Time Lord Tees

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11 July 2014

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

Day 557: Meglos, Episode One

Dear diary,

As with Season Seventeen, lots of this year’s stories were recorded out of order. As a result, Meglos didn’t enter production until some months after The Leisure Hive, and once Tom Baker had been through a bout of ill health, and the difference between him from yesterday’s episode to today’s is palpable. People talk of the fact that the Doctor looks a lot more frail this series than he has at any other point during this incarnation, and I was expecting to see that in action during the first story of the season, but there it was only really caused by swamping the man in such a large costume, with big coats, scarves, and hats. Today’s episode sees him without any jackets or coats on, and he simply looks gaunt. It’s quite striking, and knowing that this Doctor is headed for his death, it’s also a little bit saddening.

And as if to add to his woes - the Doctor and Romana don’t even get to leave the TARDIS in this episode! They spend the first half trying to fix K9, and the second half getting caught up in a time loop, played over and over again! It does mean, though, that we get a slightly different arrival for them into the narrative properly (or, at least, we will have), in that the Doctor has ‘called ahead’ to someone on this story’s planet of choice, and actively asked if they can pop in to say hello. In many ways, it’s the perfect thing to do having destroyed the Randomiser in the last episode, but they seem to have arrived in this part of space… at random. Oh well, it’s a nice idea all the same.

There are only two things that I know about Meglos: The villain is a cactus, and it features the return of Jacqueline Hill to the programme for the first time since Ian and Barbara headed back to 1965 in a Dalek time machine during the chase. From my point of view in The 50 Year Diary, that took place on March 24th last year - so it’s been a while since I’ve seen her! I’m not sure, though, that I’d have recognised her here were it not for knowing who she is. Fifteen years older, and with a rather elaborate headpiece on, she’d not quite the person I knew back in the early days of the programme.

And yet, when I first got in to Doctor Who, I used to be fascinated by the idea of this story! Somehow, in my mind, I’d simply discovered that Jacqueline Hill made her return in this tale, and figured it meant a return for Barbara after all this time. How she’d ended up on a distant world didn’t really matter to me, it was just an exciting thought that companions did that at all in the classic series. Obviously, she’s not actually playing Barbara, but this story makes her part of a very exclusive group of actors who’ve had the chance to play other characters after their stint as a companion.

The only other examples that I can think of are Jean Marsh (returning to play Morgaine in Battlefield some 23 years after being killed off in The Daleks’ Master Plan), John Leeson (although he doesn’t really count, because he played a character in The Power of Kroll at the same time as being K9), and Billie Piper (playing The Moment in The Day of the Doctor, although this is also debatable, because the device has specifically taken on her form). Extend out to the audios, and there’s lots of examples, including Anneke Wills in the role of Charlotte Pollard’s mother, and Daphne Ashbrook joining UNIT. As far as TV appearances as new characters go, it’s very rare.

It’s really nice to see her, though. I’ve said before while working through that even though I was somewhat sick of Ian and Barbara by the time they finally departed from the Doctor’s travels, I’m now at a point where I’m very keen to go back and see a few of the old serials again. I’d love to watch The Keys of Marinus or The Dalek Invasion of Earth - so hopefully having Jacqueline around for a few days will help to give me my ‘1960s fix’…! 

10 July 2014

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

Day 556: The Leisure Hive, Episode Four

Dear diary,

Oh dear. This one has all sort of fallen apart for me at the very end here. I like that Pangol has reached a point where he’s completely lost it and is ready to seize control of the planet - he’s so much of a stroppy toddler throwing a tantrum here - even though I’ve really disliked him throughout, it feels like this is what everything has been building towards. But after three episodes that move at a fairly leisurely pace, all of a sudden, everything happens at once, and the resolution seems to boil down to the Doctor happening to plug the Randomiser into the alien machine, which means that it cloned him instead of Pangol (?) and then reduced Pangol to a baby (jQuery152043949232366867363_1405198236843) who is then pawned off to others while Mena heads off to have some peace talks with the Fomasi.

My biggest problem with this sequence, though, is that while Pangol continues to get madder and madder, the Argolins simply stand around and don’t do anything! Even when Romana bursts in and points out that he’s gone crazy, they just… mill about. They don’t seem to be working for Pangol, because they make no attempt to stop Romana, they’re simply in her way by not doing anything. I found it just a bit frustrating.

I’m also wondering about the surviving Fomasi. We saw earlier that they can only communicate in language other than their native clicks and whistles when they’ve got a translating device on them, which speaks in the flat tone of Brock… so how do we know that this Fomasi is really the ambassador? Isn’t it just as likely that they shoved him onto the exploding space ship, took off their ‘West Lake’ badges, swiped back the translator, and then proceeded to kill all the surviving Argolins mere minutes after the Doctor and Romana have left? They’ve destroyed their main obstacle in the form of the warmongering Pangol, and the Fomasi could now claim that the Argolins started this second war, because Romana points out on a number of occasions that Pangols actions are declarations of conflict…

It’s a rather bleak way of looking at it, but I think I quite like it. It’s that idea again of the Doctor getting a bit too complacent (an idea I was keen on during The Invasion of Time), and being a bit careless as a result. I’m going to keep an eye on that throughout the season and see if I can find a theme of it - I might get my wish of him taking a fall under these circumstances after all! 

