Sunday 31 October 2021

The Halloween Apocalypse (Flux Chapter 1) - A Review

The first episode of Flux - or Series 13 - reminded me a little of a series finale. A big threat to Earth / the universe, a coming together of various aliens and allies - some new, some old. We even started in mid adventure, with the Doctor and Yaz already having encountered the mysterious Karvanista and come a cropper - suspended over an acid sea, and threatened by laser drones should they escape.
They manage to make it back to the TARDIS, but there's something strange going on with the ship. Black goo is dripping from the roof, and the door has moved. The Doctor doesn't seem overly bothered about this - or at least she's not letting on to Yaz, or to the audience.
meanwhile in Liverpool, we get introduced to Dan. John Bishop shines from the get go. He's a very funny character - even funnier than Graham.
His life is a bit rubbish, but he does have a dinner date. Shame he doesn't get to go on it as Karvanista turns up and abducts him. Or at least that's what we're led to believe. Turns out he's actually saving Dan. His race - the Lupari - are species-bonded. Each Lupari is honour-bound to save the life of a human being when the Earth is threatened. Dan is Karvanista's human. The Lupari is based on a dog, but you can't help thinking of Chewbacca with a northern accent.
We finally discover why the Doctor came to be involved with him - he was a member of the Division (the shady Gallifreyan outfit which the Doctor worked for - though this suggests that it didn't just employ Time Lords.
Something else from the Doctor's past is Swarm - the skull-faced alien we saw in the trailers. He is an ancient evil being who has been imprisoned since the dawn of time, but has now escaped. He has a colleague - a female named Azure. We first see her looking like a human woman, living in the Arctic for some reason. Swarm tells the Doctor, psychically, that they have battled each other in the past. He remembers all this - problem is she doesn't.
The whole universe is being threatened by the Flux - a huge cloud which disintegrates everything it touches. Presumably Swarm has triggered this, as he can make individuals disappear in the same manner.
Someone who knows all about the Flux, and plan to benefit from it, are the Sontarans. They make a brief appearance, but are the focus of next week's Crimean War / Mary Seacole episode.
Also appearing were the Weeping Angels, and a woman named Clare who knows the Doctor and Yaz, but they don't know her - yet. Clearly this is setting up another Chapter of the story. We also saw Joseph Williamson, the tunnel-obsessed Victorian philanthropist. Like Clare, his role in events still isn't clear. As with Vinder. He was commanding an observation space station which encountered the Flux, and he is still to meet the Doctor and her companions.
So lots of things going on, at a great rate of knots, and much of it unclear how it all fits together. 
Part One of a two-parter is hard to judge until you've seen the second half, and this is even harder to judge as it is the start of a six-parter, with a long way to go. From what we saw tonight, there is more than enough of interest to keep the audience coming back. I suspect that Swarm & Azure and the Flux will continue to crop up throughout all the episodes, but I do want to see a couple of more self-contained episodes, and a little less frenetic a pace. Potential pitfalls ahead - if the Doctor could defeat Swarm before, then what's to stop her doing it again? And universe re-writing events tend to simply get reversed at the end, putting everything back the way it was (a la Avengers Endgame for starters. Come to think of it, Swarm even looked like Red Skull at one point).
Also, I wonder how many Everton fans will now have boycotted the series?

KO Round 1.4

Round four of our knock-out competition sees Season 3 vie against Season 25. 
At first glance this might seem a little unfair, as Season 3 comprises ten stories, whilst Season 25 only has four. On the other hand, we have all of Season 25 in the archives, and very little of Season 3, other than soundtracks and a few orphan episodes until we reach the second half. There are only three complete stories.
Season 3 comprises: Galaxy 4, Mission to the Unknown, The Myth Makers, The Daleks' Master Plan, The Massacre, The Ark, The Celestial Toymaker, The Gunfighters, The Savages, and The War Machines.
An experimental season, which coincides with a period of great change. Apart from William Hartnell, everyone in front of the camera at the start of the season will have gone by the end of it - with some companions coming and going within the season. Behind the scenes there are just as many changes, with three producers and two script editors during the period (with the first story having been commissioned by a third).
We have three historical stories, and two Dalek ones (though one is just a single episode prequel to the other).
Galaxy 4 is a straightforward sci-fi tale, using the old "don't judge by appearances" motto. The Ark was the sort of story new producer John Wiles wanted to tell, if he hadn't been lumbered with 12 episodes of Daleks and a star who didn't like him (the feeling was mutual). It's unusual in that you think the story has ended after two episodes, only for the viewers to learn that it hasn't. The TARDIS leaves, but materialises at the same location centuries later for more Monoid mayhem. The Savages is another standard sci-fi story, wherein it transpires that the race which the Doctor thinks are nice and cultured and civilised are really parasites, preying on their weaker neighbours. The Celestial Toymaker is an oddity - one of those "sideways" stories which were supposed to be part of the mix when the series was first set up. For years this was the great lost classic, but then people saw the surviving episode and re-evaluated it downwards. Two of the historicals are written by Donald Cotton - which means we have comedy for three episodes followed by a bloodbath in the fourth. The Massacre is based on what is, for many people, a relatively unknown period of history - Europe's wars of religion. It stands out especially as Hartnell plays two roles - the Doctor and the nasty Abbot of Amboise. The War Machines offers us a glimpse of things to come, with the Doctor arriving in contemporary London and allying himself with armed forces to defeat the story's menace. It sees the introduction of new companions Ben and Polly. We started with Steven and Vicki, passed through Katarina, Sara Kingdom and Dodo Chaplet, to get to them.
In deciding how good this season is, we do have to consider whether or not to count it as it was, or as it now is. Your attitude towards it would certainly change if all these episodes existed in their entirety. As we can no longer see them all, we have to go by the episodes which remain, and the soundtracks / photographs for the missing ones. 

