Time Lord Tees

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28 July 2014

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

Day 574: The Keeper of Traken, Episode Two

Dear diary,

I’m somewhat surprised just how well-rounded this world feels to me, considering that this is only the second episode of the story. While we’re spending our time mainly among the nobility of the planet, when they dispense the crowds outside the Grove it feels as though they really are all heading back to lives of their own off- screen somewhere. The procedures and rituals of these people don’t feel as though they’ve simply been made up to serve a purpose in the story as and when needed, and all of the Consuls are rounded enough to have existed in harmony for a long time before the Doctor and Adric arrived.

I wonder if this is down to all the flashbacks that we were given in the last episode? Although they were brief, it means that we’ve had a sense of Kassia - for example - since she was a child, through her marriage, and into the present day. When she falls under the influence of Melkur, we can understand why it is, and you actually feel for her, when she’s forced to turn against even her own husband. In fact, the only aspic of the story which doesn’t seem to fit right for me so far is the idea that Nyssa is their daughter. She just doesn’t seem to fit in with that world as nicely as other elements do.

Also surprising is the Doctor and Tremas teaming up together for such a large part of the story. I’ve seen The Keeper of Traken before, but probably not since it first came out on DVD seven years or so ago, so I’d forgotten a lot of the things that are happening here. I’ve grown so used to Anthony Ainley in the role of the Master that it feels unusual to see him working so much in favour of the Doctor in this story. And yet... when he first appeared yesterday, I couldn’t see past him being the Master. The white hair and beard simply looked like a disguise to a man who was clearly the Doctor’s nemesis. Now, though, I’m not seeing it any more. He doesn’t look like the Master any more - he looks like Tremas, and it’s almost a stretch to think of him in the other role. I’m not sure if that’s down to the script or the performance. Possibly, it’s a little bit of both.

It’s also nice to see Adric being paired off with Nyssa here. It really feels like all the elements of the Peter Davison years are starting to slot in to place, and frankly, the series hasn’t looked so youthful since the 1960s! I’ve grown used to the idea of the Doctor traveling with grown ups of varying degrees over the last few years, and it’s really not since the days of Jamie and Victoria that we last had a pair of regular characters who were little more than children. They’ve got their own adventure here, proving them to be capable enough, and it really feels like the winds of change blowing through. Just as Tom Baker has started to look older than ever, things are really being shaken up. I did feel a bit sorry for Adric today, though. For the first few scenes, every time it looks like the poor boy is about to speak, something gets in the way and cuts him off! I was starting to wonder if they were paying him by the word... 

27 July 2014

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

Day 573: The Keeper of Traken, Episode One

Dear diary,

Perhaps more than any other story of this period, The Keeper of Traken suffers when you know about Doctor Who. There’s so many things in this first episode alone that simply don’t work as well when you know what the next few years of the programme are going to be like, and indeed when you know what happens in this story. It suffers because I know the Melkur is a TARDIS. It suffers because I know that the TARDIS is housing the decaying Master. It suffers because I can’t look at Tremas without knowing that he’ll be embodying the Master for encounters with the next three Doctors, and because I can’t look at Nyssa (who is oddly underused in this initial episode), without knowing that she’ll go on to travel with the Doctor for the next season-and-a-half.

For all that, though, knowing these things flags up a few interesting new angles to enjoy with the story. When the Keeper warns the Doctor to think carefully before accepting the mission to help him on Traken, he tells the Time Lord that there is great danger in the task, and that it could cause obliteration to even the Doctor. In hindsight, this can be read as a warning of the impending regeneration, and the fact that this story really kicks off the chain of events that will lead the Doctor to the Pharos Project, and his death. Equally, it’s great to see the way the Doctor behaves here, too, responding to the Keeper’s assertion that the passing of ages have taken their toll on him by claiming to know the feeling.

It’s often said that Season Eighteen has something of a funereal feel to it, and while the whole style has felt more foreboding than ever before recently, this is really where it kicks in. Tom Baker hasn’t looked his best of late - unwell and with hair that’s had to be artificially permed - but this is where he really starts looking old. It’s almost as though the departure of Romana and the return to N- space has taken it all out of him, and he knows that he’s marching towards the end. I think that’s likely to be the thing that keeps me entertained over these next couple of stories. This tale, Logopolis, and Castrovalva are described as being a loose trilogy of adventures, and I’m looking forward to seeing that in action as I move forward. The tone of this first episode certainly seems to be setting us up well for what’s to come...

As for the episode itself... it’s another slightly unusual one, with lots being told in the form of flashbacks, as the Keeper brings the Doctor up to speed with all the events on Traken that have lead to their current situation. I love his initial arrival in the TARDIS, and the Doctor’s solomn reaction to it - it’s almost like the appearance of the Ood in The Waters of Mars, where the Doctor knows he’s being summoned to his final adventures - but it does make for a slightly different feel to the tale. The Doctor and Adric crouch round the old man as he tells us his story, and once the adventure properly gets underway, it’s not long before our heroes find themselves captured and facing inquisition.

It’s great to see them together, though, and I’d forgotten just how much I enjoyed the pairing of the Doctor and Adric on their own. Our favourite Time Lord has agains taken on a more professorial role, teaching the young boy, and it’s perhaps closer to the kind of relationship the First Doctor had with Susan than we’ve seen in a long time. He’s got the irascibility down pat, too. It always seemed to be a shame that they had so few stories together (they barely encounter each other in State of Decay or Warrior’s Gate, so I’m looking forward to enjoying the pairing while I can.

27 July 2014

David Tennant has said he is eagerly awaiting Peter Capaldi's Doctor Who series because everything the actor does excites him.

The former Doctor said he was a huge fan of The Thick Of It star Peter, and that he thought signing up the actor must have been a no-brainer for the show's bosses.

Asked whether he would be watching the new series at the TCA event in Los Angeles, David quipped:

"I never watch it, never watched it since I left, I can't bear any of them. Of course I will! How could I not? It's compulsory in Britain anyway, you have to now."

The Broadchurch and Gracepoint star continued:

"I haven't seen any of it yet but everything about Peter Capaldi gets me terribly excited so I'm very much looking forward to it."

On the subject of whether he was surprised at an older Doctor casting, David replied:

"I think if you've got the chance of signing Peter Capaldi then you do it, I imagine."

[Source: Press Association]

27 July 2014

The Sunday Times have a brand new interview with Peter Capaldi on his role as The Doctor in todays magazine supplement.

In an interview with The Sunday Times Magazine, Capaldi, 56, rules out a potentially toe-curling Doctor Who romance with Clara Oswald, played by Jenna Coleman, 28:

“It’s not what this Doctor’s concerned with, it’s quite a fun relationship, but no, I did call and say, ‘I want no Papa-Nicole mo–ments.’ I think there was a bit of tension with that at first, but I was absolutely adamant.”

Read the full article by purchasing todays newspaper or subscribing online.

Watch a short promotional video which asks Capaldi about collecting the Doctor Who annuals, in the player, below:


Below is DWO's guide to the confirmed and rumoured titles for Series 8:

8.1: Deep Breath - written by Steven Moffat
8.2: Into The Dalek* - written by Phil Ford
8.3: Robots Of Sherwood*
 - written by Mark Gatiss
8.4: Listen*
 - written by Steven Moffat
8.5: Time Heist*
 - written by Stephen Thompson
8.6: [Untitled] - written by Gareth Roberts
8.7: Kill The Moon*
8.8: Mummy On The Orient Express*
8.9: Flatline*
8.10: [Untitled]
8.11: [Untitled]
8.12: [Untitled]

* Unconfirmed

+  Series 8 of Doctor Who will air in the UK on 23rd August 2014, on BBC One.
+  Series 8 of Doctor Who will air in the USA on 23rd August 2014, on BBC America.
+  Series 8 of Doctor Who will air in Canada on 23rd August 2014, on SPACE.
+  Series 8 of Doctor Who will air in Australia on 24th August 2014, on ABC1

[Source: BBC]

26 July 2014

A fourth teaser trailer for Series 8 of Doctor Who has aired.

The trailer kicks off outside the TARDIS looking in and then pans up to see The Doctor sitting on the roof. The Doctor utters just one word:

"Listen!"

This could very well be a reference to the rumoured title of Episode 4 of Series 8 (Listen), written by Steven Moffat.

