Time Lord Tees

Welcome to the News & Reviews section here at Doctor Who Online! This is where you will find all the latest Doctor Who related news and reviews split up into easy to use sections - each section is colour coded for your convenience. The latest items can be found at the top, and older items follow down the page.

Archived news and reviews can be accessed by clicking on the relevant area on the News / Reviews Key panels to the right.

E-Mail NewsE-Mail Reviews
19 September 2014

Production on 2014's Doctor Who Christmas episode has begun, with a host of British acting talent set to appear.  The Doctor Who Christmas special, a cracker of a highlight in the festive season’s schedule, will air this Christmas on BBC One and promises to be an action-packed, unmissable adventure. 

Nick Frost, actor and screen writer, has starred in numerous hit film and television roles, including Spaced, The World’s End, Shaun of The Dead, Hot Fuzz, Cuban Fury and Paul, which he also wrote. 

Nick comments:

“I'm so thrilled to have been asked to guest in the Doctor Who Christmas special, I'm such a fan of the show. The read-through was very difficult for me; I wanted to keep stuffing my fingers into my ears and scream "No spoilers!” Every day on set I’ve had to silence my internal fan boy squeals!"

Michael Troughton (Breathless, The New Statesman), who has recently returned to acting, will follow in his father’s footsteps by appearing in Doctor Who. His father, Patrick Troughton, played the second incarnation of the Doctor.

They will be joined by Natalie Gumede (Coronation Street, Ideal, Strictly Come Dancing), Faye Marsay (Pride, The White Queen, Fresh Meat) and Nathan McMullen (Misfits, Casualty). 

Steven Moffat, lead writer and executive producer, says:

“Frost at Christmas - it just makes sense! I worked with Nick on the Tintin movie many years ago and it's a real pleasure to lure him back to television for a ride on the TARDIS.”

The Doctor Who Christmas special will air on BBC One on Christmas Day. Written by Steven Moffat and directed by Paul Wilmshurst (Strike Back, Combat Kids), it will be shot in Cardiff at BBC Wales Roath Lock Studios. 

[Source: BBC]

18 September 2014

Will Brooks’ 50 Year Diary - watching Doctor Who one episode a day from the very start...

Day 626: Enlightenment, Episode Three

Dear diary,

I think a problem that I’m having with this ‘Black Guardian Trilogy’ is that it’s just not been handled all that well. It’s not all that bad during Mawdryn Undead - you’ve got a great introduction for Turlough, agreeing to murder in exchange for his own life, and not quite realising what he’s getting in to, but after that first episode or so, it all gets a bit silly. During Terminus and this story, we get occasional scenes of the boy turning to the crystal seemingly just to remind us that he’s got it (this practice is at its worst during Terminus’ middle episodes, when he often slinks away from Tegan to do some ‘crystal acting’ before being called for), and with the Black Guardian occasionally prompting him in the right direction. We seem to have hit a stage now where Turlough has been given so many ‘final chances’ that the threat just doesn’t stick any more, and what should be a pivotal scene in today’s episode falls a little bit flat.

I’ve been musing about this since yesterday. I love the idea that the Black Guardian has told Turlough that if he doesn’t kill the Doctor then he’ll never be able to leave the ship, and that this thought plays on the boy’s mind so much that he actually ends up throwing himself overboard. It’s a great idea, but it just doesn’t quite come across on screen. It all happens a bit too quickly for my liking. But it’s the scene in today’s episode, with Turlough trapped in the airlock (it’s not an airlock, but you know what I mean), that should really matter. He’s already declared, while jumping from the ship, that he will never work for the Guardian again. He’s tried to kill himself to escape the man’s power. When he’s back in a life-threatening situation, though, he’s right back to calling for help.

It’s then that something wonderful happens. The Black Guardian turns up to follow through on his threat - he’s given up on the boy and he’ll happily let him die. That’s the first wonderful moment. That Turlough continues to shout for him, with the situation getting more-and-more desperate is rather powerful… until the real crisis point at which point he’s stopped shouting for the Guardian and started calling out for the Doctor instead. His time in the TARDIS has taught him to have absolute faith that the Doctor will save him - and of course, moments later, he does. The way that linked story lines like this are handled in this period of the programme’s history, though, simply doesn’t allow for the kind of nice through-line from the car-crash at Brendan school to the scene we see here, and it’s a pity, because the journey has felt somewhat bumpy when it could be something really rather brilliant.

As for today’s episode itself… I’m really struggling with Enlightenment. Not in the way that I slogged through The Dominators, or The Pirate Planet, just in the sense that I really can’t make up my mind. This seems to be a running theme this season. There’s lots of individual moments about this story that I’m really enjoying - the guest cast, the sets, the ideas, the direction, which is really rather nice - but I’m feeling as though the sum is less than the whole of it’s parts. I’m coming away from each episode having liked lots and lots of little bits, but feeling a bit ambivalent. And then it didn’t help that today’s episode wen’t a bit Lord of the Rings and had about six different endings! There’s so many moments that felt like the cliffhanger that by the time one actually kicked in, I was just glad to hear the theme music sting!


17 September 2014

Will Brooks’ 50 Year Diary - watching Doctor Who one episode a day from the very start...

Day 625: Enlightenment, Episode Two

Dear diary,

I spent a few days in the build up to this story debating whether I was going to watch the original broadcast version, or go for the swanky new CGI edit on the DVD. For yesterday’s episode I decided to go for the original one, but I’m afraid that I’ve caved today and swapped over to the swish new version! I know, I know, but I never set out to do things strictly as they were on TV, and after the very abrupt ending to Episode One, I wanted to see if it was given more room to breathe in this new edit. I just… forgot to switch off afterwards! I knew where the cliffhanger fell for Episode Two, so simply covered my ears and eyes as Turlough made his jump from the ship.

The new CGI effects are lovely, on the whole. They give a good sense of scale to the ships in the race, and I’ve seen people comment that you get a better idea of exactly what’s going on with this new version. It doesn’t all work for me - I’m not all that keen on the shot of the windows on the bridge, for example - but it’s certainly a nice way to enjoy the story. I’m now debating the idea of switching back to the original version for Episode Three, then back to this one for Episode Four (or vice-versa), but I’ll play it by ear and see how I feel when getting the disc ready tomorrow!

The effects aren’t the only thing to this episode, though, and I’m glad to say that I’ve started getting more involved in the story. On reflection, I think I may have been a little harsh on yesterday’s episode because I’m remembering things about it more fondly now than when I wrote up my entry for the day. There’s so many things introduced here that I can’t help but love - chief among them being the Eternals. When we were first introduced to the concept of the Guardians in The Ribos Operation, I mused that I really liked the idea of there being these two beings who sit above even the Time Lords in the grand scheme of things - the Black and the White Guardians effectively representing ‘God’ and ‘the Devil’ within the Doctor Who universe. Here, we’re introduced to another species, the Eternals, who don’t bother with the cosmic games of the Guardians, and don’t care about imposing their design across history like the Time Lords. They’re just these powerful beings who see themselves as being above it all.

As an introduction to the species, the Doctor’s conversation with Striker is wonderful:

You are not an Ephemeral. You are a time dweller. You travel in time.

You're reading my thoughts.

You are a Time Lord. A lord of time. Are there lords in such a small domain?

And where do you function?


The way that this exchange is then immediately cut off with Striker being called back to the race is fantastic, because it gives us a moment to let the idea sink in. We’re still at a point in the programme where the Time Lords are treated somewhat with awe (though we’re starting to see that change. Their portrayal in Arc of Infinity was, after all, rubbish, and in a couple of seasons time everyone and their mother in the programme with know who the Time Lords are and not really bat an eyelid about it), so the idea that this person finds them to be so insignificant is really interesting, and certainly fires the imagination.

Can we also have a big cheer for Marriner’s line ‘You're not like any Ephemeral I've met before’? It’s the same chat-up-line I used to woo Emma. 

17 September 2014

DWO’s spoiler-free preview of episode 8.5 - Time Heist:


One of the greatest strengths Doctor Who has, is its ability to tell wildly different stories from week to week. Right back to the very earliest episodes, it’s a programme that can show us the stone age, before whisking us off to a dead city in the far future, or trapping us in the time machine. Season Eight is showing this ability off wonderfully, and Time Heist is as different to last week’s Listen as that episode was to Robot of Sherwood the week before, or Into the Dalek before that.


This episode takes The Doctor and Clara, and drops them in to a bank heist movie. Everything you’d want from such a tale is present here, and it’s always good fun to see how our characters react in scenarios we all know from an entire genre of film and television. 


It also presents us with Peter Capaldi’s Doctor slightly out of his depth, having to put his trust in others, and work it out along with the rest of us pudding brains. There’s enough twists and turns in the plot to keep you guessing right up until the end. Why are they breaking in to the bank? Who sent them here? Where’s the TARDIS? And why do they have to go about the break-in like this?


Time Heist may come as a disappointment to people going in expecting something as deep and creepy as last week’s story, because it’s not in the same style at all. That’s not to say that this isn’t an entertaining episode, but it’s a story to be enjoyed more simply expecting an entertaining 45 minutes.


There’s plenty of visual spectacle on display, with director Douglas MacKinnon returning for his second story of the season, and a great monster design in the Teller - a creature able to detect your guilt and remove it from your mind. As prosthetics go, it’s one of the strongest that Doctor Who has seen in a while.


On the whole, Time Heist serves its purpose as a good episode for the middle of the season. It’s never going to grace the top of ‘best story’ polls, but it’s sure to win over fans and warrant a repeat, to watch everything unfold once you know what’s been going on behind the scenes of the adventure…


Five things to look out for:


1) “Are you ready for your close up?”

2) Soup

3) “Have you got to reach a high shelf?”

4) Characters from The Sarah Jane Adventures, Torchwood, and the Doctor Who Magazine comic strip!

5) “Time to run”


[Sources: DWO; Will Brooks]

16 September 2014

Will Brooks’ 50 Year Diary - watching Doctor Who one episode a day from the very start...