Season 25 is an anniversary season - the silver one, so it was almost certain that the Cybermen would appear. They get the anniversary story - Silver Nemesis - whose first episode was broadcast on the 23rd November 1988 itself. It's only three episodes long, and has to fit in three lots of villains, and yet there is still loads of useless padding (comedy skinheads and someone from Broadway who we are supposed to recognise but don't).
The season kicked off on a much stronger footing with Remembrance of the Daleks. This sees the return of Davros, but no longer swamping his creations, and we have a Dalek civil war. The story ties in with the first two stories back in 1963. Such a pity no-one bothered to check how to spell "Foreman" for the junkyard gates at 76 Totters Lane. Another problem is that the main plot here gets recycled for Silver Nemesis - Doctor has left ancient Gallifreyan super-weapon hanging around Earth, and old enemy turns up looking for it. Doctor allows old enemy to take it, because he wants them to use it and wipe themselves out. And the Doctor isn't just some ordinary Time Lord... As the stronger of the pair, Remembrance really ought to have been the anniversary story.
The other two stories this year have a certain fantastical, comic book feel to them - especially The Happiness Patrol. A monster based on a brand of sweets sits (awkwardly) within what should be a political thriller setting but manages to work. The circus-set The Greatest Show in the Galaxy has things to say about Doctor Who itself - not always complimentary (an anorak fan who thinks the show isn't as good as it used to be).
Unlike Season 3, we have some continuity of personnel - the same producer, script editor, Doctor and companion from start to finish. Three good stories, No embarrassing VFX.

The verdict? If Season 3 had been complete then I don't think there would be any competition. However, it's mostly the best bits of the season which are missing, so - even though it's far from perfect - I'm giving this round to Season 25.
Next time - it's Season 12 versus Season 20.

On This Day... 31st October

Tonight's Series 13 opener, The Halloween Apocalypse, will be only the third episode of Doctor Who to have been broadcast on this day. It's the only one to date which actually makes use of Halloween. 
Closest would be "Kebab Guy" in The Woman Who Fell to Earth, who tells the alien that Halloween isn't until next month, then has the immortal line "Eat my salad, Halloween" as he flicks lettuce at him.
The first episode to be broadcast on this day was the opening instalment of Planet of Giants - the episode which gives the story its overall title - in 1964.
We had to wait until 2015 for the next episode - The Zygon Invasion.
Happy Halloween!

Saturday 30 October 2021

On This Day... 30th October

The Time Lords may have been introduced in The War Games, but nearly everything we think of as Time Lord starts with The Deadly Assassin, whose first episode was broadcast today in 1976 - Rassilon, Prydonians, the Matrix, the Panopticon, Chancellery Guards, the big collar costume etc,
The story also left the door open for a future production team to bring back the Master in a different incarnation.
Back in 1965 The Myth Makers had continued with its third episode, "Death of a Spy".
The Wedding of Sarah Jane Smith's concluding half was also first shown on this day in 2009.

Back in the 1970's the Ice Warriors were always classed as the bronze medal monsters of Doctor Who - thanks to their placement in Target's Doctor Who Monster Book.
The reason for this was simply because they had appeared more times than any other monster, after the Daleks and Cybermen. That was then, however, and since then the Sontarans and newer monsters like the Weeping Angels, Judoon, or even the Slitheen, have featured more times on TV. The Ice Warriors have returned, and are playing catch-up with two more recent appearances, but they've still got a way to go to get back to bronze medal position. 
I say all this because today happens to be the anniversary of the death of their creator, Brian Hayles. He passed away in 1978, at the age of only 48. Hayles also gave us the Celestial Toymaker, and all those Peladon character and creatures, as well as writing the historical story The Smugglers.
More significant than Hayles in the history of the programme was Sydney Newman - the creator of Doctor Who. He passed away on this day, at the age of 80, in 1997. We owe him everything.

Friday 29 October 2021

On This Day... 29th October

Another busy day for debut episodes of Doctor Who and its spin-offs. 
One of the most significant episodes in the series' history was first shown today in 1966 - the fourth part of The Tenth Planet. This is the one where the viewers first learned that the Doctor could regenerate (though it wasn't called this at the time). 
The uncredited Patrick Troughton's first appearance in the closing seconds.
11 years later, the Doctor and Leela arrived near the village of Fetchborough, in the first episode of Image of the Fendahl.
Torchwood's third episode was also shown today for the first time - Ghost Machine - in 2006.
Two significant episodes of The Sarah Jane Adventures were first seen on this date. These were the ones which involved the Trickster - Whatever Happened to Sarah Jane? (2007), and The Wedding of Sarah Jane Smith (2009). The first parts of each were broadcast on this day.
The latter included a guest appearance by David Tennant as the Doctor (his last recording as the character until the 50th Anniversary story).
In 2016, spin-off series Class continued with Nightvisiting.

Another Doctor's birthday today (sort of). Michael Jayston (the Valeyard) turns 86. Many happy returns to him.

