22 September 2017

Two Giant Posters Inside!



The second of the mid Seventies Doctor Who poster magazines is superior in content terms and is produced by a different team (Harpdown Publishing in Barking) and declares itself to be “a special monster packed issue”. Those two giant posters are of the Doctor from `Brain of Morbius` and Lynx from `The Time Warrior` It does mention inside that it includes “a giant poster worthy of the biggest star of Saturday viewing” by which I assume they mean the Doctor and not Lynx! Unlike its predecessor all of the photos in this issue are in colour and it is as `monster packed` as promised. 

20 September 2017

Time and the Rani Episode 3



Season 24@30. Ah, part 3. Most Doctor Who stories of old had a part 3 in which as little as possible happened but they had to do something to fill in the time. Nowadays you don’t get Part 3isms because there isn’t time but this is a` perfect` example of the artform. Plus I've been thinking that if you’re a Time Lord then you might already know more about time than a load of geniuses from Earth’s history or maybe if you didn’t you’d perhaps consider capturing geniuses who would actually know about time other than the Doctor. The Rani’s plan is just a bit difficult to grasp.

15 September 2017

Time and the Rani Episode 2



Season 24@30. If you’re a fugitive on a planet covered in rocks it might just be an idea not to sport your normal bright orange and yellow number but perhaps acquire a dark cloak of some sort. Welcome to part 2 in which last week’s cliffhanger is rather adeptly untangled by having the bubble trap land on water. You see sometimes the much maligned Pip and Jane are somewhat better than we remember. Like the scene when the new Doctor and the real Mel finally meet. This perfectly played sequence starts with a little physical comedy, then a series of accusations and counter accusations and then when each realises the other’s identity an affectionate reunion. Well played in every sense.

9 September 2017

Horror of Fang Rock

Season 15 @40. Terrance Dicks understands how Doctor Who works better than most writers and if his material sometimes plays to the wider audience rather than the dedicated fan the story is usually all the better for it. His `Horror of Fang Rock` is one of the show’s definitive community under siege stories never straying from its remote sea lapped lighthouse from start to finish. Production wise it is a triumph evoking sea fog and cold waves with little more than lighting, a realistic looking set and sound effects that mean the tides are constantly ebbing in the background. Lighting was one of the aspects that the programme nearly always got right in the Seventies (and often got wrong in the Eighties) and this story is an excellent example of how to create the sort of mood you might expect from a superior stage production. 

6 September 2017

Time and the Rani Episode 1





Season 24@30. It’s thirty years since season 24 was first broadcast and across the next 14 weeks I’ll be looking at each episode of what was a transformational time when Doctor Who began to re-emerge as a creative force. Though the full extent of this artistic regeneration wasn’t seen till season 25, it is here that the seeds are sown. All four stories are sometimes a contradiction in styles- one minute there’ll be an intelligent or scary moment, the next something silly is happening. Yet it is surprisingly rewarding to re-watch as it was intended- an episode a week – to see just how Doctor Who started to get its mojo back! To start `Time and the Rani` is loud, hectic and peppered with orchestral stings, high camp performances and an unlikely plot. Still it is never boring and as it progresses on you can’t help being carried along by its sheer brio.





Compared to the previous season’s opening salvo of a great big spaceship twisting and turning we have a cheap video effects Tardis, a be wigged Sylvester McCoy and Kate O’Mara ordering her minion to “Leave the girl – it’s the man I want.” For a moment it looks like the series has got even worse! Writers Pip and Jane Baker are not short of ideas but their dialogue sounds exactly like it was written for an arcane stage play; nobody talks like a normal person. Back in the day I never got why the Rani spends half the story pretending to be Mel and yet suddenly now I see it and it still doesn’t make sense. If she’d bothered not to leave the girl, the Rani could have forced the Doctor to fix the machine and avoided having to cosplay at all. That being said, Kate O’Mara’s Mel is a rather cheeky interpretation.

1 September 2017

Fold - Out Poster Inside!