Day 624: Enlightenment, Episode One

Dear diary,

I love it when I get to say this: there’s something so brilliantly and unashamedly Doctor Who about today’s cliffhanger. In hindsight, it seems like such a simple and obvious idea - good old fashioned sailing ships, but sailing through space - but it fits absolutely perfectly into the world of Doctor Who. It’s rather wonderfully executed, too, with the story shifting from ‘strange place’, to ‘sailing ship’, to ‘something not quite right’, and then the big reveal at the end, as we get to look out over the view. I think my only complaint would be how oddly handled that final shot is - I can see what it is because I know what the surprise is (and the Doctor’s just told us that they’re spaceships), but it’s such a brief shot that it’s almost hard to process. I’m assuming that’s the whole point. Reveal the true nature of the ships, and then get out just while the imagination is fired.

Despite all the mystery in this episode, something simply hasn’t grabbed me yet. I think it’s because I know we’re flying through space with Eternals at the helm, so I’m just waiting for those elements of the story to kick in. It’s a pity, because I can imagine this episode being rather intriguing when seen without any prior knowledge. Did any of you at the time guess the reveal ahead of the cliffhanger, or was it a shock to you?

And then we’ve got the return of the White Guardian to the series. The first note I made today was that the TARDIS looked a bit ‘Ribos Operation’, completely forgetting that the Guardian put in an appearance at the very start of the story. The back-lit roundels with the main lights turned down really does look lovely, and I wish they’d light the set a bit more like this all the time. Perhaps not quite to the extreme that we see here, but still. I think my problem with the Guardian in this instance is that he’s sort of been undermined since his last appearance. When we meet him at the start of The Ribos Operation, he’s able to stop the TARDIS in its tracks, open the doors, and summon the Doctor. That he forces the Fourth Doctor - during one of the most arrogant stages of his life - into awe and obedience simply reinforced his position of power, and his threat to the Doctor that should he not take the quest then simply ‘nothing’ will happen to him was really rather wonderful.

Here, he’s reduced to a less imposing old man (the guardian was old in his first appearance, but he carried it with a sense of flair), who’s struggling to break through to give the Doctor a warning. The way that he repeats a few choice words from his message (and not the important ones, necessarily), has the effect of making him simply look a bit… doddery. I’m hoping that there’s a reason given for this before the story is out (in my head I’m sure there is, but it may be something I’ve artificially projected onto the tale after the fact on a previous viewing), because it seems a shame to take a character who is essentially God in this universe and make him so much less impressive.

What I am enjoying here, though, is the companion dynamic. I’ve always thought of Tegan and Turlough as one of the pairings I really like about the programme, even if I can’t remember a great deal about their stories. I’m sure it’ll get watered down as the episodes roll by, but I love here that the Doctor doesn’t trust the boy… and he makes it extremely obvious to him. There’s something about the way he tells Tegan that he needs someone he can trust in the TARDIS which I can only imagine Davison’s Doctor doing out of all the ones we’ve had to this point. He plays it calm and quiet, and it’s almost scary as a result. That he alternates between treating Turlough as a friend and with suspicion is fun, and I’m hoping that it’s a theme we continue to play on through this story.

16 September 2014

Manufacturer: Big Finish Productions

Writer: Justin Richards, Jonathan Morris, Nick Wallace

RRP: £8.99 (CD) / £6.99 (Download)

Release Date: September 2014

Reviewed by: Nick Mellish for Doctor Who Online

Review Posted: 12th September 2014

“An epic adventure uniting the Doctor's friends across time and space, featuring Jago & Litefoot, Counter-Measures, the Vault and Gallifrey!

1: Mind Games by Justin Richards
In Victorian England, Henry Gordon Jago and Professor Litefoot investigate worrying events on the streets of London – which seem to be linked to the New Regency Theatre’s resident act, the mesmerist Mr Rees…

2: The Reesinger Process by Justin Richards
London, 1964, and the repercussions of Jago and Litefoot’s adventure are dealt with by Sir Toby Kinsella and his crack team of specialists at Counter-Measures. What is the Reesinger Process – and who is behind it?

3: The Screaming Skull by Jonathan Morris
Disgraced soldiers Ruth Matheson and Charlie Sato are called back into action by Captain Mike Yates, when the UNIT Vault is mysteriously locked down by a deadly force. Together they must infiltrate the Vault and get those trapped out alive. But what enemy are they facing?

4: Second Sight by Nick Wallace and Justin Richards
The actions of Mr Rees have alerted the Time Lords of Gallifrey, and Romana has assigned her best warrior. Independently, the Sixth Doctor has arrived on Earth. A power from the dawn of the Universe is about to be unleashed once more…


Fifteen years ago, I had my tickets booked to attend Battlefield 3, a Doctor Who convention in Coventry.  I had been lucky enough to grab a copy of Sirens of Time on CD beforehand, and spent the night before transferring it to audio cassette so that it could be listened to in the car on the way there.  I was familiar with the concept of the show on audio: I’d listened to Paradise of Death and The Ghosts of N-Space, and I had long since worn out a tape recording of The War Games which I had made.  This was something exciting and different though; this was new Who with three Doctors and the promise of more adventures to come! I listened to the Big Finish “Talking about my Regeneration” preview CD time and again in preparation, but nothing compared to hearing Sirens on the way to Coventry.  It was a truly magical experience.

Big Finish had a buzz about it and a big crowd at its stall that year, where I purchased Phantasmagoria and listened greedily to their panel, thrilled by the hints of what was to come.

Fifteen years on, it’s amazing to see how massive Big Finish have grown as an entity, and how large it looms in the annuls of Doctor Who as a whole, and so we now have The Worlds of Doctor Who, a celebratory trawl through spin-off series aplenty.  The first thing worth noting is how beautiful the packaging for this CD set is.  The photography inside is very nicely done, the brief essays by actors are sweet, and the individual covers done for the CDs themselves are lovely, with the Jago and Litefoot and Vault ones being of particular note.

As for the story itself, it concerns a mysterious hypnotist named Mr. Rees, whose influence extends far beyond his natural lifespan.  From the Palace Theatre in Victorian England to the 1960s and the present day, his story and threat carries on worming its way through life and history, and touches the lives of many connected to that mysterious traveller in Time and Space, the Doctor.

Across the four CDs, we dip into the worlds of Jago and Litefoot in Mind Games, Counter-Measures in The Reesinger Process, the Companion Chronicles via The Vault in The Screaming Skull, and finally a mixture of both Gallifrey and Doctor Who itself in the finale, Second Sight.  What impressed me the most about this release is how all the series retain their own identities throughout whilst carrying a story thread across them all.  For example, the Jago and Vault stories are a whole world away from one another and perfectly fit their respective story, whilst they also move things on with the overall story.  Ditto comparing the second and fourth CDs.  It shows how strong a hook Big Finish latched onto here with Mr. Rees.

The only tale which perhaps lacks any real clear identity is The Screaming Skull, the but that is perhaps expected.  The previous two outings for the Vault have involved them used as a framing device for other tales, and whilst that it mostly the case here as well, it does at times feel less of an established format than is shown elsewhere, though that doesn’t stop Jonathan Morris from writing a damn good script all the same.  Despite misgivings over its format though, it also feels very sneakily like a pilot episode for a new series: the UNIT old guard, the Vault and maybe the new outfit as glimpsed in both UNIT, the original spin-off series and its follow-up, UNIT: Dominion.  I guess we’ll see, but I wouldn’t be surprised at all.

All of the instalments here are strong though, with Justin Richards doing the majority of the writing (he’s responsible for CDs 1 and 2 and co-writes the fourth with Nick Wallace) and showing us once again why he’s so prominent a name in the world of Doctor Who fiction.  Second Sight may suffer sometimes from its brief length (we get a lot of scenes where characters say “This could be his plan... unless... of course! It could be *this*!” which, by staggering co-incidence and ease of plot, turns out to be the case– but of course) but it wraps up Mr. Rees’s tale well and gives Leela a lot to do, which is always nice to hear.  It also makes good use of the Sixth Doctor, played as ever with gusto by Colin Baker.  It’s the Eighth and Sixth Doctors who have benefited most from Big Finish over the years, so it’s only right to see one of them celebrated and featured here.

What’s a joy over the whole release is hearing everyone in the same place connected to the same story: Ellie Higson, Charlie Sato, President Romana.  Everyone is here, present and correct and this is as fun and enjoyable a celebration of the extended worlds of Who as Big Finish could have given us.  Another triumph for Big Finish.

16 September 2014

Manufacturer: Big Finish Productions

Writer: James Goss

RRP: £14.99 (CD) / £12.99 (Download)

Release Date: September 2014

Reviewed by: Nick Mellish for Doctor Who Online

Review Posted: 16th September 2014

“Athens, 421 BC. An ancient civilisation of philosophers and poets and the birthplace of theatre. The Doctor has decided to show Ace and Hector how it all began, with help from the great comedian Aristophanes.

But life in Athens is no laughing matter. There’s the ever-present threat of invasion from the Spartan horde. The plague that turns people into the walking dead. The slavery. The tyrannical rule of the paranoid, malicious Cleon and his network of informers. And the giant flying beetle with knives for wings that stalks the city streets at night.

What Athens needs is a hero. And who better to be a hero in ancient Greece than a man called Hector?”


Before I even get going, I’m just going to take a second to assert what I did in my review of Revenge of the Swarm: I’m not going to bang on in this review about whether or not they should have brought back Hex/Hector.  They shouldn’t, but that’s a discussion for... well, probably the release after this one.  Instead, I’m going to focus on the play as its own entity, away from these things, for now at least.

The second in this trilogy of Seventh Doctor/Ace/Hex-sort-of-ish plays, Mask of Tragedy takes us back to Ancient Greece, a time of political reform, war, new ideas, philosophy, and, it turns out, space tourism and a lot of fun.  Barely two minutes have passed before it’s revealed that in Greece around this time, everyone is well aware of time travel and aliens, because... well, because it’s Greece around this time, so every time traveller wants to visit it!

