Tuesday 30 April 2013

Landmarks No.1

An Unearthly Child.
The first in a regular series - of 50 landmark stories - as promised / threatened last week.
A bit of a no-brainer for the start of these milestones, but it is significant for being more than simply the first ever adventure.
The Doctor and the TARDIS are introduced - elements which still form the core of the programme five decades later. We know a little more about him, and a little more about her - but not that much considering the time-span.
With a lot of pilots / series openers, the principle character is introduced and we generally get a lot of information about them and the people they live / work with.
With the Doctor, we learn that he is an alien, rather than someone from Earth's future or an eccentric inventor. He has a grand-daughter named Susan, has been on Earth for a few months, and can't return home. And that's your lot. We don't even have a name.
As events unfold in prehistoric times, we don't even know if he's a good guy or not - seeing as how he seems on the point of killing Za in order to make an escape.
Other items of significance include the fact that Ian and Barbara are clearly the first ever companions to travel in the TARDIS, other than Susan.
It is in this story that the TARDIS chameleon circuit first breaks down and the ship becomes fixed as a Police Call Box.
TARDIS design elements such as the roundels and the hexagonal control console are established.
We are informed that TARDIS is an acronym - and are told what it stands for.
It's the only story in which the Doctor is seen to smoke.
An Unearthly Child also marks the beginning of the first ever story arc in the programme - something which is all but compulsory today but was rare in the early days. The arc in question is the attempt by the Doctor to get Ian and Barbara back home again, and it runs through to The Chase 18 months later.
Episodes 2 - 4 represent the first of the purely historical stories, which will be a mainstay of the programme for the next three years, alternating with the futuristic / sci-fi stories (more of which next time...)..

Sunday 28 April 2013

Daleks in the finale? (Updated)

(Update at the bottom)
A very odd play set has appeared on the Forbidden Planet website, with a 26th May release date. It is billed as "Dalek Invasion 2075AD" - and claims to represent a location seen in the TV series.
There is another set for Cold War - which includes the armour-less Ice Warrior.

So what is this Dalek set? Is it a purely fictitious setting, or are the Daleks about to invade yet again?
Here is the accompanying text:

"Collect and build the universe of Doctor Who with these 3D card diorama playsets that feature different time zones visited by the Doctor in the hit TV series.
You can travel between different time zones or clip the sets together to build bigger ‘zones’. The playsets are in scale with the Doctor Who 3.75-inch action figures so you can create your own adventures or simply display your collection.
Dalek Invasion; 2075AD and the Daleks have invaded Earth once more. Using their mighty Saucer ships they bombard London driving the surviving population underground. Once they land, the Daleks patrol the ground looking for survivors in the rubble to either exterminate or transform into their puppets using Dalek nanocloud technology. In the skies the Daleks use long range ‘Hoverbout’ Anti-gravity disks to pursue the resistance. The TARDIS materialises near to a Trans-Sys matter transmission station in Hyde Park and the Doctor realises that he will need all his resources to once again defeat his oldest enemies and save the Earth from destruction. The future of the human race hangs in the balance.
Dalek Invasion Time Zone Playset includes 1 exclusive hoverbout accessory."

Update: Did a little digging and found this on the Blogtorwho site. A couple of images of the Dalek set which were taken at a Toy Fair. They show the "Hoverbout" - but also have a normal London Underground sign - rather than the Trans-Sys one in the image at the top of this post. The text is identical.
Curiouser and  curiouser...

That Was The Week That Was 28.4.13

A very brief post tonight as not very much happening at the moment.
Another glimpse of the filming for the 50th Anniversary story, this image of the two Doctors' footwear appeared earlier in the week.

Overnight viewing figures for Journey to the Centre of the Tardis were a reasonable 4.9 million. Again, it overlapped with BGT on ITV which is usually the top-rated show of the week.
Hopefully the time-shifted figures will add a couple of million more.

Ben Beevers, son of the late Caroline John, is planning a sponsored bike ride in August, the money raised going to "Help for Hospices" in her honour. He has a just giving page: https://www.justgiving.com/CarolineBeevers-John/
Or you can text MUMM71 followed by the amount you're donating to 70070.

Last - and very much least - details have emerged about that Regeneration DVD Box set. All the regeneration stories are included - but as there are only 6 discs there won't be any of the extras from their original releases. I've already made my views on this release known...

Saturday 27 April 2013

Initial Musings: Journey to the Centre of the Tardis.

