Monday 30 April 2012

Every Dalek Ever!

DWM's Facebook page has the cover for issue 447 (due Thursday 3rd May - though last month's was annoyingly a day late in Central London). Relates to the opening story of the next series obviously. Looks like they really have covered all eras of Dalek history - and we haven't seen the other half of the cover yet.

Spoke Too Soon...

Posted yesterday about the old DVD release schedule, then find out today that some more titles are being advertised at some on-line retailers.
As expected, The Krotons arrive in July (2nd), followed by The Greatest Show in the Galaxy on 30th of the same month. This does surprise as I am sure it wasn't originally in the 2012 schedule. 20th August sees the release of  Planet of Giants. This latter was originally a 4 episode story, and was edited down to 3 episodes. I have read somewhere that there may be an audio version as a DVD Extra of what the 4 part version would have been (with current actors doing the voices of those no longer with us). I assume it was edited down for good reason, so may be something you listen to once out of curiosity then ignore ever after.

Sunday 29 April 2012

The Shape of DVDs to Come

I don't buy a lot of merchandise. Mainly because there is now so much of it that I simply couldn't afford a fraction of it. I don't buy the BF audios, or the BBC books.
I will buy non-fiction books though - such as the Encyclopaedia and the Brilliant Books of  2011 & 12.(Shame there won't be one this year unless it has about 3 episodes worth of stuff in it).
I have bought every issue of Doctor Who Magazine  since it was humble Doctor Who Weekly in 1979.
I have only a handful of Character Options 7 inch figures (a Tennant, a Zygon, a Sea Devil, the first Dalek collection and the first Cybermen collection).
I don't plan on buying any more - except when they finally get round to doing a Rory figure. Not sure I will purchase all the body-warmer variants though...

Something else I have always bought are the Classic DVDs. How can you possibly call yourself a fan if you don't actually go out and buy the episodes - to watch as often as you like?
I owned every VHS version, and have been slowly replacing these over the years with the shiny DVD releases.
As we near the 50th Anniversary, so we near the end of the DVD release schedule. I am sure that there will be more Special Editions / Revisitations box sets, but 2013 should see the final stories being issued. (At least we were promised that everything would be out by 2013, but I have seen recent signs of backtracking in some interviews. This may be due to the time and cost of completing the stories which are incomplete in some way).
Of course, the releases might continue for a while - if missing episodes continue to pop up as they do once every 10 years or so.

So what is still left to be released?
The next UK release on 7th May is the Ace Box Set - comprising Dragonfire and The Happiness Patrol. Then on 18th June comes Death to the Daleks. Next after that, sometime in July, should be The Krotons (it has had its extras passed by the BBFC, and the American DVD cover is already to be found if you Google Image it).
Thereafter, things are less certain. Releases promised for 2012 include:

                                                               The Planet of Giants

                                            The Reign of Terror (with animated parts 4 & 5)

                                                 A Special Edition of Vengeance on Varos

             The incomplete Shada, packaged with the More Than 30 Years in the Tardis documentary.

That will leave the following for 2013 - or later if any missing episodes need to be animated, or missing colour restored.

                                                     The Mind of Evil (requires colouring)

                                           The Ambassadors of Death (requires colouring)

                                              The Tenth Planet (Episode 4 famously missing)

                              The Ice Warriors (Episodes 2 & 3 not quite so famously missing)

                                                     The Greatest Show In The Galaxy

                                            Terror of the Zygons (CGI Skarasen please, Santa)

WE also have to consider the release of the two episodes that were found back in December - Episode 3 of Galaxy 4 (Airlock) and Episode 2 of The Underwater Menace. Unless an updated "Lost in Time" set is being planned, these episodes will need to find a home on one of the above releases. There is no mention of Underwater Menace 2 as an extra on The Krotons release, so we can safely assume it might find its way onto The Ice Warriors. Airlock has a choice of 3 releases to go with. Probably not the animated Reign of Terror, or the sure to be animated The Tenth Planet - so possibly Planet of Giants?

If not on one of these releases, there could still be a miscellaneous DVD collection of all the bits left over from other releases - comedy sketches, news items, home movie footage etc. A couple of proper episodes would make this more commercially viable.

After all this time, I look forward to finally completing the collection. I do not look forward to the day when a new format comes along that means they start the whole blooming process all over again...

Monday 23 April 2012

What's in a name...?

