25 April 2016

School Reunion

Series 2006+10
A lesson in combining new and old Doctor Who in one irresistible package.

`School Reunion` sounds like an overdose of nostalgia as not only Sarah Jane Smith but K9 as well re-appear in an old fashioned sort of plot involving creatures taking over a school. You can sort of imagine it being done back in Sarah’s day. Yet by combining this with the ongoing Doctor story; his survivor’s guilt mingled with the acts he undertook in the Time War and also his lifestyle you end up with something that seems as modern as anything else did in the season at the time. 

22 April 2016

DWAS@40 Growing Pains

In part 2 of our look at the early days of the Doctor Who Appreciation Society we find that success brings both triumphs and problems. Also see the DWAS@40 Early Years Gallery page above.

After the success of their first convention and with membership rising, the exec decided to effectively relaunch the DWAS for 1978. In October 1977 members were invited to re-join. From the start of 1978 `Celestial Toyroom` split from `Tardis` to become a monthly newsletter with the latter focussing on features, articles and interviews.

`Tardis` really flew in 1978 and included two important articles. One by Jan Vincent Rudzki asked what had happened to the magic of Doctor Who. It may seem incredulous in the light of the creative mess the show would later stray into that such things were being stated but they were. The article cited that the `magic` started to fade during Jon Pertwee’s tenure and accelerated once Tom Baker’s “less compassionate” Doctor arrived. “Perhaps what is missing most of all is any warmth in the stories,” Rudzki wrote. In some ways he might have seemed out of step with the members as he singled out `Invasion of Time and its depiction of the TARDIS for particular criticism in the same issue the story was revealed as being the winner of that season’s members poll!

18 April 2016

Tooth and Claw

Series 2006+10

Kick Ass monks and television’s best ever werewolf!
As an opening gambit, the first few minutes of `Tooth and Claw` take some beating as a gang of shaven headed monks show off their moves- often in slow motion- in martial arts masterclass. Helmed by Euros Lynn, one of the best directors to have worked on the modern show, this is an episode where everything comes right. It’s an odd mix when you think about it- monks, Queen Victoria, a werewolf and a giant telescope but it all fits together so well. It’s an editing success too- some of the cuts are so fast but you still get the essence of what is happening. Though there is no blood to be seen (apparently banned at such an early hour) we are left in no doubt as to the viciousness of the werewolf. 

11 April 2016

New Earth

Series 2006+10  

Ten years on from its original broadcast timelines revisits David Tennant’s debut season.

I remember watching `New Earth` at a friend’s flat and hating it (the episode not the flat) because it seemed too frivolous by half. It was easy to blame David Tennant back then as this was his first full episode and I had this idea- briefly as it turned out- that he might be terrible as the Doctor. Luckily the season quickly delivered `Tooth and Claw` and all was forgiven while `New Earth` was largely forgotten. In fact I think it’s the episode from the whole of Tennant’s tenure I’ve watched the least so I was oddly looking forward to seeing it again. Is it really as bad as I thought it was a decade ago? This is very much the approach of re-reviewing the 2006 episodes by the way, to pick up on particular aspects rather than review them as if new so this is an interesting place to start.

6 April 2016

DWAS@40 Spirit of 76

Next month the Doctor Who Appreciation Society will turn 40. In the first of three posts looking at the Society's early days we discover how a college fan society went national. See also the DWAS@40 Gallery page above.

In 2016 the idea of a Doctor Who Appreciation Society sounds out of time. With social media, blogs, websites and other online resources as well as easy access to all existing old episodes there is really no need for a formal organisation to link Who fans with each other across the country. However forty years ago things were very different.  It was fanzines that were able to link people but they were published irregularly and due to the costs of production came and went. There had been Doctor Who fan clubs in the past and there was still nominally an official DWFC then but these clubs acted as providers only. They stood or fell on the enthusiasm of one or two activists. They would send newsletters and photos out but that was all. The mid Seventies was the perfect time for something like the DWAS to ferment as the show was becoming more sophisticated just as a tranche of its biggest fans grew up. Whereas they might have been expected to abandon something like Doctor Who after leaving school the quality and popularity of the 1970s series meant many did not. At University level a more active, social approach was prevalent on a number of campuses’ Doctor Who societies. This model was distinct from a fan club which was more passive and loyal.

1 April 2016

Do Big Finish get too much publicity from Doctor Who Magazine?

It seems to be that whenever a new issue of Doctor Who Magazine appears there is an obligatory Big Finish related feature. The recently published DWM Time Lord Special is an excellent overview of Gallifreyan related stories yet it includes some Big Finish stuff as well as the TV series as if it is somehow of equal status. This is something which DWM have done for a long time now; subtly mixing these audio adventures in as if they are all part of the same canon. There’s nothing wrong with including Big Finish but it should be clear that these are something apart from the TV show. Obviously in terms of quality the audios are top class and include many actors who have been in the show but in terms of status they seem to have gradually been elevated onto a par with televised stories.