Time Lord Tees

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1 October 2013

BBC Worldwide today announces that the special 50th Anniversary episode of Doctor Who, the world’s longest running and most successful sci-fi series will, for the first time ever, be broadcast simultaneously to millions of viewers worldwide in a global simulcast on 23rd November 2013.  

From Canada to Colombia, Brazil to Botswana and Myanmar to Mexico, fans in at least 75 countries spanning six continents will be able to enjoy the episode in 2D and 3D* at the same time as the UK broadcast, with more countries expected to be confirmed within the next month. The US, Australia and Canada have also signed up for the simulcast which will be shown in numerous countries across Europe, Latin America and Africa. In addition to Matt Smith and Jenna Coleman, the one-off special, entitled The Day of the Doctor stars former Time Lord David Tennant as well as Billie Piper, and John Hurt

On top of the worldwide TV broadcast, hundreds of cinemas in the UK and across the world also plan to screen the hotly anticipated special episode simultaneously in full 3D, giving fans the opportunity to make an event of the occasion and be part of a truly global celebration for the iconic British drama series.  Details about tickets for the anniversary screening will be announced in due course.   

Tim Davie, CEO of BBC Worldwide comments:

“Few TV shows can still lay claim to being appointment viewing but Doctor Who takes this to another level. In its 50th Anniversary year we wanted to create a truly international event for Doctor Who fans in as many countries as possible and the simultaneous broadcast and cinema screening of the special across so many countries will make for a fitting birthday tribute to our Time Lord.” 

Steven Moffat, Showrunner for Doctor Who and Executive Producer of the 50th Anniversary episode adds:

“The Doctor has always been a time traveller - now he's travelling time zones. On the 23rd of November, it won't be the bad guys conquering the Earth - everywhere it will be The Day of the Doctor!”

The free-to-air 3D coverage will be available to those with access to a 3D TV set and to the BBC’s HD Red Button service. This is part of the BBC’s two-year trial experimenting with 3D production and distribution, which has also included selected coverage from Wimbledon 2012 and the London 2012 Olympic Games. 

The 50th Anniversary weekend for Doctor Who in November will also see over 20,000 fans gather at London’s ExCel for the official celebration event which will feature appearances from cast old and new including Matt Smith and former Doctors Sylvester McCoy, Colin Baker and Tom Baker. Further information on the event can be found at www.doctorwho.tv.

Since 1963 Doctor Who has been one of the best loved dramas and certified by the Guinness Book of World Records as the most successful sci-fi series ever. The show has received numerous awards across its 50 years and has seen huge commercial success with over 10 million DVDs and 8 million action figures sold globally. It is also the number one BBC show on iTunes in the UK. BBC Worldwide, the commercial arm of the UK broadcaster distributes Doctor Who to over 200 territories across the world.

The 50th Anniversary special of Doctor Who will be simultaneous broadcast with the UK in the following countries:

Europe - Germany (Fox), Finland (YLE), Poland (BBC Entertainment), Russia (Karousel and NKS) 

North America - USA (BBC America), Canada (Space)

Latin America (on BBC Entertainment and BBC HD) - Argentina, Bolivia, Brazil, Chile, Colombia, Costa Rica, Dominican Republic, El Salvador, Ecuador, Guatemala,  Honduras, Mexico, Nicaragua, Panama, Paraguay, Peru, Uruguay, Venezuela 

Africa (on BBC Entertainment) - Angola, Benin, Botswana, Burkina Faso, Burundi, Cameroon, Cape Verde Islands, Central African Republic, Chad,  Congo, Cote d'Ivoire, Democratic Republic of the Congo, Djibouti, Equatorial Guinea, Eritrea, Ethiopia, Gabon, Gambia, Ghana, Guinea, Guinea Bissau, Kenya, Liberia, Madagascar, Malawi, Mali, Mauritania, Mauritius, Mozambique, Namibia, Niger, Nigeria, Rwanda, Sao Tome & Principe, Senegal, Seychelles, Sierra Leone, Somalia, South Africa, Sudan, South Sudan, Swaziland, Tanzania & Zanzibar, Togo, Uganda, Zambia, Zimbabwe. 

Australia (ABC)

Asia (on BBC Entertainment) - Hong Kong, Indonesia, Malaysia, Myanmar, Singapore, South Korea, Taiwan, Thailand 

+  Day Of The Doctor will simulcast worldwide on 23rd November 2013, Time TBC

[Source: BBC Worldwide]

1 October 2013
 Day 274: The Ambassadors of Death, Episode Three

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

Day 274: The Ambassadors of Death, Episode Three

Dear diary,

I'm beginning to get a sinking feeling that The Ambassadors of Death will be this Season's slightly duff story for me. It's a shame, really, because there's a lot in here that I think I should be really lapping up, but it's all just falling a bit flat. It doesn't help that the quality of the picture is one of the worst that we've seen from the series - even the film sequences are murky and don't give the best of impressions. There are a few shots during the end-of-episode chase that could almost make my eyes hurt!

And yet, they really are going with it on the action sequences for this story, aren't they? We had the big warehouse shootout in Episode One, the stealing of the recovery capsule in Episode Two, and today we get Liz in a chase, first in Bessie and then by foot. The cynic in me wants to say that it's a good way of them padding out the running time of the story to help fill out the full seven episodes, but maybe they just wanted to go for lots of these big locations scenes? Again, I'm brought back to a bit of a disappointment with the quality of the picture. Were I able to enjoy these scenes in the kind of crystal-clear quality offered in Spearhead From Space, I might be enjoying the tale more. As it is, I'm left feeling as though they're just sort of there. I'm told that the DVD release is a marked improvement on the picture used for the VHS release of the story, too, so perhaps it's a good thing I never bothered to watch that particular tape!

Behind the scenes, The Ambassadors of Death had something of a troubled journey to the screen. I won't go into all the details of the many script revisions, but the overall outcome is that David Whitaker ended up being paid for the first three episodes, and then then rest of the story was tidies up by a mixture of Malcolm Hulke, Terrance Dicks, and Trevor Ray. This means that although Whitaker will receive a credit for another four episodes, this is his last major contribution to televised Doctor Who.

It's quite a momentous occasion - the man has been a part of the series since pretty much day one, script editing the first year-and-a-bit of the programme, and going on to write several key episodes after that. Let's not forget - Whitaker is the man responsible for The Power of the Daleks, and helping to ease in the new Doctor for the first time.

Fitting, therefore, that this story should contain what can nobly be called 'dubious science'. And that's putting it mildly. It's always been quite fun to watch Whitaker's conception of science though out his time with the show, but here it's even commented on by the characters in the story. 'What you're saying is contrary to everything that is understood about radiation' we're told early on, as the 'truth' about the astronauts is revealed. As the episode progresses, Liz and the Doctor both join in when pointing out the slight absurdity of what's going on. As I say, it's very suitable that Whitaker should depart from the series with such questionable stuff going on - I wouldn't have it any other way!

30 September 2013
 a

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

Day 273, The Ambassadors of Death, Episode Two

Dear diary,

The Ambassadors of Death, a thriller for television in seven parts by David Whitaker (sort of)”

Right the way through today's episode, I had a nagging suspicion in the back of my mind that I'd seen it before. I couldn't figure out for the life of me where, or how, and I'd definitely not seen Episode One, or any of the ones that followed this. Then it struck me - this is the first episode of The Quatermass Experiment!

Space shuttle goes up, contact is lost, the shuttle crashes back down (here it's in the middle of a remote location which might as well be the same one from the previous story, in Quatermass it demolishes a house in London), and it turns out that some of the crew are missing. In fairness, we don't yet know that our crew aren't in this shuttle, but they've not been getting any response from inside, and when they do finally manage to make contact, it's just the same message being repeated over and over again. Still, Doctor Who hasn't ever been afraid to 'borrow' ideas from other well-regarded places, and Quatermass is a pretty good template to have in mind when you consider the Seventh Season. I'd be willing to bet money that the production team had this in mind when planning this story.

I'm not really sure what to make of this one so far. Yesterday left me thinking that we were in for another serious drama with elements of comedy injected in all the right places. People insist on calling the stories of Season Seven 'gritty', and it's hard not to simply use that term. Today, the tone has been a bit all over the place. Early on, the Doctor pulls a conjuring trick to hide the recording, and simply pops it back into existence when the time is right. He describes it to Liz as being simple 'transmigration of an object', but the whole thing threw me completely. It was comical, but it just felt very out of place.

We then settled back down for some more (sigh) 'gritty' action, in which the Doctor tricks their prisoner into revealing that he's a member of the military (and it's very well done. It's similar in style to the way that Troughton forced his way into the prison during The War Games, and yet it feels perhaps even more authoritarian when it comes from Pertwee), and then we're treated to a long dialogue-free sequence in which UNIT get the recently returned capsule onto a convoy, before getting ambushed and loosing the thing.

What follows is an odd sequence in which Pertwee puts on a funny voice (it's what he was best known for at the time he started playing the Doctor, so it was bound to come up sooner or later. It does have to be said that he really was the master of voices), and tricks two men into being stuck to his car. It feels a bit slapstick again when they can't remove their hands (as does the button to activate this strange mechanism), and it jolted me right back out of the action again. Before you know it, we're back at the base and given an eerie cliffhanger in which they've finally made contact with the people they hope to be inside the capsule, and are treated to the same message playing on repeat.

I just don't know what to do with any of this. Doctor Who is usually very good at blending comedy with drama (Troughton was a dab hand at doing it - scripted or not!), but here it seems that we can have either one or the other. I'm hoping that it's simply a bit of a blip and the story can settle down and pick which way it wants to lean from now on, so I can try to get my head around it!

The one bit of comedy that I did really enjoy today is the emergence of a running joke about Bessie. The Doctor was patching her up at the start of the last story, and she'd broken down by the time that tale was over. Today, it seems to be in another questionable condition and even the Brigadier makes a joke about it ('I'll see you at the Space Centre. If you can make it'). I quite like the idea that even though the Doctor's gotten hold of his dream car now, it's just not reliable enough to keep him going. But it can stick people to the bodywork .Yep.

30 September 2013
 a

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

Day 273, The Ambassadors of Death, Episode Two

Dear diary,

The Ambassadors of Death, a thriller for television in seven parts by David Whitaker (sort of)”

Right the way through today's episode, I had a nagging suspicion in the back of my mind that I'd seen it before. I couldn't figure out for the life of me where, or how, and I'd definitely not seen Episode One, or any of the ones that followed this. Then it struck me - this is the first episode of The Quatermass Experiment!

Space shuttle goes up, contact is lost, the shuttle crashes back down (here it's in the middle of a remote location which might as well be the same one from the previous story, in Quatermass it demolishes a house in London), and it turns out that some of the crew are missing. In fairness, we don't yet know that our crew aren't in this shuttle, but they've not been getting any response from inside, and when they do finally manage to make contact, it's just the same message being repeated over and over again. Still, Doctor Who hasn't ever been afraid to 'borrow' ideas from other well-regarded places, and Quatermass is a pretty good template to have in mind when you consider the Seventh Season. I'd be willing to bet money that the production team had this in mind when planning this story.

