Tuesday 31 October 2023

Inspirations: Victory of the Daleks

Mark Gatiss becomes the first writer (after the showrunner himself) to write for the new set-up. He and Moffat will form a successful writing partnership which will include Sherlock and an adaptation of Dracula.
Moffat wished to follow the now common practice of having seasons commence with a contemporary story, followed by a futuristic one, and then a historical.
Gatiss' previous stories had been set in relatively recent historical periods - the Victorian era and the 1950's. His work for the Virgin and BBC book ranges had also tended to have similar historical settings.
This time round, he opts for World War II. This is the season's Celebrity Historical, so he opts for the inclusion of wartime Prime Minister Winston Churchill. 
The WW2 setting saw Gatiss revisit childhood memories of classic British war movies. Two in particular stand out - Where Eagles Dare (1968) and The Battle of Britain (1969).
From the first we have the Spitfire call signs "Broadsword calling Danny Boy" - you can almost hear Richard Burton saying it - whilst the Spitfire dogfight and images of the RAF Fighter Command centre, with models pushed about a map, come from the latter.
Gatiss himself, who previously acted in the series, gave voice to the Spitfire pilot.

The Daleks were redesigned for this story - supposedly a new permanent variation on the design. The larger size and colourful nature of the "New Paradigm" derived from the Aaru Dalek movies which had starred Peter Cushing as Dr. Who. Moffat had already used the cinematic TARDIS as inspiration for his new Police Box exterior.
The cinema Daleks had had different ranks, indicated by colour (black, gold, red). Gatiss and Moffat went for both rank (the white Supreme) and function.
The plan was that they would have an equipment hatch at the rear of the casing from which different appendages could emerge, rotating round the groove which runs round the middle section.
Unfortunately this simply resulted in them looking hunch-backed, their graceful symmetry destroyed.
Instead of metallic colouring, they looked like they were now manufactured from plastic. Fans likened them to Tele-Tubbies, or to colour-coded household recycling bins which were then proliferating.

Daleks had always been likened to armoured tanks, and this image was accentuated by having the RTD design props repainted in military khaki camouflage colours, with webbing accoutrements - and little Union Jacks on the domes where identity numbers had featured of late.
These "Ironside" Daleks - the name deriving from the helmet design of Cromwell's New Model Army of the English Civil Wars - were acting in an apparently subservient manner. This was inspired by Power of the Daleks, in which the Daleks found on Vulcan pretend to be servants of human colonists only until they have achieved the independent power supply they need to exterminate everyone.
In the 1966 story, one Dalek chants "I am your servant" over and over, and in his story Gatiss has one state "I am your... soldier", with a pause on the "s" by way of an homage.

Churchill's line about giving the Devil a favourable reference if Hitler invaded Hell came from a real speech the PM made in June 1941. Then, he was referring to support for Stalin against Hitler, despite being a staunch anti-communist.
Gatiss used other Churchill-isms, such as KBO (Keep Buggering On) and "Action this day" which he added to orders which he wanted carried out immediately. 
It was Moffat who decided that the Doctor and Churchill should have previous history, inspired by the name-dropping Pertwee's Doctor used to indulge in (Napoleon, Nelson etc).
Labour politician Clement Atlee features at one point attending a meeting in the Cabinet War Rooms. He would go on to win the post-war General Election, which ushered in the National Health Service etc.
You can visit the War Rooms today. Built beneath Whitehall, entry via King Charles Street, they are now named after Churchill.
Professor Bracewell's supposed origins in Paisley, the city SW of Glasgow, is a nod to Moffat. It's his home town.
The Daleks have been creating humanoid robots ever since they copied the Doctor in The Chase.
The story arc continues with another sighting of the crooked smile crack - this time in a wall behind where the TARDIS landed.
Next time: the Angels are back - and so is River Song.

Monday 30 October 2023

Tales From The TARDIS (Updated)

Coming to BBC i-Player on November 1st is what is billed as a new series, the first part of RTD2's Whoniverse. It's called Tales From The TARDIS, and features old Doctors and companions, in various TARDIS sets. No other information yet, and not sure if also coming to Disney+ but I assume so. As well as the Seventh with Ace we have...

The Fifth with Tegan...

Clyde Langer with Jo...

And the Sixth with Peri.

UPDATE: More info found. Another two pairs are Steven and Vicki, and Jamie and Zoe. They act as a framing device to recall one of their old stories - so basically a full story from the archives. The stories are: The Time Meddler, The Mind Robber, The Green Death, Earthshock, Vengeance on Varos and The Curse of Fenric. Sadly no Tom Baker reunion with one of his companions. Presumably we cut to them between the episodes.
These framing links are written by RTD and Pete McTighe, who currently writes the Collection trailers.

Countdown to 60: You so fine

Both showrunners had sown the seeds with the odd comment that implied the Doctor had once been female - despite other occasions in which it was confirmed that we'd seen all the Doctors there were to see - but it was only with The Doctor's Wife that we learned that a Time Lord could have both male and female incarnations. This was in the form of references to one known as the Corsair. Whilst the Doctors often made flippant remarks about their past, designed to provoke a reaction, it certainly sounded as if it was a simple statement of fact that the Corsair had changed gender.
The revived series had stated that the Time Lords were gone, and the Doctor was last of his kind - until RTD introduced the concept of the Chameleon Arch, which could mask a Time Lord's biological identity by rewriting it to make them physically and psychologically human. Thus, it was possible to have the Master survive.
John Simm played the role opposite David Tennant, and pretty much ruled himself out of further appearances by claiming he was associated with Tennant and when he left, so would he. (He would change his mind by 2013, as he was a little upset not to be asked to participate in the 50th).

Meanwhile, fans were continually clamouring for the return of other Time Lords, now it had been shown how it could be done without messing up post-Time War continuity.
Top of the list, for some unfathomable reason, was the Rani.
Personally, I've never understood this. She only featured in two stories - an okay one with Colin Baker in which she was rather side-lined by the pointless addition of the Master, and then the debut story for Sylvester McCoy, which is rubbish.
The character had worked in Mark of the Rani as she was clearly more than just a female Master figure. She had no designs on ruling the universe, but was instead an amoral scientist whose villainy derived from her low opinion of human beings. We were just lab rats to be experimented on and exploited.
Time and the Rani, despite being written by her creators, changed her character for the worse. Whilst still engaged in unethical experiments and treating lower orders as lab rats, she was presented as just another megalomaniacal super-villain. She had become the very thing which the Bakers had avoided last time - a female Master.