Rarely has a story promised so much and yet delivered so little. I came away from this tale feeling more than a little disappointed.
As with The Doctor's Wife, all we really got were more corridors (fairly nondescript, generic sci-fi ones at that).
At least that earlier episode added to the ship's mythos - allowing us to meet its soul.
This time, nothing really new was revealed. We saw the library, glimpsed the swimming pool, and spent some time with the Eye of Harmony and the engines.
There was also the tree-like architectural configuration system.
The engines - frozen at the moment they blow apart - were visually impressive. The Eye of Harmony less so.
A nice touch were the aural memories - from Ian and Susan to the Ninth Doctor.
I really thought that the monsters would have been much more significant - something which the Doctor had kept hidden away within the ship and who had escaped. They were very creepy and well realised - but turned out to be possible future versions of Clara and the Van Baalens, the result of exposure to the Eye.
The salvagers were pretty unremarkable characters. The idea that Tricky didn't know he wasn't a full android seemed a bit of a Guy Crayford's eye-patch moment.
His brothers must have been extremely bored to have come up with a nasty joke like that.
How fortunate was it that "The History of the Time War" was written in English and that Clara just happened to come upon the Doctor's name so quickly?
Of course, the reset nature of the ending meant that she never discovered it.
As regards moving the Clara mystery forward, the Doctor now seems to think she is just an ordinary young woman - so no further forward at all.
One thing that confused me was how the Doctor ended up outside the TARDIS, and Clara down miles of corridor when they were both in the console room when the Van Baalens seized the ship.
Also, the fireball when Clara opened the door seemed to be there just for the sake of it. She escaped it by simply running round a corner.
The ending is sure to have upset a lot of people. A timey-wimey reset involving pressing a button. Not sure how this affected the salvage ship (Tricky appearing in the photo when he was absent before).
Overall, an exciting enough runaround but not as special as it could have been.

Thursday 25 April 2013

Don't buy this DVD...

... not unless you are either stupid or have more money than you know what to do with (and even then you would be a bit thick with it).
I thought the lack of confirmation had consigned this misbegotten release to the rubbish tip - but sadly not.
The Tenth Planet is indeed going to be released as part of an expensive box set months before being issued on its own.
The other stories with it are The War Games, The Planet of the Spiders, Logopolis, The Caves of Androzani, Time and the Rani, The Movie, Bad Wolf / Parting of the Ways and The End of Time I & II.
As I said in an earlier post, if you were going to buy this as a new fan who hasn't been collecting classic DVD's, you will need to buy Logopolis again in order to get The Keeper of Traken and Castrovalava.
Both The Caves of Androzani and The Movie have been released twice already.
Time and the Rani is just crap and hardly worth buying once, let alone a second time.

This cynical release really annoys me. It is simply a money grubbing exercise, cashing in on the 50th Anniversary and a sign of desperation as they run out of new releases to flog.
All they're really doing is selling The Tenth Planet to the gullible for £45 a throw.
Use your intelligence and ignore this box set. The stand-alone release of The Tenth Planet will be only a couple of months away.

Update: this doesn't even have the extras which were released along with a couple of these stories. It's only a six disc set. Yet another reason why you'll have to buy these releases again if you don't already own them, and why you shouldn't waste money on this.

Journey to the Centre of the Spoiler-free Round-up...

As ever, from a number of sources, and potentially spoilerific - so proceed with caution.
A story of two halves - in that the actual plot-line is fairly so-so, but the devil is in the detail.
As such, fans might get more out of this than the casual viewer.
We know that the TARDIS is captured by a salvage crew - the Van Baalens. Clara becomes trapped within the ship and the Doctor gets the salvagers to help him find her. To force their hand he activates the self-destruct sequence.
Keep your eyes open.
Keep your ears open.
Lots of references to previous stories, going back all the way to An Unearthly Child.
Something seen in last week's episode reappears.
Something which appeared throughout Series 5 is seen (if it's the obvious thing - what might this say about Clara's relationship with that story arc - or is it just a reminder that it is still unresolved?).
There is a reference to Amy, first time we met her.
The story's as much about who the Doctor is as who Clara might be - though the Doctor does get a light-bulb moment about her...
Clara discovers secrets about the Doctor which he'd rather remained hidden.
One of the Van Baalen's isn't what he appears to be.
We get to see two rooms that have already been shown before.
There are some new rooms, but there is a disappointingly large amount of time spent in corridors.
We do get to see the heart of the ship - and it doesn't disappoint.
The "ossified creatures" seen in the trailer and publicity photographs are not strangers to us...
After all the recent references to Cumbria and the Lake District, it's Lancashire which is significant this week.
What does Clara have in the palm of her hand?
"The History of the Time War".

Speculation time: those creatures. Might they be scarred relics of the Time War whom the Doctor has been keeping in the ship, protecting them yet having to keep them locked up? Possibly Gallifreyans?
(They're conjoined  in a couple of the images - so my bet is it's actually Tegan & Turlough - bickering away for all eternity...).
(Or maybe not...).

Wednesday 24 April 2013

Landmarks... Coming soon.

We're now half way through Series 7b, and a long summer and autumn lies between The Name of the Doctor and the 50th Anniversary story.
I am currently composing my list of landmark episodes - 50 of them, naturally - which will form an occasional series on this blog in the run up to Saturday 23rd November.
It's not a 50 best episodes, or 50 favourite ones.
Instead, it will be those stories which, in my opinion, have had the most significant impact on the development of the programme and its characters.
They won't be reviews (I'm doing those anyway). Rather, I will be highlighting particular elements which have enriched the story of the Doctor, his companions or his foes, and moved the series forward over the last half century. As such, it is inevitable that they will unfold chronologically.
Expect the first two (fairly obvious) ones next week...