I'm not really sure what to make of this one so far. Yesterday left me thinking that we were in for another serious drama with elements of comedy injected in all the right places. People insist on calling the stories of Season Seven 'gritty', and it's hard not to simply use that term. Today, the tone has been a bit all over the place. Early on, the Doctor pulls a conjuring trick to hide the recording, and simply pops it back into existence when the time is right. He describes it to Liz as being simple 'transmigration of an object', but the whole thing threw me completely. It was comical, but it just felt very out of place.

We then settled back down for some more (sigh) 'gritty' action, in which the Doctor tricks their prisoner into revealing that he's a member of the military (and it's very well done. It's similar in style to the way that Troughton forced his way into the prison during The War Games, and yet it feels perhaps even more authoritarian when it comes from Pertwee), and then we're treated to a long dialogue-free sequence in which UNIT get the recently returned capsule onto a convoy, before getting ambushed and loosing the thing.

What follows is an odd sequence in which Pertwee puts on a funny voice (it's what he was best known for at the time he started playing the Doctor, so it was bound to come up sooner or later. It does have to be said that he really was the master of voices), and tricks two men into being stuck to his car. It feels a bit slapstick again when they can't remove their hands (as does the button to activate this strange mechanism), and it jolted me right back out of the action again. Before you know it, we're back at the base and given an eerie cliffhanger in which they've finally made contact with the people they hope to be inside the capsule, and are treated to the same message playing on repeat.

I just don't know what to do with any of this. Doctor Who is usually very good at blending comedy with drama (Troughton was a dab hand at doing it - scripted or not!), but here it seems that we can have either one or the other. I'm hoping that it's simply a bit of a blip and the story can settle down and pick which way it wants to lean from now on, so I can try to get my head around it!

The one bit of comedy that I did really enjoy today is the emergence of a running joke about Bessie. The Doctor was patching her up at the start of the last story, and she'd broken down by the time that tale was over. Today, it seems to be in another questionable condition and even the Brigadier makes a joke about it ('I'll see you at the Space Centre. If you can make it'). I quite like the idea that even though the Doctor's gotten hold of his dream car now, it's just not reliable enough to keep him going. But it can stick people to the bodywork .Yep.

29 September 2013
 a

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

Day 272: The Ambassadors of Death, Episode One

Dear diary,

It's often said that Doctor Who is quite unlike anything else on TV. It does things differently, and in whichever way it wants to do them. It seems perfectly fitting, then, that the 'cliffhanger sting' an element of the show that's become synonymous with the end of an episode over the last forty years should only make it's first appearance halfway through Season Seven.

In the opening titles.

Actually, it's not even in the opening titles, because for this one story only, they're experimenting with the titles finishing, cutting away to a bit of the story, and then going back into the titles to give us all the episode numbers and writers credits etc! When Doctor Who decides to do something its own way, it really goes for it!

I'm surprised that the 'sting' didn't make more of an impact on me. I'm so used to hearing it crash in over those final seconds of a cliffhanger that it simply feels natural to me that it happens here. It doesn't matter that I've just done two-hundred-and-something other episode without it, because it just sounds right! Truth be told, I had to double check with the end of yesterday's episode to make sure that we hadn't already been hearing it for a while. As time goes by, it'll become one of those things that's so intrinsically linked with Doctor Who, like the police box, or the Daleks.

The Ambassadors of Death is another one of those stories that I simply know nothing about. In this case, I know even less than I did about Doctor Who and the Silurians. I've had the video tape for ages but simply never got around to watching it, and by the time the DVD was released I was already vaguely thinking about doing a marathon, so it went unwatched onto the shelf in anticipation. Aside from the images of the space-suited figures on the cover (who I'm assuming are the bad guys for this story, and thus hidden away inside that other spaceship), I know absolutely nothing about the story.

It's exciting, because it means I'm going into this one completely cold. In some ways, it feels a bit like UNIT-by-numbers based on what we've seen in the series before. You've got a high tech base using technology that's a little in advance of the viewer's own time (Doctor Who and the Silurians), a reporter on site to cover the events for the masses (The Web of Fear - not technically a UNIT story, but close enough), a gritty industrial location (The Invasion, Spearhead From Space), and a chance for UNIT to engage in a big battle (all of the above, really). While it could give this story the same issues that something like Fury From the Deep had - feeling as though it's just going over old ground - all these elements are presented in an interesting enough way to keep me interested, and it's borrowing elements from stories over the last few years, as opposed to simply the ones around it.

The big fight sequence, which takes up a large chunk of today's episode, is my chance to say 'I wish I could see this in high definition' and get that out of the way early. As ever, the location is a really interesting one, and there's some shots that I'd love to see in the highest possible quality. There's one particular shot of the Brigadier, as he comes to a stop and fires his gun in several different directions as the battle rages on around him, which looks great. The rest of UNIT, though… They're really rubbish, aren't they? Half the battle seems to be the soldiers getting shot down, while the other side only sustains one or two injuries. I'm hoping they'll get a chance to redeem themselves before the story is out, or the government will be cutting the Brigadier's funding!

The Doctor is continuing to grow on me, much to my surprise. The rather arrogant air surrounding the Third Doctor is one of the things that I've always hated about the character, but I'm finding myself really enjoying it now. I wonder if it's simply because it's in contrast to the Second Doctor's persona, and I'm enjoying the different approach? A personal favourite from today's episode has to be the way he walks into space command, calling down the lift shaft that he simply 'doesn't have' a pass, before striding across the room and asking the most senior-looking person questions.

We also get to see him working on the TARDIS console in this episode, marking the first time that we've seen it in colour. I've always thought it a bit odd that they kept it green even after the shift (it was green for the black and white episodes, because it showed up better that way in monochrome), but it actually looks quite good! There's a bit of messing around with sending Liz a few seconds into the future - something I'm sure they repeat with Jo Grant at some point - and it's quite nice to see the Doctor back (almost) in his natural habitat.

You have to wonder if the reason the Third Doctor is so interested in working on machinery is so that he can tinker with the TARDIS console. Either there's a little voice in his head mid-regeneration that decides it'll be a handy trait to have, or the Time Lords have simply given him that interest to keep him occupied during his exile, safe in the knowledge that he'll never be able to get the ship working again. I'm wondering, though… how did he get the console out from the ship? It's still stuck in the shape of a police box, and those doors aren't very wide

29 September 2013

After a successful Kickstater campaign earlier this year that raised over $10,000 in funds (82% over their original goal) and had 300+ backers from 22 different countries; PixelWho is back with lots of new art to share.

The art project continues to grow as it enters its third year. The PixelWho project is focused on recreating Doctor Who characters in 8-bit art style. The aspiration of the project is to be the most complete visual catalog and character dictionary for all 50 years (and counting) of Doctor Who in order to celebrate the creativity and dedication of the all the artists who have worked on the program.

The overall goal is to document every character, both significant and incidental, from every Doctor's respective move/series runs. The artist, Nathan Skreslet, freeze frames DVDs and scours episode screen captures and publicity photos in order to recreate each character accurately and roughly to scale. Every pixel is individually laid by hand; no computer conversion program is used. His art is a true labor of love which requires dedication and time.

Thanks to the successful Kickstarter campaign their newest 4th Doctor poster set was printed and is now available. It covers all of Tom Baker's epic 7 season run represented over two posters with over 700 characters in total. The 10th Doctor (David Tennant) and 1st Doctor (William Hartnell) poster prints are also available as well. All the Doctor posters are limited edition and individually hand-numbered, only 500 of each Doctor's posters have been made.

PixelWho has expanded to include smaller prints as well. A print featuring 11 Doctors set against a Gallifreyan symbol print was created, along with collectible character cards, and weatherproof vinyl TARDIS sticker. There's also a Tom Baker face print for 4th Doctor fans. Also don't forget the popular Every Dalek poster which chronicles the changes to the Dalek design from 1963 up to the "Asylum of the Daleks" episode, as well as the various incarnations of Davros. There's also an Every Doctor Bookmark to help keep those book pages in line.

The latest news though is the reveal of a secret art print that had been hinted at but hasn't been shown until now. PixelWho has recreated the Van Gogh Exploding TARDIS image in 8-bit style. As with every art piece they do, each and every pixel is individually placed for this re-creation. Creating a swirly and flowing Van Gogh inspired artwork is not easy when limited to only using pixel squares and half pixel triangles, but it's carried off beautifully. There's even a miniature Vincent Van Gogh in the corner painting the image as a well placed Easter egg.

Interested in owning the latest artworks by PixelWho? Visit their Etsy shop at www.etsy.com/shop/PixelWho and like them on Facebook at www.facebook.com/PixelWho to get updates on their art projects. Nathan is now working on the 9th Doctor poster and is sharing preview images on their Facebook page.

If you'd like to meet the artist in real life, he goes to several conventions a year and a convention schedule is listed on PixelWho's Facebook page. Both he and his wife, PixelWho's manager, love going to science fiction and comics conventions where they get to meet fans in real life, and frequently attend in cosplay themselves. Please help support this independent artist as he strives to be pixel perfect in providing a complete visual character dictionary and illustrated episode guide for Doctor Who fans.

[Source: PixelWho]

28 September 2013
 a

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

Day 271: Doctor Who and the Silurians, Episode Seven

Dear diary,

While I didn't really know all that much about Doctor Who and the Silurians, the one thing that I was aware of is the ending. I knew that it finished up with the Brigadier blowing up the remaining creatures in the caves. For some reason, in my mind, it came in the form of an airstrike, with bombs being dropped across the moor (perhaps not on Who's budget, though!), but it's the one thing that I did know was coming.

And then, I went and forgot it! As the Silurians start to put themselves back into hibernation about three quarters of the way through today's episode, I started to think that it was a bit of an anti-climax to the story. It was only when the Brigadier started to act a bit shifty towards his scientific team that I suddenly remembered what was going to happen - and then it's bye bye SIlurians.

I hadn't anticipated just how much this is a story all about science verses the military, though. It's present right the way through from the Doctor telling Liz that he doesn't attend anywhere on command, via his squabbles with the Brigadier as the story has progressed and into these final moments. The same story is even playing out deep down in the caves, among the Silurian creatures, as the leader listens and agrees to learn from the humans, while his more war-like friends plot to wipe us from the surface of the planet.

The thing that really sells me on the ending is Jon Pertwee. Didn't expect I'd ever be saying that, considering my dislike for his incarnation over the years, but he really is brilliant here, isn't he. You can really feel the sadness when he talks about all the scientific knowledge that the Silurians held being wasted by this action - and then he describes it as simply being murder. It's an unusual ending to the story, but it really works. I also love the way that Liz tries to justify it by suggesting that the Brigadier must have had orders from above, even though we know that's not the truth.

