From today I've decided to post my Doctor Who things on my main blog This Way Up - see link below and in the right hand column. The reason is simply that I now don't have enough time to keep two blogs going so it seems like a good idea to bolt them together. Of course if you've been a regular reader of This Way Up you'll know it used to be like this. I'll be continuing the Season 14 features over there. So hopefully you'll join us and discover alot of other things as well.
Doctor Who reviews and features continue on This Way Up.
29 November 2017
Season24@30. People often refer to episode 1’s notorious cliffhanger but rarely the way its resolved which must surely rank as one of the most awkward. Somehow Glitz gets down to a ledge that was not there previously when we saw the Doctor’s feet dangling above a precipice. If Glitz managed to do that, why didn’t the Doctor use the easier route? Then the Doctor has to clamber down his mate in the most ungainly fashion. Combined with the clearly plastic `ice` that surrounds them it’s hard to imagine that even back in 1987 anyone was impressed.
22 November 2017
Season24@30. Its very easy with thirty years hindsight to be picky about old Doctor Who but you do wonder exactly why this episode already has a great cliffhanger yet chooses to follow it with an incomprehensible one. Was this not obvious back then? Ace and Mel’s shadowy encounter with the monster is classic Who stuff and would have made for a perfect conclusion to matters. Instead the image of the Doctor dangling from his umbrella is left in the minds of the public for a week. These two opposing scenarios do sum up the episode rather well though. While there are a lot of interesting ideas drawing on all fantasy genres the staging is not the best and after the gusto of `Delta and the Bannermen` this seems like a step backwards though at the time longer term fans preferred it; I should know, I was one of them!
20 November 2017
Some of the best bits of CT were the copies of press clippings and this issue features one about Verity Lambert taking over as Chairman of the BFI Production Board. Meanwhile Gary Russell is not pleased with the scheduling of repeats which are to be shown at 5.40 against the news and we can apparently all breathe a sigh of relief at the news that John Nathan Turner is staying on for the twentieth season.
15 November 2017
Season24@30. We wouldn’t perhaps readily associate Sylvester McCoy as being the rebel Doctor but just look at what he gets up to in this episode. Tearing about the countryside on a motorcycle without a helmet, worrying cows, tying a ribbon on a goat and then being responsible for wrecking poor old Goronwy’s lovingly assembled collection of home made honey which he’s already mentioned goes back decades. Not that Goronwy seems to mind; in fact he makes a point of giving the Doctor a jar of the golden stuff at the end. Nothing much seems to phase him mind- the last shot of the story is of him seeing the Tardis dematerialise and looking as if he’s just seen the local bus go past. It is in this spirit that we too are invited to enjoy the final episode of a story that has managed to have a fairly high slaughter rate as Doctor Who goes yet still keep its shape as a rock and roll shindig of an adventure.
13 November 2017
Gordon is gone! As might have been suspected Mr Blows does not retake the hot seat this month and Co-ordinator David Saunders explains he had returned to the publishing world and “therefore felt he did not wish to devote his Doctor Who time to doing that as well.” Nothing to do with his version of CT being unpopular with members and also upsetting the producer then? In case you think I’m being unduly harsh on Gordon, I should say his prior period editing the DWAS fanzine `Tardis` produced some brilliant material. Anyhow after proving more than capable last issue Gary Russell becomes the actual editor this time.
9 November 2017
So we now know how Jodie Whitaker will look when she starts her tenure as the Doctor. It is definitely the most colourful Doctor ensemble in decades though thankfully in a tasteful way. Black – always included in recent Doctor’s clothes -is absent. There’s probably a shorter jacket in the works in a similar shade to the coat as previous Doctors have discovered very long coats can be impractical. Hopefully those fans who are having trouble processing the forthcoming series may draw some comfort from the fact that it looks very much like the kind of thing associated with the Doctor.