If there is one thing that Doctor Who fans love to do - and we're very good at it - it's debate. And argue - in a nice way, mostly. We can find many things to argue about. For instance, a programme as long-lived as ours, with so many changes in production crew, is sure to throw up a whole host of continuity issues which we must try to accommodate / rationalise if we are to remain sane.
We debate the UNIT  Dating issue; Dalek Continuity; Cybermen Continuity; the definition of what makes someone a fully fledged companion; Canonicity; "Season 6b"; how many regenerations a Time Lord can have; was the 200th story really the 200th? and many, many more. I will have my own say about most of these issues at some point.

One area which you would think would be straightforward is the naming of different stories, and I think I need to address this myself at this stage before I proceed with these musings - as I have already referred to a few story titles.
For those relatively new to Classic Who (as the the pre-Russell T Davies version is often called - and there is debate over that as well) I will explain.
When the programme first started, right through to the tail-end of William Hartnell's tenure, each episode of Doctor Who had its own on screen title - beginning with "An Unearthly Child".

Each story, for the most part, led directly into the next, so it was like one continuous adventure. However, groups of consecutive episodes formed distinct stories, with their own writers, who were commissioned to write their 3, 4, 5 or whatever number of episodes as a single storyline. Some stories have always been trouble free - everyone agreeing from the start what it could be called. But others have been more problematic - mainly due to the fact that neither the writer nor the production team ever really agreed a collective name for the episodes at the time - and often called it different things on different documents.

The troubles start right with the first story. This is generally accepted as a 4 part story written by Anthony Coburn and mainly dealing with a prehistoric tribe's quest for fire.The first episode, which pretty much stands apart from the following three, is called "An Unearthly Child" and this is often taken to be the title for the whole story. Indeed it is the one used on both the VHS and DVD releases, and so I am also going to use it. Other titles are "The Cavemen", "The Tribe of Gumm" and "100,000 BC". Take your pick.
Things get even more confusing with the next story - Terry Nation's 7 part Dalek story. I go with calling it "The Daleks" - again it is the one chosen for BBC VHS and DVD releases. More popular in some quarters is "The Mutants". It probably should be called this - but there is a Third Doctor story with this name and I find it too confusing to cope with that. Others refer to it by the first episode title "The Dead Planet". This only works for that episode however, as we quickly learn the planet isn't exactly devoid of life.
The third story I call "The Edge of Destruction" - again I am following the VHS / DVD release titles, and it is a better title than the other most commonly used one of "Inside the Spaceship" - which is a bit dull don't you think?

Things quieten down a bit after this opening trilogy. We have "Marco Polo" - though some like to call it "A Journey to Cathay", followed by "The Keys of Marinus", "The Aztecs" and "The Sensorites". No argument about the latter three. "The Reign of Terror" has also been called "The French Revolution".
Next up are all problem free - "The Planet of Giants", "The Dalek Invasion of Earth", "The Rescue", "The Romans" and "The Web Planet". After that we have "The Lionheart" or "The Crusade" as I prefer.
This is followed by "The Space Museum", "The Chase" (sometimes called "The Executioners"), "The Time Meddler" and "Galaxy 4".
These are followed by a single episode story which has the on screen title of "Mission to the Unknown". You'd expect that one to be trouble free, but if so, you'd be wrong. In production terms it was sometimes referred to as "Dalek Cutaway" - i.e. an episode cutting away from the main narrative to act as a prequel to the 12 part Dalek story to come. Now there is no way that this was ever supposed to be its title but because it is on a piece of paper in the BBC archives, some idiots hold to it.
The next story goes by "The Trojan War" and "The Myth Makers". That 12 part Dalek story is known as "The Daleks' Master Plan" though some people drop the s'.
We are now on the home straight. Next up is "The Massacre" which some know by the fuller title "The Massacre of St Bartholomew's Eve". Then we have "The Ark", "The Celestial Toymaker" and "The Gunfighters". Episode 4 of the latter, "The O.K. Corral", is the last time we see an individual episode title until the RTD era, as the following week we had Episode 1 of "The Savages". Whilst the "Next Episode" (see below) called it "Dr Who and the Savages", when Episode 1 rolled round it was just "The Savages".

Name problems didn't entirely go away, however. The second Third Doctor story - "The Silurians" - should technically be called "Doctor Who and the Silurians", for that was what appeared on screen for all 7 episodes. Most agree this was a mistake and not intended, so most don't use the full title.

There is also a lot of debate about the 14 part "Trial of a Time Lord". The four sections (split by writer and plot elements) of Season 23 have been given individual story titles - for their novelisations for instance. The first part is generally accepted as "The Mysterious Planet", and the next "Mindwarp". I personally think the third part is called "Terror of the Vervoids", but some hold with "The Ultimate Foe". Others use this latter title for the final two episodes, whilst others give those the title of "Time Inc."  It only really matters if you think it is one long story, or four separate stories making up a season arc.