Thursday 28 October 2021

Story 241 (Prequel) - The Night of the Doctor

In which the pilot of a crashing spaceship - a young woman named Cass - is suddenly confronted by a stranger on her craft. This is the Doctor, in his Eighth incarnation. The Last Great Time War is at its height, affecting the entire universe. Cass explains that she teleported her crew off the stricken ship, but she is left behind. The Doctor tells her that he can save her, and takes her to a chamber towards the rear of the vessel where his TARDIS is parked. On discovering that this object is bigger on the inside than it is on the outside, Cass is horrified. She realises that it is a TARDIS, and that the Doctor must be a Time Lord. She refuses to go with him - arguing that the Time Lords are just as bad as the Daleks. Both races are equally responsible for mass bloodshed in her view. Cass returns to the bridge and locks herself in, with the Doctor trying to argue that he is not like his fellows. To prove this, he tells her that he will not desert her - even as the ship heads towards destruction on a nearby planet.
The Doctor knows that this is the planet Karn, which he has previously visited. It is home to the Sisterhood, who worship the Sacred Flame which produces the Elixir of Life.
The ship crashes.

The Doctor wakes to find himself in the temple of the Sisterhood. Cass is here, but she is too badly wounded to save. The leader of the Sisterhood - Ohila - tells the Doctor that he died in the crash. They gave him a little of the Elixir to bring him back to life, but this incarnation is dying. He has but a few minutes. The Sisterhood believe that the Doctor is the only person who can bring the Time War to an end and save them all. His failure to save Cass weighing heavily on his mind, he decides to renounce his neutrality. He can no longer sit back and watch the universe being torn apart. Ohila informs him that he can use the Elixir to influence his next regeneration, affecting what sort of a person he will be. He decides that he can no longer be a Doctor in times of war, but instead must become a Warrior. He regenerates, taking on the appearance of the individual whom Clara had earlier glimpsed inside the Doctor's time stream...

The Night of the Doctor was written by Steven Moffat, and was initially released on the BBC Red Button service on 14th November 2013. Seven minutes long, it acts as a prequel to the forthcoming 50th Anniversary story, The Day of the Doctor, and shows how the unknown incarnation of the Doctor seen in the closing moments of the Series 7 finale - played by John Hurt - came into being. 
When Rose was first broadcast, it was suggested that the Doctor had only recently regenerated - as he appears to be noticing his ears for the first time in a mirror. Therefore, it wasn't known conclusively if this had been the incarnation who had fought in the Time War, and brought it to its genocidal conclusion. Steven Moffat had initially wanted to bring Eccleston, Tennant and Smith together to form a new "Three Doctors" for the anniversary, but Eccleston had eventually declined to return. If the Ninth Doctor hadn't fought in the war, then it must have been the Eighth - but Moffat simply couldn't see that particular incarnation being capable of such a thing. He therefore decided to create a new, interim Doctor who was a fighter - and who therefore didn't see himself as being worthy of the "Doctor" title.

Paul McGann was invited back to portray the Eighth Doctor, 17 years after last playing the character on screen. He had, of course, been playing the Doctor for many years on audio during this period. Not only was McGann being brought back in from the cold, as far as the TV series was concerned, this mini adventure also allowed him a conclusion, with a regeneration. Hurt does not appear, apart from use of his features from one of his earlier movies.
Being the big anniversary season, Moffat made the fan-pleasing decision to set the regeneration against a backdrop from the classic era of the series (namely the much loved Hinchcliffe-Holmes Gothic period). In The Brain of Morbius, it is stated that the Sisterhood sometimes help Time Lords regenerate with their Elixir. The Sisterhood appear here, with a leader called Ohila. She is played by Clare Higgins. On our last visit to Karn, the Sisterhood had just been taken over by a character named Ohica, so not the same person. Presumably the Sisterhood took the Doctor's advice on board and no longer have leaders who want to stay in post forever.

Being a seven minute short, there is only one other guest artist. Playing Cass is Emma Campbell-Jones.
Overall, it packs a punch well above its weight. Great to see McGann return as the Doctor, even if it's just to kill him off, and the inclusion of Karn and the Sisterhood is a lovely touch for older fans.
Things you might like to know:
  • The Eighth Doctor's last words are "Physician, heal thyself". This comes from the Bible (Luke 4:23). Luke was a doctor. 
  • Things the Doctor claims he could do in four minutes: knitting, watching television, chess, and reading.
  • The Doctor does not have any travelling companion at this time. As he "dies" it is his companions whom he recalls. This is a list of his Big Finish audio companions. A nice touch, except that it means that any later companion added to the audio range is ignored.
  • Talking of Big Finish, they continue to release Eighth Doctor audios, so these all have to take place prior to this - and they are denied the chance of having their own regeneration.
  • Doctor Who Magazine had considered a regeneration for the Eighth Doctor into the Ninth Doctor at the conclusion of the epic Cyberman comic strip The Flood, but the BBC scuppered this by insisting that the Ninth Doctor should only ever bee seen with Rose as a companion.
  • The CGI TARDIS seen in space is the Matt Smith one, with a St John Ambulance Maltese Cross emblem, but the physical prop in Cass's ship is the one that was created for the War Doctor in The Day of the Doctor, which doesn't have the emblem.
  • Russell T Davies wrote a short story for the anniversary in which the Eighth Doctor did fight in the Time War, and regenerated directly into the Ninth. It was due to be published in DWM in 2013. However, as it clashed with Moffat's minisode it was withheld - eventually seeing release in 2020.