It’s a great idea: funny, silly, cheeky, a little bit Iris Wildthyme, and perfect for a play that honestly made me laugh aloud at least twice an episode.  I simply was not expecting this play to be as funny as it is.  I’ll confess that despite liking James Goss’s writing and the Seventh Doctor (heck, I like all the Doctors, even... no, no, especially Edmund Warrick), this play didn’t hold much expectation in my mind before listening to it.  Perhaps it’s due to my apathy towards the resurrection of Hex/Hector, but regardless, it is often the way when two plays in a run get released in the same month: you’re aware, especially so in this case, that a finale of sorts is in the pipeline, and so it’s easy to lose sight of what else is there.  I remember when this happened with Paper Cuts, which proved itself to be one of the best Sixth Doctor/Charley adventures out there, and this is certainly every bit as strong a release as Revenge of the Swarm was last month, so I dearly hope it doesn’t get overlooked.

The play kicks off with Ace acting as a Greek chorus and giving us hints of what’s to come, which is at once confusing and intriguing.  We’re then thrown into the action, with Hex still not the Hex we once knew and the Seventh Doctor in a toga, keen to take a trip into history, but one with an ulterior motive, as it soon transpires that he is sponsoring the comic playwright Aristophanes and, in his own words, wants to keep an eye on things due to the nature of all things time travel converging on this one place in time and space.

We soon get a playwright bemoaning his art being sullied by an audience’s taste for fart jokes, Ace as a proto-Feminist freedom fighter, a not-very-good space traveller who is only there for kicks and lessons, Spartans a world away from their depiction in 300, and Hex/Hector lost and adrift in a time he finds hard to cope with, with the titular mask proving that he is not the man he was.  Indeed, Ace and the Doctor find themselves treading on eggshells to not remind him that he’s not this guy they once travelled with, and this is shown up time and again here when Hex/Hector is thrown into the past and expected to cope in the way Hex used to be able to.  Indeed, this is a play which uses the Hex/Hector plot device to full effect, both with regards to story and drama, and it is also a play which doesn’t forget what has just come before, with Swarm proving itself to have an effect on his character here, too.  It’s an example of continuity being used in a smart and effective way, as opposed to a clunky one.  You don’t need the lines nodding towards Swarm in there, but it helps explain a few things.

Sylvester McCoy and Philip Olivier are in fine form throughout the play, though Sophie Aldred perhaps suffers a little by having an Ace who is used mainly for comedy and is given some... questionable lines.  I’m sure having her bellow “I’m gonna teach ya... how to gatecrash!” works well in a comic strip, but on audio it’s a little bit wince-inducing.  That said, Aldred does spar well with Emily Tucker, with whom she is paired with for a fair chunk of this play, and she plays some of the tender moments between her and Hex/Hector rather well.  Why do birds suddenly appear, etc.  I suspect we’re heading towards tears before bedtime with this budding romance, as hinted at in Swarm as well.

Mention has to go to Samuel West as Aristophanes in this play, who manages to be blackly funny and wonderfully dour in equal measure throughout.  He also steals the show in the CD extras by being so damn nice and loving towards Dimensions in Time, which is genuinely touching and pleasingly fan-ish to hear! It does make me sad though that he never once wishes upon someone that they are doomed to go on a journey... a very long journey.

Whatever my misgivings towards Hex/Hector, the same cannot be said for this play which, like Revenge of the Swarm, is good fun throughout.  We have an ending approaching though: a definite ending this time, apparently.  I am not sure that I really believe Big Finish on this one, but let’s play along with them and say it’s true.  I want it to be true, and if that play can be as good as the two preceding... well, maybe I’ll be pleasantly surprised once again.  Here’s hoping.


16 September 2014

Manufacturer: Big Finish Productions

Writer: Philip Hinchcliffe, adapted by Marc Platt

RRP: £8.99 (CD) / £6.99 (Download)

Release Date: September 2014

Reviewed by: Nick Mellish for Doctor Who Online

Review Posted: 12th September 2014

“Philip Hinchcliffe, acclaimed producer of Doctor Who (1975-77) returns to tell new stories for the Fourth Doctor and Leela.

"The starting point was there were a few basic ideas that were kicking around for another series, had we made it," says Philip. "I thought this project would be fun to be involved with, and I've tried to and tell stories that are in the same spirit as the ones Robert Holmes and I were telling."

The Ghosts of Gralstead (Six episodes)

The Doctor and Leela return to Victorian London, in the year 1860.

At St Clarence’s Hospital, respected surgeon Sir Edward Scrivener requires the bodies of the dead… At Doctor McDivett’s Exhibition of Living Wonders and Curiosities, miracles are afoot… And in Gralstead House, the ghost will walk again. Mordrega has come to Earth…

The Devil's Armada (Four episodes)

The TARDIS lands in Sissenden Village in the sixteenth century. Catholic priests are hunted, so-called witches are drowned in the ducking stool, and in the shadows the Vituperon are watching… and waiting…”


Nostalgia.  It’s a funny old thing, one which can disappoint and satisfy in equal measure, and one which seems very much Big Finish’s buzz word right now.

“Come! Let us journey back to the sixties!” they cried when giving us their new Early Adventures range (and, as discussed in my review of Domain of the Voord, fail to deliver that which they claimed they were going to be delivering).  This cry was also echoed when the Fourth Doctor joined the Big Finish fold: finally, we were going to get some true-to-television Fourth Doctor action, was the implication, with some of the more straight-laced fans sighing in relief at this news and frowning upon the Nest Cottage trilogy for having a Fourth Doctor that felt older and not the incarnation he used to be. (Presumably they don’t mind the fact the Fourth Doctor changed wildly from story to story on screen anyway.) I rather loved the Nest Cottage releases, giving us what essentially felt like a Fourth Doctor set in a future beyond his tenure on television– an afterlife for past regenerations, perhaps? Where was the First Doctor’s garden as glimpsed in The Three- and Five Doctors? Do past incarnations just spend all day running around in mist in the time-stream as glimpsed in The Name of the Doctor? Or do they, as hinted in Nest Cottage and indeed on screen with the mysterious Curator, have a life of their own with their own adventures, continuing but perhaps discreet and sneaky this time around? I kind of like that idea; that once gone, there is a fragment out there that carries on.  In the world(s) of Doctor Who, why not?

I was apparently in a minority it would appear though, as people cheered for Big Finish’s intent to return to TV and were very kind towards The Fourth Doctor Adventures’s first series.  I think it is fair to say though that I was less impressed with what we got.  Whilst nothing was outright bad at all, it felt very conservative at times: this was a series that could go anywhere at all in time and space, and we had painstaking attempts to fit it in with events seen in The Talons of Weng-Chiang, a return to Nerva, and a series so keen on aping an era that it forgot a lot of the time to have a dash of colour and enjoyment along the way, too.

That has improved increasingly as the series has run on, but at times I still wish for something a bit... more.  We glimpsed it with The Foe from the Future, which managed to balance nostalgia and something new and exciting well, and stories such as The Crooked Man have been as strong as the strongest of other Big Finish releases, but they have definitely missed a certain something for me, and I think that’s the time-free quality that the main range sometimes has.  Though set in the past, it strides into the new, and more often than not, this is something The Fourth Doctor Adventures has avoided doing.

I think you can imagine then that I was not exactly cheering with joy when hearing about this box set.  I like Philip Hinchcliffe’s era on screen, and I think that Hinchcliffe himself is always an articulate, interesting and thoughtful interviewee, but this harkening back to nostalgia again, couple with a sense of underwhelmement (a new word I’ve coined) with The Lost Valley, Hinchcliffe’s own audio play as used in The Fourth Doctor Box Set, did not endear me to this idea, but what we have here in the Philip HInchcliffe Presents set is exactly what I have been yearning for: something new and enjoyable, whilst looking to the past as well.  If nothing else, it simply confirms to me that what the Fourth Doctor needs is to join the Main Range fold, as hour-long stories are simply not cutting it for him.  At six- and four episodes apiece, the stories in this box set have ample room to breathe, and give us two of the most enjoyable Big Finish outings for Doctor number Four to date.

We kick things off with The Ghosts of Gralstead, a Victorian adventure with bodysnatching, spooky goings on in the entertainment business, a god-like enemy from the future flung into the past, and a pleasing mixture of classes that tells its own story... no, no, come back! I swear I’m not just repeating the plot of Talons, this is its own thing... sort of.

Yes, much like Foe, this has its roots firmly in Weng-Chiang’s territory, to the extent where Jago and Litefoot are nodded to mere moments into the play and some of the lines are almost taken wholesale from Robert Holmes’s scripts: playful homage or blatant cribbing? You choose.  Ghosts is another little sibling to Talons, just as Foe was, but, just like Foe, it manages to push beyond these trappings by simply being a really good story in its own right.  You can see the fingerprints, but the overall story merits more attention than that.

In the CD Extras, Hinchcliffe freely says that him and Robert Holmes had few if any ideas for what they would have done together had they stayed on for one more season, but that an adventure yarn with explorers and the enjoyable mash-up of Victoriana and Doctor Who would have appealed, and the story he has given Marc Platt to adapt shows that perfect synthesis of old statesman and new writer.  It gels together amazingly well, and applause must go to Platt as well as the cast, which is incredible throughout.  Perhaps most impressive to me was Emerald O’Hanrahan as Clementine Scrivener, who gets comparably little to do, but manages to fill that role with a life and zest all of its own.  Louise Jameson is wonderful, finding new things to do with a role she’s been playing on-and-off for absolutely years now, and Tom Baker is also on fine form here, giving us a performance that at the end of Part Four has rarely, to my eyes (or, rather, ears) been bettered.

Truly, there’s not a duff note throughout the tale with regards to performance.  The story itself though sadly ends with a whimper rather than a bang after six episodes of adventure: a real pity, but perhaps the only real sour note for me in Ghosts.

What Ghosts is, though, is very much what fans often distill Hinchcliffe’s era as being: Leela! The Victorians! Spookiness! Fog! Colourful background characters! It’s safe to say that Talons looms large and has a lot to answer for in this regard.