When he decided to bring the Master back in 2014, Steven Moffat knew he had carte blanche to do something new with the character. He could have considered bringing back the Rani - using the old Chameleon Arch trick or some weird science of her own. He could also have created an entirely new female villain character, but he elected instead to have the first female incarnation of a major Time Lord figure.
In Dark Water, he actually toyed with us first by having her use the acronym RANI when pretending to be an AI construct to the Doctor - Random Access Neural Integrator.
It had previously been claimed that Time Lords were supposed to recognise each other, but this rule seems to have been set aside. The Doctor clearly doesn't recognise that this is his old enemy. She has to point it out to him, stating that she could no longer call herself "Master" - hence Missy.
(Actually, as an academic title she could have continued to use her old nom-de-guerre, but the word has other usages relating to the ownership or control over people, where it is very much a male title).

The Rani would never have been as mad as Missy, so the characters would never have been interchangeable - so she doesn't necessarily preclude the Rani from making a return some day.
If RTD2 chooses to do this, then he really needs to make sure she isn't simple a clone of Missy - otherwise what would be the point? Besides, Michelle Gomez has had a break from the character for a few years. It would be interesting to see how she reacted to a new Doctor (a pity Chibnall never had her meet a female Doctor, but then I really liked Dhawan's incarnation). Imagine what a Thirteenth Doctor, River Song, Missy story would have looked like?
If the Saxon Master can make a comeback years after his departure, then so might Missy.

Sunday 29 October 2023

Episode 90: Horse of Destruction

NB: This episode no longer exists in the archives, nor is there a full set of telesnaps. Representative images are therefore used to illustrate it.

Cassandra's warnings are ignored as the Trojan soldiers drag the huge wooden horse into the city...
With everyone's attention on the marvel, Vicki slips away to the dungeons and frees Steven from his cell. They mingle amongst the crowd in the city square. Cassandra notices her absence and sends one of her temple handmaidens - Katarina - to find her and watch what she does.
Spotting the girl following them, Steven urges Vicki to go and find Troilus and convince him to leave the city before it is too late.
Priam learns of Steven's escape, but refuses to heed Cassandra's demand that Vicki and the horse be burnt. The aged King still believes that 'Cressida' is responsible for their salvation from the Greeks.
Uncomfortable in the belly of the horse, the Doctor wants to leave, but Odysseus insists he keep silent and remain where he is.
Knowing that Troilus will not willingly leave Troy if under threat, Vicki tells him that Diomede is out on the plain, and he should go there and recapture him. She knows the young prince is still jealous of her friendship with Steven.
That night, the Greeks emerge from the horse.
On the plain, Troilus instead finds Achilles. The two men fight and the Trojan kills the Greek hero who had slain his brother, though he is himself badly wounded in the struggle.
Odysseus and his men open the gates and the Greek forces swarm into the city. As Troy burns, Vicki locates the Doctor. She orders Katarina to go and find Steven and bring him to the TARDIS, then informs the Doctor of her intention to stay here with Troilus.
In the palace, Odysseus kills Priam and Paris, and orders that Cassandra be taken to Agamemnon as a spoil of war.
Katarina finds Steven, but he has been wounded by a Trojan warrior. She helps him back to the TARDIS and she and the Doctor take him inside. The ship dematerialises just as Odysseus comes to claim it - leaving him wondering if the Doctor hadn't been Zeus after all.
Out on the plain, Vicki and Troilus are reunited. She is able to convince him that she could have left but stayed on to be with him as she loves no other. They see a force approaching and the young prince recognises them as his cousin Aeneas and his men. Troy is lost, but they can find a new home elsewhere.
In the TARDIS, Katarina believes herself to be on her way to the afterlife. She thinks of the Doctor as a god, with the ship his temple.
Steven is delirious, his wound infected. The Doctor desperately hopes that he can find help for him at their next destination...
Next episode: The Nightmare Begins

Written by: Donald Cotton
Recorded: Friday 8th October 1965 - Riverside Studio 1
First broadcast: 5:50pm, Saturday 7th November 1965
Ratings: 8.3 million / AI 52
Designer: John Wood
Director: Michael Leeston-Smith
Additional cast: Adrienne Hill (Katarina)

Without doubt the silliest episode title in the history of the programme, but John Wiles and Donald Tosh thought it could have been worse. Cotton had wanted to call it "Doctor in the Horse" or "Is There a Doctor in the Horse?" - as in the call for medical assistance in a theatrical setting.
The title may be humorous, but the storyline takes a very dark turn after the comedy of the first three instalments. In this, it bears similarities with The Romans, which also had to have a darker conclusion despite moments of camp farce in earlier episodes. It's no coincidence that Cotton was the one to novelise Spooner's scripts.
There is room for a little humour this week - such as the Doctor's complaints within the horse, and his wish that he had had time to give it shock absorbers.

Cotton elects to depart from Homer's Iliad by having Troilus survive, and Achilles die at his hands. Homer has the opposite, as Achilles has to survive long enough to suffer the legendary arrow - fired by Paris - to his heel (the only part of his body unprotected after his mother had dipped him as a baby in the river Styx).
The most famous versions of the tale of Troilus and Cressida are the play by Shakespeare, and his source - the poem by Chaucer. The earliest versions of the story do not include the events of this story. They end just where Cotton begins, with the duel in which Hector is killed. They concentrate on the love triangle between Troilus, Cressida and Diomede. She actually favours the latter for the most part.  
Cressida is actually an amalgam of two female figures - both hostages of the Greeks. Criseyde has been taken by Agamemnon. Her father Calchas tries to claim her back but when rejected he prays to Apollo to smite the Greek army. He does this by inflicting a plague on them in the ninth year of the siege of Troy. Agamemnon is forced to return Criseyde to her father, but out of spite for Achilles takes his hostage - Briseis - as recompense. This leads to a schism between Agamemnon and Achilles - which is the point at which Homer starts the Iliad. The dramatic Cressida is a mixture of Criseyde and Briseis.
Cotton ends his version of the story with the appearance of Aeneas. This Trojan, nephew of Priam, is the central figure of Virgil's Aeneid. This tells of his journeying to find a new home for the displaced Trojans. Like Homer's Odyssey, the hero suffers many adventures before settling in Italy and founding the city of Rome.
Medieval legend also claimed that Aeneas founded London - Troynovant, or New Troy.

