Time Lord Tees

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6 August 2014

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

Day 583: Castrovalva, Episode Two

Dear diary,

There are very few bits of music from ‘classic’ Doctor Who that I can hum off the top of my head. The ‘Space Adventure’ theme that was so typical of the Cybermen in the 1960s is one of them. The ‘UNIT Theme’ from The Invasion (among others) is another one, and the music that accompanies Tom Baker’s regeneration scene, as the camera moves down from the girder to find out hero laying in the grass is another. Although I know these ones well enough to hum them while doing the dishes, the theme from this story is the only one which I occasionally find stuck in my head at the most unusual of moments. Oh, you know the one I mean: do de do de do, do, de do.... I rather like it, and there’s something about it that just makes me feel all warm and fuzzy inside.

Last season, I mentioned that this period of the programme feels autumnal to me. For some reason, I simply equate it with that tail- end-of-the-year feeling, and perhaps none mores that this tale. I can’t even begin to describe why to you, but I watched this episode with a huge feeling of nostalgia - it just makes me feel comfortable. I can remember the first time I saw this story. It was some time before the DVD came out, and I hadn’t been a fan for all that long. I’d say it was probably around 2005, but it could even be as late as 2006. In the farmhouse I grew up in, I’d converted one of the back bedrooms into my own sitting room, moving in a massive old book case, and a couple of old armchairs when the suite of furniture downstairs had been replaced. This became my den. The walls were covered with posters of anything and everything, and the shelves were filled with as much ‘geeky’ stuff as I could lay my hands on.

Oh, I loved that room. The absolute pride of it was the growing collection of Doctor Who stories sat upon the bookcase. It was an odd assortment - a mixture of VHS and DVD, with the stories slotted in to match broadcast order. I used to pick up odd tapes from charity shops, or make lists of ones from adverts in Doctor Who Magazine to hand around for my birthday, or Christmas. I can’t recall how long I’d actually owned Castrovalva, but it had been on the shelf for a while before I decided to watch it for the first time. What followed was one of the happiest times I’ve ever had watching Doctor Who. I made myself a drink and something to eat, curled up in one of the armchairs with a big quilt wrapped around me, and settled in to enjoy Peter Davison’s first story.

And you know what? I loved it. I loved every god damn minute of it. There was something about it all that just really appealed to me. I was at that stage which most fans go through, where a story largely set in the TARDIS was awesome, because it meant that we got to explore the Doctor’s ship, and when we finally reached the woodlands of Castrovalva itself, they resembled the gardens outside where I’d go for walks. I lapped up every minute of the story, and it’s that feeling that’s coming back to me now when I watch it again (I think this is probably the first time I’ve seen it since then).

I wonder, though, if the happy memory of that first viewing is effecting how much I’m liking this one? I’m happily sitting through it, enjoying the story, but with a sneaking suspicion that it might not actually be all that... good. Today’s episode features a long segment in which two characters we barely know wheel a cabinet around the woods, for instance! It’s still not the most thrilling way to introduce a new Doctor! Patrick Troughton got to face off with the Daleks, Jon Pertwee had the Autons to contend with, plus a military organisation, and the benefit of film, while Tom Baker was wrestling with a Giant Robot by this point! Everything seems to be just that bit too... slow for me.

But it’s ok, because I’ve got faith. The whole set up changes from this next episode, and we’re off into the city itself with a whole new cast of characters. It’s hard to remember that aside from the guards at the very start of the story, we’ve only actually seen the regulars so far (Anthony Ainley might as well count as a ‘regular’ from now), so I think some new blood will give the story a boost. I’ve tried to temper today’s score to allow for the fact that a lot of my enjoyment currently is simply that glowing sense of nostalgia...

5 August 2014

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

Day 582:
Castrovalva, Episode One

Dear diary,

I’d forgotten what an odd opening episode this is for a new Doctor. Having gone with a relatively unknown actor in Tom Baker for the part of the Fourth Doctor, this time around they’ve cast Peter Davison in the role - and he’s somewhat famous at the time of all this, what with his work on All Creatures Great and Small, among  other things. Lots of expectation, all eyes on the first episode of the Fifth Doctor, a show being re-launched in a new slot away from the Saturday night home it’s had for the last eighteen seasons... and they go with showing this.

That probably sounds a lot more negative that I’m intending it to, because this isn’t a bad episode. In many ways, it’s quite a strong episode. It’s simply a bit of an unusual choice to go with when you’re trying to present your new Doctor to the public for the first time. For starters, it opens picking up the events from Logopolis. That’s fine, in a way, because we’re given a recap of the regeneration before the titles start (the first pre-credits sequence we’ve ever had?), but I sort of want them to hurry up, get in the TARDIS, and be off. It probably doesn’t help that I didn’t take to the last story, so I’m keen to be away from it as quickly as possible. But then even when we do finally make it back to the TARDIS, we spend the whole bloody episode in there!