10 July 2014

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9 July 2014

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

Day 555: The Leisure Hive, Episode Three

Dear diary,

I can’t decide whether I’d be enjoying this episode so much without the sense of ‘new’ that pervades it. The plot isn’t particularly grabbing me, I’m still not entirely sure just what’s going on, and a lot of it seems to be a bit… dull. I think that if it were just another story from Season Seventeen, with that same design style, and the Doctor wandering around in what I’d still term to be his ‘usual’ attire, then I’d have probably been scoring a fair bit lower by now.

That said, I think today’s episode has been my favourite of the bunch - now you see where my uncertainty is coming from! The shock of everything looking a bit different has broadly worn off now, because I’ve had a few days of it in the new style, but there’s a few things in today’s episode which really stand out for me.

For a start, there’s the Doctor in his ‘old age’ form. In the ‘making of’ special feature on this DVD, Christopher Bidmead tells a story that Tom Baker wasn’t keen to keep this look up, and wanted to be reverted to his regular appearance as early as possible into this third episode. Supposedly, they talked him out of it by pointing out that the resolution to massive cliffhangers always comes really early on into the next episode (you can take the cliffhanger at the end of Episode One of this story as a great case-in-point of that), and that the real impact this time comes from keeping the Doctor ‘aged up’ for as long as possible.

All the same, I didn’t realise that he spends this entire episode (and, therefore, some of the next, presumably) in this form! Not what I expected at all. It’s quite good make-up, too - or it’s certainly working for me (I’ve seen it described as very poor elsewhere), and it’s quite nice to see Baker modifying his performance a little, too, to make a point of the fact that he’s now 1200 years old.

Then you’ve got the reveal of the Fomasi properly… and it’s a friendly one! The costumes for these creatures are another thing that’s come in for a bit of stick over the years, but I actually really like them. It helps that they’ve spent much the first two-thirds of the story only being seen in close ups or in shadows, haloing to build up a bit of suspense about how they actually looked. That one is finally shown in full, and he’s helping out heroes is just great, and it feels like an age since we’ve had anything like that happen. Still, large green aliens, who hide themselves inside human skin-suits? Had Russell T Davies been watching this one before the Slitheen were created?!

8 July 2014

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

Day 554: The Leisure Hive, Episode Two

Dear diary,

It’s really quite strange how this story comes along, and it’s as through the programme has suddenly realised ‘it’s the 1980s’. There’s so much about the design of the sets in this one, and the use of colour both in those sets and in the costumes of the guest cast which just feels like 1980s Doctor Who to me. Even in the music, it’s everything that says ‘the 1980s’ to me, and I think that’s what’s making the change between Season Seventeen and Season Eighteen feel all the more striking - the fact that it’s found its new groove this easily. I think, really, it comes down to the fact that what I think of as ‘1980s Doctor Who’ is really simply ‘John Nathan-Turner’s Doctor Who’, so I shouldn’t really be all that surprised.

You can also very much feel the hand of new script editor Christopher H Bidmead beginning to steer the programme here, because I’m not entirely sure what this ‘new science’ on Argolis is actually for. Oh, I get that it’s being modified and used here to try and de-age people (though that’s only a real possibility once Romana gets involved), but I don’t quite understand how the whole ‘tearing off limbs’ aspect comes in to play, or the stuff about the giant projected image… It’s interesting that, really, this is the same time experiment as seen in City of Death, moving objects or living creatures back and forth through their own personal time stream, but whereas it was perfectly clear to understand during that story (even if it was ‘technobabble’), here I’m completely lost. Season Eighteen is often thought of as the ‘scientific’ era of the programme, and it’s not hard to see why!

Something else I want to draw attention to today, because there’s a real risk that I’ll never get around to it otherwise, is the Doctor’s new costume. Now, putting my cards on the table early, I love the Season Eighteen look. The big greatcoat, the burgundy scarf, the hat, the boots (although they won’t actually turn up until later on), there’s something about it that just really chimes with me, and I think it’s the most successful of all the 1980s ‘uniform’ outfits for the Doctors.

Yet, I’m surprised to see how much variance is being thrown into the costume even at this early stage. I’ve always thought of this style being less ‘flexible’ for Baker, and that he couldn’t alter the look as much as he has done with all his other outfits, but already we’ve seen him in the full ensemble, complete with hat and Norfolk jacket (which I’ve never actually realised he had under that greatcoat!), but we get to see him in various stages of dress as these two episodes progress, taking off coats/jackets/scarves as he sees fit.