With Maureen O'Brien due to leave in this episode a new female companion was developed, as one featured in Terry Nation's forthcoming Dalek scripts. Rather than introduce them at the beginning of that story, which wasn't practical, it made sense to have them first feature here - making them of ancient origins. The series hadn't previously featured a historical regular, and it quickly became apparent why this might not be such a good idea. A character from the ancient past would have no conception of even the most basic scientific developments. Even a light bulb would need explaining to them.
A decision was then made to use them only as a bridging character, and to write them out again as quickly as possible.
The actor cast as Katarina was Adrienne Hill. She had auditioned for the role of Princess Joanna in The Crusade, and Douglas Camfield had remembered her for this part - so she was cast by him for use in his story, rather than by Leeston-Smith. Her first work on the series was Ealing filming with Camfield.

During the location filming at Frensham Ponds, both Cavan Kendall (Achilles) and James Lynn (Troilus) suffered injuries in their fight scenes. This led to a remount a couple of days later.
Some additional filming took place at Ealing on Friday 3rd September, of the Greek soldiers abseiling from the Wooden Horse.
It was on this date that O'Brien discovered that she was not going to be employed on the series after the Trojan story. The decision had been taken over the summer by John Wiles after he had observed her complaining about the Galaxy 4 scripts.
During rehearsals for Horse of Destruction Peter Purves and O'Brien took Hill to lunch to warn her about what she was letting herself in for, in terms of the punishing schedule of the programme, and the safe handling of its often irascible star.

Unusually for the time, one scene was recorded during the afternoon camera rehearsal period - a forced perspective shot of the Trojan soldiers opening the city gates.
The photographs of O'Brien and Lynn together were also taken this afternoon.
A recording break was scheduled both to set up smoke effects to indicate the burning city, and to apply make-up to Purves to indicate his wounds. Fight co-ordinator and stunt performer Derek Ware played the Trojan soldier he fights with.
Stock footage from a travel programme - Travellers in Kurdistan - was used for the approach of Aeneas and his troops.
According to fans who saw the episode on broadcast, after the Doctor expressed his concerns for Steven the scene shifted back to the model of the horse and the end credits rolled over this.
Hartnell, Purves and Hill all then embarked on a week's holiday before reuniting for rehearsals on The Nightmare Begins.

A number of cuts were made when it was found that the episode over-ran, and one of these was key to the personality of Katarina. Others were simply extensions to scenes featuring the bickering Trojan royal family, including Paris telling Priam that they "shouldn't look a gift from the gods in the mouth". 
Katarina had a conversation with Vicki which stressed her belief that she was going to die as the auguries had foretold this. Her pet dove flew backwards, beat its wings three times then died. When examined it was found to have no liver. Hence, she knew she was to die.
Lost also was another witty line as Priam thinks that a gift from the gods should have been better built.

The BBC audience report included criticisms that the famous Wooden Horse hadn't featured enough, and the Greek soldiers had taken an inordinately long time to climb out of it. At the programme review meeting on 10th November, BBC1 Controller Michael Peacock complained that the episode had been too brutal. It seems others present agreed as Sydney Newman informed them that this had been raised with the production team. Huw Weldon pointed out how important the children's audience was to the series. Tom Sloan, who was Head of Light Entertainment, thought most of Cotton's jokes would have gone over the head of the average viewer.

  • The ratings rally slightly, whilst the AI figure is the highest for the story (though only by a single point).
  • The draft script for this episode had the Doctor communicating secretly with Steven (then named Mike) and Vicki using morse code whilst he was still in the horse. In this version, Achilles was still alive at the conclusion, and Vicki left with the others in the TARDIS. Helen of Troy featured, whilst Katarina did not.
  • Peter Purves tends to be very defensive about Hartnell and his performance, but one fluff he does like to recall is the Doctor's "I am not a dog!... a god!".
  • According to an interview with Doctor Who Monthly in the early 1990's, Leeston-Smith could recall working with Max Adrian and Barrie Ingham but, bizarrely, had no recollection of working with William Hartnell. He also claimed that had Cotton's original episode title been kept it would have made him sick to use it.
  • The director never made another Doctor Who story. He claimed that a new head of department preferred to use his own "cronies", and he found himself side-lined. He moved to Spain to work, and then to South Africa.
  • The BBC's copies of the episodes were wiped by January 1969. The last known whereabouts of overseas film copies of The Myth Makers was in Singapore in 1972.
  • One brief scene of the Doctor and Katarina in the TARDIS exists as an 8mm off-air recording.

Saturday 28 October 2023

Story 278: The Ghost Monument

In which the Doctor and her new companions are saved from the vacuum of space when they are picked up by a couple of spaceships...
They are taking part in the gruelling Rally of the Twelve Galaxies, and represent the last two competitors still standing. The pilots are Angstrom - who has rescued Graham and Ryan - and Epzo, who has the Doctor and Yaz on board.
They are approaching the planet Desolation. Angstrom lands but Epzo's ship is crashing. The Doctor advises the pilot to jettison part of it, and they make it to the surface where they are soon reunited with the others.
Desolation marks the final destination in the race. Despite being rivals, this is a dangerous world and the Doctor urges the competitors to work together. They make their way to a large tent in which they meet a man named Ilin, who is the race sponsor.

Their goal is to reach the "Ghost Monument" - a strange apparition which appears and disappears randomly on a hillside elsewhere on the planet. On seeing a hologram of it, the Doctor is surprised to see that this object is her TARDIS. It transpires that Ilin is not here at all. He and these luxurious surroundings are another hologram.
The Doctor and her companions set off with Angstrom and Epzo to traverse the hazardous terrain. After crossing a desert they will face a sea full of flesh-eating microbes. They locate a boat and have to get it working before they can use it to travel to the next land mass. Once more the Doctor has to force the pair to work together. Graham attempts to bond with Ryan, to talk about Grace's death, but the young man is reluctant to discuss it.
Angstrom and Epzo each describe their backgrounds as they sail, explaining why they have taken part in this hazardous quest.