It’s lucky, really, that we’ve got quite a strong team on hand here, both in terms of the actors and the characters. This particular TARDIS crew come in for a lot of stick from various parts of fandom, but they really do work well in this episode. I love that the Doctor can call on all of them to help him in this time of need, and assign roles for them that suit their personalities. If anything, my biggest issue is still how well Tegan has settled in to all of this... but I’m enjoying her so much that it’s hard to really care too much. I’m hoping that this slightly jarring feeling of having her so au fait with everything, taking it all in her stride while still having only been around for a single afternoon!

And then there’s the new Doctor himself. This isn’t the first story that Peter Davison recorded as the Doctor (he started with Four to Doomsday, to ‘bed in’ to the role a little first), but it’s amazing just how well he takes to everything here. I love his near-breakdown when he’s roaming the corridors, and unravelling the Fourth Doctor’s scarf as he goes couldn’t be more perfectly symbolic. His impersonations of the earlier Doctor’s aren’t the best, but that’s besides the point - he’s very good when he’s just doing his own thing. I think we’re probably in for a treat with this one.

There’s the traditional ‘choosing an outfit’ scene, although it’s less about ‘choosing’ and outfit, and more just picking up the first one he sees. I don’t dislike this idea, though, and I really enjoy that he tries the recorder first, decides that it’s not for him, then suddenly realises his affinity with a cricket bat. I assume that the clothes were left out for him by the Watcher (it’s the only logical explanation, surely?) but I do rather wish that there’d been a few outfits, and he realised that this was the one for him.

On the whole, this entry of the Diary has sounded very negative, but I assure you that it’s not supposed to. I have enjoyed today’s episode, and they much have done something right - 9.1 million viewers tuned in to see Peter Davison’s first appearance as the Doctor, but by Episode Four of this story, the ratings will have hit 10.4 million! When you compare that to the fact that Logopolis Part Four, which saw off the ‘most popular Doctor ever’ only attracted an audience of 6.1 million (and Season Eighteen as a whole attracted a high of 8.3)... you start to wonder if this refresh of the programme was the best thing they could have done, after all.

4 August 2014

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

Day 581: K9 & Company: A Girl’s Best Friend

Dear diary,

So here it is. Merry Christmas. I know, I know, I said I was eager to get on to the Peter Davison stories (and I am. Just be thankful that I’m not doing the Five Faces of Doctor Who season. I considered it. Genuinely), but you can’t do a marathon, going from Logopolis to Castrovalva without making a pit stop in the middle to watch K9 & Company. Well, I can’t anyway. I’m sure I’ve mentioned before in the Dairy just how much I love The Sarah Jane Adventures. I do, really. They’re brilliant. What we’ve got here is - effectively - a pilot for that series, but made 25 years early. The thing about pilot episodes, though, is that they’re not always the best example of the series that follows. That’s certainly the case with A Girl’s Best Friend - were it to be considered as a part of The Sarah Jane Adventures, it would be a long shot from the best story in the run.

I think what bothers me about this story is that there’s so much potential in the idea, and it’s simply wasted. The idea of Sarah Jane Smith teaming up with K9 and a young companion to investigate things is a great one (and they proved that it can work well when they made it in to five seasons later on), but you do wonder why they’ve decided to launch the series with this story. There’s lots of talk about market gardening which isn’t... well... it isn’t the most thrilling dialogue that the Doctor Who universe has ever given us. Indeed, early on in the story before K9 arrives I even found myself feeling somewhat bored by everything.

The story just doesn’t flow well for me. Scenes are cut together in a way which removes all sense of time scale from events - Lavina is at home, preparing to leave. Suddenly, Sarah Jane is arriving - it’s a few weeks later. Then she’s got to pick Brendan up from the train station, and within the space of a minute, she’s made the trip, met him, had a chat, and come home again. From the manor house to the neighbours and back again... you easily get lost with everything that’s happening, which is odd, really, because not an awful lot is happening. The story never feels like it really gets going.

I think what they needed if they wanted to really sell the idea of a Sarah Jane and K9 spin off was to have something big and spectacular. If nothing else, this went out around Christmas, and while it captures the feel of the winter brilliantly, there’s nothing that really screams at me that this is something I need to be watching. When Sarah announces that she’s come to Morton Harwood for the foreseeable future, you start to wonder if every episode would be like this one. Perish the thought!

It feels like it needs some aliens in there somewhere, really. Probably some from Doctor Who, if they want to sell the idea even harder. Maybe Zygons could work, impersonating the locals? You could go for a Sontaran scout if you wanted (a story like The Last Sontaran from the second series of The Sarah Jane Adventures, for example), or even the Master! As it is, everything feels somewhat wasted - even K9. Once he’s out of his box, he gives us some more thrilling info about the gardening, shoots a few people... and that’s about it. You almost want him to trundle out of the box, announce that he’s been sent by the Doctor-Master to help Sarah Jane with some specific alien threat, and then go from there. Were we not between Doctors, you’d also almost want the TARDIS to appear at the end, so that the Doctor himself can tell Sarah to keep the tin dog (incidentally, I love that the Fourth Doctor’a three main companions - Sarah Jane, Leela, and Romana - have all ended up with their own versions of the mutt.)

