Time Lord Tees

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18 December 2013
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Will Brooks’ 50 Year Diary - watching Doctor Who one episode a day from the very start... 

Day 352: The Web of Fear, Episode Six (Revisited)

Dear diary,

When I first watched this episode, I was a little bit disappointed. Having worked my way through the tangled tunnels of the London Underground, the solution to the story came in as fairly simple on the whole, and very similar to the resolution of The Evil of the Daleks, which hadn’t been all that long ago at the time.

Part of my issue was that the Doctor’s plan in both these stories boiled down to him crossing some wires on the bad guy’s machinery, and taking control of a few ‘foot soldiers’ to do battle for him. I think – as with several elements of these recently recovered stories – being able to see the action has really helped.

Seeing the Yetis turn on each other and begin to fight is actually very effective, and there’s a sense of scale to this episode that’s you don’t really think about when listening to the narrated soundtrack of the story. Until now, only the Covent Garden battle has felt like it escapes the claustrophobia of the tunnels (even the scenes in the Goodge Street bunker have felt cramped and oppressive), but this final episode is filled with a lot more space. Almost as a way of showing this off, they pack the final shots with as many characters as they can – at one point the screen contains the figures of the Doctor, Jamie, Victoria, The Colonel, Anne, Professor Travers, Chorley, and Staff Sergeant Arnold. It’s not the biggest cast we’ve ever had in the show, but it’s a pretty impressive one.

It’s tricky, in this final episode, so say anything much else new or original. I spent six entries praising the story first time around, and all I have to add now is how brilliant the visuals are now that we can properly see them.

If anything, the best thing has simply been the opportunity to watch nine episodes of Patrick Troughton-era Doctor Who that we thought were lost forever. You may have noticed that since The 50 Year Diary reached the 1970s, my average scores have taken a bit of a dip. While I’m enjoying the Pertwee years more than I’d thought I would, it’s still just not doing it for me in the same way that the 1960s episodes did. Getting the chance to dip back into the Troughton years for a bit has been wonderful.

And it’s come along at just the right time. I’m starting to find myself getting a little bit nostalgic for the older episodes again. Maybe it’s having our two former Doctors back again for The Three Doctors the other week, but I’m starting to get a real hankering to watch some of the stories that I’ve already been through. Perhaps oddly, I’m really keen to pop in The Keys of Marinus - and I’ve no idea why!

I’ve absolutely no doubt that there’s more missing episodes out there waiting to be discovered, and that’s all part of the fun.

17 December 2013
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Will Brooks’ 50 Year Diary - watching Doctor Who one episode a day from the very start... 

Hello all – it’s Will from the future here! For me, it’s Day 374, and I’ve travelled back to tweak this entry, so that you can actually read my revised thoughts on The Web of Fear Episode Five. You see, somehow, this entry of The 50 Year Diary is our very own ‘missing episode’ (and how fitting that it should be for a recently recovered story!)

When I write up the Diary, I do so into an app on my computer designed for diary writing. The idea of it amuses me. The entries are then copied across to the Doctor Who Online website, where they’re formatted, the little sidebar images are added and then they go live for you to see. I go to bed, and when I get up the next morning, it’s time for another episode of Doctor Who.

But somehow, I’ve managed to completely wipe the original posting of this episode. I managed to write over it with another copy of Episode Six. Thankfully, a few readers tweeted and emailed to point out the error, so I headed to my diary app… to find a blank post where Episode Five should be. Lost in the Time Vortex! No idea what I’ve done with it – completely vanished. Luckily, though, all my notes for the episodes are neatly filed away (by which I mean when I run out of room on a bit of paper, I shove it in the cupboard with all the rest), and once you’ve written an entry, you can usually remember what you’d said.

So! With apologies for the delay…

Day 351: The Web of Fear, Episode Five (Revisited)

Dear diary,

The biggest problem with doing a Doctor Who marathon and blogging about it so publicly (The Doctor Who Online News Page receives upwards of 30,000 unique page views every day) is that I can sometimes feel a bit… silly. Not only because - just over 350 days in - I continue to assume that people actually want to read my thoughts on these episodes, but because I sometimes wonder if I should be saying something a bit more meaningful about them. There's several Doctor Who blogs out there on the web that really delve into detail on the series, and analyse each story from a new and unique perspective. I've several books on my shelf that do just the same thing.

And yet, having watched The Web of Fear Episode Five today, the only thing I can think to say is how good the effect at the end looks, when the fungus bursts its way into the base. I don’t recall it making all that much of an effect on me when I first went through this episode (indeed, checking back to my previous entry, I didn’t mention it. A quick look at the tele snaps makes it clear that it’s not all that impressive looking there).

It seems like such a ridiculously silly thing, but the moment the fungus pushes over a table is a highlight. It’s such a simple and uneventful thing but it suddenly makes the fungus look unstoppable. Maybe it’s because it’s so mundane that it holds impact? Or maybe because it just look pretty impressive for some model work?

Overall, I think I came away from this episode with the same general feeling that I did the first time around - that there’s plenty to love, but it does feel like the right time to start drawing towards a conclusion. The highlight is surely the Doctor and Anne working first on the control sphere, and then with the Yeti in the tunnel, and there’s lots of opportunity for Arnold to have some humour, too. The further through the story we get, the more I’m loving him.

Because this episode doesn’t have a whole lot going on that’s holding my interest, I spent the entry for it last time discussing the latter half of my ‘Great Intelligence’ time line. The recovery of the episodes doesn’t throw up any complications to it (Not that I expected they would - the main theories were all worked out based on the dialogue anyway), so I’m quite happy to leave it where things stand. The more I think on it, though, the more I’m keen to actually watch Downtime as a part of the marathon just to see if it all hangs together. What do you think? Worth doing?

 

16 December 2013
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Will Brooks’ 50 Year Diary - watching Doctor Who one episode a day from the very start... 

Day 350: The Web of Fear, Episode Four (Revisited)

Dear diary,

The last time I did this episode, I complained that they were using the Cybermen’s theme - Space Adventure - as the background music for the Yeti attack in Covent Garden, but having not heard it for a few months it is great to hear it again. Curiously, I didn’t make much of a mention of the attack in my first write up for this episode;

”Today’s Yeti attack in Covent Garden is lost somewhat by appearing only on audio - the telesnaps for the scene, coupled with knowledge of Dougie Camfield’s direction, make it look fab - the new style Yeti even look imposing when outside. Last year, the Mirror newspaper published online a load of photos from this scene, with the Yeti menacing a man and his dog - they do look great!”

But seeing it on screen does serve to highlight why audio isn’t the best form for this sequence because Camfield is such an action director. Right from the first shot of the Colonel and his men out on the surface and on film, you know what’s about to happen. Is it perfect? Well, no. There’s a few moments when you can see the rather large zips snaking up the backs of the Yeti costumes (Although, all right, you could make the argument that since these creatures are robots, the furry suits are simply added on after and zipped up…).

It’s also a shame that after such a good job is done of making it look like there’s lots of Yeti (and it does! It’s simply the same four outfits being shot from different angles down the street, but it multiplies them brilliantly) we don’t see any laying dead on the floor. I’m thinking in particular of one shot, late in the battle, where the floor behind an advancing Yeti is littered with dead soldiers… and nothing else. Having just watched a grenade attack that seems to take out several of the creatures, it just looks a bit odd.

It’s not a huge complaint, though, because the battle is fantastic. The Yeti really do manage to look scary even when out in the open, and as for the moment when the Colonel and another soldier hide up high in the warehouse and a yeti reaches up to grab the soldier’s foot… well it’s no wonder that this story had a specially made trailer to warn children that the Yeti were scarier than the last time.

They’re not the only things in this story to come across as unnerving, either. Even I was quite put off by the sight of a soldier in a gas mask being pulled back out of the tunnel coated in a layer of web. I was somewhat surprised – when the mask came off – to find that his face was perfectly plain. I think I’d half expected it to be made up somehow.

All the sequences down in the tunnels today have a real air of menace about them, and I think that’s the thing I’m most pleased to see from the recovery of this tale. I’ve always half-doubted the story that the London Underground thought Doctor Who had filmed in their stations without permission, but when you see how good these sets really are, it’s not hard to believe. I had worried that it might be like The Celestial Toymaker, where everyone who’d previously rushed to talk about how good it was suddenly has to back-track pretty sharpish…

15 December 2013
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Will Brooks’ 50 Year Diary - watching Doctor Who one episode a day from the very start... 