It's an unusual move in some ways, because it doesn't leave you exactly enamoured with the Brigadier. It's the same kind of decision that cost Harriet Jones her place in Downing Street during The Christmas Invasion, and it's done for similar reasons. I'm kind of glad that they're not afraid to show things like this - there's no reason that all of the Doctor's associates should be whiter-than-white, and if you're going to give one of them a morally-ambiguous action to take, you might as well go large-scale and wipe out an entire species! I hope that they don't just forget about this as we move forward. An event like this needs to make an impact on the characters, and if I thought the Brigadier's relationship with the Doctor was frosty at the start of this story, I think it might pale in comparison to what we might see tomorrow!

I'm sorry to say it, but the thing that has let this story down for me is the Silurians themselves. I've praised the overall design already, and I still think it works, but they just look a bit rubbish in practice. Today we get to see lots of examples of them wobbling their heads around to make their telepathic powers work, and it just looks silly. Everything else about their city is so well designed, that it's a shame to see them coming across so poorly. I think - on balance - I might prefer the new series design.

As for the story itself, I'm really pleasantly surprised. I was so dreading these seven-part stories, but this one has set us off on a great start. THe story has changed direction so many times over the last week that I've had plenty to keep me interested all along. I'm just hopeful that the rest of Season Seven can hold my interest like this…

27 September 2013
 a

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

Day 270: Doctor Who and the Silurians, Episode Six

Dear diary,

There was a point when watching Spearhead From Space where I nearly described it as looking like a 1970s Doctor Who move. It was simply down to the fact that it was all shot on film instead of videotape, which gave it just the right texture to give that effect. Actually, though, I think Doctor Who and the Silurians is playing out almost like a feature film itself!

I really think that you could take this script, with minimal trims here and there (to bring it down from a total running time of almost three hours), and put it on the big screen as a Doctor Who movie. It's sort of got everything you want. You've got the Doctor doing all his clever science stuff, assisted by Liz (here she's mostly reduced to running around collecting things for the Doctor or giving out the antibiotics, but it's her suggestion that leads towards a cure), while the Brigadier mans operations and prepares for a battle as lizard men rise from beneath the Earth. The introduction of the virus has given this story a real shot in the arm (I know. I'm sorry. Please excuse that pun…), and has changed the playing field from being the single moor to the entire world. Before today's episode is out, we've seen pockets of London infected, and there's the first international death in Paris, too.

People (myself included, it has to be said) often think of large-scale invasions in Doctor Who being a hallmark of the more recent series, but here we are in 1970 with some fab location filming at Marylebone station which really gives this story some size. During The Invasion, one of my biggest complaints was that while the whole city - heck, the whole world - was under threat from the Cyberman invasion, everywhere felt really empty. Most of the action takes place in the IE property, so we don't see a great many people being drawn into the story.

Here, we've got the complete opposite. Marylebone station is absolutely packed with people (of course it is! It always is!), and while your gaze is usually focussed on Masters as he alights from the train and woozily makes his way towards a taxi, the hustle and bustle in the background can't help but to make things seem more real. Perhaps the crowning moment is a high shot a little later, in which people are dropping like flies in the station, and the action seems to carry on for ages. Right into the background people are being affected, but we get to see it right in the centre of the screen in a place as busy and as important as this.

(Oddly enough, I've been on trains today that passed me through busy London rail stations, and I did worry that I might be struck down by this Silurian virus. I got even more suspicious when I ran into Steven Moffat boarding the same train this afternoon. Thankfully, it's now 9pm, and I'm feeling fine...)

Like several things in this story, I never knew any of this was here. I couldn't have told you that the Silurians planned to wipe out humanity with a virus, and I couldn't have told you that any of this story took place in London, aside from that opening scene of the Doctor working on Bessie. UNIT really does feel vital to the safety of the city, and all of this is really impressing me. The only thing is… I'm desperate to see all the station sequences cleaned up in HD! How stunning would they look!?!

Yesterday, I briefly praised the performance of several members of the guest cast in this story, and today we've managed to lose another two of them. I can't let them go without mentioning Peter Miles' rather fantastic final scene. He rants and raves at the Brigadier, even going so far as to jump on the table and strangle the man at one point. It's ridiculous. It's over the top. It's overacting of the highest level.

And it's brilliant! I was completely captivated, and despite the fact that it's one of the largest performances we've seen in the entire series, it's completely right for the moment. Dr Lawrence has been building up to this moment ever since the first episode, and it's great to see him going out so boldly now. It gives us a great chance to take a real look at the make-up for the virus, too, which is looking really quite effective.

27 September 2013
 Manufacturer: Big Finish Productions

Manufacturer: Big Finish Productions

Written By: Eddie Robson

RRP: £14.99 (CD) / £12.99 (Download)

Release Date: September 2013

Reviewed by: Nick Mellish for Doctor Who Online

Review Posted: 23rd September 2013

If you remember the Sixties, they say, then you can’t have been there.

The Doctor remembers the Sixties. That’s why he’s taking Nyssa on a trip back to November 1963. Back to where it all began. Back to the birth of the biggest band in the history of British music. Back to see those cheeky lads from Liverpool...

Mark, James and Korky. The Common Men. The boys who made the Sixties swing with songs like Oh, Won’t You Please Love Me?, Just Count To Three and Who Is That Man.

The Doctor remembers the Sixties. And there’s something very wrong with the Sixties, if the Beatles no longer exist…

* * *

So, it’s 2013, the year of the big 5-0. Ever since the series came back to our screens in 2005 and did exactly what Doctor Who, Paul McGann’s solo (so far) televised adventure, didn’t do, people have been counting down the days until November 23rd 2013 reached us, in which time we’ve had a whole host of new Doctors and more Big Finish than you can shake a stick at. (Please don’t shake sticks at Big Finish; they’re rather lovely.)

Now we’re in 2013 at long last, it’s time for the celebrations to begin and the nostalgia to kick in, and kick in big time.  We’ve had stamps, postcards, jigsaws, a host of e-books, Dalek toys and William Hartnell popping up in The Name of the Doctor (though what he’s doing wearing his ‘Earth’ clothes before he’s ever reached Totter’s Lane is a mystery) amongst many other kisses to the past.  Big Finish meanwhile have given us more than anyone else, with their forthcoming anniversary special The Light at the End, the Destiny of the Doctor range of stories which link past and present, and now this trilogy of stories under the 1963 umbrella, and what better way to start it than Eddie Robson does here?

We’re back to the first year of the show, centring a play round a throwaway reference to a band name-checked in the very first episode.  It could all fall flat and feel either forced or, worse, corny, but it doesn’t because Robson is too good a writer to let that happen.

The basic premise, that someone or something has removed The Beatles from time and replaced them with a similar but ultimately lesser band, is a good one, and it allows the play to let rip with some incredible music (the musical suite extras on the first disc are nine minutes of pure loveliness), some nice Beatles humour (a character named Sadie here, the Doctor mentioning All You Need Is Love there, a riff on John Lennon’s famous comment to the Queen et al. to rattle her jewellery) and a really enthusiastic performance from Peter Davison in the lead role.

Never one to give anything less than his all, even when the scripts don’t deserve such effort, Davison is on fire throughout here, rushing from scene to scene with a tangible energy and zeal, whilst Sarah Sutton is equally enthused, playing Nyssa with just the right level of alien bewilderment and a seriousness that hides a wry sense of humour.  The guest cast is similarly strong, Mitch Benn being especially impressive as Not-John-Lennon-Definitely-Not-Please-Don’t-Sue, or Mark as he’s known to his friends.

Where the play really succeeds though is in the script, which is tight and clever, with enough clues to keep you guessing and enough answers to keep you wanting to find out even more as the play unfolds. The ending is neat, too, and doesn’t leave you feeling cheated: we’ve not got ourselves a hexachromite gas situation here, nor is there a Myrka in sight, thank goodness.

Robson successfully hits that fine balance between kissing the past and striding towards the future, and certainly kicks off this latest trilogy in a fine way.  If the other two can match this play’s sense of joy, celebration and innovative energy, then we’ll be in for a treat these coming months. Let’s just hope the Companion Chronicles’ forthcoming celebratory trilogy has as impressive a beginning as 1963 has.

26 September 2013
 Day 269: Doctor Who and the Silurians, Episode Five

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

Day 269: Doctor Who and the Silurians, Episode Five

Dear diary,

In 2010, when the Silurians made their return to Doctor Who, several parts of fandom were up in arms about the pretty radical redesign. It has to be said, I've never minded the look of the new Silurians. I love the face masks worn by the soldiers (even if they are a way of keeping the costs down), and can you imagine Jenny falling for Madame Vastra if she'd looked like one of the Wenley Moor lot?

Still, I've never appreciated before just what a great design this one is. Looking at a proposed design for The Hungry Earth, which is far more in keeping with this original version, does make me a little sorry not to have kept with it. Certainly, the redesign of the Silurians is the most drastic one we've had since the series returned - many of the other revived creators have stayed much closer to the things we'd seen before. The costumes for the creatures here aren't the best, I'll admit - the very obvious join between the head piece and the rest of the body is a real let down, and it's a shame it's so visible - but the actually look of the creatures is a great one. Where everything completely falls apart for me is when they actually start to speak.

Because I've never seen Doctor Who and the Silurians before, and because it's been so long since I last watched Warriors of the Deep, I'm not sure I could remember if the classic Silurians even could speak. That seems a bit silly in retrospect, 'cos they're quite chatty little lizards, but having spent the first three episodes watching just snippets of the creatures moving around in the corner of the screen, they'd built up a bit of a mystery. Even though I knew what was coming, I was still drawn in my it.

The voices are terrible, though. They come across, simply, as 'actor in a rubber monster suit'. Yeah, yeah, I know that's exactly what they are, but it just seems painfully obvious to me. I hate to admit it, but these voices really are bringing down my enjoyment of the story a little. We get a discussion today of the reasons the Silurians have taken to hibernation, and why they're only starting to wake up now. They all seem to make perfect sense to me, and Malcolm Hulke has clearly given it some thought. The entire description, though, left me cold, because I was listening to it through that ridiculous voice.

I don't know how I'd imagined they might talk. Maybe a bit like an Ice Warrior perhaps? They're both lizard-esque, after all. I almost want to hear them talking in a proper, RP accent, simply so I can enjoy the drama on display without this bringing things down. Ah well, I suppose you can't have it all!

And I can't really complain, because elsewhere, this story is boasting one hell of a guest cast! Until his death just a few episodes ago, we had Fulton Mackay, making his only appearance in Doctor Who. We've also got Geoffrey Palmer who's been in pretty much everything over the years, and will be making a couple of returns to the programme over the rest of this marathon. He's turning in an especially nice performance. It helps that when he first appeared, I got to play that favourite game, in which you point at the character every time he's on screen and say aloud 'Oh, it's him! What-his-name. Thingy. What's he been in?' unit lI suddenly realised who it was and felt a little bit silly.