It’s quite strange, writing this entry, because I’m suddenly realising that I disliked the story more than I even realised. A shame, because I so want to enjoy is based on everything that came afterwards. Still, as an interesting diversion between Doctors, it’s perfectly watchable - and I don’t know if I’d be so down on it had I not known what it could have been like. I’ll be doing some episodes of The Sarah Jane Adventures when the time comes, so here’s hoping that I can see them in a much better light!

4 August 2014

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

Day 580 Extra: Fourth Doctor Overview

Dear diary,

Well. It feels like a long old time since I’ve had to write one of these entries, doesn’t it? As is tradition, let’s take a look back to my Third Doctor Overview (posted way back on February 4th) and see what I said about the era ahead of me...

And now I’m off into a bold new era. It’s a bit of a false start from tomorrow, because while Tom Baker is new to the mix, we’ve still got the same UNIT lab, with Bessie, and the Brig, and Barry Letts in the producer’s chair. It’s a few days from now, when The Ark in Space rolls around and Philip Hinchcliffe takes over the reigns that I’ll be entering the period that’s repeatedly held up as being ‘the best Doctor Who ever made’.

...I’ve never really understood the fuss. I’ve seen plenty of his stories before, and while I know he’s very good in the role, I’ve never been completely floored by his performance in the way that people seem to expect you to be. But I’m excited. Watching through this far has given me a whole new perspective and insight into the first eleven years of the programme, and I’m sure I’ll keep finding things to love as I move into the Fourth Doctor’s era.

All of that sounds cautiously optimistic, doesn’t it? I’m pleased to say that these last seven seasons have given me a great insight in to the Fourth Doctor, and I can understand why people love him so much, even if I’m still not able to call him my favourite Doctor ever. As usual, in the sidebar to the right, you’ll find a list of all the Fourth Doctor stores, listed by their average rating from The 50 Year Diary. You can click on the image for a larger one.

As ever, looking at the figures gives some somewhat surprising results for me. I’d expected my highest rated seasons to be Season Fourteen (for the boost the programme gets when Leela joined), and Season Eighteen, because I’ve felt as though I’ve really enjoyed this one. Actually, though, Season Thirteen takes the lead, with a whopping average of 7.22/10 - making it one of my highest rated seasons ever! Maybe there is something to the idea of calling that period a ‘golden age’!

At the other end of the spectrum, the Key to Time arc in Season Sixteen has come out as my lowest rated season ever - averaging just 5.81/10. I think I’d just grown weary of things by that point, and a dislike for The Pirate Planet really didn’t help matters very much. Indeed, that story came in as my lowest rated of all the Fourth Doctor’s tales - averaging just 3.75 across the four episodes. It’s a score which also (sorry, The Pirate Planet) pushes it in to being my lowest rated story of the first eighteen seasons. Ouch.

That Season Fourteen ‘Leela Boost’ does rear its head in the figures, though, because The Face of Evil has come out as my highest rated Tom Baker story - with an average of 8.25. It’s not enough to push it in to the spot of ‘top story’, but it does make it joint-fourth place alongside The Macra Terror and Inferno. Well done, Evil One!

And that’s that! Seven seasons later, Tom Baker has hung up his scarf and handed over the keys of the TARDIS to Peter Davison. I’m really looking forward to this new era, and seeing how it stacks up against everything that we’ve been through so far. The Tom Baker years have been a bit of an up-and-down, with stories from all three producer- ships doing both very well, and not so well. As with all Doctor Who, there’s good bits and bad bits, but there’s always something to enjoy.

Most surprising to me was that on average, Tom is actually my least favourite Doctor! With an average of 6.54 across his seven seasons, he comes in marginally behind William Hartnell in the runnings (which also surprises me, because I remember rather liking Hartnell). I guess if there’s a moral to this, it’s that I don’t really have a ‘least favourite Doctor. Not really. He just happens to be my fourth favourite at the moment...

Although this last season has taken place in the 1980s, it’s really the arrival of Davison to the role which kicks off the decade, and it’s not one which is famed for being Doctor Who’s best. I’m keen to get on with it, though, and see what I think... 

3 August 2014

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

Day 580: Logopolis, Episode Four

Dear diary,

In some ways, it seems almost inconceivable that Tom Baker can have left Doctor Who. He’s been striding his way through time and space for seven seasons, and yet suddenly, as this episode ends, there’s some youthful-looking man laying around, swamped by the over-sized clothes of the Doctor.

I think any story would have a tough job to write out the man whom really does embody the programme. Unfortunately, for me, Logopolis has fallen even shorter than you might expect it to. Let’s start with some positives, though. For a start, this is my favourite episode of the story. Bringing it back down to Earth again really does help, and even though the Pharos Project control room is the same set that we’ve been seeing for a few episodes now, there’s something about seeing a regular person in there, instead of a man in robes with ‘sic fi’ hair, which just makes it so much more relatable.

This is also the signs of our three companion team starting to really gel with each other. Nyssa and Adric had plenty of time during The Keeper of Traken to bond, and it’s great to see how well they work together here, too. Tegan launching herself in to the fray is rather brilliant, too. While I’m still not entirely convinced that she’s been given a proper character yet, there’s some basic elements in here that are starting to feel believable - she helps the Doctor not simply because, as she puts it, he’s her ‘ticket out’ of the situation, but because she can see that he’s a good man, and needs someone at this point in his life.