Day 349: The Web of Fear, Episode Three (Revisited)

Dear diary,

I thought I was clear of the era in which recons were an option! I really debated over how to best tackle today’s episode, because as long-time readers of The 50 Year Diary will be aware, I’m not the world’s biggest fan of recons. I find that I just can’t get caught up in them, and they actively reduce my enjoyment of an episode, more than they help it. I wondered about simply re-listening to the soundtrack of today’s instalment in an attempt to enjoy it more, but since the recon came as part of the complete serial on iTunes it felt silly not to watch it…

Sadly, I still find myself less than impressed by the experience. Several people have commented that this recon isn’t as polished as the one from Loose Cannon, so that may be where I’m going wrong, but the telesnaps really are no substitute for either the original episodes, or the visuals my mind fills in via the soundtrack release. I think coming from eight moving Troughton episodes in a row has spoilt me.

The episode is still quite interesting because it’s the first appearance of the would-be Brigadier. I said of the character last time; ”Interestingly, he's played as something of a 'grey' character here, and we're not entirely sure that we're supposed to trust him. Certainly, if you pointed him out to a viewer watching in 1968 and told them that this man would become the Doctor's best friend through several incarnations, they'd think you were mad,” and it’s even more interesting to watch having just emerged from the latter-half of the Pertwee years, in which he’s very firmly established himself as a part of the Doctor’s life.

What’s surprising to me, though, is that he’s not as different as a character as I’d expected. As I’ve said in the past, I always think of the Doctor and the Brigadier as being the best of friends, but even up to The Three Doctors, there’s a slightly uneasy relationship between the pair. It’s great to go back and see how much of a through-line there is between the Colonel that we meet down here in the tunnels and the one I’ve grown used to since September. Sadly, I can also feel myself enjoying the character (and Nick Courtney’s performance) more here than I do by the time Season Ten rolls around. I think it’s in the next episode that he takes the Doctor’s explanation of a time machine at face value, which will feels like such a relief after the blatant disbelief of anything he displayed during our multi-Doctor team up.

The other thing I drew attention to first time round: ”To put it bluntly, I'm not sure who is working with the Intelligence - and I like that! It's keeping me guessing (and second guessing) at every turn.” I’m still not sure who’s moving around the little Yeti statues at this point, and this surprises me a little. I was chatting to a friend about this story the other day and mused that I couldn’t remember who was behind everything at this stage. I know Travers gets possessed before long (end of tomorrow’s episode?) but I genuinely have no clue for right now.

‘Oh, that’s easy!’ he told me. ‘It’s Staff Sergeant Arnold. He gets taken over when he goes into the web…’ Darn, that’s ruined it for me a bit – a spoiler for a story I’ve already heard! Every time Arnold heads into the tunnels, I expect him to walk into the web and get possessed… but it’s not happened yet! It’s not the Staff Sergeant at this point in the story, so I’m completely lost. Am I just missing something really obvious? Is there some big neon light flashing over the culprit’s head?

But you know what? I kind of like that I still don’t have a clue. It means that the menace is still there, lurking in the darkness of the tunnels, and I’m just as lost as our heroes are at this point!

14 December 2013
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Will Brooks’ 50 Year Diary - watching Doctor Who one episode a day from the very start... 

Day 348: The Web of Fear, Episode Two (Revisited)

Dear diary,

“In some ways, this episode is absolutely made to be listened to as just the audio.”

I feel like I should regret saying that, now that I've just sat and watched the episode play out, but actually I think I stand by it. A lot of this episode is just ripe for audio. The dialogue between Jamie and Evans as they look at the Tube maps and emerge into stations is still very descriptive, but I think it's sticking out so much simply because I noticed it last time around.

By the same token, getting to see this one unveils things that I'd not really gotten from the audio. The key thing is the way that Camfield shoots Chorley throughout. You're bout supposed to like the reporter. He's infuriating, rude in places, a coward, a potential suspect once the grip of the Intelligence starts to close in… and yet when you can actually see the man on screen, all of this gets heightened. He's always a presence in the scenes in a way that he simply isn't on the soundtrack. When he questions Jamie and Victoria, the microphone is right up tight into their faces (and taking up a good deal of the shot). He's always hovering in the front of the shot, or hiding in the background chiming in with a quip here or there. When the sound of gunfire and a battle is heard down the end of a telephone, he makes sure to lean in with the microphone to get a good recording of it. It adds a whole new dimension to the character that I'd simply not seen before, and the story is all the better for it.

Now… you'll have to forgive me a bit today. I've just re-read my original entry for this episode, and there's so man things I want to bring up that it's going to sound like I'm simply answering myself. It's like a conversation through time!

“I also spent some time thinking that it was a good job we couldn't see the huge battle between the Yeti and the soldiers, until I remembered that it's a Douglas Camfield episode we're dealing with, and hurried to go through the tele snaps. It's hard to tell, because so many of the snaps catch people mid-action, but the impression I get is that it looked brilliant. The setting really helps, too, the cramped tunnels really helping to give the Yeti a kind of scale that was completely lost out on the Welsh hillside.”

Oh, Douggie. I do love you. My impression was right. The battle was lovely to watch. I was torn between a desire to make notes or simply sit and watch the action with a sense of absolute wonder. I plumped for the latter in the end. It's so wonderfully down from start to finish, and it really does make the Yeti look imposing… and actually quite scary! I can quite imagine being five or six years old and being absolutely struck by this sequence.

It's not just the tunnels that give these creatures a sense of scale, but the skill with which Camfield has shot them. The cameras aimed in their direction are almost exclusively placed low down, shooting up at the beasts, and making them look even bigger than they really are. The cramped tunnel does then help to accentuate this, and they just keep on coming. As if to really hammer the point home, they proceed to batter their way through the pile of explosive charges in a sequence which should look rubbish (no, really, it should. At one point, a Yeti stumbles trying to get over the props, but then it finishes the manoeuvre, straightens up, and carries on. Under a lesser director this could have been another 'Zarbi hits the camera' - well, not quite that bad - but here it seems to add to the threat!)

It's not all praise, though. The Yeti leaving their prisoners and simply wandering off when they think of something better to do seems even more odd on screen, because they really do just walk away when the moment comes, Still, that's a relatively minor niggle at the end of a very lovely sequence…

“I think it's probably a testament to how much I'm enjoying this one that it was fifteen minutes or more before I noticed the complete absence of the Doctor.”

And it's probably rather telling that I didn't notice it again this time around! Well, ok, that's not strictly true. I did notice, but only in the last couple of minutes when attention was drawn to it once more. For the rest of the episode, I was too busy enjoying the rest of the cast.

The one who needs extra special praise from me today is Deborah Watling. I wan't all that fond of Victoria during my first run-though of Season Five. By the time she left at the end of Fury From the Deep, I was rather glad to see the back of her. Now though, with these episodes coming free from all the others around them, I'm rather liking her once more. And I'm enjoying Watling's performance more than I have for a while, too. I think she really does suffer from having so much missing from the archives (not any more! For the first time in 40 years, we've more of her episodes in the archive than not! Hooray!), because when we can watch her performance, it's so much easier to appreciate.

There's two lovely moments from her today. The first has to be when she slowly comes to the realisation of who the blustery old man they're talking to is - while Jamie continues to put his back up and argue back, and beautiful smile breaks out across Victoria's face and she excitedly announces that they're back with Travers. Jamie soon swings round to a similar joyous reaction, but it's not a patch on hers - a simply fantastic piece of acting. After this we've got her listening in on the accusations against the Doctor and quietly excusing herself from the room again to go off in search of him. I'm so pleased that she's given these wonderful moments in the recovered episodes, because I'm pleased to think that I'm not the only person re-evaluating her now…

13 December 2013
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Will Brooks’ 50 Year Diary - watching Doctor Who one episode a day from the very start... 

Day 347: The Web of Fear, Episode One (Revisited)

Dear diary,

There was a point during the Troughton years when I really worried that I’d be ruining the series for myself. I was really enjoying the process of watching an episode a day and then writing about it, but what if once I’d finished them all… watched every scrap of Doctor Who… what if I was bored by the thought of ever watching any more? At the same time, I was trying to counter this worry my making a mental list of stories that I’d want re revisit once the marathon was through. Late Season Five ended up being added to the list in something of a chunk – I wanted to do The Enemy of the World a second time to see if I’d get different things from the story already knowing the twists of Episode Six, Fury From the Deep I wanted to hear again away from all the other stories around it, and The Web of Fear was ripe for a second go because – basically – it was bloody good.