Wandering around the place without his scarf is something that - again - I’ve never really thought happened as often as it has, and I love that the scarf is being used so interestingly in this story. In yesterday’s episode, he tied it to a plastic statue of an Argolin and it gave Romana a shock when she followed the scarf to be presented with the unexpected ‘body’ at the end… so it’s great to see the same happen to the Doctor in this episode, only here to body is that of a dead man, and the Doctor has been arrested for his murder.

Then you reach the cliffhanger, and the Doctor’s had a whole new look again - aged up by 500 years! He’s really going through it in the cliffhangers to this story…! 

8 July 2014

The fab folks over at Showmasters have put together an even more amazing line-up of Doctor Who related guests for this year's London Film And Comic Con, which include the following:

Steven Moffat - (Showrunner / Head Writer) - Saturday Talk
Jenna Coleman - (Clara) - Autographs / Photoshoot
John Hurt - (The War Doctor) - Saturday Talk / Autographs / Photoshoot
Paul McGann - (The 8th Doctor) - Saturday & Sunday Autographs / Photoshoot
Colin Baker - (The 6th Doctor) - Sunday Autographs / Photoshoot
Bernard Cribbins - (Wilf) - Saturday Autographs / Photoshoot
William Russell - (Ian Chesterton) - Friday Autographs
Jemma Redgrave - (Kate Stewart) - Saturday Autographs / Photoshoot
Sarah Louise Madison - (Weeping Angel) - Sunday Autographs

On Saturday 12th July, there will be a very special Doctor Who talk, featuring; Steven Moffat, John Hurt and Paul McGannThis is a paid-for talk and will be sold on the days of the show. It will be held on the super stage so there will be plenty of seats available.

The talk will last for 45 minutes and the tickets will be £25 each. They will be on sale on the sales desk inside the show at Earls Court 2.

DWO are thrilled to announce we too will be there for all 3 days offering a selection of Doctor Who merchandise, and with every purchase over £10, you will get a FREE Doctor Who gift! We will be offering a wide range of Toys, Books, DVDs, CDs, Radio Times, Autographs, Trading Cards and more, so do pop by and say hello!

We will also be interviewing any fans who want to tell us how much they are looking forward to Peter Capaldi's Doctor, for a short video feature we will be releasing just before Series 8! If you would like to be part of this, please ask a member of the DWO team at our tables!

+ Buy your tickets for the London Film And Comic Con, here

[Source: Showmasters]

7 July 2014

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

Day 553: The Leisure Hive, Episode One

Dear diary,

Hooray! It’s my birthday! And what better way to celebrate than with the start of a whole new season of Doctor Who, complete with new producer and swanky new titles. I told myself before pressing play on this story that I’d not fall in to the trap that everyone else does when discussing this story, by mentioning that it’s all change and a different show… but, well, it’s all change and a different show!

People tend to hail the transition between Shada (or The Horns of Nimon) and The Leisure Hive as being as big as the transition between The War Games and Spearhead From Space, but I’ve never really been able to appreciate it before now. When I can pick a DVD of pretty much any Doctor Who story off the shelf at any time, and watch the programme in any old order, things just divide up differently. In the past, the difference between this story and anything from Season Seventeen is only as great as the difference between, say, The Web Planet and The Curse of Fenric, or The Green Death and The TV Movie. Doctor Who has been many different things throughout tits life, so the changes just come and go with whatever story you happen to be watching at the time - in short, we’re used to watching ‘classic’ Doctor Who these days in a very different way to the original audience on first broadcast.

But the only ‘classic’ Doctor Who that I’ve watched since the start of 2013 has been the episodes in order from An Unearthly Child onwards, I’ve not seen any of the John Nathan-Turner era since 2012. Although I’d told myself not to bring up all the differences between what had gone before and this story, they really do hit you in the face like a ton of bricks as soon as the opening titles begin. I’ve gotten so used to that ‘time tunnel’ effect (which has been with me in one format or another since only a few days into this year!) that it really does feel like a shake to the system when the star field bursts on to the screen with a whole new arrangement of the theme music. I’ve seen it described (both positively and negatively) as JN-T making a huge announcement that he’s arrived in the producer’s chair, and it has to be said that it does make a very bold statement. This is a new kind of Doctor Who, and that means the rules have changed.

We then move from this striking new titles sequence into… one of the longest tracking shots in Doctor Who history, as the camera pans along the beach, taking in deck chairs and beach huts for about a minute and a half. Eventually, we pan past the TARDIS to find the Doctor slumped snoozing, but it feels oddly juxtaposed to such energetic new titles. The fact that The Leisure Hive opens on Brighton beach is a fact that most people tend to know even if they don’t know much else about the story, but I’ve never noticed how isolated that scene is. It serves to set up the idea of the Doctor and Romana heading off on holiday quite nicely, but it feels as out-of-step with those titles as it does with much of what’s to come through the rest of the episode.

It doesn’t help that the sequence ends with the camera pulling away from the beach, with the shot slowly forming into an oval and drifting away among the stars of the title sequence. It’s a very odd way to transition between scenes (possibly the weirdest that we’ve seen in the show so far), but along with other slightly unusual transitions (wipes and fades among them), it further helps to spell out that you’re watching a very different type of programme.