The last bone of contention goes to the 1996 Paul McGann movie. Everything around that production is contentious, and it really needs a few posts of its own to sort out - so I won't go there just now.

So there you go - I've said which titles I'm going to use and why. They might not be as the purist might use, but I'm comfortable with them.

Sunday 22 April 2012

Big Five-O Part 2

If I don't want to see a multi-Doctor story for the anniversary, what might I want?
Well, if an episode is to really encompass all 50 years of the programme, there are only a couple of constants that can be called upon: The Doctor, the TARDIS, the Daleks and the Companions.
Now a story set entirely, or almost entirely, within the TARDIS has already been done. Inside the Spaceship (aka The Edge of Destruction) in 1964, and The Doctor's Wife in 2011.
The Daleks are coming back in the Autumn anyway - and with representatives of their different eras. (It might be like their own little 50th anniversary story). They have missed only a few years of the programme's broadcast, so what could you really do with them that would be all that special?
No, I would opt for a Companion-themed special. There are representatives still with us, and still working, that cover all the Doctors.
We still have Ian, Susan, Vicki, Steven, Polly, Jamie, Victoria, Zoe, Liz, Jo, Captain Yates, Sergeant Benton, Leela (if she escaped the Time War), Romanas 1 & 2, K9, Tegan, Nyssa, Turlough, Peri, Mel, Ace, Rose, Captain Jack, Martha, Donna & Wilf. (Let's see how Episode 5 turns out to see whether either of the Ponds will be around as well). And of course there will be this (as yet unnamed) one:

A sample of these could be involved, covering the different eras.
On a couple of the DVD commentaries, Peter Purves has said he would have liked to have done a story where the Doctor went back to see how he was getting on running the Savages / Elders planet - and he discovered that he had turned into a tyrant. So, imagine a story where the Doctor revisited some old companions and found that their lives had not been enriched through travelling with him, where his involvement had actually made them worse off. Of course, this would all be some kind of alternate reality - say created by the Dream Lord - to break his spirit - and all would of course turn out right in the end.
This would also get us away from the inevitable timey-wimey sort of story which is normally employed to allow different eras to meet.
That's the sort of special episode I wouldn't mind watching.

Sunday 15 April 2012

Multi-Doctor Stories

Apparently, the vast majority of fans want to see a multi-Doctor story for the 50th Anniversary. Personally, I do not. I would prefer something really special - something new and unique.
To date we have had The Three Doctors, The Five Doctors, The Two Doctors and the Children In Need short Time Crash. And the truly abysmal Dimensions In Time of course. But that's not canon - phew!
The latter does however demonstrate how terrible it can be just to chuck everyone into an episode without bothering to have a decent storyline.
With three of the original Doctors now dead, how would you go about achieving an Eleven Doctors? Recast? Use clips? CGI? How much screen time (and plot share) would each get? The scrapped Dark Dimensions partly foundered due to the allocation of screen time amongst the surviving Doctors. What would it be like to watch much older versions of favourite Doctors on screen for a mere handful of minutes each? Time has not been kind to all, I am afraid to say.
What if you simply left out the first three Doctors? It would hardly be a celebration of the whole 50 years of the programme to have only some Doctors and not others. A return of David Tennant on his own would be to only acknowledge the last 6 years, not 50. And a return for Paul McGann would only take the story back to 1996 (though I would like to see him get a return appearance at some point).
I found The Two Doctors really rather dull and over long. I am not alone in this, and I have great company. Both Eric Saward and Robert Holmes are on record as saying they didn't much care for it. It was a shopping list of elements from John Nathan-Turner, which poor Bob had to shoehorn into a script, then drag out to the equivalent of an old 6 parter. A wasted return for Patrick Troughton and Frazer Hines.
So, sorry - but no vote for a multi-Doctor story from me. They may be big, but they're not always clever.