Seconds into today’s episode and I’m completely reminded of that fact – it all just looks so good, doesn’t it? This first episode was the one we’ve had from this story for a long time now, so I’ve seen all of these shots before. Like last time, it’s the shot of the TARDIS doors closing as the camera moves back to the right position that really sucks you in, and it’s all uphill from there.

Funnily enough, the direction was the thing I was most drawn to last time I did this story, but I compared it very favourably to the preceding story:

”It's miles ahead of the stuff seen in The Enemy of the World Episode Three (our last surviving episode), and had me completely gripped.”

Now that we can actually watch The Enemy of the World, it’s more a case of just having two wonderfully directed serials in a row, which is a lovely thought. There’s something rather nice about having two stories emerge from 45 years in hiding and both turn out to be so good.

To be honest, that was another worry I had. I kept coming back to what I’d call Tomb of the Cybermen syndrome. A lost Doctor Who ‘classic’ suddenly unearthed after decades hidden away in a foreign television archive, rush released and shown to be… well, received wisdom claims that The Tomb of the Cybermen isn’t as good as everyone thought it was, but it’s still my favourite tale. I really did worry that Web would come out and we’d all go ‘ah…’ and quietly forget the years of desperation for its return.

I’m loathe to just go on about the brilliant direction in this episode, because that’s pretty much all I did the last time around. I’m sure I’ll have plenty of time to talk about it during our four newly recovered bits of the story. Instead, I want to touch on something that I’ve seen cropping up since the return of these stories could add an extra step to my ‘Great Intelligence Timeline’.

I’m not sure where the idea came from, but I’ve seen people musing that The Enemy of the World and The Web of Fear may share a common link – The Great Intelligence is Salamander. Yeah, yeah, I know. Put down that bit of lead piping and hear me out. That was my first reaction, too, but there’s a bit of me that rather likes it. The suggestion is (and I’m tweaking and elaborating to make it fit my earlier timeline) that when Salamander is sucked out into the vortex, he becomes scattered through time and space. This process robs him of his physical form, but also makes him greatly intelligent (see what I did there? Clever, that).

The Doctor himself even says that ‘He's not in a very enviable position, floating around in time and space…’, and you can quite imagine that he would be keen to get back to his own physical form. Maybe from here he finds himself in contact with Padmasambhava, and the rest follows on as I speculated during The Abominable Snowmen and the original entries for this story.

While it needs a bit more hammering into shape to make it totally work, I think I do rather like the idea. Adding in my previous musing that the Great Intelligence might have been behind the scenes, pushing Victoria to leave during the story after this one, it gives Season Five a kind of loose story arc – one which even has an element of ‘timey wimey’ to it, because the TARDIS crew’s first encounter with the Intelligence comes before they’ve even met Salamander.

What do you think? Plausible theory, or just plain nonsense?

12 December 2013
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Will Brooks’ 50 Year Diary - watching Doctor Who one episode a day from the very start... 

Day 346: The Enemy of the World, Episode Six (Revisited)

Dear diary,

Oh, I’m so very happy. All the way through this story – no matter how much I’ve been enjoying things – I’ve had something niggling at the back of my mind. Let’s face it, the ‘Doctor vs Salamander’ fight at the end of this episode has long been at the top of many fan’s wish lists when it comes to the missing episodes. It’s Troughton up against Troughton, and as I pointed out when I first did this episode, the single telesnap which shows the pair pretty much nose-to-nose made it look so good.

And that’s where my problem came from. I’d seen people praise the way that Episode One of this story was directed. I’d seen the excitement at finally having a date pinned down for events. General consensus was that Salamander's ludicrous accent was far less distracting when you could actually watch the rest of Troughton's performance…

But curiously, no one seemed to be discussing the final scene. Now, admittedly, I've been avoiding threads on the forum specifically dedicated to these recovered stories, but there's been several posts of praise about them showing up on Facebook and Twitter… but not a word spoken about these final few minutes. Ah. The doubt started to grow in my mind. Was no one talking about it because - God forbid - it wasn't very good?

Well, no, of course not. I watched the final scene, and then I went back and watched it again. And then again. And then once more, just for luck. Oh, it's stunning. Brief, yes, but stunning. And it's not just the actual fight that works so well. We've got an actual night shoot! That's rare even deep into the depths of the Pertwee era (remember how shocked I was to see one crop up in The Dæmons? Double it for this). The whole sequence on the beach is stunning, from the way the TARDIS is lit from inside, to Jamie staring out into the night and Salamander stumbling his way up over the dunes.

Once we're inside the TARDIS, things continue to be rather lovely. Salamander indicating to Jamie that he should set them in motion is rather nice (He doesn't actually say anything at this point, so it's hard to enjoy the subtleties of Troughton's performance when you're only listening to the audio), and the way he turns around to see the Doctor stood in the open doors… It's one of those things that will sound weird when I say it - but doesn't he just look so much like the Doctor stood there, staring into his ship? I don't know if it's the direction or what, but it's lovely.

The fight is then rather well done. The single tele snap that promised so much pretty much sums up the entire time they spend occupying the same shot, but I'm pleased to see that it's just as effective on screen as I' hoped. There was a very real danger that this may not hold together, but it's become one of the most striking bits to survive from the 1960s.

And isn't that just a brilliant sentence? Suddenly - wonderfully - we've got The Enemy of the World in its entirety ready to watch and enjoy. Waaaay back when I first did Episode One of this story, I told you a story about how it was my friend Graham's favourite tale ever, and how I was a bit surprised to learn this:

“My disbelief wasn’t because I’d heard bad things about this story, it was mostly just from the fact that, well, I hadn’t really heard anything about it. The sad fact is that The Enemy of the World is one of those stories that people just forget about.”

Since the recovery, these six episodes have had something of a reappraisal. I've seen a number of people commenting that it's now become their new favourite Troughton adventure, and I think a large part of that is because barry Letts was right all along - Episode Three was by far the worst example to survive from this tale. I wonder if people were simply put off it by seeing those twenty-five minutes?

It's not going to be to everyone's tastes (Another friend this week has said he didn't really care for the story, and thought it was a bit of a disappointment), and once the sudden thrill of having it all back wears off, I think it's going to balance out in people's estimations again. It's lovely to see that the recovery has won people over, though. This makes the next story all the more interesting, because The Web of Fear has been a fan favourite for years and years despite being just as missing as this one was. I've seen fewer comments on that tale since the return of the episodes, so I'm keen to see my reaction.

If nothing else, it's Douglas Camfield directing Patrick Troughton again! That may just be the most exciting thing in the world…

12 December 2013

Doctor Who Magazine have sent DWO the cover and details for Issue 468 of DWM.

Doctor Who Magazine joins in the festive spirit with a bumper-sized 100-page Christmas issue. And to celebrate the fact that Christmas Day will see the broadcast of the 800th episode of Doctor Who, the mag comes complete with a HUGE double sided-poster – one side celebrating Matt Smith's years as the Doctor, and the other featuring images from every single episode – all 800 of them! – since the series began.

Also inside this issue:

-  The Time of the Doctor – a preview of the Christmas Special, with exclusive new photographs.
-  Steven Moffat talks exclusively to DWM in an in-depth interview.
-  The life and times of Doctor Who's first writer, Anthony Coburn.
-  DWM tells the previously unknown story of one of the men instrumental in the creation of Doctor Who: CE 'Bunny' Webber.
-  The DWM Review of 2013.
-  The Watcher’s Guide to the Eleventh Doctor.
-  A look back at the Doctor Who Celebration at the ExCeL.
-  A Christmas Carol - an in-depth guide to Matt Smith's first Christmas Special.
-  Production Notes – showrunner Steven Moffat talks candidly about the biggest day of his career.
-  Pay the Piper Part 1 - a brand new comic strip.
-  Author Jacqueline Rayner looks back on Doctor Who's Christmas past.
-  The Time Team watch 2007's Voyage Of The Damned.
-  The Watcher’s Fiendishly Festive Christmas Quiz!
-  Competitions, puzzles, and much more!

+  Doctor Who Magazine Issue #468 is Out Today, priced £5.99.

+  Subscribe Worldwide to DWM for just £85.00 via CompareTheDalek!

+  Check Out The DWO Guide to Doctor Who Magazine!

[Source: Doctor Who Magazine]

11 December 2013
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Will Brooks’ 50 Year Diary - watching Doctor Who one episode a day from the very start... 