It’s also a programme that feels scarier than it has in a while. Creatures like the Krargs, the Nimon, and the Mandrels are there to entertain the younger members of the audience, but their almost part of the joke - you know that they can’t really harm our heroes. This episode ends, though, with the Doctor’s limbs being pulled off, and the camera rushing in to Tom Baker’s screaming mouth. Considering the pains the episode went to earlier to show us a character being killed rather painfully in this exact manner, this really does feel like a universe a lot more dangerous than the one the Doctor’s been travelling in for the last few years. 

6 July 2014

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

Day 552: Shada, Episode Six

Dear diary,

I couldn’t remember what happened in this final episode, so I wasn’t sure if I’d be happy with the ending or not. Certainly, it seemed as though the story could have been wrapped up during the final stages of yesterday’s episode, so I worried that today would feel like spreading the story a little bit too thin. Actually, there’s a great deal to enjoy: the Doctor having to make his way through the Vortex from one ship to the other is a great idea (and something I can’t believe they’ve never done with the Master’s TARDIS!), the closing scenes with lots of humour to close the season (and the Graham Williams era), and the fact that the Doctor has to do battle with all these creatures purely through using his mind. If anything, this part of the story feels like it could do with one further draft, just to up the tension, but it’s certainly not a bad ending to the story at all.

I’m surprised just how much footage exists for each of the episodes in the tale, including this one, although you do become somewhat accustomed to seeing certain sets over and over again! I’ve been very impressed with the animation that’s used to fill the gaps in between, though. By this final episode, I’d even stopped noticing the discrepancies between the real Tom Baker’s voice and the impersonator used for the new segments - I don’t know if the performance gets better or if I simply got used to it, though I suspect it’s a combination of the two. It’s been nice to see the story completed, at any rate. And now, I’m going to imagine that Professor Chronotis goes off on various adventures with Chris and Clare at his side. I think they’d end up having TV Comic style trips through time and space, in the professor’s TARDIS!

There’s always a big question mark around Shada, and it’s that consideration that maybe it wouldn’t be quite so well loved if it didn’t have that status as the mythical ‘lost’ story of the Tom Baker era. It’s something I’ve long wondered when people bang on about how great this story is, and I’ve always put that partly down to the fact that it’s got such a reputation from being unfinished. I think, though, having now watched it properly in context with everything that came before it, I’m willing to say that there’s a lot in here to really love. It sort of runs out of steam towards the end, but on the whole I’ve really liked it. I think, had the production made it through to the end, it would probably be held up with City of Death as a tent-pole ‘classic’ of Season Seventeen.

With the end of this story, we say goodbye to the Graham Williams era of Doctor Who history. Three years that don’t, perhaps, have the best reputation among fandom, but which certainly seems to have produced some pretty decent stories. Looking back to the end of The Talong of Weng-Chiang, with the Williams era about to begin, I commented:

”I’m really interested to see how my feelings develop as we move forward into the Williams era. From where I stand now, at the end of Season Fourteen, I’m simply expecting it to be ‘cheap’. That’s the only thing that I think I really know about the period to come, and after stories like The Talons of Weng-Chiang*, and* The Robots of Death*, that may come as something of a shock to the system…”*

I think, in places, the series has looked cheap over the last few years, but that’s certainly not as prevalent as I was expecting it to be. Stories like The Androids of Tara, The Ribos Operation, or The Creature from the Pit all feature great settings that are realised as well as anything in the previous few years of the show. As far as the era has gone as a whole… it’s been a bit bumpy. Since Graham Williams took over the producer’s chair 70-something episodes ago, none have received higher than an ‘8/10’ (although there have been 13 of those, more than half of which in this last season, and the rest during Season Fifteen), and the era has attracted three ‘3/10’ (all for The Pirate Planet) and a few ‘4/10’, too.

The overall average score for the Graham Williams era is 6.32/10, which makes it better than a straight average, but it’s far from being the highest-rated era of the programme to date. In fact, it’s a score which makes Seasons Fifteen - Seventeen the lowest rated era of the programme so far (coming in just marginally lower than the Verity Lambert years, which averaged 6.33). That’s not to say that I’ve not enjoyed it, though. There’s a lot I like in Season Fifteen, and a lot I like in Season Seventeen, I think it really is that Key to Time season in the middle that just didn’t quite gel with me.

And now, we move on toe Season Eighteen and the start of the John Nathan-Turner years of the programme. Everything to come is going to be increasingly ‘marmite’, and while I’ve enjoyed it in the past, I’m wondering how much that will hold true now that I’ve seen everything that happened before 

5 July 2014

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

Day 551: Shada, Episode Five

Dear diary,

I’ve been somewhat pathetically looking forward to this episode, simply because I wanted to see what the Time Lord prison planet looked like. For some reason, the design used for the Big Finish webcast version of the story (it’s a gigantic ‘disc’ with the Seal of Rassilon on the top, surrounded by jagged rocks almost as though it’s being held by them) has always stuck in my mind as one of the most striking visual shots from the history of Doctor Who. Put simply, I love it. It was with bated breath, therefore, that I waited to see what the prison would look like in this version of the story.