Just one question though...where is the lantern on top of the TARDIS gone? Surely The Doctor isn't dimensionally transcendental, too? :)

Watch the trailer in the player, below:


Below is DWO's guide to the confirmed and rumoured titles for Series 8:

8.1: Deep Breath - written by Steven Moffat
8.2: Into The Dalek* - written by Phil Ford
8.3: Robots Of Sherwood*
 - written by Mark Gatiss
8.4: Listen*
 - written by Steven Moffat
8.5: Time Heist*
 - written by Stephen Thompson
8.6: [Untitled] - written by Gareth Roberts
8.7: Kill The Moon*
8.8: Mummy On The Orient Express*
8.9: Flatline*
8.10: [Untitled]
8.11: [Untitled]
8.12: [Untitled]

* Unconfirmed

+  Series 8 of Doctor Who will air in the UK on 23rd August 2014, on BBC One.
+  Series 8 of Doctor Who will air in the USA on 23rd August 2014, on BBC America.
+  Series 8 of Doctor Who will air in Canada on 23rd August 2014, on SPACE.
+  Series 8 of Doctor Who will air in Australia on 24th August 2014, on ABC1

[Source: BBC]

26 July 2014

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

Day 572: Warrior’s Gate, Episode Four

Dear diary,

I was really impressed, at the end of Meglos, when Romana announced that they’d had a call from Gallifrey, and were required to head there immediately. It was probably the ear lies that any companion departure to date had been foreshadowed so far in advance of it actually occurring. When Full Circle opened with Romana in a funk because she didn’t want to give up her life with the Doctor, it was even better. It felt like the beginning of the end for the Fourth Doctor, and it was nice to have it all being worked in so early. I’ve often seen the 1980s eras of Doctor Who criticised for being a bit like a soap opera, but I thought that this was an example of the format being used very well.

Equally, I knew that Romana didn’t end up returning to Gallifrey (at least, not during the lifetime of the original TV series. She ends up as president in the books and the audios), I was well aware that she left the TARDIS to stay here with the Tharrils: but I never knew why. The more this story went on, the more I started to piece it together. K9 could only be accurately repaired by passing through the mirror... but he wouldn’t be able to pass back again. Would the same happen to Romana? More likely, I thought, she’d opt to remain behind to simply avoid being recalled to Gallifrey. She’s well aware that the Time Lords can send out a recall signal and drag the TARDIS back there whenever they like, but there’s less chance of them getting hold of her in E-space.

As it happens, the actual departure... just happens. It’s gone from being a great example of foreshadowing and setting up to being the absolute epitome of the quick companion departure. They save the day. They’re safely back at the TARDIS. Then Romana casually states that she’s not tagging along for the ride, and the Doctor responds by giving her K9 and buggering off. It’s the most amicable divorce I’ve ever seen. But it feels all wrong.

In theory, it shouldn’t - it’s the perfect way to cap off this season’s running theme of the Doctor setting up new societies at the end of each adventure, by giving this one his beloved companion to help. And Romana too. It should feel like a fairly brilliant way for Romana to depart the series, and all the little hints throughout this episode that she’s becoming more and more like the Doctor (at one point, she even quotes him verbatim) should be part of her journey to staying behind in E-space, but it just lacks any emotion or drama in those final moments. The TARDIS door has shut, and the Doctor has gone.

It’s a pity, in many ways. I’d always been a bit weary of the Romana period of the programme - I said as much when she first appeared way back during The Ribos Operation. Almost three whole seasons of the Doctor travelling with an intellectual equal didn’t really appeal to me all that much, but I’ve been pleasantly surprised as the stories have rolled by. Romana has worked well in both incarnations, and it’s coincided with Tom Baker finding the joy in playing this role again, too. It feels like a shame to end three seasons of travel in such a brief exchange.

Still, I can’t deny that it’s also a sign of exciting developments afoot. You can carve up the Tom Baker years in several ways - producers, script editors, seasons, episodes - but one way has always been ‘companions’. It feels like he has three main eras of companion throughout his tenure. There’s ‘the Sarah Jane years’, which can also be further broken down into ‘with and without Harry’, ‘the Leela years’, and ‘the Romana years’. It might jus the me, but I find it easy to forget that there’s two adventures at the end of his run which feature none of these major companions, and instead seem devoted to setting up his next incarnation’s team. Adric has joined us with the E-space trilogy, Nyssa will be showing up tomorrow, and then Tegan in his final story. The departure of Romana may have been rushed and a bit of a let down, but it’s a sign that the Fourth Doctor is almost done, and there’s a new era just around the corner...

25 July 2014

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

Day 571: Warrior’s Gate, Episode Three

Dear diary,

It was this cliffhanger that I could recall from a previous viewing of Warrior’s Gate - though curiously, three quarters of the way in, it’s still the only thing that I can remember from last time round. It’s not a surprise that this one stuck in the memory, though, because it’s brilliant. The Doctor sits around the table with the Tharills and goes on to berate them for their way of life. Just as a group of attackers burst into the room and the axe falls... we see time shift to much later, and the Doctor finds himself sat at the table in the other gate, surrounded by people who’re specifically looking for him. I can’t quite get my head around all of the specifics (for instance, is this the same room in two time zones? That’s the implication, but they’re in two different locations. I assumed that the mirror was the barrier between E-space and N-space, but then why don’t you emerge from the mirror in the same place?), but that doesn’t really matter, because it’s a brilliant cliffhanger all the same.

As I’ve said, though, nothing else in the story really seems to be sticking for me. It feels at once very dull and also very complex. There’s lots of ideas floating around in this one that probably should be capturing my imagination, but they just... aren’t. I decided to take a look at some of the behind the scenes story for this one, in the hope that it may help to get me more involved, but I can’t say that it’s done much good. Apart from the various squabbles over who wrote what, it seems to boil down to the director, Paul Joyce, the writer, Steve Gallagher, and Christopher Bidmead pointing out how clever they were when putting this one together. If anything, it may have put me off the story even more.

Once again, that’s not to say that the story is completely irredeemable in my eyes. There’s things in today’s episode - as with the previous two - which help to make things a little bit easier for me. Today, it’s the addition of the black and white ‘landscapes’ that the Doctor and friends find themselves in. It all adds to the slightly surreal quality of the story, and while I was originally not a fan of them looking so much like photographs the actors had been overlaid on, I think that actually works in their favour: it simply heightens the oddity of the whole thing.

I think that’s the thing that I’m likely to take away from Warrior’s Gate this time around - this is Doctor Who at its most art house. Looking in to the behind the scenes struggles, what comes across very clearly is that Joyce was trying to treat the production as though it were a film (for better or - in regards to the time they had in the studio - for worse), and that really comes across in the finished production. It could be even more interesting to me, if things like the void weren’t quite so obviously CSO. I don’t know what I’d rather, but... something. The story could grab me more given the time and the budget that Joyce seems to think it has, but as things stand, it’s really not doing it for me, sadly.

25 July 2014

Peter Capaldi's first full episode as The Doctor - Deep Breath - will be screened in cinemas around the world from 23rd August 2014.

This year’s screenings follow the success of the global cinema release of Doctor Who’s 50th anniversary episode The Day Of The Doctor which was screened in over 1500 cinemas around the world, allowing fans to come together to watch the show like never before.

Doctor Who makes a spectacular return to the big screen in the feature-length premiere episode of Series 8, Deep Breath. Directed by acclaimed director Ben Wheatley (Sightseers, A Field in England) and written by lead writer and executive producer Steven Moffat, the beginning of the Twelfth Doctor’s era stars Peter Capaldi as the Doctor, Jenna Coleman as his companion Clara Oswald and sees the return of fan favourites The Paternoster Gang - Madame Vastra (Neve McIntosh), Jenny Flint (Catrin Stewart) and Strax (Dan Starkey) – in a pulse-racing adventure through Victorian London.

Steven Moffat comments:

“Last November the Doctor didn't just conquer the world on television, he did it in the cinemas too. And like the show-off he is, he can't resist another go - one taste of the silver screen is never enough. On August 23rd the new Doctor will begin his new adventures on BBC One and in cinemas all over the world. Movie-land beware - Capaldi is coming to get you!"

8.1: Deep Breath will be screened in participating cinemas around the world from 23 August, 2014. More information will be released by BBC Worldwide and participating cinema chains over the coming weeks. For all of the latest information please visit the BBC's dedicated cinema page.

Check Out the Full Trailer for Series 8, below:

+  Series 8 of Doctor Who will air in the UK on 23rd August 2014, on BBC One.
+  Series 8 of Doctor Who will air in the USA on 23rd August 2014, on BBC America.
+  Series 8 of Doctor Who will air in Canada on 23rd August 2014, on SPACE.
+  Series 8 of Doctor Who will air in Australia on 24th August 2014, on ABC1

[Source: BBC]

24 July 2014

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

Day 570: Warrior’s Gate, Episode Two

Dear diary,

When I said during yesterday’s episode that I hoped we’d get more of the slightly surreal stuff today, I didn’t mean quite like this. We’re now half way through this story, and I still don’t really know what’s going on. There’s a broken-down space ship, a gateway to an unusual abandoned medieval world, and a supposedly empty void between two universes. But after 50 minutes, not a lot has actually happened yet. There’s lots of roaming around and any bouts of action - like Romana being strapped in to the broken ship to see where they’re going - seem to be over with very quickly. Before you know it, Romana has been left behind, and the crew have gone for another wander through nothing.