Hinchcliffe’s era was much more than this though, and The Devil’s Armada goes some way to addressing this.  Taking a leaf out of the good book Mandragora, this story flings us into history and mixes alien goings on with real-life events.  Again, like Mandragora we have superstitious religious hyperbole on display here and what purports to be a god as a foe, so again, I think it is fair to say that the fingerprints are very much on display.

And again, it’s a damn good play in its own right, with cast and script both strong and solid, and this time consistent, with an ending that is every bit as good as the rest of it.  In may ways a sequel to Marc Platt’s First Doctor Companion Chronicle The Flames of Cadiz, Armada flips that tale on its head by telling events from the English viewpoint as the Spanish Armada amass, ready to take on Queen and Country as religious persecution and witch-hunting reaches fever pitch on shore.  The play never once shies away from the brutality of such persecution, and characters that try to redeem themselves are never quite saved due to the severity of their actions beforehand.  Even characters with shades of grey are more determinedly black or white due to circumstance, which makes for a refreshing change.

Things aren’t perfect in this play.  The central threat is essentially Azal or the creature down in the Satan Pit all over again, which rather dulls things, but it’s made up for with a guest cast that boasts Beth Chalmers (whom I adore, even if they did rather piss away poor Raine), Nigel Carrington and Jamie Newall all being... well, brilliant.  I struggle to find an accurate description other than that.

Across these two plays, we have some of the finest guest performances Big Finish have given us for a while.  The same goes for the plays.  Nostalgic? Yes, but not in a way that is cloying, which has been the real problem with the Fourth Doctor’s Big Finish adventures so far.  I see that the box this set comes in has the number one printed upon its spine, giving me home that there is more to come.  Certainly, I’d love to see more Fourth Doctor releases of this quality and consistency, and if that means a shift to box sets and longer plays rather than monthly releases, then sign me up.

You want to see Tom Baker in his element once again? Go for the box sets and skip the main range.  The best is here.


15 September 2014

Will Brooks’ 50 Year Diary - watching Doctor Who one episode a day from the very start...

Day 623: Terminus, Episode Four

Dear diary,

I think this might me one of those unfortunate instances, as with Time-Flight, where there’s a really good story to be told here, using all of the elements we’re given on screen, but what we’ve actually got has slightly come off the rails and missed it. What I mean is that there’s a great departure story for Nyssa in Terminus… but it’s only in the last three minutes when she’s actually making her goodbyes.

This fourth episode is, in many ways, all Nyssa’s. She’s spent a few episodes infected by a virus, and then she’s cured of it, and decides that her purpose in life should be to stay here and help refine the process. Her split-second decision at the end to leave her life in the TARDIS behind is rather touching, but it feels as though it’s all come somewhat out of nowhere. I think it’s largely down to the fact that Nyssa’s interest and skills in science haven’t really been forefront in recent stories, so to suddenly have her so up-to-speed with things again here just doesn’t feel quite right.

It’s also the case that I don’t really feel like I’ve seen much of her in this story. The fact that she’s ill and gets to see the conditions that the Lazars are being kept in is vital to her decision to stay behind at the end… but it’s all felt like a side story to the Doctor’s plot about the birth of the universe. In fairness, this episode does do a rather good job, I think, of intertwining the two strands of the story: but it’s too little too late for me, and I have to admit that I zoned out a little bit today, so I think I’ve possibly missed some things…

As for Nyssa herself… I’m sorry to say that I’m not really going to miss her all that much. That’s nothing against Sarah Sutton, who’s turned in a good performance fairly consistently, but more that the character never seemed to chime with me. Throughout Season Nineteen, she was my least favourite member of the TARDIS crew (and I thought the team worked better throughout Kinda, without Nyssa there), and Season Twenty seems to have robbed her of any particularly interesting character traits, and reduced her to your stereotypical screaming-and-pointing assistant. Over the years, I think I’ve heard Peter Davison say that he felt Nyssa should have carried on while Tegan should have left the series, but I’m afraid I’d disagree - I’m much more looking forward to having Tegan around for a good while yet.

The same can be said of Turlough. I think I’m liking him so far - he’s another character with a great line in sarcasm, and that’s always a winner for me - but it’s difficult to judge from this story. He’s had to spend far too much time scrawling around in maintenance ducts, and when he does manage to break away and into the rest of the set, he’s reduced to talking with his pet crystal! I can’t wait to get the Black Guardian storyline out of the way in the next story, so that we can enjoy Turlough on his own merits.


15 September 2014

It is with deepest regret that DWO announces the passing of Classic Series Doctor Who Actor, Angus Lennie.

Angus was perhaps best known to Doctor Who fans for playing the role of Storr in the Classic Series 2nd Doctor adventure; The Ice Warriors, Angus in the Classic Series 4th Doctor adventure; Terror Of The Zygons.

Angus' other career highlights include roles in; The Great Escape, Crossroads and Monarch Of The Glen.

DWO would like to extend our sympathies to Angus' family and friends.

[Source: Scottish Daily Record]

14 September 2014

Our friends over at The Film Cell have put together some fantastic Christmas present ideas for you Whovians out there. They have come up with a couple of fantastic Doctor Who gift hampers pulling together some fantastic merchandise and memorabilia into nicely finished parcels that you won't event have to wrap. At the moment they have two styles but they have told us that there will be more to come between now and Christmas so keep checking there website and Facebook pages for all the latest info. 

Firstly they have the 11th Doctor Hamper which features Doctor Who collectables themed around Matt Smith's character. The hamper includes an 11th Doctor dressing gown to help you wined down after a busy week at work. A Matt Smith 3D mug that you can take into the office, a Sonic Screwdriver pizza cutter (you know what to do with this, it even makes the SFX when slicing through pizza, how cool) and a Ceramic Tardis money box to save up for your next piece of memorabilia. All this for the fantastic price of just £69.99, I know I'd be happy to wake up with one of these under my tree on Christmas morning.
But that's not it, if you are a fan of the older Doctor Who series or Matt Smith isn't your favourite Doctor then take a look at this next hamper they have on offer. They are calling this their Doctor Who Night In Gift Hamper. This has everything you need for a night in watching your favourite Doctor Who episode or catching the latest series on TV every Saturday night. 
First up you will get a Tardis onesie ideal for relaxing on the sofa, while you are sitting down chilling you are going to need some nibbles. That's where the ceramic Tardis cookie jar comes in handy. But you don't have to use this just for your favourite biscuits, why not fill it with popcorn, sweet or any other snacks. As it's a Tardis you will be able to cram in more than you would think, it's much bigger on the inside... The package also includes a very useful Sonic Screwdriver bottle opener, so you have your beverage sorted you just need something to drink it out of. That's right, you can use the 3D figural mug that also comes in the hamper, the character mug is chosen at random but you can ask for a set character when placing the order. Again this is all available for the price of just £69.99 saving you around 20% if you bought the items separately. And the gift wrap service is thrown in for FREE, so you can sit back and smile while everyone around you struggles to wrapping up their Christmas present in a mad rush.
They also have loads more hampers available for you to look through from other TV shows and movies such as Star Wars, Harry Potter, The Hobbit and many more. We love the Star Wars kitchen hamper. If you are stuck for present ideas this Christmas or if you are looking for a special birthday gift then take a look at The Film Cell's gift hampers and follow them on Facebook for all the latest news and Doctor Who memorabilia.

+  For all these and more, check out The Film Cell.

[Sources: The Film Cell]
14 September 2014

Will Brooks’ 50 Year Diary - watching Doctor Who one episode a day from the very start...

Day 622: Terminus, Episode Three

Dear diary,

I can’t decide wether or not this is a good story for Nyssa’s departure. On the one hand, things start well, with her being separated from the rest of the TARDIS crew, and then being the one paired with the Doctor while Tegan and Turlough have to crawl around in the ventilation ducts. Since then, though, she’s contracted a disease, and has spent much of today’s episode either whining about being ill, or getting chained up to be taken away by a big dog. The jury is still out, I think…

On the subject of the big dog… I think I’m right in saying that the Garm is one of Doctor Who’s less fondu remembered monster costumes. I don’t think it’s as bad as I was expecting it to be, but it is being shot in a strange way - quite at odds with the skill and precision that Mary Ridge is bringing to other parts of the story. There’s a lot of areas in the set - particularly within the Garm’s own forbidden section of the ship - which have been lit beautifully, really highlighting the shadows and the atmosphere. I’d assumed that this was partly to hide the costume a little, keep it a mysterious, seven-foot dog shape leering out of the dark… but no. The creature moves very quickly from the shadows and into the fully-lit sections of the studio very quickly, even in its first appearance. As I say, it’s not a bad costume, but it would benefit a bit from being kept more mysterious, especially with those glowing eyes.

Something I’d forgotten I knew about Terminus is that it’s all to do with the Big Bang at the start of the universe. There was almost a twinge of recognition when they first discovered that it sat at the exact centre of the universe, but this episode brought it all flooding back. I really love the idea that the start of everything was caused by the venting of spaceship fuel from a time vessel, and watching the Doctor and Kari figure it all out has been fantastic. I think I’m also quite keen on the idea that the second explosion would have the exact opposite effect and bring everything to an end. I can’t remember if they do shunt the ship forward in time to do just that (though I don’t think they do…), but it’s posing some nice ideas for now.

Despite all this… I’m not really sure what to make of Terminus. On the one hand, it’s filled with some great ideas, enough of your standard Doctor Who fare - in the slaves here on Terminus rising up against perceived oppression - to keep things moving, and the direction really is lovely on the whole. But then on the other hand… I’m just not sure about anything. I’m being kept entertained enough by things, but it’s hardly leaving me screaming out for more, and desperate to carry on in the way that Mawdryn Undead did. Here’s hoping that tomorrow’s final episode will prove to be both the thing that makes the story stand out in my mind, and also work as a fitting departure for Nyssa…


13 September 2014

Will Brooks’ 50 Year Diary - watching Doctor Who one episode a day from the very start...