Ian Marter (On This Day... 28th October)

Before we look at what episodes of Doctor Who or its spin-offs were first broadcast on this date, a special mention about Ian Marter, for 28th October was both the date of his birth - and the date of his death.
Yes, sadly he passed away on what was his 42nd birthday in 1986.
Marter played companion Harry Sullivan during Tom baker's first season, plus two appearances in the following one. He had been introduced at a time when the producer was considering a much older Fourth Doctor, who might need a younger man to do the heavy stuff. Marter had earlier featured in Carnival of Monsters as Lt Andrews, and prior to that had been the first choice to play Captain Mike Yates from Terror of the Autons onwards. He turned it down as it was a recurring role and he didn't want to be tied down at this point in his career.
After Doctor Who, his career was mostly in theatre, though I saw him just the other day in "The Musgrave Ritual", an episode of The Return of Sherlock Holmes. He had a late career as a writer, penning a number of highly regarded Target novelisations.
His early death was due to complications from diabetes.

Another significant event for October 28th is the birthday of a Doctor. Matt Smith is 39 today. Many happy returns.
Today's episodes which made their debut on this date are the fifth instalment of The Abominable Snowmen in 1967; the opening instalment of The Stones of Blood in 1978; and Arachnids in the UK, in 2018.

Wednesday 27 October 2021

On This Day... 27th October

The Creature From The Pit got under way with its first episode today in 1978. 
In 2008, Russ Abbot was the guest star in Secrets of the Stars, one of The Sarah Jane Adventures. Its concluding instalment was first broadcast today.
A trio of birthdays worth mentioning today. Writer Andrew McCulloch (Meglos) is 76. John Kane (Tommy in Planet of the Spiders) was born on the exact same day in 1945.
A little older is John Cleese, (cameo guest artist in one of last week's episodes), who turns 82 today.
Many happy returns to them all.

More Glasgow TARDISes


Our final glimpse of real Police Public Call Boxes, when they were to be found all over Glasgow. The ones below are more of a "Find the TARDIS", as they aren't quite so prominent in the photographs. Yet again, the colour images show that Glasgow Police Boxes were mostly red rather than blue.

With this last image, you have to look under the bandstand / clock tower to find it.

Tuesday 26 October 2021

What might the B&W Blu-ray boxsets look like?

I have often thought about what I'd like to see included on the First and Second Doctor Blu-ray collections, when they finally get round to releasing them. We were promised, way back when the first one came out, that the B&W seasons would not be held back to come out last, and yet are still waiting for one of these six sets.
Here is a bit of idle speculation, based on features which have been seen on existing releases.


The picture quality on the "In the Beginning" DVD boxset wasn't terribly good, so cleaned up versions of the first three stories will be most welcome. Another thing about that earlier DVD set was that not every episode was granted a commentary track.
Marco Polo could be presented as a full audio, with telesnaps. The middle episode, which lacks telesnaps, could use other representative images, of which there are a great many, often in colour.
All the other stories in this season exist in their entirety, until you get to The Reign of Terror - but its two missing episodes have already animated. The Keys of Marinus lacks a proper making-of documentary, as does The Sensorites.
As far as other Extras go, the first season would benefit from a "Behind the Sofa" look by the final TARDIS team of the classic series - McCoy and Aldred, if not figures from 2005 onwards. We'd obviously like to see William Russell and Carole Ann Ford give their reactions.
If Matthew Sweet is going to interview anyone, it should be one of this pair. Ford would be the obvious choice, as this is her only full season. Russell could be the subject of a Season 2 boxset interview.
As it's Season 1, I'd expect a big new biographical piece on William Hartnell.
As it's their first appearance, a new documentary about the Daleks - perhaps part one of a series that would conclude on the Season 25 boxset.
Would any of these stories warrant a new CGI version? Only The Daleks might benefit (extermination effects, and Lake of Mutations creatures).
One concern about these earliest seasons is the number of discs they need. The complete stories alone would cover 7 discs, with a Marco Polo audio either confined to an 8th extras disc or given a disc of its own - making 9 discs in total. Depending on how many Extras they decide to include, might this even stretch to two volumes?


As with Season 1, almost every story of this season exists in the archives. Indeed there are no stories missing in their entirety, just two episodes from The Crusade. These can be covered by audio and telesnaps. (I've read that the reason this story hasn't been considered for animation is that there are too many speaking characters, too many scenes / backgrounds - assuming that the audio is up to scratch).
As mentioned above, William Russell would be the obvious candidate for a Matthew Sweet interview, although Maureen O'Brien would also make for an interesting interviewee.
A decent biography of Verity Lambert would fit nicely on this set.
As far as CGI enhancement goes, I'd say The Chase would be best candidate for this season.
This time, the stories alone will take up 9 discs - so again you might be looking at splitting this over two volumes.
This or Season 1 is likely to be the first Hartnell boxset to be released, being the most complete, though I suspect that Season 1 might be held back until the 60th Anniversary year.


After two almost complete seasons, we hit a major problem as far as these sets go. There's simply very little of Season 3 left in the archives. It's not just the episodes being missing - this season didn't get much in the way of telesnaps either, so there's no visual record at all for a lot of this.
Is there even enough to justify a Season 3 boxset?
We have a single episode from the first story - Galaxy 4 - plus several minutes from Episode One, but the missing episodes have now been animated. The next two stories are totally missing, although those Lancashire students did create a reconstruction of Mission to the Unknown.
Only three episodes out of twelve exist for The Dalek Master Plan. The next story, The Massacre, is also missing.
Things do pick up later in the season, coinciding with the arrival of Dodo Chaplet. We've got all of The Ark, The Gunfighters and The War Machines. Only one episode of The Celestial Toymaker survives, and none from The Savages.
That makes four stories that could be presented as "complete", with two orphan episodes only, three audio only, and one a modern reconstruction. Unlikely they're going to use 10 discs just for the stories.
The obvious candidate for a Matthew Sweet interview here would be Peter Purves, as this is his main season.
I can't really see them giving any of these episodes the enhanced CGI treatment.
Some sort of appreciation piece on the late Jackie Lane would be nice.