It’s presented (as I suspected it might me) with footage from the original model sessions for the story, back in the 1970s. It’s… different, certainly, and I’m not sure if I like it or not. On the one hand, it looks very functional as a prison - it’s very much a structure with a cold and stark purpose. On the other hand… it’s lacking the flair of the Big Finish version. Still, I suppose that if the prison is supposed to be a secret from the Time Lords of this era, then having it look like a giant copy of their most famous symbol doesn’t exactly hide it very well…

If anything, I think I’m just slightly disappointed that it’s such a simple model that they use for the prison. I was blown away by the explosion of the Think Tank, with bits of debris flying off in all direction (including directly towards the camera!), and the remains of the ship burning away as the explosion clears, so it feels a bit plain when we finally reach this supposedly mythical lost prison world.

I still really love the idea of Shada itself, though. It makes perfect sense to me that the Time Lords would have a secret prison, which can only be accessed by following a specific set of instructions involving one of their ancient relics. For a race that purports to be non-interventionist, the Time Lords have always taken a particularly strong role when it comes to their place in the universe. Put simply, they decide what’s wrong and what’s right, and thus I love the idea that they’ve got a place to lock up individuals that they deem to be too dangerous in the grand scheme of things. I like to imagine that if they could still remember the existence of the place, then Genesis of the Daleks would have simply been boiled down to Davros being plucked from his Time Stream and locked away here.

But that’s partly my problem with the scenes set in Shada here. Although it’s great fun to see a Dalek, Cyberman, Zygon, and Wirrn (and… a Roman Auton from The Pandorica Opens?), they don’t really feel right to be locked away in this place. In the scene these monsters first appear, Skagra describes the prison as being thep lace Time Lords put the criminals ‘they want to forget’. It strikes me that locking up a few odd members of these various species is just a bit… odd? Unless these happen to be extremists even within their own cultures, it just feels a bit like an anti-climax for this mythical ancient prison.

Still, I love the reveal that this ancient and famous Time Lord villain Salyavin is really Professor Chronotis in an earlier life! I’ve been somewhat saddened over the past few days that I was aware of this particular plot twist, because I’s love to see if I was shocked when the reveal finally comes. All the clues are certainly in place here (and even laid on a little too thick, in some cases!), but it’s great fin to see the characters starting to piece it all together as they go. I’ve also always found it a shame that Salyavin - the lynch pin to this whole evil plan, and a character who just happens to be one of the Doctor’s close friends in disguise - only gets mentioned for the very first time here, and not even in relation to the story itself.

Romana mentions the man in an earlier episode, seemingly from nowhere, and then he just happens to be vital to everything that’s going on. Were this the modern era, it’s a great example of where planting seeds in earlier stories would come in handy, so that the name is already there in the back of your mind, and it feels like a greater surprise when he suddenly pops up a year or two later (instead of just an episode or two!) 

4 July 2014

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

Day 550: Shada, Episode Four

Dear diary,

As has often been the case during six-part serials up to now, the fourth episode ends up being little more than filler material to keep the story going. Much of today involves people just padding out the running time, while the only real advancement to the plot is Skagra discovering how to use the book as a key. That’s not to say that I haven’t been enjoying this episode, though, because even when it’s simply trying to bulk up 25 minutes of story, Shada is keeping me entertained.

I think the thing I enjoy most about this episode is the introduction of the Krargs, which is a design that I’ve always quite liked. One appears (briefly) on a screen at the end of Episode One, but today we get them en masse and even creating new versions of themselves in some of the most impressive bits of animation in this story so far - a lovely mix of the 3-dimensional effect and great work on the character animation of the creature itself. I couldn’t remember if you actually got to see one of the Kraags in the live-action footage, so it was a nice surprise at the end of the episode when one of them shows up. It’s a bit of a shame that the ones in the animated footage are simply… grey, though. The thing I’ve always liked the most about the design is the fact that they use CSO rather well to give it a kind of ‘molten’ effect across the scales, and it’s a shame not to see that continued over in to the animated segments, too.

There’s also a lot of lovely bits of Gallifreyan mythology cropping up in this one, too. The idea of the Professor’s rooms being a TARDIS in disguise is fantastic, and I wonder if his description of the way Clare has ‘tangled with [his] Time Fields’ could be reconciled with the kind of ‘remains’ we see of the Doctor during The Name of the Doctor? Could Chronotis’ rooms at Cambridge have ended up housing his time line, with undergraduates popping in to take a trip back through history by touching it?

Aside from that, there’s the workings of this mysterious book. This is the thing that always used to fascinate me about Shada - the idea of the book being imbued with a great deal of power, and the realisation that turning the pages of it inside a TARDIS would automatically unlock the secret and take the occupants to a hidden location. The description of the ‘Ancient Time Prison of the Time Lords’ used to fascinate me, too, and I can’t wait to see how it’s realised in the animation.