Also making the first of a few appearances in the programme is Paul Darrow, who's taking things very seriously without Colin Baker to act up against. I'm rather liking his performance, too. And then there's Peter Miles, who gets an awful lot of praise for his performance in Genesis of the Daleks from a few years after this, but he's a great character here, too. With all of these fine actors turning up, I've not got any right to complain about a few silly Silurian voices really, have I?

(They are bloody stupid voices, though…)

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

Day 268: Doctor Who and the Silurians, Episode Four

Dear diary,

As this episode began, and we got to watch back yesterday's cliffhanger, in which the Silurian advances on the Doctor, and Pertwee attempts to stretch his eyes wider and wider, I wondered if I should make a note about the way he reacts to seeing the alien for the first time. After all, he didn't really get a chance to react to the Nestene before it started to strangle him, so this could be his moment for encountering a new alien menace for the very first time…

And then the most brilliant thing happened. The Doctor held out his hand to shake adding, 'hello! Are you a Silurian?'

I actively had to pause the DVD, because I was too busy hooting with laughter. How utterly brilliant! I mentioned yesterday that I'd managed to avoid knowing all that much about this story, but how has that moment passed me by for all these years? It's a great way to come out from the cliffhanger, and a great way to set up this Doctor and his way of dealing with other creatures.

I'm so very glad to see that the ongoing tension between the Brigadier and the Doctor is all turning out to be part of the major plot in this story. It's not simply that the pair don't see eye-to-eye, but rather that they're very different men. The Brigadier is all about simply moving into the caves to flush out the problem, whereas the Doctor knows that there's something more of interest to do. The theme of this entire tale can best be summed up by Miss Dawson: 'we must destroy them before they destroy us!'

It struck me today that perhaps the reason the Doctor isn't too keen on his former friend at the moment is because he's effectively serving as his jailer. It's the Time Lords who have sentenced the Doctor to life stuck on Earth at this time, but the Brigadier calling him in for missions simply reminds him of that fact. Every time he's called in it just hammers home the point that he has to get involved - because he's not going anywhere!

He loves Human Beings, but I can see why they might not be his favourite species at just this moment. I always associate the Tenth Doctor as being the most anti military incarnation, but the Third Doctor here is just as clear about his dislike for the ways of mankind. He's furious at the thought that there's a whole new race to study and they're already preparing to head down there and wipe it out. No wonder that he's interested in listening to the Silurian's side of the story and trying to branch out - he'd probably rather share his exile on Earth with them!

There came a point in today's episode where Dr. Lawrence and the Permanent Under-Secretary discussed the pressure of running such an expensive operation as this facility, and spoke of how the power failures were a potential risk to Lawrence's career, and how much money had been poured into the project, that I suddenly realised something. I was watching a proper drama. Forget all the lizard people and their pet dinosaur in the caves, this was a real, proper, drama.

And I loved it! We're halfway into a seven-part story and watching several minutes of government workers discuss the practicalities of running a power plant. It should be rubbish! I should be sitting here, telling you how boring it is, and how much I wish they'd just get on with it, and how if they cut things like this out, the whole story could be much shorter and much better… but I don't need to. Because it's all vital. The entire programme feels as though it's growing up, and as much as I loved all the rushing about and comical stuff n the Troughton era, this feels like the perfect reaction to it all. The programme is taking itself seriously, without going over the top, and it really works…

25 September 2013
 a

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

Day 268: Doctor Who and the Silurians, Episode Four

Dear diary,

As this episode began, and we got to watch back yesterday's cliffhanger, in which the Silurian advances on the Doctor, and Pertwee attempts to stretch his eyes wider and wider, I wondered if I should make a note about the way he reacts to seeing the alien for the first time. After all, he didn't really get a chance to react to the Nestene before it started to strangle him, so this could be his moment for encountering a new alien menace for the very first time…

And then the most brilliant thing happened. The Doctor held out his hand to shake adding, 'hello! Are you a Silurian?'

I actively had to pause the DVD, because I was too busy hooting with laughter. How utterly brilliant! I mentioned yesterday that I'd managed to avoid knowing all that much about this story, but how has that moment passed me by for all these years? It's a great way to come out from the cliffhanger, and a great way to set up this Doctor and his way of dealing with other creatures.

I'm so very glad to see that the ongoing tension between the Brigadier and the Doctor is all turning out to be part of the major plot in this story. It's not simply that the pair don't see eye-to-eye, but rather that they're very different men. The Brigadier is all about simply moving into the caves to flush out the problem, whereas the Doctor knows that there's something more of interest to do. The theme of this entire tale can best be summed up by Miss Dawson: 'we must destroy them before they destroy us!'

It struck me today that perhaps the reason the Doctor isn't too keen on his former friend at the moment is because he's effectively serving as his jailer. It's the Time Lords who have sentenced the Doctor to life stuck on Earth at this time, but the Brigadier calling him in for missions simply reminds him of that fact. Every time he's called in it just hammers home the point that he has to get involved - because he's not going anywhere!

He loves Human Beings, but I can see why they might not be his favourite species at just this moment. I always associate the Tenth Doctor as being the most anti military incarnation, but the Third Doctor here is just as clear about his dislike for the ways of mankind. He's furious at the thought that there's a whole new race to study and they're already preparing to head down there and wipe it out. No wonder that he's interested in listening to the Silurian's side of the story and trying to branch out - he'd probably rather share his exile on Earth with them!

There came a point in today's episode where Dr. Lawrence and the Permanent Under-Secretary discussed the pressure of running such an expensive operation as this facility, and spoke of how the power failures were a potential risk to Lawrence's career, and how much money had been poured into the project, that I suddenly realised something. I was watching a proper drama. Forget all the lizard people and their pet dinosaur in the caves, this was a real, proper, drama.

And I loved it! We're halfway into a seven-part story and watching several minutes of government workers discuss the practicalities of running a power plant. It should be rubbish! I should be sitting here, telling you how boring it is, and how much I wish they'd just get on with it, and how if they cut things like this out, the whole story could be much shorter and much better… but I don't need to. Because it's all vital. The entire programme feels as though it's growing up, and as much as I loved all the rushing about and comical stuff n the Troughton era, this feels like the perfect reaction to it all. The programme is taking itself seriously, without going over the top, and it really works…

24 September 2013

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

Day 267: Doctor Who and the Silurians, Episode Three

Dear diary,

There's something about the Silurian's rather unique point-of-view shots that really works for me, and the dash of red to represent the creature's third eye is a great example of the programme taking advantage of the fact that it's not being made in colour. And yet… it's not the most practical of sights, is it? The Silurians have a whole eye extra to the number that we humans sport, and yet their vision seems to be massively impaired when we see from their point of view.

Still, the reveal of the creature in full at the end of this episode is very well done, and I think I'm going to have to rate it as being one of the best that I've seen since starting this marathon. Throughout today's 25 minutes, I've been swinging back and forth in my feelings towards it, so I'm glad things have come out on top. My worry - essentially - was that we'd just have the creature suddenly… sprung on us. For all my praise the other day about how good the Auton looked when we just cut to it in the forest, I didn't want my first shot of the Silurian to be done in quite the same way.

On the other hand, as the episode went on and we were given more and more glimpses of scaled hand, or a hint of claw, or indistinguishable shapes behind the foliage out on the moor… I worried that we'd perhaps not get to see one of the creatures until the next episode. I needn't have worried, though, because of course the story has pulled it off quite well. It's strange in a way because the cliffhanger effectively hinges on the creature simply strolling into the sitting room of a cottage - but it works!

I'm also pleased today to see that Bessie is actually being put to some use. In my mind, the car is just there as a part of the Third Doctor's era, but I'm glad that it's actually useful as opposed to just being a gimmick. Obviously, if the Doctor didn't own a car then they'd have surely patrolled the moor in a generic UNIT jeep, but there's something quite nice about seeing the little yellow roadster bounding down the old dirt tracks!

I'm also pleased to see the way that both the Doctor and the Brigadier react to finally making it inside the locked barn. Our favourite Man From UNIT stands in the doorway, scanning the room for the potential threat, while the Doctor brushes right past him and immediately to check on Liz. They each have a very distinct function within this set up, and it's nice to see them being so clearly drawn. Of course the Brigadier comes to check on Liz a few moments later, but his first priority is to stop the creature escaping - and quite right, too.

I'm finding myself entirely surprised by Doctor Who and the Silurians. It's another one of those stories that everyone tells you is important, and is brilliant, and has to be seen, but I've always somewhat shunned it. When the Beneath the Surface DVD box set came out a few years ago (containing this story, The Sea Devils, and Warriors from the Deep), I actively decided that I didn't want to pick it up right away. It was two Third Doctor stories after all! In the event, I did actually purchase it on day of release - but only because the TV studio I was doing my degree in at the time was at the end of a street brimming with second-hand DVD shops. At one point, there were seven of them between my flat and the studio reception, and I used to pop into them all over the week.

One of my favourites had the Beneath the Surface DVDs in the window on the day of release, each marked up separately, at a rather nice £4 each. It doesn't seem all that impressive when you can pick the set up for little more than a tenner online nowadays, but at the time it was just what I needed to kick me into buying a copy of this story.

And yet… I've still never watched it. I've not watched The Sea Devils, either. I picked all three up that day because I knew I'd not want to double up later on, but the two Pertwee stories simply went on the shelf. I'm quite glad about that, though. It means that I'm coming to this story completely cold, and it's probably benefitting from it. Apart from the fact that there's Silurians in it, I don't think there's a great deal more I could tell you about the story, and that's rare for Doctor Who. It's taken a while to get here, but it's turning out to be worth the wait!

 

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

Day 266: Doctor Who and the Silurians, Episode Two

Dear diary,

I’m a bit surprised how much Liz is left to just get on with things by herself. In the last story, she doesn’t even properly meet the Doctor until the latter half of Episode Two, and in this one the Doctor seems to simply be leaving her behind a lot. ‘No, no, Liz, you go and take a look through the personnel files, while we take a look at the big scientific stuff,’ or ‘the men will go and take a look down the caves… why don’t you wait here?’ We even get it with Liz being left behind to examine the barn forensically, while the Doctor and the Brigadier head off to question the farmer’s wife.

In some ways, I feel as though this fact should bother me. In the back of my mind, there's a little voice that says 'the Brigadier is acting like more of a companion, and he doesn't even really get on with the Doctor!', but the rest of my mind is simply drowning it out. Liz feels like a far more mature character than I'm used to. Jamie, Zoe, Victoria, Ben and Polly… many of our companions over the last few years have been little more than children - it was really Steven that last filled the 'grown up' role in the Doctor's team.