Tuesday 23 April 2013

History of the Time War

By far the most intriguing image released for this Saturday's episode is this one. We were promised that Clara would discover some dark secret of the Doctor. Looks like it might be his first hand account of his part in the Time War. (I assume he wrote this, as who else survived it save for the Daleks?).
What this has to do with the "ossified monsters" which Clara encounters remains to be seen...

Sunday 21 April 2013

That Was The Week That Was 21.4.13

Last night's episode, Hide, had a disappointing overnight viewing figure of 4.4 million. This is the lowest since The Hungry Earth. Most of the UK saw some long-awaited Spring sunshine, which would have meant lots of people being out and about, and it overlapped with a certain popular talent show on ITV. No doubt the time-shifted figures will bring it up to similar levels as the other stories this series.
For a ghost story, I do have to have another moan about this business of Doctor Who being best shown in the Autumn / Winter months. Moffat keeps saying this, and yet only 5 episodes of his tenure have been shown at this time of year. I'm lucky in that I've got nice heavy curtains to create a bit of a mood (they belonged to a Pope you know, but that is a story for another day...).

David Tennant has continued to film scenes for the 50th Anniversary story (at Chepstow Castle, and again featuring the Zygons in Tudor times). He turned 42 on Thursday - sharing his birthday with Camille Coduri (still the same age as Cuba Gooding Jnr she tells me...).
A belated happy birthday to them both.
John Hurt was seen on location for the first time - also at Chepstow, though not in any Tudor costume. The SFX website has some photographs.
Poster images were released for the final four episodes of the current series, the last of which revealed the title of the season finale.

The Cyberman one is now my desktop background - not that you are probably interested.

In other news, another couple of Doctor Who Proms have been announced. A musical event to celebrate the anniversary was always on the cards - though we didn't know if it would be a Prom or another concert in Cardiff. I argued last year that any events such as this should take in the whole of the UK - not just London / Cardiff.
There will be two performances - 7.30pm on Saturday 13th July, and 10.00am on Sunday 21st July (a morning one for the grown-ups who might be too scared seeing monsters so close to bedtime). Tickets go on sale as of 11th May. I'm not sure why the first performance has been dubbed Prom 2, and the second Prom 3, when there have already been three Prom performances.

Onto DVD news, and the covers for The Mind of Evil and The Ice Warriors have been released.
It has been announced that a number of "Monster Collection" DVD sets will be released on 8th July - featuring the Daleks, Cybermen, Sontarans, Silurians, Davros and the Master. Contents and pricing have not been revealed.
The advertised June release for a "Regeneration Box Set" has been pulled - though it is still appearing on some internet retail sites.

A new Character Options set to look forward to is one for The Daemons - featuring the Brigadier, Bok and the be-robed Master. A Forbidden Planet exclusive as usual. Personally, if the picture is to scale, Bok is a bit too wee.

Lastly, in a Who / Not Who moment, I would just like to say how pleased I am to see that Peter Cushing is to be honoured by a postage stamp. As well as portraying the Doctor in the two Dalek feature films, Peter starred in numerous Hammer films (I am almost as big a fan of these as I am of Doctor Who). He played Sherlock Holmes in their adaptation of The Hound of the Baskervilles, as well as on TV.
His Van Helsing is a total hero, his Baron Frankenstein an amoral and twisted one (only truly villainous in the first film of the series). In between lie characters such as his duplicitous doctor in The Gorgon.
His finest moment is the conclusion of Dracula (1958) - running along the refectory table and pulling down the curtains, then using the candlesticks to form a cross to hold the Count in the rays of the sun - both ideas proffered by Cushing himself.
Everyone who met him said he was the nicest, most down to earth, genuine person they had ever encountered. I remember seeing him appear on Jim'll Fix It - an old gentleman requesting that a new rose be named after his deceased wife.
Get a hold of Steve Cambden's book "The Doctor's Effects" and read the foreward by Doctor Who and Hammer SFX man Ian Scoones for a snapshot of what Cushing was like - messing about with model boats with the local children and then taking a keen interest in helping a young fan make it into the film world.
This is a long-overdue tribute to an exceptional actor and wonderful human being.

Trenzalore in "The Name of the Doctor"?

The front cover of issue 460 of Doctor Who Magazine certainly seems to hint so...