As, presumably, Adric has, too. He goes off exploring with K9, and we’re told that the only way to navigate in this place is through the use of a mass detector (the crew of the spaceship have one that they’re using to get around, and K9 serves the purpose for Adric). That’s fine, but following the attack of time winds in the last episode, K9 isn’t functioning at full capacity. Ok, not a problem, because Adric is able to take one of the dog’s antenna, and move further away to help correct the problem. At this point, K9 heads off to find the Doctor... where he arrives with both ears in tact! We see Adric wandering in the void briefly, but I can’t tell if he’s still got an ear. Was a scene cut out at all? Is it just an error in production?

I’m not usually one for spotting production errors. I stumbled across a website recently that looks at them in detail throughout classic Doctor Who episodes, and I couldn’t help but think that it all seemed just a bit... petty. Errors were being pointed out that were so minor it’s unlikely that most people would spot them on their tenth viewing of an episode. I’m not the type who usually even notices a boom mic in shot, or the shadow of a crew member, but this episode seems to be making them more obvious to me.

Aside from the K9 ear problem, there’s a scene early in today’s episode where the Doctor tricks the two Gundan robots into taking their axes to each other, and solving his problem of trying to avoid them. It’s quite a fun moment in the story, and a very ‘Doctor’ solution to the troubles, but it’s somewhat let down by the fact that one of the robots drops their axe... with a sharp point of it landing square in the Doctor’s back! If he’s lucky, it wouldn’t do any major damage to him, but it’d leave a rather nasty scar if nothing else! I can only assume that they were too pressed for time to take another shot, because this seems like a fairly obvious flaw.

I’ve been very negative today about Warrior’s Gate, but there are some things in here that I’m enjoying. The duo of crew members aboard the space ship (the ones who remain behind when the others go out hunting for this gateway) are raising lots of smiles, be it from their dry reactions to everything else happening, or during their attempts to wake a hibernation Tharril here. I think they’re probably my favourite bit of the story so far. There’s also the scene where Romana first steps out of the TARDIS and takes great delight at really confusing everyone around her - that caused a few laughs, too. On the whole, though, I’m just not sure that I get this story...

23 July 2014

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

Day 569: Warrior’s Gate, Episode One

Dear diary,

Warrior’s Gate. I know I’ve seen it (or at least some of it - I have a distinct memory of the Doctor sitting in one of the chairs at that table in the main hall, and possibly an axe falling towards him, I think...), but I really couldn’t tell you anything about it. Yes, it’s one of those stories that I’ve watched before but not paid attention to. Either that, or it just simply failed to stick in my mind to any real degree.

I’m guessing that it’s probably not that latter option, though, because right from the start of this episode, the story is wildly different to anything that Doctor Who has ever given us before. We open with a wonderfully long shot, which guides us through several rooms of a spaceship. It makes this set feel genuinely huge, even though it probably isn’t. Even when we finally do move to a new shot, it’s all done with fades, and all the subsequent parts of the opening follow the same pattern of having the cameras glide around the set, showing us everything and creating an almost dream-like quality. There’s a lovely film called Russian Ark, which is all filmed in one single, continuous shot, and this is very reminiscent of that*, creating a lovely - slightly surreal - dream-like start to the story.

That’s quite a fitting way to start the story, really, because it’s a story set in the nowhere between our universe and E-Space. In theory, there’s no time here, no up or down... it seems only right that we should start the first episode of such a story by being given something so unlike the programme’s usual stock. It’s really quite a nice place to set a story, but it’s a pity that everything happening in this nowhere is just a bit... dull. There’s nothing that’s really grabbing me once those initial shots are out of the way.

Romana spends the whole episode trapped inside the console room trying to repair broken equipment... which she also had to do for the first episode of Meglos (where she was also repairing K9, though there her stay in the ship was extended by a time loop), and she spends a vast amount of time during Full Circle stuck in the TARDIS, too. No wonder she’s off before the end of this story! Elsewhere, we’ve got a space ship filled with not especially stand-out characters, and they’re bickering about broken equipment, too. There’s a slight bit of interest injected by the fact that their ‘navigator’ seems to be slightly more unusual, but I’m finding it hard to connect with any of their scenes, either.

Thankfully, what does appeal to me are all the scenes later on in the episode, when our lion man (and, latterly, the Doctor) make their way through a ruined archway into some kind of abandoned castle. It’s back to being slightly surreal again, unlike the cookie-cutter scenes elsewhere, and it’s piqued my interest enough to salvage the episode a little. I’m hoping that the rest of the story will spend more time exploring this location, and continuing down the path of the slightly unusual elements of the story...

*While I’m mentioning it, Russian Ark really is worth checking out, if you get a chance. It’s all in - surprise, surprise - Russian, but there are subtitles. It’s a time travel story, and it’s all filmed in the Winter Palace in Saint Petersburg. It runs about an hour and a half in one continuous take, and it’s such an unusual experience, but somewhat magical and enchanting. Certainly, if you enjoy that kind of thing, it’s very much worth tracking the film down. 

22 July 2014

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

Day 568: State of Decay, Episode Four

Dear diary,

Um... Ok, well, let’s start with the positives. Despite what the general opinion among several friends seems to be, I rather like the shot of the Great Vampire’s hand reaching up through the ground. What I mean to say is that during that initial shot of it doing so, it actually look quite effective. Certainly, it’s not a bad shot. It does rather fall to pieces once our three villains are CSO’s in front of a less well realised example of the scene, but that initial moment of breaking through the earth is rather good, so there.

No, I’m more put off by the Doctor’s X-Ray of the area (which seems to somewhat miss the way that an X-Ray works, but ho-hum), revealing what appears to be a poor quality rubber bat model representing the greatest and most powerful foe that the famous Time Lords have ever encountered. For some reason, in my head, I had the Great Vampire down as being a lot more Nosferatu-esque in design. Perhaps fittingly now that John Nathan-Turner is in the producer’s chair, ‘the memory cheats’.

Overall, I think that the model work in this episode is probably one of the weakest points. The shot of the tower breaking apart as one of the ships takes off isn’t the best model shot that the programme has ever given us, and it took me right out of the entire climax. I don’t think it helps that everything moves a little bit too quickly for my liking. The Doctor rounds up the rebels and prepares to lead an attack on the tower! He figures out what he needs to fro to destroy the Vampire, and rushes off to do it! A battle ensues, and there’s slaughter! Romana is being sacrificed, with bats coming to feast on her blood! And yet, there’s no tension in any of this. Despite sitting through three very enjoyable episodes, I’ve just no connection to anything that’s happening here. A pity.

That’s not to say that the episode is a complete washout, though. There’s a lovely exchange as the time of arising begins, where a guard tells his master that he cannot go back up there, or everyone will die. The simple response - ‘Then die! That is the purpose of guards...’ - is absolutely wonderful, and I think it may be chalked up as one of my favourite lines from all of Doctor Who. Then there’s the three who rule being aged to death as the Doctor watched on. There’s a slightly dodgy shot when they fade between two states, but it’s very effective when we keep cutting back to them looking older and older until they’re gone.

It’s also a fairly good episode for K9. After a few stories in which he’s blown up, has his head knocked off, kicked about, and just generally abused, we actually have a character apologising to the dog for not putting enough faith in him! There’s something oddly heart warming about that. As if that wasn’t enough, we even get to see him trundle over the lip of the TARDIS prop! Has that happened before? I can’t recall it any time recently...

I was much more taken with the ‘making of’ feature about this story on the DVD - it’s one of the better examples of these from the entire range. It gives a potted history of the production, which was originally planned to be part of Season Fifteen before a BBC adaptation of Dracula put paid to that, and has some interesting input from both Terrance Dicks and Christopher Bidmead. I think it’s fair to say that there’s not a great deal of love lost between the pair! There’s also a lot of great discussion about the design of the story, and a look at some of the influences which inspired the style of the tower in particular.

As is rapidly becoming traditional for my Episode Four write ups this season, I’m keeping an eye on the Doctor’s actions at the end of a story. He’s at it again, you know, setting up a new society and leaving them to get on with it with very little information to go by. His advice today is that if the newly-liberated proletariat of this world use their recently salvaged technology well, then they can be a high technological society in no time. I think he’s being perhaps a little facetious there, but it does keep in with this seemingly running theme of the Doctor setting up new societies at the moment!