Like the previous one, a great deal is missing from the archives, although this has partly been addressed by some animation. Unlike the previous season, this one is much better represented by telesnaps.
The first story (The Smugglers) is missing, and the second (The Tenth Planet) has lost its fourth episode - although this has already been animated. The Power of the Daleks is already fully animated. The Highlanders is missing, as is half of The Underwater Menace, and half of The Moonbase. The latter has its missing episodes already animated.
The next three stories have been animated, and two of them (The Faceless Ones and Evil of the Daleks) include orphan episodes. 
There are no complete archive stories for this season, only a grand total of 10 surviving episodes for the whole season.
Nothing shouts out for CGI treatment, though I would have loved them to have gotten rid of the strings holding up the Cyberman saucers.
There should be a big new biographical documentary on Troughton, a Matthew Sweet interview with Anneke Wills, and a Michael Craze appreciation.
As it is their first appearance, something new on the Cybermen, similar to what I proposed for the Daleks on the Season 1 set.


Like Season 4, this one has benefited lately from animation - plus that rediscovery of missing episodes back in 2013. This time we have two complete stories - Tomb of the Cybermen and The Enemy of the World. The Web of Fear has only one episode missing (and that's been animated, albeit terribly so). The Ice Warriors is two thirds complete, and again the missing bits have already been animated (again rather badly). Fury from the Deep is now fully animated. The Abominable Snowmen has only one episode surviving, and The Wheel in Space has four parts missing. The former of these is due the animation treatment very soon, and the latter will surely get the same before too long.
Nothing jumps out as far as CGI enhancement goes. 
The obvious Matthew Sweet interviewee is Frazer Hines. The Ice Warriors have never had the same attention as the Daleks and Cybermen, so a good documentary on them would be nice, and maybe one on the Great Intelligence. Both of these were brought back to the series in recent years.


After the problems of Seasons 3 - 5, Season 6 sees a lot of stories surviving complete in the archives. No story is missing in its entirety, though we only have a single episode from The Space Pirates. Another problem with this one is that there aren't any telesnaps either.
The only other missing material is the two episodes of The Invasion, but these have already been animated.
A few candidates for new CGI effects. My only complaint about The Invasion is the overuse of stock footage in the concluding episodes, and the poor model work. You could also bulk out the invasion itself - with more Cybermen at more locations. The Dominators could also do with an alternative to the model work, especially in the first episode. The rocket stuff in The Seeds of Death is fine as it is, so I'd put those other two stories ahead of it.
The obvious candidate for interviewing by Matthew Sweet is Wendy Padbury. This season sees the first Doctor Who work by Robert Holmes (two stories), so it would be nice to see a comprehensive piece on him.
It's a fair guess that Season 6 will be the first Troughton boxset to be released, being the most complete.

On This Day... 26th October

Paradise Towers came to an end today in 1987. 
One year to the day later Remembrance of the Daleks reached its conclusion. This was the last Dalek episode of the classic era, so it was goodbye to them and to Davros.
In 2010, the second part of Death of the Doctor was first broadcast, making this Katy Manning's last appearance as Jo (to date - you never know with RTD coming back).

Monday 25 October 2021

War of the Sontarans - Flux Chapter II

War of the Sontarans is the title of the second chapter of Flux. The brief synopsis reads: 

"The Doctor has an unexpected encounter with one of her deadliest enemies, when the Sontarans become a new faction in the Crimean War. As the British army goes into pitched battle with the warlike aliens, the Doctor and her companions seek the help of renowned nurse Mary Seacole (Sara Powell), while an ancient temple hides mysterious secrets".

There was a clip in the trailer of new regular character Vinder in a temple-like space, as some white-robed creatures materialise. Might this be the temple to which this synopsis refers?

Another Glasgow TARDIS


Another old picture of Glasgow, in B&W this time, so we can't tell if this one is red or blue. This one was taken in the year Doctor Who started, 1963, and shows the junction of Buchanan Street with Dundas Place. A Police Call Box can still be seen on Buchanan Street (but not this one).

On This Day... 25th October

Pyramids of Mars saw its opening episode screened today in 1975.
Another debut on this day was Full Circle, in 1980. Trial of a Time Lord reached its eighth episode in 1986 - the final part of the Mindwarp section, which meant the departure of Nicola Bryant as Peri.
In 1989, The Curse of Fenric also had its opening instalment broadcast.
More recently, In The Forest of the Night made its debut today in 2014.
The Sarah Jane Adventures had a special story begin today in 2010. Death of the Doctor saw the return of Katy Manning as Jo Jones (nee Grant), and a meeting of Sarah Jane Smith with the Eleventh Doctor, in a story written by Russell T Davies.

Sunday 24 October 2021

Flux - Characters

With just one week to go, the BBC have released a number of images revolving around the guest cast / characters to be seen in the upcoming chapters of Flux. This is certainly a change to the last two seasons, when everything was a closely guarded secret.
Kevin McNally's character is called Professor Jericho, and it is believed that his episode is the one which also features the Weeping Angels, as both actor and Angels were seen at different times at the same filming location.

Nadia Albina plays a character named Diane Curtis, who works at the Museum of Liverpool and is an old flame of new companion Dan.
It seems that Dan's workmate and Karvanista are one and the same - not just the same actor playing different roles. Karvanista is supposed to be able to shape-change. His lair might be in the tunnels beneath Liverpool that were built by the tunnel-obsessed Joseph Williamson (1769 - 1840), who is played by Steve Oram.