Making landfall in another desert landscape, the group make their way to a ruined building. As they explore, they come under attack by SniperBots - lethal androids.
Inside the building they discover an abandoned laboratory and learn that Desolation was invaded and taken over by the Stenza - the race to which T'zim Sha belonged - who turned it into one vast weapons factory. Angstrom reveals that it was they who attacked her planet and killed her family.
The Doctor uses a defunct SniperBot to create an electro-magnetic pulse to disable the others.
Epzo is attacked by Remnants, which resemble strips of fabric. They envelop and smother their victims. 
A tunnel system is found which will take them away from the area, but when they emerge they are attacked by more Remnants. They are in the middle of a swamp and the atmosphere is full of acetylene. Epzo has a self-lighting cigar which he was saving for his hoped-for victory, and the Doctor detects the flammable gas. She engineers an explosion which destroys the entities - but not before they have communicated with her - a cryptic message about a "timeless child".

As dawn breaks, the party reaches the location of the "Ghost Monument". The Doctor has realised that the ship's engines are looping, hence its random appearances.
Ilin's tent appears by hologram once more, and the Doctor argues with him that Angstrom and Epzo be declared joint winners. He disagrees, but after the Doctor threatens him with bad publicity he relents. He teleports the pair away to claim their winnings, but refuses to take the Doctor and her companions as they are not competitors. The Doctor must stabilise the TARDIS if they are to ever escape this planet.
It materialises fully and she enters to find that it has regenerated itself inside and out, with a new console room design. Graham, Ryan and Yaz join her and they depart, heading back to Sheffield.

The Ghost Monument was written by Chris Chibnall, and was first broadcast on Sunday 14th October 2018.
This episode introduced both the redesigned TARDIS and the series' new opening credits. The previous week had skipped an intro, taking us straight to the new companions and Grace before the Doctor finally dropped though the train roof to join them. The new theme arrangement had only been heard over the closing credits.
The new visuals mimic the original howlround ones of the 1960's, only with an oil-on-water look as opposed to a lightshow. Apart from the odd one-off episode, this is the first time that the Doctor's features have not appeared in the titles since The Angels Take Manhattan. The TARDIS is also absent, for the first time since the final Colin Baker episode. 
The music, whilst honouring the original arrangement, is rather "muddy". It does grow on you, eventually.
RTD had made us wait until two thirds of the way into Rose before we got to see the TARDIS interior, whilst Moffat had us wait until the end of The Eleventh Hour for his. Chibnall has dragged things out to have an entire episode just getting the Doctor to the new TARDIS.
Sadly, it's an anti-climax. The new set will take a lot of getting used to - if at all - and it is significant that we hardly see it properly throughout this first Whittaker season.

Something else new this series is the choice of overseas location for filming. The venue is South Africa, which offers a range of locales. 
One other new innovation is the nature of the camera lenses being employed and, whilst the episodes do look good, we'd have preferred better storytelling...
After a promising start last week, some of the weaknesses with Chibnall's writing make themselves known in this episode. The planet Desolation should be a nightmare world. We are told this often enough. But Chibnall is a victim of "tell, not show", whilst we want the opposite. First of all we are told about the flesh-eating microbes in the water, but they may as well not be there the way the cast react. They just get the boat working and sail away. There's no scene in which we are shown how dangerous this threat is. The group traverse the landscape unhindered as well, until they get to the SniperBots - who are as accurate as Imperial Stormtroopers. Again we are told how lethal they are, but they look pathetic on screen. When a real threat does finally materialise, it looks like bits of cloth floating about in the air...

Due to the nature of the story, we only have a small guest cast - Angstrom, Epzo and Ilin. The latter is Art Malik, who first came to public prominence in the drama The Jewel in the Crown. he has also featured in a Bond movie - The Living Daylights, where he played the public school educated leader of the Mujaheddin. Angstrom is Susan Lynch, whose film and TV career goes back to 1991. Recent appearances have included Downton Abbey, Happy Valley, Unforgotten and Close to Me, in which she starred opposite Christopher Eccleston.
Epzo is the prolific Shaun Dooley, seen recently in RTD's It's A Sin in which he played the main character's father. He worked with Chibnall and Jodie Whittaker (and David Tennant) in the second series of Broadchurch. He started his career in the late 1990's in Coronation Street.
There appears to be a season story arc developing with the second episode in a row to mention the Stenza. This will fail to develop, however. Though T'zim Sha will feature later in the series, the Stenza references end here.
We also have the cryptic words of the Remnants... This is entirely forgotten about until it suddenly becomes a Big Thing in the next series, which will follow a whole gap year. There's no seeding through the intervening episodes, so as a story arc it is very poorly managed.

Overall, it's a very weak episode. It might look good, but it's very much a triumph of style over content. As a viewer we want to see things, not just be continually told about them. That it culminates in a reveal of the new TARDIS is for many anti-climatic, as it was never a very popular design. The Doctor's insistence that she is now a committed pacifist (as opposed to someone who simply seeks peaceful resolutions as the first resort) is a worrying development for an action-adventure series.
Things you might like to know:
  • South Africa was experiencing a severe drought and heatwave in January 2018 when this episode was filmed. This led to the cast and crew being limited to two minute showers, and Tosin Cole developed heatstroke.
  • The Rally of the Twelve Galaxies was inspired by the famous Paris-Dakar Rally.
  • The TARDIS no longer has the St John's Ambulance badge on the door, which Moffat had reintroduced. The instruction panel now has white text on a black ground, which we haven't seen since the Tom Baker era.
  • Susan Lynch is wed to the Grand Serpent himself, Craig Parkinson.
  • A keen photographer, Shaun Dooley's image of the TARDIS with the Doctor in silhouette was deemed so impressive that it was adopted as a BBC publicity image for Series 11:
  • The Doctor has lost the TARDIS key, so the ship creates a new one here. It initially opens the door for her, though we have previously seen that it will also respond to a snap of the fingers.
  • Angstrom's race are known as the Albarians, whilst Epzo is a Muxteran. They've never heard of Earth or humans, so don't appear to be descendants of future colonists from Earth.
  • The Doctor employs Venusian Aikido to subdue Epzo. This was used frequently by the Third Doctor.
  • The Doctor claims the sunglasses she gives to Graham originally belonged to Audrey Hepburn or Pythagoras. When the episode was dubbed for broadcast in Brazil, this was changed to Carmen Miranda and Palmirinha (a famous Brazilian TV chef).
  • Yaz makes reference to the TARDIS looking like the green Police Box on Surrey Street in Sheffield. This is a real local landmark:

Friday 27 October 2023

Countdown to 60: Many Happy Returns

During the making of An Unearthly Child actress Eileen Way had a bet with William Hartnell that Doctor Who wouldn't last more than a few months. The star was insistent that it would last 5 years. He was right, though he would no longer be working on the series when that landmark was reached - and he never did get his money as he and Way never worked together again. 
The Fifth Anniversary wasn't marked by the series (it fell halfway through The Invasion). It wasn't until the Tenth Anniversary that any big celebration was held, with the first multi-Doctor story opening the tenth season and an attempt made to replicate the longest ever story. Director Douglas Camfield talked Barry Letts out of that attempt, due to his experiences in 1965/6, so they went for two connected six-part stories instead. 
Radio Times produced a special edition, and Blue Peter inadvertently saved some clips from now lost episodes. Other TV programmes like Pebble Mill and Nationwide covered the event.