In contrast to some of the others, though, I can’t find an obvious way that this could go all that wrong for these people. There’s not a great deal of them, so working out some kind of democracy should be relatively simple. They’re the ones who toil and work, so they’ll be able to arrange food and keep themselves going. The only thing that the Lords ever seemed to do for them was to protect them from ‘the Wasting’, but since that’s not really an issue any more, I think we could be looking at a fairly happy future for this lot!

21 July 2014

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

Day 567: State of Decay, Episode Three

Dear diary,

I know I’ve banged on about it during the other two episodes of this serial, but I really do love that Adric has a story more-or-less separate from that of the Doctor and Romana for the most part here. It’s not until almost the very end of today’s episode that Romana actually finds Adric, and the Doctor has yet to see him! It means that there’s an interesting new vibe to the series, which can only be described as ‘parents and child’.

This is best exemplified during the Doctor and Romana’s daring escape from the tower, when they reach the door, freedom in their grasp... and then they stop because they can’t simply leave Adric behind now that they know he’s there (even though he shouldn’t be - as far as they were concerned, they’d ‘sent him to bed’ at the end of the last story). It’s rather lovely, and the way that they bicker about who’ll go and get the kid and who’ll go and get on with the proper adventure is brilliant. It’s a bit of a shame that this TARDIS team will only have one more story together, before it’s changed again.

I’m also enjoying all the new Gallifreyan lore that’s being introduced here. It seems quite soon after we had a lot of information about the very early days of the Time Lords in Shada, though I suppose that won’t have mattered at all on original transmission, but I really do enjoy delving into the dark and mysterious past of this ancient race from time to time. I especially love that we first get the Doctor musing that there are vampire legends on almost every civilised world, before going on to give us the tale of these creatures in the form of a legend, a fairy story that was told on Gallifrey. It also means that we get to hear him speak again of the old hermit who used to live in the mountains not far from his home (he lived a very sheltered life), who was first mentioned in The Time Monster, and played a fairly significant role during Planet of the Spiders. You have to wonder if this simply comes down to the script being written by Terrance Dicks, who would have over-seen those stories at the time.

From there, we go on to the Doctor getting the true record of the tale from the TARDIS. There’s something rather brilliant about the idea that the information is so old and out of date that the main databanks on the ship don’t contain it, and he has to get out some more antiquated equipment before he can have his theory backed up. I think this is the only disappointment that comes from all of this - his theory is completely backed up. In a story which has very cleverly played with the way that language changes over time (in the names of the crew members evolving and changing while they’ve been on this world), I’d have liked to see the official story of the great war against the vampires be slightly different from the subsequent retelling to a young Doctor in the form of a story. That feels like a bit of a missed opportunity when you consider the richness in other areas of this serial.

My slight worry for this next episode is that it may feel like a bit of a let down after all this build-up. The Record of Rassilon makes a point about how these creatures are damned near impossible to kill, and how they’re some of the most powerful beings to ever exist, and yet the Doctor and friends only have 25 minutes or so to kill not only the last of them, but the most powerful one, too! Considering that they’ve saved the reveal of this demon for the final episode, you have to hope that he’ll live up to the hype...

21 July 2014

Philip Morris, the man behind the recent recovery of nine lost episodes of Doctor Who, and Director of TIEA, took part in a Q&A yesterday on the 'Doctor Who Missing Episodes Discussion Group' on Facebook.

The inevitable question of whether more missing episodes of Doctor Who had been found or not, came up, and here was Morris' response:

“A tricky one to answer, and fans will just want a yes or no, haven’t you or have you. But it;s complex. All I can say is the wind is blowing the right way. Be patient.”

Morris also clarified if any announcements were due soon:

“There are no announcements in the pipeline at present. It can sometimes be the wrong thing with ongoing work and investigation. An example would be during the last announcement. I was in a very hostile part of the world and suddenly I was everywere on TV. My anonymity was compromised, which made the team a target. So we must plan these things carefully for the greater good of the project and the safety of the personnel involved.”

The 'omni-rumour' surrounding missing episodes has been going on for some time now, with many fans believing more episodes of Doctor Who will turn up. DWO also believe more episode discoveries will be announced in the not too distant future, but as Morris suggested, we all have to be patient.

DWO Discussion:
Do you think more lost episodes of Doctor Who have been found? What do you make of Philip Morris' comments? Post your comments in the comments section, below, or in the DWO Forums thread by clicking on the yellow 'Discuss' bar!

[Source: Doctor Who Missing Episodes Discussion Group]

20 July 2014

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

Day 566: State of Decay, Episode Two

Dear diary,

There’s something in the format of this story which feels very different to usual. The Doctor and Romana making their way around the spaceship as they explore is the kind of thing that would usually make up an Episode One of a story, but here it’s the focal point of this second episode, while they also get their first confrontation with the villains of the piece, and start swapping information with them that feels as though it’s coming too early in the story. That might sound like I’m complaining, but I’m really not - it’s nice to have a story which is a bit different the the norm. Despite having seen this story once before, there’s an awful lot of it that I’ve forgotten, and the fact that Adric still hasn’t encountered the Doctor and Romana since leaving Alzarius surprises me: I thought that they’d have all met up by now.

What’s appealing most to me about this story, though, is the world in which it’s all set. It’s been a little while since Doctor Who has given us a medieval society like this one, and every aspect of it is beautifully realised. Even though K9 has told us that there’s a fair amount of technology in this settlement, it really feels striking and unusual when Ivo takes out a walkie talkie, because we’ve just spent plenty of time being led to believe that our favourite tin dog has been mistaken (we’d forgive him this time - he had his head knocked off last week).

Today is the episode with bits that I most vividly recall from the story - all those shots of the Doctor and Romana while out and about exploring the ship. Scenes of them climbing up and down ladders, and arriving in the nose-cone of the rocket ship. That scene where they arrive above the engines and theres all the bodies around them is seared into my mind - and yet I only realised that once the scene came on and I was able to recite it word for word. There’s something quite magical about all this, and I love that the set designers have managed to make the futuristic parts of the ship look just as lush and beautiful as the more ‘historical’ trappings in places like the throne room.

If The Leisure Hive was a new style for Doctor Who, then this is the team taking it one step further - painting the series as the ‘dark fairy tale’ that Steven Moffat has also used to describe it. Something about this run of stories simply screams ‘autumn evenings’ to me, and while I didn’t especially watch them at that time, these episodes evoke a feeling of coming home from school on a late October afternoon, playing in the garden until nightfall, and then settling in to watch an episode of Doctor Who just like this one. It’s scary - not in the way that the Doctor being torn apart a few weeks ago was, or Romana having a spider leap on her face, but simply through the way that it feels - the sheer atmosphere of the thing.

I think it’s this, perhaps more than the story itself, that I’m really connecting with at the moment. A wonderful sense of nostalgia that warms me inside. This is Doctor Who tailored to be something I’d enjoy, and I’m thoroughly loving everything about it. While the graham Williams era dabbled with dropping the Doctor and Romana into a fairy tale, with The Ribos Operation or - more obviously - The Androids of Tara, something didn’t feel right about it. There it was simply the trappings of a slightly diff adventure series (no matter how much I may have enjoyed the stories themselves).

Here, it feels only right that our heroes should be called ‘lord’ and ‘lady’, and they suit the place perfectly. I’m pleased that Adric has still to join the Doctor and Romana not just because it means they all get their own strands of the story, but because he’s spoil the wonderful dynamic we’ve got going on this week - just before we lose her from the series - Romana has never felt more right by the Doctor’s side. The Doctor and Romana, and more importantly, Tom and Lalla, have never quite fitted the series as well as they do here, steeped in the story, and the feel of the whole piece. Who could ask for more?

19 July 2014

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

Day 565: State of Decay, Episode One

Dear diary,

It’s perhaps not a particularly popular statement, but I’m really rather liking Adric! Over the years, he’s often been described as being (at least, during the creation of the character) a bit of an ‘Artful Dodger’, but I’ve never really gotten that. Now, though, actually properly watching Full Circle and today’s episode, you can see that in full swing. He obviously tries to steal the River Fruits during the last story, and later nicks some equipment for the Doctor, and here he tries to take hold of some food to keep himself going, too. I quite like this side to the character, but I don’t think it’ll stick around for very long, because I can’t remember it happening much come Season Nineteen.