With Liz, we've got a companion who's quite capable of being left behind by herself to simply get on with whatever task news doing. Zoe was fiercely intelligent, but she lacked the skills to interact with a world that was more than stings of data. Liz is a character who has the knowledge (I'd like to have seen them ask Jamie to stay behind and perform forensic tests!) suited to this role, and is also enough of a grown up to not need the Doctor by her side. It's a very different dynamic, and I really quite like it.

I've already mentioned the Brigadier not especially getting on with the Doctor, and I discussed it at some length yesterday, but it really is fascinating to me. I'm so used to this pair being such friends that it almost feels out of place that they shouldn't be seeing eye-to-eye all that much here. When the Brig finds out that his scientific advisor has gone off down the caves all by himself, he states that the Doctor 'deserves all he gets' as a result of his actions, and he doesn't seem all that relieved when the man turns up safe and sound. I know that things will thaw between them as the stories go by, but it's really an interesting way of playing the two characters, and I've never know that it was here. It almost adds another layer to their friendship, knowing that they've had to overcome the struggles with this incarnation.

The thing that really appeals to me about this story, over a quarter of the way in, is that we haven't actually seen a Silurian yet. Oh, it feels like we have, but it's all been glimpses of their hands, or shots of them from a distance, where they're shrouded in darkness, or lit from behind by the sun. The closest that we've actually come to seeing one of the creatures in full is through the drawings on the wall in Episode One. Because I know what a Silurian looks like, I'm quite impressed by the artwork (if anything, I'm a bit surprised the line drawings haven't turned up on one of those retro Doctor Who notebooks or something…), but I'm really liking that we still don't really know what the menace is.

I've spent so long worrying about this string of seven-part stories that I really thought the timings would be all over the place, but Doctor Who and the Silurians is keeping me hooked pretty well…

Don't forget that you can 'like' the 50 Year Diary's Facebook Page, where I tend to witter on about things, mostly. Occasionally, I even post a photo of something!

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

Day 265: Doctor Who and the Silurians, Episode One

Dear diary,

I can't tell you how much I love the fact that the Doctor and the Brigadier aren't the best of friends. They get off to a bit of a ropey start right back in The Web of Fear, where we're actually led to suspect that Lethbridge-Stewart might be under the controlled of the Great Intelligence, but by the time he shows up again for The Invasion, the Doctor greets him as an old friend, and he's pleased to see him. Even during one of his few lucid moments in the hospital during the last story, he seems quite pleased to set eyes on the man again.

Of course, before Spearhead From Space is out, the Doctor has tried to flee from the planet leaving the Brigadier in a bit of a mess with a mystery continuing to build. By the end of the story, they seem to be on pretty good terms, but here it's back to not seeing eye-to-eye. It all starts right at the beginning of the episode, with the Doctor seeming to resent being summoned off to a meeting when he's in the middle of patching up his new wheels. Eventually, it's manifested in an argument between the pair over the dismissal of the Doctor's evidence, and it all makes for quite good drama.

I've always thought of the Doctor and the Brigadier as being great friends - mostly because that's how they react to each other during the 1980s, and it's a period of the programme I'm much more familiar with. It's great to see them butting heads here, and it feels quite daring. I'm not entirely sure whose side I'm on, since I've seen the Doctor's evidence, so I'm willing to believe him, but I can see the Brigadier's stance!

The Doctor only seems to enjoy UNIT when it suits him. As I've said, he hates the idea of being pulled away from a last afternoon doing up the car, and when Dr Meredith asks if he's with the organisation, the Doctor answers 'yes, depressing, isn't it?' Conversely, when he's refused access to a patient he wants to study, he's quite happy to wave his credentials around, claiming that being a member of UNIT gives him the authority to do exactly as he wants.

It's only five episode in, but already it's a very different portrayal of the Doctor to the one I've grown used to with Troughton. Whereas he'd charm his way into places or simply sneak in when everyone was looking the other way, it's much more this Doctor's style to make demands and simply do whatever the hell he wants to. I think it's this personality that's often rubbed me up the wrong way in the past, but it's working quite well here, and it's all adding to this sense of tension he feels at slotting into this new role.

The big disappointment about today's episode has to be the fact that we're back to studio videotape. Having really enjoyed the experience of an all-film and location story in Spearhead From Space, opening here in some studio-based caves was just crushing. It was probably less of an issue following this journey from the Spearhead DVD release; though it would have still looked markedly different, it would likely have been less of a shift.

As it is, I'm left with the look I most commonly associate with the Pertwee era. Despite the stunning work of the Restoration Team over the years, some of these episodes aren't the best quality sources to work from. There's a specific look to the stories of the early 1970s, and this one captures it perfectly.

Still, I can't complain too much, because things are whizzing along at a great pace. One of the things that's always put me off Season Seven (and the reason that Spearhead is the only story from this year that I've tried to experience before) is the fact that it's mostly made up of seven-part stories. I've said on many occasions before that I think three episodes is about perfect most of the time, so the thought of three consecutive seven-parters has always seemed more than a little daunting.

But here, its as though they don't have enough time to get in everything they want. There's several places where we cut hurriedly from one scene to another, allowing for a fair chunk of time to pass in between. It's most noticeable at the cliffhanger, when the Doctor moves very suddenly from considering the unusual description of claw marks in the coroner's report on a dead worker to being halfway down a ladder into the cave. If the story can hold a pace like this throughout the next six episodes, it'll keep me very happy indeed!

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

Day 264: Spearhead From Space, Episode Four

Dear diary,

For the longest time, I couldn't tell the difference between the Great Intelligence and the Nestene Consciousness. I always thought that it came down to a mixture of having not seen the Yeti stories and not paying attention to this one, but actually… they're the same thing, aren't they? When the Doctor is musing about what kind of alien they're dealing with, Liz offers up several suggestions before the Doctor confirms that it's 'more like an intelligence'. He then goes on to comment that the creature probably doesn't have physical form, but it can create 'shells' for itself to inhabit. It's even transported in a set of alien spheres! With tensions between the Doctor Who production office and the writers of the Yeti stories at breaking point last season, I'm surprised that tempers didn't flare at this point. Heck, I'm even a little surprised that they allowed the Brigadier to turn up as a regular character (maybe that's why the Doctor name checks the Quarks first at his trial - it was all part of the negotiations…)

This episode is home to another one of those really famous scenes from Doctor Who history. The Autons smashing their way out of the shop windows on Ealing Broadway is perhaps the best remembered of all the iconic scenes. I have to confess that I don't think I've ever actually seen it before, so can only assume that on my first viewing of the story, when that strange mixture of co-codemol and milk was making me feel so unwell, that I'd given up by this point and gone for a lie down. It's actually quite an under-stated affair, and you never actually see the glass in the windows smash. Twice we know that the Autons have burst out from the windows, but twice we cut away to a reaction shot to avoid the expense of replacing the glass.

That doesn't take away from it, though. Partly because I know how iconic this scene is supposed to be, it's effective the second we switch to the panning shot of the street. Watching the plastic creatures suddenly jerk into life - and not all in perfect sequence - is suitably creepy, and those blank faces really do help to sell the horror. I also found myself enjoying the shot of the facsimiles at Madame Tussaud's coming to life and filing out of the room. One of the downsides to the quality of image in the blu-ray master for the story is that you can see every hint of movement from these supporting artists throughout the episode, so it's clear from the outset where this is going. That doesn't stop it from working very well, so I can't really complain.

We also finally get the epic UNIT battle at the International Electromatics compound that I was hoping to see! There's several similarities between the onslaught of the Autons and that of the Cybermen last season, and there's things I love about both invasions. The effects of the smoke explosions here is particularly effective, both when it's coming from a recently shot soldier (or passer-by for that matter!) and when it's being used to blow up the surroundings. Tinting the smoke a fairly lurid orange seems to be taking full advantage of the new colour cameras, too!

And then we've got Jon Pertwee, in the closing moments finally recovered fully from his regeneration and ready to kick into action. I love that he draws attention to the fact that he'll be needing a whole new wardrobe, and that he even specifically asks the Brigadier to take him shopping for a vintage car. These are things that I've spent years simply taking for granted as part of the Third Doctor's tenure, so I'm glad to see them being given a proper introduction.

Overall, I've ben really surprised by Spearhead From Space. I'm so pleased, considering my not entirely happy past with the story. As you well know, I've not been hugely looking forward to reaching the Third Doctor's era in this marathon, but they've started with a real belter to get us going. I know that they can't all be like this, and I'm really going to miss the HD sequences that I've been treated to over the last four days, but it's set me off on the right foot for the next few months.

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

Day 263: Spearhead From Space, Episode Three

Dear diary,

I've never particularly rated the look of the Autons in this story. They've always struck me as being just that little bit rubbish. Actually, though, they're scary! The first time we see one properly, in Episode Two, I genuinely found myself a little uncomfortable. I think it's partly down to the fact that the face isn't quite even - one eye sits lower than the other - it gives the creature something of a rough, unfinished look.

Scary enough when thrashing around in the woods, it's even more unnerving when one starts to move from a line up of them against the wall in the plastics factory. Suddenly, I can completely understand why people have always found them so effective. The way it moves when chasing after Mrs Seely, slow and lumbering, just adds to the illusion. At the factory, there's a point where one runs after Ransome, and it just looks a bit clumsy - they're much better when they don't need to hurry after you, because they'll catch you in the end.

The one thing that doesn't really work for me is the idea that they can use their guns to totally disintegrate Ransome in the UNIT tent. It's partly down to the story's setting - everything is very much embedded in the real world, even when you start to add in spheres falling from the skies and moving plastic dummies. The fact that it's all shot on film simply makes it look like any of the other action serials on TV at around this time, which only helps to enhance the idea that we're dealing with a real situation. So when the perfectly normal guns embedded in the plastic (another great idea, and one which is executed very effectively) turn out to be capable of such a complete disposal of their victim… it's the one thing that pushes my belief just that bit too far.

The Doctor is finally given a bit more to do today, and the time is spent brilliantly. I mused yesterday that I was finding myself surprisingly drawn to Pertwee's performance, and I'm pleased to say that it's continuing here. You really cheer for Liz when she takes it upon herself to steal the TARDIS key to let the Doctor into his ship, but then you do a full 180 degree turn and side with the Brigadier when it turns out that the Doctor has tricked her, and uses this as a chance to escape.

It's almost as though we're seeing a glimpse of the very early, selfish Doctor from the start of the programme when he decides that he simply cannot bear the thought of being trapped on Earth in one time period. The fact that he's willing to leave the Brigadier (a character he was so pleased to meet up with again during the vents of The Invasion) right when he's needed the most says an awful lot, but it only helps to make the character stinger.

