The series managed to stay alive - going on to enjoy an Indian Summer of sorts - but for the leading man it was a bitter ending.
"Carrot juice, carrot juice, carrot juice...".
Thursday, 5 September 2013
The Two Doctors.
Another multi-Doctor story, written by Robert Holmes.
The return of Jamie, and the Sontarans.
Lots of significant things going on here, and it is unfortunate that it is such a poor story. Robert Holmes was presented with a "shopping list" of elements which JNT wanted included. As such, he was not writing to his strengths.
In order for this story to make sense, you have to accept that the apocryphal Season 6b exists. The second Doctor is working for the Time Lords, so events here must take place after The War Games. You can read my full views on Season 6b in a previous post.
Troughton had enjoyed his brief reunion with Frazer Hines during the filming of The Five Doctors, and so JNT aimed to reunite them properly once Hines was free from his Emmerdale commitments.
The story was originally supposed to be set - and filmed - in New Orleans, but the budget would not stretch. The Spanish city of Seville took its place as the theme of food was intrinsic to the plot. The new alien race - Androgums - is an anagram of Gourmands. Seville is, apparently, renowned for its cuisine. A bit of a lame excuse to go abroad. JNT just wanted a paid holiday at the expense of the BBC.
The Sontarans make their return after a long absence, and unfortunately a tall actor is chosen to play the lead. So much for "nasty, brutish and short...".
At 3x 45 minute episodes it is unexciting. The Doctors don't actually meet until the final stages. When they do get together, we get some great badinage - which frustrates you that they have been kept apart so long. Troughton is also separated from Hines for much of the story - again defeating the purpose of reuniting them.
The whole Oscar Botcherby sub-plot just feels contrived and tacked on. It's padding.
Proof that multi-Doctor stories are not automatically great ones.
Wednesday, 4 September 2013
A quick mention of some news items.
Firstly, a member of the stunt team has revealed in a tweet that at least one Cyberman will feature in the 2013 Christmas Special. This may simply be a cameo rather than indication that they are the chief villains. It is far more likely that whoever tried to destroy the TARDIS at the end of Series 5 will be the main protagonist(s).
Matt Smith has said that his personal involvement with his final story begins this coming Sunday (8th September) when he starts filming.
Doctor Who failed to win anything at the Hugo Awards.
Lastly, for those who have still to subscribe to the new figurine collection (if not, why not?) a few more forthcoming examples have been revealed by the company - Omega, Rassilon etc. The part-work will actually run through to 2016 and comprise 70 issues. I think we can safely assume that monsters yet to be created will start to be added towards the end of the run.
Tuesday, 3 September 2013
The Five Doctors.
The second big anniversary story, marking the 20th Anniversary.
Another multi-Doctor tale, and one which allowed for appearances by a number of companions and monsters.
The easiest way of bringing different Doctors together was to have the Time Lords involved in some way - and this lead to the return of Borusa (played by yet another actor) as well as the Master.
Originally intended to be scripted by Robert Holmes, the story was written by Terrance Dicks - his only real commission in the JNT era. JNT was very reluctant to bring back any of the older writers, and Eric Saward had had to fight to get Holmes back on the show. Dicks' last story (State of Decay) had only been made because there was a dearth of scripts at the time and this was already on the shelf and good to go, with very little needing to be done to it.
Holmes would have included a fake Doctor - the First - making a feature of the fact that the part had to be recast (Richard Hurndall taking Hartnell's place).
A clip of Hartnell from The Dalek Invasion of Earth is seen at the start - a nice touch but one that reinforces he's being "copied" by someone else for the rest of the drama.
Tom Baker played the hokey-cokey for a while (in, out, in, out etc), before deciding against returning. Material from the unfinished Shada enabled him to be included.
The Doctor-Companion pairings had to be changed about when Tom withdrew. Troughton was to have been paired with Jamie - but Frazer Hines could not get time off from Emmerdale Farm. Sarah would have been paired with Tom, but she moved to Jon Pertwee, and the Brigadier moved from Pertwee to Troughton.
Hines was able to attend for one day, so appeared in a cameo as one of the Tower's "ghosts" - alongside Liz, Yates, and Zoe.
K9 appears briefly with Sarah - "canonising" K9 & Company.
Returning monsters included a Dalek (in what is little more than another cameo), Cybermen and a Yeti. (Pertwee was originally supposed to have encountered Autons instead of Cybermen, in a high street mock-up which was part of The Game of Rassilon).
As such, this marks the Third Doctor's only meeting with the Cybermen.
A fair bit of new Time Lord mythology is unveiled - mainly revolving around the Dark Times of Rassilon's era.
Is Rassilon dead? The body is lying there but he appears as an image which can interact with those around him. He will be resurrected by the Time Lords to lead them in the Last Great Time War.
The regeneration limit can be exceeded, as the Master is offered a whole new regenerative cycle should he help save the Doctor.
Immortality is also possible - though in the form of perpetual imprisonment. That's how Rassilon chooses to use it, but can it be given in other, more benign, ways?
Other items of significance include the duration of the episode - the longest ever - and the fact that this was the first time a story had debuted outside the UK. The US saw it on the 23rd November 1983 but the British transmission was held back so that it could form part of the BBC's Children In Need telethon.
The novelisation of this story actually hit the shops prior to transmission.
