27 May 2016

Was the 1996 TV Movie any good?

Re-visiting the TV Movie twenty years on
There are few Doctor Who stories whose stock has dropped as rapidly as the TV Movie. People and fans (even me!) seemed to really like it when it was first shown but as soon as it became obvious there would be no series as a result the production got the blame which seems unfair. The Movie is, in the end, an enjoyable but not classic sort of story. Had it been just the start of a new series it would no doubt be looked upon fondly as the `Robot` of the Paul McGann era. Two decades on and we now have a lot of modern Doctor Who to compare it with so it doesn't look as good as we might have thought.

23 May 2016

The Idiot's Lantern


The traditions of the 1950s and of Doctor Who itself meet in a well-played, visually impressive episode.

Sitting between a couple of ambitious two parters,  The Idiot’s Lantern has tended to be overlooked which is a pity because there is much to love in Mark Gatiss’ compact homage to both the dawn of television and classic Doctor Who. He takes the traditional elements of a great Who story- a memorable monster, a gaggle of interesting characters, a crazy mad villain, a companion in danger and a pseudo historic setting and brings them to life in fresh ways. The episode shows too how in that old Doctor Who tradition minimal resources can be stretched. The story was probably cheaper to make than either of the two epics that surround it yet this never shows. Director Euros Lynn’s love of askew camera angles ensures 2000’s Cardiff easily becomes 1950s London. If the static sometimes looks a little like it’s been rushed this actually fits in with the tone of the story. All together it turns out this is one of the season’s best episodes.

18 May 2016

Age of Steel

Series 2006+10

Second part of alternative Cyber origins story has plenty of action and surprising heart.

After the awkward `Rise of the Cybermen`, part 2 of the story proves to be better if only for the fact that a lot happens. Coming across at times like a pocket 45 minute movie, `Age of Steel` is an old fashioned adventure in which our heroes storm the headquarters of the villain three ways and each has a tale to tell. Furthermore it belatedly does introduce something of the people who become Cybermen. These are fleeting (because the pace of the episode is speedy) but important moments where the original person behind the metal mask is revealed in tragic metallic tones. In both cases the person was female which somehow makes it more poignant. 

15 May 2016

The Time When the TV Movie arrived

While we can now put the TV Movie into perspective the fact remains that in 1996 there was a lot of excitement amongst fans and the media about the apparent return of the show. We’d been waiting more than six years for something concrete after a string of rumours and vague statements from the BBC and others. However in May 1996 it arrived..... 
The UK Premiere! 
There was a swish premiere of the TV Movie at BAFTA in London on 23 May 1996 with two screenings and here’s an actual account written at the time by Neil Hutchings who was there.
“So there we are, at BAFTA, lurking outside like sad fans. I’m gazing across the road, probably distracted by the traffic lights changing when someone says; “That was him. He’s very short.” It seems Paul McGann sneaked inside before our very eyes (or not in my case). “Was he wearing his wig?” I wonder. “No but he’s wearing a nice blue suit.” Rumour has it that Sylvester McCoy is also on the premises but I didn’t see him either. Wouldn’t make a very good reporter would I? It’s only 8.10 and the screening isn’t due to start until 9.30 so it is decided to have a bite to eat. When we return to BAFTA the other 196 ticket holders appear to have arrived and formed what I understand is known as a queue, a phenomenon invented in Wiltshire in the early 80s. TV cameras have arrived to take pictures of the queue and some days later I am informed that I have made a non -speaking standing still appearance on Newsround. Hoorah!

11 May 2016

Have you encountered Saturday Night Monsters?

In case you don’t know or have been away on holiday to Skaro, I thought I’d remind you about the book Saturday Night Monsters. This is a compilation of Doctor Who articles, features and reviews by various fan writers and originally published (mostly) in the fanzines Faze and This Way Up and now available in this very reasonably priced volume. The articles date from as far back as 1993 and some are as recent as earlier this year and cover all aspects of the series from the start all the way to 2015’s episodes. To find out more about the book click below or check out the tab above. If you’ve already bought it many thanks for doing so, I hope you like it. 

9 May 2016

Rise of the Cybermen

Series 2006+10

An alternative origin of the Cybermen story with some parts not working.

Ever since `Genesis of the Daleks` fans dreamt of a similar tale to show the origins of the Cybermen. Set on Mondas in the midst of some kind of plague, we would see the controversial initiation of the process by which body parts would be replaced by machine elements and the traumatic effect it has on the population. As a rather different take on the origins of the Cybermen `Rise` is interesting if somewhat crudely sketched. Kit Pedlar’s original idea –while similar to that of the Daleks’ origins - seemed rather tragic but would probably be an awkward fit with the modern series. Here, if Lumic’s wheelchair bound manic behaviour appears to consciously echo Davros the story takes another path. His genius being shunned by governments has more contemporary currency though it might have been interesting had MacRae added an actual financial angle given that in reality there are medicines available to treat serious illness but the NHS deems them too expensive and that might have been a more interesting route for the story to travel. Otherwise it’s hard to see Lumic’s actions as being anything other than self serving which presumably was not what started his work. 

6 May 2016

DWAS@40 Moving On Up

In the third and final part of our series on the early days of the Doctor Who Appreciation Society we enter the 1980s and see the Society’s founders leaving while membership grows and the `Fan's Producer` takes over the series. Also check out the DWAS@40 Gallery with lots of photos from DWAS events and publications between 1976-82.

By 1980 the DWAS had become established with over 1,000 members and an impressive history of publications and events. This success was not without considerable hard work and what remained of the original team were to move on during the year, not always in pleasant circumstances. One major problem facing the society as the 80s dawned was financial. Rumours swirled that the DWAS was in deep financial straits, that it had overspent its budget and might not be able to afford to print its zines. It was also alleged that £1,000 had been spent on a colour cover for Tardis'. DWAS President Jan Vincent Rudzki had also become the subject of allegations that he had taken items and information from the production office, something that was untrue but which threatened to affect his employment at the Corporation. The BBC had become suspicious of known Doctor Who fans working there  and it was this potential conflict of interest which finally led Vincent- Rudzki to decide to resign which he announced in May 1980, four years after the Society had started.  

2 May 2016

The Girl in the Fireplace

Series 2006+10
A primer for the Doctor Who that was to come four years later.

Watching this episode after we’ve seen most of Steven Moffat’s tenure as showrunner is interesting because many of his signature ideas are contained within it. We’ve got what came to be known as `timey wimey` stuff in the windows that open into different periods, `monsters` that turn out to be an advanced technology gone wrong, a girl meeting the Doctor when she’s young and then again as an adult, the Doctor having a somewhat romantic interlude and the notion of something underneath the bed. In a sequence where the Doctor reads Reinette’s mind there is even talk of the Time Lord as `a lonely boy`. These concepts and ideas became some of the cornerstones of Moffat’s version of Doctor Who. What is also here, surprisingly, is the brutal slaughter of the crew of the spaceship from which the Clockwork robots come. We don’t see it on screen of course but it is there and, no, they don’t get somehow saved at the end. I single this out because it’s the uncomfortable scenario that gives what would otherwise be a fanciful episode some edge.