29 June 2016

Army of Ghosts


Unlikely beginnings give way to sterling climax.
“I ain’t afraid of no ghosts” warbles the Doctor and the trouble with this episode is that nobody else is either. For a writer who prefers to emphasise the emotional aspect of his work, the first half of Russell T Davies’s season finale treats the apparent return of the familial deceased as little more than a gimmick. There’s certainly mileage in a more carefully calibrated tale of such apparitions but it is absent here, replaced by a somewhat irritating David Tennant performance and said ghosts just standing about while people play football or wash the dishes. There is no real interaction with them neither does the subsequent parade of then contemporary television programmes featuring ghosts convince. A more qualified student of television might be able to relate how clever this all is but in this context it provides an awkward opening to a story, totally devoid of any sense of threat.  Admittedly RTD does throw in references to some kind of psychic suggestion but much of the episode lacks the fire suggested by the bold introduction. Luckily better things are lurking later on.

22 June 2016

Fear Her

Unusually low key episode works until the last lap.

`Fear Her` feels like it’s come from somewhere else, that it was written for another project or as a short story and somehow found its way into the 2006 version of Doctor Who for which it just seems a bit out of place. Only Matthew Graham knows if that is the case but unfortunately it has gone down in history as the dud of the season which makes it sound like it’s awful. Which it isn’t. Parts of it are quite intriguing and it has the rare distinction of being a genuine mystery that the Doctor and Rose have to solve by deduction; an aspect Graham’s script acknowledges with their jokey detective banter. 

20 June 2016

Fashionable Frontier In Space

Last year Rosalind the grand- daughter of actress Vera Fusek did a photoshoot on her blog in which she rocks the very same dress sported by her grandmother in `Frontier in Space` back in 1973. The erstwhile President of Earth was seen lounging about during the story but perhaps not quite like this. That would have surprised General Williams!

17 June 2016

Love and Monsters

Playing with the format of Doctor Who yields surprising results.
There’s something quite prescient about `Love and Monsters` that has only become apparent since it was broadcast. YouTube had only been going for less than a year when the story was written and made yet the episode presents it’s main character Elton’s story like a vlog even taking time to comment on the fact. Elton has to lean over to do a zoom in (but gets a remote control zoom at the end) and he offers his story with an awareness of the form in which he is doing so mixing it like a tv series. Like Doctor Who I suppose. The episode has become synonymous with being a comment on fandom and fans but it is actually not specifically about that at all. Russell T Davies writes here passionately (well he always writes with passion) on friendship through shared interests, on how such relationships develop and also how fame can affect things for the worse. LINDA’s happy gatherings, though initially intent on tracking down the mysterious Doctor, develop into more conventional activities like baking or making music. It’s only when the original aim is hijacked by Kennedy that everything is spoiled. 

13 June 2016

The Making of Doctor Who 1976

Four years after the excellent `Making of Doctor Who` book was published it was decided to re-release an updated version in 1976. Much had happened in the ensuing period, not least a change of Doctor and production team as well as an increasing number of novelisations of the series under the Target imprint owned by Tandem Publishing which was a division of Howard and Wyndham. Features in the `World of Horror` magazine, two special poster mags, the new Doctor Who Appreciation Society and most of all the 1973 Radio Times special did mean that this updated version did not hold quite the same allure as its 1972 predecessor. In four years Doctor Who material was not so thin on the ground. The book was still credited to Terrance Dicks and Malcolm Hulke and included some of the material from the first, sometimes revised and updated as well as new material. The cover features a rather striking piece of artwork of Tom as the Doctor though presumably to fit the brand he is in front of a target!

8 June 2016

The Satan Pit

2006 +10
A clever, exciting watch from start to finish.

“The devil is an idea,” says the Doctor at one point in this fascinating second part which mixes up traditional action, an astoundingly big monster and some philosophical debate in a glorious package. It’s an episode that brims with the confidence of success yet also continues to grow the series in interesting new directions. It’s easy to imagine a story like this in the old days only it would limit itself to the threat of the possessed Ood. `The Satan Pit`, rather like the Beast himself, is wilier than that and has the Doctor and Ida discuss the idea of the devil while trapped at the bottom of a 10 mile abyss. I remember watching this at the time and being constantly wrong footed as to where it was going especially when we get to see the Beast and it can’t speak at all. That his mind has been separated adds another jeopardy in an episode that first time round keeps you guessing. 

5 June 2016

Could the Doctor be played by a black actor?

Why not? It seems an odd question in some respects, far less significant than if the character were to be played by a woman. That, while still plausible, would involve some re calibration of the series whereas a black actor would in theory be no more odd that someone with curly hair or someone who was only 27. There’s been quite a fuss this week following Steven Moffat’s revelation that the part of the Doctor was offered to a black actor at some point, believed to be at the start of his era when Matt Smith was eventually cast. The hitherto unknown news was coupled- in an interview with DWM- with the additional information that only non- white actors were auditioned for the role of Bill, the newest companion. This kind of thing always stirs up a mixture of opinions with some fans reacting with horror, other with nonchalance. Digital Spy have since run through which actors they think may have been offered the role which, oddly (or not) consists of the best known British black actors. One name shouts out (and he would certainly be shouting) in the form of Paterson Joseph whom some people have been linking to the role for years.  

1 June 2016

The Impossible Planet

Superior episode that shows all that is great about this era of the show.

A sure fire way of knowing just how much Doctor Who has permeated popular culture is when you see kids playing a scene from the series. Ten years ago I was in a shop when I heard a familiar refrain - “We must feed”. Sure enough, two children were pretending to be Ood in public as if it was the greatest thing ever. They were re-playing what is both an excellent opening scene and also one of the best gags the show has done. And after that the episode never stops delivering on every level. Those kids obviously loved it because it’s big, colourful and packed with incident. It’s got the spine tingling voice of Gabriel Woolf who chilled another generation thirty years or so earlier. It’s got the Ood one of the few classic monsters the modern series has created. Yet it also has a mind bending concept and an undercurrent of devilish behaviour. It looks fantastic, it moves at just the right pace, it manages to show a convincing lived in and worked in base. It has a great roster of characters. In fact, there is absolutely nothing wrong with it!