8 November 2017
Season24@30. There’s a fab little moment which personifies this most unusual story. The Doctor lifts a wooden gate for Ray to drive her bike through and then goes back to close it (countryside code of course) but does so leaving himself still on the outside. There’s a look, a sort of half shrug and then he just ducks underneath. It’s a tiny bit of comic timing that shows both that this adventure will not be hemmed in by what we might expect from Doctor Who and also that it is a very playful story indeed. At times it is more like a moving postcard than an episode. This attitude is there all the way through starting with the resolution of the cliffhanger which is both clever and then later a bit silly. Gavrok prefers to send a signal to blow up his informant and all that is left afterwards is his pair of smoking blue suede shoes. Its an album cover at least! Yet later Gavrok can’t find Delta because he made the mistake of vapourising his informer.
|Gavrok on the lookout for space buns and tea!|
5 November 2017
Dudley Simpson, who has died aged 95, clanged and chimed the soundtrack to my childhood and had a musical accompaniment for every new twist that Doctor Who took in the Seventies yet how much did I know about Dudley Simpson? Very little except he was Australian. I wonder what he thought sometimes when presented with the footage of some of those stories and how he managed to think of something to match them. There is no other composer whose incidental music I know so well- in fact there are very few I could even name!
3 November 2017
Season15@40. Though in many respects a conventional mid - 1970s story, `Image of the Fendahl` is home to some experimentation. Robert Holmes’ final work as script editor suggests a path the series might take which as it turned out didn’t happen. Instead the story stands in splendid isolation at the end of the so called `gothic` era of the show and it’s production values- in the very capable hands of George Spenton-Foster shine along with Chris Boucher’s intriguing storyful of high concepts. There are enough brain popping ideas in here for several stories and Boucher pulls them together for what was also his final contribution to a show whose appeal he seemed to implicitly understand.
1 November 2017
Season24@30. A smorgasboard of ideas tapping into an iconic era this episode packs as much into 25 minutes as some stories do into 90. It is buzzing with concepts aplenty from an escaped alien Queen, time travelling holidays, a machine that changes various species into whatever form they need to be in for the holiday and a coach that is actually a spaceship. It’s the sort of mix we might expect in a modern story but for it to turn up in 1987 in the original series is surprising. It seems clear we can trace a line through this season from `Time and the Rani’s` final backwards look to Doctor Who as it had been in recent memory through `Paradise Towers` sometimes frustrating mix of old and new to this shiny example of Doctor Who as it could be. It is a hugely enjoyable visual feast and do you know what the weird thing is? When it was shown thirty years ago I didn’t like it!
29 October 2017
Positive Feedback is the main title as the letters page moves to the front in a clearly light news month. However most of the letters are not that positive. “I dislike CT’s new title and logo”, “There is little to be pleased with about the new bulletin”, “don’t bring up the topic of DWApathy again”, “What is wrong with our dear BBC.” Oh dear the members are not happy though you have to admire Gordon B printing so much stuff that criticises what he’s doing even if you sense he likes a good argument. Also there seems to be a missing issue of the DWAS fanzine `Tardis`. “the parcels bringing it from Edinburgh to London for distribution having gone astray.” There’s a story here that would never be followed up possibly involving a fiendish alien plan!
25 October 2017
Season24@30. Anyone flicking channels back in 1987 and catching sight of a silver sprayed Richard Briers doing his best zombie voice might have had their idea of what Doctor Who was like reinforced. What could have been quite a strong scene is completely undermined both by the performance and the design decisions. Its representative of a story where the great and the ridiculous share the screen in equal measure. In this final episode however much writer Stephen Wyatt tries to draw together the story strands the results cannot escape the feeling that things are coming to a conclusion because it’s the last episode rather than organically and shows how all that running about back in part 2 could have been better utilised.
|The Anvil Cap was all the rage in 1987!|
23 October 2017
Looking at the pic of the new Tardis crew released today I get a sense of family- not literally- but in the sense of the original cast. There were four of them too and despite the programme’s name, the Doctor’s role was as one of four not one plus three. It could be that this is the approach the next series will be going for. The place where they chose to take the picture looks a bit like a school as well albeit an old style one. I keep thinking Bradley Walsh’s Graham may well be a tutor to one or both of the other two. If there’s going to be any romantic sub plot (and they may decide not to go there at all) Yasmin and Ryan will no doubt fall for each other as their adventures progress. I’m hoping that too that they don’t really know each other before they join the Doctor as it’s a long while since we’ve had that `getting to know you` thing play out amongst the companions.