While I'm on the subject - just how great is the sound effect of the TARDIS failing to take off? In some ways, it feels like they've simply thrown everything at it, but it really works. It's a shame we've not heard anything similar ever again when the TARDIS breaks down. We get plenty of new information about the ship here, too, which is perhaps ironic given that we're about to enter a phase where we'll not be using it all that much! It's the first mention of the ship being 'Dimensionally Transcendental' and talk of the 'Dematerialisation Code'. The Doctor also confirms that he's the only one who can open the lock, though this picks up on a suggestion made by Susan right back in The Sensorites.

I thought that the switchover to colour, and the introduction of a new team of regulars and a new format for the show was going to be a massive culture shock, and that I'd struggle to adapt to the new way. As it is, everything feels perfectly in keeping with what's gone before, while still managing to feel completely fresh and new. I've always thought of the UNIT era coming from nowhere and changing the show massively, but watching through in this 'one episode a day' format, you can see the ancestors of Spearhead From Space littered throughout the last few years of the programme. As much as I loved Troughton, and as much as I was dreading this point of the experiment, I'm really finding it to be just the right breath of fresh air…

a

20 September 2013
Doctor Who Online is pleased to announce the publication of Will Brooks’ 50 Year Diary1963 - 1969.

Doctor Who Online is pleased to announce the publication of Will Brooks’ 50 Year Diary: Volume 1 1963-1969.

In celebration of Doctor Who’s 50th anniversary, Will Brooks sits down to watch every episode of the programme made between 1963 - 2013 at the strict pace of one per day.

Having watched each episode, Will records his thoughts in a daily blog for Doctor Who Online, and scores the episode out of ten, on a scale ranging from ‘Perfect, the absolute pinnacle’ to ‘Why am I doing this again?’

Will Brooks’ 50 Year Diary: 1963 - 1969 collects together more than 260 entries of the popular blog, covering the complete eras of the First and Second Doctors (William Hartnell and Patrick Troughton), and also includes exclusive entries for the two 1960s Dalek feature films starring Peter Cushing, and a foreword by Doctor Who writer Gareth Roberts.

Speaking about the publication of the book, Will told DWO:

“I’m still a bit surprised that I’ve actually made it far enough to collect entries together! I’m usually really fickle with things, and I’m bored very quickly. Even when I first started out on the marathon - slipping the DVD of An Unearthly Child into the player - I had a sneaking suspicion that I’d probably give up by the end of that first season.

What’s kept me going is just how brilliant Doctor Who is! Not everything is perfect, and there’s one or two stories from the 1960s that I’m not likely to ever watch again, but it’s an era of the programme that’s constantly evolving, and it’s been a fantastic journey to experience it all in context.

Putting together the book has given me a chance to go back and update a few entries - just small changes here and there where I felt things could read a little better! - and it’s also been a chance to look back over the first six years of the programme as I prepare to move onwards into colour and get started on the 1970s...”

In his foreword for the book, Gareth Roberts describes The 50 Year Diary:

“[Will’s] observations are fresh and often startling - his is a unique perspective on Doctor Who. I thought I knew all this stuff back-to-front but Will's jumping-bean prose snaps me out of my jadedness and I see it with new eyes.”

+  You can pre-order the paperback version of Will Brooks’ 50 Year Diary 1963 - 1969 now from Pageturner Publishing for £14.99.

+  The Kindle edition of the book is out now, and can be purchased from Amazon UK and US. 

[Source: Doctor Who Online, Pageturner Publishing]

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

Day 262: Spearhead From Space, Episode Two

Dear diary,

There is a downside to watching this story in such lovely high definition - there's a few points throughout this episode where I've found myself more fascinated by the level of detail in the picture than actually watching the story itself. The best example comes following the Doctor's shower scene, when he heads into the cloakroom to choose a new outfit and you can see every droplet of water on his shoulders. It seems like such a silly thing to notice, but I'm fascinated by the fact that you can. There's something about the idea that this story was filmed over forty years ago, but can look this good after a bit of restoration work that really appeals to me.

(It's not just Spearhead From Space that I've found this with. Although I bought an external blu-ray drive for the specific purpose of watching this story, I also went out the day it arrived and picked up my two favourite films in this format, too. Frankenstein was filmed in 1931, and The Bride of Frankenstein in 1935, and yet they're stunningly crisp, too. It was a similar situation - drops of water on the skin - that caught my attention there, too. I can't believe I've gone this long without such crisp quality!)

I do get to see one of my recent wishes (partially) fulfilled today, though. Back in The Invasion, I commented that I'd love to see those fight scenes between UNIT and the Cybermen in High Definition, and today we make a return to the same location, used as the outside of the plastics factory when Ransome breaks in to his old workshop. It's not quite the same as seeing that battle in this quality, but it does give me an idea of what the location really looks like, and it's more colourful than I'd imagined! I'm sure the dates don't match up for it to work, but in my head now, the Auto Plastics company moved in once International Electromatics were forcibly ejected from the premises.

Yesterday, I made a note about the similarities between this story and the launch of the new series in 2005, drawing parallels with both Rose and The Christmas Invasion. I thought at the time that it was a strange decision to keep the newly regenerated Tenth Doctor mostly out of the action for a long time, but it's almost identical to what we've got here. Yesterday, the Doctor managed a few garbled sentences, and a brief conversation with the Brigadier, before making an escape and being shot by a soldier. Today, we see him unconscious for a bit, but he doesn't really turn up in the episode until just over twelve minutes in.

What's notable is that you don't feel his absence at all. Maybe it's because he's still a new Doctor, so I'm in the process of getting used to him, or maybe it's because we've got the familiar Brigadier to tide us over, but it's only when the Doctor starts sneaking around the hospital corridors that I realised how long we'd just gone without him. We also get some nice connections to other big starts in the show, if not complete reboots - the Doctor here steals his clots from the changing room in a hospital, and he'll go on to do the same thing to pick outfits for both his Eighth and Eleventh incarnations. Maybe it's something about the food they serve in hospitals, but they seem to turn the Doctor into a bit of a kleptomaniac.

I'm pleased to find that I'm warming to Pertwee's Doctor already, though. Having never been all that keen on him, I think I've been expecting the absolute worst, so anything more than that is going to keep me happy. I absolutely love the way that he greets the guard at the UNIT gate (and do my eyes deceive me, or is that guard actually stand-in producer Derrick Sherwin?), by simply talking him into submission. There's shades of both Hartnell and Troughton in this performance, while also keeping it fresh and new. I can't imagine either of the first two Doctors stealing a car and driving it off to the UNIT HQ, but it feels perfectly in keeping for the Third to be doing so. Maybe it's because I know he'll go on to have his own vintage roadster?

He doesn't get to spend much time with Liz in this episode (another thing that's striking me as odd - we're halfway into his first story and he's only just been introduced to his new companion), but the brief scene they do share is lovely. I'm glad that she laughs at his Delphon joke, and it really breaks the ice nicely between the pair. I have to admit that I've never really been a fan of Liz. Don't know if it's simply because she's a part of this era, but I've simply never taken to her. Actually, though, Caroline John is giving a fantastic performance, and I'm finding myself warming to her more and more. Here's hoping this marathon will help me revise my opinion of her!

19 September 2013

Doctor Who Magazine have sent DWO the cover and details for Issue 465 of DWM.

DWM talks to Five Doctors about the most ambitious audio story ever…

This November sees the release of THE LIGHT AT THE END, a very special audio drama produced by Big Finish, which unites FIVE Doctors and a host of companions. DWM was present at the recording and spoke to the cast, including TOM BAKER, PETER DAVISON, COLIN BAKER, SYLVESTER McCOY and PAUL McGANN

“It’s very important to celebrate 50 years of Doctor Who,” says Sylvester McCoy, “and it’s so exciting, too. It’s really nice that people treat you in a very loving and caring way, and they like to see you. And it’s great to come together with the other actors who played Doctor Who.”

“You’re guaranteed that... that energy, and that presence, and that sense of humour,” adds Paul McGann, about Doctors uniting.

“To have us all together is a kind of critical mass of uranium,” Colin Baker smiles, “that should produce something pretty explosive!”

“I think it’s very important that we do something to commemorate the 50th anniversary,” agrees Peter Davison, “It’s very nice to be a part of something that’s been running for 50 years and is still going strong.”

“In Waitrose,” adds Tom Baker, “a certain kind of old lady finds me quite interesting…” 

Also this issue:

START WITH A BANG!
Doctor Who's showrunner and head writer, STEVEN MOFFAT, answers DWM readers' questions. So how and why did the TARDIS explode in THE PANDORICA OPENS? Find out Steven’s reply in his exclusive column.

DEEP, DEEP TROUBLE
The Third Doctor and Jo encounter creatures from the bottom of the ocean in one of the best-loved stories of the 1970s. Discover fascinating new facts and intriguing new insights into the adventure, as THE FACT OF FICTION digs beneath the surface of THE SEA DEVILS!

BLOCKBUSTERS
DWM rolls back the clock to 2012 – five adventures, each of which could have been a movie! Stand by for action, as DWM takes a nostalgic look at a season filled with dinosaurs, Angels and Daleks as COUNTDOWN TO 50 continues.

THE RIDE OF A LIFETIME?
The Doctor and Clara visit a futuristic amusement park – one which holds a horrifying secret beneath the veneer of fun. The terror behind the rides is revealed in a brand new comic strip, WELCOME TO TICKLE TOWN, by SCOTT GRAY with art by ADRIAN SALMON.

CHANGE, MY DEAR...
Seasoned viewers of Doctor Who are used to the idea of the lead actor changing from time to time. But what's it like from the perspective of a child? JACQUELINE RAYNER shares her experience of how her kids reacted to the announcement of Peter Capaldi as the Twelfth Doctor in RELATIVE DIMENSIONS.

WHO'S ON THE STAGE
DWM talks to actor, comedian and dedicated fan TOBY HADOKE about his candid interviews with the stars of the series, and the forthcoming West End double-bill of his acclaimed one-man shows, MOTHS ATE MY DOCTOR WHO SCARF and MY STEPSON STOLE MY SONIC SCREWDRIVER.

PLACE OF PERFECTION?
The Time Team – Emma, Chris, Michael and Will – see the TARDIS take the Doctor, Martha and Jack into the far, far future. What will they make of the mysterious Professor Yana? And will they manage to find UTOPIA?

SPEAKING DOUBLE DUTCH
The mysterious Watcher provides an elegant explanation of rural accents, champions another Supporting Artist and challenges readers with the Six Faces of Delusion in the most unpredictable page in DWM: WOTCHA!

PLUS! All the latest official news; DVD, CD and book reviews; the latest merchandise previewed; prize-winning crossword and competitions; and much, much more!

+  Doctor Who Magazine Issue #465 is Out Today, priced £4.75.

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

+  Check Out The DWO Guide to Doctor Who Magazine!