I’ve made a fair few notes about things to mention today - largely about the companions as mentioned above (though I’ve also made note to say how brilliant Sarah Sutton is when she watched her home world destroyed. ‘I can’t see Traken...’ is wonderfully understated, and it’s played beautifully), or about the special effects. There’s some good ones on display here - the Monitor’s death, for example - and some less-effective ones... is that a cardboard cut out of Anthony Ainley watching as the Doctor starts to lose his footing on the telescope?

But all that seems largely irrelevant, because what we’re really here to see is the death of the Fourth Doctor. I’ve never been able to make up my mind about this. Is it perfectly small-scale, allowing the Doctor to go out in such a simple way (albeit having saved the entire universe!), or is it just too simple for this longest-lived of all Doctors? To be honest, I’m still not sure if I know the answer to that one. Having sat through so many Tom Baker episodes, it still doesn’t quite compute that this could have been it. I think, for now, I’m siding with the idea that it was a bit of a naff way to go.

It’s not helped, of course, by the fact that Logopolis just hasn’t worked for me in general. Can you imagine this story without the regeneration at the end? If it were to finish with the Master simply getting away (chuckling, I’d imagine), and the Doctor heading off to the TARDIS two companions heavier, I think it would be thought of as one of the weaker Doctor Who stories of all time. It’s not faired too poorly as it is, coming in at number 62 in the recent Doctor Who Magazine poll - significantly higher than I think I’d have placed it... This feels like a let down to me as the end of Season Eighteen, let alone as the end of Tom Baker’s Doctor.

Ah well, you can’t win them all.

(The traditional 'Doctor Overview' post will be coming up tomorrow, along with a side-step to catch up with Sarah jane and K9...)

 
(Aside-steptomorrow,tocatchupwithSarahJaneandK9,andalsolookbackontheFourthDoctyor\'sera...)
2 August 2014

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

Day 579: Logopolis, Episode Three

Dear diary,

Good news, everyone! I’ve finally managed to understand what Logopolis (the place, not necessarily the story) is all about. I’ve always known the vague specifics of it, but never really got my head around it properly. It actually seems to be quite simple, now - in the same way that the Carrionites can use words as powerful science to make things happen, so too the people of Logopolis are able to use a string of complex mathematics to alter the universe around them. The power of these calculations are so powerful that they can’t be done in something as crude as a computer, because the equations would alter the state of the machinery itself. The only thing capable of withstanding it is a living mind. Ok, great, with it so far.

But that’s not necessarily the interesting part of the idea. I’d never really worked out how the whole idea of entropy factored in to this. The idea that the Universe should have died a long time ago, and that the peoples of this world are keeping it going through the use of their equations is fascinating, and I love that it was they who created the CVE that the TARDIS travelled through earlier in the season to get to E-Space - it just feels like quite a neat idea. It means that I also understand better now why the universe starts collapsing so quickly after the Master has enacted his plan.

Ah, yes, the Master. For every bit of good news, there usually has to be some kind of bad news to balance things out. I’m afraid that today, it has to be him. It feels like the production team have sat down with the plots to all of the Pertwee Master stories and realised that the usual pattern is for the Master to enact some kind of plan to dominate/kill/be generally evil (delete as appropriate), and then find he needs the Doctor’s help once he’s in too deep. In this story, all of that’s been boiled down to this single episode! The Doctor realises that the Master’s target is Logopolis... but... um... why? He doesn’t seem to realise what power the numbers here have, so he can’t be planning to use them to bend the universe to his will. As it stands, it looks like all of this was simply because he wanted to know why they’d build a big radar dish in the middle of their city. And the Doctor thinks that curiosity is his own downfall!

He gains the upper hand for a few minutes while he shuts everyone up, then instantly realises what a bad idea it is and grudgingly agrees to help the Doctor put it right again. I know he’ll turn on our hero in the next episode, but he genuinely seems to be taken aback by everything that’s happening here, so his whole plan looks ridiculously weak. It’s also not helped by the fact that Anthony Ainley has clearly been asked to play the part as a proper panto villain - there’s none of the subtleties of his Tremas performance in here. Even when he’s just having to push buttons on a remote control, it’s done with over-the-top-gestures and just generally hammy.

He’s somewhat offset by Tom Baker, though. For much of the episode, he’s on auto-pilot. That’s not always a bad thing - it suits the Doctor’s state of mind in this story quite well. As he strides through the streets of Logopolis, Tom has a look of just wanting to get it over with and be gone, which is somewhat fitting for a Doctor who’s well aware that this will be his final adventure in his current form. When he needs to hit the mark, though, dear God does he do it. His rant at the end of the episode about choosing his own company is glorious, and easily up there with the performance from Planet of Evil that I so often rave about. I thought he’d managed to capture some of that again in Full Circle, but nothing quite as wonderful as he does here - it’s a delight to see him giving such a powerful bit of acting one last time before leaving the series.