Day 345: The Enemy of the World, Episode Five (Revisited)

Dear diary,

While I'm aware of the twists and turns in this story from my previous viewing, I can't help but think that the episode descriptions in iTunes are somewhat spoilerific for a first-time viewer. The caption for yesterday's episode opens by saying that 'Giles Kent is revealed to be a traitor, in league with would-be 21st century dictator Salamander.' Except… he isn't revealed to be in league with our evil friend until tomorrow's episode! Today's description is equally as misleading, telling us that the 'traitorous scientist Kent has blown up the research station', but once again, that hasn't happened yet! I do hope that no one had their first viewing of the story ruined by reading these descriptions in advance of watching - they give away some pretty major plot points way in advance!

However, I must confess that I actually learnt something from them today, too! There's a moment when Jamie and Victoria are carried into the research centre on a pair of stretchers, and I suddenly remembered that I didn't know what they'd been up to in the story, but the description for Episode Four confirms that they're not in that episode! Haha! A quick check of my write up for this episode the first time around confirms that I didn't notice it then, either. I spent so long during the 1960s tracking the holidays of the various cast members and yet this one has managed to pass me by twice!

It's rather nice to have them back again here, and given a lovely sequence to dig their teeth into. The questioning scene is fantastic right the way through, and it adds another layer to the relationship between Jamie and Victoria. The way that he cradles her while they're being held at gunpoint is lovely, and his determination to give in rather than see her hurt is touching. The tables then get turned as they question the man they believe to be Salamander, and we're treated to some more of Barry Letts' beautiful direction on the sequence, focussing on several close ups of the pair as they cut back and forth.

You can choose to see this as either clichéd or traditional, but I'm going to have to heap some praise onto Patrick Troughton again. Listening to this story on audio, the switching between his two characters is pulled off mainly by dropping the accent and adding a few more fluffs and stutters to the performance when switching back to the Doctor. On screen it's great to watch him making choices in every movement he makes. We spend a large amount of time today with him dressed as Salamander (indeed, his more traditional outfit doesn't even appear today!), but we're only in doubt as to which one he may be when we're supposed to be. It's a very well considered performance, and a great example of why he's one of the best actors to have been involved in the programme.

I also need to bring attention to how much I'm enjoying Milton Johns as Benik. On audio, I can't say that I ever really payed the character that much attention (I'd sort of lost track of who was who by this point), but he's really quite special on screen. I spent his first couple of episodes actively disliking him - the character simply made my skin crown when he appeared - but then today I realised that you're supposed to feel like that! There's a beautiful line where Jamie muses that Benik must have been a horrible little boy, and he simply replies that he was, but he had a good childhood. Terribly slimy, and one of the nastiest characters the series has ever given us. I'm so glad that I'm able to enjoy his performance all the more now it's available in full…

11 December 2013

The BBC have released the full trailer for The Time Of The Doctor.

Watch the Trailer in the player, below:


+  The Time Of The Doctor will air on Christmas Day, at 7:30pm on BBC One

[Source: BBC]

10 December 2013
 a

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

Day 344: The Enemy of the World, Episode Four (Revisited)

Dear diary,

Salamander confirms today that the 'survivors' have been down in the bunker for almost five whole years, which means that they should be headed down there… well… any day now!

When these recovered episodes were released back at the start of October, I went into something of a lockdown while I decided what to do with them in regards to the marathon. I didn't just want to slot them in at the tail-end of Season Seven because it would have been very out of place (and I'd only just parted ways with the Second Doctor about three weeks earlier anyway!), but then I didn't know where to put them. The situation never drifted far from my mind, and people even tweeted me and left messages on the 50 Year Diary Facebook page to ask if I'd be tackling these episodes any time soon. No, I decided, I'd leave them until after the whole marathon was complete, letting me know that there'd still be a few bits of the 1960s waiting for me once I'd reached the finishing line.

Well… it was a nice idea, I guess. The problem is that so many of my friends these days are the kind of people who'd be downloading these episodes the very moment they arrived on iTunes, and suddenly my Facebook and Twitter feeds were filled with people discussing how wonderful they were. There was no way I'd make it all the way through to 2015 before seeing these stories again - it just wouldn't be possible. I made the decision to slot them in here after Troughton's (brief) return to the programme, and then carry on once more. I've still tried to ignore people's discussions of the stories for a while, though, because I wanted to be as unbiassed by outside thoughts as possible. I've even been avoiding the reactions on the forums. Have the tables turned? Is The Enemy of the World now a classic while The Web of Fear is universally panned? I guess I'll be finding out soon enough…

I wasn't able to avoid all mentions of the stories, of course, and there was one particular tweet from Clayton Hickman which caught my eye: “Ooh! We finally have a date (ish) when Enemy of the World is set. Astrid's helicopter license expires in 2018!” Cue a mad panic! Did this tie in with the timeline I'd been using for the stories? I only really touched on it once (During The Space Pirates Episode Three), but as I said back then, I was more than happy going along with the timeline proposed in the second volume of the About Time books.

In that essay, they muse that the Cold War style event that forced the people down into the bunker here happened around about 2025, with the events seen in this story taking place about five years later, which they place contemporaneously with The Wheel in Space. Well now we know that they're about twelve years too late - and as if to rub it in, the shot of the helicopter licence is big and bold and hard to miss! Ah, but why then does the description for the story on iTunes state that 'The Doctor has arrived on Earth in the year 2017 A.D.'?

Well… a discussion about this with a friend earlier today revealed to me that the newspaper found by one of the 'survivors' later on in the story bears the date '2017', but this is then described as being explicitly 'last year'. So there we have it, either the person writing the description got muddled up (or pressed the wrong key), or the survivors have lost track of the days and are out with their counting.

What's nice about having some (almost) firm dates for the story is that everything else still works! I can imagine The Wheel in Space as being somewhere around 2030, and the proposed timeline after that, leading through the Gravitron being installed in 2050, and then the events of The Moonbase in 2070 before another Cold War sets in for the 2080s feels very natural still, and if anything it spaces the stories out a little better. The other thing I rather like - assuming that we say they've been down there since very late 2012ish - is that Salamander could have used all the 'End of the World' myths that were floating around last December as a way to trick them all into believing the war was about to break out and destroy the world. I can imagine him as the leader of a cult, preaching portents of doom!

Anyway, away from dating quibbles, we're back into fine territory here. Within the first few minutes the episode is more visually interesting than Episode Three was - yet more proof that we've been left with the wrong episode for all these years! There's some lovely direction as the Doctor faces off against Kent, including some beautiful close-ups between the pair. Later on we get to watch Salamander's decent into the bunker… and it's like something out of Thunderbirds! The model work is rather nice, and the whole sequence is somewhat grander than I was expecting. I think I was simply picturing a rickety old lift last time around, because I still had this episode in mind with a very noir feel.

Indeed, that means that other areas of today have been something of a let-down for me. As I said first time around:

“I don't think I've ever been as visually connected to one of those soundtracks as I was during the first half of this episode, with the security forces closing in on the Doctor, Kent, and the others. It was like my head was mapping out exactly how I'd direct the scene if it were to be re-made, complete with angled cameras, and shots of our heroes on the run, silhouetted against the alleyway as the guards closed in.”

After The Enemy of the World, the number of missing episode soundtracks I had to listen to were severely reduced, but this episode - along with sections of The Macra Terror - still represent the best visualisations of the series that I ever had during the 1960s section of the marathon. Even now when I think about these scenes, I can picture the way that I saw them the first time around, with the high angles, and a city which to my mind was 1930s New York, complete with heavy film grain and the shadows of German expressionist cinema.

There was no way that the episode would ever live up to that. I don't care how much of a surprise Episodes One and Two turned out to be, or even the futuristic lift system in today's episode, even at the top of his game Barry Letts would be unable to achieve the shots i had in mind on the schedule and budget of a 1960s Doctor Who story. What's sad though is just how much of a let down the actual scenes are. I was braced for something a bit worse than I'd pictured, and when we get a shot of some guards high up on a balcony I did briefly wonder if we might really get some great high-angled images, but it wasn't to be. Ah well, you can't win them all, I guess…

9 December 2013
 a

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

Day 343: The Enemy of the World, Episode Three (Revisited)

Dear diary,

Over the course of The 50 Year Diary, I try to quote myself as little as possible. While I'm going back and rewatching these two newly-recovered stories, though, it's rather difficult not to do so - a lot of my reaction to them is informed by my own experience of them the first time around. Today is something of a special case, because until recently it was the only episode from The Enemy of the World to exist in the archives, and thus it's the first of the entire marathon that I'll be watching again some months down the line. Unless we get some more missing episodes cropping up in the next year or so (well… you never know…), it will hold this title with only The Web of Fear Episode One. So, this episode, first time around was exciting because it was Doctor Who switching to 625-line video:

“And what a story to feature an upgrade in picture quality! Episode One features a hovercraft and a helicopter on the beach! The second episode ends with the eruption of a volcano! This third episode is full of… well, corridors, decorated with varying types of garish wallpaper. Oh dear. Couldn’t we have had Episode One saved, instead?”