[Source: Doctor Who Magazine]

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

Day 261: Spearhead From Space, Episode One

Dear diary,

Spearhead From Space makes me sick. You know how sometimes you can associate certain episodes of Doctor Who with certain memories? I've got a friend who assumes he must have cut his knee at some point while The Stones of Blood was being shown, because he always associates the Ogri with the smell of disinfectant, for example. Well for me, Spearhead From Space is the Doctor Who story that brings back the strongest of feelings.

The very first time I ever saw this story, I'd just had an operation. Nothing major, but it required me to be dosed up on pretty strong painkillers for a week or two afterwards. I can recall sitting in the hospital just after the operation, and asking mum to pick me up a copy of this story on DVD when she was in the city. At that point, I was still picking and choosing which Who stories to buy, rather than being all caught up and just buying them as they hit the shelves. A few days later I was sat home alone and decided that the time had come to watch the Third Doctor's very first story.

I cued the DVD up in the player, made lunch, and prepared my paracetamol. Thing is, I was pretty stupid when it came to anything medical (I'm not a fan of medication. Even now, I don't have a doctor), so I didn't realise that you weren't supposed to mix co-codemol with milk. For some reason, at the time, I was drinking a lot of milk. Anyway, tablets crushed and mixed into the milk (they were huge round 'discs', so there was no way I'd swallow them normally!), I settled down to watch the story.

And I was sick as a pig for the entire time. Spearhead, being the only story of Doctor Who's 'original' run to be shot entirely on film has a very distinctive look to it. Ever since that day, just the sight of footage from this story makes me feel a little queazy. The second DVD version was a little better because things had been sharpened up, but still there was something about it all that made my stomach twist. Even typing about it is having the same effect!

Then they announced that Spearhead From Space was to be remastered and released on Blu Ray in full HD. To be honest, I had absolutely zero interest in it. A story that made me sick on a format that I didn't own. When things came to the HD revolution, I switched over to iTunes downloads. Often cheaper, pretty immediate when I wanted to pick them up, and the Mac couldn't read blu ray discs anyway. It was the 'Coming Soon…' article about the release in Doctor Who Magazine that swayed me. It spoke of giving the release a very individual look, and went into a bit of detail on the way that they had changed the grading of the piece to look 'more like a one-off filmed drama' with more of a darkened tone. Could it be that this new format might rid me of the 'curse' of Spearhead?

I picked up a cheap external blu-ray drive, bought the blu-ray and it's been sat on the shelf waiting for me top reach this point for about a month. I'm pleased to say that having sat through the first twenty-five minutes, I'm still feeling fine. Hooray! It's meant that a story I've never been able to particularly enjoy suddenly has a shot at being fairly evaluated.

I'll talk more about the quality of the HD remaster in a later episode (but suffice to say, 'oh my God. Stunning'), because today I want to focus on the story itself. It's rather good, isn't it? I've never noticed just how much the 2005 relaunch borrows from this one. The opening shot, in which we pan from a starry sky into the Earth is fab, and I have to say that I think I prefer this one! It just looks more impressive than the CGI version that kick-starts Rose. There's the Autons, of course, but they haven't really arrived on the scene yet. The Doctor spends most of the episode tucked up in bed having promptly collapsed upon leaving the TARDIS, just as David Tennant does in The Christmas Invasion. We've even got a familiar face in the form of Lethbridge-Stewart on hand to help the change-over.

It's fair enough that you'd use this story as a template when reintroducing the series after a lengthy hiatus. At the time, Spearhead followed the longest gap in broadcast that Doctor Who had ever experienced. It returned in the first week of the 1970s with a brand new Doctor, a brand new assistant, and in colour! Forget replacing the original Doctor with Patrick Troughton - there you've got Ben, Polly, and the Daleks to tide you over. Forget about Tom Baker leaving the role after a record run. Even forget the sweet (effete!) Fifth Doctor giving way to one who strangles his companion! This is the biggest shake up that the programme experiences in the 'classic era.

I've made no secret of the fact that I've never been all that fond of Jon Pertwee's incarnation of the Doctor, but he's actually off to a pretty good start here. Despite spending much of the episode drifting in and out of consciousness, the times he spends awake are spot on, and I love the way he draws out his simple line: 'shoooeeeesssss…'. His conversation with the Brigadier, in which he reacts to his new appearance for the very first time is also great fun. When I think of the Doctor's checking out their new appearances, I often go right to either of the Bakers or Davison looking into the mirror, but this one is just as brilliant, and quite clearly the template for all those to follow.

We're off to a good start, and I'm hoping that this new release will help me to appreciate the story all the more. I'd desperately love to start this new era on a real high…

17 September 2013

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

Day 260 Extra: The Second Doctor Overview

Dear diary,

I can't begin to tell you how happy I am. Way back at the end of last year, when I was first starting to get ready for The 50 Year Diary, I was most looking forward to the Patrick Troughton years.

He'd always been my favourite Doctor, based on the surviving stories of his that I'd seen, and I was really looking forward to actually making my way through all he had to offer. I'd dabbled with the missing episodes from time to time, watching the odd recon if it could hold my attention, or listening to a soundtrack here or there, but now I'd have a reason to actually stick with it, and really enjoy it.

But then I started to worry. The further I got into the William Hartnell years, the more I found myself enjoying him as the Doctor. Watching the programme at the rate of one episode a day way working perfectly for one of my main aims - I was forming an actual bond with the older characters. It's tricky to do when you can dip in and out of the stories on DVD whenever you like and in any old order. I wanted to really grow attached to them in the same way you do when a new series airs.

So as we came to the tail-end of Season Three and things started to fall into place for Troughton's arrival, I started to panic. What if, having grown so used to Hartnell, I'd find I didn't really care all that much for a silly new Doctor? Could my love for his Second incarnation be completely destroyed by seeing them all in this way? Even more crucially, would my favourite story of all time - The Tomb of the Cybermen - suddenly seem rubbish compared to all the other stories I'd found myself really enjoying?

Well no. Of course not. It seems obvious from here, having just finished Episode Ten of The War Games, that I love Patrick Troughton because he's a genuinely brilliant Doctor. There's a reason that every Doctor since has fallen in love with him and borrowed a little bit of his performance. And it didn't matter if I'd found myself really enjoying the likes of The War Machines, or The Dalek Invasion of Earth, because The Tomb of the Cybermen is still fantastic anyway.

What really surprised me is just how much I enjoyed Troughton's first season. Because so much of it is missing from the archives, stories from Season Four are often forgotten. Everyone thinks of the three key stories (The Tenth Planet, The Power of the Daleks, and The Evil of the Daleks) and then forgets all the adventures with the Macra, the Cybermen on the Moon, or the Fish People. I'm just as guilty of it - I'd never really payed the season that much attention.

It's a crying shame that we can't see more of it, because there's a lot to love in there, and I think these stories would be held in higher regard if we were able to stick the DVDs in as simply as we can many other stories (though this is becoming closer to a reality even as I type, with three of the stories lined up for release in the near future).

Season Five, on the other hand, which I was expecting to really love, fell a little bit flat for me. Individually, several episodes rated very well, but by the end of the run I was really starting to flag. Poor Fury From the Deep is probably deserving of a much better score than I've given it, but I was simply washed out by that whole format by the time it rolled around. It's definitely high on my list for a rematch once the marathon is over. Surprisingly, and likely due to the fact that I loved both Tomb and The Web of Fear so much, this season currently holds the highest average rating - 7.2.

And then we come to Season Six. Being mostly complete in the archive, it's the one that everyone hails as the best of Troughton's three years, and it's the stories from this period that helped me to first fall in love with the Second Doctor. While I've liked many bits of it, the overall score has been brought down a little by my utter contempt for The Dominators (and I promise that I'll stop banging on about it now that I'm done with the 1960s) and my disappointment during The Space Pirates.

As a whole, the era comes in with a very respectable rating of 6.8, putting it a little ahead of the First Doctor. Troughton's stories have currently taken the top four spots on my ratings table of all the stories so far, but he's also gathered a few at the other end of the scoreboard, filling the bottom three spaces, too.

And now it's onto the 1970s. I've made no secret as I've gone along that the next decade (and the Third Doctor's era in particular) has never been a favourite of mine, but I'm actually really excited to be moving on. I'm ready for the programme to do something different, and the success of stories like The Web of Fear and The Invasion have actually geared me up ready for the next massive change.

Whereas with The Tenth Planet, it felt right to move straight onto the next episode the following day, here it feels like there should be a bit more of a gap. Maybe it's because it's such a clean break, with the departure of the Doctor, both his companions, and the programme moving into the new decade with the introduction of colour to the adventures? That's not how the marathon works, though, so it's right on to Spearhead From Space in the morning, and (perhaps surprisingly) I can't wait!

17 September 2013

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

Day 260: The War Games, Episode Ten

Dear diary,

'They'll forget me, won't they?' the Doctor asks solemnly, as he watches Jamie and Zoe led away and sent back to their rightful places in time and space. For me, the departures here pack more weight than just about any other that the series has ever witnessed. Much of this episode is a masterclass in building towards this, and the star of the show, put simply, is Patrick Troughton.

He's well aware that it's futile to try and evade the Time Lords. He knows that his companions have had their day and that their memories will be wiped. Their last desperate attempt to make a break for the TARDIS is simply the Doctor's way of getting his friends to the right place, so that they can be sent away with the minimum amount of fuss. It's evident from the simple way that Troughton plays the scene, with a sense of childish excitement, over-the-top in the way that people always think his Doctor is. It's patently obvious that he's well aware of their fate, and if anything he seems to be surprised that they're allowed to remember at least one adventure.

What surprised me is how the departures were followed up. I've seen the story before, so I knew that we got little scenes showing Jamie and Zoe’s returns to their own times but having now seen it in context - following on from every other episode made before it, they pack an even greater punch. And look! There's Clare Jenkins returning as Tanya to greet Zoe on her return to the Wheel! You'd almost expect something like that in the modern series, but in 1969? Tanya appeared for six episodes a whole year ago, but they've brought her back and recreated a part of the Wheel set, just to see Zoe off. Added to that, you've got that final line of hers - 'I thought I'd forgotten something important... but it's nothing.'

That, right there, is the saddest line in the history of Doctor Who. Zoe has learned so much, and evolved as a character hugely since she first came aboard the TARDIS. She's been through all those wonderful adventures (and The Dominators) but now she'll never be able to remember them. Worse than that - they're brushed off as not being important. The thing that gets me is that Jamie's return to Scotland isn't half as emotional. They play that as dropping him back off and watching him get right back into trouble again. Typical Jamie!

The downside to this decision is that Jamie's departure doesn't hit me half as hard as Zoe's does, even though he's been a part of my everyday life since way back at the end of May. It's fair to say that I'd started to go off him by the middle of the Sixth Season (it's the same trouble I had with Ian and Barbara when they started to out-stay their welcome, too), but I'd grown fond of him again by the time he's led away in today's episode. I don't feel the same sadness to see him go which is a real shame when his departure should really get to me.