The next landmark was the fifteenth year, which just happened to coincide with the 100th story. These were marked during the Key to Time season in 1978 with a number of TV appearances. A jokey birthday scene in the TARDIS at the beginning of The Stones of Blood was vetoed at the last minute by then producer Graham Williams. They'd got as far as buying a cake and blocking out the scene when the axe fell. The cake was eaten anyway. A party was held at the BBC (below), but the programme itself failed to acknowledge the event.

The Twentieth Anniversary was the next big public celebration, with another multi-Doctor story, and another Radio Times Special. A huge, chaotic, event was held at Longleat House, with an equally chaotic convention in Chicago for US fans on the weekend of the anniversary itself. As well as being badly organised, this convention - and the decision to broadcast The Five Doctors in America before we got to see it in Britain - led fans to complain about JNT's US bias.
The final significant anniversary of the classic era was the 25th, which was more of a low key event. The season running order was rigged to allow Silver Nemesis to commence its run on 23rd November 1988, but there was little acknowledgement beyond the series itself. 

By the time the 30th rolled round, the series had been off the air for four years, with the BBC refusing to say it had been cancelled. It was simply resting whilst an independent partner could be found to produce it. Another multi-Doctor special was attempted - "The Dark Dimension" - but the people behind it hadn't done their sums properly, and the surviving Doctors whose initials weren't TB complained about how little they had to do in the script. We did get something, however, but most of us would rather we hadn't. Dimensions in Time was a bit of a disaster, but it was all done for charity, and it was stressed that it would never be broadcast again, or released on video. It never has, though it can still be found on YouTube. 
The 40th Anniversary was marked only with a themed night on BBC2, and a Royal Mail stamp.

Since the revival, we've had a couple of landmarks which have been acknowledged subtly within the programme. The 50th new episode saw the story's vehicle named the Crusader 50, and the London bus which is transported to the planet of San Helios in the 200th story is a number 200 service.
The big celebration came in 2013, with the 50th Anniversary. Lots of TV coverage, but sadly no Radio Times special... Once again we were given a multi-Doctor adventure, but with a difference. Instead of all surviving Doctors we had a new The Three Doctors, but with just the trio of the revival. Christopher Eccleston opted not to return, however, so a hitherto unknown incarnation - the War Doctor - was devised to replace him. This at least allowed for a big name cameo in John Hurt.
If The Day of the Doctor was intended to celebrate fifty years of Doctor Who then it didn't actually achieve that. It was far more a celebration of the revived series. It was only in the final scenes that we got the earlier incarnations involved,  with their coming together to save Gallifrey, plus that final image which I chose to illustrate this post.

We're currently on the eve of the next big anniversary, but before that we had another birthday to celebrate - that of the BBC itself. Despite the shoddy way in which the Corporation has often treated the series over the years, Doctor Who was selected to form a significant part of this event. Chris Chibnall, having been apparently given the heave-ho before he could get to the 60th, used the opportunity to make The Power of the Doctor a diamond anniversary story a year early. We had all the top villains battle old companions and there were appearances from several previous incarnations of the Doctor. There was no reference to the BBC centenary whatsoever. 
It looks like that is more likely to be acknowledged in one of RTD2's forthcoming specials.
9th December 2023 sees the return of the Celestial Toymaker in The Giggle, and in some of the clips we've seen a creepy looking puppet. That's 'Stooky Bill', which John Logie Baird used to test his experimental television equipment.
The other thing to say about the 60th Specials is that, so far at least, there's no sign of any  multi-Doctor set up. Instead, like Moffat for the 50th, we're revisiting the highlights of the revived series, with the return of David Tennant and Catherine Tate.
Whilst much is known of the new Specials (like the plot of the first one, for anyone who remembers the original DWW comic strip), the second is still a bit of a mystery, and who knows what surprises RTD2 might yet spring for the third one...

Wednesday 25 October 2023

Specials Dates Confirmed

The dates for the Specials have been confirmed as Saturday 25th November for The Star Beast...

... 2nd December for Wild Blue Yonder...

... and 9th December for The Giggle.
The second episode may well be a two-hander, with just a robot for company.

M is for... Mestor

In the legends of the planet Jaconda, an ancient ruler insulted the Sun God, who sent down a plague of giant slugs to devastate the land. The deity eventually relented and sent a great drought, which destroyed the creatures. It later transpired that this was no mere legend, however. The giant slugs were a parasitic alien race known as Gastropods. One of their eggs had survived and hatched out, and soon the creatures had swarmed over the planet once again to lay it waste. They were led by a Gastropod with enhanced mental abilities - Mestor. He could read peoples' minds and even place his own mind within them. He could kill by thought - a favoured mode of execution being death by embolism, when air bubbles would appear in the victim's bloodstream.
The current ruler of Jaconda was a Time Lord named Azmael, who had broken away from his own people. To save his people he was forced to co-operate with a scheme of Mestor's to create new sources of food. A pair of smaller outer worlds were to be shifted into a closer orbit to the sun, so that they might be used for agriculture. They would be shifted in time as well as as space. Azmael was sent to Earth to abduct a pair of twins - Romulus and Remus Sylvest - who had the mathematical prowess to carry out this task.
After discovering that Mestor had a vast store of eggs which were practically indestructible, but responded to high temperatures, the Doctor realised that Mestor had a secret plan to destroy the planet. The two smaller worlds would plunge into the sun and wipe out the planetary system - sending the activated eggs hurtling through space to colonise other planets.
The Doctor and Azmael joined forces to defeat Mestor. The older Time Lord allowed him to take over his body whilst the Doctor destroyed his physical form with a bottle of acid. Azmael was at the end of his final incarnation and allowed himself to die - leaving Mestor to expire without a host body to inhabit.