Alongside Sara Powell, who plays Mary Seacole, we have Gerald Kyd as a British army officer of the Crimean War. We know this episode features the Sontarans. The Scots comic actor Jonathan Watson might be playing one of the Sontarans. The ones seen on location in Liverpool were slightly taller than the ones seen in the series from 2008 onwards.

The Ravagers are supposed to be a pair of characters, according to Chibnall - so might be the skull-faced beings we saw in the trailer.
Colin Spruell is in The Halloween Apocalypse as a character called Swarm. He's over 6 feet tall is Colin, so he might be the male Ravager - or a completely different character all together.
There's a couple of human-looking characters played by Blake Harrison and Thaddea Graham, who have a bit of a height difference between them - so maybe they are the disguised Ravagers.
We know that the Ravagers, whoever is playing them, come from another dimension, but have a history with the Doctor.

Two other characters worth noting are Neville (Paul Broughton) and Eileen (Sue Jenkins). Neville is Dan's dad.
The Flux is definitely a phenomenon, rather than a race or creature.

Finally, there's one new planet named - Atropos "which shouldn't exist". A quick Google search shows that this was one of the three Fates in Greek Mythology - whose name means unalterable or inflexible - the exact opposite to flux...

On This Day... 24th October

A quiet day for Doctor Who episodes, with only The Woman Who Lived being broadcast on 24th October, 2015. 
A handful of birthdays today though - Dervla Kirwan (Miss Hartigan / The Next Doctor), Clifford Rose (Rorvik / Warriors' Gate), and Sarah Greene (Varne / Attack of the Cybermen).

Saturday 23 October 2021

What's Wrong With... The Enemy of the World

There's Astrid's wallpaper for a start...

They say nothing dates more than the future, when it comes to Sci-Fi, and this story - set in 2017 - is so far from the reality of that year that it hurts. It's not just certain aspects that don't match, it's everything.

Salamander is world famous, and incredibly popular. He could easily obtain a position of power, giving him everything he might want, without having to resort to all that blackmail and murder he indulges in. He could be a perfectly legitimate world leader.
Salamander must clearly be paranoid - possibly with good reason, if people have tried to kill him. He employs a food tester to check for poisons, and has files on everyone in case he needs to undermine or blackmail them - so he definitely doesn't believe he can get them on his side by himself. Why then does he accept Jamie so quickly - placing him within his own household, arming him with a gun, and installing his "girlfriend" in the place where all his food is prepared?

His illegal actions actually risk bringing unwanted attention upon him, as people are surely suspicious of all the bad things that happen to those who oppose him. 
The only person who seems not to be suspicious is the Doctor. He spends five episodes insisting on evidence, despite everything Kent, Astrid and then Jamie and Victoria tell him. This hesitancy to act, and insistence on evidence, has never been part of the Doctor's personality - especially in this most anarchic incarnation - a Doctor who wrecks a colony's power supply then runs away before he has to deal with consequences, and who helps mad logicians resurrect ancient evil, just to see what happens next.

The Doctor becomes suspicious of the hovercraft very quickly. As it happens, he has cause to be concerned, but there's nothing on screen to explain his behaviour - the hovercraft being so far away from him. Is he just naturally suspicious about hovercraft.
The driver of the hovercraft (real life) looks nothing like the driver of the hovercraft (actor playing the part). You see him clearly through the windscreen.

At story's end, we discover that the TARDIS must have landed just a stone's throw away from the Kenowa research station, as first Jamie and Victoria, and then the Doctor and Salamander get there very quickly. A massive coincidence that Salamander just happens to stumble across the TARDIS, in the dark.
Not only does the TARDIS land very near to Salamander's base, but Astrid happens to have a house in the vicinity, and the hovercraft crew just happen to be hanging out in the same area. A lot going on for a remote beach area.
Even with the return of the missing episodes, Part Three is still very weak, with people being held prisoner in corridors.
The back projection in the previous episode isn't terribly effective.
Adam Verney, who plays Colin, gives a terribly mannered, theatrical performance.
People who hate nepotism will be very annoyed here, as Troughton's son and the director's nephew are both given roles. (Letts will employ his nephew, Andrew Staines, in three further stories. Did anyone else ever give him a job?).
According to her helicopter's cockpit info, Astrid lives in the "Australasion" Zone.
The "Pull to Open" panel on the TARDIS is affixed to the wrong door.

How exactly does Salamander manage to engineer earthquakes and volcanic eruptions in Central Europe from a bunker in Australia - on an entirely different tectonic plate.
There's a vague suggestion initially that it might be something to do with the Suncatcher - that this is going to be significant. We expect something like Blofeld's satellite in Diamonds Are Forever. This proves not to be the case and the means by which the bunker dwellers trigger these events is left unexplained.
One of the biggest issues with this story is the fact that the Doctor, in his second incarnation, has visited this general time zone after the events depicted here, and yet no-one has gone "Here! Aren't you that Salamander bloke? The one that disappeared?".

Astrid's wallpaper...

On This Day... 23rd October

It was a very sad day today in 1976 as Sarah Jane Smith bade farewell to the Doctor and the TARDIS at the conclusion of Part Four of The Hand of Fear. As it happens, we would see her again at the end of the decade, and again in 1983, before making her triumphant return in her own spin-off series in 2007.
We saw her in the second episode of a third series story - The Madwoman in the Attic - when it was first screened today in 2009.
11 years earlier, in 1965, the First Doctor, Steven and Vicki were at ancient Troy encountering The Myth Makers, in the episode called "Small Prophet, Quick Return".