It’s also oddly true, in a way that I’d never noticed before. On the whole, the Fourth Doctor hasn’t really chosen his companions. If we want to dig further back, then it’s true that in the last decade or so, he’s not really chosen any of them. Liz and Jo were foisted on him by UNIT. Sarah Jane stumbled in to the TARDIS, but they got on well so he let her stay on. Leela forces her way in and sets them off before he can stop her. Professor Marius asked him to take K9, and Leela really wouldn’t have let him say no. Romana was sent by the White Guardian. Adric, as pointed out is a stowaway, Nyssa begged for his help, and Tegan has her curiosity to blame. The only companion he’s really ‘chosen’ for himself in the last few years is Harry - and even then it’s only because he wants to show off!

While I’m on the subject of companions... Tegan. It’s been an odd introduction for her character - possibly the oddest since Dodo (and perhaps even more so than that one!). Her three episodes so far have been something of an emotional roller coaster for her, but I really can’t decide if I’m liking the way she’s been written or not. She seems to settle in perfectly well when confronted with an alien world, taking it all in her stride. She’s believably upset when she discovers that her aunt has been murdered (the fact that you hear her crying in the background for a minute or so even after she’s left the screen and the focus isn’t on her is a beautiful touch), but then she’s all but forgotten it a few scenes later... by the end, when she’s against the Doctor and the Master teaming up, she seems to be fully up-to-speed with everything that comes with being a companion. I’m hoping that she’s rounded out as we go along - all the right elements are there, but they’re being thrown at us so thick and fast that none really have the chance to bed in.

And, actually, that’s not a bad analogy for Logopolis as a whole...

1 August 2014

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

Day 578:
Logopolis, Episode Two

Dear diary,

Frankly, this episode is bonkers. Genuinely, I’m used to the way that Doctor Who works - able to go anywhere and do anything, adapting its format to suit any story you care to tell - but I’ve come away from today’s episode with a headache. It’s all so... odd.

To start with, you’ve got the Doctor being arrested. Now, that doesn’t sound particularly out there, but it does look very unusual to see Tom Baker’s Doctor being directed into the back of a police car. I wonder if it would have felt less unusual with the Third Doctor, considering how used to seeing him on Earth I was? This incarnation has spent more time on contemporary Earth than I expected him to, but even then it’s in places like laboratories, or old houses (sometimes, both): it’s rare to see him in such an ‘everyday’ situation as this. That’s not a complaint - it’s actually quite interesting to see him like this. I know he can talk his way out of a showdown with a monster, but you almost wonder how he’ll pull of escaping from the police.

It’s after that that things start to go really off-the-wall. The Doctor reasons that the Master’s TARDIS must still be inside his ship somewhere. Ok, that’s quite neat idea. You could use that as the basis of a story in itself (a short one, perhaps...) as the Doctor and Adric get caught up in a chase around ever-moving TARDIS corridors in the hunt for their foe. What’s barmy is his realisation that the only viable solution is to materialise underwater and use the force of that to flush the Master out of the ship. I genuinely cannot get my head around this. For a start... where’s the Master going to come out? Is there a back door large enough for the water to force him out of? How does the Doctor think he’s going to cope after that, with a ship full of water? Does he really think that he and Adric can simply hold on to something to avoid being washed away? Absolutely bizarre.

In fairness, though, it leads to a couple of wonderful moments, and the ones that I enjoyed the most in today’s episode. First, the Doctor tells Adric that they’ve managed to perfect a nice soft touchdown. Seconds later, the ship lurches, and they’re thrown to the ground. There’s something about the timing of that sequence that just really works, and had me laughing. Then the image of the TARDIS having materialised on the boat is also wonderful, as is the shot that follows, of the Doctor spotting the white figure on the bridge overlooking them. It’s a great image when he goes to speak with this watcher, and you simply see the Doctor hang his head. Really quite striking, and probably the first time that you get a real sense that the end is fast approaching.

From here, we continue down the route of simply strange sequences, with the Doctor and his companions arriving on Logopolis, where the universe is held together by a group of people doing sums. I’ve never been able to really get my head around this place, either, but I’ll see what tomorrow’s instalment has to offer before I try to pick at this any further. Before the episode is out, Nyssa has suddenly turned up (despite an earlier message warning of her father’s disappearance, this feels entirely random - and besides, how does she get in touch with the Doctor? Did he leave a space-time telegraph on Traken? Maybe Adric simply gave her his number in a hopeful teenage way?), and the TARDIS has begun to shrink.

I’ve come out of this episode just lost, and I’m not sure - those few brief examples above - that I’ve enjoyed it.

1 August 2014

Luken Communications has announced the highly-anticipated debut of Doctor Who on Retro TV coming this Monday 4th August. Beginning with the very first episode of the series, “An Unearthly Child,” American fans of the science fiction classic can find two episodes of Doctor Who back-to-back every weeknight at 8:00PM ET/PT on Retro TV.

Retro TV will be showcasing the series’ classic run, featuring the first seven incarnations of The Doctor: William Hartnell, Patrick Troughton, Jon Pertwee, Tom Baker, Peter Davison, Colin Baker and Sylvester McCoy.