Played by: Edwin Richfield. Appearances: The Twin Dilemma (1984).
  • Richfield had previously played the Brigadier-surrogate Captain Hart in The Sea Devils.

M is for... Merry Men

The collective title for Robin Hood's band of outlaws, who dwelt at the heart of Sherwood Forest. They comprised Father Tuck, Little John, Alan-a-Dale, Will Scarlett and Walter.
They robbed from the rich and gave to the poor, and helped defend the people of Sherwood from the machinations of the Sheriff of Nottingham and his forces - which had recently come to include alien robot knights.
Whilst being loyal to Robin and aiding him in his schemes, they also acted as a counter to his rashness - attempting to keep him out of trouble. The Doctor knew of Robin and his Merry Men from fiction, and so at first did not believe they were real. He thought they were robots, products of the Land of Fiction, or exhibits of a Miniscope.

Played by: Trevor Cooper (Friar Tuck), Rusty Goffe (Little John), Ian Hallard (Alan-a-Dale), Joseph Kennedy (Will Scarlett), Adam Jones (Walter). Appearances: Robot of Sherwood (2014).
  • Cooper had previously featured as Takis in Revelation of the Daleks.
  • Hallard is the husband of Mark Gatiss, the story's author. He played director Richard Martin in An Adventure in Space and Time.
  • Goffe's many film appearances include the Harry Potter and Star Wars franchises, Flash Gordon (1980) and Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory (1971).

M is for... Merry

Merry Gejelh was a young Chorister from Tiaanamat, who had been selected to perform a special song at a forthcoming ceremony. Her role was the 'Queen of Years', and the ceremony was the Festival of Offerings, which was held only once every one thousand years. Tiaanamat was part of a planetary system which orbited the star Akhaten. An asteroid in this ring system held a pyramid in which a god-like figure was said to repose, and Merry's song was designed as a lullaby to keep it dormant. 
The great  responsibility proved too much for the girl and she ran away, encountering the Doctor's companion Clara. She talked her into going ahead with the performance, but her nerves got the better of her and she made a mistake. The adult Choristers attempted to correct things, but a forcefield seized Merry and dragged her to the pyramid. Legend said that if the god awoke he would devour the singer.
The actual deity proved to be Akhaten itself - a sentient sun - but in the pyramid was a mummified figure known as the Old Father, and its cyborg Vigil servants. The Doctor and Clara travelled to the pyramid and rescued Merry. She led the singing of the entire population of the system, weakening the deity enough for the Doctor and Clara to destroy it.

Played by: Emilia Jones. Appearances: The Rings of Akhaten (2013).

M is for... Merdeen

Captain of the Train Guards in Marb Station on the planet Ravolox. This was actually the remains of Marble Arch Underground station, on the Earth of the far future after it had been moved through space by the Time Lords. The station acted as a survival chamber for some of the population, which had been destroyed with the surface when the planet was displaced. Merdeen was in charge of security and one of his roles was to enforce the periodic culls of the population, as resources were scarce. These were the orders of Drathro, who remained unseen in an inner chamber. Only Merdeen was permitted to communicate with him via intercom.
However, Merdeen was secretly allowing those scheduled to die to escape onto the surface, where they joined the primitive Tribe of the Free, ruled by Queen Katryca. One of his Train Guards - a young man named Grell, whom he had once mentored and saw as his eventual replacement - discovered his secret and threatened to inform Drathro. Merdeen was forced to kill him.
Merdeen then helped the Doctor overthrow Drathro - really the L3 robot - and the population of Marb Station were able to abandon it for life on the surface.

Played by: Tom Chadbon. Appearances: Trial of a Time Lord Parts 1 - 4 aka The Mysterious Planet (1985).
  • Chadbon, who must have guested on every well-known British drama series of the last 50 years, had previously played private investigator Duggan in City of Death.
  • He first came to the public's attention playing Nerys Hughes' fiancĂ© in sitcom The Liver Birds.

M is for... Mercer

A headstrong young lieutenant assigned to the space station which was acting as prison to Davros, creator of the Daleks. Captured by escaped slave workers on Skaro, he had been brought to Earth to stand trial and had been sentenced to cryogenic suspension on this vessel in deep space. Mercer was angered by the way the station was run, with lax procedures and poor maintenance. Dr Styles warned him not to kick up a fuss. Others before him had tried and failed. Soon after his arrival, the station was attacked by a Dalek force, working in conjunction with mercenary Commander Lytton and his troopers. Most of the crew were killed by a toxic gas, but Mercer and Styles survived. Attempts to kill Davros failed due to the equipment failing, so they elected to blow up the station with him on board. Mercer joined forces with the Doctor's companion Turlough, after initially thinking him a Dalek agent. A man named Stien, who was a Dalek replicant, joined them. His mental conditioning was erratic, and his unreliability led to Mercer's death at the hands of one of Lytton's men.

Played by: Jim Findley. Appearances: Resurrection of the Daleks (1984).
  • This story features surnames from earlier Dalek stories - Styles (Day of the Daleks) and Galloway (Death to the Daleks) - and Eric Saward opted to give Mercer the first name 'Tyler' in his novelisation of the story (as in a character from The Dalek Invasion of Earth).

M is for... Merak

A young medic from the planet Atrios. He was in love with the Princess Astra - a relationship which they tried to keep secret but was common knowledge to the military leadership. They suspected the pair of attempting to initiate unofficial peace negotiations with the Zeons, who they had been warring with for ten years. When Astra disappeared Merak was despondent and would do anything to find her. She had been locked in a heavily irradiated zone of the Atrian city by the Marshal, then abducted by the Shadow - servant of the Black Guardian who was manipulating the two factions. Knowing that the Doctor and Romana were tracing her, he accompanied them to Zeos. Thinking that their locator device was tracking her, Merak stole it from Romana. He found Astra, but she had been mentally subjugated by the Shadow and she tried to kill him. Found by the Doctor and Romana, he was then transported to the Shadow's hidden domain. After she had been transformed into the sixth segment of the Key to Time, Merak refused to believe what he had witnessed and continued to search for her. The rogue Time Lord Drax found him and took him back to Atrios before the Shadow's domain was destroyed. When the Doctor broke up the Key, Merak was reunited with Astra.