Monday, 2 September 2013
In news sure to shock people who are quite easily shocked, it has been revealed that Premier David Cameron and President Barack Obama are going to jointly announce that the months of the year are to be renamed after the Doctors.
A spokesman said (allegedly): "We need to get the Special Relationship back on track. We thought about waiting for Scotland to become independent then invading it, but that might meet with too much consumer resistance. Casting about, we realised that the calendar has been a mess for centuries. How can the tenth month be called October - which my nephew tells me is latin for 8? You've got latin numbers, Roman emperors and Roman gods. It's a mess, and we've got to sort it out. Now that there are 12 Doctors, and to celebrate the 50th Anniversary, we will be putting forward a special resolution at the UN to have the months renamed".
This supersedes the previously announced announcement that the months were to be lengthened and cut to seven - to be named after the seven dwarves. This was felt to be a bit too Disney and might not go down well anywhere that wasn't in America. No-one wanted a birthday in Dopey...
From 2014, we will now be celebrating the New Year on the 1st of Hartnell. Valentine's Day will be celebrated on 14th of Troughton. Independence Day will fall on the 4th of McCoy. You can shoot grouse from the 12th of McGann. Christmas Day will be 25th of Capaldi.
Personally, I will look forward to celebrating my birthday on the 4th of Pertwee...
Sunday, 1 September 2013
The return of the Brigadier - except, of course, it wasn't supposed to be. He might know how many beans make five, but the idea of the Brigadier teaching just doesn't sit right.
The school setting was intended for the return of William Russell as Ian Chesterton. Season 20 being a big anniversary year, a link to the origins of the programme would have been far more appropriate and satisfying.
Russell was unavailable in the end, so Nicholas Courtney was called in.
Instead of a montage of clips featuring Zarbi, Mechonoids and Voord, we instead get to see some of the monsters encountered by the Brigadier as he regains his memory.
The story is famous for its contribution to the UNIT dating controversy. Up to this point, barring the odd calendar in shot or car registration, the UNIT stories could be placed a couple of years into the future. Had Ian been the returning character, this would have continued to be the case.
However, having the Brigadier already retired by 1977 threw a big spanner into the works. The controversy has only recently been finally put to bed with the Doctor placing the events of The Web of Fear in 1967 (in The Snowmen).
This story also marks the return of the Black Guardian (last seen in part six of The Armageddon Factor) - again played by Valentine Dyall. It forms the beginning of a trilogy involving the Guardian and new alien companion Turlough.
The story is also significant for containing one of most appallingly awful pieces of incidental music ever heard in the show. You know the bit I'm talking about - with the car at the beginning. Dreadful. Shame they couldn't have fixed that on the CGI enhanced version on the DVD...
The first day of September already. An autumn month - though the weather in London doesn't seem to realise so, fortunately. Less than three months to the Anniversary Special and An Adventure In Time And Space.
We discovered this week that BBC3 will be joining the celebrations with a clip show. Yes, all expense is being spared. These programmes are the cheapest thing going, and are invariably rubbish. A group of C- to Z-List celebrities who have no connection whatsoever to the programme are shown some clips and are then filmed commenting on what they have viewed - usually edited to make it look as though they know what they are talking about. In general, the people who take part just want to get their face on TV and care most about their own dwindling popularity through the exposure of being connected to something successful. Expect lots of struggling stand-up "comedians" who you won't see again - until another clip show.
In better news, I posted the other day about the new figurine collection. I am rather impressed with this, and promise I own no shares in the company. Issue 2 on the 12th September will have the Julian Bleach Davros, followed by the Lumic Cyber-Controller in Issue 3 (not a Cyberman as I originally thought) and a Weeping Angel in Issue 4.
Monday saw the release of The Ice Warriors. Just a word on the animation of episodes 2 & 3. The direction is nowhere near as distracting as that done for The Reign of Terror, and the faces are well done, but the limb movement is rather amateurish. The stars of the show - the Ice Warriors themselves - are realised in a very rudimentary fashion.
As I suspected last week, The Moonbase has now been pushed back to 2014.
Also on Monday we got to see the Doctor Who Prom on BBC1. Rather than simply present edited highlights, there were several interviews and other back stage items. This did mean that quite a lot of music was cut, plus most of the Madam Vastra / Strax introductions, which is a shame. I'm particularly surprised the specially written anniversary piece was not included. Always nice to see the monsters terrorising the audience. The Ice Warrior was more impressive in this than he was in Cold War...
Two guest artists passed away recently. Gerard Murphy played Richard Maynarde in Silver Nemesis. He was 64.
Christopher Burgess was one of Barry Letts' repertoire of favourite actors, first appearing in Doctor Who in The Enemy of the World (as Swann), then returning as Professor Philips in Terror of the Autons, and then Lupton's friend Barnes in Planet of the Spiders. He was 86.
Looking ahead to the coming week, there is a good chance that filming will begin on the 2013 Christmas Special - Smith's finale. Guest artists might start to emerge. Yesterday, there was a suggestion that Ian McNiece would be reprising Winston Churchill. A tweet implied this but was quickly withdrawn - either because it was erroneous or because it was a spoiler. Personally, I think it makes sense for River, the Paternoster Gang and Churchill to feature in Smith's final story, if only in a cameo.