Day 621: Terminus, Episode Two

Dear diary,

The last time Steve Gallagher wrote a script for Doctor Who, it was Warrior’s Gate… and I didn’t understand it very well. Terminus is a far more straightforward serial (though there’s still enough here to keep me guessing), but it’s not the writing that I actually want to focus on today - it’s the sets and the direction. Something I praised in Warrior’s Gate was the use of different levels on the sets of the spaceship to make it feel far less studio-bound than we were used to. The same effect is being applied here, too, to an even greater extent… even though it’s an entirely different director. I know, this sounds like a ramble of various different thoughts, but in my notes, I compared this story to Warrior’s Gate because of the set design… and only found out afterwards that this was also a Gallagher script. It’s strange, really, how little coincidences like this crop up from time to time in the programme.

I said yesterday that the sets for this story were a little drab - lots of grey and not much to them. In this episode - perhaps because we’ve spread out into Terminus itself - I’ve completely ‘got’ them, and I can’t help but really like them. You first get a sense of the size in the cliffhanger reprise, when you’ve got the Doctor stood up on one platform, looking down at a dozen or so extras milling around, and then you cut to Tegan and Turlough slipping down into the ventilation shafts beneath the floor: you really get a sense of this ship being a real location. It’s then carried on into the rest of the sets, and Mary Ridge’s direction starts to really make the most of these different levels.

There’s also a lovely shot towards the end of the episode, where we pan up from a supporting artist working at some sci-fi machinery, to see the Doctor and Kari walking along one of the gantries. The shot then pans back down again to the extra once more, while in the corner of the shot, we can still see Peter Davison and Liza Goddard exploring. It’s probably the most inventive use of the sets we’ve had since Four to Doomsday, and it’s a shame that Ridge never had another opportunity to work on the programme (reading an old Doctor Who Magazine interview with her, I don’t think she had the best of experiences when making Terminus, so it’s a real credit to her that it looks as polished as it does!

It’s also been a while since I’ve had one of my moans that the whole series should have been shot on film. Tegan and Turlough exploring the ventilation shafts looks lovely in every singe shot, and the detailing of the set, coupled with the lighting and use of smoke make these look like some of the nicest parts of the story - perhaps for the best, because they’ve spent the whole episode trapped in them!

I also have to mention perhaps the most famous moment of the story - Nyssa dropping her skirt for seemingly no reason at all. A quick look online reveals that the original plan was for her to drop her brooch, leaving a clue to the Doctor that she had been this way. The fact that she’s suddenly started changing her costume every single story, though, means that she no longer has a brooch to drop, and elects to use the only bit of the costume that was removable… the skirt! Now… I’m not particularly versed in the ways that these things work, and maybe they just wanted to show Nyssa stripping off before she leaves the series for good (in one quote I’ve seen today, Sarah Sutton calls it a ‘parting gift to the fans’!), but surely if the script required her to drop a brooch… they could have made sure she wore one for this story? She needn’t go back to her entire old costume just for the sake of that one moment, but it seems like harder work to change the script to accommodate the dress, than to change the costume to suit the script! Bizarre! 

12 September 2014

Will Brooks’ 50 Year Diary - watching Doctor Who one episode a day from the very start...

Day 620: Terminus, Episode One

Dear diary,

Of the three tales in the ‘Black Guardian Trilogy’, Terminus is the one I know the least about. I’ve seen it (or, at least, some of it) before, but my memories really boiled down to a single image - that of the TARDIS wall being replaced by a large image of a skull. Other than that, I know some basic facts about the story - it’s Nyssa’s last, features a large dog, and is based around a leprocy colony - but that’s it. I always love going into tales like this one, because I’m completely unbiased from either a previous viewing, or the way I think other people may feel about the story - I simply have no idea!

First impressions… have we ever had a more 1980s story than this one? To start with, Nyssa’s hair is looking particularly ‘on trend’ for the period, and don’t even get me started on Liza Goddard’s barnet! The space suits our two raiders have been stuck in are particular dated now, too. Very much a 1980s rendition of 1960s ‘futurism’ - Dan Dare as seen through the prism of 1983. It’s not necessarily a bad thing - but it certainly does make this story scream out at you more than any others this season, and I dare say more than any other this decade. It almost needs that, though, because the sets for the story are particularly drab, decked out largely in gun-metal grey. Once again, that’s not a complaint, because it suits the story perfectly, but having such outrageously 1980s fashions stuck in there gives the piece at least a little jazz!

And yet, despite being so ‘of the era’, this is another tale which harkens back to the early days of the programme. Nyssa and the Doctor don’t get to leave the TARDIS until something like ten minutes in, and we don’t have any characters other than the regulars until fourteen minutes in. We’re back into the old model of the TARDIS crew exploring the strange new location for a while before encountering danger. One of the ‘strange new locations’ on show is the TARDIS itself - with Turlough lost in its rabbit warren of corridors. I think it’s fair to say that they’ve never looked quite as good as they do in the opening shots here: it’s simply the regular set flats arranged in a different way, but they seem to better give the impression of the corridors stretching out into the distance. I’ve had the CGI effects on again for this episode, which means that the Doctor and Tegan staring into the problems the ship is encountering makes it look larger again (though I did check the original version for comparison - the very close up pixellation effect doesn’t work as well for me, but mostly because it makes it look like Tegan is stood just a few inches from the trouble when she notices it!

I’m somewhat confused about Turlough’s purpose again here. At the end of Mawdryn Undead, he’s relieved to see that the Black Guardian’s crystal is cracked and I took that to mean that he thought he was free of the man’s influence. Obviously, I knew he wasn’t, but I was expecting him to simply get on with his new life in the TARDIS for a while before the Guardian re-emerged to him. Instead, we open this story with the boy in mid-conversation with his evil paymaster, and it doesn’t feel quite right. It’s as though we’ve missed an episode between this one and the last, in which he finds that he can never escape (waking or sleeping, etc etc)… 

12 September 2014

Manufacturer: Big Finish Productions

RRP: £8.99 (CD) / £6.99 (Download)

Release Date: September 2014

Reviewed by: Nick Mellish for Doctor Who Online

Review Posted: 12th September 2014

“In January 2014, Tom Baker celebrated his 80th birthday.

On March 19th, Tom sat down with Nicholas Briggs to look back over his 80 amazing years - his youth, his early acting career, his great success with Doctor Who and beyond… and his return to his most famous role with Big Finish.

This candid and intimate interview forms two fascinating hours of engaging entertainment in the unique company of Mr Baker.”


I’ve been watching a lot of Reeltime’s Myth Makers interviews recently, having taken full advantage of three-for-two offers on their DVD releases online, and as such have become accustomed to Nicholas Briggs’s voice gently putting interviewees at ease and teasing out questions in an affable, relaxed manner.  Sometimes he’s in a studio, sometimes he’s pretending to have been teleported into a snowy wasteland or a Zygon-infested beach, and sometimes he’s interviewing the floating head of Jackie Lane.

What I’ve always rather liked about his interview technique in these releases is how his focus on Doctor Who is often marginal, instead focussing on subjects’ lives outside of the show.  We all know that when they turned round they were all wearing eyepatches, but we don’t necessarily know what the eyepatch-wearers were doing twenty years beforehand: had they always wanted to be actors? Did they carry on in the theatre after Doctor Who? What makes them tick?

Listening to Tom Baker at 80, Big Finish’s lengthy interview with Tom Baker to mark his eightieth birthday (if you hadn’t already guessed from the title), I felt at times that I was listening to the audio track from one of those Myth Makers interviews, which is as big a compliment as I can pay for these sort of things, believe me.

There are going to be a host of fans out there no doubt disappointed by this release, let’s get this out of the way now.  Why? Because Doctor Who, especially as it was on television, is by no means the focus.  It gets its time in the limelight, but there is more attention near the end paid towards Big Finish than there ever is towards Baker’s era on TV (which to my mind at least makes sense given who’s making it), and that is bound to disappoint some people.

However, that’s not to say that Big Finish dominate proceedings either.  Far from it: most of the interview, across its two CDs, is taken up with Baker’s life before and after Who.  For my money, the first CD is the best, as it is almost exclusively concerned with Baker’s life before joining the show.  From his days in the army to his stories about Laurence Olivier, Baker is absolutely fascinating and hilarious, pulling you in with tales tall, small, humble, surprised and surprising, and told with a slightly detached air of bafflement, which only adds to the feeling that Baker is telling them all with a smile and a twinkle in his eye.  Quite simply, it’s a joy to listen to.

The Who stuff is undoubtedly interesting, too, and finds Baker perhaps more reflective than he has been in interviews before.  Briggs doesn’t push him too hard on certain points and is happy to let him skip over entire years with a few words, but is also keen on pushing certain points further: why the friction with Louise Jameson? Was he sad when he left, and if so why? Simple questions on paper perhaps, but hard to put forward in a subtle and caring way, so full points must go to Briggs for achieving this.

He steers the interview chronologically through Baker’s life, and whilst some may dislike his relaxed demeanour (he goes into this interview with almost no questions prepared and certainly no facts or figures: if you want to know when Baker was in shows such as Medics, Randall and Hopkirk (Deceased) or Monarch of the Glen for, or when they were first broadcast, be prepared to be disappointed with Briggs not knowing the answers any more than Baker does), it worked for me.  The whole thing feels like an extended and fascinating talk at a bar.

It must be said though that after the joys of that first CD, it’s less interesting than perhaps it would have been in a different context.  Similarly, the Big Finish talk is interesting enough, and given it’s Big Finish releasing the CD more than deserved, but I was far less engaged with it than I may have been at, say, the end of a Fourth Doctor Adventure release.  There were also a couple of moments I’d love to have seen expanded: how did working with Mary Tamm and Louise Jameson again feel all these years on?  And does Tom Baker agree with some fans’ belief that the Nest Cottage audios weren’t authentic enough, for example? Briggs mentions it in passing, but I’d love to have heard Baker’s full thoughts on this subject (especially as I rather love that trilogy of series from Paul Magrs’s hand).

In the end though, the thing that most stuck with me at the end of this release is death: the idea of it, Baker’s very vocal and open declaration that he is close to it (statistically speaking at least), the impact it’s having upon him and his demeanour, and how it has taken people away from him.