I earlier mentioned that I did not intend this to be a Spoiler Blog, so perhaps I ought to define what I regard to be a spoiler, and why I dislike them.
The fact that the Daleks were coming back this year (and the Weeping Angels) was revealed at the Official BBC Convention, and printed in the Official Doctor Who Magazine a couple of weeks later. This is therefore common knowledge and in the public domain. That Episode 5 will be Amy & Rory's last - and the one featuring the Angels - was similarly revealed in the same manner.
That Daleks from all eras were going to be appearing in Episode 1 was confirmed in a tweet from Steven Moffat, with a photo of a 60's Dalek.
This week the crew have been in New York, filming in Central Park amongst other locations - very public locations at that. Again, a NY shoot was revealed both at the Convention and in the pages of DWM. There are quite a few pictures such as this one doing the rounds:

Nothing particularly spoiler-y as you can see. It would have been different if an unannounced guest star / character / monster was in the frame, but all the pics I've seen show just the 3 regulars. No pictures of Rory with a spear through him or getting shot / blown up.
Would it be spoiler-y for me to say that River Song will also be in Episode 5? It hasn't been announced anywhere officially. However, I simply can't see her not being in mum and dad's final adventure. Alex Kingston wasn't seen in NY, but then again neither were the Angels, so the key scenes (the potential spoilers) are being recorded in studio or in an enclosed location - which is great for those of us who want to sit down in October / November and watch the drama unfold.
Knowing a monster or character is going to be in an episode, or that the Doctor will be regenerating at the end, doesn't necessarily spoil my enjoyment of an episode. I still want to see how they will be included, how an event comes about. It is the storytelling that I want to remain a mystery until broadcast.
Who are the worst spoilers of the lot? Why the BBC themselves of course. The news of Chris Eccleston's resignation was poorly handled by the BBC, who obviously hadn't reckoned on the programme's massive and instant popularity. He had only been on screen 5 minutes when we learned he had quit.
Do you remember this RT cover?

Issued on the Tuesdays before the programme was broadcast. "Don't worry, it's not like we're giving away the cliffhanger" said the Beeb. What was the cliffhanger to The Daleks in Manhatten? Why, the big reveal of Dalek-Human Hybrid Sec of course.
Now I don't know what the cover did for RT's sales, but as an attempt to get more people watching it was a complete failure. Nearly 2 million less people watched this episode than had watched Gridlock the week before.
Then there are the programme personnel who leak stuff to the press / internet. And they can only be production staff as some of the images seem to come from within the studios themselves. I remember seeing Davros' tunic hanging on a rail in one picture. This wasn't likely to have been taken by a passing member of the public. Only someone with access to Wardrobe could have taken it. Then there was this image:

We now know it is a capture from the video marking David Tennant's departure from the show - cast and crew miming to The Proclaimers' "500 Miles". It gave away that the Master was coming back, and that Timothy Dalton was not only guesting but would be playing a Time Lord (who were all supposed to be dead)! Major spoiler. Again, this video was not in the public domain at the time. Someone within the BBC had to have leaked it.
Tabloids often quote an "insider" when they reveal a future plot point. Sometimes these reveals are utter nonsense (David Jason as the Master, and an Auton replica of David Beckham from Mme Tussauds leading an attack on Downing Street in Series 1. I kid you not). However, a lot of the time they do prove to be genuine plot points.
Last year The Girl Who Waited was being rumoured to be called "The Green Anchor". The writer has claimed his story was never once called that, so where did the name come from? Well of course the (largely) studio bound story featured Red Waterfall and Green Anchor symbols. Yet again, someone associated with the production must have blabbed.
Back in the 1980's, when the internet was a much smaller (and saner) place, John Nathan-Turner used to put fictitious episode titles on his noticeboard to see if they would be leaked and maybe work out who the culprit might be, so spoilers are not a new phenomenon by any means. (One of the titles he used was The Doctor's Wife. Silly name for a story...).
So, if you really want to appreciate and enjoy the forthcoming new stories as they unfold this Autumn, stay clear of about three quarters of the internet and don't keep taking the tabloids.

Saturday 14 April 2012

I spent all morning looking for an Ood...