22 October 2017
The Doctor Who Appreciation Society’s monthly newsletter Celestial Toyroom – or CT as everyone called it- was the Whofan’s main news source in the pre Internet days and we can see how the news broke and what else was going on. So lets’ travel back to 1981 to the world of Doctor Who and its fandom…
The front page reports the wedding of Tom Baker and Lalla Ward which had taken place on 13 December 1980 and says, slightly surprisingly, that “the couple are still intent on remaining in acting profession.” The DWAS sent a telegram of congratulation to the couple. CT also reported their interest in working on a project together…
Meanwhile “some good news and some bad news”. John Nathan –Turner will be staying on as producer (I think this is the good news) however the 19th season (yes, they were called Seasons and not Series in those days) will return to just 26 episodes, the previous one having had an extra 2 episodes. Actual news for the then current season told us that `The Keeper of Traken` includes one Anthony Ainley playing Tremas. Did anyone spot the anagram? Probably not.
18 October 2017
Season24@30. It is in this brisk episode that the viewer might start to question some of the design choices. With the narrative simmering nicely part 3 is home to some crucial story points not least the reveal of exactly what is lurking in the basement. Yet what would sound great in a script is somehow undermined by the silly look the designer has given it. Like the rogue cleaners it is too pristine when all around is grime and concrete. In this case resembles something from Top of the Pops, a look reinforced by the ceaseless sub Pet Shop Boys incidental music that has been deployed to accompany every movement. Then there’s Richard Briers’ costume. I only noticed this week that it had CC on the eppulatte of what is more of a quasi military uniform rather than some sort of maintenance gear. It’s as if some of the people working on the story had totally different ideas to others as to how to realise the script. I suppose they just didn’t do tone meetings back then.
|Richard Briers found time to promote his latest single on Top of the Pops|
11 October 2017
Season24@30. In an episode where little actually happens the Doctor and Mel seem to end up where they started. Mel is back at Tabby and Tilda’s, the Doctor is roaming the carrydors before ending up again in the hands of the rather flip floppy Red Kangs. One minute they don’t like him then all it takes is a few cans of Fizzaid and they love him only for the arrival of a caretaker search party to turn them against him again. Its fair to say that this episode makes very little difference to the overall narrative.
6 October 2017
Season15@40. Or `Invisibull Nme` if you’re reading this in the far future. This story has a poor reputation derived largely from the appearance of antagonist the Nucleus of the Swarm which is basically a giant prawn made out of coloured plastic that needs to be pushed along the floor to move. However dodgy looking monsters came with the territory in the 1970s and if they were a problem then an average of almost eight million people would not have been watching. This is a Bob and Dave extravaganza and for two blokes with such normal names they certainly knew how to throw all kinds of colourful things at Doctor Who viewers over the years. Against a track record that included the Axons, the Gellguards and Eldrad’s blobby domain, the Nucleus seems positively tame by comparison! Besides there are other faults in a story whose relentless enthusiasm often gets the better of its logic. One thing’s for certain - `The Invisible Enemy` is never dull!
4 October 2017
Season24@30. A quantum leap from the shenanigans on Lakertya this episode is the moment where Doctor Who emerged from its post `Caves of Androzani` downturn and started to get good again. Stephen Wyatt and the production team create an intriguing environment in which to place the Doctor and Mel. It’s an environment the duo explore just like the old days but this is a strange place that is as much 1987 as anything. Colour coded girl gangs, rule touting officials, eccentric old ladies and corridors that are actually long enough to allow the participants to run properly- this is great stuff. It’s a pleasure to watch.
29 September 2017
I seem to have these bits lying about and no real place for them and no context to put them in so I thought I'd collect them here by way of a post. Some of the print may not be that clear depending on technical stuff. Enjoy! First one is from an early Tom Baker as the Doctor photo session....
27 September 2017
Season 24@30. After all the meandering of the past two weeks this final episode gets the story into gear with surprisingly effective results. You do wonder about the Tetraps though. This week they come out of their den to have a walk to the Centre of Leisure and there’s about 15 of them we see leaving the Rani’s HQ. Yet only three enter the Centre. Have the others gone shopping? I love the way too they refer to themselves with the forename `Tetrap`. “Tetrap Steve, Tetrap Joyce we’re going to the Centre of Leisure”. The other thing about them is that despite having eyes all around their heads they still turn round to look at things! Tetraps- crazy name, crazy guys!
|Tetrap Joyce and Tetrap Steve on their way to Aldi|
22 September 2017
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
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’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
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
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 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
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
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?