Played by: Ian Saynor. Appearances: The Armageddon Factor (1979).
  • Saynor appeared in costume dramas The Mallens, District Nurse and The Corn is Green (with Hollywood legend Katherine Hepburn, as well as sitcom The Cuckoo Waltz. He continues to act, often in his native Wales.

M is for... Mentors

The Mentors are the amphibious inhabitants of the planet Thoros Beta. Legless, green-skinned, slug-like creatures, they thrive on money-making and profit. For them, the worst thing that can ever happen is poverty. Their financial skills led to them being employed by a number of intergalactic businesses. When the Doctor first met the Mentor Sil, he was representing the Galatron Mining Corporation. This organisation was reaping the benefits of an exclusive deal with the planet Varos for the mineral rights of its Zeiton 7 ore. This was essential for time warp engineering. Sil and his company had bribed the Chief Officer of Varos to ensure that a generation of Governors accepted low payment for the ore - far below its true worth had it been sold on the open market. Harsh conditions on the planet would be blamed on the Governors, and any attempt to rebel against the Corporation would lead to an armed invasion of the planet. During his visit to Varos, Sil saw the potential for marketing the various punishments which its government inflicted on its wrong-doers.

The Doctor was able to convince the current Governor of the ore's true worth. before Sil could call in an invasion force, a second source of Zeiton 7 was found - one out-with control of Galatron, so they ordered Sil to start paying whatever was asked. Sil doubly lost out, as the "video-nasties" side-line was discontinued by the new regime.
On their homeworld, the mentors were led by Lord Kiv, who had a particular aptitude for financial matters. He decided which schemes should be invested in and which should be avoided, as his great mind could foresee potential profit or loss which his underlings might not envisage. One of his rules was that there should be no speculation. Investment had to have a sound basis. 
His existence was threatened, however, by the physical increase in his brain. His skull could no longer accommodate it. Sil was tasked with locating and employing a physician who would be able to save Kiv's life - under penalty of death to both him and the doctor if they failed.

A discredited Earth scientist named Crozier was given the job and he came to Thoros Beta to experiment on potential brain transplanting techniques. The humanoid inhabitants of twin planet Thoros Alpha had long been enslaved by the Mentors, and many of them were shipped to Beta to be experimented upon. The Doctor and companion Peri arrived on the planet after he had begun investigating the sale of advanced weaponry to a number of alien kingdoms such as the Krontep. Their king, Yrcanos, was prisoner on Thoros Beta, where Crozier was attempting to permanently pacify his mind. The Doctor had his mind scrambled by Crozier when he used his equipment to interrogate him, and for a time he appeared to join forces with Sil. The Mentor saw the benefits of having a Time Lord ally, as he could inform of future events without resort to speculation.

Initially Crozier planned to transplant Kiv's brain into a new skull - selecting as a temporary host the body of a more primitive ocean-going Thoros Betan, which still retained its toxic sting in its tail. This had brown skin rather than green.
Knowing that this could only ever be a temporary measure, Crozier looked to his mind-altering technology and realised that he could transplant the mind of Kiv, rather then the physical brain. The subject chosen was Peri. The Time Lords were aware of the scientist and his work, and realised that it would cause chaos throughout the cosmos as no-one would ever die if they could simply transplant their minds into new bodies. They elected to manipulate Yrcanos, turning him into an assassin. The Doctor had already initiated a revolt on the planet by destroying the mind control equipment which subjugated the Alphans. He was dragged away by the Time Lords whilst Yrcanos was left to kill Kiv - now in Peri's body - Sil and Crozier. It later transpired that the assassination had been faked by the Valeyard at the Doctor's trial. Peri had survived - suggesting that the operation on Kiv had never taken place or had failed. The true fate of Sil and Kiv is therefore unknown.

Played by: Nabil Shaban (Sil), Christopher Ryan (Kiv), Richard Henry. Appearances: Vengeance on Varos (1985), Trial of a Time Lord Parts 5 - 8 aka Mindwarp (1986).
  • Deep Roy also played a Mentor, uncredited, in Mindwarp, as well as portraying the Posicarian ambassador.
  • Shaban's costume changes considerably between his two appearances. The first had too rigid a headpiece, resulting in his face becoming detached from its surround in some scenes. The second version was more lightweight and fitted better to the facial make-up. He's brown in Varos and green in Mindwarp, but some amphibians do change colour.
  • Whilst Shaban's disability allowed him to fit into his constrictive costume, Chris Ryan had to either have his legs strapped up underneath him, or have them fit through a hole in whatever he was sitting on.
  • Philip Martin had originally hoped to have Sil actually sitting in his tank of water, as he knew very few water-based creatures had appeared in the series. The practicalities of the costume and studio filming led to Sil simply sitting on top of the tank.
  • Sil's odd speech patterns are supposed to be due to his faulty translator, but he also speaks this way at home with Kiv.
  • The marsh-minnows Sil eats were actually peaches, dyed with green food colouring. They gave Shaban the runs.
  • Sil has made one further appearance, in an unofficial spin-off video called Sil and the Devil Seeds of Arodor (2019). This also features Chris Ryan as Kiv, but here he's in a humanoid body.

60th & Animations Update

The wording is ambiguous - is it only for subscribers? Is it a proper stand-alone Special? It may well just be the ordinary issue published on Tuesday 7th, just with extra DW coverage.

Another TV programme to add to the schedule is Brian Cox's Adventures in Space and Time on November 8th. That's the physicist who fronted The Science of Doctor Who in 2013 and had a cameo in The Power of Three, not the Scots actor who was the first big screen Hannibal Lecter and who voiced the Ood Elder.
We don't know the content of this programme, but the title and the timing would suggest a connection with Doctor Who.
Another show to look out for is a Bargain Hunt DW Special, as we know they were looking for fans to participate back in the Spring.

A UK tabloid is today claiming that it is The Celestial Toymaker which is to be the next story to be animated. This would obviously make sense due to the return of the character in the Specials. There are no telesnaps, but we have The Final Test, and there is a wealth of photographic material, much of it in colour, from the missing instalments.
However, a group of fans are in the middle of animating this story, and the journalist might simply have misconstrued this as an official release. An announcement as to which story will be animated is sure to form part of the anniversary celebrations (along with the next Collection box set, hopefully - currently believed to be Season 15).

Finally, Empire magazine is going to feature the series, and they released an exclusive image which most of you must have seen by now. It features David Tennant in the spaceship which we believe to be the setting for Wild Blue Yonder, which the actor has claimed is "unlike any Doctor Who story" there's ever been. It has been suggested that this might be a two-hander with just the Doctor and Donna, though at least one other actor's CV claims it.