Silurians everywhere and not an Ood in sight. Until I stopped off for a coffee...
I was reminded tonight of something rather nice that happened to me at the convention. I met up with my good friend Mark, who I haven't seen for while, intending to see a Radio 4 recording with the writer David Nobbs.
Who he? some of you may say.
I will say only two words: Reginald. Iolanthe. Perrin.
Now I didn't get where I am today by knowing that this is actually three words. Neither Mrs C.J. nor I  got where we are today by knowing that this is actually three words...
Yes, I was about to see one of Britain's greatest comedy writers - the creator of Reggie Perrin.
But I hadn't reckoned on BBC ticketing protocols - remit of a fairly secret army...
I assumed that if it said "Doors Open 7.15pm", I could safely turn up about 7pm. You would, wouldn't you?
NO! If you want to see a BBC TV or radio recording , apparently, you need to turn up about 2.30am, with a sleeping bag and a thermos. Two weeks before.
Now my good friend Mark (he will henceforth be known on this blog as "My good friend Mark") , who knows the secret machinations of BBC ticket protocols, turned up on time and could have gone in on his own, leaving me to languish in a nearby hostelry.
Yes, I could have just about survived 2 hours of being in a pub on my own. It would have been absolute torture, and I would have truly suffered (cough...ahem...) but I'm sure I could have survived the experience...
But no - "My good friend Mark"(TM) elected to give up his place so he could join me in the pub instead of going in on his own - and leaving me on my todd for a couple of hours.
There was a sizeable queue for Standbys - mostly couples who didn't want a single ticket - but he found one individual who, thanks to his (Mark's) unselfishness, got to experience something which he probably thought he had lost out on just few minutes before.
Basically, Mark made 2 people happy - at his own cost.
Me and that chap.
And this is what got me thinking about Oods.
In booking extras for the convention I inadvertently bought an "Ood Arthur Darvill Autograph", when what I really wanted was a "Silurian Arthur Darvill Photo". (BBC Conventions please note for next time - allow for people with hangovers to successfully navigate your web page...)
I only realised the mistake very late and I did manage to secure my Rory / Me picture, so I didn't bother to get a refund.
I took the ticket with me to Cardiff, intending to give it away.
At the convention, I hunted for an Ood (they were few and far between) but eventually there was a young man in the queue for coffee before me.

ME: "Excuse me, I see you're an Ood. I'm a Silurian - naturally. Have you booked an autograph with Arthur Darvill?"
OOD: "No" - uttered in the tones of someone who is convinced he is being eyed up by a serial killer.
ME: "Would you like one? - I got it by accident - so it's free".
OOD: "Well... yes..." Still convinced he is soon about to die, horribly.
ME: "Honestly, it's yours if you want it. I bought it by mistake and I'd like it to go to someone who'll appreciate it".
I fumble about in my bag - he obviously expects a a large hunting knife or similar to be produced.
The piece of paper emerges and gets handed over. He visibly relaxes, realising he has not been approached by a mad murderer, just a fellow fan who is a bit mad only.
ME: "Enjoy".
OOD (out of my earshot, to friends): "Some weird guy at the coffee stand just gave me a free autograph with Rory! Result!. Mind you, he did look a bit like that serial killer...". (Spends rest of convention constantly looking  over his shoulder...).

And the point of this? Two instances of someone giving something away. Something they could have simply kept and used and enjoyed themselves. But they didn't. Little unselfish acts. They aren't totally altruistic, of course. You are allowed to be a bit selfish and self-satisfied occasionally - but only if you already have it in yourself to be just that little bit unselfish.
And isn't that just bit Doctor-ish as well?

Wednesday 11 April 2012

The Eleven Doctors

Did I mention I have my own TARDIS? Not as good as the Doctor's - its smaller on the inside for a start - but it gets me where (and when) I need to be. I popped forward to 23rd November 2013 so I could tell you all about the 50th Anniversary Special.
I can't say I was too impressed. Trying to cram all 11 Doctors into a 90 minute programme led to the previous incarnations having not much more than a walk-on part. The casting of Dr Alan Chapman as the First Doctor was inspired from a look alike point of view -

but he is not an actor. David Troughton was uncannily like his dad, both physically and vocally, but Sean Pertwee in a white bouffant wig struggled to capture the essence of the Third Doctor and just looked embarrassed for the 2 minutes he was on screen. His Venusian Aikido scene with the Drahvins was one of the highlights for me, however.
The revelation that the Master was not the Doctor's brother but rather his sister came as a complete surprise. Miranda Hart gave a suitably sinister performance. I'm not sure having the Daleks, Cybermen, Ice Warriors, Zygons, Autons and the Abzorbaloff all in one story was very clever either. Each appeared for only about 30 seconds apiece before being blown up (by Danny Hargreaves, of course). The aliens' plan to hollow out the Moon and replace the core with an atomic motor in order to crash it into Big Ben and so save both Mondas and Skaro from being destroyed thus altering time so that the Doctor would sleep in and miss the Time War was just so predictable. It was virtually a remake of the 2012 Xmas Special, except without the Skarasen eating Edinburgh Castle.
And then there was the regeneration. Matt Smith's final moments brought a tear to the eye, as he got blown up (by Danny Hargreaves, of course). The BBC managed to keep the casting of the 12th Doctor so closely under wraps that the reveal of ... But that would be spoiling things for you.