Because, whilst I am under no illusion that one day I am going to read those awful, awful words – Doctor Who star Tom Baker dies, aged... – it had never, in a strange sense, occurred to me before that this day will come and become anything other than a hopefully distant eventuality.

Oh Tom Baker, you simply cannot leave us.  You are the Doctor; you always will be, perhaps more so than any other Doctor that has ever Doctored.  And more than that, you are a person who is forever going to find yourself on people’s fantasy “who would you have round for dinner?” lists: if nothing else, Big Finish here have produced an interview over two hours in length that will see the number of inclusions on fantasy lists increase exponentially.

Well done to Briggs and Baker for making two hours fly by.  A worthy and cheerful celebration of 80 marvellous years. 

11 September 2014

Will Brooks’ 50 Year Diary - watching Doctor Who one episode a day from the very start...

Day 619: Mawdryn Undead, Episode Four

Dear diary,

There’s something I’m not quite getting about Mawdry Undead. The Doctor’s biggest objection to giving up his remaining regenerations to end the suffering of the creatures on this ship seems to be not that he’d then have no more lives to live, but that ‘it would be the end of [him] as a Time Lord’. What I don’t understand is… why? Because he’d be unable to regenerate any more? Does that mean that Matt Smith’s Doctor wasn’t a Time Lord, considering that he wasn’t supposed to regenerate any more? I sort of kidded myself into believing that it was because he’d be helping people who stole Time Lord technology, but that’s not what the dialogue here seems to confirm. Still, it’s not that much of a sticking point for me (I can always put it down to the Doctor being over-dramatic), because I really love the idea that these people stole regeneration technology from the Time Lords, and their punishment for doing so is to live on forever, never dying. It dovetails neatly with the way seekers of immortality are treated in The Five Doctors, so if we believe that Rassilon was the man who imposed the ’13 lives’ limit, then it fits very nicely. As in Shada, it’s a nice addition to Time Lord mythology (and notice how much better this is for the species, compared to actually visiting them and getting bored to tears during Arc of Infinity…)

On the whole, Mawdryn Undead has turned out to be a massive surprise for me. I’ve always thought of it as being one of those stories that just happened to exist, much in the way that something like The Savages does. No one really dislikes it, but then no one really cares all that much for it, either. The only thing I’ve ever known it to be notable for is the return of the Brigadier after a long leave of absence. Looking at the Doctor Who Magazine poll from a few months back, this story charted at number 117 - almost smack-bang in the middle of all results. I’m actually really surprised, though, because it’s been great! I almost did a real-life, cartoon-style double take watching the special features and realising that this was written by Peter Grimwade: the man who washed away so much potential (and good sense, if we’re honest) with Time-Flight last season. For comparison’s sake, that story ranked 237 out of 241… so at least we all agree that this is a massive step up!

The whole script dovetails nicely, and this last episode has been filled with little moments that just left me sitting there grinning from ear to ear. Tiny little things, that shouldn’t even register suddenly feel like everything snapping in to place. For example, I love that the school Doctor is waiting at the top of the hill able to find the amnesiac Brigadier in 1977… because the Brig himself had left a message for the man to be there three episodes earlier, when they thought that the burnt man in the TARDIS may need help! As I say, it’s a tiny, insignificant thing, but it makes it feel as though some real thought has gone into this (it also makes the Brig’s outburst about the man earlier in the story all the more affecting - to know that this doctor didn’t only diagnose a breakdown, but was the one who found the Brig makes it all the deeper).

What made me smile, and laugh, the most though was Tegan’s reaction to events - and more notably, the way it was used to show how her relationship with the Doctor currently stands. In episode three, the Doctor explains to the Brigadier why having two versions of himself on the spaceship at the same time is a bad thing:

You'd exist twice over. And if the two of you met, you'd short out the time differential. Don't you see? The Blinovitch limitation effect? Oh dear. As Tegan would say, zap!

This is then turned back on itself in this episode, after the two Brigs have met, and The Doctor tries to explain to our former air hostess exactly what’s just happened…

The two Brigadiers just shorted out the time differential.

You mean zap?

Yes, that's right. Zap.

Again - it’s tiny! The kind of fun little detail that you’d usually just gloss over in a script, and yet here it absolutely sings, and the look the Doctor gives Tegan as he replies is absolutely perfect.

Throughout this whole story, there’s really been one thought that just keeps on recurring… Nicholas Courtney really is fantastic, isn’t he? I commented a couple of days ago that his relationship with the new Doctor was very in keeping of my memories with the previous incarnations, but the same is true for the Brig as a character, too. It is, of course, partly down to the writing (another plus for Grimwade, there), but it’s also down to this man who simply loves and embodies the part more than any other actor and character in Doctor Who’s long history. I’ve absolutely loved having the Brigadier back, and I think Mawdryn Undead may well become my ‘go-to’ story when I want to watch Nick Courtney at his absolute finest.


10 September 2014

Will Brooks’ 50 Year Diary - watching Doctor Who one episode a day from the very start...

Day 618: Mawdryn Undead, Episode Three

Dear diary,

I’m really enjoying the way the Doctor and the Brigadier are interacting in this story. I’ve been trying all day to think of the right way to put it, and it stuck me about a half an hour ago - they’re interacting like the Doctor and the Brigadier! Yeah, yeah, I know that sounds like I’m just being facetious, but what I mean is that the relationship they share here is in many ways the same that Patrick Troughton’s Doctor had with the Brig, or Jon Pertwee’s, or Tom Baker’s. It’s not identical to any of those earlier versions, but it fits right in with my memories of them. Way, way back, during Season Seven when the Third Doctor and the Brigadier weren’t often getting along, I mentioned that I’d always seen the pair as being best friends because that’s how they’re portrayed in the 1980s stories. I think this is specifically the tale that I was thinking of - it’s the way that Davison’s Doctor grins when he first sets out to follow the man back down to the school, and the way that the Brigadier has a dry remark to counter everything the Doctor says, before getting on with the task in hand because he trust’s the Doctor’s judgement, no matter what face he’s wearing.

I’ve not yet mentioned the Black Guardian in this story, who’ll be popping up over the next few tales, too, forming what fan’s tend to call the ‘Black Guardian Trilogy’ (it’s imaginatively titled). It always struck me as an odd return for the character, several years after he was last a threat, and operating in such an odd way. In The Armageddon Factor, he was trying to gain control of the Key to Time because he could use it to plunge the universe into chaos. Here, he’s using an alien in an English school to try and simply kill the Doctor. After appearing to be such an immensely powerful being in Season Sixteen (and slightly beyond - even though he often over-rode it, the Doctor had to install the Randomiser in the TARDIS to make sure he could escape the Guardian’s clutches), this all felt a bit… low key.

I can see now just how like The Trickster from The Sarah Jane Adventures he is. At the time I remember thinking that the Trickster felt familiar, and it’s strange to see this serial now when I’m so much more familiar with the spin-off. For some reason, though, I accept this kind of meddling from the Trickster and accept that he’s a supremely powerful being, whereas in the case of the Black Guardian, I simply don’t buy it. Maybe it’s because he insists on wearing that bird on his head?

He does at least escape his green vortex in this episode - but only because I’ve turned on the CGI effects. To be honest, I wasn’t sure what effects they’d actually replace (it’s hardly a story that relies on lots of laser beams, exploding castles, or giant snakes), so I thought I’d give it a go. It makes the Guardian’s appearances suitably more creepy - especially when he takes the place of a bust on Mawdryn’s ship - and it gives us a really rather nice effect as the Teleport capsule arrives back in place, too. I think I’ll leave them on for the next episode, just to see if they do anything with the two-Brigadier’s meeting moment.

While I’m at it - I’ve loved the couple of scenes in today’s episode of the Brig just missing himself in the ship’s corridors - and I’m hoping we get one or two more before they come face-to-face!


9 September 2014

Will Brooks’ 50 Year Diary - watching Doctor Who one episode a day from the very start...

Day 617: Mawdryn Undead, Episode Two

Dear diary,

This episode really is an unashamed continuity fest. And you know what? As much as we might look back at 1980s Doctor Who and complain that it gets far too entrenched in continuity, on this first occasion it’s absolutely glorious. This really feels like it’s supposed to be a celebration of the programme’s first twenty years, and the montage of old clips used to represent the Brigadier’s memories coming back is absolutely perfect. The few brief shots we got of the earlier Doctors confronting Cybermen in Earthshock was exciting, but this is something completely different.

I can’t quite relate to children of the time watching that scene, because for them they’d likely never seen any of these moments, only read about them or heard about them from older fans, but I can get at least a sense of how it must have felt, because I’m excited by it! All these moments of Doctor Who gone by - there’s clips in there on The Invasion, which I saw just over a year ago… but it feels like a lifetime! The programme has been through so much since then. I’m even feeling nostalgic about the Pertwee years - and that’s not something I could have predicted way back when! If anything makes the montage extra special; above and beyond the way the Brigadier’s face fades into a shot of his earlier self, or the way we get to see glimpses of Zygons, and Yeti, and the original Omega, it’s the way that the montage comes full circle, and ends with a shot of the Brig meeting this latest incarnation of our hero, just a few scenes earlier. Somehow, it makes him feel even more like the Doctor.

That montage isn’t the only ‘kiss to the past’ in this episode, either. The Doctor himself mentions the Yeti, and all of his Pertwee era companions. We get an update on where Benton is these days (somehow, selling used cars seems both so right, and also so wrong for him - it couldn’t be better), and Nyssa goes to pains to remind us that they used the Zero Room during the Doctor’s last regeneration. As I say, it’s an unashamed continuity fest, and I don’t even care, because it’s wonderful to see. I’d imagine that such things will feel less special when - say - we reach stories like Attack of the Cybermen which are entirely built upon the idea of continuity, but for now, I couldn’t be happier.

I think it also helps that this is a rather good episode in itself. There’s something wonderful (and very in-keeping with the rules of the programme during the Steven Moffat years), about the Doctor trying to find out where his companions have ended up, with the Brigadier starting to remember Tegan… who we see meeting a younger Brig, intercut with these moments. It feels like an exciting way of playing with time in the programme, and it’s not something we’ve seen done very much at this stage. I also love that the two Brigadiers are identifiable by the state of his moustache!