I have to also admit that I’m warming to the voice of the Doctor in the animation here. I still don’t think it’s quite close enough to the genuine article to really work for me, but I’m certainly not noticing it sticking out as much now. I think this may well be down to the fact that there’s a great deal more ‘animated Doctor’ in this episode than there is of the actual man himself! The animation is also becoming so much the major format for this tale that there were a few shots (mostly the inside of Skagra’s ship, or the initial shots on his Command Vessel) where I even had to stop for a moment to work out if we were looking at the animation or the real footage - it has to be said that the set design on this project is simply brilliant.

4 July 2014

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

The trailer kicks off inside the TARDIS with explosions around the console, whilst a voice, very similar to Davros is heard stating:

"I see into your soul, Doctor. I see beauty, divinity, hatred..."

As the line is spoken it changes from the Davros sounding voice into that of a Dalek.

Watch the trailer in the player, below:


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

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

* Unconfirmed

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

[Source: BBC]

3 July 2014

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

Day 549: Shada, Episode Three

Dear diary,

We’ve hit the tipping point with this episode, and suddenly a lot more of the story is being represented through animation rather than live action. I’ve been worrying about this a little bit, if I’m honest. Not because I’ve a problem with the animation, but because my over-riding memory of watching Shada for the first time on the BBC VHS was just how quickly it all zipped along. It wasn’t until starting out on the story this time around that I suddenly realised - it ‘zipped along’ because so much was being boiled down to some linking lines from Tom Baker! I’ve been worrying a bit that I’d not find it quite as fast-moving or exciting when having to watch it at the regular speed.

The bonus to having a higher proportion of the story in animated form is that I can really start to enjoy watching it this way. My biggest concern about the way the tale is presented for this version is that it intercuts between the live action footage and the animated sequences. When I was first told that, I really thought that it would be an odd experience, and perhaps not an entirely pleasant one, having to adjust every few scenes to something new. In actual fact, you don’t really notice it at all!

In this episode, for example, the TARDIS appears in an alleyway, and the Doctor hurries inside, slamming the door so fast behind him that his scarf gets caught in it. The next scene - in the TARDIS console room - is all animation, but it doesn’t feel out of place to be so. The only time I did sit up and take a moment to process events was when we cut to Romana and Chris trapped in a cell aboard Skagra’s ship. It only felt so out of place, though, because up to that point, every scene aboard the ship had been rendered as animation, and I assumed they’d never managed to build any of those sets!

I think it also helps that I’m just too busy enjoying the story to worry too much about the chopping and changing of formats. Today’s episode contains the only scene that I can remember fully from a previous watch (although I actually remember the version from the Big Finish audio), in which the Doctor manages to confuse a computer into thinking that he’s dead, and can therefore operate it despite an order to the contrary. It leads in to the cliffhanger for this episode, with the computer deciding that if the Doctor is dead, then he won’t need any oxygen, and so it’s been switched off to preserve power. I wonder, though, why that hadn’t happened before this point, since the computer was expecting the Doctor to be dead anyway…

The scariest bit of this episode, though, isn’t to do with the Doctor suffocating: it’s actually Skagra heading to the TARDIS with Romana. Not to worry, our favourite Time Lady has promised that she’ll never give Skagra the key, so he can’t get in to the ship anyway. That doesn’t matter, though, because he’s already taken the Doctor’s copy from his ‘lifeless’ body. Still, Romana and the Doctor are the only people around here who can even fly the TARDIS, so we’ve still got the upper hand. Ah, but Skagra has a copy of the Doctor’s mind - so if the Doctor could fly the TARDIS, then so can he… The ship is usually a place of safety, so when something like this happens (and through such a sinister character, too), it feels genuinely unsettling.

While I’m here, I need to take a moment just to sing the praises of K9. John Leeson is providing the voice for this animation, and it’s so nice to have him back. I’ve really missed K9 having this particular ‘personality’. There’s a sketch from a BBC Christmas Tape, made at the end of Season Sixteen, in which K9 cannot provide the Doctor with the information that he requires, and the Doctor responds… less than positively to the metal mutt. This episode seems to be hinged around the same joke - with K9 shooting at walls when Romana exclaims ‘blast it!’ in exasperation, and repeatedly telling Chris Parsons that he has ‘insufficient data’ to answer the man’s rhetorical questions! I’ve missed K9 being such an annoying little thing, and it’s good to have him back like this again!

 


2 July 2014

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

Day 548: Shada, Episode Two

Dear diary,

We get to see a fair bit more of the animation in this episode (though it’s still less than the filmed footage at this stage), and I have to admit that I’m quite enjoying it! It mixes somewhat 3-dimensional backgrounds with 2-dimensional characters, and that looks rather good, giving the shots a depth that could otherwise be lost. The characters themselves are spot on, too, with great likenesses captured for everyone so far. The only one who doesn’t quite work for me is Claire, but I think that may simply be because I’ve yet to see her real-life counterpart, so I have nothing to compare her to! As it stands, she just feels a little less… finished than the others do.