Tuesday 10 April 2012

The Big Five-O

Received an e-mail from the BBC today thanking all the Convention goers. There was a link to sign up to a newsletter giving the heads up on future events. This got me thinking about the 50th Anniversary year. What might we expect?

  • Another convention. I think this year's may have been in part a dry run for something next year. Perhaps a whole weekend and covering earlier eras?
  • Something for the kids - along the lines of the Live event last year.
  • Something musical. Could be a concert such as the Cardiff one back in 2006, or another Prom. Personally I would like to see a touring concert - taking in Glasgow, Belfast, Newcastle etc. - not just a London / Cardiff event. The programme is a national institution after all.
  • A decent documentary.
  • A drama such as the "Road to Coronation Street" which was screened on BBC4 for Corrie's 60th. Get either Mark Gatiss or Gareth Roberts to write it.
  • The ultimate coffee table book. (Would probably be so big you could put bricks under it and turn it into the ultimate coffee table).
  • And of course the anniversary special episode. My thoughts on that shortly...

Saturday 7 April 2012

Inside the Spaceship

My TARDIS tour, on Monday 26th March 2012. After the costs of the Convention ticket, photos, hotel and travel, it was nice to see that this was free. I was booked on the 10.15am tour. A coach collected us from outside the Millennium Centre, and we were escorted by enthusiastic BBC staff. Unfortunately it was a school coach, so the leg room was minimal to say the least. The journey to Upper Boat was mercifully brief (about half an hour or so). The TARDIS set is still here, shortly to be moved to the new studio complex in Cardiff Bay - a stone's throw from where the permanent Doctor Who Experience is being put together. There were about 55 of us so we were split into 2 groups. The first group went into the studio first, whilst the rest of us waited in the Blue Box Cafe and had a cuppa and a chat. We then swapped over. Time on set was just about half an hour.
It's one thing to visit a reconstruction of the TARDIS such as at the Experience, but this was the real thing, where Matt, Karen and Arthur - and many great guest starts - have worked for the last 2 years.

You climb up a wooden staircase and in through the familiar blue Police Box doors. The first thing you notice is how relatively small it is. Just shows what a great Director of Photography can achieve. The opening where the cameras normally have access has been replaced with the "New Wall" - which we were told about at the Convention. It is a coral-y, spider web design, totally different to the familiar coppery surfaces. You can just see it on the left in the photo below. We were allowed free rein, including manhandling the ship's controls. I particularly loved the pinball mechanism.

The amount of detail on the control console is incredible - see my Blog Title background image above. I even spotted a component made by Magpie Electricals.

Everyone got their photograph taken standing at the doorway. The crew certainly were "Here To Help" as it said on their T-shirts.

The time flew by, and suddenly it was time to go. The next coachload was arriving. A brilliant end to a fantastic weekend. I'm sure that, with the 50th Anniversary coming up, there will be a similar event next year. I shall be first in the queue if there is.

Friday 6 April 2012

DWM 446

Just a couple of new things about series 7 in the new DWM. Episode 2 is titled "Spoiler On A Spoiler". (We already knew from Moffat that Episode 1 was "Something of the Somethings" and as it's full of Daleks I'll hazard a guess that it will be "Something of the Daleks").
Episode 4 is also written by Chris Chibnall. And the rumour about Mark Williams playing Rory's dad, Brian, has now been confirmed. (The body warmer was always a giveaway, and his on-line CV gave his character the same surname as Rory so not unexpected).
There is also a great interview with Turlough himself, Mark Strickson - which I only mention as today is his birthday. So, many happy returns Mark!

And there was the Third Doctor, having a fag...