Another great idea in this episode is Nyssa and Tegan believing that the Doctor has regenerated… but it doesn’t quite work as well as it should. It’s great when they enter the teleport capsule expecting to find the Doctor, and mistake the only occupant as being him… but even though he’s badly burnt, he’s clearly not the Doctor, even before they think he’s regenerated. They could have at least cast someone with similar hair to Peter Davison, so that they’d have more of an excuse for getting it wrong!


9 September 2014

DWO’s spoiler-free preview of episode 8.4: Listen:

Since Doctor Who’s return to screens in 2005, current show-runner Steven Moffat has been the king of ‘scary’. He provided us with the chilling ‘are you my mummy?’ in Series One, ‘who turned out the lights?’ in Series Four, the ominous tick-tock of the Clockwork Droids in Series Two, and - of course - the Weeping Angels, some of the scariest monsters that the programme has ever produced. In many ways, Listen feels like a return to Moffat trying to scare us, and it’s safe to say that he succeeds.

This story revolves around a simple premise - what if when we’re all alone… we’re actually not. What if every second of our lives, there’s someone, or something there with us. What if when we talk aloud to ourselves, there’s someone listening, and when the hairs on the back of our necks stand on end, it’s the breath of another creature right behind you. It’s this thought which has preoccupied the Doctor when we find him at the start of the story, and the tale becomes his quest to find the answer.

The idea at the heart of this tale pulls on threads that Moffat has used before in a story for the 2007 Doctor Who story book, where he answered the question with the suggestion that people sometimes attract ‘Floofs’, small creatures which attach themselves to people and toy with them by hiding keys, or making mischief. Listen takes many of the concepts from that story and transfers them masterfully to the screen, managing to make them even more unnerving in the process. It’s safe to say that people will be checking in the shadows (and under the bed) on Saturday night. And probably Sunday night, too. And Monday, if we’re honest. [DWO have been checking for the last hour and a half, just in case.]

All the scares have been realised here by director Douglas Mackinnon, who storms back into the series with some truly gorgeous visuals. It’s some of his best directing work, and the use of colour in the episode is particularly nice. The direction of this story really serves to heighten the fear in places, and make a simple blanket the most terrifying thing in the universe. It’s also good to see that - as with Robot of Sherwood last week - directors are finding new and interesting ways to use the TARDIS set. It feels huge here, and somehow manages to make even Peter Capaldi seem small here, when left alone with his thoughts.

We’re also seeing the welcome return of Samuel Anderson in this episode, after a break from the programme last week. Danny Pink continues to be a source of humour here, but it’s nice to see Anderson given the chance to tackle some more dramatic stuff, too. He’s given lots to do here, and it’s hard not to simply love him. We can’t wait to see where his story goes from here - and this episode certainly give us some tantalising hints.

Five things to look out for: 

1) "Scared is a super power."
2) "Robinson Crusoe at the end of the universe…"
3) "A soldier so brave, he doesn’t need a gun."
4) Are you afraid of the dark?
5) "The human race. You’re never happy, are you?"

[Sources: DWOWill Brooks]


9 September 2014

Fans of Doctor Who have much to be excited about at present, with the successful return of the television series and a new Doctor to get to know. In addition, Character Options is delighted to unveil the much anticipated action figure for the newly regenerated Twelfth Doctor, as portrayed by Peter Capaldi.

A great gift for fans and collectors alike, this poseable range of 3.75 inch action figures include some iconic characters from the hit TV show. The new assortment includes favourite characters from the past and present series, including the Tenth, Eleventh and Twelfth incarnation of the famous Time Lord, his fiery former companion Amy Pond and two versions of the Daleks; classic design and Asylum design (as seen in Asylum of the Daleks).

For collectors wishing to complete their line-up of Time Lords the Twelfth Doctor can be found in two guises; in his regenerated form as seen in the The Time of the Doctor and in his stylish new outfit which will become more familiar as Series 8 progresses; resplendent in black long-line jacket, waistcoat, trousers and boots.

This latest figure will be first of the Twelfth Doctor in his own unique style and is eagerly awaited by fans. In fact, the range is so highly anticipated that Character Options had to air freight more figures in order to meet demand. The figure promises to be one of the most successful to date...!

Each figure is presented on its own red Doctor Who Display case (excluding Dalek figures).

+  The new wave of figures are Out Now, priced £6.99 each.
+  Order Now from Forbidden Planet!

[Source: Character Options]


8 September 2014

Will Brooks’ 50 Year Diary - watching Doctor Who one episode a day from the very start...

Day 616: Mawdryn Undead, Episode One

Dear diary,

It’s always felt really odd that the Brigadier comes back in the middle of the Fifth Doctor’s tenure, having been absent from the programme since Terror of the Zygons a full seven-and-a-ha;f years earlier. Doctor Who is a very different beast now to the one the Brig left, and he’s a very different man. For a start… he’s a teacher! Oh, I know, the story was originally planned to be bringing back William Russell as Ian - a call back to the original TARDIS team in the programme’s twentieth anniversary year - but it’s never quite sat right with me that the Brigadier simply turns up here with no fanfare, and in such a different setting.

This is usually the point where I’d ask if people even really knew who he was at the time, and if this had an impact when the episode first appeared, but I’m largely getting the impression from comments on this era over the last month or so that yes, of course it would have had an impact! A slightly different question for a you all today, then: had the Brigadier become, by this point, the legendary character we think of him as now? Or was that partly fuelled by the fact that he pops up a few times in the 1980s?

I’ve also only thought today that the Brigadier’s love of vintage cars could well be inspired by the time he spent with the Third Doctor - I certainly don’t remember him having all that much of an interest in them back then, so I’m adding that to my own personal ‘head cannon’ from now on!

We’ve also got the introduction of Turlough to the TARDIS crew… in what must be one of the strangest introductions ever. He’s brought in as a schoolboy, and set up as a troublemaker right from the very start. But then there’s all these references to him not liking Earth, and wanting to go ‘home’ - but it’s not been explicitly stated yet that he’s an alien, and I think I’m right in saying that we don’t find out the truth about his background until his final story - towards the end of the next season! It’s very unusual way to bring a new character in to the programme. I do love that he’s been taken under the employ of the Black Guardian and forced to kill the Doctor, though. I’ve always felt that this little ‘arc’ plays out over too many episodes, and I vaguely recall things getting a bit silly by the end, but at this stage, with the boy holding a rock over the Doctor’s head, it’s something new and exciting.

There’s not really a great deal else that I want to say for this first episode - it’s quite an unusual start to a new story, with everything moving a bit slower than I’d expect. Having just come from a story in which Tegan had become possessed and started terrorising people by the time the first cliffhanger rolled around, this is positively leisurely. That said, I would like to call out Davison for praise again, because I really love the Doctor that he’s settled in to playing. The moment when he runs in to the TARDIS - straight past Turlough, who’s fiddling with the controls - and then takes a moment before looking up to really take in the boy has to be one of my favourite scenes ever. I hooted at that one for ages. It’s also very reminiscent of the way he encounters the Tenth Doctor in Time Crash (I know, I know, I bang on about that seven-minute scene over and over, but I’ve spent so long thinking that the Fifth Doctor was a bit out of character in it that I love seeing all the little moments which clearly influence it!).

7 September 2014

Will Brooks’ 50 Year Diary - watching Doctor Who one episode a day from the very start...

Day 615: Snakedance, Episode Four

Dear diary,

I don’t know if it’s just because I’ve seen the ending of Kinda a few times over the years, but when I think of the Mara, it’s always in the form of the pink snake from the end of that story. Doesn’t matter if it’s the original effect or the alternate CGI version, that’s just how I picture this creature. It seems odd, then, that when it finally materialises in this story, it’s in the form of a black and yellow snake, and a completely different design entirely to the one we’ve seen before.

Now, I’ll be fair, the snake here is better than the one from Kinda. Is it a completely convincing effect? No, it’s not. But it does look better than the earlier version, and the shot of Tegan’s head staring out from the snake’s mouth is actually quite scary - I can imagine it causing one or two nightmares after the first transmission. I simply can’t enjoy this version of the snake as much as the earlier one, though, because it seems wrong that it’s not pink! What does everyone else prefer? Mara Mark One, or Mara Mark Two?

Something about this final episode - other than the colour of the snake - simply hasn’t gelled with me. I think it might just be a general come-down from the fact that I’ve not found Snakedance as enjoyable as Kinda, but I’ve been a little bit disconnected from this episode. It was summed up most for me when everyone has broken free from the Mara’s power… and they all mill around in silence, looking at each other as though they’d just witnessed something mildly interesting but not worth commenting on. It shook me out of believing completely in this world, and that’s a shame, because I’ve found Manusa and its society more and more compelling the longer that I’ve spent here.

I know that the Fifth Doctor, Nyssa, and Tegan (along with Turlough) revisit the world for a third Mara story in the Big Finish audios, so I think I’m adding that one to my list of things to hear once The 50 Year Diary is over, because I’m interested to see how the whole Mara concept fares under a different writer. I’m pleased to say that having now watched both stories, I can understand it all a lot better than I did through vaguely knowing the plots (and I mean ‘vaguely’). I’m also adding The Children of Seth to my list - one of the ‘Lost Stories’ that Big Finish have produced, and based on the only other script that Christopher Bailey planned for the series - I’d be interested to see what a non-Mara story penned by him would be like.

On the whole, while I’ve enjoyed Snakedance, it’s not been the gem that I was hoping it would be. For a while, I’ve suspected that Season Twenty may be the one I enjoy least out of the Fifth Doctor’s tenure (I’m not entirely sure why I’ve got that feeling, but it’s been nagging at me since Castrovalva), and I’d somewhat convinced myself that Snakedance would be the highlight. I’m hoping that I’ll be surprised by some of the stories to come, and if nothing else, the next one brings back a real Doctor Who icon… 

6 September 2014

Will Brooks’ 50 Year Diary - watching Doctor Who one episode a day from the very start...