In the Seventies some kids had posters of footballers or pop stars on their bedroom walls. Other kids though had a poster of a grumpy looking Vorus leader of the Guardians looking like he’d just had a particularly bad day. Or Field Major Styre looking rather pleased to be doused with flour! Fold out poster magazines were a big thing back in the day, the simple premise being that as well as features, the whole thing would contain a couple of A4 sized posters and would also fold out into one or even two massive posters. In the early days of Tom Baker, Doctor Who had two of these the first of which featured the fourth Doctor as its centrepiece and the aforementioned aliens as smaller A4 sized posters.

28 August 2017

Reacting to Bradley Walsh as the next companion and other Series 11 rumours



Initial reaction: Fflligllggglaajjj!!! I need a lie down!
Subsequent Reaction: Ok after thinking about it the casting would actually makes some sense. We tend to think of Bradley Walsh as a presenter and comedian but he’s also an actor. He was excellent in Law and Order – UK, one of Chris Chibnall’s previous shows and also appeared in The Sarah Jane Adventures.  I imagine he could fit into the series in a similar fashion to Matt Lucas’ Nardole, whose promotion to companion was greeted with initial apoplexy by fans but who turned out to be excellent. Maybe Bradders would also be playing an alien character – you can imagine him portraying someone like Glitz whom of course Chibbers will remember well from his younger day. Or he could be the father of a female companion who finds himself dragged along for the ride. 
Light entertainment: How fans imagine Bradley Walsh in Doctor Who.

16 August 2017

Doctor Who and the Pescatons



Released in 1976, at the very apex of the show's popularity, 'Doctor Who And The Pescatons' was a cracking gift to fans It only takes one listen to realise that this is a tremendously vibrant and well produced adventure. I mean, you get Tom and Lis (at the time when he was still the Doctor and she'd only just left), you get Bill Mitchell (the 70's ubiquitous advertising voice), Victor Pemberton is at the typewriter (it's a pity he never got to write more on screen scripts for the show) and when the Pescatons roar, if you turn your volume up it's like the most terrifying sound in the world. 

14 August 2017

Victor Pemberton



Victor Pemberton’s contributions to the series may have been relatively brief but they were certainly significant. He is credited with inventing the sonic screwdriver (though would always generously defer that credit to the designer) and wrote `Fury from the Deep` which remains, along with `Marco Polo`,  the holy grail of missing stories, the `Tomb of the Cybermen` of today its reputation unsullied by endless forensic reviews, its presence only defined by a handful of clips. As for the sonic it’s survived fairly well! He also appeared in the show as an actor and wrote the `Pescatons` record one of the best audio adventures the Doctor has ever had. He was also, as many convention attendees will attest interesting and friendly to all.
He first worked on Doctor Who fifty years ago in a script editing capacity before penning `Fury from the Deep` which was said to be partly based on the radio serial The Slide. One of the missing stories people would most like to see in full the extant material consists of clips of especially horrific content snipped by censors. These moments have only heightened expectations not least the scary Messrs Oak and Quill. The sonic screwdriver made its first appearance in this story. In 1976 he wrote `Doctor Who and the Pescatons` which again re-used similar ideas to stunning aural effect.
Outside Doctor Who in the early Seventies he created and wrote all 13 episodes of the 1972 espionage themed series Tightrope. He also wrote 7 episodes each of Timeslip a tale set across several eras of the twentieth century and Ace of Wands about a mysterious magician. Later series he contributed to include The Adventures of Black Beauty and Within These Walls. He also wrote acclaimed radio dramas including The Slide and Our Family as well as a large number of novels – Goodreads currently has 32 listed. Additionally he worked as a producer notably on Fraggle Rock and several documentaries. In interviews, he was always honest on his views on the series even if they were critical –he wasn’t overly fond of the modern series- and it’s a shame he didn’t write more stories in the late 60s or early 70s.  


23 July 2017

Downtime



The Nineties saw a slew of fan produced Doctor Who spin offs of varying quality but none has the provenance of Downtime. It stars three iconic series regulars- Nicholas Courtney, Elisabeth Sladen and Debbie Watling - in their original roles and is written by Marc Platt who’s `Ghost Light` was part of the last regular season of the original series. Even more impressively it is directed by Christopher Barry who helmed such series classics as `Brain of Morbius` and `The Deamons` and it even features the Yeti, John Leeson as a DJ and Geoffrey Beevers! You can’t get much more Doctor Who than all that!  Shot during an unseasonably wintry late March in 1995 it is a good watch for fans of the series as well as a fitting tribute to the main stars none of whom sadly are still with us.