My Convention experience. I've said before that this was my first one. I can't say quite why I've never been interested in others before. Possibly all the forced socialising that goes on afterwards. Or the rather tired stories from the guests - eye patch jokes and Debbie Watling's knickers. The cosplay (God preserve us from cosplayers).
This was going to be different. A one day event focussing on the current series and with participation from all the key cast and crew, so a lot more professional and focussed than the usual events.
I elected to go for the Sunday, purely as it fitted my work pattern. I knew both days had near identical line-ups.
As the event was quite pricey, and entailed hotel accommodation as well, I travelled to Cardiff on the Saturday by coach (£10 return and only 3 and a bit hours). I had picked a hotel very close to the venue, so had the Bay and all its cafes and bars close at hand. If you've never visited, I would heartily recommend for a weekend break. The weather was fortunately sunny and warm. After booking in to the hotel I went for a walk past the Millennium Centre towards the bay front. I saw a few people with Convention tote bags leaving the building - as well as thatThird Doctor having that fag. Murray Gold's music was blaring across the Plas from speakers placed outside the venue doors.
 At a table opposite me, when I was having a bite to eat, there was a couple with a young son. He was dressed as the Eleventh and wielding a noisy sonic screwdriver throughout the meal. Still spotting the tote bags being carried everywhere I rounded off the evening with a couple of pints outside a bar close to the Bosphorous Restaurant (which featured prominently in Boomtown). Couldn't get too drunk. Big day ahead and we were losing an hour due to the clocks going forward that night.
On leaving the hotel Sunday morning I followed a River Song and an Amy Pond out the door. Didn't have to queue long to enter the Millennium Centre and be given my own tote bag. Included were a lanyard, booklet, ticket, and a copy of the Series 5 Volume 1 DVD. This latter seemed a little pointless as I don't think there would be many people paying £99 per head who didn't already own this or the Series box set.
There were 2 streams - Silurian and Ood - which dictated what order you accessed the formal panels in the main hall. I was a Silurian.
My first port of call was the costume and prop display. Props were various incarnations of sonics and a few weapons. I was glad to see some older costumes - Varga the Ice Warrior and some Deadly Assassin Time Lords. Others were: Slitheen, Sycorax leader, Pig Slave, Scarecrow, Cyberman, Cybercontroller, Weeping Angels, Peg Doll and Peg Soldier, Silents, Davros, Astronaut and Information Node from Silence in the Library story, Heavenly Host, Smiler, Wooden King and Queen and a Silurian. Bizarrely, there were no Daleks. Maybe they couldn't get them up the stairs... Non monster costumes included the 3 recent Doctors, all the recent companions and characters such as Liz 10 and Senora Calvierri. K9 was sitting beside the Matt Smith TARDIS, and an earlier version was also on view next to the Time Lords.

My first panel was the cast one - Matt, Arthur and Karen alongside Steven Moffat. They were interviewed by  BBC Wales' Jason Mohammed who has played himself in several stories. Questions were thrown open to the audience. These were mostly attempts to gain spoilers about the upcoming episodes or the 50th anniversary. Moffat kept schtum - "Ask me something I can answer" he pleaded. He has a fine line in sarcasm, does Mr Moffat, which he demonstrated when someone asked why the programme couldn't be filmed in Scotland. (It kind of looks a bit like Wales if you don't know...). A Judoon came on stage to signal the panel was coming to an end.
After this we stayed in our seats for the next panel - Gary Russell interviewing the team responsible for The Girl Who Waited. This was to show what went into the making of a single story and I found it fascinating. Amongst those present were writer Tom Mcrae, prosthetics man Neil Gorton,and  Exec Producer Caroline Skinner - the latter sporting a fetching knitted  TARDIS bobble hat. We also had a Handbot come on stage and Neil explained how its design had come about.
Throughout the day I popped outside for a fag of my own. Cardiff's Sport Relief event was also going on in the bay at the time, and I snapped a Dalek competitor who had trundled over to see what was going on at the Centre.

After lunch it was another look at costumes - this time with a Peg Doll roaming around. I attended one of the prosthetics workshops, where they were demonstrating how to make casts of faces and hands. I would have liked to see more of these as they varied through the day - showing different stages - but it would have meant missing the panels. Gary Russell got turned into a Silurian apparently at the end of it (again). The prosthetics demos were interspersed with talks from the Restoration Team who produce the "classic" series DVDs - so it was nice to see the old programmes represented.
Next up was a Danny Hargreaves Blowing Things Up workshop. You'll know him from Confidential where he would show you how to go about Blowing Things Up each week. He is a very good speaker, with an obvious passion for his work and he really engaged the audience. After a huge explosion which made all of us jump a Yellow Dalek trundled on stage. A member of the audience got to shoot a Cyberman. And he made it snow. Indoors. Excellent stuff.
The last panel of the day was the production one, who discussed the series as a whole. Again, questions were mostly spoiler seeking. The new trailer was shown (twice - just so everyone got a chance to record it and stick it on YouTube I assume).
The final part of my day was the photo opportunities. Pictures with Matt had been advertised as soon as the booking opened for the Convention, so I went ahead and booked one with my ticket by way of a nice souvenir. Arthur Darvill and Karen Gillan were added much later. I didn't want to pay out on both so went for Arthur (sorry Karen) as I love Rory and he is a fine actor and musician, who I saw last year in Dr Faustus at the Globe. Luckily as I had more than one photo to be taken I got in the fast lane for Matt. He has a great rapport with everyone, including the little boy I had seen at dinner the night before. Naturally these things are, quite literally, over in a flash so you don't exactly get to connect. I did manage to tell Arthur how much I had enjoyed Faustus though.
Once I'd collected my photos downstairs that was it. I headed off into the evening sunshine - and the bars of Mermaid Quay. A very enjoyable day. But my weekend was not quite over. Next morning, there was the (not) small matter of a tour of the TARDIS...