Hide - Initial Musings

I don't like Clara.
Just can't trust her.
Because she's "impossible"? Because the TARDIS (a very good judge of character) doesn't like her? Because she might be some kind of trap for the Doctor?
No. Because she doesn't like whiskey. As a Scot, I find this an unpardonable sin.
Why the eleventh worst invention in the world? And why was the eleventh chapter of the Amelia Pond book best? Is the seeding of the number 11 through the series just because we are in the era of the 11th Doctor, or is there more to it?
And why has Cumbria been mentioned four times in the series so far? First the Doctor has settled there at the start of The Bells of Saint John. Then the Lake District is home to the finest scones. Then Carlisle equals ignorance. And there was also a reference to Kendal mint cake tonight. (Or maybe the Doctor meant to say Kembel mint cake...). I've pored over the Ordinance Survey maps and whilst Cumbria has lots of fields, there aren't any called Trenzalore...
Talking of old planets, it was nice to see Metebelis III mentioned. However, why no-one on the production picked up on the mispronunciation (twice) I don't know.
After all the trouble he had with the last one, what is the Doctor doing with one of its blue crystals? Is another regeneration being foreshadowed?
Last question (before I wear out my "?" key) what was the business with the bow-tie in the forest? A continuity gaffe, or something more significant?
I refer to the fact that the Doctor took off his bow-tie to secure the door when Hila went through the wormhole. He finds it on the ground when the house vanishes. He's still not wearing it in the "I am the Doctor and I am afraid..." scene. Cut back to Caliburn House then back to the Doctor and he is wearing the bow-tie. Cut away and back - and the bow-tie is off again.
The last time there was an apparent costume continuity error in a forest, it turned out to be of great significance - the on / off jacket in Flesh and Stone.
One other thing I would say wasn't quite right was the 1974 setting, as far as Dougray Scott's character is concerned. If the character is roughly the same age as the actor playing him (47) then he must have been 12 when the war started... No wonder he is haunted by his own personal ghosts when he was sending people to their deaths as a teenager.
As the year had absolutely no bearing on the plot, a date of 1954 would have been much more apposite.

On to the actual story itself. Did I like it? Yes, I did. I was reminded at times of a Sarah Jane Adventures story called The Eternity Trap - one of my favourites (and actually much scarier).
Scott and Jessica Raine were superb, as were Smith and Coleman. This was the first episode JLC actually filmed, so I was very impressed by her performance. Have we moved any further forward in working out who, or what, she is, I don't know. Her relationship with the TARDIS does seem to mean something (see my "Clara Conundrum" theory earlier in the week).
It was an odd ending. We don't get to find out who the Crooked Man is - other than that he is the partner of a similar creature trapped in the house. The Doctor is going to rescue him as well and reunite him with his other half. In a way that's as much as we need to know - but it is unusual that the story would just cut off mid-action.
A ghost story in Doctor Who (or should I say "ghast" story) is always going to have a scientific explanation, and pocket universes or alternative dimensions are a pretty obvious way of resolving things. Nothing wrong with that. It was also a very touching love story.
I know a lot of people had problems with his last story, but Neil Cross is a welcome addition to the Doctor Who writing stable as far as I'm concerned (though I would just like to point out that homeless people are not to be dismissed as "dossers". Best keep your prejudices to yourself before you write any more).

Friday 19 April 2013

Story 67 - The Frontier In Space

In which the TARDIS materialises in another cargo hold - this time that belonging to a spacecraft from Earth, 2540. Unaware of the new arrivals, the crew are confronted by a vessel belonging to the Draconians. The reptilian beings have an empire which rivals that of Earth. The two races fought a terrible war two decades ago, and the peace between them is fragile. Recently, Draconian spaceships have been attacking Earth vessels near their common frontier. As the Doctor checks their whereabouts in the TARDIS, Jo hears a strange sound which causes the approaching spaceship to shimmer and change shape. They are boarded, and whilst the crew see Draconian warriors, the Doctor and Jo see that they are really Ogrons. The Doctor is knocked out, and the Ogrons take the TARDIS along with the rest of the cargo. An Earth security force ship arrives soon after. Unable to explain their presence here, and with the crew adamant they saw Draconians, the Doctor and Jo are accused first of being stowaways - and then of being Draconian spies. They are taken to Earth.
Here, the President is fighting against the growing call for a new war. Her chief military aide, General Williams - who was involved in the incident which sparked the last conflict - is one of those urging action against Draconia. The Doctor and Jo are not believed, thanks to the eye-witnesses. When challenged, the Draconian Crown Prince, who is ambassador to Earth, denies any knowledge of these human agents. Thinking them actually in the pay of General Williams to foment discord, the Prince orders the Doctor and Jo to be broken out of prison.

The Doctor escapes, but the incident enforces the impression that he and Jo are working for the Draconians. A further attempt is made to free them - this time by the Ogrons. The Earth people see them as Draconians, however. Jo is sentenced to prison on Earth, whilst the Doctor is sent to the penal colony on the Moon. A representative from Sirius 4 arrives to claim them both - informing the President and Willliams that they are known felons from his dependency. As Earth will need all of its allies should war come, it is agreed that they will go back to Sirius with the representative - who proves to be the Master. The Doctor is about to perish in a doomed escape attempt when he is saved by the Master's arrival.
As they travel to the Master's base on the obscure homeworld of the Ogrons, the Doctor tries to escape. As he reaches the flight-deck, a Draconian spacecraft arrives and they are all taken prisoner to their planet. The Draconians have also been suffering from acts of piracy of late - the Ogrons appearing to them as Earthmen. The Doctor reveals that he is a Knight of Draconia - an honour bestowed upon him by the 15th Emperor after helping to avert a plague. The Master has managed to send out a distress call, and soon an Ogron raiding party attacks. The Master escapes, but one of the creatures is left behind. The truth of what has been happening is revealed after the Ogron ship departs. The Master has been using a hypnotic device to engineer conflict between the two races.