There’s only one thing that’s letting the animated segments down for me, and that’s the Tom Baker impersonation that’s used for them. I think Tom is the only surviving cast member who didn’t take part in the recording for this animated version, so it probably makes him stand out even more because everyone around him feels so authentic. It feels more like someone trying and not quite managing to capture Tom’s voice - almost trying too hard. Still, I may get used to it yet, because there’ll be plenty of opportunity to hear it over the next few days!

Animation aside, there’s an awful lot that I’m enjoying in this episode. People always talk of Shada as being a lost ‘classic’, and I usually dismiss it as a product of being lost that gives it such a reputation (in the same way that both The Tomb of the Cybermen and The Web of Fear took a bit of a knock from their ‘untouchable’ status once they were back in the archive and available for all to see). Despite enjoying the story the last time I saw it, I’m pleasantly surprised by just how much there is to love in this one, and I’m smiling along with much of the story as it progresses.

Of particular note today is the Doctor’s chase through the streets of Cambridge (not so gratuitous as the running through Paris scenes from a few stories back, but possibly because there’s less looking at local landmarks here), and I found myself watching the entire sequence simply wondering… why wasn’t this used for the Time Scoop scene in The Five Doctors? Oh, don’t get me wrong, I really enjoy the ‘vanishing from the punt’ scene that we actually ended up with, but this feels like it would be a great opportunity! For a start, the Doctor is actually being chased by something that could very easily be replaced with a black shape!

Aside from that, there’s lots to enjoy back in the professor’s study. The more I look at it, the more I find myself realising just what a beautiful set it is - yet another example of the BBC being better at doing the down-to-earth settings over any of the far-flung space age stuff. Maybe it’s a good job that the scenes inside Skagra’s ship are reduced to being on animation - because that set looks rather good there, too, freed from a BBC budget!

I’m surprised to see the Professor shuffling off this mortal coil quite so easily here, and I’m sure there must be a way around it, because I’m vaguely recalling other plot twists still to come. Denis Carey continues to be an absolute delight, making the Professor another character from this season that I’d love to see bumbling around time and space with the Doctor and Romana. It’s a part (and a performance) that I can easily imagine Patrick Troughton in, had he not been cast as the Doctor.

1 July 2014

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

Day 547: Shada, Episode One

Dear diary,

SHHHAAAADDDDAAAAAAAAAAAAAAA!

Sorry, it’s a force of habit, that. A bit like shouting back when someone fondly recalls Crackerjack. Oh, but everyone knows about Shada. The jewel in the crown of ‘lost’ Doctor Who stories. The tale that got a fair way into production - filming, even! - before being hit by strike action and never managing to be completed (despite numerous attempts by John Nathan-Turner once he’d taken over the producer’s chair for the following season). All along, I’ve planned to simply skip this story. It never made it to broadcast, so why should I include it as a part of the 50 Year Diary? But then I went and did Farewell, Great Macedon, which didn’t make it even this far through the production process, and the closer I’ve gotten to reaching this point of the programme’s history, the more I’ve been thinking that I probably should cover it in some way.

The question: how? Ironically, for the only story in Doctor Who history which made it part way through filming and never got completed, there are more completed versions of this tale out there than many other stories! The first, as for many ‘definitive’ version of the story comes from the BBC Video tape, realised in the early 1990s. About seven or eight years ago, copies of this tape used to go for silly money on eBay, but I was lucky enough to get one for a fairly reasonable price. I recall watching it and enjoying it on the whole, even if I can’t remember a great deal about it. Then it was remade by Big Finish, but this time starring the Eighth Doctor alongside Romana and K9! This version made it out as an animated webcast, and also as an extended CD version, which I listened to with Nick Mellish when we wrote a book about all of the Eighth Doctor’s adventures on audio. Again, I seem to recall enjoying it.

Back in the day, Shada was one of the very few Doctor Who stories which didn’t get novelised for Target books. Again, somewhat ironically, there are now multiple versions of the novelisation in existence! There’s one produced by the Doctor Who Appreciation Society by Jonathan V Way, another by the New Zealand Fan Club written by Paul Scoones, and more recently a version officially published by BBC Books written by Gareth Roberts, which was then released as an audiobook read by Lalla Ward.

Ward must be sick to death of Shada by now, because she’s recorded it four times over! In addition to the original recording, the Big Finish version and the BBC audiobook, she also returned to voice Romana in a fan-made animated version of the story made a few years ago. It’s this version that I’ll be watching for the next six days, since someone kindly sent me a copy when enquiring if I’d actually be doing Shada in some form for the marathon. I did briefly consider doing a different format for the story each day, but that seemed to be a little bit too much!