Matthew Golden, Luken’s Vice President of Production, said:

“We’re excited to set a fixed point in time for the arrival of classic episodes of Doctor Who on Retro TV. These meticulously restored episodes will bring the history of the Doctor to the U.S. in a way that viewers have never seen before.” 

In addition to the weeknight schedule, a two hour encore block will air on Saturday evenings as part of Retro TV’s new Sci-Fi Saturday. Starting at 6:00PM ET/PT, viewers can enjoy the supernatural anthology One Step Beyond, Doctor Who and Mystery Science Theater 3000.

For more information on Retro TV or to find a Retro TV affiliate in your area, please visit www.watchretrotv.com. Everyone at Retro TV is dedicated to expanding the network’s footprint. If you do not yet have a Retro TV affiliate in your area, you can help by contacting your local TV stations to request that they add Retro TV to their subchannel lineup. Retro TV can be found on Facebook at www.facebook.com/watchretrotv and on Twitter at www.twitter.com/watchretrotv.

[Source: Retro TV]

31 July 2014

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

Day 577: Logopolis, Episode One

Dear diary,

Picture the scene: It’s early 1981. After seven years in the role, Tom Baker is about to begin his final adventure. Just four episodes until he departs the TARDIS, and that bloke from All Creatures Great and Small is about to take over. For a generation of kids, this is inconceivable. Tom Baker has been the Doctor (I know, I’ve already said it, but it bears repeating) for seven years. To many of the children watching, he’s the only Doctor. Even if they were old enough to remember a time when Jon Pertwee used to save the universe, all of that was a lifetime ago in the world before repeats. It’s a momentous occasion, and you can only wonder what will be enough to finish off this incarnation of the Time Lord. You sit down, ready to begin the march to the end...

And then, they show this. Bloody hell. I’m sorry, but this episode is just dull! Don’t get me wrong - there’s plenty of nice things about it, and I’ll come to those in a moment, but as the start of such a momentous story, it’s really, really boring. All that happens, really, is the Doctor paces around the TARDIS a bit, and some Australian you’ve never seen before tries to replace a flat tire on the side of a bypass. I’m bored watching it now, so I can’t imagine how kids must have found it thirty years ago.

Now, I need to be fair, I suppose. when I say ‘the Doctor paces around the TARDIS a bit’, I’m being facetious. Boiled down simply, that is all he does, but he breaks it up with some measuring in the middle. No, sorry, I’m still not being fair. It’s given some character by the whole ‘recursive TARDIS’ stuff (and, I have to admit, that the image of the Doctor and Adric walking from TARDIS to TARDIS as they each get progressively darker is one that’s stuck in my mind for years. This, at least, would have captivated me as a kid... although the Doctor suddenly emerging from the back of the police box always felt rubbish, and it still does here).

In the case of the ‘Australian you’ve never seen before’, it has to be said that Janet Fielding makes a striking impression. That voice! It’s quite nice to see her arriving now, as I’ve always thought of Tegan as one of my favourite companions. I’m perhaps forgiving because I know of her significance to the programme over the next few years, because she really isn’t given a whole lot to do in this episode. I’m not sure I’d care at all about her scenes if I didn’t know that she was about to join us as a companion. The one highlight to come from these sequences today is that I’ve only just realised that the Watcher seems to show up and... um... watch her. It sort of adds something to the idea of him rippling back through time time stream, but it’s again something you only really connect with if you know who she is.

It’s in times like this that I always seem to turn to my friend Nick for feedback. Today was put simply, when I told him that I was thoroughly bored throughout this episode. Nick and I often have very similar views on Doctor Who stories, so it’s always interesting when we differ. This may be one of those times, because he suggested that he may end up championing the story if I don’t care for it. He pointed out how much he liked ‘sombre direction and atmosphere’, which I have to admit are rather nice here, and I’ll be looking out for it more in the coming episodes, but he also vocalised my problem with the episode far better than I could: ‘the script is not aimed at children or even a family audience’. I think that’s possibly my issue - I just can’t connect with the episode because it’s not aimed at the same level as Doctor Who usually is.

There’s one other interesting possibility at play. I’ve seen Logopolis before, and my vague memory is that I didn’t much care for it. Maybe, having been through all the other Tom Baker episodes in the last six months, it’s just not going to feel like a fitting end for such a powerful and important figure in the programme’s history?

31 July 2014

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

'The Impossible Set' features The Doctor from 'The Snowmen' and Clara from 'Asylum Of The Daleks'.

Product Details:

Clara and the Doctor: Linked through time in the most impossible way!

Clara 'Oswin' Oswald: The Impossible Girl. She and the Doctor first met on the Dalek Asylum planet where she claimed to have been fending off Dalek attacks for a year, making soufflés - where did she get the milk and eggs? Oswin agreed to deactivate the forcefield around the planet, but when human the Doctor went to rescue her, he discovered the terrible truth. Oswin wasn't a girl any longer, but actually an insane Dalek who, unable to cope with her conversion, had retreated into a fantasy world. Oswin fulfilled her promise of helping the Doctor, telling him to "Run. Run, you clever boy, and remember..." They will meet again... and again.