I love that he’s not actually encountered the Doctor and Romana yet, either. His decision to stay aboard the TARDIS at the end of the last story was almost ‘Steven Taylor-esque’ - i.e., you didn’t actually realise he’d done it. You see him in the TARDIS, and obviously thinking about something, but it’s not until today that you realise exactly what he’s done. It’s great that he’s yet to meet his new travelling companions again, and I’m looking really forward to that happening. I also had a good laugh at his bamboozling of K9 in order to get out of the ship!

State of Decay is the only story from the E-Space trilogy which I’d ever seen in full before starting out on this marathon, and it’s usually the story that I’m thinking of when I say that I like this season. It’s also the first real example of this season doing something that I’d probably describe as being ‘lush’, with lots of rich textures and fabrics, and almost a return to the kind of Gothic styling of the Phillip Hinchcliffe era, but given a bit of a 1980s ‘new romantic’ twist. We’ll see similar trappings in the next two stories, as well, but it looks very different here, and makes the whole thing look rather more expensive than usual...

Watching it like this, though, immediately after Full Circle, you start to realise that there’s more links between the stories in this trilogy than simply being set in E-Space. Both feature a marooned space vessel, and technology that the people of this planet don’t quite understand (while the crew of the Star Liner knew how everything worked, more or less, they didn’t know what to do with it). There’s a trio of people who make the decisions and rule over everyone else, and there’s a real sense that things take took much time - whether that be the Deciders not actually, um, deciding, or the rebels here spending time to plan and plot their next move. There’s even a point where someone complains that nothing here has changed for a thousand generations, and it feels even more linked back to the previous tale.

Because I’ve seen this story before, I know what the big twist to the story is, but I’m wondering if that will be enough to make it stand out from the last one? There’s a danger that my enjoyment of Full Circle could end up rubbing off and damaging how well this one fares with me.

18 July 2014

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

Day 564: Full Circle, Episode Four

Dear diary,

Something that I’ve not yet drawn attention to is just how lovely the direction of this story is. It’s Peter Grimwade’s first attempt at directing for the series, and I’m pleased to know that he’ll be cropping up for another three stories over the next few seasons. There’s a certain filmic look to Full Circle that feels very out-of-keeping with the way that Doctor Who is usually shot, but works well to create something very unique to this story. The making of documentary on the DVD seems to present the fact that everyone was very keen on Grimwade, and I think that shows, because he’s really getting the best out of everybody.

I think my favourite shots would have to be the various ones of the Marsh Men entering the ship, as the mist swirls around them. There’s several of these shots that are all effectively the same action, but each one is subtly different enough to not get repetitive. The contrast, when the creatures are rushing to escape the Star Liner, is just as well shot, and I think that’s the image that I’ll be remembering for this story in the future. That’s far from being the only scene in this episode to stand out, though, and I’m captivated by shots of Romana stalking around like a vampire (ironic, perhaps, considering the next story), or the Doctor holding K9’s severed head up to his face in an attempt to scare off the monsters coming for him.

It’s a real example of everything pulling together in a final episode to really work. It’s a shame that Andrew Smith never returned to the series, though, because I’ve really enjoyed his work on this one. I know that he’s come back into the fold to pen a few titles for Big Finish over the last few years, so I think I’ll be seeking them out once I’m done with the marathon, because Full Circle has definitely whet my appetite for more.

Over the last few stories, I’ve been trying to shoehorn in a story arc that leaves the Doctor and Romana a little careless in their adventures of late. Effectively, I’m trying to find the bad in every story’s ending. To begin with, I didn’t really think I’d found one in this tale. The Doctor has given them the way off the planet, set them up to move forward with their lives and give them back the power that they never really knew they’d lost… it all seemed to work out rather well. But then the more I thought about it, the more I realised that, no, that’s not the case at all. There’s a stronger theme developing here than I’d even really realised.

All these stories are ending with the Doctor effectively setting up a new civilisation, and then running away before he even really stops to give it a second thought. In The Leisure Hive, he gets rid of the warmongering Pangol, and then reworks their machines to rejuvenate there race - or at least to give them a bit longer to live, depending on how much work he’d done. Either way, whether the Fomasi ambassador is really to be trusted or not, it’s the ‘birth of a new Argolis’. Then, in Meglos, with their power source (and/or god) gone, the people of Tigella head out from their underground city to reclaim the surface and start fresh (completely fresh, since none of their technology will work any more!)

Then in today’s episode, the Doctor gives them a very brief run down of what everything on the control panel does (which they clearly don’t understand), and then tells them to simply follow the manuals. As the TARDIS departs, they watch the Star Liner head off into the stars… but where do they think they’ll go? They don’t really know what to expect from E-Space, and the people on the ship don’t really know what they’re doing, either. I’d not be surprised if the entire vessel exploded mere moments after the end credits rolled. I’m going to be keeping an even closer eye on this from now on, because it seems to be playing into an idea that’s cropped up a lot in the Eleventh Doctor’s era - the Doctor has simply gotten too ‘big’. He seems to have decided that it’s his place to swan in, sort out some problems then point them in another direction, before heading off somewhere new once he’s bored, and I’m hoping that it will have consequences for him before he regenerates… 

18 July 2014

Everybodyelse Productions announced today that they have just finished recording the first two episodes of a new science-fiction audio drama series called Osiris.

Osiris tells the story of Nottingham graphic designer Jason Fox who stumbles upon a spaceship buried deep beneath the roots of the Major Oak tree in Sherwood Forest. Jason, his best friend William Tyler and his sister Melissa Fox are then taken on a dangerous adventure where they are chased by government authorities and then hunted by a ruthless alien assassin across the solar system.

Osiris is a fun cinematic adventure on audio! It is not a narrated audiobook, but a full-cast audio drama that sounds like a Hollywood film. The cast details are as follows:

Jason Fox - Christian Edwards (Doctor Who: Daleks Among Us)
William Tyler - Robert Whitelock (Hercules, Doctor Who: The Bells of Saint John)
Melissa Fox - Liz White (Life on Mars, The Woman in Black)
General Stone - Colin McFarlane (Batman Begins, The Dark Knight)
Jessica - Georgia Moffett (Doctor Who: The Doctor’s Daughter, Spooks: Code 9)

Episode 1: Pilot is written by Martin Johnson and Episode 2: Osirian Enemy is written by Daniel Lacey. Both are directed by Lisa Bowerman and produced by Martin Johnson. The episodes will be released together as a feature-length format presented in 5.1 surround sound on a Special Limited Edition DVD, a world first for audio drama! They will also be available singularly on CD and digital download released at a later date.

We are also running a competition! Anyone who pre-orders the Limited Edition DVD will be in with a chance of receiving two posters, one for each episode, signed by the entire cast and production team. There will be 2 winners announced after release. The closing date is 15th August, 2014.

Osiris can now be pre-ordered from the Everybodyelse Productions website www.everybodyelse.co.uk in the following formats:

-  Released 15th August 2014 – Special Limited Edition DVD (1000 copies only, numbered) Volume One: Episodes 1 and 2 in a feature-length format presented in 5.1 surround sound with exclusive extra content. This is a world first for audio drama!
-  Released 12th September 2014Episode 1: Pilot - CD Release
-  Released 10th October 2014Episode 2: Osirian Enemy - CD Release

+  Like the Everybodyelse Productions Facebook page!
+  Listen to the Osiris "Sherwood" Teaser!

Download formats will be available on the CD release dates via iTunes, Amazon, Google Play and more.

[Source: Martin Johnson] 

17 July 2014

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

Day 563: Full Circle, Episode Three

Dear diary,

There’s that lovely scene in Planet of Evil, where Tom really gets to go for it with his angry acting. Although he’d inhabited the part well right from the word ‘go’ in Robot, that scene was probably the moment that he really ‘became’ the Doctor for me, and I don’t think he’s ever turned in a better performance than he does there. Imagine my delight, then, when this episode contains what is in essence a counterpoint to that scene, in which he turns his anger against the Deciders.

He starts off almost along the lines of his over-the-top ‘what’s it for’ anger from The Pirate Planet, but even at this stage, there’s something in the back of his voice which just sounds different. There’s real fury in his performance, and the longer that his tirade against the Deciders goes on, the better he gets. It really must be the highpoint of his performance in the later half of his tenure, and I was totally spellbound by it. A few minutes where he simply proves that he’s the perfect man for this part. Despite a dip in his performance around season fifteen, it really feels as though he’s picked back up again lately, and this is absolute proof of it. Wonderful stuff - and it’s largely down to this scene that today’s episode has performed as well in my ratings as it has.

It’s not the sole reason, though. As the cliffhanger sting played out today I declared loudly to the room that this was certainly an ‘8/10’ episode, having spent yesterday’s episode hovering over giving that score before settling for a 7. There’s just lots and lots about Full Circle that’s really connecting with me, and I’m really enjoying being swept along with the story.