Day 614: Snakedance, Episode Three

Dear diary,

There’s a point in The Writer’s Tale where Russell T Davies talks about the way that you need to keep ‘turning’ characters to make them feel real. You’ll have to forgive me for quoting two passages from the book in today’s entry, but they’re vital to the point I’m making:

”I suppose I do know already what [a character] would do in given circumstances… with the proviso that anyone can do anything in any circumstance. You should never mark out a character so formally that their reactions are fully defined, because none of us is like that; we’re slightly different every day, with different people, with each different mood. You have to keep turning characters in the light.”

A little while later, during rewrites on The Fires of Pompeii, Davies discusses the way in which he takes an original introduction to the character Quintus as being ‘sullen’, and uses that as a springboard for ‘turning’ the character:

”A lot of my rewrite consisted of turning him, like a barbecue, making sure that he’s cooked all the way through. In my rewrite, he’s sullen and hung over when he first appears, but then he deepens as he defends his sister before his parents, then greedy when the Doctor offers him money to take him to where Lucius lives, then as scared as a little kid when they break in to Lucius’ quarters, then brave when he throws the burning torch at the soldiers to escape Lucius, then magnificent back at the Caecilius’ villa, when he kills the Pyrovile with a bucket of water. And then he’s transformed at the end: the sullen youth has become a Doctor himself, the image of his hero. That’s what I mean by turning. No one is fixed. They’re all capable of change - not just once in some plot-reveal, but all the time. They become more distinct by allowing them a fuller life.”

I think this is the best example of what makes Christopher Bailey’s work on the series all the more wonderful - he manages to ‘turn’ characters more than many writers in the classic era manage to do. Take Lon in this story, for example. He get’s to be more rounded than some companions have been over several stories. When he first appears in this tale, he’s the epitome of the spoiled, arrogant youth. He’s waiting for his father to die so that he can be the one with all the power. He has no interest in the history of the world he will one day rule, as has little time for there people, unless he can effectively make them dance for him to keep himself amused.

It’s a good introduction for a character - it’s a role that we know well enough from all kinds of fiction, and I dare say most of us know of real-life people who share a similar attitude to Lon here. The character then begins his process of turning in the second episode, when the owner of the hall of mirrors comes to fetch him. Lon’s reaction to being ‘summoned’ is initially to find it somewhat amusing, before becoming curious as to exactly what’s going on. By the time he enters the hall of mirrors, to find Tegan staring deep into once, he’s actually become scared. There’s something very telling about the way he cautiously enters the darkened tent, and tries to make contact with her, completely devoid of the pomposity and self-belief which has defined him until now.

Once he’s been taken under the possession of the Mara, he’s back to largely being the boy he was to begin with, using his status to make other people run around and fetch what he needs, but it’s his sudden interest in history which has started to make people question him. I think it’s this kind of character work which makes both this story and Kinda feel a little bit more special than several of the other ones around them. Bailey really understands how to make his characters and his world’s believable, and you can’t help but enjoy that.

Such a well-written character gives Martin Clunes something to really get his teeth into, as well. I think I’m right in saying that Snakedance was one of his earliest TV appearances, and as such it’s often popped up as something with which to embarrass the man during interviews in more recent years. The bold style that he’s given to wear here probably doesn’t help matters! But it’s actually a very good performance, and it gives a good idea of why the man has become so ubiquitous on British TV over the years. I can’t say that I particularly follow his career (I’m not sure if I could name anything I’ve watched recently with him in…), but he’s popped up in no end of stuff, and if he always turns in a good performance, then it’s easy enough to see why…

5 September 2014

Will Brooks’ 50 Year Diary - watching Doctor Who one episode a day from the very start...

Day 613: Snakedance, Episode Two

Dear diary,

The thing I’m enjoying the most about Snakedance so far is the way that the Doctor is treated as though he were simply a nutter. I’ve never really questioned before the way that he shows up and takes charge (sometimes there’s wrongful accusations an imprisonment involved before he can take control of the situation), but this story is really painting an image of how the man must look to the people he meets in these adventures. He’s turned up here, proclaiming the end of the world, with lots of shouting and gesturing. I doubt that I’d take him all that seriously, to be honest. I think my favourite exchange has to be this one;

The Doctor arrives in the Director’s office, to warn him of the imminent danger this world is in

Er, hello…

I know exactly what you want.

Do you?

Yes, you've come to pester me with some extravagant theory you've dreamed up concerning the Mara, and should I, the Director, fail to take sufficient notice of your colourful improbabilities, it will be the end of civilisation as we know it at least. How am I doing so far, hmm?

I think it’s the look that Davison gives in reaction to that which really sells it all for me. To be fair, though, it’s not a bad interpretation of what happens in lots of stories. The fun is that we know the Doctor is right, and yet you can’t help but feel for the Director throughout the whole story. I also love the way that the Doctor tries to explain the ‘Six Faces of Delusions’ mask to the man later on, managing to subvert the Director’s earlier tone with his own sarcastic line:

That was probably the idea, don't you think?

This is the kind of attitude that I enjoy from the Fifth Doctor, and it’s the one that I hope to see more and more of as the rest of his tenure plays out - the man who knows he’s cleverer than everyone else in the room, but is too polite to say so, and simply gets exasperated waiting for everyone else to catch up. Tom Baker’s Doctor would have huffed and puffed and made a big scene of that moment, but this incarnation is smaller, quieter. I like that.

While I’m discussing people’s performances, I have to draw attention again to Janet Fielding. She really does deliver her best performances when doing a Christopher Bailey script (probably because they give her the most to do, and a greater range of character than she’s had for the last few stories), and today may be a new high for her. The early scene in which she sneaks up to surprise Nyssa in the crowded market place, before laughing her head off about the way the fortune teller screamed and screamed is genuinely scary… as is the follow up a few moments later, in which the real Tegan manages to break back through and beg her friend for help. Wonderful stuff.

It continues to be quite unsettling throughout the rest of the episode too, when she’s fully under Mara control. Staring into the mirrors and seeing the skull of a snake talking back to her is wonderful - and better than I’d expected. I thought I’d seen Snakedance before, but all of this seems completely new to me. I knew of the snake skull from the Episode One cliffhanger, staring out of the crystal ball, but had no idea that it actually moved and spoke later on. It’s provided quite a moment of surprise for me, and I’ve loved that. I also need to give some praise for the fact that they explain the mirror situation from Kinda: as soon as Tegan started to wander around in the hall of mirrors, I made a note that it seemed to contradict the ending of the earlier story, so having it explained (and explained well!) in the same scene was a great thing.

Though I do find myself slightly confused by something else do do with the circle of mirrors from Kinda. Possessed Tegan here proclaims that she needs the great crystal in order to let the Mara manifest in physical form, and get out of her head… but isn’t that more-or-less what happened when Aris was trapped by the mirrors? The snake certainly appeared in that situation…? I think there’s probably something that I’m missing (or, rather, it’s not been explained yet), but I’m guessing it’s a simple case of the great crystal serving to stabilise the creature, perhaps? Or strengthen its power? I’ll be keeping an ear out in the second half of the story in the hope that this gets cleared up... 

4 September 2014

Will Brooks’ 50 Year Diary - watching Doctor Who one episode a day from the very start...

Day 612: Snakedance, Episode One

Dear diary,

I’ve been looking forward to this one. Having found Kinda to be such an unexpected highlight of the last season, the chance to watch another story from the same writer that explores similar concepts was always going to seem appealing. That said, I’m not entirely sure what I make of it, yet.

When I started Kinda, I said that the Mara had always somewhat confused me. I understood the basic premise, and a lot of the idea behind it, but it was the specifics of the creature that confused me. Watching this story, I can already see more things that had formed part of the jumbled up picture of the Mara in my head (specifically, a cave in which the creature lived, a society which was once in its thrall, and a blue M̶e̶t̶a̶b̶i̶l̶i̶s̶ crystal, which has some relation to the snake itself). I’m not entirely sure that I know where all these things are heading as the story progresses, but I knew they had some relation to the Mara legend.

I didn’t know that Tegan was so central to the plot again. What I mean to say is that of course she was going to play a major role in events here - having been possessed by the creature in the previous story (even though she then spends much of the rest of the tale out cold) - but I didn’t realise that the TARDIS would end up on Manusa because the Mara is controlling Tegan subconsciously. I love the idea that she’s the one who gives the coordinates to bring them to this world, and it gives us another chance to see Davison’s slightly angrier Doctor this season, with him suspicious of his companion almost from the very start of the story. It also allows Janet Fielding to take centre stage again, and she’s raising her game here as much as she did during her last dabble with the Mara - the laughter in the closing moments really sells the terror for me. In the interview on the Time-Flight DVD, Fielding claims that fans always ask her to do the Mara laugh at conventions, and it’s no wonder, when it’s such a great performance. I love the sequence of her trying to recall her dream, too. It’s times like this, when the companions are really given a chance to shine, that we get to see just how good all the actors really are.

I can’t help but think that there’s another missed opportunity here, though (I’m sorry, I really am. I’ll stop seeing them in my shadow all the time soon, I hope). I complained in the last story that Tegan suddenly turning up in Amsterdam and getting caught up in Omega’s plans was just too much of a coincidence. I think I’d like to take the idea from this episode - that the Mara is controlling her - and stretch it back into the last tale. It almost feels as though the return of the Mara has been played too soon - it would be great to have Tegan brought back into the Doctor’s life, and then by the end of the season have it revealed that it was all down to the Mara, manipulating events to ensure it would be brought back to its home world.

Besides, if you’re a creature who revels in the darker thoughts of the mind, then a holiday in Amsterdam could be quite appealing…

E-Mail NewsE-Mail Reviews
RSS Feed
News Key
News Home
The New Series
The Classic Series
Blog Entries
Reviews Key
Reviews Home
Books / Magazines
DVD / Blu-ray
Toys / Other
TV Episodes
iWho - The Doctor Who App!
CompareTheDalek.com - The Doctor Who Price Comparison site
Become a DWO Site Time Lord / Cardinal