Thursday 5 April 2012

Series 7 - what's known so far?

Thanks to the production panel at the Convention we know that Episode 1 features the Daleks. Not just the recent dayglo plasticky Recycling Bin versions (I am so not a fan) but lots of older models from the 60's and 70's. This isn't a spoiler, as the following image was tweeted by Mr Moffat himself.

That's a 60's one. If the dome is black under that dust, it's one of the Emperor's retinue from Evil of the Daleks. Other images appear to show the gunmetal grey version from Genesis of the Daleks. A new Dalek's eye stalk emerges from the snow in the trailer (filmed in the Sierra Nevada mountains of Spain whilst they were working on Episode 3). I think it can be safely assumed the episode is written by Steven Moffat. It will be interesting to see how these Daleks from different eras fit into the plot.

Episode 2 is written by Chris Chibnall and appears to be set either in Ancient Egypt, or a Stargate type alien world.

This one features Rupert Graves (Sherlock's Lestrade) and Mark Williams of Fast Show and Harry Potter fame. The trailer also features another HP actor - David Bradley - acting villainous. There are also some large yellow robots.

Episode 3 is Toby Whithouse's wild west adventure, which features Ben Browder, late of Farscape and Stargate, and the marvellous Adrian Scarborough (Psychoville).

There is some kind of cyborg gunslinger in the trailer - shades of Westworld.

Episode 4 we know next to nothing about, but episode 5 will see the departure of Amy and Rory, in a story set in New York (filming there later this month) and it features the Weeping Angels.

The order of episodes is always subject to change naturally. There will be 5 episodes this side of Christmas. The sixth story will be the Christmas Special itself, which introduces the new companion. That leaves 8 episodes for the New Year, one of which is written by the annoyingly brilliant and versatile Mark Gatiss.

Roll on the Autumn.

Setting out my stall...

So what is this blog about then? Well, primarily about Doctor Who, that once unloved and neglected BBC TV show which has taken the world by storm in the last 7 years. I may, on occasion, digress into other areas that are of interest to me, but it's mainly going to be about TARDISes and Time Lords.

I was born during the Hartnell era (he was half way to Peking at the time - so that will give you an idea of how old I am). My earliest recollections are of late Troughton - The Wheel in Space - when I was 4 years old. I have therefore been a fan for over 40 years. The programme and I are both heading towards our big Five-O.
So why a blog now? On 25th March I attended the Convention in Cardiff Bay. I've always been an armchair fan only - never attending events and only flirting with organised fandom. As I spoke to people at the Cardiff event, I realised that I love talking about the programme - but don't always get the opportunity. This blog will go some way to addressing this - even if I'm only talking to myself in a way.

What form will this blog take? Well, it's just going to be my thoughts and musings on the programme - the new episodes as they evolve and a look at the many stories that have gone before.
What it won't be is:

  • A News Blog - there are loads of them around - all stealing / copying from each other mostly. Two very good ones are Tardis Newsroom and the Doctor Who News Page - I would highly recommend.
  • A Spoilers Blog. I cannot stand spoilers and you won't find anything here that isn't already in the public domain.
  • A Reviews Blog. Again there are too many out there already. Thanks to the internet, everyone is a critic these days. I might tell you why I like a certain story, and maybe like another less - but it will simply be my opinion as a fan.
  • Free advertising for Big Finish. I don't buy these. I regard them as merchandise only. They are certainly not canonical. To take just one example, we are supposed to believe that not only did the Fifth Doctor and Peri have a whole load of adventures in between Planet of Fire and Caves of Androzani, but there was a second companion with them at the same time. Watch those two stories back to back and I defy anyone to find any evidence these BF adventures ever existed. The whole thing about the Fifth Doctor's demise is that he is sacrificing himself for someone he hardly even knows. The BF stories undermine this ultimate heroic act.
Anyway - I could bang on about canon for ages (and no doubt will at some point). Suffice to say that what will follow will be my take on the TV programme and only a little else. Season 7 is part way through filming, and a new companion is waiting in the wings. The golden anniversary is just around the corner.It is a magical time to be a fan (armchair or otherwise)...