I’ve decided that the Marsh Men, despite my reservations yesterday about the realisation of certain bits of costume, are great. It’s a design that feels completely alien, and it realised better than the Fomasi, the Nimon, or the Mandrels have been in recent serials. I’d go so far as to say that they’re the best monster design we’ve had since probably as far back as The Robots of Death. So much care has been put in to them, and the way Romana’s infection so perfectly evokes the style of the creatures is magnificent.

Then there’s the scene in which the Marsh Child wakes up to find itself strapped to an operating table, and goes absolutely mad. Ripping free of the bonds, it kills the scientist about to experiment upon it, and smashes up the entire set. There’s real gusto in the performance, too, and you get the sense that this was a ‘one take or nothing’ kind of scene. That a few moments later, the death of this same monster is able to really case some emotion really helps to raise the stakes even further.

The nice design isn’t only confined to these aliens, because I really like the look of the world they’re inhabiting, too. I’ve already praised the location work before now, but the sets of the Starliner are really rather brilliant, too. I started off yesterday making a note about how nice the corridors of the place are, with the light filling in from all around, but actually I think the ‘trial room’ (for want of a better description) is rather brilliant, too. The height of it, and the sense that it fills a large chunk of the studio really help to make it something that bit special. In many ways, it feels as though we’ve finally struck the nice balance between the cluttered, realistic sets of the Graham Williams years, and the new style imposed by John Nathan-Turner in The Leisure Hive. It’s the best set we’ve had in a while, and I’m really rather impressed with that.

Quite aside from all of this, there’s the story itself. Full Circle seemed to be heading down that familiar route of ‘decedents of a crashed space ship’ that we had in The Face of Evil (and that I think I’m right in saying gets subverted in the next story, too). All of a sudden, though, there’s more to it than that - these may not be so simply the decedents of the original crew, and there may be more ties between them and the monsters they fear than they’d like to suspect. I also love the realisation that while they could take the entire Star Liner apart and rebuild it perfectly, there’s no one around who knows how to actually fly the thing. I honestly didn’t see that coming, so shared the Doctor’s sense of shock at discovering the news.

This one is turning out to be a real success, and while I was so sure of an ‘8/10’ score today, I did briefly hover over the number nine on the keyboard. here’s hoping that the final episode can tie it all together well, because I want this one to sit quite high in my list of favourite stories at this rate.

16 July 2014

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

Day 562: Full Circle, Episode Two

Dear diary,

I can’t begin to tell you how much I’m enjoying the story of the Doctor and the Marsh Child in this episode. Almost as if picking up the cue from The Leisure Hive, that the Doctor can be friends with the slightly strange looking aliens, we’ve got him off exploring on his own and encountering a specimen of this slightly unusual new race. His reaction to seeing one up close? Much like the Third Doctor when first meeting a Silurian, he simply greets it in a friendly manner, and continues on to persuade it that everything is ok.

We then go on to have something of a game of cat and mouse between the pair, as the Doctor continues his explorations further into his new surroundings and into the Star Liner, with the Marsh Child following not far behind, close enough to see and experience everything that’s going on, while remaining far enough behind to be cautious. It’s rare that an alien species in this programme is given ‘children’ among their ranks - it’s more often than not simply a fully gown race (of warriors, usually), so it’s creating a fascinating new way of seeing these creatures. I’m really hoping that the Doctor’s friendship with this particular Marsh Child will come in handy later on, when I’m sure the grown ups of the race won’t be quite as timid.

As far as the design of the Marsh Men goes, I think it’s probably one of the best we’ve had for a while in the programme. The thing that slightly lets it down - as is so often the case - has to be the way the costume works. As the creatures walk around and explore the environment (a small thing, but I love the way that they’re free to step in deep pools of water or mud - usually fears of damaging an expensive new costume would prevent such natural movement and interaction), their effectiveness is somewhat diminished by the way the latex costumes ‘bunch’ around the crotch. I’ve also not quite decided if the masks look too ‘plastic-y’, or just the right amount of ‘alien’.

These aren’t massive criticisms, though, because on the whole I’m very impressed by the design, and the way that they’re being used. Certainly, they’ve fared better than the other monster to appear in this episode - those spiders. I’m always a bit on edge when I know there’s spiders abound, and I’ve never made it this far into Full Circle probably for fear of reaching this point of the story. They’re even less effective than the ones from Planet of the Spiders, though! That old BBC rule about not making spiders look too realistic on screen has come to my rescue once again, because the actual sequence - in which these arachnids burst from the centre of fruit, including one right onto Romana’s face! - could be quite scary if the props didn’t look quite so… battery operated. The glowing eyes make them look cute, if anything!

I do feel a bit for Lalla Ward in this episode, it has to be said. While Tom’s off exploring a beautiful new world (has Ward even set foot on location yet in this story?), she’s stuck inside, dealing with a group of children. Obviously someone was paying attention to how well she worked when paired with the young sacrifices during The Horns of Nimon. The biggest issue that this causes comes when asked to portray the TARDIS being carried away by the Marsh Men. For a few minutes, the episode dips in to being exactly what everyone always thought Doctor Who was like - with the camera jerking to the side, and a delay before the group of actors hurl themselves unconvincingly across the set. We’ve had some great examples of this type of acting in the series before… but this isn’t one of them.

Still, she hasn’t got as raw a deal as poor K9. The campaign of hatred against the poor mutt continues today, with his entire head being knocked off by a particularly mean Marsh Man with a stick! Romana laments that they always seem to be repairing K9, and it’s no wonder when the current production team seem so intent on damaging him as much as possible (were they simply hoping to destroy the prop so much that they could simply claim not to be able to use it any more?). As if that wasn’t bad enough, even the incidental music in this story is mocking the poor creature, playing up the comedy when he’s unable to follow the Marsh Men across a small dip in the ground. At least he gets the best line in the entire episode today, though, when the Doctor points out that the creatures they’re watching have stopped moving, and K9 replies ‘the observation is correct’.

I’m going to miss the sarcastic thing when he goes…

16 July 2014

BBC Books have released the cover art and details for their forthcoming 12th Doctor novel, The Blood Cell.

The Blood Cell
By James Goss

"Release The Doctor - or the killing will start." 

An asteroid in the furthest reaches of space - the most secure prison for the most dangerous of criminals. The Governor is responsible for the worst fraudsters and the cruellest murderers. So he's certainly not impressed by the arrival of the man they're calling the most dangerous criminal in the quadrant. Or, as he prefers to be known, the Doctor. 

What does impress the Governor is the way the new prisoner immediately sets about trying to escape. And keeps trying. Finally, he sends for the Doctor and asks him why? But the answer surprises even the Governor. And then there's the threat - unless the Governor listens to the Doctor, a lot of people will die. 

Who is the Doctor and what's he really doing here? Why does he want to help the Governor? And who is the young woman who comes every day to visit him, only to be turned away by the guards? 

When the killing finally starts, the Governor begins to get his answers...

+  The Blood Cell is released on 11th September 2014, priced £6.99.
+  Preorder via Amazon.co.uk for just £5.24. 

[Source: BBC Books]

16 July 2014

BBC Books have released the cover art and details for their forthcoming 12th Doctor novel, The Crawling Terror.

The Crawling Terror
By Mike Tucker

"Well, I doubt you'll ever see a bigger insect."

Gabby Nichols is putting her son to bed when she hears her daughter cry out. 'Mummy there's a daddy longlegs in my room!' Then the screaming starts... Alan Travers is heading home from the pub when something rushes his face - a spider's web. Then something huge and deadly lumbers from the shadows... Kevin Alperton is on his way to school when he is attacked by a mosquito. A big one. Then things get dangerous.

But it isn't the dead man cocooned inside a huge mass of web that worries the Doctor. It isn't the swarming, mutated insects that make him nervous. It isn't an old man's garbled memories of past dangers that intrigue him. 

With the village cut off from the outside world, and the insects becoming more and more dangerous, the Doctor knows that no one is safe. Not unless he can decode the strange symbols engraved on an ancient stone circle, and unravel a mystery dating back to the Second World War.

+  The Crawling Terror is released on 11th September 2014, priced £6.99.
+  Preorder via Amazon.co.uk for just £5.24

[Source: BBC Books]

16 July 2014

BBC Books have released the cover art and details for their forthcoming 12th Doctor novel, Silhouette.

Silhouette
By Justin Richards

"Vastra and Strax and Jenny? Oh no, we don't need to bother them. Trust me." 

Marlowe Hapworth is found dead in his locked study, killed by an unknown assailant. This is a case for the Great Detective, Madame Vastra. 