Elsewhere, we get to enjoy something of a celebration of Doctor Who's last few years, with the Doctor projecting some mental images of his most fearsome foes (though he starts with the Quarks? Really?), we get plenty of messing around with the TARDIS as they try to escape the Time Lords, and we even get to see some footage from The Web of Fear and Fury From the Deep to illustrate their landings. It's a great way to tie up the era, and say goodbye to this phase of the programme.

I'm also really pleased to see just how effective the Time Lords themselves are in this episode. Over the years, they've become somewhat diluted to the point that they're almost a bit of a joke in the 1980s, but here they're absolutely terrifying. All that build up in the last episode was entirely justified by their appearance today - you'd really not want to run into this lot on a bad day. I remember someone once commenting that the Time Lords deserved to lose in the Time War because they were so horrible - the Daleks would never be as harsh as to wipe Jamie and Zoe's memories!

Their most effective moment comes during the Trial of the War Lord, in which his cool, calm, and collected exterior (which reminds me more and more of Steve Jobs with each passing episode) is completely shattered simply by having them stare at him. It's clear that they're performing some kind of mental torture on the man in order to make his speak, but watching this figure recoil in horror and scream his head off (and perhaps more significantly, watching his glasses - the absolute icon of his image - fall from his face throughout this moment) is extremely powerful.

As an episode, it's not really as good as the last few that we've watched. There's plenty of lovely moments, and it's a brilliant way to end the era (and, indeed, the decade), but it's mostly tying up the loose ends from the previous nine weeks. I'd completely forgotten that the War Lord had his guards turn up to make an escape attempt at one point, and recalled most of the episode being given over to the trial of the Doctor. Still, it's a great way to end the story, and entirely worth the long wait. 

And that's it! The last episode of monochrome Doctor Who. I can't really describe how massive it feels to be standing at this side of the 1960s, and realising that I've experienced every episode along the way.

There have been plenty of ups and downs, but when you look back at these first six seasons as the bedrock, there's no surprise that this is a programme still going from strength to strength all this time later. Inventive, funny, scary, absolutely bonkers, but absolutely brilliant. And now it's all change. From tomorrow, I'll be venturing into the 1970s, and one of my least favourite periods of the programme. I'm hoping that watching through in order will help to overturn my views on the era in the same way that it has for this decade (for better or worse!), but I think it's a whole new challenge.

Frankly, I can't wait.

16 September 2013

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

Day 259: The War Games, Episode Nine

Dear diary,

Had it been invented by this time, the end of this episode would have been the TARDIS' Cloister Bell sounding, and the Doctor's hand slid slowly away from the lock. As is becoming common for this story, we've got another one of those cliffhangers that joins the club of 'the best ever'. It's a stunning example of how to do it today, and I think this must be the most powerful cliffhanger of the entire black and white era. Forget the mysterious shadow on the sand outside the police box, the sink plunger creeping into view, or even the Doctor's seeming change of sides in the last episode - this is an absolute blinder.

We've been drip-fed hints about the Time Lords more and more as this story has progressed, but today's episode is all leading up to these final few moments. The War Chief teases the Doctor that calling them will mean the end for both of them, but you can really feel his fear when he realises that the Doctor really is going to go through with it. Everything about them is built up to be mysterious and sinister, right down to the Doctor going into a kind of trance and mentally building a box as a means to contact them. The War Lord hammers it home as he quips that the Doctor will wish he were dead rather than meet them, and then turns fearful himself as an ominous noise grows louder and he simply exclaims that they're coming...

Perhaps the thing that sells the threat more than any other, though, is how quickly and desperately the Doctor is willing to abandon Jamie and Zoe just to get away from the Central Zone in time and save his own skin. We've not seen a selfish side to the Doctor like this since Season One, and it really hits home. It's the way that he simply tells them that they'll be sent home, and he's sorry but he has to go... after everything they've been through together (especially Jamie!), that hurts. It's stunning, and really makes the stakes seem higher than ever before.

It helps that we don't actually see the Time Lords at all in this episode. I could of course remember this cliffhanger (even if the rest of the episode was practically like new to me!), but I had a vague image of the final shot being a trio of Time Lords staring down at the Doctor and his friends. I'm glad that was a false memory, because it's so much more effective to be left with that huge sense of anticipation. After all that build up, all that teasing, all that threat... we have to wait a whole week to find out what they're really like. Well, I don't, thankfully. I'll be tuning in tomorrow. With a cliffhanger this good, I'm really thankful to be pacing myself like this - I'm desperate to go on and watch the last 25 minutes, but I like that I have to wait. Tomorrow is going to go slooow...

Since they depart in this episode, I want to take a moment and sing the praises of two members of the guest cast. David Savile as Lieutenant Carstairs has been fantastic throughout, and I've really enjoyed him being a part of the team. It does somewhat beg the question though as to why he isn't counted as a companion when people do count Sara Kingdom. I decided, having watched The Daleks' Master Plan that she belonged on the official role call, and I'm wondering if I might add Carstairs to my list, too. True, he doesn't meet any of the traditional criteria, but he does travel in a TARDIS of sorts, and visits several time periods with the Doctor (technically). Aside from all that, he's bloody brilliant, so there.

Edward Brayshaw also turns in a brilliant performance as the War Chief, and it's sad to think that he won't be turning up in any other stories. I don't recall having a strong opinion on his either way when he was in The Reign of Terror, but here he's one of the main players across the story, and he's impressed me right from the get-go. I can't let the character die without mentioning the often-debated idea that the War Chief could be an early incarnation of the Master. Personally, I'm not sure if I like the idea, but I can see why it might be appealing. For now, I'm thinking that he probably isn't, but I might review that decision once the character starts to turn up more regularly from Season Eight. If anything, the War Chief has the better-crafted beard, so that's something, I guess!

I also need to mention James Bree as the Security Officer (I think his role might have actually been the 'Security Chief', putting him on an equal footing with his enemy, but I've called him this all along, so it's a little late to back out now...). Again, he's been on fine form throughout, and I've enjoyed the almost childish rivalry between him and the War Chief. I think it's a triumph of both performances that you cheer for both of them at some point in today's episode. When the Security Officer played the recording out and gets the proof he's so desperately wanted, we're really pleased to see him finally take the upper hand. But then when we watch him gunned down by his mortal foe, I was glad to see him get his just desserts! Maybe I'm just trying to side with the winning team?

Right then. Tomorrow's the big one. It sounds silly when you consider that this is only a TV programme (and one made almost half a century ago at that!) but I've genuinely got butterflies in my stomach. We're about to hit perhaps the biggest change that the programme ever sees, and tomorrow is that final episode of normality before everything changes. It feels like a really big deal, and The War Games has done all it can to ramp up that sense of occasion with every passing episode. I'm a huge mixture of excited and terrified to be reaching the end of the 1960s, but if anything, it's been one hell of a journey to get to this point...

15 September 2013

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

Day 258: The War Games, Episode Eight

Dear diary,

...Bloody hell. That could possibly be one of the best episodes that we've ever had. I'd started to worry that the story was beginning to feel a little bit padded out, and the fact that the Doctor had cooked up a plan to save the day in Episode Seven (of ten) left me a bit concerned about what was left to come. While parts of today's episode could be described as padding (and there's a whole host of comedy accents back again, including a Mexican who ends each line with 'eh?'. It's almost as though they're celebrating every little bit of the Troughton era all in one!), it really is a perfectly crafted 25- minutes.

We get to see a bit more of the various War Zones (though they all seem to look suspiciously like other war zones...) as the Resistance begin their coordinated attack, and it works really well. It's strange how seeing them take out a couple of communication units, coupled with an increasing rate of telephone calls and little flags on a map can make things seem so large-scale, but it does! It perhaps helps that when they destroy these things, they do it with a real vigour. The smashing up of the Roman Zone's screen puts the prop well beyond repair, while the explosion in the Crimean Zone is one of the programme's best.

We only see seven or eight members of the Resistance in this episode, but somehow it feels like we've got a whole army building up, ready to launch the attack. The one thing that does seem to be a bit of a shame is the lack of Lady Jennifer. She departed a few episodes ago to look after some wounded soldiers, and I keep waiting for her to return to the story, but it's looking increasingly as though it's not going to happen. Excitedly, I seem to have forgotten all of this from my previous viewing, so I really have no idea of where things are headed from here.

I'm surprised that I can't remember very much about any of this stage in the story because the cliffhanger at the end has to be the very best we've ever had. I've already stated my love for the cliffhangers in this story on more than one occasion, but this one in particular is stunning. We know that the Doctor is being put to the test, and that he's being forced to bring the leaders of the Resistance to the Central Zone, but I was fully expecting him to have some kind of get-out plan. As it is, the episode ends with that wonderful shout; 'Stand still! Don't move! You are completely surrounded!'

You could almost be forgiven for thinking that the Doctor really has gone over to the other side. Everything here is played as though the War Chief is the first Time Lord that the Doctor's encountered since leaving his home world, and you could really believe that he's managed to tempt him into being a part of the plans. The whole scene in which they converse, each stood on opposite sides of the War Table (for want of a better term), is flawless - it's almost as though all the battles and planning and stuff is there to keep Zoe and Jamie entertained while the Doctor goes off to have a 'grown up' talk in the other room.

He was at his best earlier in the story when commandeering the use of a military transport and bursting his way into the prison, but here he's on the absolute top of his game once more, in a completely different way. We get confirmation that the Security Officer's suspicions have been right all along and that the Doctor is one of these mysterious 'Time Lord' characters, and Troughton plays the scene with a quiet reserve. The actual revelation is almost brushed under the carpet - simply slipped into the conversation along with so many other little things that have become such an important part of Doctor Who's mythology over the years (is this the first time that they explicitly state that the Doctor stole the TARDIS? I've just watched through all of the 1960s stories in order, but it's such an obvious part of the narrative to me in 2013 that I honestly couldn't tell you wether it's been brought up or not at this stage).

'I had every right to leave,' the Doctor points out, and adds that he had his own reasons for doing so. People talk a lot these days about 'story arcs' and playing a long game with plot threads, but this is one that's been running for six whole years, dating right back to the very first episode in which the Doctor tells Ian and Barbara that he and Susan are cut off from their own people. We get some more references to it around Season Three in the Doctor's beautiful speech when Steven storms out, but it's largely been in the background since William Hartnell left. We even get the first hint that the Doctor may try to contact the Time Lords and alert them to what's happening here, but we're told that he won't because he risks giving himself away, too.

And yet it's funny to think that all these revelations - things which will go on to shape the series over the next forty-something years - came in the lowest rated episode of the 1960s! Worse that that, this will remain the lowest-rated episode of Doctor Who as a whole until Battlefield Part One takes the crown twenty years later! It's bizarre, but almost fitting considering the way that the revelations are treated so casually in the story that they should enter the programme in such an understated way.

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