21 July 2017

Debbie Watling



Fifty years ago Debbie Watling joined Doctor Who as Victoria Waterfield and became one of the most recognisable companions and in some ways the archetypal one. Her screaming was so strong that it once defeated the monsters and for that reason she was considered to be a product of her time. It’s difficult to fully assess her character as most of her episodes were wiped though people who saw them say she was a vital addition and had great chemistry with co- stars Patrick Troughton and Frazer Hines. While her performance was of a somewhat demure Victorian girl out of time, in real life she was a lively addition to the cast and sometimes the victim of pranks at their behalf.

20 July 2017

Jodie Whittaker - the reaction and beyond



Jodie Whitaker is probably grateful for the news that some BBC stars are paid a lot because that story finally took the spotlight from her after four days of intense coverage, comment and scrutiny as well as ensuring she will get the same salary as Peter Capaldi. Result! Now she knows too what the other side of being the Doctor is like, how running around in quarries is the least of her concerns. It has been an eventful week following last Sunday’s announcement and amazingly some 16 million people have watched the one minute clip which must be the most scrutinised minute of Doctor Who related material ever! Amongst other things we’ve learned since is that there were several auditions, it’s not her actual costume she’s wearing in the trail, the Tardis we see is CGI and she’s filming her actual first post regeneration scenes this very week. Also Chris Chibnall was awarded an Honourary Degree this week though as far as we know it’s probably not for the casting! 


16 July 2017

Welcome to space, Jodie Whittaker!



She’s not done much sci-fi, Jodie Whittaker, but she looks at home walking through a forest, past the remains of an old wagon of some sort and towards a familiar sound. Because we move quickly even without being able to travel in time and space there is now as much attention on the clip as there is on who is revealed in it. What a reveal though! Wonderfully shot (does anyone know who directed this and the teaser?) it suggests a man by the way the new Doctor is walking. Jodie Whittaker walks like a man! Our first fact. Is this her costume? It looks a bit costumey actually - long coat, boots etc but it could be a generic costume or it could be what she threw on that morning. It’s the tone of the clip that intrigues me, just as it did with Friday’s teaser. It suggests something markedly different is on the way and I don’t just mean the first ever female Doctor.

14 July 2017

Looking for the 13th Doctor



So in less than two days’ time we’ll know the identity of the actor who will play the next Doctor. An epic looking trail- essentially our first look at what we might well call the Chibnallverse (go on, you love it!)  -revolves around enigmatic shots of various well known objects emblazoned with the number 13. We’ll find out after the Wimbledon Men’s Single Final on Sunday. What is it with Doctor Who announcements and sport? Surely few people follow both but we had Bill introduced in the middle of a Cup Final! Anyway that means we have only a short time to indulge in random speculation. 147(!) names feature in the betting odds and you can also bet that dozens of others have been mentioned around the fan and media worlds. This public search for the actor is of course different from the real life one which you suspect has featured far fewer names and dealt with those who could and would realistically want to take on the role. So how have we got here – and what will the new Doctor be taking on other than monsters?


10 July 2017

The Doctor Falls



2017 Series Episode 12 - tx 01/07/17. Written by Steven Moffat. Directed by Rachel Talalay. Episode reviewed by Matthew Kilburn.

Steven Moffat at his best is very good at treating characters and events as symbols whose interaction as principles not only shapes but often overtakes conventional narrative. Looking back after over a week of rewatches and reviews, the success of The Doctor Falls lies largely in how this coded writing works, laying emphasis on specific aspects of character and setting which sometimes confound expectations which World Enough and Time might have encouraged. What follows isn’t quite another review but a set of reactions considering some of the opinions I’ve come across since The Doctor Falls was broadcast. In case anyone is in any doubt, I greatly enjoyed the episode; there was a tense fatalism throughout, leavened by statements of optimistic principle. I realised while watching it that kindness was probably the factor that kept me watching Doctor Who in the first place. The Doctor has not always been kind, but he tries to be kind to the greatest possible conceivable number of people, all the time. This is his virtue and periodically, in limited ways, his downfall.