Friday 22 October 2021

Glasgow TARDISes


One of the Facebook pages I follow is a daily selection of old photographs of Glasgow. Two of today's batch just happened to feature Police Public Call Boxes.
Interestingly, both are red rather than TARDIS blue. The one above was situated close to the Necropolis, near Glasgow Cathedral. This lies just to the east of the city centre.
The other box below was located in the Kelvinbridge area, in the city's West End.

On This Day... 22nd October

A very busy day for Doctor Who and all of its spin-offs today through the years. 
First of all, back in 1966, The Tenth Planet arrived at its third episode. This is the last Hartnell episode in the archives (until his brief return for the tenth anniversary), but the man himself is absent, and so are the Cybermen for the most part. They only appear in one pre-filmed scene, where they get ambushed in the snow. Hartnell fell ill, so his double is seen to collapse at the start of the episode, and Hartnell's dialogue gets split between Ben and Dr Barclay.
1977 saw the broadcast of the fourth and final episode of The Invisible Enemy.
Torchwood began today in 2006, with the first two episodes of Series One being shown back to back. These were Everything Changes and Day One. The latter is a bit confusing, as Children of Earth's instalments are called "Day One", "Day Two" etc.
The Sarah Jane Adventures Series One continued with the second, closing instalment of Warriors of Kudlak, today in 2007. In 2009, the third series saw the debut of Part One of The Mad Woman in the Attic, which featured Lis Sladen's husband Brian Miller.
Finally, in 2016, the ill-fated spin-off Class began on this day - like Torchwood with two back to back episodes. These were For Tonight We Might Die, which featured Peter Capaldi's Doctor, and The Coach with the Dragon Tattoo.

Our birthday of special note today is Professor Yana / The Master actor Sir Derek Jacobi, who turns 83. Many happy returns!

Thursday 21 October 2021

The Halloween Apocalypse Synopsis

The pre-broadcast synopsis for The Halloween Apocalypse goes as follows:

"On Halloween, all across the Universe, terrifying forces are stirring. From the Arctic Circle to deep space, an ancient evil is breaking free. And in present day Liverpool, the life of Dan Lewis is about to change forever.
Why is the Doctor on the trail of the fearsome Karvanista? And what if the Flux?".

Now this doesn't say that the Doctor actually meets Karvanista, but I think we can safely assume that the new dog-faced alien does appear, which might mean that this episode also features some Cybermen. We don't know if Karvanista is in a single episode, or is a recurring character. The image above shows Dan in a cage in Karvanista's lair / spaceship. 
As mentioned yesterday, the same actor plays Karvanista who plays Dan's workmate. Is this just a reuse of the same actor (since we don't see his face in one of the roles), or is it the same character, able to disguise himself - and therefore the means by which Dan gets involved in this story in the first place?

On This Day... 21st October

The Abominable Snowmen reached its fourth episode today in 1967, as did The Pirate Planet in 1978.
More recently, Series 11 continued with Rosa today in 2018.

Wednesday 20 October 2021

Flux - First Episode Title

The first episode of Series 13 has been given a title, so Flux is the overall season name (in the same way Torchwood Series 3 and 4 were Children of Earth and Miracle Day, yet each had individual titles within the series).
The title released today is The Halloween Apocalypse.

Series 13 Update

The first episode of Flux is now confirmed for broadcast at 6.25pm in the UK. According to the BBC this will be a "Global Event" - which basically means that it will be shown simultaneously in other countries. Some will get it in the afternoon, whilst others might be getting it in the middle of the night. Repeats at a more godly hour will no doubt follow the next day.
Some more images and information have been released along with this news, which comes from the press screening.

The dog-faced person is called Karvanista, and just happens to be played by the same actor (Craig Els) who plays Dan's workmate. If you look at the background of his portrait shot, and the one with the Cybermen, then you can see that they appear in the same episode.
We can therefore guess at the main content of three of the six episodes - Sontarans / Crimean War; Weeping Angels; and Karvanista / Cybermen. However, as the whole point of this season is Time being in flux, all these things could be mixed up together within a single episode. As the Cybermen and the Ood haven't been pushed to the fore in the publicity, only appearing in the trailer, I suspect they are just cameo appearances.

On This Day... 20th October

City of Death arrived at its fourth and final episode today in 1979. This was the one which had unannounced cameos from John Cleese and Eleanor Bron as a pair of art connoisseurs who admire the TARDIS in a Paris gallery. It's also the one which managed a whopping 16.10 million viewers.
Also on this day, in 2008, The Sarah Jane Adventures Series 2 continued with Part One of Secrets of the Stars, which is basically a sequel to The Masque of Mandragora.

A very special birthday of note today - Anneke Wills, who played companion Polly, is 80 today, and - my goodness - doesn't she look good for it? Many happy returns Anneke!

Tuesday 19 October 2021

J is for... Jobel

Principal mortician of the Tranquil Repose funeral complex, on the planet Necros. He was terribly vain, and hid his baldness with an ill-fitting toupee. 
He regarded himself as a lady's man, and attempted to charm any woman he encountered - including the Doctor's companion Peri. The one woman who actually showed any affection back, he disliked and constantly belittled. This was Tasambeker, who worked as his assistant. Jobel liked to think that he was in charge of Tranquil Repose, but he was being watched closely for signs of disloyalty by its true controller - the Great Healer. This was Davros, who was using the complex's bodies in his experiments to create a new Dalek army loyal only to him.
Davros had once offered him the chance to become a Dalek, but he had declined. When Tasambeker was also offered this choice, she too declined but because of her love for Jobel. When he insulted her once more, she snapped and stabbed him through the heart with a syringe full of embalming fluid.