Rick Bellamy, bare-knuckle boxer, has the life drawn out of him by a figure dressed as an undertaker. This angers Strax the Sontaran. 

The Carnival of Curiosities, a collection of bizarre and fascinating sideshows and performers. This is where Jenny Flint looks for answers. 

How are these things connected? And what does Orestes Milton, rich industrialist, have to do with it all? This is where the Doctor and Clara come in. The Doctor and his friends find themselves thrust into a world where nothing and no one are what they seem. Can they unravel the truth before the most dangerous weapon ever developed is unleashed on London?

+  Silhouette is released on 11th September 2014, priced £6.99.
+  Preorder via Amazon.co.uk for just £5.24. 

[Source: BBC Books]

16 July 2014

Manufacturer: Big Finish Productions

Written By: LM Myles, Mark Ravenhill, Una McCormack & Nev Fountain

RRP: £14.99 (CD) / £12.99 (Download)

Release Date: July 2014

Reviewed by: Nick Mellish for Doctor Who Online

Review Posted: 16th July 2014

Breaking Bubbles by LM Myles
The Doctor and Peri find themselves in the palatial gardens of the deposed Empress Safira Valtris where nothing is ever quite what it seems.

Of Chaos Time The by Mark Ravenhill
Cast adrift in his own chronology, the Doctor must avert the consequences of a catastrophic experiment in using time as a weapon of war.

An Eye For Murder by Una McCormack
The year is 1939, and a case of poison pen letters at St Ursula’s College threatens to change the course of the Second World War. Fortunately thriller writer Miss Sarah Perry is on hand to investigate...

The Curious Incident Of The Doctor In The Night-Time by Nev Fountain
Michael is a young boy who likes to solve mysteries, such as the mystery of the extra gnome, the mystery of the absent father, and the mystery of the strange man in yellow trousers at the bottom of the garden.

* * *
It’s that time of the year again, when Big Finish pauses for a bit in the run of trilogies and gives us one of its ‘4x1’ releases. Ever since the highs of Circular Time, these releases have become something to look forward to (in my eyes, at least). 1001 Nights and Recorded Time were both hits in my eyes, so I was looking forward to listening to this release.

The key to getting these sort of releases ‘right’, is in creating stories slight enough to fill up half an hour but with enough detail to not feel slight; to have a plot which doesn’t feel wasted by using it up in only one episode but is arresting enough to feel just right. Short episodes, like short stories, are an art form to get right, and thankfully, this release as a whole gets it right. Naturally, there are some stories I definitely preferred to others, some plots which arrested me more than others, but in terms of all being decently-crafted episodes, this CD ticks the boxes.

Given that it covers four separate stories, I’ll look at each of them in turn for this review.

First up, we get Breaking Bubbles itself, by LM Myles. I rather liked the way this tale manages to distill much of what is typical about Doctor Who into one episode, whilst also playing it. So, we get The Doctor and his companion separated, but they end up in part working against one another. We get a prisoner and escort tale, but neither of them are as black and white as is so often the case. Indeed, this theme of playing with perception proves to be the foundation of this play: who people appear to be and who they really are; actions they say they will take but may not.

The ending is perhaps a bit rushed, but no more than you would get if there were two episodes to play with. Myles has written a strong start to the overall release and an interesting tale in its own right.

Next up is the appropriately confusingly titled Of Chaos Time The by Mark Ravenhill. If Breaking Bubbles felt like it got things started quickly, Of Chaos Time The makes it look positively pedestrian in comparison. We literally hit the ground running, caught up midway through an adventure... as does The Doctor. Again, it’s a neat take on an old trope: starting the story when it’s already well underway, except this time the protagonist is every bit as confused as the listener. Long-time listeners of Big Finish release will see similarities to Creatures of Beauty here with its disjointed structure, but whilst that was a novelty, here it is integral to the tale itself: time is all cockahoop, and it’s up to The Doctor to make sense of it all.

Of all the stories on this release, this is perhaps the one that feels most like a radio drama, with lots of scenes where The Doctor narrates his thinking aloud and describes what he sees, something inevitable with audio drama but perhaps a bit limiting at times. It’s certainly the episode which I felt stretched its premise out the thinnest, but not to the stage where it outstays its welcome. Even so, it proved to be the weakest of the four stories for me, whilst the next was the best.

An Eye For Murder by Una McCormack is a wonderfully atmospheric tale of mystery, tension, mistaken identity and politic. Set in the outbreak of the Second World War at St Ursula’s College, Peri is mistaken for a writer of mysteries and before too long, she is embroiled in finding out who is responsible for a particularly nasty series of letters at a time when racial and political tensions are reaching a peak: if only her pesky assistant, The Doctor, can stay out of trouble and do his typing in peace...

Taking a more sedate pace than the previous two tales, McCormack is able to cover a lot in the thirty minutes afforded to her, from ideological disparity at a time of racial tension, to the role of women at a time when emancipation and Feminism were dirty terms, whilst also having a lot of fun with the idea of The Doctor and Peri being detectives. They fit into that mould with incredible ease, and to be perfectly honest, I would easily have just listened to them solve a mystery in a purely-historical context rather than having an alien influence (though that said, the fantastical twist is rather a nice one and slots into the background well). Colin Baker and Nicola Bryant are on top form throughout this, Bryant in particular relishing the material she is given, and the guest cast are as strong as the script. If you listen to just one story on this release, this is the one to go for.

We end with The Curious Incident Of The Doctor In The Night-Time by Nev Fountain, a story which wears its influence on its sleeve and manages to simultaneously evoke Mark Haddon’s fantastic novel whilst being its own thing. As with An Eye For Murder, in many ways I’d have easily enjoyed this without its Doctor Who trappings.  I mean, I know you couldn’t do the episode without The Doctor and Peri being in it, but when they do arrive, they perhaps slow the pace down somewhat, which is a shame. Whilst The Doctor is flitting around in the background without any lines or interaction with the main protagonist, I was arguably more engaged with the tale. As soon as they appear, things become a bit more sci-fi/fantasy: which, in all fairness, is as it should be, really.  The Doctor and Peri, travellers through space and time and oddity aplenty, crashing into the ordinary day of a family and making it extraordinary. It’s just arguably not as arresting once this happens. I was more invested when we were just learning about Michael, his family, and his coming to terms with important events in his life.

And then, just when I resigned to this as my overall feelings towards this episode, Nev Fountain gives us the final scene and completely slaughtered me emotionally.  Baker is absolutely mesmerizing and incredible in those final few moments, and the heart is truly... touched. It’s as beautiful an ending to a tale as you’re likely to find and ends up making this second half stronger than the first.

So, there we have it. Four stories of varying strengths and varying settings. The final two were, for my money, the real winners, but the opener is strong and even the weakest of the four has much to celebrate. More like this, please. A real treat.

16 July 2014

Manufacturer: Big Finish Productions

Written By: LM Myles, Mark Ravenhill, Una McCormack & Nev Fountain

RRP: £14.99 (CD) / £12.99 (Download)

Release Date: July 2014

Reviewed by: Nick Mellish for Doctor Who Online

Review Posted: 16th July 2014

Breaking Bubbles by LM Myles
The Doctor and Peri find themselves in the palatial gardens of the deposed Empress Safira Valtris where nothing is ever quite what it seems.

Of Chaos Time The by Mark Ravenhill
Cast adrift in his own chronology, the Doctor must avert the consequences of a catastrophic experiment in using time as a weapon of war.

An Eye For Murder by Una McCormack
The year is 1939, and a case of poison pen letters at St Ursula’s College threatens to change the course of the Second World War. Fortunately thriller writer Miss Sarah Perry is on hand to investigate...

The Curious Incident Of The Doctor In The Night-Time by Nev Fountain
Michael is a young boy who likes to solve mysteries, such as the mystery of the extra gnome, the mystery of the absent father, and the mystery of the strange man in yellow trousers at the bottom of the garden.

* * *
It’s that time of the year again, when Big Finish pauses for a bit in the run of trilogies and gives us one of its ‘4x1’ releases. Ever since the highs of Circular Time, these releases have become something to look forward to (in my eyes, at least). 1001 Nights and Recorded Time were both hits in my eyes, so I was looking forward to listening to this release.

The key to getting these sort of releases ‘right’, is in creating stories slight enough to fill up half an hour but with enough detail to not feel slight; to have a plot which doesn’t feel wasted by using it up in only one episode but is arresting enough to feel just right. Short episodes, like short stories, are an art form to get right, and thankfully, this release as a whole gets it right. Naturally, there are some stories I definitely preferred to others, some plots which arrested me more than others, but in terms of all being decently-crafted episodes, this CD ticks the boxes.