5 July 2017

Fan Scene #4 Tardis Issue 6 1976



Does Doctor Who frighten you? asks the strap line for issue 6’s cover. I don’t know about that but the drawings above the question certainly do frighten me! It’s April 1976 and the Doctor Who Appreciation Society is a heartbeat away from going national (check out last year’s posts about the Society’s early years). Before it does though there’s one more issue of `Tardis`. News items this issue include Tom Baker being mobbed in Southampton, the new season featuring “more space and historical flavoured adventures” and first news of a forthcoming record that would turn out to be `The Pescatons`. Somehow though there’s room for speculation about why there was no Tardis sound during one of the take offs in `Pyramids of Mars`. This question would definitely have been trending on Twitter if they’d had it then!

2 July 2017

Fan Scene # 3 Tardis issue 5 1976



Issue 5 is my favourite of these pre DWAS issues because it has an absolutely gigantic, step by step account of the Blackpool Doctor Who Exhibition. I know I’ve just run a series of posts about that but I wanted to save this one for here. Some people will find it dull to read, others of a certain vintage will find themselves re-living every sight and sound. There's even a clip from Tom Baker's column for the magazine Reveille in which he describes switching on the Blackpool Illuminations. This mega feature, reprinted at the end of this post, was treated like a separate wraparound booklet inside which the rest of the issue resided. It’s a cool fanzine idea that was surprisingly not done that often by any editors though few will have published such a lengthy article! Its penned by Stuart Glazebrook, better known back in the day for his artwork, but his account here certainly shows how he could perfectly capture an event with words too.


28 June 2017

Doctor Who World Enough And Time review



2017 Series Episode 11 - tx 24/06/17. Written by Steven Moffat. Directed by Rachel Talalay. Episode reviewed by Matthew Kilburn.
Review contains and discusses spoilers aplenty and should only be read if you've seen the episode

23 June 2017

Fan Scene #2 Tardis issues 3 & 4 1976



Early 1976 saw issue 3 which was, unsurprisingly, a Jon Pertwee special and the first to be edited by Gordon Blows. The great thing about this issue is that rather than being somewhat removed from what was happening on screen `Tardis` now has news and therefore becomes a much more essential read. Back in 1970s the print and tv media only covered major Doctor Who related stories like a change of Doctor or new companion. For anything else fanzines became the go-to place for details.

21 June 2017

Doctor Who The Eaters of Light review



2017 Series Episode 10 - tx 17/06/17. Written by Rona Munro. Directed by Charles Palmer. Episode reviewed by Sean Alexander.
“Time to grow up…Time to fight your fight.”
Irrespective of the wide range of screen, stage and TV credits that have subsequently been added to her name (most with great acclaim), for Doctor Who fans the name Rona Munro will always mean one thing: the last Doctor Who story for seven years, and the final episode of a Doctor Who series for sixteen.  ‘Survival’ came at the end of what, for many, signalled a continuing rise in the show’s creativity and freshness first instigated by script editor Andrew Cartmel on his arrival in 1987.  But for mainstream viewers – and more importantly, BBC executives Jonathan Powell and Peter Cregeen – the die was already cast.  By the time Cartmel would pen a hurriedly written coda to Munro’s story, Doctor Who’s fate as an ongoing BBC production was sealed.  And it would be a long time before any smoke-filled people or song-blessed cities would go out under its banner again.

16 June 2017

`Bold` Chris Chibnall, low ratings, next Doctors and The Fan Show



Incoming showrunner Chris Chibnall has been talking for the first time about his appointment hinting that his approach will be radically different to his two predecessors. For all the debate that’s gone on about the merits or otherwise of Russell T Davies’ versus Steven Moffat’s  Doctor Who the basic format has remained the same. It looks like this will not be the case soon. Chibnall has said he didn’t expect to get the job because the ideas he put forward were so different to the pattern of the past 12 years he thought the BBC would never go for it.  This has been interpreted as the series becoming one long standalone story like Broadchurch for example. To which I’m sure the response might be- `Trial of a Time Lord`.This was the only time such an exercise was attempted and look what happened. I’m sure Chris Chibnall remembers too.  It is very difficult to imagine a Doctor Who story of such complexity anyone could write that would inhabit 12 x 45 minute episodes yet also be affordable unless the series was to become like Twin Peaks with plots that develop at a snail’s pace.
Maybe what Chibnall is really taking about is recalibrating the show to an older audience? 