If anything, having the preceding two episodes back in the archives and available to view makes this one seem even more of an oddity. At least last time, I'd been picturing things on a far smaller scale than we've seen was actually the case. This time around, I've just come from being shocked at the balcony scenes yesterday, and all the use of rear-projection to give certain set ups some more scope. To go from all of that to what we see today feels like a real come down, and I think it may have actually harmed this instalment. Barry Letts always said that Episode Three was the weakest of the serial (and thus it was ironic that it was the only one surviving!), and I think I'm seeing that point proved here now.

Still, I'm finding it a bit easier to follow than I did the last time. As I said yesterday, I'd initially been somewhat confused by the events of Episode Two, and this one relies so heavily on it. Being able to now differentiate the characters better means that I can become a little more involved in the story than on the first time around.

I'm also finding that I can appreciate some of the other performances and characters in this episode more this time around. The chef is a great character, and I enjoy every moment he spends on screen. Hiding under the table when he thinks that a battle is breaking out nearby is his highlight, as everything seems to roll on around him while he just shrugs his shoulders. The young guard who dares to ask Astrid out for wine while she's sneaking past him with a fake pass is another great character - very little screen time, and only a handful of lines - but he feels very rounded, and I rather like that.

It's not quite enough, though. I made a point today of not looking at the score I gave the episode last time, because I'm keen for these revisited entries to be very much based on my gut feeling (as though they were being rated as just the regular next episode in the marathon). Having finished the episode, I announced the the (empty) room that it was 'a five or a six'. Having then checked the original entry, I found that last time I gave it a seven. So there we have it - the episode is let down by being among it's more impressive siblings!

I'm feeling generous, so I'm going to be going with the upper end of my score for the day, and giving this one:

9 December 2013

Speaking at last nights BFI, 11th Doctor Celebration Event, Steven Moffat confirmed that Series 8 of Doctor Who will not be split.

Back in October, Moffat also confirmed that there would be "at least 13 episodes" in Series 8, with no confirmation (as-yet) if it counts the 2014 Christmas Special.

There had previously been rumours that the series itself would consist of 12 episodes with the Christmas episode making up the thirteenth.

+  Series 8 of Doctor Who will air in August / Early September 2014.

[Sources: BBC; Tim Vine]

8 December 2013

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

Day 342: The Enemy of the World, Episode Two

Dear diary,

The weird thing about going back to do these stories for a second time is seeing how my perceptions have changed in the four-or-so months since I first experienced them. I think that it’s fair to say that my feelings towards the series have cooled a little since Season Seven, and I’m finding myself handing out a lot more ‘average’ scores than I was during the latter half of the 1960s. I means that when I reached the end of yesterday’s episode, I instantly reached for a ‘9/10’. I’d enjoyed it much more than I had any episodes for a while, and a solid 9 placed it firmly in that bracket.

But then I remembered that I’d originally given it a ‘10’. If anything, actually seeing the thing had made it better again. All the action sequences being pulled off spectacularly, the Doctor and his companions interacting so perfectly naturally, and of course some outrageous flirting in a beach house. There’s no way I could mark it lower than full marks, so up to a ‘10’ it went.

It makes it tricky in the long run, though, because I may be rating these revisited episodes slightly lower that I did first time round, and there’d be several reasons for this to happen. For a start – these stories aren’t ‘fresh’ for me anymore. This time around, I know the twists in Salamander’s story. Next week, while I’m making my way through the webbed tunnels of the London Underground, I’ll know every beat of the great Intelligence’s plans. On the one hand, I might find it exciting to enjoy them in a different way, with the prior knowledge of what’s to come, but on the other it may well lessen the impact in a way that seeing the visuals can’t make up for. What I’m trying to say is that I’m still going to be giving these episodes my honest gut reaction when it comes to a final score, and I’m looking forward to seeing how that may have changed since my first viewing.

Today’s episode is another perfect example of the visuals actively helping a story in my estimations, though, because seeing this one has really benefitted the tale. It’s funny just how much I can remember about where I was during these episodes the first time around. During yesterday’s episode, I could pin-point exactly the bit of road I’d been crossing when I first heard Salamander’s speech about the crop growth. For today, I can recall listening to the scene of Jamie ‘saving’ Salamander while I’d been going through the self-serve tills at the supermarket… and then listening to it again five minutes later when I realised that I’d not got a clue what was actually happening in the episode.

In total, I’d listened to bits of this episode three times last time and I still didn’t quite have my head around what was going on and who was who. It didn’t help that I thought Astrid’s surname was ‘Ferrier’, when that’s actually the name of a completely different character. No wonder I’d confused myself! Seeing everything happen makes it much clearer – and also reveals a kind of scope that I’d not imagined for the tale.

I assumed that all of Salamander’s conference (plus Jamie ‘saving’ him, and the final scene as they looked out over the volcanic destruction) were taking place in an office. For some reason, on first listen, this story took on a very ‘noir’ tone in my mind, and I’d pictured this office almost in the style of your stereotypical 1940s Hollywood private eye. To be honest, while it did the job, I’d never imagined that it would look as good as the actual set. These scenes take place out on a balcony, surrounded by foliage, and a very nice set beyond the facade of the house, too. It’s quite a large set – helped somewhat by some clever rear-projection, which I’ll come to in a moment – and it’s far more impressive than I’d have guessed.

Then we’ve got the scenes on the park bench. These don’t work quite so well with the rear-projection technique (if anything, it makes the bench look as though it’s been plonked in the corner of the studio as an afterthought – a shame for a location we spend a fair bit of time in), but it’s great to see Barry Letts playing around with things like this even in his first contribution to the programme. Having sat though his first few seasons at the helm of Doctor Who, I’ve grown used to his pioneering work with CSO, and this feels very much like a fore-runner of all that.

Perhaps the biggest revelation of all, though, is Troughton. In my original write up for this episode back in July, I said ’towards the end of today’s episode, I thought about the fact we'd not had that much Troughton in this one, except that we had, just not in his usual form’. On audio, this is because he’s doing an accent so different to his own (today’s highlight: ‘Is not so good, boys, is not so good!’), but even when we can see him on the screen it doesn’t feel like he’s really here. His performance as Salamander is fantastic, and it only serves to remind me why I love him so much. There’s a great moment where he makes a joke about Ferrier, and then snaps at her to get him a drink. The way he moves his eyes, and the scorn that comes out in the performance… it’s stunning. Seconds later he snaps his fingers for a guard and one comes running. I thought I’d experienced so much of the 1960s, but these few episodes coming back really does show that so much is lost when we can’t see these performances – I can’t wait to see what other little gems get unearthed over the next few days…

 

7 December 2013

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

Day 341: The Enemy of the World, Episode One (Revisited)

Dear diary,

Will Brooks sits in front of the control panel at Doctor Who Online. It may sound impressive and futuristic, but it's really held together by sticky tape and a couple of old washing up liquid bottles. Satisfied, he hits the 'publish' button for The Three Doctors Episode Four, and prepares to get on with the rest of the evening, having completed his daily dose of Doctor Who. It's then, as he grabs his coat and prepares to leave, that he finds himself caught up in something more unusual than he's used to. The hairs stand up on the back of his arms, a ringing enters his head, and he feels himself start to fade away and out of existence. Nearby, people report his final words carried on the wind - whatever's happening is making him giddy, apparently.