Given that it covers four separate stories, I’ll look at each of them in turn for this review.

First up, we get Breaking Bubbles itself, by LM Myles. I rather liked the way this tale manages to distill much of what is typical about Doctor Who into one episode, whilst also playing it. So, we get The Doctor and his companion separated, but they end up in part working against one another. We get a prisoner and escort tale, but neither of them are as black and white as is so often the case. Indeed, this theme of playing with perception proves to be the foundation of this play: who people appear to be and who they really are; actions they say they will take but may not.

The ending is perhaps a bit rushed, but no more than you would get if there were two episodes to play with. Myles has written a strong start to the overall release and an interesting tale in its own right.

Next up is the appropriately confusingly titled Of Chaos Time The by Mark Ravenhill. If Breaking Bubbles felt like it got things started quickly, Of Chaos Time The makes it look positively pedestrian in comparison. We literally hit the ground running, caught up midway through an adventure... as does The Doctor. Again, it’s a neat take on an old trope: starting the story when it’s already well underway, except this time the protagonist is every bit as confused as the listener. Long-time listeners of Big Finish release will see similarities to Creatures of Beauty here with its disjointed structure, but whilst that was a novelty, here it is integral to the tale itself: time is all cockahoop, and it’s up to The Doctor to make sense of it all.

Of all the stories on this release, this is perhaps the one that feels most like a radio drama, with lots of scenes where The Doctor narrates his thinking aloud and describes what he sees, something inevitable with audio drama but perhaps a bit limiting at times. It’s certainly the episode which I felt stretched its premise out the thinnest, but not to the stage where it outstays its welcome. Even so, it proved to be the weakest of the four stories for me, whilst the next was the best.

An Eye For Murder by Una McCormack is a wonderfully atmospheric tale of mystery, tension, mistaken identity and politic. Set in the outbreak of the Second World War at St Ursula’s College, Peri is mistaken for a writer of mysteries and before too long, she is embroiled in finding out who is responsible for a particularly nasty series of letters at a time when racial and political tensions are reaching a peak: if only her pesky assistant, The Doctor, can stay out of trouble and do his typing in peace...

Taking a more sedate pace than the previous two tales, McCormack is able to cover a lot in the thirty minutes afforded to her, from ideological disparity at a time of racial tension, to the role of women at a time when emancipation and Feminism were dirty terms, whilst also having a lot of fun with the idea of The Doctor and Peri being detectives. They fit into that mould with incredible ease, and to be perfectly honest, I would easily have just listened to them solve a mystery in a purely-historical context rather than having an alien influence (though that said, the fantastical twist is rather a nice one and slots into the background well). Colin Baker and Nicola Bryant are on top form throughout this, Bryant in particular relishing the material she is given, and the guest cast are as strong as the script. If you listen to just one story on this release, this is the one to go for.

We end with The Curious Incident Of The Doctor In The Night-Time by Nev Fountain, a story which wears its influence on its sleeve and manages to simultaneously evoke Mark Haddon’s fantastic novel whilst being its own thing. As with An Eye For Murder, in many ways I’d have easily enjoyed this without its Doctor Who trappings.  I mean, I know you couldn’t do the episode without The Doctor and Peri being in it, but when they do arrive, they perhaps slow the pace down somewhat, which is a shame. Whilst The Doctor is flitting around in the background without any lines or interaction with the main protagonist, I was arguably more engaged with the tale. As soon as they appear, things become a bit more sci-fi/fantasy: which, in all fairness, is as it should be, really.  The Doctor and Peri, travellers through space and time and oddity aplenty, crashing into the ordinary day of a family and making it extraordinary. It’s just arguably not as arresting once this happens. I was more invested when we were just learning about Michael, his family, and his coming to terms with important events in his life.

And then, just when I resigned to this as my overall feelings towards this episode, Nev Fountain gives us the final scene and completely slaughtered me emotionally.  Baker is absolutely mesmerizing and incredible in those final few moments, and the heart is truly... touched. It’s as beautiful an ending to a tale as you’re likely to find and ends up making this second half stronger than the first.

So, there we have it. Four stories of varying strengths and varying settings. The final two were, for my money, the real winners, but the opener is strong and even the weakest of the four has much to celebrate. More like this, please. A real treat.

16 July 2014

Manufacturer: Big Finish Productions

Written By: Stephen Cole

RRP: £14.99 (CD) / £12.99 (Download)

Release Date: June 2014

Reviewed by: Nick Mellish for Doctor Who Online

Review Posted: 16th July 2014

France, the year 1770: by special invitation, the famous 'Doctor', friend of Voltaire, arrives at the lonely estate of the lovely Marquise de Rimdelle – once a hostess to the highest of high society, now isolated by the strange, pernicious mist that lingers round the countryside.

But there's more in that fog than mere vapour, confesses the Marquise's strange niece to the Doctor's ward, Nyssa. She senses some uncanny machine circling the fringes of the estate, in the space between the shadows. Watching. Always watching. She's given it a name: 'The Steamroller Man'.

Meanwhile, the man in the cellar talks to the Doctor; a dead man, trapped behind the cellar walls. The Steamroller Man is coming, he says; coming to smash the place down. It seems the Doctor has been drawn into a very dangerous liaison…

* * *
Before I even start this review, I want to note that it is going to contain spoilers, not just for this play but the other two in this recent Fifth Doctor/Nyssa trilogy also.  You have been warned!

The third in this most recent run of adventures for the Doctor and Nyssa sees them joined once again by Hannah Bartholomew, the latest TARDIS stray who we met at the start of this trilogy and surprised us all in the midway point (or did so to this listener at any rate).  Masquerade starts off with us all on the back foot. You rather feel like you’ve skipped past the first three-or-so tracks when you begin the tale: plenty of things are afoot, and it’s up to us to play catch up. It is quite a neat and refreshing move and gets the story off to a good start. One thing I really admired the play for was not doing the usual thing of keeping a twist to one side until the cliffhanger to the opening episode. Within a few minutes, you are aware that things are not all they appear to be: The Doctor is not acting like The Doctor, Nyssa is not acting like Nyssa, and no-one else seems quite right either. Stephen Cole doesn’t shy away from being bold and blatant in his set-up so early on, and, again, this is something to be applauded. It bucks the trend and gives us something pleasingly original instead of the same old story trotted out yet again. It’s the sort of thing Big Finish can do so well at times, so it was nice to have it here.

Sadly though, Masquerade never lives up to that opening burst of ingenuity and flair. The story that follows is fine (things remain not what they ought to be, people keep being not who they appear to be, the regulars carry on getting to have some good “There’s something wrong with my mind!” moments) but, ultimately, nowhere near as strong or interesting as the opening would have you believe, which is a pity. Even the main antagonist lacks the required stench of fear or bite to really make all the elements gel.

Crucially, for a tale which so neatly bucks the trend to begin with, things later on feel increasingly... familiar. Cole’s writing is fine enough, but there is too much that feels like we’ve seen it all before.  I had that a little bit with Tomb Ship last month, being able to directly compare like-for-like that story to another Fifth Doctor one, and whilst that isn’t the case here, you can still see the numbers beneath the drying paint, sadly.

Even the very ending can be seen coming, and what happens next (as in, in future releases)... well, sadly I can imagine. I can imagine that there is a clear ending here but that, as with Hex and Flip and Charley and, arguably, even Nyssa, Big Finish won’t stop. Because the ending here clearly signals the end of Hannah. But will it be? I doubt it somehow.

The very ending feels rather rushed, as if it’s missing a TARDIS scene to tie things up, which perhaps gives the impression more of a pause before Hannah returns in some guise than a full stop, which it should be for the story to make any sense at all. It feels like Hannah was never intended to reappear beyond Moonflesh and now Big Finish are uncertain what to do with her: do they kill her off? (Yes, sort of.) Do they keep the doors open? (Maybe: explains the way the tale just... ends without any sense of closure.) Or does it reflect Hannah being a very late addition, so they can dispose of her character without any grand gesture, as if she were just an additional cast member in this story only? (Possibly.)

I don’t know what happens next.  Maybe Hannah will return. Oddly, I think they need to tie up the ending here in some way, but I would rather see her staying put. An acknowledgement of her fate perhaps hanging over The Doctor and Nyssa in their next adventure before carrying on afresh? I think this would work better than the alternative, which is having her come back and making a nonsense of this story’s plot. I guess we will see.

What I do know is that this speculation is perhaps more enjoyable to engage in than listening to Masquerade was. Heck, the fact the original CD pressing and download were missing about five seconds’ worth of dialogue created more drama than you get for the most part in this play.

A series of diminishing returns, I hope the next Fifth Doctor and Nyssa trilogy glows brighter.

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