14 June 2017

NEW SERIES Fan Scene #1 Tardis zine 1975

A new series of occasional posts looking at early Doctor Who fan publications.

`Tardis` fanzine Issues 1 and 2 (1975)

As is quite well known amongst Doctor Who fans `Tardis` was the official fanzine of the Doctor Who Appreciation Society (DWAS) from its foundation in May 1976. However it’s less well known that the zine had already been going for a year before this and indeed it was the original `Tardis` that actually brought some of the fans who would form the DWAS together which is rather appropriate. The person who actually started the zine though was Andrew Johnson a lifelong fan of the series from Essex who already edited another zine and started `Tardis` because he realised that there was a lot to say about the series.

11 June 2017

Doctor Who Empress of Mars review




2017 Series Episode 9 - tx 10/06/17. Written by Mark Gatiss. Directed by Wayne Che Yip. Episode reviewed by John Connors.
Funny how things turn out. There we were getting excited about the return of the Ice Warriors when what Mark Gatiss’ lively episode does even better is the return of the supporting characters. It’s been a while. One of the aspects of the Steven Moffat era has been relatively brief appearances by cast members outside of the regular or returning cast. Once in a while someone pops up who gets more to do- David Suchet being a recent example- but generally those additional characters are just there to flesh out the plot. Delightfully in this episode Gatiss gives at least five of the guest cast significant chunks of material so that you feel as if you know them a bit. Makes a welcome change.
Ssssspoilerssss beyond this point…

6 June 2017

Doctor Who The Lie of the Land review



2017 Series Episode 8 - tx 03/06/17. Written by Toby Whithouse. Directed by Wayne Che Yip. Episode reviewed by Roger Jones.
Being the third instalment of a trilogy, shared by three writers puts a huge weight on the Lie of the Land and Toby Whithouse. The trailer already had speculation that this was a retread of `Last of the Timelords` or `Turn Left`, fuelling the over-familiar and wearisome accusations of creative bankruptcy. So how did they do? Pretty well thinks Roger Jones, who of his own free will, shares his thoughts, which are the Truth.....

(Spoilers below)

29 May 2017

Doctor Who The Pyramid at the End of the World review



2017 Series Episode 7 - tx 29/05/17. Written by Steven Moffat and Peter Harness. Directed by Daniel Nettheim. Episode reviewed by Estelle Hargraves.
Mid-way through an unusual three-parter, `The Pyramid at the End of the World` brings us more of the Monks from last weeks `Extremis`, this time in real life instead of cyberspace. Some might see the last episode as ultimately a waste of time, given that it involved a computer simulation. A programme run by the Monks to determine the most vulnerable point in Earth's history for their invasion, being a simulation, meant nothing much happened in the real world other than the Doctor receiving an email to himself about the Monk's hitherto invisible threat.

24 May 2017

Golden Mile Years - The Blackpool Doctor Who Fan Gathering



The popularity of the Blackpool Exhibition inspired an informal fan get together initiated by Jeremy Bentham and later run by David Howe. Basically, it was a bunch of maybe 70 or 80 fans spending a weekend in the North's loudest seaside resort their time roughly divided between the Exhibition, the hotel bar and all points in between. It went something like this. Arrive mid Friday afternoon and grab a taxi to the long suffering Lyric Hotel who each year put up with being invaded by fans with the overflow being seconded in the Brunswick two doors down. Quite what precautions the hotel in between took remains unknown. The weekend had a theme which would run through the video presentations that took place at scheduled times starting on Friday evening. Yes, we're back in the days when people didn't have every story at home though it's surprising to look back at how reverently a lot of these episodes were watched, although nobody was under any obligation to view them if they didn't want to. 
1984

21 May 2017

Doctor Who Extremis review



2017 Series Episode 6 - tx 20/05/17. Written by Steven Moffat. Directed by Daniel Nettheim. Episode reviewed by John Connors.
“Particle physicists and priests… what could scare them both?”
After five weeks of banter, action and pacy plots, some viewers may find this episode’s change of tone disconcerting. Consisting of lengthy dialogue heavy scenes and an undercurrent of impending doom it has the heft of a prestigious drama and the ambition of a big screen movie. There is plenty going on, it’s just that it is not all going on at top speed. This is Doctor Who at its high concept best.
SPOILERS FROM HERE…