The first few episodes of the story (this one in particular) don’t suffer massively from the loss of recording, and so there’s only a few brief clips of animation at this stage. I’ll hold back discussing any of that for a day or two, until I’ve had a better chance to see what it’s like when there’s a lot more of it. As for the story itself… well, it’s just as much fun as I remember it being. It’s very much in the same humorous style that’s pervaded a few of the stories this season, and it’s great seeing the Doctor and Romana interacting with Professor Chronotis. With the way I’ve been enjoying our regulars’ relationship this season, this simply feels like they’ve brought in a doddery uncle to meet the newlyweds!

The thing that struck me the most about this episode is how oddly it’s structured. We don’t have any dialogue for the first two-and-a-half minutes, and even then it’s simply a recorded computer message being played out over loudspeaker. The first actual, proper, line of the story is ‘excuse me’, coming four-and-a-half minutes in. The episode doesn’t suffer because if it - if anything it works all the better as a result, because it makes that early scene with Skagra and the Sphere all the more unusual and un-nerving.

After that, the Doctor and Romana don’t actually appear until almost nine minutes in, but their involvement isn’t missed all that much, because frankly I’m loving the Professor enough to simply watch his antics! When the pair do appear, the feel of their lolling about Cambridge on the punt is reminiscent of the early parts of City of Death, with them simply enjoying each other’s company together in beautiful surroundings. Even once they get caught up in the story proper, visiting Chronotis and searching for the book there’s plenty of humour to be found between them, and it’s just fun to watch them together! 

30 June 2014

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

Day 546: The Horns of Nimon, Episode Four

Dear diary,

This episode marks a number of important moments for the history of Doctor Who. I’m artificially extending out Season Seventeen over the next six days with the inclusion of Shada, but since that story never made it to broadcast, this episode is officially the final appearance of several key things. It’s the last appearance of this particular title sequence, which has been in place since Tom Baker’s first season, and is an adaptation of the one used in Pertwee’s final one.

Along with the titles goes the ‘diamond’ logo for the programme, which has come to be such an emblem of the ‘classic’ series. It’s also the last time in the original BBC run that a story isn’t produced by John Nathan-Turner, who’ll be taking over from the next (broadcast) story, and then sticking around until shortly after the programme finishes in 1989. That said, the next story I’ll be watching didn’t make it out of the BBC until the early 1990s, with an edit produced by JN-T, so this really is the end of an era before he takes on the job.

Alongside those things, we also see the Doctor’s multi-coloured scarf for the final time. I’ve always thought of him as having several different scarves throughout his era - which he does - but when you watch through an episode a day like this, you start to lose track of them. The scarf he dons in this story may as well be the same one he emerges from the TARDIS wearing in Robot, for all the notice I’d have taken! This is also the final appearance of David Brierley as K9, with John Leeson taking back over again for the final days of the metal mutt in Season Eighteen (Leeson also voices K9 in the version of Shada I’ll be watching, so this really is the end for Brierley).

Despite this episode being such an important ‘tipping point’ for the programme, there’s no sense of that at all. Because The Horns of Nimon was never intended to close Season Seventeen, it has none of the scale, or grandeur that - say - The Invasion of Time or The Armageddon Factor had. In many ways, this is just a run-of-the-mill episode of Doctor Who, but that’s not necessarily a bad thing, and it’s by far my favourite episode of this serial.

As a story, The Horns of Nimon has felt a bit fractured. We start on the spaceship, move (briefly) through the planet before the Doctor, Romana, and all the supporting cast are trapped in the labyrinth. It’s never really felt like it’s managed to get going, but I think there’s a bit of energy injected with this part. Having the ability to show us more than one Nimon (it seems like a great expense to have them really only for this last episode), adds a little more threat to the story. Having one solitary creature stalking around the place wasn’t making much of an impact - now they’re en masse, they feel like more of a problem. Kenny McBain’s direction does a decent job of making it feel like there’s more of them, too, though I’m sorry to say that I’ve noticed in this episode that they walk as though they desperately need the loo… and once you’ve seen that, you can’t forget about it!

I’ve also found that the idea of them hopping from world to world, destroying them as they go, is an idea that really chimes with me. I’m fascinated by the idea that Romana can effectively meet Soldeed’s counterpart on another world that’s further along the ‘Journey of Life’ than Skonnos is. I almost wish that they’d made more of this fact through the story - moving back and forth between the worlds to really hammer home the threat that’s facing these people. I also wonder if I’d have liked Soldeed to come fact-to-face with his ‘other’, and really see the error of his ways.

While I’m on the subject of Soldeed… During each episode of this story, I’ve made note to mention him. When I’ve sat down to actually write the entries, though, I’ve never really been able to find the right words. It has to be said that Graham Crowden is really going for it (whatever it may be) with his performance in this story, and it feels almost like the last of the Williams-era eccentricities, sending this phase of the programme out on a high. Even though it’s such an over-the-top performance, I think it actually works! I’ve certain enjoyed watching him, and it’s not harmed the story for me. Crowden was on the short list of people to play the part of the Fourth Doctor back in 1974, and I think this episode may give us an indication of where he may have taken the series if he’d been cast!

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