Well would you look at that. It would seem that - somehow - I've been scooped up by the Time Lords when they returned Patrick Troughton to his proper place in the timeline (the late 1960s on BBC1, as it happens). I seem to have ended up a little earlier in the time stream than he came from, which places me smack-bang in the middle of Season Five. You can see where I'm going with this, can't you? Go on, keep up the charade with me for the next twelve days - it's the 12th of July 2013. There's still a sun in the sky. You've no idea that Peter Capaldi will be taking on the guise of the Doctor. The revelations and thrills of the 50th anniversary special are still a distant dream…

It all seemed so perfect. Here I was, finally undertaking a proper Doctor Who marathon. After years of telling myself that I'd do it one day, I'd suddenly found myself not simply watching all of the series in order, but blogging about it daily on one of the web's biggest websites devoted to the subject, with a fair number of people reading along and being incredibly kind about the whole thing. Better than that: I was approaching the end of the William Hartnell era. I'd come too far now, there was no going back. And then things got even better. Not only would I be making my way through the Patrick Troughton years - home to the Doctor I'd always considered my favourite - but suddenly there was a lot more of it than ever before. The Enemy of the World and The Web of Fear back in the archives where they belong, and just in time for me to enjoy them for the very first time!

And then it all went a bit… wrong. I made my way through Season Four, and ventured off to The Tomb of the Cybermen. I ventured to Tibet and fought off the Ice Warriors. There was no time left. I'd reached The Enemy of the World… and it still wasn't available. I delayed viewing that day for as long as possible, just in case, and then grudgingly hit the 'play' button for the narrated soundtrack. Thankfully, the first episode was - frankly - brilliant, and there was no time to muse on it, I was too busy being caught up with hovercrafts, and helicopters, and doubles of the Doctor. There were Mexican accents galore, plenty of action, and more happening in 25 minutes that I could have ever dreamed of.

Following Patrick Troughton's brief return in The Three Doctors with the recently returned episodes was on the cards from the moment it became apparent that the announcement was to hit in October. Timing-wise, it gave me a good excuse to slip them in to the marathon without having to wait until the very end. There was no way I'd ever have held off watching these two stories for another 18 months - I'd enjoyed them too much the first time around. It also gives me a great opportunity to keep tracking how different Troughton's performance is between his own era and the return in 1972.

In my initial write up of this episode, I stated:

“I spent a while listening to these scenes thankful that this episode didn't exist in the archives, because it all sounded pretty good, and there was no way that the visuals would live up to the same standard… but then the tele snaps make the scene look just as epic as I'd hoped.”

Thankfully, seeing the scene in question (The Doctor and his companions being chased by gun-wielding strangers before being picked up in a helicopter and flown off over the ocean) makes it even better than it looked via the telesnaps. It's some of the finest direction work that we've had in the series so far and I'm somewhat surprised, as Barry Letts' directorial work in the current era hasn't really been making all that much of an impact on me. There's one particular shot taken fromthe helicopter as it flies out to sea that's very impressive, and it looks almost too good to be wasted on something like Doctor Who.

What the moving visuals give the story most though is the little interactions between the Doctor and his companions, especially Jamie. You'll no doubt recall that by the middle of Season Six, I'd rather had enough of Jamie. He seemed to have out-stayed his welcome in the series, and I was increasingly ready to see the show move on to something new. Dropping back down here in the middle of their time together makes it all seem fantastic again, though. There's a beautiful moment on the beach where the Doctor tells his companions that a hovercraft is a ship that can travel on the land and Jamie replies that he's too old for 'fairy tales'.

On audio, it's just a nice little bit of interplay, in which the Doctor introduces two companions from history to a futuristic machine. Seen in the recovered episode, Jamie gives the Doctor a little push on the shoulder as he delivers his line, and the pair grin widely throughout the exchange. They really come across as two best friends travelling through time and space together. Something else I've seen mentioned a lot since the episode was released is how much of a flirt the Doctor's being with Astrid - and it's true! Troughton, you old dog!

And as if all of this wasn't fantastic enough, it gives me an excuse to start saying 'Allo Bruce! What are you doing here, eh?' again.

6 December 2013
 a

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

Day 340: The Three Doctors, Episode Four

Dear diary,

I've always rather liked the idea that various incarnations of the Doctor just don't see eye-to-eye, and end up bickering a lot. I once saw it described as being on a date with your attractive new partner, when your younger self from ten years ago shows up and manages to completely embarrass you. I think that's the perfect description for the relationship between the Second and Third Doctors - one takes themselves far more seriously than the other does!

It's crystallised here when Omega considers them both before taking the Third Doctor to one side to ask if he's sure that both incarnations are of the same intelligence. It's a great line and it had me laughing out loud - I really am more unfamiliar with the latter half of this story than I am with the first half. It means that I get to be surprised by just how well these two Doctors interact with each other. Once all the arguments and one-upmanship has finished, they actually make a rather good team.

As anniversary stories go, The Three Doctors is a bit of an oddity. We tend to class it as the Tenth Anniversary celebration, and it kickstarts the tradition of Doctors meeting up every ten years (a tradition that has held throughout the programme's life, although for the 40th anniversary not all the actors were playing the Doctor all the time), but it's not really a celebration of ten years, is it? For a start, it was broadcast almost a year too early, just after the programme's ninth anniversary, and the only real link to the past is the appearance of the two older Doctors - one of whom is in a sadly reduced role.

But there's several other elements that feel like they're missing here, too. There's not Captain Yates for example. Maybe he's on leave? He did have a bomb hit him almost square-on in the last story… It just seems strange that in this story we think of as celebrating the show, we're missing one of the key figures from this point of the legacy.

It does however start to set us up with a number of things that will be important in the future. The Doctors telepathically communicating with each other becomes a staple of their multi-Doctor team ups. Omega will return to do battle with the TIme Lords on the next big anniversary for the show. And perhaps most important of all… UNIT HQ has finally started to settle down! The laboratory seen in this story is the one that I most readily associate with the Third Doctor. It's the same one (or, at the very least, the same style) as the one we see again in Planet of the Spiders and Robot (and a single episode of Blue Peter…), and I have to confess that I'm surprised by how late into the UNIT era it's arrived. I think I'd always sort of assumed that this was the design of the UNIT lab, and that it was more-or-less constant throughout the early 1970s. I'm wondering if we'll see it again before Planet of the Spiders, and I'm hoping so - I'd hate to think that a set I've always considered so iconic only made three appearances!

I'm also slightly surprised by the break-up of the UNIT era. I've always known that the end of this story sees the Third Doctor given his freedom and allowed to travel out among the stars again, but I thought that with maybe one exemption, he'd been very much stuck on Earth before now. Having UNIT only feature at the top and tail of Season Nine has made it already feel like the Doctor has a fair degree of freedom, so there's less of an impact carried by this moment that I'd expected. What is rather lovely is the way that he insists on sticking around for a bit before taking off. Jo's worried that it means we'll be seeing the last of him with his 'family', but the Doctor decides that there's things to do before he can go gallivanting off to the stars. There really is a rather nice through-line from Spearhead From Space to now which sees the Doctor adapting to - and coming to terms with - his exile, and I think Jo is a huge part of that process. I'm glad that I can finally see what all the fuss is about with this pair, they really are made for each other, aren't they?

Oh! Ah! What's that strange feeling? It's almost as though I'm being picked up by a time scoop! Oh dear! Those silly Time Lords must have got something wrong! I seem to be heading for… 1967? Well this is really going to mess up the dating of the diary. And you thought the UNIT dating was bad!

5 December 2013
 a

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

Day 339: The Three Doctors, Episode Three

Dear diary,

I'm never entirely sure whether Omega's realm is awesome or awful. On the one hand, I rather like the design of the bubbles which are present from the Gel Guard creatures to the archways in the set (and even for what appears to be Omega's 'scanner screen', a fact that has passed me by before), on the other hand… it does look rather a lot like a cheap BBC studio set, doesn't it?

I think the issue is in the sheer emptiness of the set. Between the bubble archways, everything is just painted black - from the floor to the walls - and it makes the whole thing look a little bit rubbish. Judging from the fight scene at the end of the episode, I think the black spaces are supposed to represent a complete void - they're left empty because Omega simply hasn't willed anything into being there. Sadly, it just doesn't work for me in that way, and it is a bit of a let down.

The same can't be said for Omega himself, though. I've always thought that it was a brilliant design, and it's the mask that really does it for me. There's something about the image, and I used to love a big full-page photograph of it in an old Doctor Who reference book back when I was new to fandom. It's such a striking design, and doesn't look too out of keeping with the style of Time Lord design that we're used to from the more recent series. One of these days, I might have to have a go at adding a few Gallifreyan symbols to the design just to see how it looks.