20 May 2017

Golden Mile Years - The Blackpool Doctor Who Exhibition #5



By 1983 it seemed as if perhaps there had been some sort of backblast backlash – how else to explain the fact that this year the corridors were extremely dark with the carpet or floor or whatever being more like an inky void. The exhibits ranged from a Gundan that seemed to be headbanging through a line up of the Time Lord council, Omega and his bird (the Ergon), a Dalek running rings around a totally out of it Davros and displays from `Mawdryn Undead` and `Terminus` One exhibit in the corridor was a montage of various costumes but sadly only lit up once an hour! Darkness was in that year!

19 May 2017

Something very wonderful and strange!



Why does a two part story broadcast 33 years ago leave such a strong impression? Maybe it’s because while it contains many elements you might expect to encounter in an Eighties Doctor Who story, `The Awakening` cuts out a lot of the filler that often extended stories unnecessarily cutting to the essence of the series. In a lot of ways it’s similar to the series we have now- 50 minutes of mystery, excitement. It is indeed something very wonderful and strange! Little was known by fans about Eric Pringle before he wrote it and the story proved to be his sole contribution to Doctor Who. This always seemed a shame as he appeared to have found a way to create a well thought out story packed with interesting characters, an alien with real visual impact and romps along at quite a rate. I used to think it should have been 3 parts but now I realise it is perfect as it is.

15 May 2017

Doctor Who Oxygen review



2017 Series Episode 5 - tx 13/05/17. Written by Jamie Mathieson. Directed by Charles Palmer. Episode reviewed by Sean Alexander. 
“You only really see the true face of the universe when it’s asking for your help.” 
The ‘elephant in the room’ irony of this tenth run of revived Doctor Who is that as the quality continues to build, so less and less of the mainstream audience feels compelled to tune in on increasingly balmy Saturday evenings.  Blame barbecues, blame the convenience of modern catch-up television, blame even the interminable Eurovision results.  But don’t blame it on the boogie.  And boogie is an apt epithet for a show that has now undoubtedly got its mojo back after five series of increasingly tortuous and convoluted (or “timey-wimey”, in apologist speak) narrative that has seen the Doctor rebooted to anything from imaginary fairy-tale friend to prophesied hybrid standing in the ruins of Gallifrey’s fall.  On his farewell lap of honour, Steven Moffat has either finally seen some of the error of his ways or the thought of being unshackled from the most demanding (and demanded) of television hot-seats has rebooted his own creativity to somewhere between 2005 and 2008 vintage.  
SPOILERS PAST THIS POINT 

14 May 2017

Golden Mile Years - The Blackpool Doctor Who Exhibition #4



By the early 1980s the Blackpool Doctor Who Exhibition had become established as a major attraction for the resort and a destination for fans from all over the UK who would badger their parents to let them go. Each year the exhibits would change so as to include costumes and props from that year’s series. By 1981 Doctor Who itself had changed with a refreshed look and a new Doctor in the form of Peter Davison. The final Tom Baker series though was in the spotlight for the 1981 displays with something from each story which you could see for the entrance fee which was now 40p! 


12 May 2017

How to deal with changes in Doctor Who



Things on a long running television programme cannot stay the same and they will change which doesn’t always sit well with people. Fans however are well versed in the art of dealing with change and it seems appropriate, as we wait for a new Doctor to be announced, to bring together the sum of their experiences. When these things happen all you have to do to get through it is follow the standard response patterns in this handy dandy guide. Just work your way through each step and you’ll be fine. There, there.


#1 A new Doctor is cast. “Who’s Next? It’s Patrick Housego!”
  • OMG Not Patrick Housego
  • He will ruin the series
  • He’d be better off cast as The Master
  • Actually he was ok in that historical series
  • Oh the costume looks ok
  • Maybe he won’t be too bad
  • He’s the best Doctor since Tom Baker
  • I hope he never leaves
  • What! He’s leaving after only three years. The series is finished!!