The Crown Prince, recently recalled home, agrees to take the Ogron to Earth, along with the Doctor and Jo, to let the President know what is really going on. Unfortunately, the Master attacks and the Ogron is freed. Jo is also captured. The Doctor and the Draconians travel on to Earth and manage to finally convince the President and General Williams. The General is horrified to learn that the last war was triggered by a terrible misunderstanding. He agrees to lead a taskforce to the Ogron planet. When they arrive on the barren planet, they are captured in an ambush - and discover that the Master is working for another power. The Daleks want the two empires to go to war so that they can invade and conquer the survivors. A vast army is being assembled elsewhere.
After the Daleks have left the planet, the Doctor and his friends escape and use the Master's hypnotic device to scare off the Ogrons. Williams and the Draconian Prince have set off to warn their respective governments. The Doctor has been injured in the final struggle, and the Master has fled. He sends a message to the Time Lords - asking for their help in tracking the Daleks...

This six part adventure was written by Malcolm Hulke, and was broadcast between 24th February and 31st March, 1973. It was designed to form the first half of an epic tale involving the Daleks for the 10th anniversary season. The second Dalek-filled part would be written by Terry Nation.
The story holds the tragic distinction of marking the final appearance of the Master as played by Roger Delgado - something it was never intended to do.
Delgado had already asked to be written out of the series as, even though only making occasional appearances after his opening season, directors thought he was working full time on the series and therefore unavailable for other work. He wanted to go out in a blaze of glory, rather than be written out in such a way that the character could be brought back. A final battle was planned in which the Master would appear to sacrifice himself to save the Doctor (who may or may not have been his half-brother, depending on who you talk to). A car crash in Turkey on June 18th 1973 forever denied us this adventure.
Sadly, instead of a blaze of glory, Delgado departs our screens in a bit of a damp squib of a tale.
It is not Malcolm Hulke's fault by any means. He is lumbered with six episodes which are hard to fill. There is an awful lot of capture / escape padding.
It is a very intelligent, political script, with some fine action set pieces. It is the first "space opera" since The Space Pirates in 1969.
There is a strong anti-war message, and comments on political dissent.
A lot of the problems stem from the pedestrian direction by Paul Bernard - including a very shoddy conclusion. It is surprising that producer Barry Letts had re-employed him, after Day of the Daleks had run out of time and The Time Monster had been so disappointingly handled.

If there is one strong element to the story it is the Draconians - brilliantly realised by the writer, the make-up department, and the actors. Hulke makes this a believable, three-dimensional alien race by giving us a sense of how their society functions. They are an honourable - but shrewdly political - species.
The masks are by John Friedlander, who also created the Ogrons. As half-masks, they allow the actor to act. They certainly help the performances of Peter Birrel as the prince, and John Woodnut as the Emperor. Pertwee cited the Draconians as his favourite alien. He had been chatting with Birrel on location and for a moment, in the middle of a bleak quarry, he felt he was actually talking to a real alien being.
Of the rest of the cast, Michael Hawkins is excellent as General Williams. It is very easy to turn this type of character into a stereotype, but he gives the part some depth. Vera Fusek gives the President some gravitas, as she struggles with foes on all sides.

Michael Wisher voices the Daleks for the first time, and of the Ogron performers, Stephen Thorne's vocals are distinctive.
A big let-down (especially if you had read the novelisation first) is the Ogron-eating monster. A savage dinosaur creature in the book, it is a blobby bouncy castle on screen.
Episode ending for this story are:

  1. The Doctor and  Jo are accused of being stowaways - and of being spies for the Draconians.
  2. An alarm sounds as the Doctor and Jo are held in the cells. The door bursts open and they are confronted by an Ogron.
  3. The Doctor and Professor Dale find they have been tricked by the warder of the lunar penal colony, who had offered to help them escape. The air tanks of their spacesuits are empty - and the warder starts to pump the oxygen out of the chamber in which they are trapped.
  4. The Master seems strangely unperturbed at being held prisoner. He has secretly activated a distress signal.
  5. The Master attacks Jo with his fear-inducing hypnotic device.
  6. Jo helps the injured Doctor into the TARDIS and the ship leaves the planet.