Stephen Thorne is giving his all in the performance of the man, too. I've always thought of his performance as being a bit over the top (and there are one or two moments where it does veer in this direction. I'm thinking specifically of the moment he catches the Doctors in the singularity chamber and enters with a highly dramatic 'WHAT!?!?!?'), but on the whole he's very good here. There's a lovely line when the Doctor has described him as a hero and he responds that he should have been a god. It's delivered brilliantly, and is actually quite menacing. It's a great example of treading that very fine line between a fantastic performance and a bit of a hammy one…

It's nice to see that the design of the other Time Lords in this story seems to be consistent, too. It works almost as a halfway house between the style seen in The War Games and the one that will be making an appearance from The Deadly Assassin onwards. It's little bits of continuity like this that I'm rather keen on - nothing over-the-top, but just enough to make everything feel fairly coherent.

And we get to see them summoning the First Doctor for orders! I mused yesterday that he seemed to be acting as a bit of a go-between for the Time Lords and his other selves, but had forgotten that we actually get to see this in progress. It's great to see him projected up on such a large screen, too, because it's the best he's looked all story. I have to confess that I can't really remember where the tale goes from here (save for the resolution involving Troughton's recorder), but I'm keen to see how they pull off the First Doctor being sent to get involved with the action - I'm assuming that he'll just be popping up on the TARDIS screen again?

5 December 2013

The BBC have released some more promo images for the upcoming 2013 Doctor Who Christmas special; 'The Time Of The Doctor'.

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Synopsis:

Orbiting a quiet backwater planet, the massed forces of the universe’s deadliest species gather, drawn to a mysterious message that echoes out to the stars - and amongst them, the Doctor.

Rescuing Clara from a family Christmas dinner, the Time Lord and his best friend must learn what this enigmatic signal means for his own fate and that of the universe.

Two promo images have also been released, which can can view in the right-hand column.

Watch the Teaser Trailer for The Time Of The Doctor, below:


+  The Time Of The Doctor will air on Christmas Day, at 7:30pm on BBC One - [UK].
+  The Time Of The Doctor will air on Christmas Day, at 9/8c on BBC America - [USA]
+  The Time Of The Doctor will air on 26th December, at 7:30pm on ABC1 - [AUSTRALIA].  

[Source: BBC]

4 December 2013

Forbidden Planet have teamed up with Character Options for another Exclusive Doctor Who Toy.

'The Other Doctor' action figure features The Other Doctor as played by John Hurt, from the 50th Anniversary Doctor Who special; The Day Of The Doctor.

Product Details:

The ‘Other Doctor’ is the Doctor’s dark chapter, a hitherto unknown incarnation whose existence has spent centuries repressing a secret he wants no one to know of.

He is a relic of the past, part of the great Time War, when he spent centuries fighting alongside his fellow Time Lords against the Daleks and made the final decision to end it with a desperate act that cost that incarnation the right to use the name “Doctor”.

This haunted and battle-worn Other Doctor is finally forgiven after helping find a new solution to end the war, giving the Eleventh Doctor a new purpose as he heads into further adventures.

Contents:

•  The Other Doctor Action Figure.
•  The Other Doctor's Sonic Screwdriver Accessory.
•  The Moment Accessory.
•  The Eighth Doctor alternate head.

+  'The Other Doctor' action figure is released on 28th February 2014, priced £14.99.
+  Preorder Now from Forbidden Planet!

[Source: Forbidden Planet]

<mce:script

4 December 2013

The BBC have released a short video interview with Paul McGann, who discusses his return to Doctor Who for last month's red button minisode; 'The Night Of The Doctor'.

Watch the video, below:


Shortly after the minisode aired, DWO caught up with Paul for a slightly longer interview, which you can watch below:


+  Follow @PaulJMcGann on Twitter.
+  Follow @DrWhoOnline on Twitter.

[Sources: BBC; DWO]

4 December 2013
 a

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

Day 338: The Three Doctors, Episode Two

Dear diary,

'I think the strain is a little too much for him,' Benton explains when the Brig has stormed off in a huff, refusing to believe that the Second Doctor could possibly have returned. It has to be said… this isn't the Brig's finest hour in the series. Right from the off he's being even more pompous and ridiculous than usual, refusing to take what the Doctor tells him at face value and simply becoming more and more exasperated. This now is very much the 'UNIT era' that I remember - and it's not one that I enjoy all that much.

When we had the character turning up in the 1960s, he was a pretty affable sort of chap. He got on well with the Doctor (after a few initial misgivings), but he was still decisive, able to get things done, and he'd take things at face value. For example, look at how quickly he accepts the Doctor's story about a time/space machine in The Web of Fear and compare that to his reactions here upon finally entering the ship for the first time. It doesn't help that even Benton is showing him up - in the last episode, he entered the ship, stated that the 'bigger on the inside' quip was pretty obvious and then announced that nothing to do with the Doctor would surprise him any more. The Brigadier takes almost the exact opposite approach here. When the Doctor tries to explain the situation, he snaps back 'I don't believe a word of it!'

It's a shame to see the character heading in this direction as I've really rather loved him up to now, and I was hoping that this story would be another four great episodes spent in his company. I will say that the shot of him first looking around the TARDIS is perhaps one of the most iconic he's ever had in the programme, and it's nice to finally see it here in context again.

Elsewhere, it's still Patrick Troughton who's stealing the show for me. In terms of his characterisation being a little off from the way he used to play it, I think he wavers in and out. There are a few moments that could have very much been lifted directly from his era of the programme without a great deal of trouble. I also need to hand out some praise to William Hartnell, who I've not seen in what feels like forever. He bowed out of the marathon way back in May for me, so it is good to see him again.

It's a shame in some ways that his last work for the programme came in such a diminished form, and I think that being confined to the TV screen means that he doesn't get as much attention as the other Doctors in the story, but there's still a few flashes of performance in there that are very much William Hartnell as he always was. I've often wondered how much of a performance he was able to give in this story, considering his ailing health at the time, but having watched the interview with him on the Tenth Planet DVD today I can see that he's acting just as much as he ever was. There's one particular moment today where he tells the Second Doctor to use his intelligence, and I can just picture him delivering the same line to Ian, or Steven, Vicki.

I have to wonder, though… are these earlier Doctors briefed for their involvement in the story? They both seemed to have a fairly good idea of what was going on when they arrived, and the First Doctor is almost acting as a go-between for the Doctor and the Time Lords. I'm a big fan of the idea that the Doctors don't remember their team-up adventures when brought together by the Time Lords (so the same would be true for the Five and the Two Doctors), so maybe the Time Lords are able to bring these two up to speed properly before sending them on their missions?

Another fan-theory that I tend to subscribe to is that when the Doctor regenerates, his past incarnation lives on in his head somewhere, occasionally chipping in with their own opinion. There seems to be some kind of evidence for this when the Second Doctor claims to have 'always had a great deal of respect for his advice,' in regards to his earlier self. What does everyone else think? Do the Doctors live on after their deaths?

4 December 2013

The Doctor Who 50th Anniversary special; 'The Day Of The Doctor' has set a new record on the BBC iPlayer for the most number of requests in a 24-hour period.

A total of 1.27 million people watched the episode on the iPlayer within the first 24 hours and has beaten the previous record which was held by the 2012 Olympics Opening Ceremony.

In total, 12.8 million people watched The Day Of The Doctor, making it the most-watched programme of 2013, and was simulcast worldwide in 94 countries.

Commenting on the ratings success, Ben Stephenson (controller of BBC drama commissioning) had the following to say:

"The Doctor Who 50th was a hugely ambitious event on the BBC and it's only fitting that it has taken the top spot as the highest-rating drama across all channels this year.

It's a fantastic tribute to both Steven Moffat and the creativity of all those involved in the show throughout its history.

Next stop the regeneration at Christmas!"

+  The Time Of The Doctor airs on Christmas Day at 7:30pm on BBC One.

[Source: BBC News]

3 December 2013

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

Day 337: The Three Doctors, Episode One

Dear diary,

Do you remember, right back when I started Spearhead From Space, I told you that my over-riding memory of the story was tainted by the fact that I felt ill while watching it? A similar sensation hangs over The Three Doctors, but in a different way. I'd been holding off buying the DVD of this story for a while, because I was still pretty new to Doctor Who, and I wanted to have seen some other stories for the Doctors before I sat down to see them team up together (the same goes for The Five Doctors, although I can't recall when I first saw that one).

In the end, this story ended up on my birthday list for 2005. The return of the programme to television had kicked my fledgeling fandom up a few notches, and the time had finally come to experience this very special anniversary story. I was in my mid-teens by that point, so birthdays had gone from 'loads of presents' to 'here's your present', and because I was at college, the term had ended a while before the day itself. It meant that I'd picked this story to watch on my birthday, and I planned to really savour it.