Tuesday 24 October 2023

Countdown to 60: 'Er Indoors

Companions may come and go (and come back again, and go away again...) but the TARDIS is the one true constant through 60 years of Doctor Who, after the Doctor of course.
Some guidebooks have included it in the list of companions, since it isn't simply a machine that gets the Doctor from A to B.
The decision to make the TARDIS something more than just a mode of transport goes right back to the very beginning. David Whitaker, the first Story Editor, had to come up with a two-part story to bring the series up to 13 episodes - a marketable amount - in the likelihood that Doctor Who was to be cancelled on the orders of Donald Baverstock, who had been alarmed at the cost of the programme.
In the end, Verity Lambert was able to show how the costs of the TARDIS set were budgeted to be spread over the year, so the budget concerns were unfounded. The Edge of Destruction could therefore fulfil another role.
With no money for new sets, monster costumes or guest artists, Whitaker elected to focus on the ship as a means to bring the four regulars together and realign their inter-relationships for adventures yet to come. The first ever broadcast episode had already reconfigured the characters of Susan and the Doctor, making the first a bit more down to Earth and the latter less brittle and unlikeable than they had come across in the untelevised pilot.

We already knew that the Doctor couldn't operate the ship properly, even though he may have actually built the thing (implied in dialogue). The Edge of Destruction sees odd things happen within the ship, and it is up to the occupants to work out what is going on. The ship is giving them clues, and it is Barbara who first figures this out. Clocks and watches melt, to make them aware of Time. The scanner images coincide with the doors opening and closing - nice picture, door open = safe; bad picture, doors close = danger. It's all very cryptic, but the Doctor and companions work it out in the end. It's just a pity that the mystery turns out to be a stuck switch, which was going to send them hurtling back to the explosive birth of a solar system (with some early guidebooks claiming it was to the Big Bang).
Ian asks the Doctor if the TARDIS can think, and he responds "not as we do" but points out that it has a big bank of computers. The phrase hasn't been coined yet, but he's referring to some form of AI.

The Time Meddler lays to rest the idea that the TARDIS is unique and was built by the Doctor. They are standard craft that have been used by his people for at least 50 years. (It is still possible that the Doctor was involved in the development of the first TARDIS, as he did claim to have been a pioneer among his people, and Susan did claim to have devised the name).
By the time we get to Tomb of the Cybermen, the Doctor is telling his companions that the TARDIS is his home, or at least has been for a very long time.
The ship's bizarre way of warning its occupants is demonstrated once again in The Wheel in Space, when the scanner once again shows images of danger prior to another technical fault. Need we say that this story was also written by David Whitaker?

It is during the Pertwee era that focus is placed on the TARDIS once again - ironic, as this was the era in which the Doctor used it least.
Even before his exile was lifted by the Time Lords, we had an entire episode set within the TARDIS (or rather TARDISes, as the Doctor's is sitting within the Master's, and his within the Doctor's).
The Time Monster introduced us to the Telepathic Circuits - the first indication that the ship had a form of sentience beyond the mechanical / electronic. The TARDIS can read the Doctor's mind - allowing Jo to hear his subconscious thoughts. The Master is able to use his ship to intercept the Doctor's speech to render it backwards before he says it.
Later, in Planet of the Spiders, the Doctor has the following conversation with Mike Yates, regarding getting to Metebelis III -
    Mike: "Yes, but Doctor, a planet's a big place".
    Doctor: "Yes, well, I always leave the actual landing to the TARDIS herself. She's no fool you know".
    Mike: You speak as if she were alive".
    Doctor: "Yes. Yes, I do, don't I?..."
Note how the Doctor refers to the ship as "she", something his predecessors never did. Pertwee was a real petrol-head, and it has always been traditional to use feminine terms for most modes of transport. He and Barry Letts had both been in the Royal Navy, and all ships are called "she". 
The Fourth Doctor will also refer to the TARDIS as a "she", in the same way he called K-9 a "he".

Script Editor Christopher H Bidmead had a fascination with the TARDIS, but he saw it in computer terms, likening its functions to his home PC. Not for him imbuing it with any form of personality.
In Trial of a Time Lord, we see evidence from the Matrix which is said to have been gathered by the TARDIS. That it can show scenes from locations where it wasn't even present is due to them being within the range of its telepathic field.
The TARDIS was eventually side-lined in the series. In the final season, there is only a single console room scene (in Battlefield) and even here we only see it dimly, as the main set had already been broken up.
The ship plays a significant role in the 1996 Movie, but in this it contains the Eye of Harmony, which appears to have all the strange powers - rather than the ship itself.
In The Masque of Mandragora, the Doctor told Sarah that her ability to understand foreign, or alien, languages was a "Time Lord gift" he shared with her. It wasn't until The End of the World in 2005 that this was confirmed as another attribute of the TARDIS' telepathic field.
As of Series 6 in 2012, the TARDIS was unique in the universe. The only other Time Lord to have survived the Time War was the Master, and he did not appear to have kept his TARDIS. He must have had one, in order to use its Chameleon Arch, but there was no sign of it. 

In the 1980's JNT had used the story title "The Doctor's Wife", written up on his planning board, to root out spies in the Doctor Who production office.
In 2012 Neil Gaiman gave us a story using that title - and it didn't refer to River Song, who was all over the series at this time. The Doctor's Wife proved to be the TARDIS.
All the hints of previous decades as to the ship's sentience were personified in Idris, a young woman who has the TARDIS' matrix - its 'soul' - implanted into her body.
The story was a love letter to the series in general, and to the TARDIS in particular. Some of those old "Matrix Databank" questions from DWM - its version of Notes & Queries - were finally addressed. The main one concerned how the TARDIS could keep landing the Doctor in trouble every 4 - 6 weeks. Why did it not land somewhere nice and peaceful for a change? Apart from being dramatically boring, we learned that the ship took the Doctor not where he wanted to go, but where he needed to go.
We also learned that, whilst the Doctor was bored and craved adventure, so did the TARDIS herself.
It stole him, as much as he borrowed her.
For a few hours the Doctor was able to communicate directly with his oldest companion - the one true partner who doesn't move on after a while.
Sadly the TARDIS hasn't been explored much in recent years, but here's hoping that RTD2 gives it some of the attention it deserves.