Overall, a disappointment of a story - impossible to watch without thinking about Roger Delgado's untimely death. The dreadfully directed ending is a particularly cruel twist of fate - with Delgado simply disappearing.
There was an attempt to repair the damage by filming additional scenes at the start of The Planet of the Daleks production block. However, Delgado wasn't available to add to these scenes.
Read the ending of the book. His plans in disarray once again thanks to the Doctor, the Master resignedly packs up his belongings. There will be another opportunity to get his revenge, more plots to lay, more schemes to hatch...
Oh, if only...
Things you might like to know:

  • The film which Delgado was in Turkey to make was "Bell of Tibet". It was never completed.
  • Roger's full name was Roger Caesar Marius Bernard de Delgado Torres Castillo Roberto. His mother was Belgian and his father Spanish, though he was born in Whitechapel, in London's East End - so a true Cockney.
  • There's an in joke on the plot as the Master is seen reading HG Wells' War of the Worlds.
  • There is quite a bit of Gerry Anderson model-work on show - after it had been cannibalised by the BBC. Ian Scoones had bought a job lot of miniatures for about £50 when Anderson's company had closed down.
  • One particular costume disaster to look out for is that of the lady operating the Mind Probe - unless there is a cut scene where she explains she was just on her way out to a dance...
  • There are cameos of a Sea Devil, a Mutant and a Drashig when the Master uses his hypnotic device on Jo.
  • On broadcast, the end credits for episode one were put over the ending for episode two by mistake - meaning a couple of people get credit for episodes they didn't appear in, and a couple of others missed out on credits all together.
  • And for the fifth episode on the VHS release, an edit that was not intended for public viewing is used.
  • Whilst Pertwee cites Delgado's death as a reason for leaving the programme, it did not influence Katy Manning's decision. She had already filmed The Green Death at the time of his accident.
  • It has been commented upon that Babylon 5 features a war that was triggered by an identical misunderstanding as that which led to the first Earth - Draconia conflict. Coincidence, or is Mr Straczynski a fan...?

The Name of the Doctor

So - the title for the Finale. To be honest, if they do give him a name I will not be terribly happy - my views on demystifying = diminishing characters already on record.
Anyway - unless it is going to revealed that he is Jesus / Mohammed / Buddha / Elvis etc, it isn't going to make a blind bit of difference to the character.

Thursday 18 April 2013

Hide - the spoiler-ish round-up...

You'll notice that it isn't a spoiler-free round-up this week. That's because the BBC America trailer appears to give away a fairly significant plot point. As these round-ups are taken from stuff that's in the public domain, I will refer to it - but will leave it until the end, along with a bit of speculation.
The location is Caliburn House in 1974.
The place has been haunted for as long as anyone can remember - by an apparition known as the Witch from the Well.
The ghost wants someone to help it and is being chased.
Investigating the house are Major Alex Palmer (Dougray Scott) and psychic Emma Grayling (Jessica Raine).
It is a ghost story.
Except it isn't.
It's a love story.
Or two.
The spooky stuff is confined to the opening section. It becomes more sci-fi thereafter.
Someone (possibly Clara) is going to go down in my estimation as they think whiskey has the eleventh worst smell in the world. (The number 11 does seem to be significant this series, beyond the obvious).
Three publicity images feature the Doctor (and Clara) visiting other worlds. One of them is a lush forested world, another looks like Mars, but with a ruined city, and the third a volcanic world.
Maybe the same world, in three different eras?
The Sanctuary Base 6 spacesuit makes a reappearance.
The Doctor seems to have taken up photography.
The TARDIS doesn't like someone - or so they think.
Companion - or assistant? It's the 1970's after all.
The Radio Times warns of a "gloopy" ending. I assume they mean sentimental, as opposed to a Russian word for stupid...
Lastly - that BBC America information:

The "Witch" is a time traveller trapped in another dimension which is in danger of collapsing.
The images with the Doctor in a harness and the blinding light etc. suggest that the Doctor crosses over to the other dimension to rescue whoever is trapped there.
Speculation time - could the apparition actually be the Doctor or Clara, in one of those circuitous timey-wimey temporal paradoxes? In going to rescue the trapped time-traveller, the time-traveller becomes trapped and so becomes the one who needs to be rescued?
Alternatively, it's Palmer and Grayling themselves.

Un-Regenerate Box Set

The mysterious "Regeneration Box Set" - £43.95 on Amazon these last few weeks - has now been pulled from the schedules. The "Monster Collection" sets I mentioned yesterday seem to be confirmed - but with no word on their contents yet.
My big fear for the "Regeneration" set was that it might include The Tenth Planet, months before any of us could purchase the story as a stand-alone release.
It may be that the box set has been put back to coincide with the Cyberman story's release, rather than cancelled altogether.
I would still be concerned about this box set (as I am with the "Monster" ones) if they contain any parts of pre-existing box sets.
For instance, if "Regeneration" had Logopolis and / or Castrovalva included, any new fan wishing to get hold of The Keeper of Traken would have to buy the stories again - a wastefully expensive thing to force on people.