The Doctor, appalled by his inability to save Amy and Rory from the Weeping Angels, retreated to Earth and hid himself and the TARDIS away from the Universe. Another chance but ill-fated meeting with Clara Oswald in snowy Victorian London pulled him out of his solitude and set him back on a new adventure.... to find the Impossible Girl!

Set details:

Presented here in the Impossible Set, together but apart, are the Eleventh Doctor in his iconic Victorian frock coat from The Snowmen, and Oswin Oswald, the Impossible Girl, in her iconic red dress from Asylum of the Daleks. The Doctor's outfit features his top hat and jacket with fur and brocade detailing. Oswin's outfit is a one piece red dress with her soufflé-making accessory belt. The set is presented in a unique double sided foil embellished SDCC collector pack with 'peephole' Dalek eye window on one side and a Victorian winter vista on the other.

Contents:

•  The 11th Doctor in Victorian Frock Coat Action Figure.
•  Oswin Oswald Action Figure.
•  Souffle Accessory.

** Previously available as a San Diego Comic Con 2014 Exclusive, this set is now available exclusively through Forbidden Planet

+  'The Impossible Set' is released in August 2014, priced £29.99.
+  Order Now from Forbidden Planet!

[Source: Forbidden Planet]

<mce:script

30 July 2014

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

Day 576: The Keeper of Traken, Episode Four

Dear diary,

I can’t decide if the Doctor is trying to play along with the Master’s game in this story, or if he’s just being especially slow this week. There seems to be a point early on in the episode where the Doctor clearly knows that the Master is the one controlling the Melkur (though he doesn’t say as much), but then later on, when he’s trapped inside the thing, he seems somewhat surprised to find that it’s his old foe behind events here. I’d imagine that there’s a way of reading these events as the Fourth Doctor getting a bit slow - another sign of his approaching death - but that only seems to find its way into events because I know the magnitude of the next story, not because it’s been actively inserted to the story here.

But this is just a symptom of a wider issue at play here - it feels like all the build up has been for very little. In the special features for this story on the DVD, Christopher Bidmead makes mention of the Master being shoehorned into the script at the last minute, and I think I can see his point in this final episode. The fact that the Master is inside the Melkur is really irrelevant, and the story would work just as well if the creature was simply a being that had bided its time in the garden on Traken for years, waiting for the right time to seize control and make a move. In fact, there’s almost something quite clever in there, with the idea that all evil turns to stone in the goodness of Traken, but if the Melkur were a creature made of stone, then it could be immune... Then there’s the idea of people flocking to worship at the cult of the Melkur (something which is touched on and then seemingly forgotten in the story as-is), which could also provide an interesting story.

If anything, I’d dare to say that the story is almost weakened by the reveal that the Master has been pulling the strings all along, because it’s such a weak denouement here that I’m left completely underwhelmed by his return. I mused yesterday that the audience may not have really remembered or cared who this person was on the original transmission, but all the same, it feels like I should be punching the air with surprise at the return of the Doctor’s greatest foe. When the final scene comes along and Tremas is taken over by the Master, it’s all the more out-of-place - it feels tacked on (it is).

Still, for all my sourness at the way the Master has been used here, I have to admit that I’ve rather enjoyed The Keeper of Traken as a whole. The world really feels more rounded and complete than we’ve been seeing in the series for a while (though it’s becoming more common in Season Eighteen, with the likes of Full Circle and State of Decay featuring worlds just as whole as Traken), and I’ve liked spending the last few days here. Now, though, I’m heading in to Tom Baker’s final story as the Doctor... and that feels like a pretty special moment...

30 July 2014

On Sunday 3rd August, Spaceport will be welcoming a brand new Doctor Who exhibit to the Time Travellers exhibition. A lifelike sculpture of The Fourth Doctor and Liverpool native, Tom Baker has been skilfully created by Phil Robinson and will be carefully installed by Phil this weekend. 

Tom Baker played the iconic role of The Doctor from 1974 to 1981 and remains a firm favourite of Whovians to this day. The Tom Baker sculpture joins life-sized replica Daleks, Cyberman, K9 and many others alongside memorabilia ranging from the 1970’s to the present day. With the Robots exhibition also at Spaceport including Wall-E, Terminator, Futurama’s Bender Westworld Robot Gunfighter Yul Brynner so there’s something to enthral every sci-fi fan in the family. 

Intrepid space explorers can also enjoy unlimited simulator rides & take a virtual journey through space in the 360 degree space dome theatre, venture through the themed galleries, interactive hands-on exhibits and exciting audio visual experiences then if you’re feeling peckish refuel at the cafe and play area at Seacombe terminal. Make a day of it with a trip on the iconic Mersey Ferry, with great value family prices** combination tickets available for River Explorer cruise and Spaceport.

The Time Travellers exhibition, featuring replica props and costumes, has been put together by Hyde Fundraisers to raise money for BBC Children In Need and other charities. 

**Adult Combination Ticket: £13, Child Combination Ticket: £7.50, Family Combination Ticket: £33.50, Concession Combination Ticket: £11 (Concession tickets are available for seniors aged 60 and over and students - valid NUS card required). 