Played by: Clive Swift. Appearances: Revelation of the Daleks (1985).
  • Swift returned to the programme for the 2007 Christmas Special - Voyage of the Damned - as Mr Copper. An interview he gave for DWM at the time was extremely ill-tempered.

J is for... Jensen, Rachel

Professor Rachel Jensen was the chief scientific adviser to the Intrusion Counter-Measures Group, which was led by the RAF's Group Captain Gilmore. This organisation was an early forerunner of UNIT, in that it investigated strange phenomena, including alien interventions in Great Britain.
Jensen had as her assistant a young woman named Allison Williams, and she was an acquaintance of Professor Bernard Quatermass of the British Rocket Group. 
Jensen had been co-opted into the ICMG much against her will, as it took her away from her researches.
Jensen encountered the Doctor in 1963, when alien activity was identified at a junkyard in the Coal Hill district of East London. This proved to be a Dalek, one of a rebel group which had come to seize a powerful Gallifreyan artefact left behind by the Doctor - the Hand of Omega. He had expected this to happen, but hadn't bargained on there being two rival Dalek factions, thanks to their creator Davros setting up his own loyal Empire. Realising that the Doctor knew far more about what was going on here, Jensen deferred to him when it came to Gilmore's efforts to bring the situation under control.

Played by: Pamela Salem. Appearances: Remembrance of the Daleks (1988).
  • Salem had auditioned for the part of Leela. When she didn't get this, she won the part of Toos in The Robots of Death, as well as providing one of the voices for the computer Xoanon in The Face of Evil.
  • The Counter-Measures Group have continued their adventures on audio, despite only ever appearing in this one television story.

J is for ... Jenny (3)

A member of the Paternoster Gang, Jenny Flint is the wife of Madame Vastra, the famous Silurian detective. The pair first met when Jenny came to work for Vastra as a maid - a role she has continued to serve, despite their subsequent marriage. Jenny was estranged from her family due to her sexuality.
Vastra's home was at 13 Paternoster Row, in the shadow of St Paul's Cathedral in London. Jenny assisted Vastra with her criminal investigations, and once they recruited the Sontaran nurse Strax as butler and fellow investigator, the trio became known as the Paternoster Gang, after their base of operations.
Jenny was skilled in martial arts and was a formidable swordswoman. When Vastra was commissioned to investigate the Sweetville factory in Yorkshire, Jenny went under cover to look for the missing Doctor.
The Gang had looked after the Doctor during the period when he had hidden himself away in Victorian London, following the loss of Amy Pond. Jenny had introduced a governess / pub serving maid named Clara to Madame Vastra, after she had encountered the Doctor and gone looking for him. They did not realise that this was a splinter of the real Clara, whom the Doctor would meet in the 21st Century.
During a psychic conference arranged by Vastra, Jenny realised that she had forgotten to lock the door, and the Whisper Men - servants of the Great Intelligence - were able to enter. They killed Jenny. Fortunately Strax was able to revive her after they had all been transported by the Intelligence to the planet Trenzalore.
Later, Jenny and Vastra helped the Doctor recuperate from his next regeneration, and assisted with his struggle against the Half-Face Man and his fellow clockwork droids.

Played by: Catrin Stewart. Appearances: A Good Man Goes To War (2011), The Snowmen (2012), The Crimson Horror (2013), The Name of the Doctor (2013), Deep Breath (2014).
  • As well as the five episodes listed above, Jenny has also featured in the following shorts / prequels: The Battle of Demons Run: Two Days Later (2011), The Great Detective (2012), Vastra Investigates (2012).
  • Below: Jenny's costume from Deep Breath (left).

J is for... Jenny (2)

A young woman who was created from the Doctor's DNA on the planet Messaline. A long-running war was being waged on this world between two factions of colonists. One group were humans from Earth, whilst the others were the piscine Hath, who had arrived with them. Casualties were so high that both sides used machines which could clone their soldiers, producing fully formed adults who were pre-programmed to begin fighting immediately. When the Doctor, Donna and Martha stumbled into the middle of this conflict, the TARDIS having been inexplicably dragged off course, some human soldiers forced the Doctor's hand into the device's gene collector. The result was a young, blond-haired woman. Donna gave her the name Jenny, as she was a generated anomaly according to the Doctor. He denied any connection with jenny save for the use of his genes, but Donna saw her as his child. It transpired that she had two hearts like the Doctor. The Doctor deduced that it was Jenny's existence which had pulled the TARDIS off course, as it thought it recognised another Time Lord.
Jenny was extremely strong, and had other talents such as gymnastic abilities. These helped them to get to the location of the Source - an object which both sides were fighting to achieve. It transpired that the war had only been raging for a few days, but the casualties were such that many new generations of fighter had been created since, who had forgotten their own history. Jenny was shot dead saving the Doctor's life, when he was attacked by General Cobb, who could not stand for the war to end without a human victory.
After the Doctor and his companions had left Messaline, Jenny regenerated and came back to life, but did not change appearance or personality. She set off alone to explore the universe.

Played by: Georgia Moffett. Appearances: The Doctor's Daughter (2008).
  • Moffett really was the Doctor's daughter, being the child of Fifth Doctor Peter Davison (who's real surname is Moffett). She later married David Tennant, so is now also the Doctor's wife. her mother is Sandra Dickinson.
  • Georgia would later voice one of the characters in 2009's animated Doctor Who story "Dreamland".
  • Whilst Jenny has never returned to the TV series, the character has featured in several audio spin-off adventures.