The Clara Conundrum

Long before the new companion had even been cast, Steven Moffat teased that there would be something "impossible" about her.
Since then, theories have abounded.
Initially, people were claiming that she was another Time Lord - possibly Susan or Romana.
The fact that she used the word "Pond" to pass Madam Vastra's test in The Snowmen led others to believe she is somehow related to Amy. Others think she is connected to River Song, who is due to appear in the story in which all will be revealed about Clara.
My own initial thoughts were that she was some kind of trap set for the Doctor by the Silence.
I now have another theory - which first started to form after watching The Rings of Akhaten. I mentioned at the time the similarity with Father's Day, with the car bearing down on the companion's dad.
Then there was the business with the leaf - about the power of potential lives never lived. An infinite number of possible stories. Couple that with the seemingly insignificant scene where she tries to get into the TARDIS.
At the top of this post is an image from Hide - again with Clara seemingly locked out of the ship. In the same story, according to teaser quotes, she states that the TARDIS doesn't like her.
This naturally got me thinking about paradoxes - something we know the TARDIS hates.
So my theory goes that Clara is a paradox - someone who was never supposed to be born, or who is  supposed to live in another time and place. She should either have been a Victorian barmaid / governess, or an entertainments officer on the "Alaska", or the contemporary character now travelling in the TARDIS - not all of them.
Something has happened whereby all of her potential lives are being lived. The fact that each of the Claras is both right and wrong at the same time might be why the TARDIS hasn't gone haywire over this. (It ran to the end of the Universe when Captain Jack turned up in Utopia).
So that's my theory. I think it's as good a one as I've seen anywhere else.
No doubt I shall have egg all over my face when she produces an old fob watch in the finale...

Wednesday 17 April 2013

DVD Monster Collections (Updated 18.6.13)

Interesting items appearing on Amazon.co.uk for an 8th July release - "Monster Collections" for Davros, the Master, Daleks, Cybermen, Silurians and Sontarans.
No details of price or contents. I am assuming that these are a mix of classic and new episodes.
If they were all classic stories, then both the Sontarans and Silurians are already covered by pre-existing box sets. If purely new episodes, Davros has only appeared in one story - so hardly what I'd call a collection.
It will be interesting to see the composition of these collections. A couple of recent episodes contain more than one of the advertised monsters.

(Update: BBC Shop as of 18th June now say the release will be 30th September).

Whilst I was browsing Amazon, no news yet on that "Regeneration Box Set".
Amazon don't have the sleeve for The Mind of Evil yet - but doctorwho.tv do.

Monday 15 April 2013

Cold War - Second Thoughts

I've now given Cold War a second viewing - and I'm very glad that I did. My first viewing was clouded by my frustration with the new Ice Warrior concepts. I haven't really changed my mind on this - I still think they were changes too far and Gatiss should really have created an original monster for this tale.
A couple of things I am also not happy about - the drilling for oil in the Arctic ice explanation for the finding of the Warrior, the rather poor CGI for Skaldal (other than when he was lurking in the gloom), and the vocalisation by Nick Briggs.
To take the latter first, I felt it inferior to the classic whispering, hissing voices. The more creatures he voices, the more they start to simply sound like Briggs. There is a limit to vocal invention.
Showing Skaldal full on? As I said, CGI not brilliant, and too much information. I don't like my monsters demystified.
Drilling  for oil in sea ice? No.
Criticisms out of the way, I simply enjoyed the adventure more second time round - as well as some of the performances. I would love to see  David Warner reprise his role sometime. I appreciated Liam Cunningham's role a bit more. Tobias Menzies still had a bit of a thankless task, considering how good an actor he is.
Lovely to have another Troughton story referenced with the HADS.
One thing missing was any significant development in the Clara mystery. I do have my own theory about what this is - the seeds of which lie with the previous episode's opening montage. There's a couple of teasers I've read for Hide which just might seem to confirm I'm on the right track. More on this later...
Anyway, Cold War is one of those stories that does benefit from a second viewing. Maybe, sometimes, being such a fan of the classic series can get in the way of just enjoying a story.
By the way, whilst we are looking at Ice Warriors, doctorwho.tv have published the preliminary cover art concept for the August release of their debut story.

Sunday 14 April 2013

That Was The Week That Was 14.4.13

The third episode of the (semi) series premièred last night with 5.73 million.
Earlier in the week it was announced that the final consolidated figures for The Bells of Saint John were 8.44 million. This does not take into account nearly 400,000 viewers for the BBC3 repeat, or the million or so people who have accessed it on i-player - so far.

Biggest news of the week in the UK (and pretty much globally) has been the death of the inspiration for Paradise Towers' Helen A character. Mrs T also inspired elements of Harriet  Jones (namely her ordering of the destruction of the retreating Sycorax spaceship - which was a reference to the sinking of the Belgrano during the Falklands conflict).
There has been talk of a knee-jerk reaction to immortalise her (Baroness T that is - not Helen A) in stone in Trafalgar Square (the plinth on the north west corner has been void for a long time and has been used to host temporary sculptures. I think the 50th Anniversary should be marked with a Police Box on it).
Trafalgar Square? Brings me nicely on to the impossible-to-ignore filming for the 50th Anniversary which took place at a couple of well-known London tourist spots at the start of the week.