[Source: Spaceport] 

29 July 2014

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

Day 575: The Keeper of Traken, Episode Three

Dear diary,

I’m so used to thinking of this story as the first part of a ‘Master trilogy’, that it’s easy to forget that he doesn’t actually show up until this point in the story! We’ve heard his voice right the way though, and there’s been hands flicking switches for a while, but it’s not until the end of this episode that he finally swings around to reveal himself to the audience (and I can’t help thinking that he has the look of an excited puppy in doing so!), and announce his true identity - even if the Doctor doesn’t know it yet.

My wonder is, though... did this have impact when it first went out? The Master here is only a slightly modified version of the one seen in The Deadly Assassin (am I right in thinking that one story goes that they found the cloak from that story in the skip just as they were preparing for this one, and salvaged it in time?), but that last appearance was ages ago. That story went out around October/November 1976, whereas The Keeper of Traken didn’t make it to screen until early 1981! You’re looking just over four years between appearances, and a lot has changed in the programme since then! Graham Williams has come and gone, as have Leela, Romana, and K9... did the audience at the time sit up in their chairs here thinking ‘bloody hell, it’s the Master!?!?’ or was it just an excited puppy in a tatty, skip-bound cloak?

Oh, I’m just nit-picking really, because it is a very good cliffhanger when you’re watching through in order like this. The mysterious bad guy who has been wreaking all this havoc on Traken and causing problems for the Doctor is none other than the Master! And he finally reveals himself to us just as Kassia takes the seat of the Keeper, and is instantly replaced with the Melkur sitting on the throne! It really is a very striking way to end the episode, and the fact that the Doctor has felt more hopeless in this story than many others makes it feel like the Master is a very real threat to him again.

I’m a little puzzled by exactly what this ‘Source’ is that he’s gained control of, mind. As far as I can tell (bear with me): it’s the power source for the Keeper. A kind of technology that needs to be guided by a living mind (the Keeper), and has the ability to keep everything in check throughout the Traken Union (is this a series of planets? That’s how I understand it, though it could simply be a number of countries on the one world of Traken). Being connected to the Source grants the Keeper an unusually long life, because... well... because it does. Hence, when a Keeper dies, they’re unable to hold back forces of chaos any longer, and thus storms begin to brew etc etc. In some ways, it’s the struggle between the Black and the White Guardian in miniature. If I’ve got that right, then it’s a great target for the Master, and fairly reminiscent of his plan in The Deadly Assassin, without all that boring Time Lord Stuff.

I think what’s throwing me is the mashing of a fairy tale world, all groves and stone corridors, with people dressed in crushed velvet, and the world of science fiction, with lots of machinery and intelligent creations like the Source itself. It’s throwing me even more that they can create technology as powerful as this seems to be, but not an adequate way of mankind the transition more stable between two Keepers. I know Nyssa goes on to have an ability with science once she’s a regular member of the TARDIS crew, and I’m wondering if it may feel less of a clash once she’s away from the trappings of her home world?

28 July 2014

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

Day 574: The Keeper of Traken, Episode Two

Dear diary,

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

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

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

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

27 July 2014

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

Day 573: The Keeper of Traken, Episode One

Dear diary,

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

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

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

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

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

27 July 2014

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

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

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

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

The Broadchurch and Gracepoint star continued:

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

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

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

[Source: Press Association]

27 July 2014

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

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

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

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

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


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

8.1: Deep Breath - written by Steven Moffat
8.2: Into The Dalek - written by Phil Ford
8.3: Robot Of Sherwood
 - written by Mark Gatiss
8.4: Listen
 - written by Steven Moffat
8.5: Time Heist
 - written by Stephen Thompson
8.6: The Caretaker - written by Gareth Roberts
8.7: Kill The Moon - written by Peter Harness
8.8: Mummy On The Orient Express - written by Jamie Mathieson
8.9: Flatline - written by Jamie Mathieson
8.10: In The Forest Of The Night - written by Frank Cottrell Boyce
8.11: Dark Water - written by Steven Moffat
8.12: Death In Heaven - written by Steven Moffat

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

[Source: BBC]

26 July 2014

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

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

"Listen!"

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

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

Watch the trailer in the player, below:


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

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

* Unconfirmed

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

[Source: BBC]

26 July 2014

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

Day 572: Warrior’s Gate, Episode Four

Dear diary,

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

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

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

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

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

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

25 July 2014

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

Day 571: Warrior’s Gate, Episode Three

Dear diary,

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

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

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

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

25 July 2014

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

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

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

Steven Moffat comments:

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

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

Check Out the Full Trailer for Series 8, below:

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

[Source: BBC]

24 July 2014

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

Day 570: Warrior’s Gate, Episode Two

Dear diary,

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

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

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

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

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

23 July 2014

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

Day 569: Warrior’s Gate, Episode One

Dear diary,

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

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

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

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

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

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

22 July 2014

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

Day 568: State of Decay, Episode Four

Dear diary,

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

21 July 2014

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

Day 567: State of Decay, Episode Three

Dear diary,

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

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

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

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

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

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