I sat through Episodes One and Two, completely riveted by the whole thing, and then I had to stop. There was something else happening out in the real world, and it was far bigger than three actors teaming up to run around in a quarry and fight an anti-matter monster. It was the day of the London bombings, and the TV was quickly switched from Doctor Who to the news where it remained for the rest of the day. It's a strange event to look back on now, and I think in many ways it gets forgotten a lot more than other terror attacks from the last few years. It was (comparatively) small scale compared to the situation in New York four years earlier, but at the time it felt pretty big - it was bringing the spectre of this new age down onto our shores in a way that we'd not really experienced in a long time. I can't remember when I actually finished watching The Three Doctors - although I know I have seen all four episodes - but it certainly wasn't on that day.

It's not fair to say that it's ruined the story for me - indeed I seem to have quite fond memories of the tale itself - but I don't think that I've actually watched it again since that very first time. In contrast to The Five Doctors, which I've seen more times than I care to count, this one has been somewhat forgotten. It didn't help that, again, it was a part of the Pertwee era, and I've always been so sour to that period as a whole.

But we're off to a great start today! Even before all the business with the earlier Doctors turning up, the story is pretty good right from the off - the opening is quite slow for a season opener, but it worked well to draw me in, and I couldn't remember what happened to either Ollis or Dr. Tyler. I was even pretty captivated when the jellies arrived on the scene - I've never noticed the lights in their claws before! Let's be honest, they're far from being the best Doctor Who monster ever (Though they're still a league above Kronos…), but there really is something a bit appealing about them. It's perhaps telling that the action figure of one creature is out on a shelf in the flat, while even poor Jo from the same set is shut in a cupboard!

The real charm starts when Patrick Troughton shows up, though. I've been surprised by how much I'm enjoying the Pertwee years, but they're still coming out as fairly 'average' for me, and there's been something of a decline since Season Seven. Seeing Troughton arrive gives me an odd kind of nostalgic feeling that I wasn't really expecting. Right back when I started on the marathon, I commented that it was hard to form a real attachment to the older Doctors or companions when you can see any of the stories in whichever order you want, but here once again I can really feel the marathon format working. For me, it's only been a few months since I last shared a story with the great man, but it feels so nice to have him back again.

The question is… does he behave as the Second Doctor as I remember him? I've seen a lot of talk about the way that he plays the role in his return appearances to the series - perhaps the best summation I've seen is that from 1966 - 1969, he was playing 'the Doctor', while in theThreeFive, and Two Doctors he was playing 'the Second Doctor'. It may not sound like much, but there is a distinct difference, and I think I can see that in play here. When he tootles away on his recorder to the tune of Twinkle, Twinkle, Little Star, I'm remembering the early version of the character, but it perhaps doesn't feel as natural as I remembered: here it's being used as a gimmick. I'm keen to monitor it as I go along and see how I feel about his performance by the end of the story…

2 December 2013
 a

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

Day 336: The Time Monster, Episode Six

Dear diary,

Well… let's start with the positives, shall we? To begin with, the minotaur actually surprised me. I grudgingly hit the 'play' button today assuming that I'd have to endure a terrible-looking monster shuffling around in some bizarre maze with Jo. Realistically, I should be complaining that it's just Dave Prowse in a mask (and not a lot else!), but it really does work rather well. Indeed, the whole scene with the minotaur actually surprised me, including the Doctor playing bull fights with the creature - another thing that I'm not sure I should like but I think I rather do!

It set me off on the right foot, and I found myself getting drawn more and more into the story. It's somewhat uncomfortable to see that the Master has managed to worm his way into power so easily, but then it's a truly magical scene where he's found out for what he really is. Ingrid Pitt was a fairly late addition to this story, so I've not really had a lot of time to pay her much attention, either (and I resolved very early on not to draw attention to her very revealing costume!), but she really shines when she discovers that her husband is dead. There's something very believable about her lust for power, but the pain she feels when it comes at the cost of the king's life.

All of this just helped to convince me even more that I'd have loved to see a story that was entirely set around Atlantis and the dealings in the court here. Now, I know what I'm like, so I'm sure that if we'd had events here spread out over several episodes of their own I'd be telling you all how much better it would have worked as a two-parter, but the grass is always greener on the other side!

Just when I thought that the story had really turned itself around and managed to completely win me over… oh dear. Kronos is summoned up once again. We get the awful bird costume swung around on a wire some more as it terrorises the people of Atlantis, and suddenly I'm back to recalling why I'm not enjoying this one as much as I'd like. It's a real shame, because the destruction of the city around this stupid bird is very well done, and one of the better effects we've had in the series.

It's after all of this that things really started to lose their way for me. There's another stand-off between the Doctor and the Master before they find themselves trapped in a Colour Separation Overlay nightmare. You almost get away with the shot of the TARDISes trapped in the void (and the fish-eye effect to the image is great), but then Jo has to travel between the ships and finds herself disappearing in the process. No-one told the costume designer that she'd bee needed on a yellow screen.

Still, I was feeling somewhat charitable after the good start to the story, so I decided that the forces of this void were tearing her apart. That's why she's disappearing. But then she steps back outside again with the Doctor. And he doesn't disappear because he's not wearing or reflecting the yellow. Oh. By the time the true face of Kronos had shown up on the scene, I'd pretty much lost all interest.

The Time Monster as a whole has been a bit of an up-and-down ride for me. It's never really hit above average, but there's several little bits of the tale that feel like they could be doing so much better. The Master tormenting UNIT with foes from history was good fun, I keep on telling you how much I'd like to see this Atalantis given more room to breathe (I do still miss Professor Zaroff, mind), and there's still some great examples of dialogue in this episode ('I'm fine,' Jo tells the Doctor. 'Dead, of course, but fine…'), but the story just never quite hits its potential for me. It comes across as too much like several ideas all bolted together to finish up the season.

Still, it's Doctor Who's birthday party tomorrow! I'm hoping there'll be cake. I rather like cake.

1 December 2013
 a

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

Day 335: The Time Monster, Episode Five

Dear diary,

It’s always a bit odd when a story goes through such a massive shift in tone. If you were to show this episode to someone unfamiliar with the story alongside Episode One from the same tale, I’m not sure that they would automatically realise that both were from the same story. That’s not necessarily a bad thing – it helps to keep the interest up when we shift settings so radically like this – but it does leave me in an odd situation where I think I’d have rather had two separate stories based around these ideas. One in which the Master torments UNIT with his deadly time experiments and one in which the Doctor and Jo find themselves in the ancient city of Atlantis – possibly sent by the Time Lords to ensure that the destruction goes according to plan (although there’s no Professor Zaroff in sight! Maybe he’s busy feeding his pet octopus, no?)

The design of Atlantis is actually rather well handled, and I’m pleased to see how heavily it draws on the designs of Ancient Greece. You can really tell that they’ve put some thought into all of this, which is nice for the sake of two episodes and a few brief cameos throughout the rest of the story. The theme carries on through brilliantly from the design of the sets, costumes, and props. Even Jo’s outfit is rather lovely, and the running joke of calling her Lady Jo-Jo is great fun (and the name seems surprisingly fitting for her character!)

I’m also finding that more and more the dialogue of this story is keeping me interested. We’re a far cry now from the ‘good ship women’s lib’ from a few days ago, and we get great scenes like the one where the Master, the Doctor, and Jo all bump into each other (‘curses! Foiled again!’). There’s also lots of great moments like the Master arriving in the centre of Atlantis, stepping out of his TARDIS and casually brushing aside one of the tridents pointed in his direction. And yet, despite all of this, I just can’t get into the story.

I think it’s because everything has come a bit ‘too little too late’. As I’ve said, I wonder if I’d have preferred a full four-part story that sees the Doctor and the Master battling it out in Atlantis (just typing that out makes me think about how obvious it seems), without having sat through the previous four instalments of the story. I’m also wondering about the Doctor’s arrival here – he implies that they can travel to Atlantis in the TARDIS because he’s locked onto the Master’s co-ordinates via his new TARDIS-tracking machine… but surely that’s not enough to over-ride the Time Lord’s blocks on the ship?

And then there’s that oncoming fear of tomorrow’s episode. I’m guessing it will see the return of our giant white bird costume, which I’m not too eager to see again, and we’ve got a minotaur thrown in too. There’s a very real danger that the season could be going out on a bit of a whimper…

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