This image is one of loads posted on Blogtorwho. One of very few published across the web to capture a second TARDIS however. Jemma Redgrave is back as Kate Stewart, along with UNIT. Ingrid Oliver plays an apparently Doctor-obsessed UNIT employee. A snatch of overheard dialogue referred to a message for the Doctor from a certain historical personage (being played by Joanna Page).
Also marking the 50th Anniversary are the re-releases of the two Peter Cushing Dalek movies on DVD, in remastered form and with new extras (such as a Bernard Cribbins interview of the Daleks Invasion Earth: 2150AD release). The covers have now been released.

I've been checking regularly, but there is still no news about the mysterious "Regeneration Box Set" due in June.
Next week, a good old ghost story to look forward to. If you're wondering what has happened to my on-going reviews of the classic series, fear not. The Frontier In Space will be visited shortly. With work commitments and new episodes a priority, these reviews will be less frequent for a few more weeks.

Cold War - initial musings

If you are a casual viewer of Doctor Who, you will probably have rather liked last night's episode. If, on the other hand, you are a devout fan, with an extensive knowledge of the programme and its history then you were probably less enamored.
I must admit that I fall into the latter camp.
What they did with the Ice Warrior simply baffled me. I am all in favour of giving a returning monster a bit of an update - but to throw established continuity out the window (or porthole in this case) I find just annoying.
The notion of an Ice Warrior simply climbing out of his armour and scuttling round the air ducts like Gollum was ludicrous. And has anyone ever wanted to know what Ice Warriors looked like under their armour anyway? I'm sure no-one has. We accept them as they are - massive powerful creatures. Showing us the thing inside the armour actually diminished them in my opinion.
To make such drastic changes to an already established monster I don't agree with. Why couldn't Mark Gatiss have simply come up with an entirely original creature of his own?

My dissatisfaction with the Ice Warrior aside, what about the actual story?
All the submarine-in-peril cliches were in place.
The TARDIS landed in the midst of the action, so no messing about with introductions. One crew member - the stereotypical Stephasin - didn't trust the new arrivals, but the wily old professor and the Captain accepted their help all too quickly. I loved David Warner's character. I won't ber able to listen to "Vienna" in the same way ever again. Liam Cunningham I thought was quite underused.
As far as the setting was concerned, only lip service was played to the Cold War as it was in the early 1980's. I strongly suspect Gatiss came up with the title first then made the story fit around it. It could just as easily have been any nuclear submarine at any time.
JLC continues to impress. I do think that the reasoning as to why she, and she alone, could approach the Warrior was a bit far-fetched.
The notion of the Ice Warrior being talked into standing down - due to questions of honour - has been done before in the programme.
After 5000 years in the ice, how handy was it that an Ice Warrior spaceship just happened to be in the vicinity to take him away.

Perhaps a second viewing will make me feel a bit more upbeat about this episode. As a fast-paced adventure story it was quite straightforward and nothing special. As an Ice Warrior story I thought it was rather woeful. I really wish I was just a casual viewer sometimes...

Thursday 11 April 2013

Cold War - spoiler-free round-up

As always, from a variety of sources. On the face of it, a more straightforward adventure this week.
Set in February 1983.
Russian nuclear submarine "Firebird" travelling under the Arctic ice.
Captained by Zhukov, played by Liam Cunningham.
Also onboard is Lt Stephasin, played by Tobias Menzies, and Professor Grisenko - David Warner.
Grisenko is quite Doctor-ish (of, course he has played an alternative Doctor on audio).
He is a big fan of decadent Western pop music - and you don't get much more decadent than Ultravox's "Vienna".
The Ice Warrior is called Skaldak (played by regular monster artiste Spencer Wilding, and voiced by Nicholas Briggs).
Skaldak is a Grand Marshal, and the Doctor knows of him.
Skaldak starts off encased in ice (having been entombed for thousands of years) and once thawed out is left chained up.
Naturally he escapes, and the submarine becomes crippled.
The Doctor and Clara don't mess about getting involved in the action - as the TARDIS materialises in the middle of the control room.
Clara picks up on the TARDIS telepathic circuits' ability to translate languages in your head.
Skaldak intends to use the nuclear weapons to heat up the Cold War.
There is something new about the Ice Warriors (or this one at least). Something to do with their "appearance" seems to be heavily hinted.
One continuity issue it will be interesting to see if they address is the fact that Skaldak doesn't resemble the Grand Marshal we saw in The Seeds of Death, or the "Ice Lords" of the same story and the Peladon tales. He looks like a normal Warrior.
Movies that it is supposed to remind you of: "Crimson Tide", "The Hunt For Red October" and "The Thing From Another World".

Wednesday 10 April 2013


Did you know that if you google-image Whispermen (or Whisper Men) you don't get a single image of the eyeless top-hatted villains from this year's series finale? Must mean that whatever they are up to has succeeded...
I was thinking about the name and, of course, it suddenly struck me. They have to be affiliated with the Silence. Whispering is just one down from silence - sort of. I fully expect a Series 8 villain called the "Shhhhh" or the "Keepthenoisedownabit". You read it here first...